Friday, March 4, 2011

First Day of Classes

First day of classes under the belt, so to speak, and all's ... well, much the same. Which isn't bad.

My schedule consists of 20 class hours, 14 HS first graders (i.e. sophomores) and 6 "second graders, known in the US as juniors. The typical class (if today was any indication) will have 40 students who are not placed according to English proficiency, and a co-teacher I've never met before.

Well, that last isn't entirely true, as co-teacher par excellence Mr Wright was one. Two of the others were brand new to the school, and made a point to come by and ask me what I expected of them. Off to a good start with the scary waygookin!

As I have done for three years now, the first class with me begins with a quote on the board, to copy into their notebooks:
To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks. --A.A. Milne

When we get down to what that means, all about symbolic representation and language, etc., I draw other configurations of three sticks on the board. Most are meaningless but I put in the Korean character ㅋ which is the k sound, and an H.

That segues into speaking English in this class, entering the "English Only Zone" and not worrying about grammar and accuracy. "It's okay to make a mistake," and so on.

Then I draw on my Multiple Intelligences background of Howard Gardner et al (look it up, it's definitely worth your time as a teacher) by doing some math. "How many minutes in an hour?" I ask, and put the response up. "How many hours in a day? How many days in a week?"

"So, how many minutes are in a week?" --10,080.

"How many minutes are you in this classroom?" --50.

"You can speak Korean out there"--sweeping gesture out the window--"for 10,030 minutes every week. I only ask you to try to speak English FIFTY little, teeny minutes when you're in this classroom." (Granted, I leave out the fact that this means I am likely to have little to no impact on their ability to speak English ...)

Anyway, I've just had the idea that I'm going to put great big block numerals of 10 030 up in key locations of the classroom next week.

So, Part III of Lesson One: Introductions. I provide a little biography of myself and my background, concluding with three (cherished) similes about myself: My friends say that I am as smart as Einstein, as funny as Jim Carrey and as kind as Mother Teresa."

Believe it or not, only thirty minute or so have elapsed by the point the students get to this, their first speaking assignment. They have to write three sentences about themselves in the format: "I am as (adjective) as/as a (famous person or animal)." Before the end of class, everyone will have to read one or more of their sentences. ("I've told you about myself, now you will tell me about yourself.")

Before they begin, we list on the board some adjectives that describe people's bodies, circumstances and personalities, then match them with famous people or animals, etc. As rich as Bill Gates, as strong as Hercules, as tall as a tree.

By now (I just calculated this: I have done this lesson almost exactly this way 52 times here at Youngil-go) I get a little feel for the class based on their best adjective/noun pairings. In the past, some of my favorites have been as silent as space, as kind as the KFC grandfather (aka Col. Sanders), as passionate as fire, as delicious as Britney Spears.

It's interesting sometimes, the different impressions people form: students have been as lazy as a dog, and as energetic as a dog, as outgoing as one, or as happy as a puppy. Today a student was a modest as a pastor. But the winner was as noble as a unicorn. I'm not sure what that means, but I like it.


Adeel said...

I teach some very sharp 13-year-olds. I'll try and use some of these ideas. Thanks!

Tanner Brown said...


Two spots: Cover that bit where Mother Teresa hangs out with and takes the money from the Duvalier family.

And small grammar blip in second-to-last sentence.