Friday, November 16, 2012


I probably give at least one of my classes a little too much blog time. So today I am going to talk about one of my classes that I very rarely speak about - my Basic English 3 (BE3, formerly BE2) class.

It's right there in the name, but in case you couldn't figure it out, they are definitely the lowest-level English speakers I have. I have had my fair share of frustrations with this group, and every other teacher that teaches on this level experiences something similar.

When I first started teaching them, they did not understand these basic phrases:
  • Hello, what is your name? (check)
  • How old are you? (check)
  • How are you? (check)
  • How was your weekend? (in progress)
  • What are you doing this weekend? (in progress)
So you might be wondering: how does someone who doesn't speak any Korean teach someone who doesn't speak any English?

Well, Korea's answer is simple repetition, which I've found works for some of the kids who have been indoctrinated into the system. My boys are quite brilliant - James can understand about half of what I'm saying and translate for the others; Steve, one of my more mischievous students, can tease other students properly in English; Andy, my devil child, is bored because he understands so much more than the rest and so does his best to disrupt class; and June, my newest boy, is a pro at reading and is really falling into the routine.

But about three of my twelve students are generally alienated by that kind of learning process and they're all girls. When they don't understand what's going on, or why they are repeating a certain phrase, they distract themselves with something else. My biggest frustration - Lina, a smaller girl and one who has been at LCI for ages now, doesn't even know how to spell her own name. She can't, or refuses, to read even basic sight words like "I," "and," "to" or "of." Regularly when we are working with our sticker books, I will give them a name of an object, which they are then meant to place the sticker in the appropriate place. Lina will just stick all the stickers on her face. I'll admit, I had kind of written Lina off as lazy with a possible attention disorder.

But today, I was trying to prep my student board (pictures to come), making it look all pretty for the BIG PRESENTATION tomorrow that all the admin at the school are freaking about and so I had each of my classes draw a picture of what they are learning about so I could display some student work.

We are learning about Spain, so most of the students chose to draw the Spanish flag, with a giant squiggle in the center for the crown and pillars. Andy took the time to carefully draw the coat of arms. Lina chose to do a replica of the Pablo Picasso painting in our story book. Both of them were, for the first time, actually interested in what we were doing, proudly writing the title of their works on their papers accompanied by their names.

I was really happy to see them actually intrigued by what we were learning and it gave me some idea as to how to reach and teach them. Honestly, I know I'm by no means a great teacher - I have no training and the wrong temperament for this kind of work. But stumbling upon a way to draw on my students' talents in order to teach them better, that's an amazing feeling.



  1. I'm new to your blog. Are you teaching English in Korea? My husband and I hope to do that somewhere soon. What program/company did you go through? Did you choose Korea, or were you placed there?

  2. That's cool! I am glad you found ways to help the frustrating kids! Kuddos to you- it sounds like a very difficult job!