Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Back at work here doing the normal thing of classes and then break time. I would be lesson planning right now, but the current 2nd grade teacher asked for her books back. I think I have a copy of the Volume 2 book back at my house, so that can help me later. Just won't have the teacher's guide, however I didn't rely on it too much.

All I have left are November, December and bits of February for next year. I suppose I can get to those in time, as they are far away. Still there is the need in me to keep punching them out, however ridiculous that sounds.

Because I booked my vacation tickets through Hanatour I have to wait 48 hours before my flight to select my seats. I can't sleep without the window seat and so am trying my best to be patient. Hopefully, my flight will have a lot of, "I hate the window seat" type folks.

Things to do before heading off on my vacation:
- Get Tom to his brother's house for cat sitting.
-  Visit the Doc to refill meds
- Transfer more money to my American bank account.
- Organize my packing of (warm and cold clothes). Would like to make it so I have enough room to fill them up with new finds.
- Get the seats.

All right, I suppose I could go clean up my desk here and do more house cleaning in my classroom. ㅋㅋ

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gallery Golmok Show: Homo-Sapiens

Gallery Golmok, in Itaewon has put together another compelling show. This one being their first for the 2012 year, and so got off to a start with a buzz of artists and voyeurs. This show titled, "Homo-Sapiens" is going on till February 15th. Features several artists all wrapping their talents around the theme of a species that has changed throughout time and also a touch on what it means to live in a world heavily populated (as to what I have gathered).

First a few pictures of walking down the new cafe-shopping street on my way to the gallery.

Already, the opening show attracted many viewers and most folks were hanging around to see the performance art piece by Fraise Vinyl, that was very interesting.

The glowing works on the wall are by Martyn Thompson who took his composite photographs and transformed them by having layers printed on plastic squares. The effect, with a fluorescent light illuminating from behind, gives you a very different feeling toward a photograph. When inspecting the pictures you notice they are of ordinary places such as the interior of a bar. The pieces I enjoyed from this series were the smaller scale ones that used less color and more muted tones.

But the overall effect is very nice and you enjoy moving your head around to see how this was made and inspect it on various levels.

The other works in the show included paintings with ceramic cups adhered to them, and photography. The photo works fell sort of flat for me, but I think that is because I've become immune to this kind of work. However, with close contemplation you get how it all connects to the theme.

The performance by Fraise Vinyl was pretty unique. In the back-center of the main gallery was set up this red tent like structure. At the beginning, you aren't really sure what it is all about. When the performance started I couldn't see behind everyone's heads, but when I got closer I realized what was going. The performance was being held inside the "tent" and you were ushered in by an assistant.

There were two entrances, and when you go in the feeling becomes distinct. The tent was glowing from black-fluorescent lighting and laser fireworks, which made it all feel very ethereal. Alongside this was a tempo playing that made you want to go in and check things out. Sorry..blurry..

Inside you move around till you realize you found a peep-hole. From here you take a "peep" and end up seeing the artist inside moving about as she is dressed in an interesting arrangement of lingerie. I mostly just saw her face that was covered by a mask. I felt kind of bashful taking a peep and so didn't linger long.

Also enjoyable was watching people go in and out and marking the expressions on their face. Including, seeing who stuck around longer inside the tent.

Overall, a great opening and a good exhibition with thoughtful work. All of which, is next to The Alley Cafe where you can get a bite to eat or something warm to drink.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Extending or Renewing Your Visa Experience 2012

I had the fun and pleasure today of making it to the Anguk Immigration Office to renew / extend my visa. Since I am staying at my school it was necessary for me to go to immigration and get this done on my own.

The documents I needed were pretty basic, compared to getting a new visa. This time all I needed was a copy of my contract, school's registration, passport..alien card...and other ones. Hehe you can check the immigration website.

Out of exit 6 you go up to the SK Hub building and take the stairs to the 2nd floor. Find your way to the big room with all the chairs and people sitting in them. Find the ticket machine and press the green button hard enough to make a ticket come out.

I didn't wait too long, and soon was sitting behind an English speaking assistant. I did have to run around for a few things to complete the process. Like buying the stamps from a different room and also making copies of my passport pages. In addition, I was made to scan my fingerprints. Finally, after all that I received my alien card back with a new date entered on the back. It was quite easy and probably would have went even faster had I made an appointment. Overall, I'm pretty happy and satisfied with my experience at immigration today. Hope all future immigration trips will be just as easy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Video as a Tool For English Education in Korea

I noticed something the other day while teaching my winter camp classes, and that is Korean kids love Youtube just as much as kids back home. Of course, this should come as no surprise as Korea is a very wired country. But I think seeing videos in the classroom has been a part of their lives since they started school. I for one have used a multitude of math-song videos and for fun, played those cutesy and catchy ones that get their attention.

An excellent evolution has occurred with the use of video in the classroom, and that is teachers making educational videos with their students. The forum waygook.org has already shown areas where teachers are integrating a video-creating lesson into their classes. Also, you catch teacher made videos on youtube with some that are awesome and others quite simple. Here for you are an example of teachers taking the video camera in the classroom and making it a fun tool for English education.

1. Mike Karlan's "Bandit" Videos:
The following is called, "The Color Bandit":

A quirky and fun video with a great example of kids using English in a fun and enthusiastic way, you see the theme of an evil bandit who stole colors. The kids must think of a plan to destroy him so they can use colors again. At least, that is my interpretation. Nicely edited and it shows that the kids were involved and had a good time.

2. Daft Punk's Harder...Faster Song:

I recently was creating a lesson about comparatives and found that other teacher's out there used the Daft Punk Song, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" with their students.

This one from "miathetraveler"

First off let me congratulate these teachers for getting their middle school students to participate in something like this. From what I understand teaching Middle school is challenging in that the students are hard to motivate. 

This one from "danitravels"

I like this one better as you can tell they were really into it and I like the way they organized their signs. This would make a great project for a camp session or an after school group. I think with some patience I might even be able to do this with a group of my first graders. 

Sometimes it is best to just let the kids figure out what to make, and you can do this with a themed "movie camp." Found on waygook.org, are lesson plans and worksheets to use for the camp. The following are video examples of what came out of the project.

What are the benefits?

In my opinion this gets students excited for learning English and the result is something definitely different from the usual hum-drum lesson. However, I am sure if you tell your students, "We are going to make videos!" That there will be a group that sighs and says, "No, I don't want to." Like all lessons it is all about getting them motivated, and this should be no different.

Also, they get to see what their English looks like and sounds like in the final product. This is a great tool for them to understand where they need to improve. Throughout the project, students work on plot, character design and story therefore getting to use their English skills in a productive way. 

Some pitfalls might be that you don't have enough equipment for the students, like cameras and computers to edit with. Also, students will work in groups and as you may already know this is sometimes a hard thing for them. I recall one group I had during a camp where they argued over everything the whole time.

In the end, I think making videos with your students is an overall beneficial part of the English classroom here in Korea. Why not add this to your curriculum? 

Do you have any teacher-student made videos you would like to share?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

People Return

It feels like an extra Sunday around here. The roar of cars from the nearby traffic lanes have picked up their buzz. When I went out for bread at my local mart I was happy to see it open and saw people walking around with coffee.

The upstairs neighbor has been playing the piano, which they usually do on the weekend. And the cry of children and teenagers can be heard in the distant park. All signs that Seollnal is coming to its end as people make their way back to Seoul.

As for me, I'm busily working away at my lesson plans. Already into next October, and know that I should just slow down. But if I get to my upcoming American vacation with a lot done, I think I'll be even more relaxed. Anyways, hope you had a good Lunar New Year's time and wasn't stuck behind another car on the long stretch of freeway.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pyongyang Restaurant...in Cambodia

The meal can run up to $100 dollars and the dances elaborate, but if you want a taste of North Korea you might have to go to Cambodia to get it. That is what some South Korean tourists have been doing when they visit the country. In the video and article you get a sense of people getting into the back secret room of some high-society club and seeing something only the privileged would dream of. However, these people stepped off a tourist bus.
The point of this restaurant, as it has been stated, is to bring in revenue for the North Korean country. This is being done by a pricey menu with attractive dancing. 

North Korean performers, dressed in hanbok, a billowing, traditional Korean dress, wear permanent smiles as they play a Western-style drum set, electric guitars and accordion — and demurely shuffle across the stage.
Even the waitresses (who also double as performers) are from North Korea. So in that sense you are getting the real-deal. But one wonders what this experience must be like for these people, as they evidently see what the rest of the world is like. Yet, inside the restaurant it is more about "business-as-usual" and the politics are left outside.

What one most can take from this is the unsettling reminder that the people of North Korea are still starving while tourists in Cambodia at the Pyongyang restaurant are happily filling their stomachs.

A meal at a Pyongyang restaurant is one of the more expensive in town. In a country where a bowl of noodles costs $1.50, a hungry customer can easily pay $100 for a simple meal of kimchi, beef shoulder, stir-fried squid and a bottle of wine. 
However, I feel this is a unique cultural artifact to be found in the world during these times, and perhaps beneficial to go and take a look. If you were visiting Cambodia, would you head to this restaurant?

One odd part of the article is when a South Korean visitor is quoted as saying, “Back in South Korea, we don’t have any opportunities to meet North Korean people.” 

None at all?! I know folks who tutor North Koreans in English and others who have taken them out to dinner. I'm pretty sure there are opportunities.

Anyways, an interesting article and something to think about as North Korea keeps on tinkering with itself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Freeze Comith

If for some reason you notice that my blog is lacking in photos of fun places in Korea, you can blame the above scenario. The freezing-temps of winter are back again. Granted, this isn't as cold as it could be, but still is cold.

Sorry if I sound like I'm whining, but I'm not much of a fan of winter and yet to be converted.

Quiet Out There

It's the Sunday before the Lunar New Year's holiday here in Korea. Already I can tell most people in my area (Nowon) have packed up and gone to wherever they need to go for family duties. However, it is usually quiet on a Sunday here anyways.

Not much happening for me this holiday season in Korea. I am meeting a friend for a good meaty dinner and some nice chatting. I have the whole week off next week and in that time I need to withdraw cash for my American vacation and also go to immigration to renew my visa.

I hope your Korean holiday is filled with fun or relaxation. :) Happy Year of the Black Dragon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Camp 2012 Wraps Up

Wow! Camp has come and gone in what feels like the blink of an eye. However, I can say I'm pleased with that reality. Camp this time around (compared to last summer) was a bit easier. I think it is because I had the higher level class, although at times they started to test me.

I found that it was good to get the book done and play review games and other silly activities with them. They seemed to like it most when I was less serious about things and delved into their creativity. I recall on the lesson about "The Emergency Room" I got into a thing about the number, "119". I told them that Korea copied America because we have "911". From here on one student started to boldly lecture me about how America copied Korea. I then proceeded to tell him how Korean people wouldn't even have a telephone to use that number with, if it weren't for Americans inventing it. This led to one student telling me that Steve Jobs is Korean and that he invented the phone. I corrected him that Steve Jobs is not Korean but did invent the iPhone.

That was a fun moment.

Otherwise, the open class went pretty smoothly. At my school parents come to view the students give presentations. Throughout camp the kids work on a role-play and make crafts. So I had them present their role-plays and crafts to the parents. Some kids were ultra shy and at the golden time refused to come up. It was a little strange as in class they were very energetic.

During the open class I didn't make much eye-contact with the parents. To be honest these folks still scare me a little and I know they are judging me, even if they don't officially have to do it. But I compensated this by speaking and asking the presenting students a lot of questions.

These kids have truly grown up a lot since the first day they arrived, and I am really proud of them. After the open class the kids go down for a closing ceremony in the auditorium. Here each group shouts a chant that has been designed by their camp teacher. One of the low-level groups did a really good job giving a great chant. I watched as one of the very lowest of the kids stood up enthusiastically and shouted out English with a huge smile. I think this school does a good job with teaching English, in this respect.

Well that's camp! Now I have one week off for the Lunar New Year. What am I going to do? Oh yes....lesson plan. ><

Monday, January 16, 2012

SK Honeymoon Couple on Ill Fated Cruise Ship

Finally found an article detailing why these two didn't escape when things went bad. Apparently, they were "napping" and woke up when things started tilting. I gathered that they became trapped or didn't really know what to do so went back to their cabin to be safe.

When I first saw the news on Korean TV I thought perhaps they couldn't figure out what to do because their English was poor. Of course, that isn't really fair and in a disaster situation anything can happen.

I'm glad to hear that they just were scared and trapped and couldn't ask for help or something in English or whatever language was primarily used on the ship (Italian?). But it makes me think of whether students in Korea ever get an English lesson on how to survive in a disaster. I think this would be very important and they should learn words beyond, "Help!" Also consider how emergency lights and other reading materials are often in just a few languages around the world. Then this makes me think about the emergency procedures propaganda I see while riding the subway here. I think most of it has helped me grasp what to do if anything were to happen.

Anyways, glad to see the couple is safe and sound.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Insadong Again and Again

There are many reasons you can head to Insadong. One for a taste of traditional food or tea. Another for the historical sites nearby or art galleries, and mostly because it is a one-stop place for souvenir shopping.

I went to Insadong recently because I needed some gifts to take with me next month when I visit my family in Florida. I arrived on a mildly cool morning when the bustle of folks weren't as heavy.

I headed to the Ssamzie market where you can find artsy trinkets and jewelry. The place doesn't change much over the years, except for seasonal decorations.

Here you can find "ddung bread" shaped like poo...yum?!

Walking around the several levels I ran into some interesting shadow patterns.

On top it was great to get a feel of the sunshine on my face and so I lounged around a while soaking up the rays and also did some people watching.

One of the other interesting parts of this market is the graffiti of both hand scrawls and artist made.

At the top I noticed a new cafe where you can order drinks but also get "couple tags" and put them up on a fence. A similarly popular thing to do at the North Seoul Tower.

I got most of my present shopping done and headed towards Gwanghwamun station for lunch and to check out the Kyobo bookstore.

However, I would say it is very tough to shop inside the Kyobo Bookstore as it is usually crowded, and this day was no different.

I hope to get back to the Insadong area but next time for gallery viewing and perhaps get some traditional tea. All in all, you can't go wrong with heading to Insadong for souvenirs, but be ready for elbow-bumping crowds.

Friday, January 13, 2012

For Class: Omok Board Game

I picked up this game from working at public Elementary schools. One of my Korean coteachers introduced me to this board game called, "Omok". The game is similar to tic-tac-toe or 5-in-a-row. Basically the students take turns picking squares. They practice whatever they see in the square by speaking or working out a problem. If correct they get to claim that square and their goal is to get 5 in a row.

As you can see I have been using these for teaching math, and the students really like the game. I have an earlier version of "Doubles" where they roll the dice and double that number. This then becomes the number they can claim in the board game. So you can see, you can manipulate it any way you want to depending on what you need to practice.

I like to laminate (coat) the boards and have students use board markers and erasers. This way I can reuse them over and over, and students too can start new games if they like. It's a good way to break up the flow of the class and get kids working together.

Winter Camp Week 2 Update

Things have been running smoothly in camp land. Although, I can already feel myself and the students starting to get tired of each other. But I have been trying to spice things up with extra games I have lying around and let them have extended free time. It makes me wonder as next year they will cut camp down to 2 weeks. Things will definitely fly by then!

There is one week left and on next Friday the parents come to see their presentations. Then I've got one week vacation for the Lunar New Year. I'll just close my eyes and soon it will be February and before you know it I'll be visiting my family in Florida.

Other than this there isn't much to report. Still working on my lesson plans but slowly, as I have been trying to get materials made.

Anyways, the weather has been not too freezing lately, which is nice.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Fresh Reaction to K-Pop: From Kids

You have to watch this!

It interviews several young adults (elementary and middle school) about Kpop. What is awesome is that they have no clue what it is and come to see it as something strange. 

Although, I have in the past enjoyed Kpop I can pretty much say my reaction to it is the same as these kids. Especially, when they start talking about how Kpop groups are manufactured from a company. 

All in all, this was highly entertaining and pretty much expresses how it is hard for Kpop to cross over 100% beyond Korea. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Fractions Study Guide

Since the start of this recent semester I realized that these kids need extra study aids to get them through all the English math jargon. Also, it was starting to pester me that they kept on mistaking the word square for circle.

As I am planning for next year I am continuing on my path to make study guides. The above is the one I recently made for the fractions chapter. Now I must admit that I am actually a math dummy. However, I did very well during my math classes in college, mostly because I found algebraic formulas fascinating.

Thankfully, I teach 1st and soon to be 2nd grade math.  The book we are using makes it not only simple for the student but also for the teacher. However, I wanted to make sure that when I get around to saying "one-fifth" that the students understand what I am sputtering. So I hope this study guide will help them put words to picture.

Usually they just shove the paper into their bags and I don't see them again. Next year they are going to have class note books and these guides will get permanently glued into them.

Whenever a student did hold onto their study guide and pulled it out during a spelling bee challenge, I felt pretty proud. I usually would praise these students and point out to the others that their ability to spell "rectangular prism" would be easier if they had their guide with them. ;)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Keep on Chugging Them Out

After three days into this year's Winter Camp I have finally found the time to come home after classes and get back to lesson plan creation. I have now started on the 2nd semester for next year. Given the first week of planning wasn't too bad as that will just be fluff stuff till we start the book again.

This Winter Camp I have the high level kids and on the one hand it is a relief they aren't as wacky as the low levels, but on the other they argue with me about everything. "Teacher, but I answered the question so give me a sticker!" "No, teacher you are wrong!" (That last one gets spit out quite often.)

But we are in the swing of things with the class song established and soon groups will get their role-plays. Also, I am trying to just have fun with them and let their irrational need to get up and dance like crazy when I play a song, slip by me. I am starting to realize that I shouldn't burn too many bridges with these kids as I will have them again next year.

Anyways, I am going to plan the 2nd semester for next year a bit slower as that is far off. The subjects to be covered include, fractions and 3D shapes...which I think can lend some creative activities! haha

Monday, January 2, 2012

Photos: Inside the Seoul Arts Center

Entering the SAC you are greeted by a large lobby. To your left and right are restaurants and cafes, along with a "waiting area" place to rest. From here you choose your destination depending on what you want to see. A wintery photo-op was available.

A metallic sculpture hanging along a stairwell...

Along one of the hallways were artworks on display, which I assumed were made by a group of young people.

"Diorama" in theme with lights to kind of connect it all together.

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