Saturday, 30 January 2010

Winter English Camps

English Camps…do your worst.

Fortunately enough for me, there wasn’t anything that I had to face during my entire series of winter lessons.

With class sizes ranging from seven to fourteen students, for each level of middle school and high school, I didn’t have a single problem that arose in any of my classes.

Even though it was their winter vacation – their time to play computer games, sleep-in, and watch T.V., my students decided wake up in the wee hours of the morning, brave the cold weather, and take the early bus, heading towards the last place most students would want to be during their month-long break. My students wanted to come to class. They were excited for class, and I wasn’t going to let them down.

The greatest thing about my experience was that my classes were composed of some of the most intelligent English students that I taught this past semester. That fact simply expanded the possibilities for the activities I could do.

My main focus during my winter camps was speaking - dreaded by many of my Korean students, I made sure to give them plenty of opportunities to speak in English this month. I threw at them many projects: school tours, creating inventions, commercial productions, news reports, video-calls on Skype over the internet (with my family), etc. In giving them these tasks, I used their incredible competitiveness to my advantage.

I had to reward my students for their sheer determination in my classes. Aside from their projects, which only took up half of the lessons, I made sure to include a school-wide scavenger hunt (leaving clues all over the school grounds for the students to find), the Guess Who? Game, Jeopardy, Battleship (using English vocabulary), Snakes and Ladders (landing on a certain colour meant that an English sentence had to be spoken), logic riddles (for which the answers had to be presented in English), a brainstorming activity using flashcards, baking chocolate banana bread (my favourite), etc. Most of the prizes and supplies were funded out of my pocket initially, but by asking for some school funding a couple weeks beforehand, I was able to save myself from shopping for school supplies in the last weeks of camp.

Of course, I feel like I’m the lucky one. Even though I prepared myself with coffee and plenty of energy-consuming activities for my students, they were the ones who showed up in class everyday with their bubbly attitudes and high spirits. Some other teachers might not have been so fortunate.

Like this Korean experience and all others, fellow English teachers will, once again, have to keep an open mind and brace themselves for whatever happens to come their way.

- Jess

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