Special Issue (Daegu 2017): Korea Teaching Trip Reflection

By Pang Sze Long, Julohn (Year 5, 2016-2017)

I love watching drama and I watched lots of Korean dramas. I am always curious about the real situation of teaching and learning in Korea schools. This is the reason why I joined this teaching trip. It was my first time to teach students from other countries. I did learn a lot in the trip.

The lesson preparation was definitely the hardest time we had in Korea. Before we departed to Korea, we had to prepare for the lessons. It was very difficult for us to decide what to teach in the lessons. Though we could take a look at the textbooks that the students are using, we did not know much about their learning progress and lesson routine. Yet, we still tried our best to plan a lesson for the students. For the two junior forms, our group was assigned to teach the reading passages in the chapter. Comparing to other learning areas, I am always not confident in teaching students reading. I always think that it is difficult to measure students’ learning outcomes in reading because reading is a receptive activity. Therefore, our group aimed to teach the students some useful reading skills such as predicting and summarizing. For the two forms of senior high students, we chose to teach the students speaking and grammar respectively. All of our group members thought of various learning tasks for students to use and practise the target language. Senior high seemed to be easier for us to prepare.

But the lesson preparation stage did not end until we taught. After we visited the junior high school and observed some English lessons. We spent a whole day (!) at the hotel revising our lesson plans and teaching materials. The students’ level was extremely different as what we expected. They were a lot more proficient in reading and their vocabulary bank was larger than we assumed. Thus, we had to scale up the learning activities. Some of the planned learning tasks seemed to be easy for the students. Since they had a wider vocabulary than we thought, we decided to shorten the input time and allow students to do more production. This was the first time for me to have an enormous change in the lesson plans and materials. Knowing our students is really important for lesson planning. Every lesson has to be planned according to students’ ability, interest and progress of learning. Because we did not know much about our students before we visited the school, we had to pay additional effort in lesson planning. Luckily, with the cooperation of my partners, we were able to finish the lesson preparation successfully. And one thing to praise about the hotel – there were free printing facilities in the lobby!!!! We could print our worksheets there!

I felt a bit nervous about delivering the lesson to the students as Korean students were not used to listen and speak English in lessons. Professor Tang and Ingrid reminded us that we should use simple language and body gestures to assist students’ understanding. Our first lesson was reading lesson with a group of form one students. It was quite hard for us to simplify the language as the students were not good at following English instructions. After we gave the instructions, students looked confused and they did not respond. We then tried to speak slower and add more body language to explain in that instructional stage. For instance, we replaced ‘discuss with your members’ with ‘talk to your classmates’. In this way, the students could finally understand and give us some responses. However, I think it is challenging to adjust the language that we were using in the class. Although the English ability of students, especially listening and speaking, was not high, they were mature. If we use too simple language and lots of body gestures, I am afraid that the lesson might turn into an elementary class in which students would feel uncomfortable with it. Thus, we have to be very careful when teaching students with lower speaking proficiency.

The lesson went quite well especially for time management. Prior to the lesson, I worried about students’ understanding on lesson content and instructions. I overspent time on teacher’s talk, causing students not having sufficient time to finish their individual tasks. This was one of the areas for improvement that I have to be careful about. I always make the same mistake in teaching. I should be aware that learning is an active process which requires students to use the language and participate in the production tasks.

After the two days of teaching, we had a chance to do academic exchange with the Korea university students. They were also studying English language education. One of the interesting facts that I learnt from the Korean students’ presentation was that Korean students only have to attend English reading and listening exams but not writing and speaking. This can explain why they do better in receptive tasks than in production tasks. They don’t really use English as a communication tool. Yet, language learning is all about using the language by the learners. Hong Kong students have more opportunities to practise using the language than Korean students. Therefore, we seem to be more proficient than they are. However, the learning culture in some of the current Hong Kong English classrooms still does not emphasize on using the language. Students just learn English for exams. As a teacher, we should provide more opportunities for students to communicate in English. We should also encourage students to use English inside and outside classroom.

This Korea Teaching Trip is a challenging yet fruitful trip. It enabled me to take a look at the English lessons in foreign countries. I also had the chance to apply what I have learnt into an English classroom of a different culture. I was able to reflect on my own performance and also English teaching during the trip. I believe this experience will become a remarkable memory to me.

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