Special Issue (Daegu 2017): Reflection on Korea Teaching Trip

By Kwong Lok Yee, Chloe (Year 4, 2016-2017)

It’s my second time to join a teaching tour (I joined the Beijing teaching tour in 2015) and I still feel grateful for being able to go out of my comfort zone and learn more about English language teaching in a foreign country.

In this tour, we were able to learn more about the English language curriculum in Korea. It’s interesting to know that students’ writing and speaking skills are not tested in the university entrance examination; yet the curriculum has been revised to put more focus on communicative competence in the junior secondary curriculum. While in Hong Kong, all the four skills are tested in the examinations and it is hoped that students can use English for communicating with people around the world and understanding more about different cultures. However, as there is not a very motivating environment for speaking English in both Korea and Hong Kong, students do not have many opportunities to practise their spoken English in their daily life. In my lesson observation and the lessons I taught in Daegu, some students could actually write quite well but they were too shy to answer the teacher’s questions in the lessons. In Daegu, most teachers teach English in Korean and the weaker students tend to discuss in Korean when they are asked to discuss with their group mates. Therefore, this trip reminds me of the importance of providing a motivating atmosphere for students to have more spoken output in English. We should try our best to maximise the time for students’ production in the lessons so that they will be able to have more practice in using English to express their ideas. We should also encourage students, tell them not to be afraid of making mistakes, and give more feedback to them so that they will be more motivated to improve their spoken English.

Moreover, this tour has reminded me of the importance of having flexibility when planning for the lessons. As we were not familiar with the students and the classroom setting in Daegu, everything we planned had to be flexible and we had to modify our lesson plans after observing the lessons in the junior high school. However, I think that I wasn’t flexible enough when I implemented the plan in my lessons. I should have explained more about the form of double comparatives in junior 2nd year class and should have given more practices for the students before asking them to start a more difficult task (which is writing a slogan using double comparatives). When we found out that the students’ English level was lower than what we expected in senior high school, we should have also lowered the difficulty of the task immediately and given them more hints in order to help them finish the task more easily. Thus, I think catering to students’ needs and interests is always teachers’ first priority when delivering the lessons. To achieve that, flexibility is a crucial element that we should not neglect. In Hong Kong, we are more familiar with the curriculum and students’ needs and interests. Yet we still need to keep observing students’ reactions in order to find out whether we need to adjust our lessons in different ways such as slowing down our talking pace when giving instructions and modifying or even abandoning the tasks which are too easy or too difficult for the students. We should help students absorb the knowledge step-by-step and should not rush to the next step if the students are not ready.

Though I still have room for improvement in my teaching and lesson planning, I think we have tried our best to show our strengths in preparing teaching materials by making colourful and clear PowerPoint slides (though more careful proofreading should have been made to avoid showing the grammatical mistake) and using the song “Castle On The Hill” to test students’ knowledge of the simple present and simple past tense forms. I saw that students were motivated when trying to jot down the verbs in present or past tense forms when they read the lyrics on the screen. This has reinforced my interest in using songs to teach English in my lessons and I will definitely try to use this approach effectively in my next teaching practice.

All in all, this is a fruitful and memorable experience for me in discovering more about my strengths and weaknesses in teaching English. I’m thankful for the advice that Eunice and Ingrid gave me, and the opportunity to work with Bridget in lesson planning and teaching. I will keep working hard to make me become a more competent teacher-to-be!

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