Monday, May 16, 2011

One Night, Two Days = 3 weeks

Just a warning, this is a teaching post describing an activity I made for class. It may bore you... or, I might be so bold to suggest that it may inspire another teacher in lesson planning.

Now that I'm into my second week of delivering the most expansive activity I've ever created for my grade 3 class, I think I have enough perspective to write about it.

This is basically a "Travel Korea" lesson, which came about in part from a mini activity suggested in our school's grade 3 textbook (map-supported "How far is it from Bulguksa to Seokguram?"), and in part by the fact that when I asked my 11 grade 3 classes what they had planned for their recent 6 day vacation, a grand total of 5 out of a possible 350+ students answered that they had plans to go anywhere outside of their home or outside of the dark and smokey confines of the neighbourhood PC Room.

This made me sad.

I've also noticed that as a foreigner with an apartment that's paid for, I have the time and enough money to take my child-less self on a bus and out of the city to see more of Korea on a fairly regular basis - especially over the past couple of years. Having a rabbit does help immensely.

Anyway, the semester's midterms provided me with the time to really go to town and create a lesson that I felt would be interactive, hands-on, fun (hopefully) and that would also educate the students a bit about their own wee country that very few of them seem to have taken the time to explore... at all. If anything, the hope would be that this lesson would inspire them to pester their parents to head out of town on the next long weekend.

The name of the activity comes from a popular team challenge variety show here in Korea, in which a team of 6 male celebrities have to venture to more obscure areas of the country and complete a bunch of humourous travel-themed challenges. The show is successful in that it encourages home-bound Seoulites to get out and see what's in their own backyard. Generally, the weekend after an episode airs, that episode's location is booked with excited travelers and fans of the show. I admire their efforts.

I started off by heading down to Gwanghwamun one day after school to pester the Korea Tourist Centre for 7 fold-out maps of the country in English - one map for each of my 6 table teams, and one for me. These were cut-up into their 12 sections as defined by the fold, laminated, and set aside.

Once I had the maps, I set-down to figuring out what the activity would consist of.

Ultimately, it came down to making a lesson that I could build my speaking test out of - travel-centered questions such as "How did you get there?", "What is it famous for?", and "What did you do there?" would fit the bill.

From there, I started looking at each of Korea's 9 provinces (plus Seoul), and seeing if I could choose 6 interesting locations from each. As anyone who really knows me could tell you: like my dad, I'm a bit of a map nerd - especially if it's a map of a place I've recently been to, or will be going to. I've been living in South Korea (a pretty tiny place as far as countries go) for coming-up on 4 years now, and I figured it was time to really start paying attention to all that's around me. There's a lot to see here and it's all accessible. I really felt inspired to share and learn more about this country alongside my students.

Once I had the lists (60 destinations) they were colour-coded, colour printed, and laminated into "destination cards".

What was conceived at first as a one-day lesson, has now become three. I've run-off at the mouth long enough already as it is, so now that I've had the chance to work-out some kinks, let me just share what each day's plan consists of...

Day 1

Each table teams gets a package consisting of:
1 Transportation card (showing bus routes, train routes, and airports)
1 Map of Korea (cut into 12 pieces)
1 Ruler (for measuring distances)

Each student receives:
1 Travel itinerary worksheet
1 Destination card

1) After a brief discussion about traveling in Korea, table teams are given their packages and instructed to put their map together like a puzzle.

2) Using my own map which is magneted to the board, and using a Powerpoint slide show of photos from various Korean locations I've visited over the years, we run a team quiz where students need to identify the place name in the photo, as well as the "Map Grid Area" - finding where the place falls on a North-South (letter) and West to East (number) line system. (ie: Seorak Mountain is found within the B7 square.

3) Table teams are then asked to choose a destination card (each student from a table team chooses a different coloured card from a face-down pile, thereby ensuring that each student in a team has a destination from a different province to give their itinerary some variety.)

4) Students work together to find their locations, getting hints from the teachers (a laminated A-4 table was made to show each provinces highlighted locations and their map grid area points so that co-teachers can assist as well). Once found, they mark their location on their laminated map puzzle with a white board marker.

5) Using 6 destination cards as a demonstration, an itinerary is put-together on the white board - marking the destinations on my map, we can decide as a class where we should begin our tour (say, N. Seoul Tower in Seoul), and where it might end (Jungmun Resort in Jeju-do), with all points in-between.

6) Students receive their worksheets and are instructed to decide on a order for visiting their destinations and then to record their order on the worksheet, as well as basic information about their own individual location (Province, Map Grid Area etc.)

7) I ran around like a bit of a mad man toward the end of class recording the order of each groups destinations. I will need this information for the third day, and on day 2 for any students who have forgotten what their team is doing.

Day 2

1) As predicted, a significant number of students either lost or left their paper at home. Day two has become a day to reinforce the concepts of the map and to have those students who are ahead of the game help their struggling table mates.

2) After the basic information is recorded, we move on to the 5 travel questions:

a) How did you get there? ("We got there by bus")
b) How far is it from _________ to _________? ("It's about _____ kilometers")
c) What is this place famous for? ("It's famous for ________")
d) What did you do there? ("We (verb + object)")
e) How was it? ("It was (adjective")

Examples of the first two questions we do together. Question "b" allows the students to dig into their map with their rulers and really plan their route by calculating distance and figuring out what method of transportation would be best.

3) Example answers for questions "c" through "e" are given and students are encouraged to search the internet to complete all 5 questions for homework, as well as a short paragraph describing their segment of the trip.

Day 3

Presentations - Teams will take turns reading their itinerary paragraphs while other teams will listen for the location and try to find the destination areas on the map for each presenting student. The listening teams receive points for volunteering to ask one of the five questions as well as points for finding the correct "Map Grid Area" for each place. The presenting team will receive points for answering them correctly. Presenting Teams will be supported by presenting in front of a PPT with slides of each destination which will help listening teams find the right spot.

Future Review Day

A Powerpoint Jeopardy-style game is created specific to each grade 3 class focusing on actual questions from each unique itinerary. This won't happen until over a month from now, but hopefully students will hold onto their papers to assist on this day.

After Thoughts

...and that's that. As much as I'd like to have included some goofy TV-inspired challenges for the teams, time won't allow, and I'm pretty sure I might be pushing my luck asking my co-teachers to accept a four-week lesson. I would also have liked to have included some segments asking students to move around a bit in the room. It's far from a perfect lesson.

Currently, I'm only part-way into my second week with this activity, but it's been a worthwhile one and I wanted to share it with you. Running through this lesson so far has taught me and reminded me of a few valuable things: a) never underestimate the amount of time it takes to explain complex instructions to an ESL classroom, b) hands-on activities keep a group of unruly mixed-level students as focused as they are going to be, and c) stronger students like helping weaker students, as long as the helpers are provided with enough support to gain confidence at the beginning. With mixed English levels in these classes, this seems to be a decent way to involve everyone.

In this case, simply taking my time as the activity progressed has worked absolute wonders. My grade 3s are the only students I work with that I see more than once every two weeks. They seem grateful to not feel rushed to complete an activity in one class with me, and I am more than grateful that I've been able to stretch this activity over three days and engage students with an activity that will hopefully stick with them, and have some value outside of the English being practiced.

As for me, I'm actually happy that I've already achieved a greater understanding of the geography of Korea simply through planning this exercise - name one of these 60 destinations and I can probably point to it on a map while blind-folded. I'm looking forward to having my students teach me more through their presentations.

Before I sign-off, I would be remiss to not mention my teacher friend over at The Seoul Patch who often posts some of his excellent lessons online - many of which are an inspiration to me. Check them out - there's some great stuff over there.


Rock Steady said...

This looks like an awesome activity... and an awful lot of work... Your students are so lucky to have you, Teacher Dave~ :)

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Thanks, Roxy. I'm my own worst critic (as you know), but I'm proud of the response to this one so far... that is, after day one when I realized we would need to add a third day to the lesson. Slowing the pace down in my class is something I should have tried in my first year at public school ;)

Tuttle said...

Wow, this looks like a lot of work, but I think it will pay off! I might give this (or something like it) a try next semester, in the chapter "Letters from Korea".

Very kind of you to mention my efforts--I got a comment about the ESL Clue game today from a teacher in rural Chile!