Teaching Solo in South Korea: Multi-Level Classes & Finding Resources

Solo ESL Teacher in South KoreaSince coming to South Korea, I have had the opportunity to work both with and without a co-teacher. I worked mostly on my own during the first semester here in Korea, but this semester I have a proper co-teacher with whom I share an office and work side by side for all of our classes. Both of these situations have their own benefits and challenges. My experience allows me to compare them closely and help you prepare for your teaching experience at EPIK ! In the first part of this blog series I will talk about teaching solo in South Korea.

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Finding Resources – TESOL South Korea

Here are some things I learned from the experience that helped me get by while teaching on my own. The internet is full of resources for foreign teachers. In Korea we have this wonderful website called waygook.org, which has lesson plans by other foreign teachers (waygook means foreigner in Korean). Other TESOL teachers will surely direct you to similar websites in the country you work in. This website is an incredible time saver, especially if you don’t speak Korean. Many of these lesson plans have translations of key words and phrases. You can literally pick a whole lesson straight off the internet, spend fifteen minutes adapting it for your students, and be ready for class.

Teaching Multi-Level Classes – TESOL South Korea

One of the greatest challenges you may experience is having a large multi-level class and not being able to speak the native-language for assisting low-level students. Keep your activities simple and re-use formats for activities over and over. For low-level students, make a demonstration video or power point presentation that explains how to do the assignment or game. Showing is better than explaining. Group activities work better in these situations. Use the high level students to help explain the assignment to the low level students so the class moves faster. Once the class understands the assignment you can use that format over and over again and the students will know what’s expected of them. You may worry that it will become stale for the students, but you’d be surprised at how much the students enjoy familiar games. I use a hot potato format a few times a month. Using different music and different key expressions keeps the game lively, and the kids are thrilled every time it comes out.

The most important thing you can do is learn to speak slowly and to adjust your language to the level you are teaching. This comes with time. You will find yourself even speaking with an accent to low level students so they have an easier time understanding you. I frequently say things like lunchee, or changee when talking to young children who have only heard English spoken with a Korean accent in their lives, (this accent takes over and it becomes difficult to invite a friend out to lunch instead of lunchee). Many of the students may know English, but find your accent hard to understand. It is a process to get the students accustomed to listening to a native speaker, and you will have to ease them out of their bad speaking habits.

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