The blog is back…I had a few personal distractions, trip to America, added workload, et al.  However, I feel I really benefit from blogging.  It gives me a concrete focus to make those ever so delicate and sometimes difficult to locate tweaks to my teaching that are both gratifying and, if nothing else, allow me to deliver my message more coherently.

I’ve decided to narrow my focus, thus I am “re-branding.”  Instead of just talking about “teaching” or “ELT,” I’m going to focus on the part of the job which to me is very rewarding—refining my lesson plans.  Hopefully, I’ll find better ways to go about this in the future, but for this entry I decided to take a look at my recent 2nd grade middle school lesson plan and note some of the “mistakes” I made and the corrective action I will take for the next lesson plan.

Here are four areas which I felt I could improve upon from my lesson this week:

Make sure the vocabulary in my materials aligns with the meaning of the vocabulary in the coursebook.  This was a major faux paux on my part.  I typically recycle vocabulary from the school issued coursebook in the materials I develop.  I used this sentence during my powerpoint presentation: “Do you think that [target language point] I will miss my mommy?”  The course book used “miss” in the sense “I don’t want to miss this appointment.”  The Korean translations are different for both senses of the word.  This could have been easily rectified had I checked the reading passages in the book before I began constructing my lesson plan. 

Eliminate the “daily challenge.”  This is an idea I got from the KOTESOL International Conference last year.  Apparently there is some research stating that if a challenge to use something from a class/seminar is made by the facilitator/teacher, then there is an increased likelihood that the knowledge presented within the session will actually be put to (hopefully good) use.  Maybe that works better in a professional seminar than a middle school classroom.  I challenged students “to use the target language items and vocabulary at least four times outside of English class.”  Students were befuddled, apathetic, and the idea simply didn’t appear to register with this body of learners.  I think I will drop the idea in the future.

Better pre-listening activities.  In an effort to begin my classes a little more smoothly, I have resorted to the old saw of showing the short funny video.  Here’s this week’s selection: .  I think it worked relatively well—slow speech—80%+ of the vocabulary clearly within the students’ proficiency level.  I used two pre-listening activities.  The first was a general discussion question: “What is the worst thing you could eat if you were really hungry.”  The second activity was a “pre-listening quiz” which asked students to answer true/false questions in attempt to get them to hypothesize about the content of video.  The second activity served its function well (certainly not an original idea on my part).  I feel I could have improved upon the first activity.  Instead of a general question, as a whole class activity we could have considered the question as “a matrix.”  For instance:

If you were really, really hungry, would you eat this:


Yes (please check)

No (please check)






Ramen Noodles




Horse Meat





If students gave interested/interesting responses, then I might ask for students to supply more autonomously generated contributions. 

Leave some gaps in the transcripts.  Again for the “funny video” I provided students with a transcript, which we collectively translated before playing the video several times—twice and again right before the class ended (with the exception of a certain co-teacher who felt the need to tell me “only once”).  In retrospect, I feel I should have placed a few gaps in the transcripts, rather than providing a full translation.  The gaps should have been relative low-level words.  Theoretically that would allow students to listen to my speech instead of merely reading along.

I have shared a few reflections on the limits of my lesson planning for the week.  I hope to make some improvements and implement them into my practice in the future.

 I leave with a few questions based on various events/occurrences this week related to my teaching.

My new school’s policy.  Now at the 40 minute mark there is an intrusion in every teacher’s classroom at my school.  Students are supposed to stop what they are doing and write down the “main ideas” from the lesson into a school provided planner.  Initially I thought this was both intrusive and somewhat ridiculous—we have a pre-pubescent student announcing in Korean: “Its review time now.”  Now it really isn’t any reason for much concern.  I spend the last five minutes reviewing anyhow, and it doesn’t require additional work from me.  If you experienced such a policy how would you feel/react?

Engaging Pronunciation.  I am probably far from alone among various ELT practitioners in my neglect of pronunciation in the classroom.  In a recent article I came across from Carol Linse, apparently 81% of Korean parents represented in this particular survey either “agreed or strongly agreed” with the following statement:  “pronunciation is one of the most important things for students to acquire.”  That is certainly a loaded survey item, but it makes me wonder if I should attend more closely to this aspect of English acquisition.  What do you think?  What are the best methods for engaging middle school learners in pronunciation activities?

Until later,



Linse, Caroline (2011).  Korean Parental Beliefs about EFL from the Perspective of Teachers.  TESOL Journal 2 (4), pgs. 473-491.




About cmiller112

Teacher, Father, Jogger, Sleeper, Husband, (add extra label here)
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