The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

TEFL TIPS #7 – Sticker Charts

Using a sticker chart when teaching TEFL is by no means an original idea! In fact, most ESL teachers probably don’t need me to tell them how to use a sticker chart effectively—but I am going to list some of the benefits associated with using this handy classroom tool. I think it’s important to note that studies suggest sticker charts are used most effectively when teaching ages 3 – 8 years old.

Sticker charts actually divide opinion among the teachers I know. Many (myself included) find them to be a useful instrument in the classroom, and would be lost without them.

However, others say that they use fear to control and motivate . They argue that a child would be afraid of failing, and not receiving a sticker would cause them to feel ashamed in front of their classmates.

This may also be true, but unfortunately, in an ESL classroom with younger learners, the language barrier is a problematic issue and not all instructions are fully understood. There needs to be a method in place to translate to the students that bad behavior won’t be tolerated and good behavior is to be rewarded.

So, with that said, I think the benefits of using sticker charts outweigh the negatives. Here’s why –

– Discipline

I would say that a lot of the good behavior in my classroom is because the students understand that if they don’t behave they won’t receive a sticker at the end of the day. I can combat any naughty behavior with the simple question: “Do you want a sticker?” Ideally, it would never get to this point, but it happens.

– Encouraging English

Encouraging English is very important in any ESL classroom! Students may be more motivated to talk in English if they were to receive a reward at the end of class.

– Minimizing the use of Native Language

Unsurprisingly, stickers can also be used to minimize the amount of talking the students do in their native tongue.

Teaches about goals/working toward something long-term

Children often count down the days until they finish their chart and receive their reward.  This is great at helping them understand the concept of long term goals.


Learning to be excited for others’ accomplishments

Students always find it fun to see a classmate pick their prize and find out what it is.  This may be because they can see what potential prize they could get, or because they are genuinely excited for their friend.

A sticker chart is by no means a perfect system, but it is easily understood by younger learners and can be used in a variety of ways.

Check out these fantastic sticker chart resources:

Websites

Teachers pay teachers

Pinterest

Twinkl

On Amazon

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Teaching in Thailand vs. Teaching in Japan

Teaching in Thailand vs. Japan

by Rachael Hornsby

Having started my TEFL adventures in Thailand, I have now spent a year teaching there, and another 6 months teaching in Japan (with a year back in the UK in between). If you might be considering either of these countries to teach English in, or are deciding between East and South East Asia in general, here’s my brief take on how these countries have compared so far for me. Enjoy!

The dosh

It’s of course not all about the money, but, in terms of bare numbers, in Thailand my teaching wage was 30,000 baht per month (around £ 700), whereas in Japan I earn 250,000 yen (~£2000). In both cases it is pretty much the standard amount for an inexperienced teacher.

My Thai wage obviously wasn’t a lot in UK terms, but the cost of living is so low in Thailand that it’s PLENTY to live on. My rent was about £80 (although my friends’ were cheaper!), and I could eat out every night for as little as 25 baht for a Pad Thai (about 50p!). Thailand and S.E. Asia as a whole is SO cheap that my Thai wage managed to take me on tonnes of adventures, such as tripping around Vietnam in my school holidays, and numerous weekends around Thailand, to Chiang Mai, Bangkok etc.

Living expenses obviously all cost so much more in Japan. My rent is 45,000 yen per month (over £ 350), (although I know in big cities like Tokyo it can be MUCH higher), and bills and food add much more on to that. Again, I seem to have spent a lot of spare cash so far in Japan travelling, and unfortunately just exploring mainland Japan can be really pricey- a bullet train to Tokyo from my island of Kyushu is about £170 (as opposed to a train I took to Laos from Southern Thailand for £15!).

In short, the main difference is, if you are strict with your money, and don’t go off travelling every spare minute (it’s just so tempting!!), your savings in Japan will stretch much further if you take them elsewhere, especially to other economically rich countries, like if you wanted to pay off debts in the UK (with the pound plunging, at this rate you could go home with a small fortune!). My friends have also taken extra tutoring jobs on the side if they really wanted to fill up their wallet, although this might not be allowed in your contract. And if you’re really looking for the big bucks, jobs where the company actually pay for your flights or accommodation, like ones in South Korea, might be an even better bet.

(*WRITTEN OCTOBER 2016! The pound is changing so much these days, so god knows how long these currency conversions will be accurate. A couple of days!?*)

Culture

If you’re not hoping for a culture shock, then you’re in the wrong game! There are obviously hundreds of wonderful/fascinating/infuriating sides of Thai and Japanese culture, but here’s a few:

Although there are reasons not to get on the wrong side of Thailand (in a rare case some people I knew had a pretty rough time being deported…), the country generally really does live up to its reputation as the “land of smiles”. From the random people I’d find to help me when my moped got a flat tire (more than once!), to the chatty monks on the train (let them talk to you first, don’t just go barging up to one!), it’s a great place for restoring faith in humanity. It’s also VERY laid back. The famously slow pace of pretty much anything there can drive many people absolutely up the wall- a train that should take 2 hours, ends up taking 5 hours, etc.-, but you will start to adopt the local “mai pen rai”, care-free attitude, and pretty much all of my friends left Thailand a less uptight person than when they arrived (who couldn’t do with giving themselves that gift?).

Japan is in some ways the opposite of Thailand’s laid back attitude. From the notoriously prompt trains, to the meticulous dividing of household recycling, everything is fantastically organised and reliable. I’m constantly amazed at how efficient things are and by the different things Japan has come up with to get stuff done! As in Thailand, people in Japan are exceptionally polite and friendly, and the hospitality in Japan is second to none, to the extent that I admittedly found myself feeling a bit aggrieved without it in on a recent trip to Hong Kong, making me appreciate Japan even more. The level of politeness did at first it come off as a bit oppressive (train carriages are often silent, etc.), making it seem hard to ‘break in’ or really socialise, but of course with a little more patience you get to meet more people, and make amazing new friends. I think you could say Japan is more like the UK in that way!

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“mai pen rai” life on Koh Samet vs. ingenious conveyor belt sushi

The job



As far as the job goes, each school can differ widely depending on the age you’re teaching, whether it’s private or government, etc. etc., but there are a few general trends, which seem to be mainly extensions of Thailand’s “mai pen rai” culture vs. the super efficient Japan.

Although I had textbooks for some of my classes at my Thai school, this wasn’t that common, and it tends to be a “do it yourself” kind of attitude to the curriculum/ teaching in general. This can obviously be a bit scary if it’s your first time teaching, and can be frustrating if you feel like you’re not getting the help or direction you’d like, but it’s also great as it gives you freedom in what you want to teach, allows you to experiment with your teaching style, and is a great challenge to get you tuck into the job. You also pretty much never know what’s going on- most weeks I’d turn up to work with all my lessons planned, only to find out at least 1 was cancelled for some random reason I didn’t know of, like the day we found ourselves ushered onto a school bus first thing, with kids all prepared wearing traditional outfits, and we spent the morning sitting in front of monks in a temple listening to them chant!

Japan, on the other hand, is a lot more organised in its approach. In my job teaching at a private kindergarten, I have tonnes more support, like a curriculum, weekly meetings, many of my lessons already planned for me etc. In comparison to Thailand, my job feels so much more coherent, although I’ve heard that other jobs for the larger companies can be even more structured. In a way this means you can’t use as much creativity in your teaching, and aren’t being pushed quite as hard. And I do sometimes miss the manic spontaneity of Thailand (in my first month here, I was actually thrown into presenting an assembly without notice, and secretly loved it!). I also have to work evenings this time, like many other language schools, but I do have a lot more free time in the day that I don’t have to spend planning lessons, and generally feel a lot less ‘at sea’.

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Thai assembly 

Things to see and do



You obviously can’t spend all your time gallivanting around if you have a teaching job, but you can pack plenty of sightseeing into your free weekends and holidays if you fancy (and why ever not?!). In Thailand you’ll find more elephants, street markets, and idyllic beaches, and it can be more of a wild party scene if you land a job near a tourist area (I’ve had more ‘buckets’ of cocktails than I’d care to remember…). Japan has more impressive mountains and hiking  (being made up of volcanic islands), there are hot spring baths and karaoke bars everywhere, and you can go skiing in winter (which I’m 99% sure you can’t do in Thailand!). It also has its share of good nightlife (especially in the big cities), and even has gorgeous beaches and great scuba diving spots down in balmy Okinawa. Basically, Japan and Thailand are both popular tourist destinations for good reason- they both have beautiful scenery, endless temples, fascinating festivals etc. etc. So, unless there’s something you’re absolutely itching to do, like climb Mount Fuji or rave at a full moon party, you’ll find plenty of weird and wonderful ways to keep you occupied in both!

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Beach in Koh Chang vs.  Hike in Nagasaki

Getting down and dirty

Thailand is by no means a third world country, but Japan is miles ahead of it when it comes to things like infrastructure and sanitation, and feels even more developed than the UK in some ways. Japan is probably the cleanest place I’ve ever been, and they have technology for everything, from heated toilet seats to shoe vending machines (probably the name for it!) at the bowling alley. Thailand, on the other hand, can take a little getting used to for a Westerner. Rather than having heated toilets, we had to flush the loo using a bucket in our Thai school, and if you’re doing things on the cheap (which you might as well!), then you’ll find yourself, for example, sitting on plastic chairs at a food stall in street, with stray dogs wandering around you whilst you eat your dinner. There are also more critters around in Thailand- I often found cute baby geckos living in my shoes, I was never without at least 1 mosquito bite (although I am especially attractive to the buggers!), and my town happened to be overrun with mafia-like monkeys.

The things in Thailand that seem so alien at first really don’t take long to feel normal, and to be honest I’m grateful for the experience of living with a tiny bit less luxury, for helping me appreciate how lucky we are at home, and showing me what I can actually live without. So if you want this type of challenge, I’d have to recommend Thailand, but if you want a more easy transition (dealing with a brand new Asian culture can be enough in itself!), then go for Japan. I myself am glad I did both in the order that I have, since I can appreciate the wonders of Japan even more!

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Critter friends in Thailand vs. Super sleek Shibuya 

The language

Both Thai and Japanese are a world away from English, and I can’t profess to be much of an expert at either, but here goes. The Thai language has 1 ‘alphabet’ (or set of characters,) and uses lots of different tones. These can be seriously hard to pick up (“ma” can have a whole host of meanings depending on your tone), but luckily Thais often understand what a farang (foreigner) is getting at without them. They often drop unnecessary words from sentences (as in Japan!), so I wasn’t too paranoid about having bad grammar either. The little Thai I learnt came in very handy and was really appreciated, especially in tourist spots (I was all but given applause just ordering pineapple in Krabi!). To be honest you can get by with very little Thai if you wish, and it’s surprising how many Thais speak some English anyway, even in remote parts of the country.

Japanese seems harder to me. This may just be because I’ve put more effort into learning it, and so have realised what a mountain it is to really learn a language. Thailand’s “alphabet”, once learnt, can get you reading any Thai for good (I’ve been told!). Japan, however, has 3 sets of characters, and I can read the 2 basic ones (very handy for things like Western food menus), but the 3rd set of Chinese characters feels like it may take me an age to tackle (I’m sure Japanese people can’t even read them all!), and I still can’t read that much when I’m out and about. Unlike Thai, Japanese isn’t tonal, so once you’ve learnt words or phrases, it’s pretty easy to catch them and pronounce them, but Japan also seem to have many more ways of saying one thing, depending on different situations or who you’re speaking to. This can make it more daunting when trying to use it yourself, or frustrating when you don’t understand something you thought you knew! Basic English also seems less widespread here, so there are certain things I’ve simply had to drag a Japanese speaker along to help me do, like buying a phone contract, but you manage!

I’ve been frustrated at times by my lack of skill at both languages, but really learning either can take years, and many TEFL teachers get by fine speaking very little, if any. It will of course enhance your experience whatever amount you manage to learn, so you might as well give it a bash, and if you really want to get the hang of it, just get yourself a local boy/girlfriend (seems to work every time!)

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Japanese vs. Thai (Jibberish vs. nonsense??) 

“Konichiwa, Japan!” or “Sawadee Ka, Thailand!”??

The beauty of a TEFL job is you get to spend months in a country that many people only spend a fortnight visiting on holiday, which teaches you so many beautiful/ ridiculous things about a place, and so there could be a billion more ways I could use to compare these two amazing countries (I could write a whole post on types of beer! Actually I might do that…). But in super brief, Thailand and Japan are like riding a Tuk Tuk vs. taking the bullet train. One is a bit more of a slow, bumpy ride, and the other is more sleek and a bit more predictable, but they are both brand new experiences, that can be equally thrilling (you’d be surprised how fast a Tuk tuk can go!), and will take you to places to never expected! Both countries are amazing, so if there’s anything at all drawing you to one or the other, just pick that one and GO! You won’t regret it.

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Tuk tuk or bullet train?

Everything You Need To Know About Teaching in Hong Kong

By Livvy Hill

 

TEFL Life in the “Pearl of the Orient”

After two years of living and working abroad, it only took a few weeks of being back home unemployed that I got my usual itchy feet and started looking at moving away again. Having taught English in Thailand before, I decided that teaching somewhere in Asia again was a good option as there are plenty of opportunities. This time though, I was taking my boyfriend along for the ride!

So we started looking at the best options for ‘TEFL couples’ and originally, South Korea was our choice. Plenty of ‘couples’ opportunities, good money and of course, a new exciting experience. However, I then received an email for an opportunity in Hong Kong and it seemed like an awesome deal. We hadn’t even considered Hong Kong, and if I’m honest, I barely knew anything about it beforehand! I got straight online and did more research into the city and other teaching opportunities on offer. After reading plenty of blogs that sold Hong Kong to me and my boyfriend, we jazzed up our CV’s and emailed lots of language schools. One week later, we landed jobs with Hong Kong’s largest English language center and had 1 month to get everything organized and begin our new life chapter.

TEFLing in Hong Kong

          Like most places in Asia, when it comes to teaching English you have two choices here. You can work in a local, private or an International school, or you can work in English language centers. I can only really offer advice on the latter, as this is the route my boyfriend and I chose. However, if you hold a PGCE or equivalent, I highly recommend looking into the first options or the NET scheme, as there are some pretty incredible opportunities to be had. I had my TEFL certificate and one years experience and my boyfriend had only recently just gained his TEFL, so English language centers were much more likely to hire us.

We both landed jobs with Monkey Tree English Learning Center, Hong Kong’s largest English language school with over 40 centers. We work at separate centers (which we like…living AND working AND traveling together is a little intense) and we currently live on Hong Kong Island.

Our experience so far is very positive. However it is VERY different from what I was used to in Thailand. Creating my own lessons, teaching 18 hours a week to the same homeroom kindergarten class of 30…oh no. This is nothing like it. The work ethic in Hong Kong is extremely high, and even as a TEFL teacher, our hours are long. We work 9.30-6.30 3 days a week, and until 7.30 2 days a week, teaching a maximum of 30 hours. However, the center we work for provides everything for us. There is no lesson planning involved, all materials are provided and classes are small. I teach a maximum of 8 children at a time, and the ages range from 2 years old to 12 years old. The center offers a variety of classes too, so I might teach a kindergarten style lesson in the morning, with some phonic lessons in the afternoon and then reading or grammar in the evening.

There are pros and cons to this style of teaching, as in Thailand it was slightly more relaxed and I had the chance to be super creative with my lesson planning. However, sometimes I would be up until 2am designing worksheets or preparing crafts. Whereas now, I turn up to work and everything I need is there, and I can come home and not even think about work. Work stays at work. Nevertheless, sometimes I miss the mental challenge and creative side of things.

If you think an English language center could be the route for you, I just recommend researching the company and other teachers experiences there. However, always read a variety of opinions, as one persons experience can be very different from another. We are over 6 months into our contract now and have had a very good experience so far. Monkey Tree is a well known language school here, other centers I have heard of are Excel English and Jolly Kingdom. Many companies interview over Skype, so if you wanted to secure a job before you landed here like we did, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

The pay as a TEFL teacher here is good and most companies will offer a bonus on completion of your contract. Contracts are usually 12+ months and if you are looking at saving money like we were, it can be done!

Bijou Living

         In Thailand, I had my own studio apartment with a huge double bed, and then in Sydney my boyfriend and I had a master bedroom with plenty of space. So moving to Hong Kong was a little shock to the system as living spaces here are TINY.

There are two options when it comes to where one lives in Hong Kong: on the island or off. Living on the island means easy access to the centre and all its bars, restaurants and entertainment, but living off the island generally means getting more value for money from one’s accommodation.

We live on the Island, in a very small 3 bedroom apartment and share what can only be described as a miniature double bed (it is not a regular size double bed). We live with 2 other teachers from Monkey Tree, and it has definitely been a challenge living in such a confined space. However, we are in such a good location and we live above the food markets, it has so much character and the apartment itself is fairly modern.

Property prices in Hong Kong are among the highest in the world, and to rent you usually need to be able to afford 3 months up front for your deposit, and the size you get for your money can be a little sickening. However, our company actually organizes housing for those who want it and you just have to pay 1 months deposit. We took this option as it was much more financially doable for us. You can of course, find your own apartment to rent and have the choice to not have housemates and there are plenty of really fancy places you can live, but a BIG price tag will be attached. Our main goal is to save to travel here, so staying in Monkey Tree accommodation and apartment sharing, plus being a couple, makes it a lot cheaper for us and easier to save!

Hong Kong Lifestyle

         Life in Hong Kong is really what you make it. People working in Hong Kong often live their social lives with the same speed and efficiency expected of them in the business world. After long, demanding days at the office, locals and foreigners alike have a bewildering array of opportunities to enjoy ostentatious luxury or to absorb the city’s natural splendor and cultural allure.

A lot of expats here seem to “work hard, play hard”, however for us it’s more like “work hard, save hard”. This isn’t to say that we have not made the most of our time here! Hong Kong has stunning mountains with plenty of beautiful hiking trails and pretty beaches to see, and all of this is free, so we like to get outdoors on our days off and explore outside of the city. It isn’t always necessary to pay top dollar to enjoy yourself. We have sought out some great cheap eats and we know what bars offer happy hours and what cinemas offer cheap tickets on certain days. So it really is just finding out about all the little deals that can save you a fortune.

Exercise and gyms are such a luxury here too. If you want to join a gym or yoga club, expect to pay at least 700HKD (70GBP) a month for a basic gym with an attached hefty joining fee. Or you can pay up to 1500HKD but the facilities of the health club will be outstanding and you will get an incredible view too. For me, this just was not in my budget. So I have taken up running. We live very close to the harbor where there is a fantastic 3km promenade that overlooks the Kowloon Island with the mountains in the background, it is truly stunning. I can do my own circuit training exercises in the local park and as a yoga addict, who cannot afford the price tag attached to the yoga clubs here, I have managed to always find out about charity classes and free events and I even found a yoga teacher who offers a pay as you go scheme with no contract, which is perfect (and the classes are great!) I am probably the most physically fit I have ever been and it is the first time I haven’t paid to be a member of a gym, so I am saving a ton of money and keeping in shape! So I suggest people looking to save here but who like to workout, just head outside!

Eating

         Eating in Hong Kong has not really been a challenge. Hong Kong is the perfect mix of East meets West, and you can get all the western treats here if you want, or you can head to the local markets to eat some chicken feet soup if that’s your thing. For us, personally, Chinese food does not hit the spot, and we are not huge meat eaters, so we were a little apprehensive about what we were going to be eating out here. However, it has been fine, we occasionally buy chicken from the supermarkets, but we get all of our fruit and veggies form the food market below us, we have nutella in the cupboard, cereals, you can buy all the normal crisps and chocolate if you wanted. I can’t have dairy, so I was worried about finding other alternatives but it has not been difficult at all. I have access to soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, dairy free ice creams and yogurts, so food shopping really isn’t that different from the UK. It’s just a lot more expensive! So when we do go shopping in the supermarkets we usually just get essentials like bread and butter, but occasionally we like to treat ourselves. The food markets are very cheap to buy fruit and vegetables, and rice and noodles are of course very cheap and easy to come by. As I said before, we have found lots of great cheap restaurants, so we actually eat out about 2-3 times a week, as it can work out as the same price as cooking your own food.

Getting around Asia’s World City

         Transport in Hong Kong is incredibly efficient and cheap. The MTR system is fantastic, the buses are pretty good and you can even get the ferries between the islands which offer incredible views. Rarely have I ever had to get taxis, but when I have done, it’s been easy and reasonably priced. Hong Kong is also a great location to be visit other parts of Asia. We have already been to Taiwan, and have booked to go to Borneo over Christmas and to the Philippines in the New Year. You can get very good deals on flights here.

Hong Kong has the nickname “Pearl of the Orient”, which is a reflection of the impressive night-view of the city’s light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour, and if you come here it’s easy to understand why it has this name. It’s a bustling city built on a stunning island, and it’s a very cool place to live and work! If you are considering teaching English here, I 100% recommend it.

 

TEFL TIPS #10 – THE ALMIGHTY FLASHCARD (2)

For this TEFL Tip, I’m going to write another post on flashcard activities.

You can find my first post here

Activity – Run to the ______ (Listening)

Age – Pre-K, K, Primary

Level – Beginner

This activity mainly focuses on listening and is one of the most simple but effective listening games you can play.

You start by teaching new vocabulary to your class using a selection of flashcards. Spend some time making sure the children understand what exactly the pictures are and ensure they pronounce the words correctly.

Then, check how much they have learned!

Scatter the flashcards throughout the classroom, stick them to walls, chairs, or if you’re a giant goofball like me, even your forehead.

SHOUT a word and the students need to listen and run to the flashcard of that word. Kids love it!

As time goes on, use more flashcards to ensure some of the children aren’t just having lucky guesses.  Also, giving a few students the chance to play one by one, maybe even against the clock to see how many they can get in time helps strengthen each child individually. And why only run? You could ask the class to skip, hop, crawl, etc. each time.

Give it a go &have fun!

-Liam

TEFL TIPS #9 – CLASS THEMES

Class Themes

When you peek inside the classrooms around you, chances are you find a lot of the same, especially in elementary schools—bright colors, number lines, and those same “motivational” banners that lose their appeal by day three. It can be hard to make your classroom stand out and to avoid having your space become completely mundane year to year. One way to spruce things up is to choose a class theme and to change it with either each semester or each new school year.

Adding a theme to a class can really help get students involved in their environment—it gets their imaginations turning and inspires them to create a whole world within the classroom. A theme also gives a sense of belonging and creates the mentality that the class is a team—“We’re all Tigers and Tigers are the best!”.

Of course, try not to get stuck in the rut of animals & fantasy creatures. Get creative and try out different professions (astronauts, sailors), environments (allow the class to create their own city or country), or even authors (Shel Silverstein & Dr. Seuss are always great choices!).

When cleverly executed, a class mascot can also be used to encourage positive behavior: “Ninjas are very quiet!” “Let’s go! Trains are super-speedy!”

You can also use that theme as a jumping-off point for arts & crafts, stories, and activities throughout the year. You can have class projects that revolve around creating a giant image of whatever your theme is (a class train or snake that gets longer with each completed unit; a giraffe or cheetah with increasing spots; a pirate with a growing crew or ninja with increasing shuriken, depending on the age group) as you complete different units or learn new facts.

Lastly, having a changing theme is a great mental break for you as a teacher—it inspires you to get more creative and motivates you to have a fresh outlook for a new class. It can help make the passage of time more visible too, and you realize how many subjects you’ve gone through or how far back a certain class was. When a new topic is one that really excites or motivates you it is bound to have a positive effect on your students as well.

-Ashley

Visa Guide: Korea

Getting Your Work Visa in Korea

South Korea has one of the most complex and time-consuming Visa processes of all the countries I’ve been to. The amount of paperwork involved is intense and unlike most countries, you really need to begin the process of collecting documents long before you’ve actually secured a job. Further, while most countries process these applications at their foreign consulates, your documents will actually need to be sent to Korea before you can proceed. Let’s start with the basics—here’s what you’ll need to collect:

  • Three sealed copies of your University transcripts
  • Notarized copies of your degrees
  • Two copies of an FBI Criminal Background Check—depending on where you live, this can be quite a hassle. In order to obtain the correct check, you need to supply them with fingerprint cards. Getting your fingerprints taken in the past meant walking into any police station, but these days finding one that still does it (or even better—does it for free) can be hard to do. For the process on ordering or to print out fingerprint cards, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks/identity-history-summary-checks . This one has to be timed correctly as well—these checks often take up to 3 months to get back to you and they need to be less than 6 months old to be valid.
  • Signed Health Statement—this will likely be provided by your school or recruiter.
  • Resume with at least 2 letters of recommendation
  • Copy of your Passport Information page
  • 5 Passport-sized Photos
  • A signed copy of your new school contract.

So far this seems pretty standard, right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated. You’ll now need to take your notarized degree copies & FBI Check and have them apostilled. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with this process, welcome to the club. It’s a needlessly complicated and expensive way to basically notarize the notary—double-confirm that the document is real. In the US, each state has a designated office that can issue apostilles, each with their own fee ranging from $0 – $35 per document. You’ll need to send your degrees to the office of the state they were notarized in. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to send them to the state they were issued in instead—make sure you clarify this with your recruiter or school before sending your documents.

Your background check will need to be apostilled at the federal level, so you’ll need this form (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/183033.pdf ) and will send your documents to the Department of State.

For those not in the US, apostilles may be obtained from:

Okay, so now you’ve spent a few hundred bucks and wasted hours waiting for the mail to arrive, but you’ve finally collected all your papers. Now, you’ll need to send them to your school or recruiter in Korea. They’ll then file for your visa issuance number and send the required documents back to you. Now, you’ll need to collect the documents you’ll need at the consulate:

  • Passport
  • E2 Visa Application form (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Consulate’s Checklist (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Passport Photo
  • One set of sealed university transcripts
  • Visa Issuance Number

The final step in the process, after your documents have been reviewed, is an interview with the consulate which can be scheduled via telephone, although most require you to appear in person for the actual appointment. They’ll mostly just ask about your employment, your housing, your long-term plan, and your medical record/vaccinations—all pretty basic.

You then need to wait for your passport to arrive with your newly minted Korean Work Visa, and once it arrives you’ll be on your way!

-Ashley

TEFL TIPS #8 – PLAYDOUGH

In order to inspire creative thinking and maintain active engagement in the classroom, teachers need to sustain a dynamic environment. One great way to get kids involved is to involve more tactile activities and there are so many fun ways to include playdough in an ESL classroom! Not just for kids, either—even my adult learners have enjoyed some of the more challenging activities and welcome the break from books & paper. Below are some of my favorite activities:

Younger Learners:

Letters & Numbers: Definitely the most simple activity, having your smallest students practice their letters and numbers in clay is a fun way to help them focus on the shapes while also benefiting their developing motor skills. Offering them free time to create whatever they want afterward is also a great reward and as their skills grow you can challenge them to first spell out what they want to make afterward.

Footprints & Textures: For this activity, you’ll need small toy animals or hard, textured items like brushes, legos, & coins. Spread the playdough out on the table and make impressions while one or all students close their eyes, then have them try to guess what made the marks. This is great with toy dinosaurs or other plastic animals that can make different footprints and gives the opportunity to practice phrases like “I think”, “I see”, and “Is it…?”. Afterward, let the kids experiment with making their own impressions and see what pictures and stories they can create.

Intermediate to Adult:

Storytelling: In this activity, allow the students roughly 5-10 minutes to create anything they want, then have them present it to the class by telling a story about it. For those with lower speaking skills, ask questions (What is it? What is its name? Where does it live? What does it do?). It is a great way to maintain students’ attention as well, as they always seem interested to see what their classmates were able to create.

Pictionary: In this version of the game, a student randomly draws an English word or simple sentence and must create it out of playdough for their classmates to guess. This can be done in teams (with two students sculpting for their teams at the same time and the first team to guess wins the point) or individually (where a point will be awarded to both the guesser and sculptor if someone gets it right). However, this is best done in small classes—in larger classes being able to see what is being made quickly becomes a struggle.

This is just one of many ways to get students away from their books and into a more colorful lesson!

– Ashley

EPIK

This post is the second part to – http://tefltravelling.com/2016/01/26/the-korean-hogwan/

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a program set up to help students learn English throughout the country. EPIK has been in existence since 1995 and has been used by thousands of teachers and students. Run by the Korean government, it is operated in public schools located all over Korea, catering to both elementary and high school.

EPIK should not be mistaken for the Korean private school system: The Hogwan.

Many ESL teachers choose to teach with EPIK for wide varieties of reasons that are briefly listed below:

Pros

Housing

All EPIK program jobs come with free housing; however, utilities are not included. Accommodation is usually standard but fine for its purpose.

Free Flights

EPIK provide an entrance allowance for teachers to purchase airfare to Korea (this is reimbursed during your first month). Upon competition of the contract, EPIK will also provide an allowance for teachers to purchase a flight to leave the country.

Paid Vacation

EPIK allow teachers 18 days paid vacation in addition to the 13 – 15 national Korean holidays. Vacation days can be used during the summer and winter breaks.

Regular Hours

In my personal opinion, one of the main differences between an EPIK and a Hogwan are the working hours. All EPIK schools run between 8/9.30 – 4/5.30, 22 hours of which is teaching time. Hogwans can start and finish at a wide variety of times and teaching hours drastically change between each one.

No Parent Involvement

Another HUGE benefit of EPIK over the Hogwan system is the lack of parental involvement. In many Hogwans parents basically run the show, which is not how a place of education should be run. In most cases, EPIK schools are run by professionals and people with experience.

Bonus

After a year at EPIK you will most likely be offered the chance to re-sign your contract, for which you will be given a re-signing bonus. It is also worth mentioning that for each year you stay at an EPIK school your salary will increase.

Training

Being an EPIK teacher requires you to participate in an EPIK training program.  This can be great for those with little experience or those looking to create a social circle within Korea.

Cons

VISA Process

The VISA process to work in Korea normally takes time and can be quite costly. In addition to the usual documents required for the E2 visa, EPIK candidates also need to provide 2 letters of reference.

Application Intake

A job at a Hogwan can be found all year round but this is not the case at EPIK. February and August are EPIKS two main recruitment periods; they need to have teachers in the country before the semester starts so they can complete the EPIK training programs.

Located Anywhere

You can be placed anywhere. EPIK places teachers not only anywhere in Seoul, but anywhere in the country. However, couples that apply together will stay together.

Training

EPIK training can also be a con because you can fail it.  Also, you won’t necessarily find out your location until after training and they are sorting you onto buses.

It is clear that the pros of working at an EPIK school dramatically outweigh the cons. Many argue that there is simply no contest between the Hogwan and EPIK.

Whether you chose to work for a Hogwan or use EPIK, it is always recommended that you use a good recruiter with a great reputation.

-Liam