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Texas ISD School Guide
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Travel, Teach, Live in Korea

How to Teach ESL to Koreans
By:Lee-Ann Jacobson

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) requires a certain level of skill regardless of who your students are. Since Korean students are exposed mainly to English grammar and vocabulary in their native country, it is essential that the areas of speaking and listening be the next focus of their English acquisition so they may put what they have learned into practice in a meaningful and useful way.

Begin by asking students to tell the class a few things about themselves. Allow students to each give a brief personal description to the best of their ability. Do not correct their English mistakes at this stage, but help them if they are struggling to find a word.

Ask the students to circulate around the room and introduce themselves to one another. Write prompts on the whiteboard for beginner level students, such as "My name is... I come from... I like..." Ask the students to take their seats after everyone has interacted.

Distribute lined paper, pens and pencils to any students who did not bring their own materials. Write a specific list on the whiteboard that clearly explains what tasks will be practiced that day, for example: 1) introduction to food topic, 2) class discussion and 3) pairs speaking practice. Always print, as many Koreans are unfamiliar with cursive writing. Have a variety of tasks prepared in your lesson plan, depending on your time limit. Try to include as much speaking and listening as possible in your lesson, as these are the areas most Koreans want and need to practice.


Choose one specific speaking topic, in this case food, for each days lesson. Begin the first activity by asking students about their favorite dishes. Give an example of your own favorite dish if students are shy. Assess students' level of comprehension by their facial expressions. Koreans tend to be more expressive than Japanese students, for example, so if they appear confused, they probably are. Explain the type of dish you are talking about more slowly and in further detail. Encourage students again to give examples of their own favorites, gently correcting any grammatical or pronunciation mistakes as they speak. Achieve a happy medium between fluency and correction, as there will be time for more intensive error correction later in the lesson. Continue to pose food-related questions as a whole-class discussion and elicit answers, correcting errors as needed.


Hand out photocopied conversation questions to the students. Put the class into pairs and tell them to take turns asking and answering the conversation questions with each other.


Walk around the class listening for grammar and pronunciation mistakes. Correct students gently, but often at this stage, as Korean students expect and want this from a teacher, they prefer not to be corrected constantly during a whole-class discussion.


Spend the last few minutes of class going over any common mistakes you noticed while students were doing the pair activity. Dismiss the class at the designated finish time.


Never ask students if they are from North or South Korea. Since North Korea is a Communist country, it is almost certain that your students are from South Korea.

Never allow the students to speak in their native language unless specifically asked to do so by your academic director. Teachers should always be aiming for the target language.

Always be on the lookout for signs of culture shock. Students who are excessively shy or nervous may be having difficulty adjusting.

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