Monday, 1 June 2015

English Festival 2015

I can't remember if I've ever mentioned it before, but here in South Korea many schools and/or districts will hold an "English Festival" at least once a year. The intention is to let kids have an "English experience" for a day. It can be a very broad description depending on the organisers. 

A couple I've been to have taken contributors from many different schools in one district and is kind of like a talent show. Groups from each school put on a short performance, all in English (be it a skit, rendition of a book, or a song), or compete together as teams to solve problems like spelling bees, races, and general knowledge.

Others, like the one my school recently had, are for one school only. They focus on an intensive day of games similar to what we'd play at the end of a lesson, craft projects, English music, or cultural education.

As my school doesn't have an auditorium, our festival basically took over a large section of the school for 2 days, with different "stations" set up in various classrooms. 3rd and 4th grade on one day, and 5th and 6th on the other.

We could only use some of the classrooms of the year groups taking part that day, so there weren't actually enough rooms to go around, so many of the activities were set up outside and we collectively fretted over the looming threat of rain.

I'm the Native English Teacher, so naturally I play a large role in the festival. I technically had 2 "stations" and 1 game that I contributed to, but one of my stations was then given to a student teacher to be taught.

The game I helped with sounded quite fun. It was a "listen and draw" activity that tends to be quite popular when we try it out in class. Basically, there are a list of simple sentences that describe a picture. Each student in a team will hear one sentence and should draw what they hear.

Once all of the sentences have been drawn, the teams turn their boards around to compare, and also get to see the original (drawn by yours truly).

I'm a little sad that I didn't get to see any of their work, especially as it was only for 5th and 6th grade, who tend to produce really good or funny projects. I can only hope they had fun! These pictures were huge. If I lay down on the paper it reached from about the top of my head to my bum.

My main project was the cooking class. Partly because it's somehow reasonably well known that I love food and I enjoy cooking, and partly because the cooking class is inevitably the most popular of all the activities available, beacuse...well, food. Who wouldn't love skipping class to sit and eat snacks?

I needed a theme but also something that was quick and easy to make for kids ranging from about 6 to 11 years old. I went vaguely for "British Wildlife in Spring" which I eventually condensed down to "Lucky Ladybirds" (or, to my chagrin, ladybugs).

After modifying a Pinterest recipe (I know, I know) that used hard-to-find and expensive ingredients like olives and cream cheese (also bearing in mind that we'd need to buy enough for about 800 students and not bankrupt the school) I was given an arsenal of seemingly endless crates of strawberries, grapes, and crackers, as well as a fleet of student teachers to help prep the fruit as well as supervise the students.

It was a little bit scary because not only did I have to teach a whole class without a co-teacher, I also had to direct my little crew of student teachers whom I'd never met before and, while very lovely and willing to help, seemed to be as nervous as I was.

I think it all went well, though. They managed to get their snacks made, there were no disasters, we never ran over time (not to my knowledge, anyway!), and I was even given a few snacks by some students who were full or not a fan of the ingredients.

With regards to running over time, the schedule was one of the most tricky things about the festival. In a usual school day we have a 40 minute class, followed by a 10 minute break, rinse and repeat. For the festival, however, we only had 20 minutes to teach each class, and there were no breaks except for the lunch "hour".

That's 20 minutes to get a class of about 24 in, sat down, quiet, learning some English, making some (in hindsight rather messy) snacks, eating, cleaning up, packing away and saying goodbye, whilst also somewhere in there having enough time to prep ingredients for the next class and if possible (and highly recommended) make extra snacks for the school staff to try.


So where I'd usually have maybe 5 or 6 classes in a full-on day, for 2 days I had 15, including a couple of mystery classes featuring whole groups of students I'd never seen or met before. Erk?!

But, like I said, it didn't go too badly, I actually got to eat a lot of snacks, my kids oddly used a lot more English than usual, and I got a lot of happy smiles and thumbs up from students. Which is, if I'm honest, all I was really hoping for.

"Teacher! Good job!" (^o^) b

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