Monday, September 2, 2013

Fun in the classroom

This morning I had my first Korean surprise.  In Korea, surprises happen often and at the last minute.  Surprise!  Class is canceled.  Surprise!  You have a teach a class that you didn't prepare for.  Surprise! We have a volleyball game after school.  Surprise! We are all going out to dinner in one hour.  Surprise!  We have a school-wide assembly in 3 minutes, and you're going to introduce yourself to the staff and students.  That literally happened to me this morning.  One of my students came and got me 8:47 and said that my co-teacher sent her to come get me for a school-wide assembly.  I was one of 4 teachers who stood up and introduced themselves.  I know one of them was new to the school, but I don't know who the other ones were.  I was the last one to go.  When I said, "Annyeong haseyo" which means hello in Korean, the whole assembly went "Ooohhh".  I had to wait about a minute for everyone to calm down.  Then I said, "Nice to meet you.  My name is Angela." you would have thought I was Taylor Swift singing a song.  Then students came up and presented the four of us with flowers.  I have never, ever gotten flowers from my school before...well except for being in the hospital when I had my bad accident.  Everyone at my school is SO friendly and welcoming.  Here I am with my flowers and my co-teacher Gayong (pronounced Kai-ong).  

So I have some amazing news to share.  Last week I shared with you the struggles of teaching at a blind school.  Many of you have prayed for me, and boy, let me tell you....God heard your prayers.  I talked to some people this weekend who had some great ideas for me.  One of them was using musical instruments in the classroom.  I was just banging on the table for that rhythm.  So yesterday, Melissa and I went to Home Plus and went to the Daiso inside.  Daiso is a dollar store here, and it is SO much better than any dollar store at home.  The man who started it believes that everyone should have access to nice things, whether you have money or not.  I was able to find several musical instruments at Daiso and Home Plus, like tambourines, a triangle, drum sticks, a little piano (still needs batteries), and several things for making instruments like tupperware containers with rice and beans to make maracas, chopsticks and cups for drums, and empty tupperware containers for big drums.  I also got a big tub of magnetic letters and a magnetic white board to practice letters and phonics.  I took them all into school this morning and showed my co-teacher.  She was thrilled and was really impressed that I thought of all that stuff and couldn't wait to see what I did with them.  I said that music and chants and rhymes really does help with their speaking.  Later I saw her making her own little musical instruments.  How awesome is that?  She also said that Seora and Mina enjoyed our music session last Friday that she wants me to continue to work with them instead of switching out students like we had planned. 

So here I am with Seora, Mina, and their helper teacher.  First, we sang some songs while beating to the beat.  They absolutely loved it.  I let them try out the different instruments.  Mina's favorite instruments were the cups and chopsticks.  She had this whole little drum set going.  Seora's favorite instruments were the tupperware maracas.  It made my heart smile to see them having such a good time. 
Mina and the drums
Seora and the maracas
Then we practiced our letters.  I would show a felt letter from the felt board, and Mina would find it out of the magnetic letters.  When she said the letter and got the match, we did a big "yeah" with our hands in the air.  She got so excited when she got a match. 

I worked with Seora to trace the felt letter with her finger so she could feel it.  
I'm learning that blind students need so much more tactile practice than regular students.  But that's not how they are usually taught.  I'm leaning on everything I've ever learned in all my years of teaching and teacher training.  I hope that I'm bringing some new ideas to the school.  

In addition to the flowers I received from my school, I also received a gift.  A box of rice cakes and a special Korean drink.

I work with several students who are completely blind.  They read Braille and use machines such as this.  I've asked what it's called, but I don't think they understand my question.

This afternoon, I worked with a middle school student on his letters of the alphabet.  First, we used the magnetic letters and put them in order.  We had to sing the alphabet almost every time to figure out what letter came next.  I still have to do that sometimes too.  Don't tell anyone.  We used the tupperware drum to drum out the rhythm of the alphabet song.  He enjoyed that.  Then we used the magnetic letters and play-dough together.  I found a magnetic letter in one color, and then he had to find the same letter in the other color.  Then we made the letter using play-dough.  He really liked this activity.  He got pretty good at rolling the dough too.

It was a great day.  I really enjoyed myself.  The only class I am having trouble with is when I work with two middle school boys who are fairly low.  Gayong wants me to work on speaking with them, but they don't speak.  They don't answer questions, they don't like my activities, they don't like to talk.  I talked to Gayong about it, and she said that they do the exact same thing with her.  She was hoping that they would be different with me and my activities.  I hope it gets better.  I felt like I was talking to myself and doing activities by myself for 45 minutes.  No bueno dudes.


  1. So many questions about those middle school boys. Can they talk or do they just not want to talk? I want to know how do they express their wants and needs? Bathroom? Hungry? Thirsty? What is their receptive language like? Can they hear? If they can't talk, or even if they won't talk, perhaps something like a picture exchange communication system (PECS) would help them to communicate. I've learned this through different speech therapists I have worked with. They use this a lot in the LIFE classes at Schulze. You can look up the PECS online and create one for them. Of course, if they are visually impaired, this might not work. Unless their is a way to use something tactile. Hmmm, I am thinking about this.

  2. Thank you so much for thinking about this Walter! To answer your questions, they are low in English, and they also might have some learning disabilities. They can talk, but I don't think they are very confident in their English. They are also at that age where they don't want to do anything. I'm supposed to work on their English with them, but they just don't want to. I ask questions, and they just sit there. It's like pulling teeth. They can hear and speak but choose not to. Today, I had them repeating some chants after me, but that got old pretty quickly. They are visually impaired but can see some. Have any great ideas? I sure would love to hear them?

  3. Is it possible to offer special rewards? Maybe stickers, candy, extra recess time...? Is that permitted in the Korean culture or in the school?

  4. Sherry, stickers and candy are absolutely permitted and most students love them. Not these boys. And I have seen a playground at the school, but I've never seen children playing on it. I really want to motivate these boys. I'll keep trying!

  5. Oh and Walter? They would SO benefit from having someone like you over here! You have such knowledge and experience that they just don't have here.