#KELTChat Preview: “What about listening? Why or why not, how to, what is its value?” – Sunday 29th April, 8pm.

This week’s #KELTChat sees a new direction for us – our first participant suggested topic. At the end of out last chat Kristina Eisenhower (@keisenhow) suggested the topic in the title of this post. She was kind enough to outline further what she meant by this. Over to Kristina:

“I suggested listening as the topic for #KELTChat because I think it is often forgotten or cast aside as unimportant.  The Korean context seems to place more emphasis on speaking and writing.  Yet, in my opinion, listening is the most important skill in language learning, especially in the early stages.  Listening is essential not only as a receptive skill, but also provides the departure point for second language acquisition, and is fundamental to the development of spoken language proficiency.  So my questions are:

  • What do you think constitutes a listening curriculum and methodology?
  • How much time or allocation should we give to this macro skill?  How much time or emphasis do we ACTUALLY give it?  WHY?
  • How can we assess it or measure it?
  • What are some effective activities to “teach listening”?”

We will try to structure the chat around Kristina’s questions, so I would encourage you to have a think about them in advance. It would also be really helpful for teachers if we could share links of where to find useful listening examples online.

While this is the first participant suggested topic, we hope that it is the first of many, so if you have an idea for a topic that you want to discuss, or a problem that you think that the #KELTChat community can help you solve, please suggest it at the end of this Sunday’s chat, or write it on the poll that we will start on the Facebook group on the following Monday. We welcome any and every contribution, mostly because it makes our brains hurt to try and think up new topics.

We really hope that you can join us for Sunday’s chat, and would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has contributed to our community so far. We look forward to hearing more from you very soon.

If you’re new to Twitter chatting and aren’t sure quite how it works, check out this handy guide. If you have no idea what #KELTChat is, have a look here or here.

Alex (@breathyvowel)

#KELTChat Summary – 15th April 2012: Integrating Personal and Institutional Teaching Beliefs

Welcome to our bi-weekly #KELTChat summary. I must say that this was one of the most lively and interesting #KELTChats yet, and I was very lucky to be able to moderate it. Actually, I mostly just sat back and watched the debate roll along, thanks to excellent contributions from @michaelegriffin, @seouldaddy, @barryjamesonelt, @annehendler, @keisenhow and @languagebubble. I’d also like to extend a big thanks to @GwendaAtkinson and @ninaisk who were participating in their first ever #KELTChat, and to our foreign correspondent @kevchanwow for a couple of timely interventions. We hope you’ll all be back next time, preferably with friends!

How do we integrate our beliefs with those or our institution?

This was where we started out with our chat. Many chatters felt that they had a good amount of freedom to do what they wanted in their classrooms, and this led to simply trying out new stuff without consulting the administration, “Easier to ask forgiveness than permission” as @seouldaddy put it. Others saw compromise as key, and learning to change what you can and accept what you can’t (for example, grading on a curve). After all, we are all paid by our institutions, and they do have the final say.

An excellent point was made by @michaelegriffin, who suggested that when we talk about beliefs it is not necessarily a case of right and wrong,but one of difference. There may also be the problem of teachers who do not have, or are unaware of their own beliefs. As a solution to this problem, it was suggested that written reflection could aid a teacher in clarifying their own beliefs before they tried to integrate them.

How do we deal with coursebooks?

The conversation then turned to a predictably hot issue. It seemed that most of the participants were in situations where they were given a coursebook to teach from, where perhaps they would have preferred otherwise. The general attitude seemed to be that coursebooks were useful to provide a structure, but that the content must be tuned much more to the students lives. However, books can be useful for providing useful input and models and even as a structure to the lesson. I thought this linked nicely to my recent blog post about coursebooks, and I’d also highly recommend this post for those trying to adapt a coursebook.

One negative consequence of abandoning the book completely may be student complaints; understandably too – why buy the book if you’re never going to open it? One crafty suggestion was to assign book work for homework, thus ensuring the students are using it, and making maximum use of time with a “native speaker” (don’t kill me Jenkins devotees) in the class. @keisenhow further suggested giving students the choice of ‘book’ or ‘real life’, with the latter being much more popular.


This was again a big issue for many people, including myself. We identified plenty of problems, grading on a curve (mentioned earlier) and having to give written exams for ostensibly conversation based courses. @michaelegriffin even questioned the validity of written exams as a whole. Some suggestions were put forward, such as open ended written questions and continuous assessment throughout the course. These were very popular, but could cause problems with institutional goals and also teacher time-poverty.

Teacher or Entertainer

The last quarter of the discussion turned toward another familiar topic, especially to those who work in private academies, that of teachers who are forced to be ‘entertaining’ first, and help students to learn second. This was the case for one participant who felt that he was a ‘gag-man’ and that ‘serious teachers get more strife’ within their institution, due to the fact that students and parents pressure (consciously or not) to be fun. It was also pointed out that university teachers face a similar pressure due to student evaluations.

The fact that this was a polar opposition was challenged, with @annehendler stating that both were possible and that when having fun, learning could take place by accident. Strategies for keeping class fun from the ‘schizophrenic’ @languagebubble included being serious for 10 minutes an hour and using laughter as a tool for learning. It was at this point that the distinction between ‘humour’ and ‘fun’ was drawn, and the value of humour for rapport building was highlighted.


I hope that this summary has covered some of the main points. Thanks once again to those who participated. Please continue to spread the word about #KELTChat, and see you in two weeks time!


Alex (@breathyvowel)

Memorable Tweets

These were some of the most memorable tweets from tonight’s discussion:

  • @barryjamesonelt: my bosses own the school so their livelihood is on the line but I’m not a machine. I have my own teaching principles #keltchat
  • @michaelegriffin: and then once we know what our beliefs are then we can prioritize and think about where to bend or change or not.#KELTchat
  • @breathyvowel: I take the themes and the grammar, and try to work it into a more personal, convo driven framework.#KELTchat
  • @keisenhow: I BELIEVE the lessons should pertain to the Ss lives, not the generic life of the textbook. #KELTchat
  • @GwendaAtkinson: agreed — throughout…even portfolio style…ss learnin how2monitor themselves/their grades/givin fdbk #KELTchat
  • @SeoulDaddy: Being an entertainer is great if that drives engagement with the language and objectives of the course.#KELTchat
  • @languagebubble: its sad but true. ironic- when i cared abt evals is when i used to get lower feedback than the new me of ‘not caring’ #KELTChat

#KELTChat 4, Sunday April 15, 8pm: Integrating Personal Teaching Beliefs at Work

Does the school you teach at want you to use a coursebook, but you’d rather follow your students’ learning needs? Does your university force you to grade on a curve, and you hate how heartbreaking this will be for Jin Soo who has been trying hard all year? Do you feel like your hagwon is asking you to be an entertainer instead of a teacher?

This Sunday’s KELTchat will focus on how teachers have been able to deal with institutional frameworks that seem to be in complete opposition to their personal teaching beliefs. Perhaps you’ve found creative ways around such issues. Maybe you’ve developed coping strategies such as joining peer support groups. We’d love to hear your success stories as we know they will be a great source of inspiration.

Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Josette (@JosetteLB)

The First #KELTchat Meet Up

On Saturday, March 31, members of KELTchat took advantage of the Seoul KOTESOL Chapter Conference in order to organize our very first (tw)(m)eet-up. Most of us had never met each other before, so we were quite excited. We unknowingly passed each other between presentations, adding to the anticipation.

By keeping tabs via our trusty Twitter smartphone lifeline, profile pictures soon turned into warm, welcoming faces. We all gathered in the conference lobby and made our way to lunch: a quaint pie store near the university.KELTchat & piesNow, pies aren’t easy to come by in Korea, so they definitely added to the excitement of our first live encounter. Gobbling up different varieties, we swapped blog/Twitter stories, and got to know each other better.

Whether it was the pies, or our genuine interest, we made stronger connections to the people on the other end of those tweets. It’s amazing to think that only a few weeks before, we were mostly strangers. Now we are like old friends waiting for our next slice.

#KELTChat Summary for April 02, 2012: Fostering confidence and success in Korean students

General thoughts on confidence and success

The question was asked as to what it is in Korean culture that can affect students’ confidence; namely, the root of the problem. There were varied responses to this. One participant contextualized the problem by stating that it affected students who had been left behind by the education system. Another participant suggested that lots of confidence problems come from students’ super-high expectations; for example, “I *should sound like a native speaker or shouldn’t talk.” This suggestion was suported by the idea that in Korean culture people don’t do things unless they’re really good at those things; they strive for perfection.

To help make the striving for perfection fade, one participant suggested grouping the students. There was general agreement that this was a good idea; however, one participant questioned how to get a student who was sitting at the back of the classroom to talk.

Ideas to help students develop confidence and success

  • Assist struggling students to prepare one question then call on those students to answer the question (which they’ve prepared) in front of the class
  • Drama – hats & masks, voice-over acting with video clips, seems to help with quiet students
  • Ease students into conversation – avoid pushing output
  • Fitting in trick: Ask everyone to stand up and then they can sit down when they answer a question. (Not for the faint of heart)
  • Help students to develop a road map for development
  • Show models of excellent speakers, for example Ban Ki-Moon and Kim Yuna*
  • Student portfolios, especially for writing
  • Support language production (eg. non target language that can help them do the speaking task)
  • Take an interest in students and provide them with opportunities to succeed
  • Thinking time: Use TPS (Think, Pair, Share) before asking students to talk in front of a bigger group (or whole class)
  • Time limits or words you can’t use or pentalties or something to make the task more difficult in a weird way
  • Topics in the classroom that students want to talk about
  • Train students regarding roles and rules and deal with expectations


TED – Susan Cain: The power of introverts

* EDIT: Seeing Koreans speak perfectly may give students false expectations. Also show students moments when such icons make mistakes when speaking.