Korea Level 2: CLEARED

Or almost, anyway.

The school year is basically done. There’s a week in the beginning of February during which the 3rd graders will graduate to high school, and we may possibly have some random classes thrown in, but then we continue our winter vacation until the new school year starts on March 2nd.

We just finished up the English camp for Winter 2017.

After some teeth-pulling moments in last summer’s more academic-themed camp (I made the mistake of focusing too much on vocabulary and sedentary projects and not enough on energetic games and activities), I was determined to keep this one in the “fun with a dash of English” zone. The kids at my previous school would’ve been just fine with the sedentary stuff, but my current kids NEED ACTION AND THEY NEED IT NOW.

As always, although 21 students signed up, only 15-18 appeared at any given day or period. Flexibility is the key to teaching ESL in Korea. Or just… the key to life in Korea.

I put them into teams (with their friends, unlike in normal class when they can’t be with their friends because they’ll talk too much) and gave them a series of challenges. Winning or putting in great effort earned them stickers, and at the end of camp, the team with the most stickers earned small gift certificates (provided by my co-teacher).

Fewer English-focused games are nice for mixed level because even the lower level kids have a chance to win at something while there’s a bit of English practice/learning running in the background.

We did things like:

  • Flip Cup. Yes, the drinking game – but instead of drinking I put slips of paper in each cup with questions on them. The students had to read and answer the question before trying to flip their cup. Two teams competed at a time and then we had a final champion round.
  • Balloon Popping Race. Maybe some of us played this as kids at birthday parties. Normally you’d tie a balloon to each kid’s ankle and they try to stomp on each other’s balloons, but I wanted to avoid the possibility of someone getting kicked in the ankle or shin. Instead, we had the kids blow up all the balloons themselves and, before tying them, slip a piece of paper inside with an English word on it. Then we put all the balloons in the center and everyone tried to pop them with their feet. After collecting as many words as possible, they went back to their teams and tried to make the longest grammatically correct sentence they could using as many words as they could, at 1 point per balloon word (no points for filler words).
  • Running Dictations. The classic ESL game. You can find explanations and variations all over the internet, but essentially one student runs to the wall, where an English sentence or story is posted, then back to their teammate to dictate the sentence. Since we had teams of 4-5 kids, we rotated who was running and who was writing after each sentence. *My 1st graders, who also happened to be the lowest level, did have a harder time with this. So for low level students, I’d recommend very simple, short sentences. However, the high level 2nd graders had no problems and really loved it.
  • Paper Airplane Contest. Maybe it sounds too simple, but they had fun with it. I told them they could make their plane however they wanted (showing a step-by-step for the basic paper plane, in case they didn’t know how), then let them decorate it, and then we went out into the hall and took turns throwing them to see whose could fly the farthest.
  • Alphabet Hunt. Some of my kids have already done the ‘photo scavenger hunt’ from previous camps or after-school classes, so I decided to mix it up. I told them to find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet, take a picture of it and write the word down (such as “S”: Student, ” I had some very creative entries for the less common letters, such as “X”: “Xerox” copy machine, “X-Canvas” brand TV, and “xenophile” (one of the girls, unbeknownst to me, made a heart shape with her hands in the foreground with me, the foreigner, in the background inside the heart). (And no, they did not know the word “xenophile”; they looked up “X” words in the dictionary.)

We also did “cooking” for the last part of the last day – and I say “cooking” because we didn’t have access to the cafeteria or any actual cooking tools, so it was more “making snacks.”

We did dirt pudding cups and PB&J sushi rolls. I wanted to keep it simple for the purposes of: A) budget, B) ease of completion, and C) clean-up.

Thus, I chose the dirt pudding recipe that doesn’t involve Cool Whip, milk, powdered sugar, etc. but is literally just Oreo crumbs and pudding. However, to make it more interesting for the kids, we did it parfait style and included the options of layering in granola cereal, strawberries, and bananas with the pudding, then topping with crushed Oreos and gummy worms.

Meh, it’s no Top Chef material but the kids seemed to have fun creating their own combinations.

When it came to the PB&J rolls, the crucial element is, of course, the flattening of the bread via a rolling pin. My co-teacher was only able to procure one rolling pin, and logistically it is just not feasible to have one rolling pin among 18 kids who all need to flatten two pieces of bread… so we improvised. The kids put their bread in a Ziploc bag and smushed it with their hands. It kinda worked, especially for the more determined kids, but I definitely recommend rolling pins. (Or at least soda cans or something.)

At any rate, it was probably their first taste of PB&J as a combination (it’s just not a thing here), and they all seemed to like it, except for the few who don’t like peanut butter and opted for just strawberry jam.

Also, I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth saying again: Koreans just don’t have peanut allergies, so this wasn’t a concern. In fact it’s often quite surprising to them to think of someone having an allergy to nuts (especially a life-threatening one).

TL;DR: If you want your camp to be well-loved, plan lots of active games and always include food.