Fun Fun Vocabulary Building

If you’ve learned a language yourself, you know what a struggle learning vocabulary is. Although it makes up the core of a language, it can take hours upon hours of using flashcard apps like Anki or Memrise to feel like you’re making the tiniest bit of progress. These apps have a second problem, too – they’re largely for disciplined, older learners and definitely aren’t what kids think of as fun or engaging.

When it comes to vocabulary acquisition though, explicitly teaching words like this isn’t the only way or even the best way. In this post, we’ll go over some other (fun!) ways to really plant new words deep into the brain.

1. Wide reading

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It’s no surprise, but reading – and reading a lot – is one of the best ways to encounter new words. In fact, by simply reading a language learner can encounter way more vocabulary words than they could hope for by receiving explicit instruction in a class. Through reading, the learner can also reinforce that vocabulary by seeing it over and over, and reading it in different contexts. Reading is also a lot more fun than trying to do flashcards – there’s nothing to lose!

2. Read Out Louds, Audiobooks, etc

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This is a great choice for learners who aren’t strong at reading, or, well, just don’t like actually sitting down to read much. As long as the language used is high-quality (meaning, it contains more high-leveled vocabulary and grammar structures than just conversational English), students have the opportunity to acquire lots of new vocabulary words. Personally, I like listening to podcasts with really meaningful topics – even in English (which is my native language) I find that I can still learn tons of scientific vocabulary.

3. Word Learning/Recognition Strategies

If you had to do any sort of standardized test or test prep, you’ll know the usefulness of learning things like word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. In the same way, learning such parts of speech can help students acquire and easily recognize new vocabulary.

4. Build Consciousness to Words

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Hey, do you know how old an onion is? Five (오년)

What happened to the three cats that crossed the river? Un, deux, trois cats sank.

What is turtles favorite food? Cherry pie (черепахи)

Super lame puns like these are one of my favorite things to both learn and teach languages. They’re easy to remember and develop an interest in words. Of course, you don’t have to only use dad jokes to build word consciousness! Think about incorporating things such as riddles, poems, and anagrams into your vocabulary building as well.

Those are some of our favorite ways to learn, teach, and most importantly, retain vocabulary both in and outside of a classroom setting. Do you have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

2022 Intensive Teacher Training Program

It’s here.

Our most intensive program of the year: ITTP.

ITTP, or Intensive Teacher Training Program, is a six-month-long training program for both primary and secondary teachers in Gyeonggi-do. It’s for the keenest, most passionate educators we could find. We won’t lie to you – it’s not easy to get into, and once it starts, it only gets harder. It isn’t all grim though: ITTP is rewarding both on a personal level and in terms of what you as an educator can take away into your classroom.

What Are the ITTP Topics For This Year?

As mentioned before, we have two tracks this year: one for elementary and one for secondary.

The elementary track is all about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). We’ll be taking a deep, deep dive into developing this type of curriculum, including creating CLIL lesson plans, weekly curriculum, projects, and even how to design rubrics with CLIL in mind. We’ll also be exploring how to incorporate picture books into the CLIL classrooms, and, of course, gather ideas from educators around Korea for how to foster language acquisition in elementary school students.

The secondary track focuses on taking a literary approach to creative writing. Trainees will be asked to engage with a particular text, honing in on one or two of the literary elements to extrapolate into a creative writing unit that includes both assessment and feedback. Later on, trainees will look at culutrally responsive education and integrated teaching methods. We’ll also get to read some fun YA books – Fault in Our Stars and Coraline sound good to anybody?

There’s a ton more information surrounding ITTP – enough that we had to create another full website surrounding it. Here you can find schedules, the books we lovingly wrote, homework, and more. Click here!

A Crash Course into UbD

When we teachers design curriculum, we want it to be effective. We want our students to achieve their results and goals in both the short and long term. We want our students to understand and gain something from what we teach them, and to have a lasting effect on their education and maybe even lives.

This is, unsurprisingly, tricky to do. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and throw a worksheet or activity at our students that’s disconnected from our long-term goals and begs the question about what exactly is gained from doing them.

Now that I’ve presented this strawman argument, let’s crack into what this article is really about: understanding by .

Understanding by design framework (UbD), as proposed by Wiggins and McTighe, is a way of writing curriculum that helps ensure that students actually understand what’s being taught, rather than simply gaining knowledge about the content material they might forget in time. It wants students to have knowledge, rather than being able to simply memorize something in order to pass a quiz, and for this knowledge to be lasting, meaningful, and appropriate to their everyday life.

Sounds great, right?

Let’s look at how to actually do it.

Backwards Design

In “traditional” curriculum planning, teachers usually look at the textbook first. We see its content, and from there, develop goals for our students and chart out our lessons.

When working in the UbD framework, we need to work backward. It goes like this:

  • Identify your goals
  • Figure out what you need to get to those goals (tools, assessments, etc)
  • Plan how you’re actually going to teach it

So, imagine that you want to teach your students about plant biology, specifically the parts of a plant

Now, in the traditional method of designing curriculum, you’d probably give students a short lecture on the subject. Maybe you’d have them read the textbook or some other materials. You might have them do a short assignment or two, and then eventually have them do a test or quiz.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with planning curriculum like this, necessarily, but, pop quiz: can you, the person reading this article, recall words such as “petiole,” “node,” “anther,” or “style”? I can almost guarantee you, at some point, had to memorize these words or even take a quiz on them, but as an adult, these words have not stuck with me. I do remember, however, thinking how pointless this all was the time and just wanting to hang out with my friends instead.

Now let’s look at how you could plan a similar lesson using UbD framework.

The teacher might choose several types of plants – moss, ferns, azaleas, grass, tomato plants, or even algae. The teacher then divides students into small groups and asks them several questions. What parts can they see of the plants? What do the plants have in common? How can these plants be classified? After coming up with these answers, students can then label plants in their own ways in their groups. After each group has come up with their answer, they can then compare their responses with the other groups. Did they all come up with the same answers? It is very likely that they did not, and students will argue with each other about why their categorizations are correct. They can listen to each other and even change their original answers as they discuss their ideas. Then, students can discuss why it might be beneficial to have official ways to talk about plant parts and categorizations.

Only then would the teacher open the book and have students read about plant parts and categorizations.

Crafting True Student Understanding

Understanding has six aspects:

  • Explaining
  • Interpreting
  • Application
  • Perspective
  • Empathy
  • Self-knowledge

Let’s see how they apply to our plant biology class. First, plant classification is discussed (explanation) and students talk about their own ideas about how it can be done (interpretation). Next, students apply this to label their plants in their groups (application) to decide plant classifications. Afterwards, students discuss the classifications they came up with in their other groups (perspective) and are asked to listen to or even change their original classifications (empathy). Finally, the students can crack open their textbooks to learn about actual plant classifications (self-knowledge).

In order for the teacher to determine that understanding has been achieved, the teacher can assess using something as simple as a test or quiz, but they could also do an alternative assessment, such as having students label or categorize the plants in the “correct” way.

Big Ideas and Core Tasks

As I’ve already mentioned, backwards design begins by determining what students should know by the end of the program or unit. In UbD, this is also called the “big idea.” When developing UbD curriculum, the teacher should develop content around the “big idea” and connect all course content to it. Big ideas and core tasks are the ideas that anchor the curriculum and represent the true heart of the topic. Big ideas have no “right” answer and are meant to be argued. For example, in a biology class the big idea might be something like “species adapt to survive.” Over the course of the year, there exist a myriad of core tasks the teacher could develop in order to discuss this idea.

Essential Questions

Essential questions are questions that help frame your content goals. Like big ideas, these questions shouldn’t have simple answers, but should spark ideas and discussion in the classroom. For example, in our biology class, our essential questions might be something like:

  • What are the basic structures of a plant?
  • What does a plant need to survive?
  • How have different plants adapted to different environments?

Overall, when writing your essential questions for a unit, think about ones that will foster inquiry and meaning to your students.

Closing Thoughts

As a curriculum designer, I love working with UbD framework. I think it’s helpful to look at things from a broader, student-centered perspective to create engaging curriculum. There are tons of resources and further reading you can do on UbD framework (to start, I’d recommend the book written by the original creators of UbD). I hope this short crash course can get you started on your own UbD journey.

Using English in the English Classroom – Elementary (EUEEC) – April

EUEEC (Using English in the English Classroom for Elementary) is a methodology program for elementary school teachers within Gyeonggi Province in South Korea. During the April program, we went over basic skills to use in the elementary school classroom; talked about how to flesh out an elementary school textbook chapter into a robust, engaging lesson; and, of course, gave our participants some fun, practical activities they can easily implement into the classroom.

We’ve got a few rounds of EUEEC this year (the first was actually back in January!) but the next one will take place August 4-5.

During the April round of EUEEC, we mostly focused on teachers who were new to the English classroom, and who needed a crash course in English teaching basics. We did modules on reading, writing, phonics, speaking, and vocabulary. Here’s the gritty details.

In the reading module taught by Autumn, trainees learned how to start using story and picture books in their own classroom. We went over some strategies for how to engage students, increase reading comprehension and – of course – to make reading time enjoyable for all.

In the writing module taught by Betsey, trainees looked at how to plan and implement extended writing activities based on the target language in the 5th grade English curriculum. Example activities were analyzed for objective and purpose before trainees had time to create their own activity with their group members.

In the phonics module taught by Eric, trainees learned about the steps of the phonics teaching process. We also talked about how to organize games and activities for phonics, and even how to incorporate picture books for phonics practice.

In the vocabulary module taught by Chris, trainees examined current vocabulary teaching strategies, learned how to implement new methods, and examined and modify current elementary level activities to enhance vocabulary learning.

In the speaking module taught by Kristina, trainees explored ways to encourage speaking participation in a student-centered classroom. They looked at different activities and envisioned how to develop their own or modify other activities to fit their classroom.

The other rounds of EUEEC will take place in August, October, November, and December, so if you can’t make it to the April training, we hope to see you later in the year. As always, you can find more information and sign up on our Korean site.


EPD (aka 초등 영어수업역량강화 연수 in Korean) is a methodology program for elementary school teachers within Gyeonggi Province. During this program, trainees will have the chance to learn about activity-based lessons, develop class activities associated with daily life, and learn how to enhance their students’ conversation and overall English skills. This year, we are offering four different tracks for trainees to follow.

Process Drama in the Hybrid Classroom, Instructor/Course Designer: Angie

In this module, trainees will explore how to integrate process drama activities into their English language learning classrooms. Process drama conventions can be powerful learning tools in which young learners can explore content, concepts, and text in the curriculum or from authentic materials. Trainees will experience and analyze different types of techniques that activate imagination and creativity while fostering students’ language acquisition. 

Creating Nonfiction Picture Books Through CLIL, Instructor/Course Designer: Autumn

In this module, trainees will learn what CLIL is, the elements needed for students to be able to write a nonfiction story in their L2, and how to create a scaffolded nonfiction story book using an online platform called BookCreator. We will examine different sources of nonfiction and learn how they can be incorporated into the language classroom. Discussion about how such a project – creating nonfiction through CLIL – might be performed in the hybrid classroom or using alternative online tools will also take place. Finally, trainees will have the chance to workshop their own scaffolded nonfiction book outlines for their students.

Multi-Platform Units for the Elementary Classroom, Instructor/Course Designer: Betsey

In this course, trainees will look at how to use multi-platform units such as Google Slides, Jamboard, and Padlet to create more dynamic lessons and engage students. Trainees will then explore how to integrate multiple online tools into one cohesive lesson or unit. These units or lessons can help with engagement as well as provide opportunities for differentiation.

Games and Activities for Multiple Expressions, Instructor/Course Designer: Eric

Classroom activities and games can be valuable supplements to class material, but they can take time to formulate. Meanwhile, those provided in textbooks often aren’t suited towards teacher needs. This course will familiarize trainees with methods for streamlining the creative process in order to quickly and easily create games for a wide variety of topics. Trainees will also get hands-on training with the chance to create, and receive feedback on, their own games and activities.

Tips for Selecting Appropriate Videos for the Classroom

Picture this: you’re back in school, ready for another boring day of learning. You’ve got out your textbook and corresponding notebook, and have just set your pencils at the top of the desk when suddenly the teacher rolls in an antique relic of a TV player and a VCR. The mood in the class suddenly lifts – it’s a movie day!

Videos can be a great way to pique student interest, add other authentic voices to the classroom, create engagement, and a lot more. They can also be a great “treat” for students, but it’s not always appropriate to rely on videos rather than have a more active, student-centered classroom. In this post, we’ll go over ways that you can incorporate media into the classroom.

Consider Video Usage

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When considering a video, think about why you want to use it. Will it add something to your class, or is it just an interesting time filler? Of course, the latter is fine in some circumstances, but if you truly want students to learn, it might be best to watch the video yourself and come up with a lesson or activity from it. 

When planning to use a video in your class, consider this: if parents, a principal, or other educator were in the room with you, would you still play it? If the answer is “no,” then strongly reconsider using it.

Preview the Video

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This may seem like common sense, but when considering showing a video or videoclip to students, you should always watch it in advance. Nothing is worse than frantically trying to stop or block a video that takes a sudden inappropriate turn, and the fallout from showing inappropriate material – even accidentally – can be severe. You’ll also want to make sure that the video is appropriate for your students’ ages, English levels, and interests. If you don’t have a ton of time, consider playing the video at 2x speed when previewing. You’ll still be able to understand it, and you’ll get through it twice as fast. 

Use Subtitles

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I have a confession: I always watch movies and television shows with subtitles, even when the media is originally in my native language. I get distracted by what’s going on in the background, my phone, and of course, listening becomes an impossibility the minute I decide to eat some chips.

In the classroom, students likely have similar distractions, or have other reasons they need subtitles. Subtitles can vastly improve comprehension. Depending on what your goal is with the video, consider using subtitles – or if you can show the video more than once, try using subtitles for at least one of the views. 

Think About Video Length

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If you’re teaching a forty minute class, it’s probably not in the best interest to use a full twenty minute episode of something. When playing a video, its presence in the classroom needs to be justified with your teaching practice. Do you really need to play the full time, or can the actual content you want to use be made shorter? We can circle back to the parents or principal rule: if you would cut the video down if they were there, do it for your students.

Pick Appropriate Clips or Pieces From the Video

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I once met an instructor who, instead of teaching a class, would simply play entire Ted Talk videos as a substitute for actually teaching.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using Ted Talks to supplement your class, but videos definitely should be used alongside teaching, rather than replace it!

As discussed earlier, it isn’t always the best choice to simply play a full video in class. Instead, you can glean pieces of clips that are relevant to your classroom. This will make sure that the video content is concise, and give you more time for teaching and going over content in class. If you do want to use material from a video in class, or you think that what they’re saying is good, you can watch the video, learn it yourself, and then cite what they are saying in a shorter way. This will make your class go more smoothly, and ensure you can maintain a better balance.


These are just a few things to keep in mind when selecting a video to use in your classroom. As ever, use your own judgement – it’s likely that you know your students and what is appropriate to use for them in the classroom.

Teaching a Mixed Level Classroom: A Practical Guide on Assessments

In an ESL classroom, it’s pretty common to have students of all levels. This can make it difficult for both the educator and the students. Lower-level students often feel demotivated in a classroom where the assignments are too difficult. It’s understandable – if the material is so far out of reach for them that they can’t complete it, then why should they bother? In a similar way, advanced students might feel bored if the assignment is way below their level. They’ll disengage from what we’re trying to teach, which is never what we want to foster in a classroom environment.

So, how do we engage students of all different English abilities?

Differentiation – that is, creating different assignments in order to make them appropriate to different students’ English levels- is a great way to even out the playing field and make a more equitable classroom where every student has the chance to learn, grow, and maybe even earn an A. In this post, we’ll go over the steps to begin creating differentiated assignments in your classroom.

Step 1: Know Your Student’s Levels

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It’s likely you at least have some idea how well your students speak English. In my classroom, I normally categorize students using WIDA standards, but if you’re unfamiliar with this it can look intimidating or tricky. Instead, you can try categorizing your students into low, intermediate, and high proficiency. 

When thinking about students in this way, you’ll want to judge your students by class standards. So, “intermediate” should be the level where the majority of your class is. The outliers who are better would be your “advanced” students, while the ones trailing behind are your “low” levels. 

Of course, we get classes who skew towards advanced and ones who need much more basic instruction in English. So long as you generally know where your students lie, you should be able to create assignments that are accessible to everyone. 

Step 2: Write Your (Differentiated!) Objectives 

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By the end of your lesson, you want your students to have learned or accomplished something. However, what that “something” is can vary wildly depending on your student. At times, I’ve been thrilled if my low-level students can pick up just a few vocabulary words, but this would obviously be a ridiculous objective for some of my students who are at or near full fluency. Instead, I might want them to be able to write a full, five paragraph essay by the end of the lesson. It’s important to keep this in mind when writing objectives. 

For example, check out these differentiated objectives I created for three different levels of students, in a class about American culture. 

Low Level:

  • Student can use vocabulary terms in scaffolded sentences
  • Student can discuss about appearance using scaffolded sentences and visual aids
  • Student can write about appearance with appropriate accommodations 

Intermediate Level:

  • Student can use vocabulary in short sentences
  • Student can discuss about appearance with peers and ask some questions. They may be allowed to use some supports such as sentence prompts
  • Student can write about appearance with appropriate accommodations 

Advanced Level: 

  • Students can use vocabulary terms correctly in a full, complex sentence or paragraph
  • Student can fully discuss what they’ve learned about appearance with peers; ask questions; and show general mastery of the language surrounding the curriculum
  • Student can freely write about appearance

In these three different levels of objectives, you can see I want them to all vaguely do the same thing: they should know and be able to use vocabulary, be able to discuss about appearance, and complete a writing assessment. What varies between these objectives is the level of support that students get. Keep in mind that students can normally generally complete the same thing; the only thing that should change is scaffolding and other supports. 

Step 3: Choose an Assessment

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As educators, we have a myriad of assessments available to us, ranging from jigsaws to performance assessments such as doing a presentation. In the objectives above, the assessment is for students to be able to write about appearance. As mentioned, students can almost always do the same assessment; all that needs to change is the level of support or scaffolding students might get for each assignment. This step is therefore pretty straightforward: you can just pick an assessment like you would in any normal class!

Step 4: Differentiating the Assessment

Just as objectives should be differentiated to spell out what different levels of students should be able to accomplish by the end of the lesson, assessments should also be differentiated to let students be able to actually accomplish the objectives. 

So, let’s look at a practical example, based off of our earlier objectives.

In this writing assignment, students need to describe the woman pictured below. However, as you flip through the slideshow, you can notice that low-level students need to complete a cloze activity where they simply fill in the blanks (with help of a wordbank), intermediate students are expected to write sentences, and high-level students are expected to be able to compose paragraphs.

Wrapping Up

Now that your have differentiated objectives and assessments, you of course have to give them to the students! If I’m in a physical classroom, I simply like to have three different baskets at the back with the different assessments in them. I tell the students to choose one and only turn one in. If I’m online, I upload the three versions to an LMS and again tell students to only complete and turn in one.

Ever since I started differentiating my assessments to be appropriate to student levels, I’ve noticed that there’s much higher participation overall in my classroom. Students are much more likely to complete their work if it’s accessible or interesting for them to do. Higher engagement makes my job much easier – definitely worth the small time price it takes to create differentiated assignments.

Flipgrid: The Resource That Tricks Your Students Into Actually Talking

Speaking is scary.

This is something that’s applicable not only to English Learners (ELs), but also often native speakers. When I have to make a call, order food, or interact with someone I don’t know, I often find myself mentally rehearsing exactly what I want to say before even approaching the other person, and I know I’m not alone. 

However, as educators, we often expect students to be able to speak freely and unabashedly. While this is an important skill to develop, this remains difficult or even threatening to students. They often clam up and refuse to speak beyond monosyllables, answering in yes or no, or only following a set pattern given by the teacher.

There’s a lot of other issues that come with teaching speaking as well. First and foremost, how can someone objectively grade speaking? How can learners know their speaking errors, or how to improve? What’s a fun way to get students to practice?

One of the best solutions I’ve found to all of these problems is to use an online platform called Flipgrid.

While Flipgrid wasn’t necessarily made with ELs in mind, it is certainly perfect for the EL classroom. Flipgrid is a free online learning platform (also available as an app) that allows students to record short videos. It’s reminiscent of popular apps such as TikTok or Snapchat, which makes it a breeze for young learners to adapt to. I’ve been using Flipgrid for over a year now, and am a huge fan of its interface, what it allows students to do, and how engaged students are when using it.

Flipgrid is both free and simple to sign up for. You can simply create an account, then create a group. You can add your students to it (and choose your students usernames, which is a feature I love since many students tend to get ah, creative when choosing what to call themselves), set a discussion topic, and get started.

The discussion topics can take all sorts of different forms. It’s necessary to give your topic a title (be it a chapter name, grammar point, discussion question – you name it) and a prompt. In your prompt, you can give your students specific questions to answer, a minimum speaking time, a scaffolded answer for them to read off of, and more. You can also add media resources to encourage your students. In the past, I’ve often recorded a video myself for my students and used YouTube clips for them to talk about, but the choices are various.

You can use Flipgrid for a variety of purposes, ranging from having them answer simple speaking questions to making a speaking portfolio, which I’ll talk more about later. In my own teaching practice, I’ve mainly used Flipgrid to create projects for my students. For example, I had students create how-to cooking videos in one class, instead of doing the tired old imperative-tense exercises offered by the textbook. I was blown away by student videos – they truly went all out in what they made! 

Flipgrid is great because you can record whatever – in this cooking video, the student edited a lot and added text to aid their speaking.

In another class, students made commercials in groups. I was warned beforehand that these students were low-level and rarely spoke; however, by using Flipgrid students were able to write a script beforehand, which gave them a lower-threat environment to practice speaking. They can also do multiple takes or edit videos together, so if a mistake is made, it’s of no importance; students can simply take it out. 

I’m a firm believer that students will engage more with the material when they are interested by it, and creating an experience that resembles social media can really help students shine. Shy students who barely dare to pipe up on Zoom can create wonderful videos of themselves speaking. If a student is really shy about how they look, they also have the option to not show their face (such as in the above image) or use a filter. 

Another huge benefit of Flipgrid is that students can rewatch their own videos. This makes it possible for students to view their own problems. For example, I had a high-level student who often left the “s” off third person verbs (for example, she would say “the boy run to the store” instead of “the boy runs to the store”) and found it almost impossible to correct herself naturally. However, after only a few weeks of watching and listening to her own videos, the student was able to remedy this error!

Flipgrid also automatically generates closed captioning for videos. While these can sometimes be wildly incorrect – especially for students with heavier accents – it also allows these students to see a visual representation of what their pronunciation sounds like, which can be extraordinarily helpful. If the close captions guess that there is a curse word, it will automatically star it out. Don’t worry about any of this – you can go in and edit the closed captions if you so wish!

In this caption, you can see the student is repeating words as she realized she made a mistake.

Flipgrid gives a few options for student feedback. You can either use a built in rubric, or create your own. You can also write feedback or – as I prefer to do – record feedback. I use my recorded feedback to model pronunciation or grammar errors, as well as to give students more listening practice. Remember, if all else fails they can always read the closed captioning Flipgrid automatically supplies. You can scroll through the image below to see a completed rubric.

The feedback options leads me to one of the best features about Flipgrid: it can be used to create a “speaking portfolio” of sorts for students. With language learning, speaking is often one of the hardest, most obscure things to try to objectively grade. It can also be difficult for students to see their own progress, which can sometimes make students feel discouraged. Even if the educator only created one Flipgrid video of their students speaking at the beginning of the school year, it can allow both them and the student to look back and see how much they’ve progressed.

Overall, I think that Flipgrid is a great tool that can easily be used in an ESL classroom by students of almost any age. It’s easy for students to use, provides a great opportunity for students to practice speaking in a non-threatening environment.

School Visits

So, what are school visits?

School visits are a program in which a native English teacher attends a Korean school for a period of two weeks in order to instruct students, provide workshops for teachers, and possibly more. The aims of the program are as follows:

  • To provide students an opportunity to learn English from a native speaking English teacher 
  • To enhance students’ cultural understanding of English speaking countries
  • To create an environment where Korean teacher(s) and GIFLE instructor collaboratively develop creative and effective lessons for students (either online or in-person)
  • To generate interest for professional development opportunities through the teacher workshops

Okay, that sounds great! When are they?

Our 2022 School Visit Program has eight rounds, which will last from April to November.

Who’s in charge of this thing? Am I eligible to register my school? How can I sign up?

Any teacher at an elementary, middle, or high school in Gyeonggi Province can register via GIFLE’s Korean website (click here.)

This information is all useful, but it’s drier than a whole box of Saltine crackers. Could you give us some juicier details, please?

Sure! Here’s a write-up from me, Autumn, (I’m an instructor at GIFLE) about my experience working with school visits.

“When I first began doing school visits, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew that I’d be working for two weeks at an elementary school, but beyond that, the details seemed fuzzy at first. I didn’t know what the school expected of me, nor what I could best offer them. All I knew was that I’d be teaching fifth and sixth grade elementary school.

“I met with my Korean co-teacher via Zoom for an online consultation, to see what she was interested in. We both decided we liked the idea of content-based learning, and we decided that we could incorporate what students were learning in their Social Studies class to the English room. As students were completely on Zoom due to COVID, we agreed that it might pique the students’ interest to complete a project about their topics, rather than just engage with another PowerPoint or lecture.

“The fifth-grade class was learning about Korea – its culture, history, geography, politics, and more. I came up with the idea that students, in small groups of four, could collaborate to make an English book (using an online tool called Book Creator) introducing Korea to foreigners. I knew that students probably wouldn’t be able to write full pages on their own, so I created a scaffolded book where students could fill in pictures, words, and more, using what they knew to make the book their own.

Here’s the blank book page I made for students to edit
Here’s a book page made by one of the fifth grade students. I was blown away by how great it looked!

“The sixth-grade class was learning about government and politics – types of government, voting, rights, citizenship, and more. At first, this seemed like a dry topic, but after doing some research online I came across an idea for a project in which students could create their own country. They’d have to come up with a name, capital city, form of government, and more – it seemed like the perfect blend of content and project-based learning. After brainstorming with my fellow GIFLE instructors, I decided to use Padlet as an online tool for students to build and show off their countries.

Here’s the very boring, gray scaffolded Padlet I made to give to each of the groups.
A very creative country made by my fifth graders.

“I had two, eighty minute block classes with each grade to complete the projects. I asked my co-teacher to pre-teach vocabulary to the classes before school visits, so that everything would work out smoothly. After doing a brief review PowerPoint over the topics (which was doubly easy, as students were already familiar with the content from their social studies class), I taught the students how to use the online tools that they’d need to complete their project. My Korean co-teacher provided Korean language support as well as classroom management. Honestly, she was super great, and I really enjoyed working with her!

“The students loved completing their projects, and I could tell that they were proud to show off not only their English skills, but to use what they’d already learned in Social Studies. Students also liked the chance to be creative in the classroom, and show off their individuality. I think projects are a great teaching tool for students of all ages, and even on Zoom, with the right tools they can work out perfectly.

“I still have four more rounds of school visits to prepare for, and I can only hope that they go as smoothly as this first one. I know I learned a lot from doing this visit, and I think my co-teacher learned a lot about online tools she can use in the future, project-based learning, and how to incorporate other classes into her classroom. Overall, I think school visits are beneficial to everyone involved – and they’re pretty fun, too.”

Teacher Professional Development – Why to Do It, How to Do It, and Its Potential

Within education, professional development refers to improving your teaching skills, abilities, and overall know-how in order to better connect to your students, create a more efficient and engaging classroom, and, well, develop professionally.

Here at GIFLE, we’re big fans of professional development all around. We believe that PD can be done by anyone at any point in their career – not just those at the bottom of the ladder, but even by those at the top of their game. In this article, we’ll be going over different types of professional development, links and resources you can use for your own professional development journey, and talk about how professional development can help you out not only in the classroom, but in your overarching career. This is a pretty long post, so you can bookmark it and come back it anytime for all the professional development goodness you crave.

Why should I bother with professional development?

So, you already have a solid job in the ESL/EFL field, years of experience, and are overall feeling settled and comfortable in your classroom. You’re pretty good at grammar and have a good relationship with your students, co-workers, and principal. Why should you spend your time, money, and effort doing professional development?

The phrase “teachers are lifelong learners” sounds cliché, but it holds true. As educators, our field is constantly growing and expanding as our knowledge about how people learn does, and it can be important to keep up with new methods. Doing professional development can help you bring new ideas, teaching methods, and lessons into your classroom, expand your horizons as an educator, and even help you move up in your field. Furthermore, doing professional development can help you create connections that may be helpful to you in the future.

Lastly (and we know we sound like complete nerds here) professional development can be both rewarding and fun. It’s great to spend time talking and listening to other professionals in your field, bounce ideas off each other, and grow more as an educator. Don’t take our word for it – get out there and do some professional development yourself!

Okay, got it. Isn’t professional development really hard and time-consuming though?

While it’s true that high levels of professional development can take months or even years to complete, there are also plenty of easy options that you can do! In this post, we’ll look at some different ways that you can begin doing more professional development. We’ve divided it into three different sections for you – Easy-Peasy, Medium, and For the Enthusiastic.

The”Easy-Peasy” category represents free things that you can do with minimal time commitment. These are things you can easily incorporate in your everyday life without having to change or plan ahead too much.

The “Medium” category consists of things that will take a longer time commitment (hours and days, rather than minutes) or might have fees involved. These will boost your knowledge of your field more than the easy category; however, they are likely more difficult to accomplish.

The final category, aptly named “For the Enthusiastic,” will take a minimum of weeks to accomplish. They also may have quite a financial commitment attributed to them. However, doing this level of professional development may offer many more chances of career advancement than the first two categories, will add something substantial to your resume, and give you that oh, so satisfying sense of accomplishment.


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  1. Read the literature, websites, blogs . . .

A lot (and we mean a lot) gets published about education, and specifically ESL and EFL every year. Why not take advantage of other people’s hard-done research and ideas for your own classroom? The great thing about using reading as professional development is that you can do it almost anytime or anywhere, and do it for as long or little as you like. It’s also easy to jump from subject to subject or even go down a rabbit hole of your interests (do you remember “footnote chasing” from your undergrad? It can get even more intense when you find a subject that interests you!). To get you started with reading, we’ve put some of our favorite websites, journals, and other resources down below, along with a brief description.

Description from the website:

Colorín Colorado is the premier [USA] website serving educators and families of English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PreK-12. Colorín Colorado has been providing free research-based information, activities, and advice to parents, schools, and communities around the country for more than a decade.

Description from the website:

The WIDA Consortium is a member-based organization made up of U.S. states, territories and federal agencies dedicated to the research, design and implementation of a high-quality, standards-based system for K-12 English language learners.

The Internet TESL Journal is collection of resarch papers, articles, handouts, lesson plans, links, teaching ideas – you name it, they probably have it. This is a great resource to go to when you need something specific, or even if you just want to browse for new ideas.

Description from the website:

The Korea TESOL Journal is a refereed academic journal concerned with teaching English as a foreign or additional language and related issues.

TESOL Journal (TJ) is a double-blind peer-reviewed, practitioner-oriented electronic journal that publishes articles based on current theory and research in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). TJ is a forum for second and foreign language educators at all levels to engage in the ways that research and theory can inform, shape, and ground teaching practices and perspectives. TJ enable an active and vibrant professional dialogue about research- and theory-based practices as well as practice-oriented theorizing and research.  

Description from the website:

Since 1981, Education Week has been America’s most trusted resource for K-12 education news and information. 1.6+ million readers. National Coverage. From teachers to principals and district leaders across the country. Education Week’s diverse audience turns to us for the most up-to-date information on K-12 education in the U.S., as well as innovative, high-value tools and solutions.

Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other similar scholarly search engines are also great if you want to read up about a particular or specific topic.

2. Share ideas with your fellow teachers

Sit down with your fellow teachers (in-person and online both work great here!), pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew, and talk through all of your classroom ideas. Here at GIFLE, we brainstorm about our ideas, struggles, and successes within the classroom.

Another great way to share (and frankly, steal) ideas with your fellow teachers is to sit in on each other’s classes. Every teacher runs their classroom differently – why not take advantage? You can individually talk to teachers in your school to plan when you’re going to sit in on a lesson, or use tools such as pineapple charts to collaborate.

3. Listen to a podcast

If you’ve not drunk the podcast Kool-Aid quite yet, let us try to get you on board. Podcast are excellent, very convenient little snippets of information, conversations, interviews, and more given by live people. You can get a feel for personality and passion more than by simply reading a text. Plus, podcasts are very widely available nowadays, – you can listen on your phone while taking the bus, put one on while you’re scrubbing out your bathtub, or even have one talking to you while you’re directly making a lesson plan. There are a ton of education podcasts out there, ranging in topics from curriculum design to classroom management. Below, we’ve included a few of our favorite podcasts at GIFLE to get your new playlist started.

Description from the website:

“Teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology — if it has something to do with teaching, we’re talking about it. On the podcast, I interview educators, students, administrators and parents about the psychological and social dynamics of school, trade secrets, and other juicy things you’ll never learn in a textbook. Other episodes feature me on my own, offering advice on ways to make your teaching more effective and more fun.”

Description from the website:

Talks with Teachers brings you the stories and inspiration behind America’s great English educators. Each episode features a master ELA/Literacy/English teacher sharing what worked, what didn’t and the wisdom gained from their years of classroom experience. Intended to boost morale and help teachers find joy and purpose, Talks with Teachers is a great resource for K-12 English, Literacy, and ELA teachers

Description from the website:

FreshEd with Will Brehm is an interview-style podcast that showcases cutting-edge research in the field of education. It is used in dozens of university courses around the world. All episodes are transcribed and some are then translated into Mandarin, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Portuguese.

Description from the website:

The Google Teacher Podcast is designed to give K-12 educators practical ideas for using G Suite and other Google tools in classrooms and schools. Hosted by Matt Miller (Ditch That Textbook) and Kasey Bell (Shake Up Learning).

Description from the website:

The PBL [Project-based learning] Playbook from Magnify Learning is meant to help you navigate your PBL questions and problems, build your PBL confidence, and add strategies for success to your own playbook! 

What the “Easy Peasy” stage unlocks:

By doing the “easy peasy” stage of professional development, you’ll gain knowledge of new teaching methods, curriculum design, projects, lesson plans, and more. You’ll also be able to hold your own more when talking to other education professionals. People at dinner parties will relish conversation with you.


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  1. Gain new certifications

It’s likely if you’re reading this that you already have a TESL or TEFL certificate of some sort. However, these are truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to certificates within the ESL realm, especially as ESL certificates have no overarching certifying board, no set number of mandatory hours, and some don’t even offer real classroom experience. If you want to increase your teaching knowledge (as well as pad your resume and get more professional clout), there are many more courses and certifications you can get within the ESL sphere that are guaranteed to impress.

Nowadays, certifications are offered both on and offline, which makes them more convenient to those currently working or unable to take time off. What certifications that you do are, of course, dependent on your interest and where you want to go within your field. Some popular certifications are:

Description from the website:

The CELTA course covers the principles of effective teaching, and gives you a range of teaching techniques and practical experience. You get hands-on teaching practice and observation of experienced teachers, and you’ll apply your learning by delivering communicative teaching with English language learners.

Description from the website:

DELTA is an advanced blend of theory and practice that provides professional development for teachers with at least one year’s experience. It gives you skills and techniques that will help you throughout your career.

Description from the website:

TKT is a series of modular teaching qualifications which test your knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching. It will help you to build your confidence, and is a cost-effective way to get an internationally recognised qualification. Whether you are a new teacher or have years of experience, TKT is ideal for people who need to prove their teaching knowledge with a globally recognised certificate.

These three certifications are all offered by Cambridge and are widely, internationally recognized. (For similar certificates, you can also check out these offered by Trinity College in Dublin.)These certifications are all different, targeting different learners and aspects of education, so make sure you do your research about what exactly you want before obtaining it.

There are also a lot of free certificates out there, for those interested in learning for the sake of learning. Sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer courses developed by universities online, for free, which offer tons of great information to those who are willing to take the time to complete them. For example, recently, our instructor Autumn has been doing a course on Coursera in order to learn more about how to teach students studying with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia.

Note: certificates obtained on sites such as Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy might not be recognized by an employer, but they’re still useful for expanding your knowledge and trying out new interests.

2. Take courses and join seminars

If you’ve ever been in school – and chances are that you have – you’ll know that courses and seminars are a great way to not only learn about a subject matter, but to get the chance to talk with an expert in the field, socialize with classmates, and get some hands-on practice. There are a myriad of courses and seminars out there, ranging from ones you can complete within a few hours to ones that last for months. Even if you’re loathe to get up off of your sofa, a lot of these courses and seminars are held online nowadays, making them accessible to anyone who has an internet connection.

The courses or seminars you join are probably contingent on your own personal interests and professional development needs. You can simply join a seminar that’s taking place in Korea (Autumn’s local library in Suwon used to offer free seminars in English on Saturdays!), check out online courses (a quick Google search will show you heaps), or even go as far as to look into university courses.

3. Attend a workshop

As an ESL teacher in Korea, there are a lot of different types of workshops that you can attend for free. If you’re reading this and are familiar with us at GIFLE, you’ll already know that we provide many different kinds of teacher trainings and workshops for those living within Gyeonggi Province. However, if you’re living outside of Gyeonggi-do, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources for you to take advantage of. One of our favorites here at GIFLE that we ourselves take shameless advantage of is KOTESOL.

KOTESOL (the Korean branch of TESOL, that is, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) alone has chapters in almost every province that offers seminars and workshops – many of them free – along with larger (but paid-for) conferences. These workshops are generally run by instructors or other education professionals and can give you everything from lesson ideas to new know-how of how to best run an online classroom. You can also walk away with new friends, networking opportunities, and even full PPTs and lesson plans to use in your own class.

What the “Medium” stage unlocks:

Doing midlevel professional development will help you increase your knowledge in the field of education and gain more hands-on experience. It will also add great things to your resume.

For the Enthusiastic

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  1. Give a presentation at a workshop or seminar

Chances are that you’ve had some absolute smash-hits with your class, or have some really great ideas about how to implement different things into your classroom. You might have also studied a lot of different teaching techniques or pedagogy that you want to share with the world (or at least, some colleagues).

Workshops, seminars, and other professional events are a great way to share what you’ve learned with others, and get some professional, resume-boosting clout while you’re at it. In Korea, conferences are regularly held both in-person and online by KOTESOL, but many, many more opportunities to present exist. Start by performing a simple Internet search to see what’s happening around you in the professional world, gather your materials to create a killer presentation, and get started! If you’ve not done a conference or seminar before, it might be useful to watch and participate in one beforehand, so you have a clear idea of what’s expected.

2. Do research and publish an article

At first, this option probably sounds a bit intimidating, especially if the last paper you wrote was done during a Red Bull-fueled writing frenzy during your undergrad at three in the morning. However, it’s likely that within your classroom you’ve done research, whether advertently or not. You’ve probably searched for activities and lesson plans that work for your students and classrooms, tried out different methods, and might have even kept track of your students grades and test scores. Even these simple things can have great value to research and other educators within the EFL sphere.

As mentioned in the “Easy Peasy” section of this post, there are a lot of publications and blogs focusing on ESL and EFL. You can start by seaching which one fits your research the best, send them what you’ve written, and (hopefully) get published.

3. Become a licensed teacher

Gaining your licensure in teaching is a great option for those who want to really expand their knowledge of the teaching field. If you want to teach in your home country in the future (or level up to working at international schools or other such institutes), this is likely a great option for you, since you’ll need certification to legally work in most public (and some private) schools. Each state has different requirements for licensure, so make sure you do your research about what is required and the proper steps you’ll need to take in order to become a fully legal licensed teacher.

Believe it or not, it’s possible now to become a licensed teacher from abroad, through online programs such as TeacherReady or Moreland University.* These can be a great option for those currently abroad or those who have busy schedules.

*Note – these programs are for teacher licensure in the United States only. If you’re from another country, you’ll need to research licensure requirements

4. Get a Master’s or PhD

This is the granddaddy of all professional development. The big one. The top. If you get a Master’s (or PhD, if you are really blazing towards it), you will be an expert in your field. There are a ton of different choices for which direction you want to go in with your Master’s degree within the ESL field. Some popular choices are:

  • Masters in TESOL
  • Masters in Applied Linguistics
  • Masters in Education

However, as everyone has different wants and interests, the choice of the best Master’s or PhD degree varies from person to person. Here at GIFLE, five completely different Master’s are held by six instructors. Although we all followed our different interests in education, it still gave us the opportunity to work together and become professional education experts.

What the “For the Enthusiastic” stage unlocks:

At the highest level of professional development, you’ll be able to advance your career as an educator. All of these things will look fantastic on your resume, and give you an in-depth knowledge of your field.

This post should serve as an guide for how to begin your professional development journey. Remember, every person needs to engage in professional development depending on who they are as an individual, interests, education, and more so there really is no “one-size-fits-all” model you can follow.