Open class: two words that strike fear into the hearts of English teachers in Korea. This is a normal, albeit still potentially distressing, practice for all who are teaching in South Korea: at least once each semester, your class will be open to parents, teachers, and administrators. It’s natural to be nervous, but don’t stress – your open class doesn’t have to be a burden.
First of all, if you're a public school teacher, chances are you won’t be alone. Your co-teacher should be there with you, but everyone’s situation is different. Some teachers might find themselves alone, others will have a laid-back co-teacher, and others still will have a co-teacher who is on the verge of panic. Some people have weeks to prepare; some have minutes.
Remind yourself to smile, speak slowly, and try to think of it as a normal class - as hard as it is with 20 extra pairs of eyeballs on you. If that doesn’t work, here are some tips for you to kick butt when teaching your open class in Korea.
Sometimes getting information in Korea is like pulling teeth, but do your best to find out what is expected of you in terms of your open class. Do you need to type up a lesson plan? Will you be leading the class or sharing duties with your co-teacher? When will each of you talk during the lesson? If you have the luxury of time, find out when, where, and with which class your open class will take place, and start planning your lesson as soon as possible.
Make it Interactive
People are there to see how you and your co-teacher run the class, but that’s not all. Parents want to see their child participating, whether it’s raising their hand to answer a question or speaking during a game. They don’t want to listen to you talking the whole time. Games, songs, and visuals are always winners for an open class. Check out Waygook.org, a great resource for tried-and-true activities.
Keep it Simple
This is not the time to re-invent the wheel. If the lesson planning responsibility falls on you, don’t overdo it. Use simple language that the kids and visitors will understand, and don’t choose any complicated activities. Go back to your previous lessons. What worked and what didn’t? There’s no shame in repeating a game that was successful in the past, as long as you re-work it to apply to your current lesson.
An effective PPP (Presentation, Practice, & Production) lesson plan breakdown might look like this:
- Warm-up: A simple game like hangman or 20 Questions to get the kids thinking in English.
- Introduction: A brief rundown on the day’s objectives and activities.
- Presentation: Introduce the target language. Use the textbook CD-ROM if you have one, or make a power point.
- Practice: Students have the opportunity to practice the target language. For example, this activity might be a repetition drill or teacher-led game.
- Production: This is where the kids shine – let them do the talking in a game, group project, or role-play. You are there to support and help them when needed.
- Wrap-up: As a class, summarize what you've covered during the period by using a game or question-and-answer session.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare, and Practice, Practice, Practice!
It’s not uncommon to do a practice run before the open class; before my first one we taught the same lesson six times. It can get tedious, but it gives you the chance to see what works and what doesn’t. You can assess your materials and work on your timing. By the time the real thing comes around, you're an old pro. Make sure all of your props, materials, and technology are good to go. Again, don’t go overboard with your materials. You don’t want to be scrambling around in the classroom trying to find a set of flashcards or the remote control.
Plan Extra Activities (Just in case!)
Come up with at least one 5-10 minute backup activity that reviews the target language. Sometimes the open class goes so smoothly that you actually find yourself with extra time at the end. The last thing you want is to exchange frantic, awkward glances with your co-teacher as both of you try to come up with something good. Don’t dismiss the class early – you are given marks, and one of the criteria is likely to be timing.
Dress to Impress
I cannot stress this enough – appearance is crucial in Korea. Even if you normally wear jeans to school, today is the day to dress up. For women, a knee-length skirt or dress works well. Men, go all out in a suit and tie. Your hair, makeup, and facial hair will not go unnoticed by the attendees. I’ve heard stories of incredible teachers who dress casually compared to mediocre teachers who dress up, and it’s always the ones in a suit who get the highest marks. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it goes.
Don’t Freak Out
An open class is rarely fun. It requires a lot of preparation and nerves, but it’s over in about 40 minutes. However nervous you might be, your co-teacher is likely to be worse. In reality, the responsibility of the open class lies on his or her shoulders. They’ll probably have a critique session with teachers and administrators afterwards, and the feedback can be harsh. So do yourself and your co-teacher a favor and do your best to relax!