Cultural Ambassadorship in the Classroom

As an inexperienced teacher, I have not written much about my teaching ideology, nor have I shared much beyond some of the successful lessons that I have had. As students prepare for final exams and I finish creating my last few lessons, I’d like to discuss my take on what it means to be a cultural ambassador in the classroom and how I have used my English lessons to fulfill this role.

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Similes and Metaphors

Continuing with my creative writing unit, I taught my students how to write similes and metaphors in English. Many of my students cannot write a complete sentence without the help of a template, so similes and metaphors were a form of “structured creativity” that would balance their need for a format and my goal of fostering creative thinking. Here are some of the best sentences from my students this week:

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Teaching Poetry

After midterms ended, I started a creative writing unit with my students. For the second grade students, I taught rhythm (using Robert Frost) and rhyme (using Dr. Seuss), while for the first grade students I taught a lesson about descriptive language. For both grades, I did an acrostic poetry assignment because it was the best way to adapt to higher level students who could use full sentences or purposeful enjambment, as well as lower level students who could just write single words.

I asked each student to write two poems: one about them and one about any topic they wanted. I was so impressed by the stories they told or emotions they expressed in such a short poem. It’s hard to believe they were written in a second language! Below are some of my favorite examples:

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The Cookie Game: Teaching Debate


I stood at the front of the classroom, in front of the rowdy students who were carrying their conversations from the hallway into Janine Teacher’s class. It only took two or three students to notice that I was holding a box of Binch cookies before the entire class was silent.

“Teacher, why cookie?”

“Today,” I told each second grade class as their eyes glittered with cookie-lust, “one lucky state group will win the Binch. We are going to have a debate!”

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Top 5 Weirdest Words I Have Actually Written on My Blackboard

Ah, the blackboard. The staple of every classroom. Now that it’s midterms week and I don’t have a lesson update, I’d like to share some of the weirdest things my students have asked me to write on the board. To give some context, usually I use the board to write instructions, show grammatical structures, or help students with spelling. The pictures below fall into the last category.

Let the countdown begin.

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“Kimchi Has a Sexy Mood” and Other Poems by Students

When I was in high school, no topic in English class was more despised than poetry. The student consensus was that we would either read Edgar Allen Poe for the twelfth time or we would read some obscure poem about flowers. Even though I like poetry, especially the medieval poetry I read in college, I was hesitant to teach an ESL class about poetry. The class would be for my more advanced students, but I wasn’t sure if the topic would be too difficult. After much deliberation, I decided to teach rhyme and rhythm, share examples of English poems, and write a poem together as a class.The result: I learned that kimchi is sexy, Taylor Swift likes sweet potatoes, and apparently there IS a word that rhymes with spaghetti!

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Humans of Gimhae Jeil High School


Working with a textbook is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it provides exercises and prompts around a theme or a unit, so lesson planning is much easier. On the other hand, many of the units or individual exercises are not fitting for my students’ level, or they are awfully boring. This week’s textbook lesson had an interesting topic about future plans, but the textbook exercises would have been too hard (and let’s face it, too boring) for my students.

Luckily for me, I am responsible for teaching the writing section of the textbook to my second graders, while my co-teachers teach the reading and vocabulary sections. That means I have a lot more leeway to adapt the material or substitute my own exercises for those in the book. So this week, I did exactly that.

“Pick up your textbook,” I said to each class after ten minutes of doing the textbook exercises. My students looked at each other. “Go on, pick it up. Pick it up. Now close it. Put it down. We don’t need it.”

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Ten Points to Gryffindor! …I Mean, Alabama!

Some of my students love my English class. Others, not so much. Because my class does not give a grade, some students are not motivated to participate or do their work. To motivate my students, I decided to combine some popular classroom management tactics – competition, rewards, and group accountability – into one super-tactic.

Behold, the United States of Janine’s Classroom.

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Casinos, Polar Bears, and Dinosaurs: A Lesson on the United States

*I cannot take credit for creating this lesson. I adapted it from a lesson another ETA created a few years ago. The joys of sharing!*

Twice a week, I teach special “Speaking and Writing” classes for the more advanced English students in the second grade. Unlike most of my classes, which I teach from a textbook, I create my own lessons and materials for these two classes. With the dizzying freedom of being able to teach whatever I want, I decided to do a lesson on the United States, complete with a USA Bingo game and a postcard activity. As you will see, my classes are a little too obsessed with gambling and Coca-Cola advertisements.

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