Teaching Kindergarten in Korea – my words of wisdom

Teaching Kindergarten is possibly the most exhausting thing you can do. My school teaches Korean age 3 to Korean age 7 and after 4 years, I almost don’t know what silence is. Between the crying, the talking, the shouting, the laughing, the sheer activity, it’s always go, go, go.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years*;

1. K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid!


It’s a marathon, not a race. Set small goals for every class and work on simple things. Use the same words and phrases until they can use them correctly and then change it up. Little by little, they’ll make great progress and enjoy doing so because they won’t be under preassure.

2. It’s all about being organised.

Yellow sticky notes and push pin on white with clipping path.

They might only be 6 but they will eat you alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to know what lesson you’re giving, what games you’ll play, what songs you’ll sing and you have to have all your materials walking in the door.
If you’re new to teaching, make a lesson plan and follow it.
Also, have lots of activities ready. They have zero attention span so changing lots is the key.
3. Have a routine.
Try to structure your classes the same so that the students know what to expect. Have a proper introduction, main class and conclusion.
Introduction is probably the most challenging. How do you get them to sit down, stay quiet and listen? You can try a few chants;
My personal favourite is “what sound does sh make? sh sh sh”
Once they’re sitting quietly, do your hello song and things like day, date weather, basic things to get them concentrating.. There are loads of Hello songs on youtube. Choose two or three so that they don’t get bored singing the same song every day. Make sure to have actions so that they have something to do.  I sing the theme tune to Happy Days for days of the week and although they claim to hate it, they can all sing it.
4. Be familiar with what is expected in terms of discipline.
Korea is so sensitive when it comes to disciplining children.  Every school should have guidelines on what to do if a child is unruly. Whatever you do, follow up on threats, don’t make idle promises. If you give them three warnings, outline in advance what the consequences will be and sometimes positive reinforcement works. For example, I have a little boy who is a bit energetic in class. At first, I went for being cross with him but after a while I literally showered him with love. Every little thing he did well, I praised him to the high heavens. Now he’s one of my best. Doesn’t always work, but something to think about.
5. Always shake it up a bit.
Every few weeks, do something different. Sing a new hello song or introduce new chants, make up new games or whatever. It keeps the students interested and keeps you from getting bored.
6. Games will save you……..so will props
Students LOVE to play games. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and anything you call a game is a game.
Some games I use;
Matching game (flashcards)
Find the card (flashcards)
Spell the word ( board and a marker race)
Ball games like Donkey
Fly swatters (beating the words that I call out)
Scrabble letter games
Musical words (dance around until the music stops and then find the word I call out)
Sorting games
Dice games (throw a 6 means name 6 words of a category)
Props are also a great way of gaining interest in what you’re doing. Just putting flashcards in a container and making a big fuss of opening it is all they need to pay attention.
7. Knowing that your plan will always go out the window when you step into the classroom.
No matter how great you are, something always happens that throws your plan off. A child gets sick on the desk, pees on the floor, a fight happens, whatever. Just go with the flow in the most organised fashion possible and if all goes to all, every child LOVES to draw a picture!
If you have any questions about anything, just let me know!
* All opinions are mine. I’m in no way an expert on teaching, these are just some things I’ve learned!

How do expats spend Christmas?

Have you ever wondered how expats spend Christmas? I asked some of my expat friends the same question and there is what they came up with.

Janet1Janet Newenham;  Cork woman, blogger and the person with the  most jet set lifestyle I know. This Christmas she will be spending Christmas day in 3 airports, Seoul, Shanghai, Phnom Penh. She will then spend her vacation in Cambodia. As if we’re not all jealous enough, I just heard that she’s also going to the Phillipines in January.   You can catch up on all her adventures by reading her blog http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com/.


Stephanie Anglemyer; Photographer, blogger and one of the busiest people I know in Korea. She will spend Christmas Eve in her friend’s house here in Korea. Then, Christmas day, she will be tuning into Skype where she has an annual tradition of watching her Dad’s Christmas  Eve service. Stephanie is a really talented photographer and you can check out her blog here, http://www.anklebiterphotos.com/author/stephangle/

DanDan Berry; You can always find Dan in the midst of an Irish music session here in Korea. Dan is a volunteer with ARK (Animal Rescue Korea) and is originally from Canada.  This year, he’s spending Christmas in his new apartment, taking care of his “eejit canines”, chillaxing and having a few pints.


Conor O’Reilly; I’ll be here all day if I’m going to describe Conor so I’ll  try to keep it brief. Irishman, husband, new father, poet, writer, blogger, avid photographer. This year Conor, his wife Jin Won and their daughter Claire are heading to Thailand for 2 months. That’s the longest Christmas vacation I’ve ever heard of.  You can catch up with Conor and his thoughts on his blog, http://ifihadaminutetospare.com/ (the photo was taken by Tom Coyner. http://seoulman.smugmug.com/)

JessJess Plotnik; What can I say about Jess? Canadian, great craic, always laughing and having a great time, a little accident prone. Jess will spend Christmas day at a pot luck in a friend’s house in Gimpo, “a tradition I like to think I started in Gimpo”.


Ian Scheideberg; Ian is an avid poet and writer. I’ve known Ian for most of the time I’ve been in Korea and we always have great old craic. You’ll never be short of conversation when you hang around with Ian.  This Christmas, Ian will be in Taiwan for 2 weeks.


Eoin Kennedy; Eoin is my cousin. When we were children, we would always see each other at Christmas. This year however, Eoin is working  and living in Canada. So he will spend Christmas day working and then enjoying Christmas dinner with his boss and his boss’ family


Majella Browne; It is no coincidence that she shares the same surname as me, she’s my sister. Majella has been living in Spain for the past number of years but this Christmas is her last one in Spain as she’s moving to Korea on December 31st!


If you want to add your Christmas plans to those above, just leave a comment below!