Sunday, 25 September 2011

English Summer Camp 2011

Way back, in the last 2 weeks of July, it was hot and humid and raining lots which meant: 
a) that it was another sticky Korean summer 
b) I was spending all my free time researching what we would do on our holiday
c) it was time for another English "Camp".

Yes, it was English Summer Camp 2011 and my first camp at my new middle school in Hanam. In fact, this was our third English camp in South Korea and we were starting to feel like old hands at it by then I think. (To read about our previous English camps or to have a look at our old materials, click here for Summer 2010 and Winter 2010). In common with "camps" at both my previous school and Rowan's school and in fact most (if not all schools) in Korea, there wasn't a scrap of canvas in sight and certainly no camp fire as camps here just mean an extra curricular program which the kids attend during the holidays. 

It's the end of the road for canvas fans.

My top 2 rules for English camp. Especially no fires. 

The set up for camp was a bit different at my new school. There used to be two native speaker English teachers at my school but due to the funding cuts I am the only one there now. This meant that, in the past, there were two English camps run at the same time, each lasting for two weeks. One camp was for the 1st graders (13-14 year olds) and the other was for 2nd graders (14-15 year olds) and each camp was supposed to have around 20 kids in it, though of course you always get a few who don't turn up. Now that I was all alone (sob) camp had to be a bit different. I was actually quite lucky for once. 

At first there was talk of putting the 1st and 2nd graders together in one group but it was decided that this was actually a stupid idea as students in Korea really don't mix well with kids who are not from the same school year as them (age is VERY important here as it denotes how much respect you get - or not as the case may be - thanks a lot Confucius!) and the idea of working with someone a few months younger seems totally alien / impossible to them. This was excellent news for me as it meant that I had to teach two separate camps, one for each age group, and as I only have to teach camp for 2 weeks it was arranged that I would teach one week of 1st and 1 week of 2nd grade, This meant I could repeat my materials so I only had to come up with 5 days of organised fun - assah! (앗싸 - Korean exclamation like "yay" or "awesome" or something similar). 

앗싸! Sophie Teacher was so happy at the lighter workload that she dyed her hair blue and started seeing stars!

Another positive of at my new school was that there was a much bigger budget for camp which meant more food and materials and even a trip out to the cinema for the 2nd graders and to the local bowling alley for the 1st graders. My previous school always had a tiny camp budget, certainly not enough to do any trips out of school. On the negative side though, the group sizes of camps at my new school was considerably bigger (up to 20 kids per camp) as the Principal wanted to stuff as many in as possible to make the school's commitment to English look good on paper. This made it harder for me to control and give individual students much attention and meant that instead of getting the good, enthusiastic students with half decent English who actually wanted to be there I got loads of naughty, soccer obsessed boys who had been press ganged into attending and just wanted to eat snacks, go on the trip and speak as little English as possible. Not so cool. 

My classroom at my new school in Hanam. Set up ready for camp. The calm before the storm!

As the camp was so short I decided not to theme it this time as I had at my previous school but to just do different stuff each day. The problem with teaching at a co-ed school is that girls and boys generally like wildly different things by the time they get to middle school so it's quite tough doing things that will appeal to all the students. My answer was to mix and match the activities, some aimed more at the boys, others at the girls but to try not make any too gender specific. Sometimes I think Rowan is lucky only teaching boys, it makes it easier to use material that will get most of the kids' attention. As before, Rowan and I tried to share some material to cut down on the planning workload. I think he did a Space themed camp this time with lots of stuff about the solar system and planets but we worked together on some stuff. 

I taught my 1st grade camp first (easier for me to remember). As usual, Day 1 kicked off with introductions, setting out the camp rules such as "Don't be late", "No fighting" and "Try to speak in English not Korean" (ha ha - as if they're ever followed!), dividing the kids into teams, getting them to choose English names and playing some warm up games to get the students used to each other (as they are drawn from every class in their year they won't all know each other well). At my new school they have a badge machine so we made name badges to which was quite fun. 

I let the students pick their own team names which often results in rather dull, unimaginative names. However, team 3 picked a rather unfortunate one and I didn't pick up on it until it was too late - whoops, bad teacher!

Team 1 - The Pepsi team. Mainly comprised of soccer obsessed boys who were hard work to control but their English wasn't too bad and their team work was amazing.

Team 2 - Sophie's students - sucking up never hurt anyone!

Team 3 - the unfortunately titled School Killers - I still feel bad about that name but they were nice boys.

Students in my 1st grade camp playing a warm up game that is a mixture of an egg and spoon relay race and CONSTANTINOPLE. 

The teams have to race with their "egg" (a ping pong ball) on a spoon to the board and write one word beginning with each letter of CONSTANTINOPLE. One student writes a word then races back for the next one to have a go. Fun but causes total chaos and abundant cheating of course!

I think Day 1 is always the hardest to teach as the kids are not used to each other yet and don't know what to expect from the teacher so the atmosphere can be quite stilted. Rowan and I have tried various ways of tackling this but nothing has worked 100% yet. Maybe there's amagic ice breaker game out there that I'm unaware of that would solve all my problems - answers on a postcard to...

Anyway, this time we tried to get over this problem by having more games and less worksheets on Day 1 but it still didn't quite work. Maybe the games weren't right, maybe the mix of students wasn't the best. Actually, in my 1st grade camp, I had the worst ever Day 1 yet. One boy was getting bullied by some other boys. When I challenged them, their excuse was that he was "dirty". They explained it to me like I was being stupid for not realising this. I was suitably unimpressed and warned the culprits in no uncertain terms but it wasn't the best start to camp. Like I say, it's hard to control a group of 15 - 20 kids in a language which is foreign to them and enforcing hard-line discipline and breaking up fights (yes, it started descending to a physical fight at one point) is no fun at all. 

The first rule of English Camp is: You do not talk about English Camp.

Day 2 was a better day. I got one of my co-teacher's to have a word with the main bullies in Korean to make sure they understood that they could not behave like that again or they would be sent home and that seemed to help. Day 2 was all about the Egg Drop Challenge and T-shirt painting. Predictably the boys were more into the egg drop and the girl's were more excited about painting t-shirts but it was generally a good balanced day.  

Materials set out for the Egg Drop Challenge. For the uninitiated, the Egg Drop Challenge is a popular science project in schools around the world. The idea is that each team must build a structure to hold their egg out of limited materials and then all the structures are dropped form increasing heights. Last team with an intact egg wins.

The egg-stremely brave little pilots, unsung heroes of the Egg Drop Challenge.

Each of the teams made quite different structures. I gave them a limited amount of materials that included balloons, string, a plastic bag, some cardboard, paper, wooden chopsticks, toilet roll tubes and rubber bands.

The soccer obsessed boys team really got into this challenge and worked extremely well together. 

They made a cool structure reminiscent of a box kite frame with the egg suspended in the toilet roll tube using rubber bands to hold it in place.

And then they added a plastic bag on top to act as a kind of parachute.

The girls' structure was a flimsier affair made out of chopsticks bound together with rubber bands.

The other boys' team made a kind of weird balloon parcel around their egg. 

An egg-stronaut nervously awaits its maiden voyage.

The Pepsi team preparing to launch their structure on the first drop.

The girls' launch their egg on drop 1.

Team 3 dropping their egg structure. Drop 1 was very short and everyone survived it easily.

Drop 2 was a little higher but still everyone survived it easily.

I think this was the last drop. We threw the structures out of the windows of the boys' toilets on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors. 

Game over!

I think everybody's structures failed when dropped from the 4th Floor.

After the last test landing, the egg-straunauts were left as nothing but empty shells. They finally cracked under the pressure.

After the egg drop challenge, we got down to some t-shirt painting. 

The dinosaur design was my favourite.

The soccer obsessed boys made boring attempts at copying their favourite sports shirts.

This was when things started to go wrong! and get messy!

Oh dear! 

Painty handprints everywhere!

The design looked quite cool at first but the kids couldn't stop and it turned a bit muddy!

There were a few Jackson Pollack style designs too!

As usual we had a cooking day and this time we cooked pancakes. The 1st graders really enjoyed cooking and were all pretty good at it too. Several kids flipped the pancakes and I don't think any got dropped. Even better, the boys and the girls seemed to be equally enthusiastic about it! 

Mixing it up.


Splashing on the pancake syrup.

The students ate their pancakes with chopsticks of course.

As usual there were a few kids who went condiment crazy with the pancake syrup.

Day 4 was trip day and we went bowling in Hanam. My co-teacher Sunny came along to help too. It was a scorching hot day and we tried our best to keep to the shade as we made the 20 minute walk across town to the bowling alley. We pretty much just let the kids get on with it and play together. Sunny and I played a few matches together. I managed to impress my soccer obsessed boys with my (purely lucky) prowess with a bowling ball - I was on fire that day! I'm not sure what the educational value was of taking the kids bowling but they enjoyed it and we learnt the key vocabulary for it the day before so whatever I guess, it wasn't my idea, just something my school does.

This little chap always makes me laugh, he's quite precocious and has excellent English. I always think of him as the "Spongebob student" as he has a Spongebob pencil case and similar glasses. 

'Spongebob getting some advice pre-throw.

Action pose #1.

Action pose #2 - think he let go too early.

Sunny gets another gutter ball.

Me throwing straight down the centre again - woohoo!

Stopped in the nick of time!


As always, the last day was used for camp review and to play a few last games. I also ran a kind of scavenger hunt too in which the teams had to run around the school taking photos of things on their cell phone s, drawing picture and fulfilling other random challenges including singing me a song in English. I got the usual Beatles songs sung to me with varying degrees of embarrassment and gusto. I like the scavenger hunt part of the day, it gets the kids active and they always enjoy a chance to use their phones. We rounded off the 1st grade camp with a 'pizza party' - basically the kids stuff their faces with pizza and drink coke. Again not sure what the educational value of that is but it was a fun way to end things I guess. 

One of the scavenger hunt challenges was to draw a picture of an elephant riding a bicycle.

Pizza party time.

So the following week I had to repeat the whole thing again but with the 2nd graders this time. The group size was a lot smaller this time so it was much more manageable. 2nd graders tend to be lazier and harder to engage so they presented a different challenge to the rowdy, hyperactive 1st graders. I think I only had boys turn up for the 2nd grader camp which made it easier in a way as they were all interested in the same kind of stuff. 

We played games on Day 1 just as we had in the 1st grade camp.

Possibly a bit of cheating going on here in the egg and spoon race!

The boys made badges with their team names and English names. One team was called Billy's Kingdom which seemed to be the source of much hilarity though I'm not sure why. Possibly it was because they'd seen the film Billy Elliot at some point and associated the name with a lack of manliness of something?

A cheeky lad with the English name of William who also comes to my after school class.

We had the egg drop challenge on Day 2.

As there were so few students on Day 2 and they were pretty well behaved, I decided to make my own structure out of polystyrene sheets, toilet roll tubes, chopsticks, tape, string and a plastic bag for a parachute.

The students made heavy use of the balloons as usual. They seemed to think that tying loads of balloons filled with aior would somehow make their structure fly - bless 'em!

Me dropping my trusty structure from the first drop.

The balloon boys at one of the higher drops.

My structure looked cool but it was rubbish and was the first to break - all style no substance!

Balloon boys at the final drop form the top floor window.

Th victorious balloon boys with their intact egg.

And holding up their winners' chocolate bars.

After the egg drop, the boys painted t-shirts. It was a lot more orderly and easier to clean up than the 1st graders' session had been.

On Day 3 disaster struck. It started raining heavily and didn't stop. There were serious floods all over South Korea that caused several deaths, including 3 people who died in flooding in our old hometown of Gwangju-si when the local river burst its banks. The river didn't qite overflow in Hanam but it wasn't far off. 

This is the small stream that runs behind our apartment in Hanam, taken in June 2011.

This is that same 'stream' in July on the 3rd day of my 2nd grade camp during the incredibly heavy rains that claimed at least 38 lives due to flash flooding and landslides.

The same scene a few hours later once the water level had dropped away. Note the flattened grass.

Umbrellas offered no real protection as the rain was coming down so hard it just bounced up onto your legs again.

Some schools cancelled their summer camps but not mine of course!

When I arrived at school drenched and chilled to the bone I found that water was pouring in through gaps where the windows didn't close properly - onto all the computer stuff.

I tried to sto the flow with old towels but quickly ran out and had to just drag everything away from the window.

The few brave students who actually turned up to school for camp and for other extra classes were drafted into bailing water out of the gym.

The whole school was leaking. It's a relatively old building by Korean standards and it continued to leak throughout the rainy season.

Days later there were still diggers moving all the mud off the pavements by the side of the stream.

All this rain didn't get me out of having to teach camp for the day though. Neither did the fact that I only had 2 kids turn up. When they were released from mopping up duties we tried to do some cooking but the gas supply to the kitchen seemed to have been lost somehow in all the flooding so we gave up and watched Die Hard 2 instead. This was possibly a mistake as I had forgotten how much swearing there was in that movie and my Korean co-teacher looked a little shocked when he walked in to be greeted by a hail of f@#k you's from the screen - oh well.

On Day 4 we headed out to the cinema to watch the final installment of the Harry Potter movies along with about half the teachers in the school it seemed who were all more than happy to get free tickets to come care of the school. Not sure why they all got tickets or why my co-teacher was able to bring his kids along for free too - the way my school usually react when I ever ask forf anything had led me to believe that it was strapped for cash! Like the time when I asked if they would replace the ink cartridge in the English room printer and they said no but I could buy a new one myself if I wanted to - cheers guys! 

We wrapped up on Day 5 with party games and a scavenger hunt just like with the 1st graders and the 2nd grade boys even shared their pizza with me - they can be kind sometimes! 

At the end of week 1 of summer camp, Rowan went home for his 2 weeks of bonus vacation that he received because he renewed his contract with the same school. As I had been forced to change schools due to the funding cuts I was stuck in Korea all on my lonesome ownsome. I soon got used to it though and became a bit of a hermit. He was away for my second week of camp and my first week of deskwarming. I grew to quite like it though I think I may have started talking to myself sometime during the week of deskwarming but that's nothing new with me! 

Overall I think summer camp 2011 went well despite some serious teething problems with the 1st grade camp on day 1. The egg drop was fun and going out on trips really got the students excited too even if they didn't learn much English from it! 

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