The private education academies in Korea are just as much businesses as schools. And as such there is fierce competition to acquire and retain their students. Every hagwon uses different marketing strategies and in-school programs to help them achieve this goal. So there are normal classes that both Korean and foreign teachers alike are responsible for but there are extra creative ideas inserted into the curriculum to make our school more attractive to the parents than other hagwons. One of these programs is called the Presentation Festival.
Students in Korea seem to attend school 24/7. At our school, they come two nights a week for about three hours. The students who come Mondays for Speaking and Listening classes also come on Thursdays for Writing and Reading classes; and likewise the Tuesday students come again on Fridays. Which leaves Wednesdays wide open for special events and additional classroom activities. APF as we call it, is a class in which the teachers and students read through a book and discuss what happens. It allows the kids a chance to read silently and aloud, listen, speak and discuss (which analyzes and synthesizes data) in class. But the crux of this program is the presentation they have to write and deliver during the Festival.
Each student is required to either give a book report on the book they read or pick out a single aspect of the book they liked and compose a 3-4 minute speech on the topic. They are allowed to use Powerpoint, posters, sound clips, and other aids to help them give a great presentation. So this aspect helps them with their speaking and more specifically, their public speaking. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Korean people have a concept called Saving Face which basically means they do not want to be disrespected, dishonored, or simply embarrassed. Giving our students an opportunity to speak in front of a large group of people (in English – and thus outside their comfort zone) is essential in helping to prepare them to go out in the world and actually use the language skills they have acquired throughout their educations.
The books are chosen by the foreign teachers from a list provided by the directors of the school. Most of them are around the 4th grade reading level for native English speakers but since our kids are learning English as a second language, they are a bit older than 9 and 10. Some of the options for the students in our summer semester were: The Grapes of Wrath (an abridged version), 10 Days: Abraham Lincoln, and King Arthur and his Knights (a very abridged version of The Once and Future King). With the help of their teachers, the students select and aspect of the book they were interested in and then continue to brainstorm, outline, and write the first draft of a speech which essentially amounts to about two full pages or 400-500 words.
On Wednesday August 22nd, we held our Presentation Festival. The students were broken up into small groups to read their presentations and be scored by their teachers. The best few were then put together in another group to read it again. It was almost like the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. The best students moved on to the next round to compete with other students until we arrived at the top students from each level. These students presented their speeches in our auditorium in front of parents, teachers, peers, and even some members of the local media. Each campus then takes two winners and those six students (three campuses) compete for the Presentation Festival Gold Medal.
The schools are broken up into different groups based on age. We have our Champ school which amounts to elementary and the Ivy school which is the middle school (and where I teach). The assignments described above were for the Ivy campus classes but the Champ classes had a slightly different way of doing their presentations. While they still had to read books, the style of their presentations varied greatly over the high level of discourse that was expected at the middle school level. The children participated in skits they created themselves – with the help of their teachers. And there was a lot of laughing. It was so much fun to see so many students gathered in the same place enjoying their English academy experience.
What impressed me the most was how much time some of the students (mostly the winners) put into their presentations. It was obvious they had taken a lot of time at home to work on them. A few even had their speeches memorized. It was a fun idea that was taken very seriously and executed with precision. Normally, from what I’m told, the day can be hectic for the teaching staff but I found that everyone worked together to keep the day moving along smoothly. It really was a very impressive display of studiousness and public speaking skills – and everything was done in a 2nd language! I can’t imagine doing something like this at their age in Spanish or German. I would’ve embarrassed myself.
So my first Presentation Festival is in the history books. It’s good to mix up the routine once in awhile, both for the students and the teachers. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I was very proud to be a part of the day and our team of teachers and educators. All of the students did an amazing job and one of the girls who won was actually from my class! So I was particularly proud of her.
Until next time…