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Welcome to Expacked (Issue #61)

February 25, 2010

Its a big week next week, as the start of the first semester for 2010 will see schools fill with students and teachers back to the regular routine.  While there are teachers who have worked right through these holidays, many will be coming back from vacation and new teachers will be excited about starting fresh in a new school and country.Grade 4 CD Pic2

Of course, before everyone starts back, there will be a public holiday on the Monday (Samil Holiday), meaning school will officially start on Tuesday 2nd March.

New 3rd and 4th Grade English Curriculum

The new 3rd and 4th grade English books and CDs for public elementary schools have arrived and I was both surprised and impressed with this latest update.

For those who are unaware, it was announced last year that public schools will increase the amount of classroom hours dedicated to English for 3rd and 4th grades.  English classes for these grades would be increasing from one class per week to two classes.

This is a big change and, while two classes a week is probably still too low to effectively learn English, it’s still a huge improvement over previous years.  It will be interesting to see how much of an effect this will have on the English ability of students.

The increase in English classes this year has already made a number of key changes:

  • There is now double the amount of English content taught during the year.
  • Most schools have needed to hire an additional English teacher (either a Korean teacher or native English teacher).
  • Previously, 3rd graders were only required to ‘look and speak’ and, in addition, 4th graders ‘read’.  Now both 3rd and 4th graders will be reading and writing.

While it would have been better to see a complete overhaul of the English content and lesson setup (the book is still basically made up of pictures.  Even a glossary of words at the end would have been useful), I was very impressed by the CD.  With short videos, songs and activities, the CD is designed to be one of the main resources for teachers to use in class, and the new versions are a big improvement.

While the new CDs have a good starting screen, the best part is how they have integrated the look and feel of the book into the CD.  Once you go to the lesson, you are taken to the exact replica of the students book and it is here that you can click on the pictures to go into that activity (the pages even have page numbers).  There is now no need for the teacher to hold up the book to show where you are as the students can follow it via the CD.

You can also move to the next page by clicking on the corner and a cool animation of the page changing makes it look like you are actually turning  a real page.  The whole book feel about the CD is a great way to tie in what’s on the book with the CD.

And its not all for looks – you can now do things like turning subtitles on and of in songs, muting individual voices in role plays and zooming to certain areas in the pictures.

The way they have integrated the book into the CD is exactly how it should be done.  I know it has been done before, but this reinforces to me how much schools will benefit from upcoming computer/tablet technologies like Apple’s iPad – its just a perfect fit.

Have a look at this demo of the Wired Magazine on the iPad and tell me whether you think this is the future of school text books and notebooks.

Here’s the stories making the news this week:

Feel free to comment on any of the stories and make use of the easy sharing options available – in just a few quick clicks you can share any of these stories to all your teaching mates in Korea.

I hope you enjoy the read and, of course, have a good laugh at this week’s jokes.

Cheers,

Ken

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