Summer “Camp”

(Mike here)

It’s late July in Mokpo, which means that, like The States, it’s summer camp season. American summer camp conjures up pictures of canoeing on a wilderness lake, making macrame potholders with teenage counselors and trying to sleep in bug-infested cabins. As usual, Korea has a different idea about these things.

First, a few things about Korea’s summer break. It’s no big drag-it-out affair like America’s big summer break; it’s a scant five weeks long. And the kids don’t really stop studying, or get much of a chance to goof off like US kids do. Most attend private academies (hagwans), and don’t stop studying just because the schools close. Many wealthier Koreans send their kids away to immersion camps in Seoul, the Philippines, or other exotic locations.

But not all kids can afford airfare, or the hagwans either, which is where the public school ‘camps’ come into play. For a few weeks, the native teachers pitch in and teach courses that aren’t as structured as the curriculum, and don’t follow the national guidelines. Things get relaxed and fun during summer camps; many native teachers show movies or teach sports and play games during the camp.

I’m not doing anything that fancy; I’m planning out the curriculum with my co-teacher, who will be with me in the classroom for the first two weeks of camp. So I’m keeping things simple – we’re teaching them about the countries of Europe, the wildlife of Minnesota, and folk tales. I’ll be teaching them Jack and the Beanstalk, and the folk song “Keep on the Sunny Side.” As a follow-up, let me just say that Korean fifth graders are about as interested in folk music as American fifth graders, which is to say, they like pop music better, though they were polite enough to listen to me and the old-time music.

(Akasha here) I’m having a blast at camp with my 5th and 6th graders right now.  I got to plan the whole enchilada.  I made posters and recruited kids, drafted a sample schedule full of activities to lure them in, and spent 2 months planning this horse and buggy show.  I was informed the day before camp started that there was no budget.  ( I unhappily changed the activities I had planned, science stayed, cooking was aborted.)

I have the fifth and 6th graders I’ve taught for 4 months. I teach four 40 minute sessions from 9:30- 12:40. The last two weeks I will have two groups of 3rd and fourth graders I’ve only seen in the cafeteria.   I split the 3s and 4s into a low group and a high group  based on homeroom referrals and I will see them for two periods each.

I had a blast planning camp and I am happy to report that my intermediate kids are having fun.  Most show up 40 minutes early and stay late to help me get ready for the next day.  My kids love K-pop, so the first week we reviewed the elements of K-pop and English pop , then I had them make a pop group, write a song, and make a video.  They rocked!  They came in early and stayed late getting extra help.  I’m so proud of them.    We also made cereal box guitars, straw flutes, and mixing bowl drums.  I focused on academic terms like “tension, pitch, and volume” and they rocked it out.  (This was my rebellion to their anesthetizingly boring curriculum) We also had a 40 minute session on pirates every day.  Anytime you can slay your students you’re bound to teach them something.

Week two is super busy.  I am starting each morning with states of matter.  We will be changing states and reacting by making ice cream, ooblech, and exploding things.  We are going to use our adjectives and comparatives to study the solar system. I’m going to torture them with Jig-saw reading activities and reward them by having them act out a  working model with balloons.  I think the kid I named Mike is going to spin until he pukes.  They are also going to create their own super heros/ villains and Gotham city. I can’t wait to assign them hero/ villain status.  Friday will be had bitter sweet day as we have a hero/ villain show down and a solar system scavenger hunt, then I say “good-bye” until August 29th.  Then I will repeat selected lessons with the 3rd and 4th graders.

Classroom management:

I  give a sticker every time they speak English.  I take one away if they speak Korean without prior authorization.

10 stickers = 1 simple prize (cartoon stickers, glitter pen, balloon)

20 stickers = one good prize (modeling clay, squirt gun, bubbles)

60 stickers = water balloon fight with the teacher

(I told them that >60 stickers and they will clean the room during the waterballoon fight)

The kid with the most stickers gets to use my super soaker in aforementioned fight

Our Korean teacher’s daughter is one of my 5th graders.  Her English is off the charts. She earned 33 stickers in 3 days.


Korean identity is very important to the staff and students.  They only take English names during camp.   So I named them after our friends.  I wrote names on the board and let them pick.  My top student is Maggie.  The kids in the video are Mike, Katie, Heather, Meagan, Carrie, David, and Jenni 🙂


This awesome camper chose the name “Ariana.”  She’s classy.

Side note- I am getting so spoiled by planning everything myself and getting to make my own rules, it may be hard to go back to co-teaching.  I love my co-teacher, he is a great guy, but we differ on a few core values.  He thinks adults shouldn’t interfere in kid society.  Kids here hit each other, A LOT!  I don’t care for it, but I am not allowed to stop it during the school year.  At camp we play by U.S. rules and there is no hitting.  If you hit someone I make you run a lap around the track (it’s next to my class.)  I’ve had two girls run laps so far.  Hitting is down to an all time low.  I love it.

2 thoughts on “Summer “Camp”

  1. Stacey says:

    Very cute! It looks like they’re having a fun summer. I love the idea of everyone continuing their studies over the summer.

  2. Liza says:

    You should try the ultimate in American names – Patsy Ann. Patsy Ann may really hate her name – but this could be a way to retrieve it!

    I bet someone goes for Patsy Ann.

    Liza (no – too Russian….)

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