Letters from the past shared in Spring 2014

(here is a quick (read: unedited) run-down of the class from March 2014 where I shared some letters previous students had written for their “juniors” as described here

I loved the idea of the letters. I fretted on and off all day on how best to use them. I had a few things I felt I really wanted to be doing in the first class but the letters were a must. I mean, this is really the only time to use them.1 I thought about making copies of the letters because I only had 6 letters and would have 11 10 students. I nixed this idea for a few reasons (yes, including not feeling like making the copies) but mostly because I liked the idea of holding and reading the actual paper that another human had scribed a note upon.  So copying was out. Just before class I decided I’d have students share what was written in each letter with a partner.  I also decided this would be the final activity for this, the first class of the term.

Class happened and it was fine. I was pleased with what we’d done so far in the class. There was a focus on the specifics and organization of the course. 2 There was also a focus on some English challenges I had noticed from previous cohorts in their situation. This time included  included sharing “interpretation English advice” from the same predecessors who crafted the letters of general advice. This advice, which mostly consisted of useful phrases, potential pronunciation confusions and phrases and words that might need to be reconsidered was quite well-received. One student told me it is stuff he knew but never really focused on or thought about. I scored that as a win. It was now time for the letters of advice.

I had a hard time catching the vibe. I wasn’t sure if they thought it was just a way to waste time, or if they thought it could and would be useful. The letters were conveniently in a mix of Korean and English. Rather than have students simply explain the contents of the letters I asked them to sight-translate the letters for a partner. I talked for what seemed liked ages explaining how it would run but it was pretty simple. Translate the letter from K>E or E>K for your partner. The letters were to passed around in a clock-wise fashion after I decided the time was pretty much up. This went for one round. Again, half three of  the letters were originally in English and being translated into Korean and two of them were written in Korean and being translated into English. I was able to catch some confusions and challenges for those translating into English (which I addressed at the very end). I thought it was going pretty well and providing a nice combination of doable challenge and information. I decided that I’d only ask them to do two rounds (which would be one translation for each partner) because of timing and because the letters were a bit samey. I don’t know if expected relief of sadness or nothing from the students when I said that was pretty much the end of the activity time before addressing some challenges and sharing a few housekeeping type reminders. I made sure to get all the letters back because I wanted them for Friday’s class with a group at the same stage. Then, one student asked if I needed them back and asked if she could read them now before we left. I said that was great. Then a few more students were reading and sharing and talking about them. I wondered if my choice to limit the guaranteed exposure to 2 letters per person/group was good but mostly I was happy at the value they placed on the letters.

I guess that is that.


1) Last December I collected two sets. One set I promised to deliver/share at the start of the course and one at the start of the 2nd term. Last year there was sort of a mixed bag but today’s letters were very much pitched to someone started their second year in an intensive program.

2) I’d usually call this the logistics of the course. Those very interested in how the class might usually run can find an idea here in this post from last year.

3) It might have behooved me to mention something to do when the translation was finished because the letters were of various lengths.

4) There was just too much of the same old “Mike is the greatest teacher in the history of the universe stuff.” One can only hear so much of this before tuning it out.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Letters of advice from former students | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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