Teaching in a Hagwon

Hagwons are private English academies which students attend after school. If you are working in hagwon you may have kindergarten classes in the mornings but generally you will not start work until the afternoon.  Typically you will teach 6 hours per day, 30 hours per week, Monday to Friday. You will be expected to spend at least an hour preparing your classes, unpaid.  Ages of students usually range from 4 to 18. The majority of students are between 8 and 13 although it is not uncommon to have kindergarten or even adult conversational classes. The maximum number of students in one class is around 10 or 12. A native Korean teacher often assists English teachers in class.  Education is of great importance to Koreans. Children from more affluent families are sent to a variety of hagwons (English, math, music etc.) after school. As a result kids are often tired by the time they reach your class.


Teaching in a Public School

English is part of the Korean school curriculum and it is now common to find native English teachers working at public schools throughout Korea. If teaching at a public school you will either be at an elementary, middle or high school. You will be expected to stay in school for the duration of the school day even though you will teach for less hours per day than at a hagwon. Students are generally between aged between 7 and 18. Class size can be up up 25 but you always work with a Korean co-teacher.


How Can I Teach Korean Kids When I Can't Speak Korean?

Hagwons and public schools aim to teach their students by natural acquisition. They want native English teachers to communicate with Korean students in as natural way as possible.  Korean teachers typically teach formal grammar leaving the foreign teacher free to teach the more relaxed aspects of English: speaking, pronunciation, reading and writing practice. The students will be fascinated by you and will learn a lot by copying what you say and by playing games. The school will supply you with the required teaching materials, and will guide you in the best way to utilise your resources.


Typically, the level of your students’ English will be quite low. Teachers are not expected to speak Korean (Hangul). In fact, many schools request that you refrain from using Korean in the classroom to maximise students' participation in English.  You will teach conversational English. This ranges from teaching lower level students ‘letters’ using picture flashcards to conversing with higher level students. A good teacher is able to think of fun games and activities - making books a topic of conversation and interaction. An active, fun class will bring the best results from Korean children, and will make your teaching time more fun as well! 


Your Students

Many hagwons also cater to Kindergarten students. These students will be four to six years old, maybe even younger. As you might expect these classes involve a lot of games, songs, art type projects and story telling.  With younger students you will use a lot of flashcards and they will learn largely by repeating what you say and by singing songs and playing games. Students will often understand your meaning without actually understanding your vocabulary. You will find that your tone of voice becomes exaggerated and that you talk slowly and clearly. This will be most apparent to anyone you talk to from home on the phone! More advanced students will understand key vocabulary and you will be working to build on that and to enhance their English communication skills. A good tip is to never underestimate the power of hand gestures and acting. The students’ Korean names will be very difficult to remember however, this is not usually a problem as most schools advocate giving students English names. If you have a new class you may have the privilege of naming them.


Your Colleagues

Some of the staff at your school may not have a high level of English competency. Some may not speak English at all. Some may speak English but may be too shy to speak it in front of you in case they make a mistake. While the majority of staff at a school will have a high enough level of English to communicate with you well there will be instances where misunderstandings occur. In general though you will find your colleagues to be friendly, approachable and eager to help.  You and a Korean teacher are responsible for each class.  Since they know the students better than you please ask them for hints and tips on how to work with each class.  Ask them what your class responds to best.  Some classes respond best to a calm, structured environment while for others you will need to create an interactive, high energy lesson plan to keep them interested.  Please do not be afraid to approach your Korean co-worker for ideas, help and advice.  Remember that what works with one class may not necessarily work with another class of students of a similar age or ability.


Useful Links

Check out these websites for ideas on how you can make your lessons more interesting.  If you have a particular topic in mind search online for ESL materials and the name of your topic.  From complete lesson plans to pictures to print out and colour in you'll find a huge amount online.      



ESL Galaxy

ESL Printables

Using English


Top Tips!

A good tip is to always keep a 'back up' in your class folder.  If your class gets through your pre-planned material too quickly or if they are becoming bored and disinterested it's always good to have a back up!  For younger classes print out something relevant they can colour or just having plain paper they can draw on, works really well.  Help them practice the vocabulary they are learning i.e. draw a big house, with blue windows and a red door, or draw a small pizza, large pink cake etc.  For older students word searches or other puzzles work well.    And remember to Smile!  If you are enjoying your class, your students will too.  Teaching in Korea is daunting at first.  It will take you a couple of weeks to get to know your students and to find out what they respond to.  No two classes are the same.  Once you get to know your students you will find work a lot easier and lot more enjoyable. Teaching will become second nature. 

Happy Teaching!!


Add To This Page!!

Got a Top Tip?  Something that works well for you in class or a link to a useful website? Please let us know. We'd love to post your ideas on this page and pass them on to other teachers in Korea whether they are just starting out or are in need of a little inspiration.  Please email any contributions to info@flying-cows.com