In the ESL Classroom- What (I think) is Hot Now

After a few years of teaching at a public middle school, I’ve found that the best way to create a captivating class is to use the textbook material in a new, updated and relatable way.  The best ways I found to do this were through:

A) Pictures-  More particularly gifs.  My students love gifs.  Of course they do- it’s like a 1 second video.  I find most of my best gifs on  On tumblr dashboard you can search for something specific or look at the categories of “LOL”or “GIFS.”  If you’re gonna show a picture of Spongebob, why not show a moving picture of Spongebob doing something stupid?  Much more effective.

B) Current Media & Things-  Tv shows, K-pop stars, Entertainers, Movies, or common places and things Korean kids know of.  They get really excited when a show they love, or a face they adore pops up on your powerpoint.

The challenge is knowing what to put.  The world of K-pop is so fast paced.  Groups fade away.  New groups pop up every week.  And of course, there are the groups making their “Comeback.”  Knowing what is currently hot (in their minds) is important so you don’t show an outdated picture of G-Dragon or mention a group that is so last year, and end up looking like the cheesy teacher who tries to be cool.  Knowing what’s hot now isn’t difficult if you like K-pop and keep up with the current music.  I, however, despise K-pop and avoid it at all costs.  But, my students love it, so for some hours of the day, I, too, must pretend to love it.

So, as of March 24th as I write this post, here are some things that (I think) are currently hot and will get your students’ attention.

1.  Korean Drama- 해를 품은 달.  In English- The Moon that Embraces the Sun.

2.  K-pop Boy Band- Big Bang–  Current hit- “Blue” and “Fantastic Baby”

3.  K-pop Girl Band- Miss A–  Current hit- “Touch”

4.  K-pop Boy Band- 2AM–  Current hit-  “I wonder if you hurt like me”

5.  K-pop Girl Band- SNSD, Girls Generation– Current hit- “The Boys”

6.  TV-show- K-Pop Star-  Current top singers- Park Ji Min, Lee, Ha Yi, Baek Ah Yeon

7.  TV show- 무한도전.  In English – “Infinity Challenge.”  This show has been around for a long time but I think most people still love it.

8.  TV show- Running Man- I think this show is similar to Infinity Challenge but I’m not completely sure.

9.  Place students like- Everland-  Most students go on field trips there and one ride that is most often talked about is the roller coaster T-Express.  They’ll definitely be impressed if you know of T-Express.

10.  Food students like-  whenever I talk about food I bring in food brands they know and love.  Dominos, McDonalds, KyoChon Chicken, Baskin Robbins.  For some reason, showing a picture of KYO CHON chicken is much more interesting than showing a picture of chicken you found on google image.

I think it’s important to show pictures that are most current.  If I google image “Big Bang,” I’m clueless as to knowing what picture was taken 5 years ago and what picture was taken last week.  I have no idea, but they certainly do.  And they’ll definitely give you a face of “why are you showing us a picture from 10 years ago?”

Websites like or will give you lots of current pictures to choose from.

I’m incredibly clueless about Korean teen popular culture.  But in the classroom I pretend I know what I’m talking about.  But truly, I don’t even know for sure; so most likely I still am “the cheesy teacher who tries to be cool.”

Any other ideas???

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