August 4, 2011 3 Comments
I’ve been working on preparing information for my successor as an ALT and have been reflecting a lot on what it is I do here as a language teacher in Japan. Most of my work is preparing and teaching lessons to the first year students at both of my schools. These students are 15 or 16, about the same age as grade ten students in Canada. Every week I teach a new English Communication lesson to them. I also occasionally teach second and third year students. My other responsibilities include English club, speech contest and test preparation, exam preparation and marking and English composition marking. My favourite, by far, is teaching English communication. It is so much fun.
All our lessons here start with the opening routine. A student representative calls out ‘be quiet and close your eyes’, then ‘open your eyes and stand up’, ‘bow’, then I say Hello and the students say ‘hello Ms. Heather’ and the student say ‘sit down’. This is a rough translation of what the students say in their Japanese classes, but Japanese schools have a definite routine to them which is a lot more formal than schools in Canada.
Then it’s fun time!
We usually start the class with a warm up game, then we move on to new vocabulary. I have tried so many ways to make this fun, but usually we start with translation, comprehension checking and repeat after meing. Then the class does a vocabulary review game and its time for a speaking or writing activity. The writing activities are usually pretty simple, starting with fill in the blanks and progressing to writing full sentences. The speaking activities are almost all one on one with the teacher, which is achievable because our small class size – 15-20 students, and necessary because when left to work with a partner, most classes dissolve into Japanese. That usually takes up all our time, but if we have left over time I do extension activities with the higher level students and review with the lower level.
Throughout the class I use participation board to check the students progress. They get a sticker for contributing to the class in any way - winning a game, asking a question, answering a question, talking to me in English, completing their worksheet, etc… At the end of term I give prizes to everyone, and a larger prize to the top 5 students in every class. I think it works great for motivating these students, even if it’s not a system I would use in a school in Canada.
While the lessons themselves are fun, the best part about teaching here are the students. Not all of them are really happy about English class, but they are very enthusiastic in class, and produce the best English compositions. This week they were to write about their favourite possession. One student wrote me about a KitKat bar her sister gave her which cemented their bonds.
I feel like lately I have ended every post with how much I am going to miss something about Japan, but I really am going to miss the students and classes here. They never fail to make me smile.