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Thread: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

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    Junior Member Faitoman's Avatar
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    Default New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Dear ITIL,

    Tl;dr is at the bottom.

    1st year FOB here. I thought I'd be placed at middle school but I teach only elementary 1 day a week for 4 schools (the other day I do go to a school but until mid way through 2nd semester I do no classes. Am working to get my BOE to send me elsewhere).

    Initially I had an assistant who was a go between for me and the JTE but she turned out to be a manipulative bitch and by no effort of my own got herself fired. She essentially planned and lead lessons so the vacuum left by her was large, not many of the JTEs were willing to fill. The majority handed me a monbuka lesson plan or just asked me to take care of it citing 'terrible english' as a reason.

    I was all starry eyed and thought by following the genki english ideas and adhering to the hi friends textbook I could overcome the complete lack of teaching experience and unfamiliarity with the japanese school system (I'm fluent in jp so thats no real issue).

    I was wrong.

    I got to hand it to Richard of genki english, his ideas worked a treat but ultimately I was mainly drilling the kids with vocab and having no real communication so they couldnt use much of what they learned. That much was clear when I visited a middle school and found the 1st years of another ALT were much more confident and capable in the basics than mine.

    So I'm keen to improve and am keen on some critique (which I heard is abundant here at ITIL)

    My lessons are as follows:

    1st & 2nd grade (once a month)
    Songs and games to remember key words. This is a lesson I did last month (1st lesson)

    Say hello
    TPR (they say the actions whilst copying, eg. Jump, spin, walk, run, clap, sit down)
    Goal introduction (Farm animals)
    Keyword practice (I showed a picture card and say the word twice with a gesture eg: chicken = flapping arms)
    Keyword chant
    Introduction of key phrase (I always teach or review a phrase with vocab so they can use it, this time it was "what's this?")
    Key phrase practice (they prepare for karuta and if they dont know a word they run up to the teacher and ask what's this?)
    Karuta
    Teach animal sounds
    Animals on the farm song (super simple songs, it is slow enough for the kids to sing and leaves a gap for the kids to repeat. I have the DVD so they watch it and try to sing)
    Closing greetings

    3rd and 4th grade (twice a month)
    Games and songs. A lesson I did last week

    Arrived a few min early to chat with kids and played some dance / disney vids for the kids to try to do.
    Opening greetings
    TPR
    Simon says
    Review of greetings
    Staring contest (they do their introduction and stare at each other and try to make the other person laugh. This is to teach eye contact when doing a handshake, which I explained in advance)
    Introduction of goal and vocab (feeling vocab, they copy a gesture and say the word with I'm ______)
    Practice "How are you? by asking the HRT, me and some confident students.
    Interview game
    Wolf game (whats the time mr wolf but with feelings. If the wolf says "I'm hungry" then they run away)
    Closing greetings

    I intend to use "if you're happy" from super simple songs next week. I also do phonics chants (A-Z) to get them prepared for 5th grade

    5th and 6th grade (once a week)
    Hi friends and phonics. Example lesson from today:

    Opening greetings
    Review game (genki english 'lines quiz', musical statues, simon says, tpr. This week was janken game from unit 3 of hi friends 1 which was plenty fun to be a warm up)
    Phonics chant (muffin songs phonics chant, youtube it. I teach them 4 a week and review 8 letters. Intending to use the genki english phonics chant after they learn all 26. It's super quick as a review)
    Introduction of new vocab (11–20, check if they know any and have them repeat after me items they don't know)
    Textbook activities (today was stereo game, keyword game and a chant)
    Phonics game (hangman but with a funny face that gets erased instead of dead people. I say a word and they guess the letters)
    Closing greetings.

    Other points: I talk mainly in Japanese but encourage and reward English. I don't feel forcing young kids to speak english is beneficial, I want them to want to use it with me because it's exotic / fun. I do however speak a lot of english to the lower grades 1-4 as they can easily puzzle it out and aren't put aback from not knowing what I'm saying. I speak in a musical, slow pace akin to sesame street with unknown phrases. The JTE doesn't do much except discipline, acting as a conversation partner and to help kids completely lost in the dark. Recently I've had my teachers write feedback forms for me to inform me of any good or bad points. Some don't bother but some do and it's been really enlightening.

    What I'm working on:
    - Getting my schools to play learnt songs during their school broadcasts so the kids have a higher chance of remembering content.
    - A good basic phonics program with some take home work to develop confidence in reading unknown words. The other ALT in town is apparently getting results but he thinks I'm a prick so he refuses to speak to me citing I'm a lazy shit. He's wrong of course but refuses my efforts of trying to patch things up so no chance of collaboration.
    - Karaoke during recess: The kids love disney songs but can't read well so I'm katakanasizing things for them to be used as a guide (I will explicitly tell them that as best I can but they might just ignore it completely)
    - A foreign culture wall and newsletter: the kids can ask me questions about foreign countries and I'll do my best to answer. Thought of this last week and acknowlege the difficulties but it sounds like fun and my teachers are behind me.

    What I'm keen to hear from you:
    - Good books or material on young learner EFL theory.
    - Games and fun ideas for the kids to speak English or just to muck around.
    - How to do phonics in a Japanese context considering my time and experience restraints.
    - Critique on lessons.
    - Ways to get to know my kids better in and outside of school.

    Anyway give any and all feedback.

    Thanks!

    tl;dr new elementary jet. tell me good resources to read to learn how to teach kids. I'm dumb and need help. Also Japanese milk is terrible.

  2. #2
    chill yo coop52's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Faitoman View Post
    I got to hand it to Richard of genki english, his ideas worked a treat but ultimately I was mainly drilling the kids with vocab and having no real communication so they couldnt use much of what they learned. That much was clear when I visited a middle school and found the 1st years of another ALT were much more confident and capable in the basics than mine.
    I wouldn't compare your ES kids to JHS. They're going to be more capable and confident since they're taking actual English classes. What are your expectations for each grade? Talk with your HRTs and make a list of goals for each lesson for each grade (or do it by yourself and show it to them later since they'll claim to be too busy). Also, review your activities. If you want the kids to use more conversational English, then you need to make sure they're practicing conversations rather than just vocab. You said that you reward/encourage English, how are you doing that? The kids obviously know you'll speak Japanese to them, so you'll need to work extra hard to get them to speak English when they feel that they don't need to.

    As for phonics, MES-English has a pretty decent phonics curriculum. The hardest part is probably teaching vowel sounds. I wouldn't go so far as to actually give them homework for it, since English at the ES level isn't a real subject (yet).

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    Junior Member Faitoman's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Cheers coop, will check out mes.

    To clarify, there's another elementary JET in town and the current first years at jhs are his and my kids from last year. So I'm comparing his kids to mine. Of course everyone is different and I'm making a huge generalization but that was just an observation I made.

    Also for rewards I mainly just give praise (I try to be super friendly and give them high fives and pick them up and such). I was told off for using stickers at one school and I don't really want kids to be motivated by things so yeah. Maybe I'm too idealistic? So far my 5th graders are bouncing off the walls to say ridiculous english since I encouraged it (one kid says he's god and I reply that I'm warunyan from youkai watch). How do you encourage english?

    I don't include too much pair work, the textbook calls for the teacher directing the activity or solo work with some smatterings of interview activities. I usually just ask the kids as a whole questions and pick randomly so the kids are on their toes. I'm thinking of using more interview games in my classes but not sure what is a fun activity to use.

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    Ghost of Ecru SomePeopleJustSaySnow's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Don't worry about competing with your other ES teacher - you're different people, with different classes, different schedules and different students. You're coming into the job raw, from what you've written, and everybody needs time to work out what works for them.

    Don't stress, is what I'm basically saying. Stress makes you force ideas that might not feel right if you were relaxed.
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    Junior Member Faitoman's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by SomePeopleJustSaySnow View Post
    Don't worry about competing with your other ES teacher - you're different people, with different classes, different schedules and different students. You're coming into the job raw, from what you've written, and everybody needs time to work out what works for them.

    Don't stress, is what I'm basically saying. Stress makes you force ideas that might not feel right if you were relaxed.
    I didn't say I was competing with them, but if he's capable of better results that shows me I can do better. In other words, It's not to best them it's to improve outcomes on my end. I'm surrounded by good teachers, one high school teacher gets awesome results in his classes despite being a complete tosser. Never have I ever desired to light a flaming bag of shit on fire and do a ding dong ditch ever in my life. It just seems right with him.

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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Faitoman View Post
    I didn't say I was competing with them, but if he's capable of better results that shows me I can do better. In other words, It's not to best them it's to improve outcomes on my end. I'm surrounded by good teachers, one high school teacher gets awesome results in his classes despite being a complete tosser. Never have I ever desired to light a flaming bag of shit on fire and do a ding dong ditch ever in my life. It just seems right with him.
    Sound like minor rants material - take it to the lounge!
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    Old Snow wouldn't have said that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zolrak 22 View Post
    You are like the secret boss battle they only advertised back when the game was being developed.

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    chill yo coop52's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Faitoman View Post
    I don't include too much pair work, the textbook calls for the teacher directing the activity or solo work with some smatterings of interview activities. I usually just ask the kids as a whole questions and pick randomly so the kids are on their toes. I'm thinking of using more interview games in my classes but not sure what is a fun activity to use.
    Definitely do more pair and group work. Individual work all the time isn't enough practice, and the kids need to practice asking questions themselves as well.

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    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    I didn't read everything but I want to comment on your TPR approach. Do not use TPR for nouns, just verbs. TPR is a great tool from time to time but should not be used for non-action events. If you teach chicken teach it as a noun, then add a verb to it that uses TPR. This way students identify that actions you have performed are related to the verb (something they don't immediately understand) and not to the noun itself.
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    A couple of quick bits of advice for you from me (ES ALT for 4 years) is that instead of giving praise, use the phrase "yoku kangaeta" (good idea/ nice try/ you thought well) as it focusses on the student's effort rather than whether they got the answer right or not. Another thing I recommend is hunting down a copy of David Paul's book "Teaching English to children in Asia" or attend one of his many free seminars (well, they're either free of have a nominal Y500 fee) for a great introduction to the basics of student centred teaching and practical activities. You'll notice a big difference in your classes. If you have no teacher training and little experience, I can't recommend that book enough.

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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Faitoman View Post
    I don't include too much pair work, the textbook calls for the teacher directing the activity or solo work with some smatterings of interview activities. I usually just ask the kids as a whole questions and pick randomly so the kids are on their toes. I'm thinking of using more interview games in my classes but not sure what is a fun activity to use.
    Pair work and interview games are really good, but make sure there is real communication involved, not just the worksheet A/ worksheet B situation (EDIT, called "information gap" exercises) where students could just as easily show each other the other worksheet and not bother to use English at all. Another point, if you teach in a small town where the kids have known every students in the class really well for a long time, don't get them to interview each other, because the point of using language is to communicate, and why should they communicate something that they already know? Get them to interview free staff members instead, or similar.
    Last edited by KIKKI.K; June 18th, 2014 at 10:16.

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    Junior Member Faitoman's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmotech View Post
    TPR should not be used for non-action events
    Cheers Gizmo for adding your feedback, it's appreciated.
    I agree with your reasoning but I noticed that with a gesture the key vocab is easier to coax out of the younger kids. I only see them once a month and they have memories like sieves so it makes my classes all the more effective. I like the idea of using a verb with it but I'd have to add new words that won't pop up in the song and I have a slight feeling it'd confuse the kids, although I'm not sure, I've never done it.

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    Junior Member Faitoman's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by KIKKI.K View Post
    A couple of quick bits of advice for you from me (ES ALT for 4 years)
    Thanks Kikki for your advice, I've in fact read all your posts on the JET forum and here and was tempted to get in contact with you to discuss ideas but I guess here is a good a place as any.

    Instead of giving praise, use the phrase "yoku kangaeta" (good idea/ nice try/ you thought well) as it focuses on the student's effort rather than whether they got the answer right or not.
    Read that on your JET forum post and say that or よくがんばったね or Good! in various ways as encouragement.

    Another thing I recommend is hunting down a copy of David Paul's book "Teaching English to children in Asia" or attend one of his many free seminars (well, they're either free of have a nominal Y500 fee) for a great introduction to the basics of student centred teaching and practical activities.
    Will do.

    Have them talk to the staff members instead
    Good idea. I was tempted to set them homework to interview their family but this seems better as they are less familiar with them than family.

    Thanks for taking the time to write up your posts, despite some dickery on the forums people do appreciate it. Keep it up!

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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Hmmm, I don't really like "gambaru" as an encouragement, I feel like there's too much baggage with it, but to each their own.

    Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad at least it's been helpful for some people. I don't expect or want anyone to take everything I say about teaching as gospel, I really just wanted to put it up as some kind of practical idea for how to bring in and apply student-centred ideas/ principles to the ES classroom. I think the way it's set up from MEXT and the BoEs can feel really self defeating, and I know I was at a loss at first, so hopefully I can help people skip that stage, and get them thinking about what they can do in their situations.
    Last edited by KIKKI.K; June 18th, 2014 at 19:31.

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    Perpetually confused. johnny's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Quote Originally Posted by KIKKI.K View Post
    A couple of quick bits of advice for you from me (ES ALT for 4 years) is that instead of giving praise, use the phrase "yoku kangaeta" (good idea/ nice try/ you thought well) as it focusses on the student's effort rather than whether they got the answer right or not. Another thing I recommend is hunting down a copy of David Paul's book "Teaching English to children in Asia" or attend one of his many free seminars (well, they're either free of have a nominal Y500 fee) for a great introduction to the basics of student centred teaching and practical activities. You'll notice a big difference in your classes. If you have no teacher training and little experience, I can't recommend that book enough.
    I checked out David Paul's website, and he does have books for JHS as well, so I might pick them up. How about his lectures? Do you think they would be helpful for JHS teaching as well?

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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    I think that his lectures would be very helpful for JHS teachers also, although your JTEs might not accept your ideas, and it might be difficult to integrate student centred ideas into the small window of activities you are given for each lesson. Switching your students over to a student centred approach will certainly take time, and it will take longer if it's only a small part of the lesson. You may have to be realistic about how much difference you can make. However, based on my own experience of the huge changes I saw in my own classes, I would encourage you to try your best to bring student centred approaches into your classes.

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    Perpetually confused. johnny's Avatar
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    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    Thanks for the information. Paul has classes every month in Kyoto which could make for a fun weekend. I think I'll order his books first though. I'm applying to teacher's college too, so learning about a general approach to teaching will be really beneficial for me regardless.

  17. #17

    Default Re: New JET seeking advice about elementary (and hopefully a lot of criticism!)

    No worries, and good luck!

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