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Thread: Questions as a [possible] future ALT and current student

  1. #1

    Default Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    If this is in the wrong place, feel free to delete/move as needed.

    I'm studying abroad in Japan and had the great idea of taking a class on Japanese education in hopes of standing out a bit when I apply for JET next year. Because of this, I am now rushing around less than a week before the deadline to find information for a paper I haven't begun to write. Anyway, I was hoping I could get some of you to answer some questions for me about the system(s) used to teach English that you have experienced while being here. I'm trying to emphasize problems, so if you have any horror stories they would be greatly appreciated (as long as it is applicable and not just a rant).

    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.

    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.

    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?

    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?

    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?

    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.
    ~~~~~
    I feel kind of rude with this being my first post, but any help would be appreciated. Feel free to leave any replies in this thread or send answers to me via private message or email (eahamilt at purdue dot edu). I apologize for any poor grammar/spelling. I'm sure many of you know what too much Japanese studying can do to English speaking/writing capabilities :cry:. And thanks in advance to anyone who helps!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.
    Most everything is just Pete and Repeat. My job is to be Pete, their job is to repeat what I just said while ignoring proper pronunciation. If the teachers ever hold a 'real' class that's more than just repeating what the teacher says, then I haven't been invited to it yet.


    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.
    It's largely the repetition thing from the last question. When they use me in a class it also usually means that it's time to play a game, so yeah, that involves class participation. So far I've seen a lack of much real written work, but with how neat their English handwriting is, I know that they at least write sometimes.


    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?
    For my middle school language class (a semester of Spanish) it really isn't very different. Yeah, we were given more homework, but teachers in the US didn't exactly expect middle schoolers to become fluent, and it feels the same over here.


    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?
    I've been relegated to the classic JET Tape Recorder position. I saw a word, they repeat. I sometimes attempt to explain points or games in English, but the kids of course put up with my explanation only say they can hear it in Japanese. I feel like apparently many other JETs in that I'm just a nice wallpaper to make the school/city/country feel like they're doing something to be more international.


    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?
    n/a, I'm new.


    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.
    6
    It's not stellar, but at least it exists. My kids can also pull out an awesome "I'm fine, thank you. How are you?" at a moment's notice while traveling through the halls.

  3. #3

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    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.

    Well, in my classes the methods of English teaching are whatever I come up with, so they're quite varied and not a whole lot to do with the Japanese education system. I agree with the above poster that a lot of repetition is employed and that this doesn't tend to help the pronunciation that much. I hate teaching vocab. From reading through textbooks, I think a lot of skits are also used. Personally I tend to loathe these and only use them when I'm desperate. All they lead to is kids reading out a dull conversation, in a monotone and with katakana English. They tend to have no idea what they're saying nor care.

    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.

    In my case, lessons are led by me. I read out the instructions in English. JTE translates difficult parts and clarifies. Wherever possible I try to make exercises where I do as little as possible and the students speak and listen. That's what I've been encouraged to do since getting here.

    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?

    I use my own foreign language learning as a template. There is perhaps more of a problem with pronunciation for students here though, and so more emphasis is required on explaining how to pronounce every word.

    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?

    Well, I make the syllabus for the semester, I create all the plans and materials for class, and I generally take charge of explaining. I think I am used fairly effectively, most of my JTEs are happy to explain things in Japanese, when an explanation in English is simply impossible. Improvements would be a greater willingness on some teachers behalf to provide discipline and explanation in class, it really depends on the teacher.

    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?

    Not been teaching very long but now that the students have got used to me they understand my instructions much better and I've started talking a bit faster in class.

    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.

    8 - I feel like an important part of the English education at my school, I'm teaching things I want to teach and by and large my JTEs are very supportive. Sometimes the workload is, if anything, too much.

  4. #4
    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.
    It can get pretty grammar-translation. I'm not personally a fan of that method of teaching but I think it's wrong to just state that that's what goes on and therefore the system is bad. A lot of people have rather successfully learned languages with gt as a foundation. The Japanese classroom does not lend itself well to communicative teaching methods - mostly because the kids don't like communicating. However the often proposed antedote for this - dancing around like a clown, is imo a really crappy solution to it. It's hard to go into without launching into full on long and very boring discussion so i'll just leave it at that then. If I was going to make a criticism which I will I'd say that the biggest problem here is culture of excuse making. If they Ss don't know the course work there's a problem.You can either deal with it by rectifying it or making an excuse for it. It's not necessarily the system's fault except I think where the system justifies the Ss lack of understanding and justifies their lack of internal motivation and discipline etc which it does.


    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.
    Hard to say. See I'd like to see more Ss participation but Japanese kids can be a lot less outgoing. So you get a room with 26 zombies and 4 kids with ADD something severe and all you get is a lot of pointless attention seeking and no real student participation with the task at hand. Its fine to talk about modern teaching methodology that stresses S involvement but if the Ss don't want to be involved (which stems I think a bit from point one) there's really not a lot you can do about it without a complete overhaul of the way in which we go about education and starting from an earlier age.


    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?
    Didn't really study languages at school since primary school. There's a pretty big difference though. I'm not sure that you'd call primary school English education in Japan 'teaching'.


    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?
    I think that my JTEs are good at using me, probably because they see me so often. I don't really do special classes because I'm in every class every day so its always business as usual with me there but the JTEs know that I can teach the kids pronunciation stuff much better than a CD can so I think I'm used pretty well for that. I could teach the kids grammar too but I think that comes down to either it being a bad idea or being a failure with the system depending on which way you look at it. Its pretty redundant for me to teach the kids grammar using Japanese when there's a Japanese teacher there who knows more Japanese than I do, but then it's hard to teach them grammar where the Ss lack the self-confidence or skills to be able to try to understand an explanation in English which arguably is possible for Ss with this level of English. Goes back to the gt thing. The kids have dug themselves into a little rut where after so long of this kind of education they would probably have trouble dealing if the ALT was used in a different way to which he was previously.


    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?
    My 3nen have had the longest exposure to a full time ALT (2 years) as that position was only recently created at my work. If i compare them to the san nen last year who had only had a full time ALT at their school for one year then yes I think that they are definitely better at English especially their listening and speaking skills.

    The san nen do however cope better with their level of work than the ni nen to their respective level of work and they've have had just as long with a full time ALT so maybe I just have very motivated san nen or a particularly stupid bunch of ni nen, hard to say.


    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.
    6 Could be better could be worse. I think the main problems are the lack of self-confidence (that's not just my school either, that's around the nation from what i've seen) and the amazing lack of self-discipline which is just not a value taught in Japanese schools but appears to be expected by the culture. If those two things are the biggest problems then they are conceivably able to be solved but they aren't.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Narnia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student


    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.

    My biggest issue is that I dont think the kids are learning anything. The teachers spoonfeed them so they never have to think for themselves. This happens both in grammar/ writing lessons and oral communication lessons.
    Just repeating sentences or dialogues does not help, they should be making their own. I have tried this approach, but my JTE's are so worried so we basically give them the sentences and they just choose which or add in their own names and voila, their own dialogue
    To add, dictionaries are not encouraged and neither is reading, so they don't increase their vocab.

    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.
    It depends. At my base school I basically take over the class, and most of the JTE's stand at the back till they are needed to read the dialogue. This is good in the sense that the kids only get English, but leaving me to sort out behaviour issues is really not fair. When I teach I try to get them to focus on pronunciation. But their English is mostly grammar based despite them learning little there as well :?:
    At my visit school team teaching is way better, but that is because the JTE there really cares about improving both her English and that of the students'. She admits that we are all still learning. We try have the class more student centred so that the students are constantly speaking in English, in their own words. I only see these students once a week, but they improve every week because we make the lessons personal and real. My JTE and I make good partners. In the classes we practice pronunciation, but often have interview tests (just a lovely chat with me on what they have learnt) and then end with a memory game or board game dealing with that particular lesson, or one in the past

    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?
    While in High school I studied Afrikaans (10 years worth, but I am a native speaker), German (4 years) and Portuguese (1 year).
    Afrikaans is probably the best comparison because it was also forced on us from grade 2(?). The standard was also pretty low in speaking BUT we did have oral exams on orals we wrote ourselves. We had to read novels and we had to write creative essays (not the silly three lines my san-nenseis write). Many students hated Afrikaans so never tried, which is much the mentality in Japanese schools. I think if English was optional and NOT the easy way out, then students would enjoy it more and try harder.
    My German was 99% grammar based so I can say that after 4 years I cannot speak a word and this makes me very sad.
    Portuguese, I only took for one year, but I could speak for about three minutes on many topics, I could write a mini-essay and I knew my grammar. Mostly I think Portuguese was so successful because the teacher spoke no English and challenged us all the time. Moreover we studied topics that we experience everyday: food, school, extra-murals, television etc.

    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?
    At my base school I only teach 4 classes a week 8O 2 which make up the seminar with the san-nensei class and two classes with ichi-nensei (so only see each ichi-nensei class every second week).
    San-nensei class should be improving but they dont because they simply don't care and my JTE is while sweet, rather useless. It would improve if she learnt anything at university (have you people seen what they learn, its right drivel). I am used utterly and completely but the kids just see me as the idiot who wants to make them learn stuff, while she stands in the corner and discusses when next she will have a pirikura outing with them.
    I would be more effectively used if I saw the ichi-nenseis more than once every two weeks. They dont take me seriously because I teach them so seldom

    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?
    I have been teaching the same students for 1 year and three months. At my base school I could swear they are getting worse. At my visit school the students are definitly improving despite all the crazy issues they have. But I don't see that as my doing, its mostly thanks to a great principal, librarian and JTE.

    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.
    At my base school: 2
    At my visit school:9
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  6. #6
    &%$#@!!! Timoshi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    1. What are your impressions of the methods used for English teaching.

    I'm at a middle academic high-school. English is broken up into reading, writing and oral communication. I only teach the OC classes. Because the students have been reading and writing for longer, they're much stronger at that than they are at speaking. This is mainly because by the time they hit hight-school the student's learning patterns are well entrenched. With that in consideration, the teaching is quite good here. Most teachers will speak to the students only in English and in the OC classes, a good proportion of class-time is spent 'trying' to get the students to speak.

    2. How are lessons taught? For example, does the teacher lecture, how much class participation is there, do students focus more on speaking/listening or reading/writing, etc.

    In OC classes, I have a fair bit of autonomy. For ichinensei and ninensei classes do we work with a textbooks, but I have the freedom to skip activities that aren't useful and to make others which gives them a better chance to interact. I see my 3rd years twice a week and plan those lessons myself.

    I take the lead in all the classes, but the extent of which varies from teacher to teacher.

    3. Compared to learning foreign languages in your own country, how do they differ (positive and/or negative)?

    In my high-school classes, learning languages was a joke. They seem to take it a lot more seriously here. I think they do pretty well considering they really didn't seem to get much at all out of JHS and elementary school English. Nonetheless, compared to university language course, students here have it very easy and the students don't learn nearly as quickly.


    4. How effectively are you used in your class(es)? What sorts of improvement would you like to see?

    I lead the classes. It would be nice if more teachers would plan classes ahead of time with me. I'm new and don't have a background in education, so it's nice to get advice on how they think I should run the class.

    5. For those who have been teaching for an extended period of time, has there been a noticeable/significant improvement in your student's language skills (if you have had them long enough to tell)?

    Even in the first few months I can see an improvement in my students OC ability.

    6. On a scale from one to ten (one being low, ten being high), how would you rate the English language program that you participate in? Feel free to explain, but it isn't needed.

    [ 8 ] They do a good job here when you consider that rote learning is so dominant and entrenched into the student's minds by the time they hit high-school.
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  7. #7
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    Quote Originally Posted by Timoshi
    Even in the first few months I can see an improvement in my students OC ability
    Sorry to break it to you champ but thats just your standards getting lower.

    When I first arrived I thought everybody was illiterate and borderline retarded. These days I proclaim a student a child prodigy if they can manage a "I'm fine thank you, and you?"
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Thanks everyone! You've all helped a lot ^_^

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    &%$#@!!! Timoshi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions as a (possible) future ALT and current student

    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeCarter
    Quote Originally Posted by Timoshi
    Even in the first few months I can see an improvement in my students OC ability
    Sorry to break it to you champ but thats just your standards getting lower.

    When I first arrived I thought everybody was illiterate and borderline retarded. These days I proclaim a student a child prodigy if they can manage a "I'm fine thank you, and you?"
    Tru dat. I haven't actually heard the "thank you, and you?" part from my students before. Mostly, I get "I'm so-so". I don't have the heart to tell them, people in English people countries don't really say that. Still, when people in your class say that their dream job is working as a cleaner at Disneyland, you can't expect miracles (and yes a stundent of mine really said that... I really hope they work joking!).
    Me Rikey Very Much!!!

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Timoshi's a nice bloke then.

    Did you ever drink at the Abercrombie? The old Australian on Wattle Street. You remind me of a lot of people from there.
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  11. #11
    &%$#@!!! Timoshi's Avatar
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    Lol... there probably aren't too many degrees of separation between us.

    I've been to the Abercrombie a few times, it's OK. Mostly, I'd go Casey's on Glebe Point Rd for the $2.50 beers... til' they shut it down (fuckers). Then I was stuck with the Lansdowne for their $5 meals and shit service. The Excelsior near Wentworth park is prolly my favourite now, b/c they sell Jugs of Cooper's Pale Ale and a steak for $10 on Wednesdays.

    EDIT: A mate just told me they shut down the Excelsior... Dammit
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  12. #12
    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Too many Engineering students and other arse with added broom action people at the Landsdowne for my liking. But they food was good and cheap.
    Melanie: back!

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