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Thread: Teaching Conversation

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    Default Teaching Conversation

    Hello!
    I just applied for site-membership this morning after finding this web-site and I have many many questions. However, it seems that one of them is more appropriate to this folder of threads.

    Won't I as an ALT (hopefully), get paid to teach these children "conversation", rather than the "language" of English?(words, syntax, etc...)

    I have been looking forward to this job as a means by which to help some children of Japan become comfortable and eloquent with their English, not so much better at it. The subtle yet influential skill of a person to interpret, entertain, and answer a question and/or make an interesting or appropriate comment seems like a challenge of a life-time to me.

    Seriously, I hear many stories about games of Jeopardy and memory-match, but what about "name the mood", or "make a joke" challenges?

    .. anyways, like I said, I'm new. Maybe it's just easy for me to be confused while looking from the outside in, but I really do want to more fully understand what will be expected of me.

    Thank you,
    Michael

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    Resident ewok wicket's Avatar
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    One of my favourite JET buddies is from North Carolina, so hello to you!
    What you are meant to teach will depend on your placement.
    At senior high there are several English subjects - English 1, English 2, Grammar, Reading, Writing Composition and Oral Communication. Some schools also have an elective "extra" English class; some have an "International course" where the kids do extra conversation.
    I'd say my time is split about evenly between teaching grammar/syntax/vocabulary and reenforcing it through speaking/writing activities.
    Sometimes (like 3rd grade writing class), it's very important for kids to write correctly.
    Sometimes (like 1st grade English 1) it's important for them to communicate their ideas, regardless of how correct their English is (at least initially).
    Good luck with your application!
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
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    Thanks for the info! The idea of taking over a classroom like you've mentioned is a bit intimidating, but with this path being so well travelled I don't think I have too much to worry about. ("noobs" arn't given too many of the more difficult classes from what I read and hear)

    What kind of lessons do YOU give your students Wicket? (btw, AWESOME name, I liked the Ewoks as well)

    Also, I heard tell from my Japanese teacher here at the university that Korea just (3-5 months ago) beat out Japan on some sort of "Speaking English" competition between grade3 - grade12 students. Can you confirm this? Have the BoE's made any public annoucements as to how they might be addressing the issue?
    When I heard about it, I thought that there might be two answers: 1. to provide more quantity of ALTs, or 2. provide better quality ALTs. I'm really curious as to which of these methods they're employing, if any at all.

    Ohh, and whose your North Carolina friend? One of my friends from the Durham area went in as a CIR a few years back, and pretty much got me hooked with the whole program.

    ~ Michael

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    Senior Member Narnia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchSeeker

    Also, I heard tell from my Japanese teacher here at the university that Korea just (3-5 months ago) beat out Japan on some sort of "Speaking English" competition between grade3 - grade12 students. Can you confirm this? Have the BoE's made any public annoucements as to how they might be addressing the issue?
    That does not surprise me. Oral communication is not important for university entrance so some schools, mine included, don't give a rats arse about OC. But the BOE have been pressuring them the past year to take part in speech and recitation competitions.

    As Wicket said you may end up teaching writing, OC and others, or you may just sit at your desk all day, keeping the seat warm.

    I think that whatever situation you land up in, don't be afraid to make suggestions to improve the students' English abilities. It may not work, but do try.

    Oh and on the linguistics VS the conversation, I would suggest never ignoring the linguistics as this is what they learn and they need to see it put to practical use.
    Dr Peterson: 'I'm a schoolteacher'
    Porter at Empire Hotel: 'Thought so: they always look as if they've lost something' -From "Spellbound"

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    Resident ewok wicket's Avatar
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    Hey ArchSeeker,
    We don't really "take over" classrooms - one of the hardest things, as an experienced teacher, is remembering to include my JTE in active parts of the lesson when I'm planning.
    What kind of lessons do I give? Geez, it'd be easier if you waited til you got here and just came around to my apartment with a memory stick like everyone else does. But basically, the overall pattern of each class is the same, so kids can get used to a routine and use their classroom English. Tasks and activities vary - individual, pair, group, whole class; and I try to cover all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) in every lesson.
    Yes, I can confirm that Japanese students are regularly roundly whipped by Korean kids in speaking competitions. I don't think it has anything to do with ALTs, so having more or better quality wouldn't change it. Having speaking tests at university and senior high level that actually count for something substantial towards grades might.
    My North Carolina friend is Ben; and he's staying another year, so if you end up in Osaka you just might meet. But he's an ALT, not a CIR.
    BTW, I never chose the name Wicket, really. It was my high school nickname.
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
    Stephen Fry, The stars' tennis balls

  6. #6

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    Hey there.

    What an ALT is asked to teach can vary quite a lot, since we are at every age group and type of school imaginable. As a general rule of thumb, most ALTs teach Oral Communication classes though I think. Don't worry - if you're not a qualified teacher, I doubt your schools will expect you to teach any serious grammar. You'll probably be expected to introduce some new vocabulary though.

    I personally teach solely Oral Communication classes at two non-academic (read: low level) Senior High Schools (ages 15-18). I try to teach the students more natural English, but mainly useful survival English for effective communication. As such, in my classes I tend not to correct grammar mistakes and spelling mistakes unless they're glaring. A big part of my job is to build confidence and a positive attitude towards speaking English.

    Wicket is quite right to point out that you will be team teaching and not "taking over" the class. Keep in mind, your aspirations for your classes are only really half the story (although in some cases you might have control over most of the class, or in others none at all).

    As for reading about jeopardy and memory match on here, I think the reason is because they're easy things to mention as time fillers for any class, and that's what a lot of people seem to be after. Don't think because a lot of ALTs say they play jeopardy for a whole lesson, you should necessarily too. I started off using stuff other ALTs recommended, like bingo and word scrambles while I was finding my feet, but I didn't think it really taught the kids enough. I ended up cutting those out of revised lessons and playing more useful games. I don't like playing games just for the sake of fun unless they take literally 5 minutes at the start of the lesson. At elementary it's a bit different though I think.

    You mentioned games called "name the mood" and "make a joke". I can only guess the former involves the students talking about the mood of a verb and the latter is where the students come up with an original joke. I'd like to therefore warn you that you may be shocked at your students' level of English. I teach 18 year olds at Senior High School who can barely form a sentence to introduce themselves and say it, let alone try to translate humour into another language or have a firm grasp of grammatical constructions. Just be warey that a lot of schools in Japan aren't really high level.

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    Australian Sciby's Avatar
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    In regards to the whole conversation thing, there's a saying "Japanese don't learn English, they study it"... and for the most part, it's spot on.

    Myself and the ALT I work with are both trying hard to get more conversational content into our 2nd and 3rd (senior high school) classes, although the teachers are the biggest problem.

    They see themselves as professional teachers and see us as working-holidayers (both true), and while they may be uncomfortable with English, they'll never show that, but keep you at arm's length from the material so you can't punch holes in their carefully planned lesson, and therefore their carefully garded ego.

    (Of course, this is just my experience)
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