English Passport is an idea you have probably heard of before. It is a booklet you can give to each student that allows them to collect stickers or stamps for completing speaking and writing activities in English. I have done English passport for several years at my JHS and I want to share my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. There is a lot of flexibility about how the passport can be used.
The first passport I made in 2009 looked like this:
This version was based largely on the model presented to us at Tokyo Orientation. Even though the “memorization” and “recitation” sections (where students would either have to memorize or recite a passage from an English book or letter) proved burdensome and ineffective in my opinion, the project was a great success in the first year, with almost every 3rd grade student receiving several stamps and over 30 students completing the entire passport book. First and second year students were understandably wary about using the passport and we didn’t get as many participants from those grades.
Later I learned that the English Passport was primarily successful because the 3rd grade English teachers made participation in English Passport a part of the students’ final grade. The following year, even when the prizes were increased and the activities were simplified, without this primary motivation, far less students participated in the project.
This is a screenshot from what the passport looked like in 2010-2011:
As you can see from the picture, the 4 English activities were reduced to 2 — simply speaking and writing. Students got a stamp in one of these two categories for writing a letter to me or visiting my desk in the teacher’s room for a short English conversation. I added an extra degree of complexity to the passport by giving students the opportunity to collect “Travel Stamps” on the right hand page. If they collected 5 stamps for the speaking or writing category, they would receive a special stamp from “visiting” a place from around the world, such as England, Athens, Greece, or San Francisco. The more “travel stamps” they collected, the more prizes they were eligible for. The students who completed the entire passport (only about 5 in one year) received a special prize and were awarded a certificate of completion in front of their classes. The column below the speaking and writing challenge boxes were for collecting stickers that students received for one thing or another.
Tips for Success
- Even though the second year of English passport was easier and far more interesting in my opinion, it wasn’t as successful because the teachers did not make participation in the program a part of the students’ final grade. So I think that this is key.
- Keep the speaking and writing challenges easy and allow students to perform the speaking challenge whenever there is free time in the hallways or teacher’s room. Although I made the challenges easier the second year, because I limited the time to when I was in the teacher’s room, many students complained that they never had time to participate in the project even though they wanted to.
- I think that this level of English Passport is good for 3rd year students especially, and it can be useful for second year students if you constantly encourage them to use their passports. For 1st year students, participating is understandably daunting. You can still give them passports to include them in the project, but you might consider making a modified version with other challenges to make it easier on them.