Today I want to share an effective way of explaining complex directions to students that I picked up from a JTE who always has great ideas.

When it comes to explaining activities (especially writing activites with lots of rules and advice), there are two obvious routes to take. One is to forego English altogether, while the second is to attempt a simple explanation in English (and fall back on Japanese if that doesn’t work). In an ongoing effort to increase the English spoken in the classroom, a teacher I work with has been doing something unique. First he will write the explanation on the blackboard in Japanese while the students are occupied with something else. Then he will say something like, “Now I am going to explain the main activity. I wrote it here in Japanese, but I am going to tell you about it in English.” We will then proceed to lay out all the directions and expectations all in English (and with reference to the chalkboard), and if students don’t understand they can see the board.

Small changes like this can revolutionize the classroom and give students more confidence in listening to unbroken English. It is certainly refreshing for me to see.

Go Fish Pt. 2

About 20 people have emailed me asking for the materials and templates for the playing cards to the Go Fish game customized for teaching “Do you have any…?” to elementary and JHS students. Since it is pretty popular I decided to upload the files for download. Click on the individual thumbnails do download the card files. Print the images on A4 paper. Enjoy! Click Here to Download the Flashcards


Tip: For the image files, use microsoft image gallery and use the print menu to print to A4 size paper. Alternatively you can copy and paste the files into microsoft word and print from there.


Adjective Cheat Sheet

The Adjective Cheat Sheet

This is a card that I keep in my textbook to use with students on writing lesson days. It contains useful adjectives and how to conjugate them. With it, I can walk around the classroom and answer student questions about their essays without having to go through the hassle of flipping through the book to find the chart there. I can whip this card out instead.

This material actually comes from a table in the back of the New Horizon 2nd and 3rd year textbooks (JHS). The chart is very useful, so I like to see students using it when they are drafting original sentences.

I added a conjugation guide at the bottom there to prevent more hassle

To make the card, simply photocopy the page from the back of the book and attach it to some cardstock or construction paper. I added a conjugation guide to the card to make it more helpful. If possible, I think it would be great to find other charts like this to keep handy. If you have any ideas, let me know.

I got the table from the back of the textbook

English Debate

The other day the 3rd year students (JHS) staged debates in their classrooms. When doing these, the set-up and guidance and atmosphere you build in the class are key. So is the topic. It is fun to get creative because it can inspire students to perform. One idea that seemed to really galvanize students to try was debating “Whether or not we should study English in Japan.”

As the two sides presented their ideas, I took notes on the blackboard. These are the arguments that the students came up with.

The "Japanese Students Ought to Study English " Side

The "Japanese Students Don't Need to Study English" Side

I was impressed with the arguments that students were able to craft, especially on the “against side” — though I think their arguements don’t hold up as well as the “for side.”

This debate topic worked wonders with all the classes we tried it in. But please post any ideas you’ve tried in the comments section if you like.

Japanese Study Tip #1

Beautiful Image of Hiragana I found on Flickr

Studying Japanese is great for ALTs. It allows us to walk a mile in students’ shoes and furnishes us with the vocabulary to give directions, explain cultural differences and teach English better. So I thought I would start to intermittently share some tips and tricks I’ve learned.

This first one is about finding people around you at work and in your daily life who can help you learn Japanese.

One frustrating fact that I’ve encountered studying Japanese here is how infrequently people will correct my mistakes when speaking Japanese. I thought hard about this problem the other day and realized that I needed to actively search out those individuals who would correct my Japanese mistakes, preferably in a friendly and casual way.

You can perform this search actively or inactively. If you really want to find a Japanese teacher fast, I realized I could purposefully make simple mistakes that I am aware of with the Japanese teachers in my office and see who corrects them — and how they correct them. Do they say nothing? Do they stop the entire conversation? Or do they say something to the effect of “Oh you mean to say…” in Japanese?

One lesson I’ve learned after 2 years of living  here is that just because someone is Japanese and I’m talking to them doesn’t mean they are interested or capable of teaching me Japanese. So whether you try to purposefully make some mistakes to actively search for someone who will correct you or just casually take note of what people do when you speak Japanese, it is nice to find the people around you who will gently correct your mistakes and are able to provide simple explanations and examples. Not everyone can do it, but if you can find those hidden Japanese teachers your Japanese will be able to progress faster.