It’s easy to forget our students often see us standing in the front of the class with nothing more than black or white cards with little real value to them.
The cards say “DELICIOUS” on one side, and the Japanese translation is on the reverse.
We smile wildly and say, “Repeat after me!”
“Say, ‘Delicious!'” We tell them.
“delicious…” the students respond with their head in their hands.
“No, with enthusiasm!” We counter. “Say, ‘It’s delIcious!'”
“It’s delicious…” they mumble.
“Okay, good!” We say, trying to disregard the lack of improvement with brightness and cheer.
We flip over the next card. It says “Cute.” And we repeat the same process.
Even when there is a picture associated with a word we are teaching, we have to remember that, to the students, it is simply a thin piece of paper with some black and white characters on it. They will see 1,000 more of these same cards before they graduate JHS. “Problem?” You ask?
If it’s always just a piece of paper, students are rarely if ever able to attach an emotional or intellectual connection to the words on the front of the card.
Living in a country where we are studying the language we can experience tasting a delicious apple and learning the word for “delicious”. We see the gorgeous person walking down the street and our friend nudges us, “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” he says.
When we learn these words, we aren’t staring at a black and white piece of paper and learning the word for “Delicious”. We savor the succulent apple juice on our tongue as the cool liquid slides down our throat, satisfying our thirst and desire, and then we say “Oishii!” (if we’re learning Japanese).
Students don’t often have the luxury.
What does it mean?
It means 1) try to go easy on your kids if they aren’t remembering words or picking them up as fast as you. They don’t get the same sensory experiences as when you are studying Japanese.
2) Try to find ways to bring more sensory experiences into the class so that you can help students attach an emotional and intellectual experience to the vocabulary they are learning.
After all, you don’t know if the apple in front of you is really delicious until you taste it.
*This idea was inspired by a fellow JET ALT. His presentation at the Regional Seminar rocked! Thank you Mr. D. H.