Spring Vacation

I am going to take a short break from the site with the school year winding down and spring vacation starting soon. I’ll use the time to write an occasional post and improve the functionality of the website — and of course relax a little. I should get the ball rolling again probably sometime around the week of April 9th. Email me at eliotc1986[at]gmail[dot]com if you want to upload something or share some ideas. Otherwise, happy vacation everyone!

What are Students Saying about Communication Classes

We got back the results of our school-wide survey of the 2nd and 3rd year students. The results are overwhelmingly positive. The students are practically gushing their love for our classes and the idea of learning about communication. We are busy tabulating the results and I’ve started drafting a report of our findings with my JTEs. I think we’ll be done in about 2 weeks. When we have finalized our report, I’ll post the report in full (in English and Japanese) for all to see.

Did you give your students a survey?

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Why “ALT-JTE Connect”?

Making connections is how English classes thrive.

-Because effective English teaching doesn’t truly occur without both JTEs and ALTs.
-Because this website is a place to talk about how to build relationships and maximize the effectiveness of team-teaching
-Because communication classes are changing the team-teaching dynamic and I want to show you how you can change the game too by building great relationships at work and creating communication classes at your school.

Where are the JTEs?

-There are about 10 JTEs that I know who are following this website either through email alerts or regular visits. Even if they aren’t active yet, they are following the developments on this site.

-My JTE wrote a post just last week, giving advice to JTEs about how to start a communication class at their school. I hope he will write more soon because his article was full of great insights for both JTEs and ALTs.

What can you do to help?

-Get involved with the site and help it grow by building good relationships at your work and telling your JTEs and ALTs about this website.

Suggest ideas to make the site easier for JTEs to use.

-Link to this website or suggest a link to your website.

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Sushi Lines

Updated: Download the PDF or .PPT file

This system for arranging pairs has revolutionized our English classrooms. Say goodbye to the days of “stand up and talk to your friends (in Japanese).” Finally a way to get students matched up with pairs easily to maximize their talk time with other students.

Click on the image to download the PDF file, which explains and demonstrates how to use Sushi Lines.

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English is not a Dead Language

Video: Agricola… Agricolae…. Agricolarum…. Footage of the Latin classroom in Dead Poet’s Society. Every time I see this, I can hear myself melodically intoning, “Be… is/am/are… being… been…” to dozens of classrooms across Yamagata (oh, what have I done!?)

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Latin died with the decline of the Roman Empire. During the Renaissance, Latin was briefly resurrected, and, as a consequence, it became a required course of study in most universities up until the 1900s.

This was good news for scholars. But bad news for any person who had to endure the grueling task of memorizing thousands of obscure words and jumping into the bramble bush of Latin verb stems. It’s no surprise, then, that Latin class often serves as the stereotype of the impossible language class.In fact, a lot of the mistakes made in teaching this language to hundreds of thousands of students are what give language classrooms a bad rap.

From this course of study, we of course inherited the infamous “grammar-translation method,” whereby students are required to study arcane grammar rules and long lists of vocabulary so that they are able to create create word-for-word translations of any text. It guaranteed snappy explanations for busy teachers, but was loaded with pitfalls and shortcomings.

The problem? Essentially, taught nothing but grammar, reading and translation, many people threw in the towel early on. And as for those crazy savants who actually succeeded in mastering byzantine mechanics of the language? Well, they could read and write as well — but they couldn’t actually speak Latin.

It’s funny that I mention it because, hey! this sounds a lot like Japan! If one looks at a lot of Japanese English classes, anyway, you’d think you had somehow traveled back to the 1850s and you were standing in a Latin course at Cambridge University. There’s the teacher at the front of the room, pacing back and forth in their comfortable suit and sweater vest as the students repeat words from an endless list. The books full of arcane grammatical descriptions are there, too. And so is the sea of ghostly faces in the audience, staring, gasping, wondering how they are ever gonna make it out of this next English class alive…

I think it’s high time we ought to wake everybody up and say for once, “Hey! It’s not the 1850s anymore!!  You don’t have to study English like Latin or ancient Greek! Why? Because there are over a billion English speakers out there and English isn’t a dead language!!”

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What do our Communication Classes look like?

Last week, there was a really great question from Weezy3 in the comments to a post:

“What is your ideal communication class? Is there a description like this on the site? I am curious as to what the perfect communication class looks like to you. What do you do, and how much time does it take?”

Please click here to read the discussion we had. I’m waiting for Weezy3 to fill us in on some more details about the communication activities he’s got going on at his junior high school. It sounds like he’s got some great ideas that he’s put into action there.

 

Give Students a Survey. Now. Don’t miss this Great Chance!!!

I made this video yesterday after work. Please enjoy and give me your comments. It tells you why and how to give a survey to your students as a great end-of-the-year project for you.

Here are the surveys I spoke of in the video (with Japanese and English translations). Of course, these are just examples. Feel free to create your own surveys or modify these however you please:

Survey for Regular English Classes (Word document download)

This survey is to get feedback from classes that haven’t had communication lessons yet.

Survey for Communication Classes (Word document download)

This survey gets feedback from students that have had communication classes.

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How do you get your JTEs to allow you to survey the students? Ask and see if it’s okay. It only takes 5-10 minutes to fill out because it is in Japanese. The results can be a big eye-opener that you can use to set policy at your school. Nothing like some hard data to back up your ideas.

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For those of you that don’t have time to watch the full video. Let me outline my key points quickly:

  • Surveys are a powerful tool.
  • You can get valuable feedback from students about their feelings towards your English classes.
  • You can use them to set teaching policy at your school.
  • It is the end of the year, so now is the time to do it.
  • Surveying a communication class, you can get positive feedback, which you can use to validate your ideas and communication program. You can make a small report of the results and give it to the other English teachers as evidence that it is successful and that the students want and need it
  • Surveying a regular English class, you can get some results that may open everyone’s eyes to the feelings and needs of the students. You may be able to use those results to make the case for communication classes.
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Please comment and give me your feedback. All this work and no response is a waste!

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