Comics that Speak to Students

Tons of people have downloaded the “3 ways an ALT can help” comic that I posted on Tuesday, and I’m happy to report that a bunch of ALTs from across Japan have written to me saying they are going to hand out the comic to their students. Best of luck to everyone! I really hope this comic gets your students lining up to talk and write to you.

On the same note,  I think comics are such a powerful and accessible medium for communicating important ideas to students. So I’d really like to make more of them. If you have any ideas for a comic strip please contact me or share your ideas in the comments section below.

If you haven’t already, please check out the original post and download your copy of the comic now. 

Retelling the Story about ALTs to Students

Many ALTs including myself have trouble getting students to engage. It is probably the biggest problem and one that remains a mystery to all teachers. After four years teaching in Japan, my hunch is that many students don’t actively engage with their ALT because they simply don’t know how. Why? Because even with vague reminders from teachers to “go talk to the ALT”, there is an still a huge disconnect about what ALTs do and how students are supposed to use ALTs as a resource. Of course shyness and speaking  anxiety play their active parts in this process, but students’ fears are only amplified by the unclear picture we often give to them about what ALTs can do. The solution, then, is clearly to demystify that picture and give students clear examples of how to work with an ALT. The solution is to retell the story. So I made this:

Below each idea is a description in Japanese that gives students a concrete example of how they can do this.

This comic can be given to students during your self-introduction so they have clear examples of how they can partner with an ALT to make progress in English.

This short comic is aimed at elementary and first year junior high school students. You can give it to any new students you have or deliver it to a class during a self-introduction. You can read more about my idea below. But first…

You can download and print this comic now:

(JPEG) Image file

(PDF) Prints on A4 paper and cut in half

(WORD DOC) May need to re-position images depending on your printer

More on the Comic:

The goal of this comic is to clarify the job of ALTs through example so students are no longer in the dark about what we can do. So, this comic gives students three tips about ALTs. Written in Japanese below each tip is one or two examples of what students can do to apply the tip. The three tips and their examples are as follows:

1) Speaking Practice (Tip in Japanese: “Let’s practice the expressions you learned in class!”)

2) Writing Stuff (Tip in Japanese: “Let’s write letters!” and “Let’s show the English sentences we wrote!”

3) Exchange Culture (Tip in Japanese: “Let’s exchange culture!” and “Let’s talk about foreign countries!”)

As I wrote above, you can give this to new students during your self introduction so that they know from the get-go how you can work together.

In Conclusion

I think ALTs are the greatest resource students have for learning English and we have an incredible opportunity to show students a way forward by clarifying what our job is really about. Now that I’ve shared with you my idea and material, I’m interested in what you have to say. What ideas do you have for how to use this comic (or others like it) in your school?

Bring Communication to Your 1st Graders (JHS)

How would you feel if your sibling asked you to wash these dishes?

How would you feel if your brother or sister asked you to wash these dishes?

Interesting conversation involves two things: emotion and a little negotiation. And what topic is more emotionally charged for teenagers than dividing up the house chores when their parents are gone on vacation? That’s what we found out, using this quick communication activity in which students work in pairs to negotiate about which chores they will do while their parents are away for the week. Please read below to find out more about this activity and to download a free copy of the worksheet that goes along with this idea.

Activity Quick Stats:

Click here to: Download the free worksheet

Level: First Grade Junior High School

Time: 15-20 minutes (depending on how many pairs students make)

Grammar Point: Making requests using “Can you ______?” (e.g. “Can you do the laundry?”)

Set-up: Explain to students that their parents are going on vacation for the week and they need to decide who will do the house chores such as washing the dishes, shoveling the snow and so on. Using the grammar “Can you _____?” students will negotiate about who will do which chore. Obviously some chores on the list are more undesirable than others (e.g. “Can you clean the toilet), so students have a greater incentive to participate actively in negotiations and connect some emotion to the language they are using. After all, “Okay, I can clean the toilet…” has a different ring to it than “Okay, I will make breakfast…”

How to play: After practicing how to say each chore, students will play rock paper scissors  to decide who makes the first request. Following the model dialogue at the end of the worksheet, the winner will request that their “sibling” do one of the chores.  Students can say “No, I can’t” to any item on the list, however, to be fair, they have to say, “Yes, I can.” to at least one chore per turn. The student making a request each time someone has agreed to do a chore. The negotiations finish when all the chores have been agreed to. With 5 chores to divide up, one student will finish with 3 chores to do and another with 2 chores to do. Students should make a memo about which chores they agree on.

An example  dialogue will look like this:

Student 1: Can you clean the toilet?

Student 2: No, I can’t.

Student 1: Okay, can you wash the dishes?

Student 2: Okay, I can wash the dishes.

(Students make a memo and SWITCH)

Student 2: Can you make breakfast?

Student 1: Okay, I can make breakfast.

(Students make a memo and SWITCH)

…and so on…

Click here to: Download the free worksheet

This activity worked really great with all our 1st graders because there was a consequence to the decisions they made (albeit imaginary). We increased the level of engagement from the students by switching partners 3 times, checking who agreed to do each chore after each round, and giving students a chance to think of their own “chore” for the last round.

Let me know if you have any questions. eliotc[at]gmail[dot]com