1) Try 3-5 minutes of Communication in Every Class.
This is a great teaching style and it works wonders even in small doses. So, as much as you can, try to have back and forth questions with students (with follow-up questions). You can do this during the morning greeting, when you introduce new material or when you review. It’s as simple as asking a yes/no follow-up question or asking a few individual students for their answers in every class. Remember: a question without a follow-up question or reaction isn’t really communication. It is a dead end that teaches bad conversation habits.
Since it doesn’t take up much time in the class (and is easily integrated into a normal lesson plan) it is possible to do this sort of secretively at first. Then, once you have a better idea of how to do it and have more confidence in your system, you can start requesting specific time for this kind of activity in the normal class. You can say, “I think we could teach this better if we had 1-2 minutes of exchange with the students. Can we try?” Your colleagues are almost sure to oblige (especially if you have built good relationships with them).
2) Try to have a Communication Class When Students Finish their Textbook
Ask your JTE or ALT if they’d like to try out a communication class when students finish their textbook for the year (usually December or January). When the textbook is finished and there is a shortage of material, everyone is looking for a way to review and reinforce the material students covered. What better time to introduce your communication program? If you offer the idea, and your colleague says, “Yes!”, then you can start working on a plan together for how you will execute your communication class. Email me anytime with questions you have: eliotc1986[at]gmail[dot]com.
3) Try to Start a Weekly Communication Class for one Class or a Group of Classes
This is an ideal, but it is something that I think every school can try. English classes have increased to 4 times a week, and what’s more, there are clear signs from the Ministry of Education that they would like to see more communication in English classes in the future. So, there is a serious opportunity now to make communication classes happen.
If you have already started introducing 3-5 minutes of communication in the class (idea 1) and/or tried out some communication classes with some of the students (step 2), you may be in a very good position to suggest this idea.
In my case, these three steps happened in natural succession. So, when we were successful, this third idea actually came from some of my JTEs. This had everything to do with my relationships, my reputation as a teacher, and the success of our initial ideas. When in doubt, talk to teachers and peers you know and trust, work on your developing your skills and relationships. And again, if you have questions, just email me: eliotc1986[at]gmail[dot]com.
Communication in the classroom may be a big change from what your colleagues and students know and trust. So please remember to smart small and focus on your relationships. At the same time, you will be able to develop your ideas and teaching skills. I can give you advice on what your communication class may look like. However, I think the most successful communication class will be developed by YOU in partnership with the other English teachers at your school. You have the opportunity to change your job and transform the effectiveness of English classes in Japan. If you want to start a communication revolution you have the plant the idea in yourself and at your school.
If your experience is like mine, then the idea will spread like wildfire. Communication is that powerful..