What is the best way to reach your Students with English?

By John Hatanaka, Yamagata City

There are some fun, new ways to share English outside of the classroom. Behind door number one we have the handy dandy English Passort, which some of you are probably familiar with, and behind door number two we have the new “CC Card” program. Now, my question for you is, which one do you like and why?

I see both ideas have their advantages, but as with any competition both have their disadvantages as well. (Better yet, do you have a new idea? Perhaps an idea that would send both games running for the forest like Ron’s Hooting Tooting Flying Enchanted Car in Harry Potter.) Anyway, I will lay out the apparent advantages of both excellent strategies below and then give you the mic. Shall we start??

Number One: The Around The World PassPort

Kids get out of class and the last thing they want is a giant foreigner batting off hard-to-understand English questions at them. A time then came for the English Passport to take the lead. It has allowed the student to choose the time and the place and utilized Skinners Psychology Experiment to make mice chase after cheese. The simple philosophy is that people like prizes — otherwise PlayStations would be for watching movies and Mario would still be stuck in Italy (Japan?). The Passport gives students the chance to use English to get “World Country Stamps” and in turn receive prizes if they get 5 or six stamps. This is much like sushi restaurants offer stamps if you visit their headquarters — except for the fact that we are marketing English of course and not sushi. Below I’ll list the advantages first and then the disadvantages, and then let’s debate!


1. Everybody likes a sparkling passport. It gives them confidence, makes them feel like an ambassador, sorta like how you feel like at the airport. Ok maybe it’s only me…

2. Everybody likes prizes. Especially vacations in Hawaii…. let the students dream.


1. Keeping track of passports is a chore. Who got a stamp? Who can forge stamps? Who ate their passport? These questions come up…

2. It’s harder to make Passports so as a result not as many students can be ambassadors and the students have to keep track of their booklets. I’m always petrified of losing mine at the airport.. talk about a travelers disaster!!!

Number 2: The CC Program

1. Instead of giving the students a Passport, you are instead giving them your business card. Steve Woerner, an ALT from Tottori Prefecture, came up with the idea to give out cards to students for speaking English. Students deposit their cards into a “class box”, and at the end of the month the cards are counted and the student with the most cards wins a big prize and all other participants receive a prize for trying. This idea solves some problems, but also poses some problems as well.


1. Business cards are easier to keep track of…

2. The student doesn’t have to keep track of the their own passport.


1. Keeping a ready supply of cards will require lots of printing and cutting or Daiso trips.

2. Passports are cooler

3. Forging cards could be easy and the classroom boxes that you made could be tampered with if someone were motivated to do so.

In Conclusion:

So, what method do you like better and why? In other news there is a brand new app for JETS on on the Iphone App Store. It’s called “Iconnect” and you should download it. It has instructions for Steve Woerner’s CC card game and also loads of good resources for teachers for making your life day that much better. Can you come up with a better idea to use English outside the classroom? Please Comment!!

Thank You,

John Hatanaka

Guess What?

By John Hatanaka, ALT, Yamagata City

"Guess what?!"This is the poster I printed off for my kids and put around the school.

I’ve had a breakthrough with my students recently. When I see my kids in the morning, they no longer say “Good morning!” to me. Now, instead of just, “Good morning!”, they usually ask me a second question. “Guess what?!”, they say. I ask them, “What?”. And then they have to tell me about something from their day.

Instead of a teacher, I become a listener, and a conversation starts as I reply with follow-up questions. It’s kind of like physics, I think. “Guess what?” is an easy English phrase that all students can say. And it gets the ball rolling. An object in motion stays in motion. And if you can find a clever way like this to get the conversation rolling, you are already off to a good start.

I like the English passport idea. Maybe I’ll start to offer a “Guess what?” stamp if my students use a “Guess what?” question. Passports are Great!