Planning a Self-Introduction with Speaking

Your self-introduction is not only a chance to entertain and show students something about your home country. It is also a chance to open their minds to the idea of speaking English. After all, even in the first grade of junior high many students enter class with the belief that they can’t speak English — and possibly never will.

That’s why this year, in addition to handing out my comic which tells students how they can work with ALTs to improve their English, I’m going to try to show my students that English is a spoken language — not a dead one, only to be read and written — by having them do a little speaking themselves. I’m thinking that something as simple as having them walk around and introduce themselves to each other in English will go a long way.

Well, that’s what’s on my mind these days. How about you? What are your plans for your self-introduction this year?

ALTs Can Help Comic + other free materials

ALT Helps you

Click to download and print this comic now:


And please check out these other free materials:

5 First Grade Communication Activities (a short e-book)

“Start a Communication Revolution” (a 5-part tutorial on beginning communication activities at your school)

Eikaiwa Cards (a fast communication activity that can bring your classes to life)

English Passport (a communication project for all of your students)

Free Communication Activities E-book

What’s inside:

  • 5 communication activity ideas with colorful worksheets
  • 5 lesson plans and activity descriptions
  • Tips on how to share these ideas with co-workers
  • Explanations about what make communication activities tick
  • And more!

Click to Download this e-book now (PDF)


Click on an image to preview this e-book :

Download the PDF for High-Resolution Images

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?

Use this Material to Easily Bring Communication to Your Students

Use Eikaiwa Cards to improve students’ communication skills through model dialogues

What is the fastest way to bring communication activities to your students? Eikaiwa Cards! This is an easy, fully customizable material I designed, which can be used as a warm-up activity or as the basis for an entire communication class.

If you saw my presentation about Eikaiwa Cards at the Murayama Regional Seminar, here are links to the templates for you to start designing your own English conversation cards for your students:

Inside Template

Outside Template

What are Eikaiwa Cards??

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to introduce communication activities to your students and or JTEs, this material is for you!!

Eikaiwa Cards are all about giving students a chance to practice speaking skills and communication through short, customizable dialogues that you create. You can choose any topic and write out a dialogue for students to practice with each other. Eikaiwa Cards have many uses and so here are some ideas for how you can use them at your schools:

1) Use it as a warm-up material

Chose a topic and write up a two person dialog about that topic with spaces for each student to insert their own answers. An example Eikaiwa Card dialogue looks like this:

Each card allows students to practice talking about a wide range of topics in a structured way.

Each card allows students to practice talking about a wide range of topics in a structured way.

Print out enough copies for every student in the class, make pairs, practice the saying the dialogue and then give the students 3-5 minutes to talk using the card. For greater results, encourage students to smile, use eye contact, face each other, use reaction words and to relax.

To extend the activity you can have student make new pairs and add “Challenge” components to the cards (see picture above), which gives students ideas on how they can extend a conversation.

2) Use it outside of class

Make a set of 6-12 Eikaiwa Cards and use them in the hallways during break times and after school to start conversations with students. Students who do an Eikaiwa Card session with you can receive the card as a keepsake. Or you could use the cards in an English Passport or other speaking activity with rewards for both students and teachers.

3) Use it in your Eikaiwa

Get your students talking more smoothly and about a wider range of topics by introducing different speaking models with Eikaiwa Cards.

Want to learn more?

Send me an email or post in the comments section below.

How to Interact More with Students

Write questions on post-it notes that you’d like students to ask you. Then, during break times you can stand in the hallway near areas where students congregate and hand them to curious students. Signal them to ask you the question. After they have initiated the conversation with the question, you can take it where ever you want to go.

Use sticky notes to initiate conversations with your students

As you’ve probably noticed, Japanese students tend to bunch up in groups when talking in the hallways. You can use this to your advantage in two ways. One, if they don’t know how to answer a question, usually their friend can give them advice. Two, after they have talked with you, they can ask each other.

What are your ideas for getting more communication in with your students?

How to Activate your Students’ Minds

The Sky at Night – The difference in electrical output between North and South Korea is like the difference between minds that are bored and those that are engaged.

A mentor of mine, Dr. Hiroshi Ota, head of the English department at Komazawa Women’s University, once said, “Telling students is not enough…” and it’s true, because “telling” facts and figures just does not elicit the same type of mental reaction that students crave and deserve.

Guessing and interaction are the opposite. Both require imagination, emotion, initiative, processing, and more. Both are meaningful. Both are active.

I think if we could take brain scans of students who were merely listening to a lecture and those who were engaged in an interactive exchange of guess-work, the images may look like the difference between North and South Korea of the sky at night.

One, a portrait of extreme poverty and suffocation — the other a model of activity and output.

Guessing activates the mind, which means emotion and logic are both involved.

If you’re still not convinced that the targeted use of guessing is the most important tool a teacher has in her toolbox, guessing also shifts the conversation from what’s factually true and untrue — to what can be. When students are guessing, there is no real right or wrong answer.

Why? Because when we are guessing, it is not about being right or wrong — but about the process of generating and sharing ideas.

So, how to activate your students’ minds? The first answer is getting them to “guess”. The second is “interaction.”


Some “Guesswork” Activities

  • play a “guessing game” with your students at any time you want to introduce a key word or phrase. Give them hints to the word and ask them to guess what it could be (Japanese is okay if it is a difficult word). If you wanted to talk about “priority seats” you could give them hints like, “This is on a bus…”, “It is very nice and comfortable…”,  “We can sit on them…”, “Old people use them…”, and so on. It takes 1-5 minutes depending on time and enjoyment level.
  • Another guessing game is when doing flash card work. Sometimes words come up that all students definitely know. “Hamburger”, for instance. Instead of wasting the opportunity and just showing (read: “telling”) them the word, have them guess. Say, “Oh! I think you know this next word…It’s very delicious…It is famous in America…It has ketchup on it…” and so on. My students absolutely adore this 30 second game.
  • When doing any work with picture cards or powerpoint pictures show them a portion of the picture and have them guess what it could be. Or, alternatively, if it is a scene involving people, have them guess what the emotions of the people are. “How does he feel?” “Why?”, etc.

These are a few ideas. What ideas do you have?