Where’s the Instruction Manual for your Job?

Have you ever looked? The truth is, there really isn’t one. Perhaps there are some guidelines here, some unstated expectations there, some standards written in a course book, too — but otherwise, you’re pretty much on your own.

Like it or not, that means one big thing: you are the one who writes the rules, and you are the one who decides what kind of teacher you’ll be.

Will you be a teacher that tries to deliver the same unsuccessful English language program they have taught (with modifications) for the past 30 years?

Or will you take advantage of the new opportunities before you (i.e. more English classes, a big push for more English in the classroom) and start work on writing  your own manual?

Doing so allows you to discover your own ideas and strengths. It is the way you can bring meaning and purpose to your work. It is the way you can start delivering high-quality education to your students that actually teaches them to speak English.

You can sit around waiting for someone to finally give you the instruction manual. Or you can write it yourself and be better for it.

Come on! — Getting students to speak English in a Loud Voice

Knowing that classes are most fun and useful when students have the confidence to repeat modeled sentences in a loud voice, I have been experimenting over the months with different techniques to encourage students to speak English in a loud voice. This is a technique I adapted from a teacher I know. I have been using it with junior high school students with the best results in first grade classes. Check out the audio file below to see the amazing effect this technique has on students:

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Tips on getting this trick to work:

1) Have students repeat the word or phrase twice before shouting “Come on!” to encourage them to shout the word or phrase as loud as they can.

2) A good reaction to their loud response is key. The reaction might be genuine if the students truly knock you over with a loud chorus, but if you have a sort of falling over reaction when they shout the phrase at you, the students can laugh and enjoy this activity a bit more.

Note: Believe it or not, in this example it was the first time I tried this technique on the class. I’ve found that I don’t even have to explain to the students what I want (i.e. for them to shout the word/phrase as loud as they can). I just sort of jump into it and use a beckoning gesture when I shout “come on!” and the students seem to clearly understand my expectations. It’s amazing how simple this technique is considering how big of a result you can get from the students.

Connecting with JHS Students through “English Kyushoku”


Kyushoku. Photo cred: Andrea McGovern 2011

Submitted by Ed Fec, Sakata City

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first line of “A Tale of Two Cities” is pretty much what comes to mind when I think about having school lunch at JHS. As a JHS/ES ALT, I almost always eat with students and sometimes it’s great fun, while other times it’s like being in a library. Occasionally it’s simply frustrating. Still, I’m glad I do it since it gives me a chance to talk to students more outside of class.

I’m now in my 8th year as an ALT and no longer on JET, of course. When I first came here, students pretty much had to speak to me in English as my Japanese wasn’t very good. Now, however, they all know that I can speak Japanese and it’s much harder to get them to talk to me in English.

Whether I should speak to them in English or Japanese during school lunch is a moot point because personally I think that as long as we are communicating, the language used isn’t as important. What I’ve noticed, though, is that in many classes there are usually at least 1 or 2 students who want to practice their English, but don’t get the chance to — either because I don’t sit with their group when I do go to their class, or because they are too shy to speak in English in front of other students.

To remedy this problem I have recently been doing “English Kyushoku” at some of my schools (I have 4 junior high schools). Instead of eating in the classroom with the whole class every day, I eat my lunch in a separate room (a spare classroom or meeting room) with volunteers from the class who want to speak with me in English. I limit the number of students to 6 and I get the JTE to organise it in advance so that both the homeroom teacher and I know how many students will come.

So far the results have been positive. I’ve had some great conversations and spoken to some students whom I’d never really spoken to before.

So, if anyone else at JHS is suffering from “silent kyushoku syndrome” or any other similarly debilitating lurgies, feel free to try this remedy!

Ed Fec, (Sakata City)