Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's New (10/25)

Our Seminar
  • This week, Ayu, Gami and myself facilitated an English Department Open House for high school students interested in our university. The public relations committee had asked us to do a "mock lesson" for the students and it was a success! From this experience, I had an epiphany about how I could make group work actually work next time I am called on to teach a demonstration class at a junior high school.
  • Gami wrote about her experience teaching at a cram school. Do you think her experience working at a cram school is typical?
  • Bonsai, YuS, and Hope have finished their 2 weeks of teacher training at junior high schools and have rejoined the seminar!Bonsai has started distributing a questionnaire she made for ALTs working in elementary schools. Sometime this week, she will write about what she hopes to learn from this questionnaire and what she thinks the results will be. YuS is putting the finishing touches on a questionnaire asking recent high school graduates to reflect on their six years of learning English in junior and senior high school. This week Yu will also write about what he hopes to learn from the questionnaire and what he thinks the results will be. Today, Hope and I are going to meet and see how she is progressing with her paper "The Future of English Education in Japan."
  • Eri, Ayu, and Cube have been a little quiet lately. I hope that we can hear from them soon.


  • AJ Hoge's situation at the university has had some unfortunate developments, details are here. AJ is now in Japan and already has some new students! He was interviewed by students in Aaron Campbell's class. The interview is here.
  • Marco Polo after reading the blogs of AJ, Aaron, and myself has theorized why teaching at institutions is difficult for teachers who care about their students' learning. What do you think about what he has to say?

Blogs from Other Classes

  • I have looked at the blogs of students from Rosa's ESL class in Australia. The students are from a variety of countries and talk about their home countries; pretty interesting stuff!

Well, tomorrow, I have to give two 3-hour workshops to jr. and sr. high school English teachers about teaching reading. I am now going to prepare. Have a nice week! Adios!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

An Idea for getting students to do group work

Today my university had an open house for highy school students. With the assistance of Gami, Ayu, another student and my uni and a colleague in my apartment, I did a 20 minute mock lesson for a group of 37 and then a group of 29 high school students. Occassionally, I am called upon to teach "demonstration lessons" at junior high schools. When I have tried group work in these classes it has not gone well. Why? The major reason is the students are not used to working in groups. Today, the group work went very well. Why? Because I had four assistants patrolling the class, encouraging the other groups, and providing assistance or instruction when necessary. I realized that if students are not accustomed to doing tasks in groups and reporting their results to the rest of the class, they need a great amount of assistance at the beginning. The key word is "great amount"; each group needs more assistance than I myself can provide. Next time I have a demonstration class at a junior high school, I think that I will ask 4 of my university students to participate as assistants. To learn to ride a bike, I first used training wheels. To learn to do group work, jr. high students will first need training wheels.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My Baby's Voice

I have a 14 month old son and recently he started saying real, intelligible words! In fact, his first word was "Daddy"! You can imagine how happy I was!
I have made a voice blog and will be periodically posting my son's word of the day; his mother speaks to him in Japanese and I speak to him in English so it will be interesting to see how his language develops. The site is in Japanese and English. The link to the voice blog is here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What's New in our Blogging?

I have been reading some of the blogs written by our colleagues (other English teachers) and members of our seminar, Research Methodologies in English Education.

Our Colleagues

  • Team Orepan, a junior high school teacher from Hokkaido, is in a slump. If you would like, please write him and give him some encouragement.
  • AJ Hoge, a University English teacher in Thailand, was fired for speaking his opinions on his blog. Personally, I did not think his blog was controversial in the least bit. Actually, I quite liked it. Some of my favorite posts of his were "Beating the System" which no longer appears to be on-line and the "Jerry Mcguire Business Plan" in which he talks about what he thinks good education is.
  • Marco Polo, a University English teacher in Japan, writes about his struggles in encouraging his students to take charge of their own learning and become autonomous learners.

Seminar Members

Other Classes

  • This is a class blog of adult migrants in Sydney, Australia. The blog contains links to other members' blogs. If you would like to learn more about these ESL learners who have moved to Australia, check out their blogs. What have they been talking about?

This week, I would like you to look at the other blogs you have on bloglines and see what people are writing about. Write some comments if you wish, I am sure the other bloggers would be very happy to read your comments. Also, based on what you have read, I would like you to write your own blogging entry by October 24.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Teacher Trainees Writing about English Education in Japan

Blogging about EFL in Japan
Seven aspiring teachers in a Research Methodologies in English Education seminar are blogging. We all live in the prefecture of Iwate in Japan. Some of the students aspire to be elementary school teachers, some junior high school teachers, and others are perhaps undecided. They have begun blogging about issues in education in Japan that concern them, their teaching experiences, or anything else they wish to discuss! Their pages and recent blogging topics are described below:

The Juniors: Teacher Training
In September Eri-chan, Ayu, Cube, and Gami underwent 3 weeks of teacher training. They were so busy that they could not write in their blogs! The 3 week teacher training program is very intensive but they survived. Please go to their blogs and read about theit experience. Anyone interested in elementary school education in Japan should read Ayu and Eri Chan's blog. Anoyone interested in junior high school English education should read Cube and Gami's blog. I learned a lot from watching their classes. For example, Eri-chan did a class on how to wash your hands for first graders. I realized that in my 30 years, I had never washed my hands the right way! Yuck!

The Seniors: Their Graduate Papers
Bonsai, Hope, and YuS (pronounced "U.S.") have created their blogs. These three are writing their graduate papers and all deal with the topic of how to make English education in Japan better. Hope, is writing about the future of English education in elementary schools; Bonsai is investigating the roles of ALTs and homeroom teachers in elementary school and will offer suggestions as to how the two can work together to make better class; Lastly, YuS is investigating why students in junior high school and high school lose interest in English.

URL for JALT Presentation

Last week I talked about my blogging project with my English Teaching Methodologies III course at the JALT conference. Below is the link to the content of my presentation. Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the discussion!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Good and Bad Discussion Topics for English Class

The other day, I taught an English class at a junior high school. To show how to use the auxiliary "does" I had students ask each other what their favorite television show was and then had pairs team up and ask questions to the interviewers about the interviewee's answers ex. "Does so and so like __?" The activity did not go well as well as I would have liked. My experience in Japan is that quite often students do not like to talk about themselves. These questions are not deeply personal; sample topics are "what is your favorite school lunch?, what is your favorite television show? what do you usually eat for breakfast?". My experience has been that students are more interested in doing information gap activities where the information they share is about a fictitious person or factual information. Has anyone had any similar experiences or is this just me?