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Katakana Krutches 
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Post Katakana Krutches
I've only recently begun teaching younger students (grades 1-3) at my once weekly elementary school visits, and while I never really considered it necessary with my older kids there (grades 4-6) I've started feeling the temptation to write out katakana versions of what we're learning beneath the flashcards or pictures on the handouts I give them.

I've read other people say that they always try to avoid this, and generally I agreed with them, but I'm starting to lose my will. I never saw explanations of why it should be avoided, though I could guess that it would encourage improper pronunciation and perhaps create a crutch of sorts that they might come to rely on.

Has anyone else debated this with themselves, either in a Japanese setting or in any language which uses a system other than the alphabet for writing? What did you conclude and can you offer any advice?

I probably wouldn't consider it if the elementary schools here weren't so anti-ABCs and writing or if I had more regular lessons with them. But they are, and I don't, so... what do y'all reccomend?


Tue May 22, 2007 1:39 pm
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Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
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Location: Tohoku Japan
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yes I hear you

I am in a similar boat. I teach at the elementary schools only once a month (which its not really enough)

I try not to do it but I have written a few things out in katakana in lower classes but I am not sure its all that good for them in the long term?

But it really is very very difficult to do much writing when you have only one lesson a month.

I personally don't do any writing with 1~3 grades. Also in my view native speakers should focus more on the spoken side (oral English) and leave the Japanese teachers to teach the writing as they have much more time and when they get to JHS they will do far more writting than actual speaking (esp with native speakers) but I do not mean to do no writing at all!

(I am assuming that they will have some kind of English writing separate to your lessons, this is the case where I teach)

I am not sure if I have helped you?


Last edited by Kiwione on Wed May 23, 2007 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.



Tue May 22, 2007 4:50 pm
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Well, I believe that writing the words out in Japanese (katakana - basically trying to combine Japanese to get similar sounds) is not helpful.

Yes, it distorts their pronounciation but if you're really good at it you can get katana to sound pretty close. I'm not sure that's really my issue.

I don't think they should be mixing the two languages. If they can't remember what to say, I'm not sure reading it off in Japanese (what could only be called gibberish) is productive. I think it has the opposite effect and doesn't aide in retension or understanding. So, while it might help you get through that exercise you wanted to do, it might not be the best path to take.

If they can't remember it, just do it again. There's nothing wrong with that in my book. That's the system you are unfortunately working in. It's better for them to know a handful of things and be able to use them than to have studied many things and retained nothing.

If higher ups expect more progress, just explain once a month isn't going to do it. However, in general the BOE knows you're not going to progress very far. Their goal is just to introduce English, spark some interest in the subject and have the children enjoy speaking.

However, if the method works for you and the kids are learning, understanding and using English, don't let anyone second guess you. Different methods work for different teachers. AND students for that matter.

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Tue May 22, 2007 5:56 pm
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Yea, I guess just reviewing previous material, and doing activities that use as much repetition as possible will be my best bet.

I think what's tempting me to do it sometimes is that I feel like a lot of games suggestions that I like require the students to already kinda know the language, and then puts them in situations where they're using it for a specific goal over and over.

What I want to know more about is how to get them to the stage where they know it well enough to play the games confidently. Something like fun group drill activities that don't feel like drilling.

One thing I've tried recently with mild success was an adaptation of the Line Jumping game where I put weather cards up on either side of the chalkboard, had them all ask me in unison, "How's the weather?" and then jump to the side that corresponds to my answer. If I said, "It's rainy!" they jump to side of the room with the rainy flashcard up. It was okay, but I think some kids were just watching the others for their cues. Can't be sure. I kinda liked it because it gave the less confident kids time to get familiar before we started a game that would test them individually.

If there's any area that I wish had more information available on teaching websites in general it would be how to introduce new language in a way that lasts long enough to ensure success during more individually focused games, but also is exciting enough that they don't revolt in the middle of it. I feel like it's the point I personally feel least sure of in my classes.

Anyone else feel the same way?


Thu May 31, 2007 9:46 am
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I think teachers underestimate just how much exposure to language students need before they can feel confident.

Go the the GenkiEnglish.net site and try some of the games available for different languages (there are a few Japanese, Korean, and I think German games). Most games involve listening to one of 4 words and clicking on the appropriate square. How many times would you have to hear the word before you would feel confident using it in an activity? If you were able to see the written word, it would be easier. This is probably where your question about katakana comes in.

However, older students have more exposure to language in general and can recognize patterns and tie in what they learn in a foreign language class to what they already know. In many ways they learn FASTER than K-3 students. This also applies to the written language. The older students are more able to work with written language. They can use this skill from their first language to process the written symbols of another language. This is not always the case in a young learner just learning to decipher the written code of their first language. Thus the need for more repetitions.

Yes, my 1st grade students are more enthusiastic and try to use the language much faster than my 6th grade students, BUT ask them in a month (or even a couple of days later) and see how much they remember.

It's difficult because, like you, my classes with them are few and far between. It all comes down to what your goals are. Do you just want to give them a positive exposure to a foreign language and culture, or do you want to give teach them something they will remember and be able to use?

As for ways to introduce language, I use activities similar to your weather game. Gestures really do wonders with the little ones and after a few tries, I have them close their eyes (I let some cheat if they feel they have to) to see how much they understand. Songs are a fantastic way to help the young ones remember. I try to be consistent with the gestures and use them throughout the year. I often play the songs and recycle the words we learned in previous lessons.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elementarytprs/
This group is a fantastic resource. If you sign up for a yahoo account and can access the files, I strongly suggest you go back to Aug 2005 posts, when the list was the most active.


Thu May 31, 2007 11:13 am
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miss_rodrigun wrote:
If there's any area that I wish had more information available on teaching websites in general it would be how to introduce new language in a way that lasts long enough to ensure success during more individually focused games, but also is exciting enough that they don't revolt in the middle of it.


Yes, drilling vocabulary can be boring. That's one of the reasons I made all of my own stuff. I need something more interesting than an actual picture of a gorilla.

I don't know how many words you usually teach but I break up the vocabulary sets and spread them out ofver two lessons. 6-8 new words is a lot for preschool and kindergarten kids, but that's the range I stay with.

Just like line jumping you can have other types of TPR in your drilling.

Quiz Time:
- I show the kids a flashcard (a bear)
- and I say something in English. 'This is a monkey."
- If what I say matched the card, they clap three times
- If what I say is different from the card, they clap one time

(so they would clap one time in this example.)

Something like that can be added in after the first couple rounds of drilling. You can substitute any actions, but the point is the students are listening and make a judgement about the language. Also, they aren't just sitting there but responding.

I also like to add short term memory games like Remember This in the mix to break up the monotony.

There's also raising your voice an octive and having the kids mimic you, saying it 5 times fast, using a very low voice, singing the word, whispering the word, shouting the word at each other and the like.

You can add in a joker (I think someone uses the cockroach card) as a run away card. When that card appears all the kids get up and run to the back of the room.

All of this just keeps them involved and not just making sounds but paying attention (and making sounds :) )

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Thu May 31, 2007 1:42 pm
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