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Hello New Assistant Language Teacher 
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Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:04 pm
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Post Hello New Assistant Language Teacher
Hi. My first post.
Wonderful forum and website Mark.

I'm a new Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) and totally lost !!

Any hints what to do in the first month ?

Also are there any games/activities that are generally divided into elementary school or for Junior High School levels.

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Moon


Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:10 pm
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Moon, welcome to the forums! :smt006

Well, do you have any notes from the previous teacher?

As far as games and activities, I don't break them up into levels on the site, but some wouldn't work too well with younger students. The grammar casino for examples requires students to be able to read and generally are only useable after some sort of formal grammar instruction.

It's probably better to ask for games around a specific lesson theme or grammar point. If you do so, it will jog our memories and you'll find more appropriate suggestions.

If you just ask for an elementary school appropriate game, you'll probably just get the old favorites, like memory, go fish, slap, bingo, and so on. (which can all be used in JHS classes as well.)

Do you know what you'll be teaching in the first month?

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Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:25 pm
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Thanks for the quick reply.

The old ALT teacher left in quite a rush, and there's a gap for 2 weeks before something gets started. The Japanese teacher seems to have left much of the English to the old ALT teacher, whose work is "all" on the database.

When will they ever begin to standardise and make a national curriculam, each class seems to be unstructured. There's no textbook used.

Anyway, guess have to plough my way through the PC for some time (don't want to have a continous train of queries and tread on too many toes at the start...oops if there are some Japanese teachers here.....)

Yes, thanks for the tip, guess I'll stick to old favs like Bingo and Go Fish and karuta cards for starters. Most kids seem to like Bingo even if they've done it endlessly.

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Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:39 am
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no textbook used?
unstructured?

That sounds strange to me. Then your situation is very different to me (and maybe most others?) Just hang in there


Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:54 am
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That sounds strange to me, too. Do you work in a public school?

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Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:08 am
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Kiwione wrote:
no textbook used?
unstructured?

I think moon is talking about at the elementary school.

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Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:45 am
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Hi
Yes, elementary school.
The reason why I raised the use of textbook because at another ES, there is a textbook used, albeit a simple one.
Although a textbook is not always the best way to teach for ES but I think most students use textbooks anyway in their other subjects, and it always serve as a trunk or core to follow on and make progression, rather than leaving it up to the teacher(s) to make lessons on the fly.

I know they are trying to work out (MEXT that is) a new English book for 2011 or so, but it beats me that for the next 2-3 years children in Japan will have to suffer from unstructured planning, as they have already done so for the past umpteen years.

I am not really one to gripe on such issues, a teacher can always teach given any situation, but this is teaching in the second largest economy in the world we are talking about.

Anyway, I did find stuff in the computer, some good and some not and will go on forward. The "good" thing about all this is as noone seems to be too concerned about the past planning, it therefore actually makes current planning simpler as the bar is lowered :wink: It also gives an opportunity to devise some plan(s) for the long run.

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Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:45 pm
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moon wrote:
I am not really one to gripe on such issues, a teacher can always teach given any situation, but this is teaching in the second largest economy in the world we are talking about.

Anyway, I did find stuff in the computer, some good and some not and will go on forward. The "good" thing about all this is as noone seems to be too concerned about the past planning, it therefore actually makes current planning simpler as the bar is lowered :wink: It also gives an opportunity to devise some plan(s) for the long run.


well, I am not sure what the size of the economy has to do with anything?
These are young kids, all the other textbooks (other subjects) are in their own language.
Anyway .... how often are these lessons? if its once a month then no textbook is fine, if its once a week? then you may have a point (??)

My suggestion is to sitdown and make a basic year plan of the themes you want to teach. There are plenty of sites that will help you. One I use as a basic guideline for this is Genki English. and from there I adjust things to my own situation.
Try to use songs etc in the lower grades and fun games. As I said there are heaps of sites with info
Another good site for game ideas is
http://jhsenglipediaproject.com/esp2.aspx
and
http://www.sendaiedu.com/elementarypage.html

If you really want some solid guidelines to get you on your feet I recommend this book (although not cheap) its great when you are snowed under!
http://genkienglish.net/joelsbook.htm

Good luck, I hope this helps


Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:37 am
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It depends a lot on how often you have the lessons, as others have said... but for the first few lessons, you'll probably want to focus on getting an idea of what the student's abilities are. If they've been doing lessons once a week, here's a VERY basic idea of what you might expect from them.

1st grade- should be able to say the names of animals, fruits, colors, and foods. Should be able to count to at least ten. Vocabulary practice games such as Karuta will give you an idea of how well they know the vocabulary.

2nd grade- May have been taught to ask and answer simple questions such as "What's your name?" and "How are you?" Using these questions to play a conversation game, such as a name card game or the Gokiburi game, might be a good idea.

3rd grade- Should be able to ask and answer "Do you like ___?" and "How old are you?" If they haven't learned them, they should be able to. Should have a wider vocabulary and could be taught numbers to 100.

4th grade- Might be able to ask "What time is it?" or do months, days of the week, etc. Should be capable of learning questions such as Do you have ___?" "What's your favorite ___?" or some other simple WH questions.

5th and 6th grade- expands on above. Should be able to ask a wide range of questions- can you? do you have? where are you from/ do you live? Might have learned third person- he and she likes, has, etc. Might have some experience with reading, but don't count on it.

Having a yearly curriculum is a huge help in planning lessons- if you can find what your predecessor used it should help you a lot. Otherwise, the Genki English website has an example of a curriculum you could use as a starting point. And keep in mind that even if the students have been taught something once, it's probably been a while since they practiced it. You could probably fill out the rest of the school year with review activities and the kids wouldn't suffer for it at all.


Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:44 pm
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Thanks for those tips kiwione and Maia.

I've just also started reading up on this "eigonote" issue. In HK, they use bilingual textbooks for their studies, and in Japan there is still no nationwide curriculum. It is worrying that for many more years even this current generation will lose out.

Has anyone ever studied or tried to study a foreign language without having any textbooks ? Well, that's the deal it seems with Japanese kids learning English.

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Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:11 am
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That's because the idea is that in the elementary school, they are supposed to be concentrating on communicative English rather than reading and writing. Teaching language without a textbook is hard, but how do you make a textbook without using any writing? That's what they've tried to do with the "English Note" that you mentioned, but the result looks confusing and difficult to use to me.

Whether the principle of "no writing in elementary school" is a good one or not, its what we have to work with. And until now, there has been no nationwide English program in elementary schools- cities decided to use some of their education budget on an English program if they thought it was important. And the amount taught varied depending on how much the city was willing to spend. There was no way to standardize. Even now, though 5th and 6th grade English classes are being standardized, they have to plan the courses knowing that some schools have had an English program in place since 1st grade, while in others this will be the first exposure to English for some students. It's a planning nightmare.

That's why, even though the official text is going to be the "English Note", it won't be mandatory that teachers use it. The students at my school have covered everything in those textbooks before they even get to 5th grade. There has to be some flexibility.


Thu Feb 19, 2009 4:12 pm
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Some good points there. I have also been told more than once that one of the aims for English teaching in ES is for it to be enjoyable/fun (as opposed to accademic?)
Maia wrote:
Whether the principle of "no writing in elementary school" is a good one or not, its what we have to work with. And until now, there has been no nationwide English program in elementary schools- cities decided to use some of their education budget on an English program if they thought it was important.

well, I have had 6th grade teachers asking me to do some writing with their students. Since then I have started putting in a little writing (very simple just to break the ice) in the 6th graders lessons. This will help them as they go into JHS.


Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:02 pm
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Kiwione wrote:
Some good points there. I have also been told more than once that one of the aims for English teaching in ES is for it to be enjoyable/fun (as opposed to accademic?)

...

well, I have had 6th grade teachers asking me to do some writing with their students. Since then I have started putting in a little writing (very simple just to break the ice) in the 6th graders lessons. This will help them as they go into JHS.


That's my understanding. We're supposed to encourage interest in English so that it can be crushed in JHS... :roll:

The truth is, I teach some writing as well- simple spelling games and alphabet practice is usually the most I do, but I agree that it will help in the move to JHS. It seems to me that if the students are interested- and they are- then it's a waste not to capitalize on it. What works in principle doesn't apply to every situation.

I think part of the reason that writing is taboo in the elementary schools is so that it doesn't just become more of the "copy off of the board" kind of language lessons that have been failing at the upper levels for years. They're trying to force people to come up with a new approach. Or that's my theory, anyway.


Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:23 pm
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I don't even get as far as any spelling games! I just sort of introduce them to writing down words (as I only get 1 lesson a month) but I do get them to say the letter out loud as they write it etc.


Fri Feb 20, 2009 4:17 pm
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Quote:
Whether the principle of "no writing in elementary school" is a good one or not, its what we have to work with. And until now, there has been no nationwide English program in elementary schools- cities decided to use some of their education budget on an English program if they thought it was important. And the amount taught varied depending on how much the city was willing to spend. There was no way to standardize. Even now, though 5th and 6th grade English classes are being standardized, they have to plan the courses knowing that some schools have had an English program in place since 1st grade, while in others this will be the first exposure to English for some students. It's a planning nightmare.


I think you hit the word there. If English was taken more important, then there will effort made. What I don't get is that it is obvious that English HAS to be studied to up to High School (well most students do not quit after JHS anymore anymore), and in many cases in colleges and University too. The reason for the latter is the failings in JHS and HS. And probably research shows (the BOE like doing researches themselves) that language learning is best from as early as possible, preferably age 0. Now since all students must go to ES, then it makes at least sense to start all students in language (as in Maths and Japanese etc) from ES grade 1.

OK, resources will be pushed, but it takes time to build up. Starting English from 5th and 6th grade only solves a basic problem. Any parent who knows the world is a bit bigger than their prefecture would start their child as early as possible. So that cannot be avoided. What can be avoided is to give children equal opportunity and access to the same education, and that is from 1st grade. the problems of introducing English from 1st grade is no different from beginning at 5th grade. So for the next few years, children will not be given the equality in English learning, as some parents have decided to take decisions into their own hands and put their children into eikaiwas and jukus.

It is a fundamental failure of the Education system in Japan. It tries to look for a perfect system to implement, but their never will be, and all the time delay is at the expense of the current and even the next generation.

Finally, English itself has not changed much fundamentally since .... Shakespeare's days ......so why is it so hard to incorporate it in a teaching system. Well, a Japanese person told me the reason is because Japan does not have its own language, Japanese is largely from China, it even incorporates imported katakana. So there is a lot of pride at stake. With English and CHinese being the fast growing languages, there seems to be some inferiority complex.

PS 1 - I hope readers will not find my above stance tough, we know the advantages of the usefulness of English being used globally, and so we should allow children to have equal chance for that. There is no difference between a six year old in HK or Singapore or Korea or Japan.

PS 2 : I cannot seem to get the quotes working.

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Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:14 am
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