Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teaching in Japan #2

Today, I'll focus on teaching at an elementary school as an ALT. This is the busiest of the three ALT positions, but it's the most rewarding in a way as well as the one with the most freedom to teach how you please. That also makes it rather difficult considering you have to make all the lesson plans.

I'll begin with the basics. Classes at an elementary school are 45 minutes long with a ten minute break between classes. Normally, there is a quick morning recess between second and third period as well as an afternoon recess between lunch and fifth period. These classes require a lot of energy. It's about 90% energy, 9% preparation and 1% dealing with random issues that arise in class. You need to be bouncy with a booming voice because the kids feed off of your energy. If you trudge into class, they won't get into it. No matter how fun 'should' be.

Next, I'll give you the basic outline of my elementary school lesson plan, then give details to each part. Though, each part is not set in stone depending on the topic, and how many times we have done the topic. Normally each topic has four lessons: Introduction > Expansion > Practice > Happyo (kind of like a mini presentation of what they've learned). Though, some topics require 5 lessons and some only 3.
-The introduction is where we introduce the new topic and play a lot of games with it.
-The expansion is where we review the previous lesson, then build on it before using it in a game.
-The practice is where we review both topics, play a quick review game in the middle and then prepare them for the Happyo.
-The happyo is where each student gives their presentation. Generally, they practice a bit at the start. If time allows, a generic game can be used to refill their energy. It's best if the game is related to the next topic though.

The basic outline - Introduction:
1 min Greetings (Sometimes takes longer)
3 min Songs (Sometimes takes longer)
5 min chants (Sometimes shorter)
2 min ABC writing (Use a timer)
1 min Review
5 min Introduce new vocabulary and have students check meaning
5 min Introduce new grammar and have students check meaning
2 min Interview game using new grammar and vocabulary
2 min Practice new grammar again
1 min Use grammar in a fun way to interact with students
2 min Practice new grammar yet again
3 min Quick game to use new vocabulary
3 min Quick game to use new grammar
10 min Main game or activity

The basic outline - Expansion
1 min Greetings
3 min Songs
2 min Chants
2 min ABC writing
2 min Review previous vocabulary
2 min Review previous grammar
1 min Interview game with reviewed grammar
2 min Review previous grammar again
5 min Introduce new grammar and have students check meaning
5 min Interview game with new grammar
2 min Practice new grammar again
1 min Use new grammar the same as last time to interact with students
2 min Practice new grammar again
15 min Main game

The basic outline - Practice

1 min Greetings
3 min Songs
2 min Chants
2 min ABC writing
2 min Review previous vocabulary
4 min Review previous grammar
2 min Interview game with reviewed grammar
2 min Review previous grammar
10 min Main game (sometimes shorter)
10 min Prepare for happyo
7 min Practice happyo

The basic outline - Happyo

1 min Greetings
3 min Songs
2 min Chants
2 min ABC writing
2 min Review previous vocabulary
4 min Review previous grammar
1 min Example happyo
5 min Practice happyo
3 min Practice race
2 min Practice happyo
20 min Happyo

Those are the basic outlines for the four lessons. But what do they mean?

Greeting is simple: The students stand and bow.
-Good morning/afternoon, everyone. > Good morning/afternoon Travis-sensei.
-How are you? > I'm fine, thank you, and you? > I'm wonderful today!
-How's the weather? > It's sunny.
-What's today's date? > It's Friday, December 25th
-What's up? > Studying English!
-Then they sit down.

Songs: Depends on the lesson and the monthly assembly song, but sometimes we can have fun with it. I actually had my kids singing "The Fox" for a while lol.

Chants: Depends on the lesson, but I use something called the Nori Nori chants, which are awesome.

ABC writing: This takes a lot of your time, but I made how to write the ABCs books for all my students, so every day they have a chance to practice and at the start of every class, as well.

Review: Just repeating something from the previous lesson to make sure they remember it and are saying it correctly.

Introduce new vocabulary: Using picture cards with the English words written across the bottom, You reveal the card and see if anyone knows what it is. If they do, they'll shout it out within a few seconds. Don't waste time quizzing them. Then repeat each word 3 times. Ask if anyone knows the Japanese for the word and have one student stand up and tell everyone what the word is in Japanese. Then repeat 2 more times. Do this for all vocabulary. Because of this, I'd avoid using much more than 10 new vocabulary per lesson, though sometimes it can't be helped.

Introduce new grammar: Using the picture cards, you use the grammar to create a sentence. First you ask if anyone knows what it means. If they don't, then you add gestures and try to make it easy for them to understand. A last resort is to have your JTE or you yourself translate the meaning for them. Then you have them repeat the grammar part only 3 times followed by saying it 1 time with each picture. After that, you repeat the grammar part 2 times and 1 more time with each picture.

Interview game: Using a timer, set two minutes on the clock after doing a demonstration with yourself or your JTE. Basic: Hello > Hello > Grammar sentence > Grammar sentence > Goodbye > Goodbye > Find another person. Tell them to get as many people as they can within the time ask them at the end how many people they talked to. Then ask them how many of them talked to you and see if you won or if they won.

Repeat each grammar: Repeat each grammar sentence one more time.

Using the grammar in a fun way: This can be anything. From a class poll to a walking around the classroom and picking up something off of a student's desk and asking another student, is this your pencil case? Just something to show the students how to use the grammar and that they can have fun with it.

The two small games will depend on the lesson. Sometimes it's 1 medium game and 1 large game or just 1 super large game. But this can be anything from the keyword game to the bomb game to the interview game with Janken-Zombies. Just something to have them practice in a fun way.

The main game is what your goal of the lesson is shooting for. It's to help the students compete to use the grammar to win the game. This will take up 99% of your preparation time.

Preparing for the happyo and the happyo: You tell the students that they have to use the grammar and the things they've been saying in the interview game, to make their own little speech in front of the classroom. Sometimes, it is done by groups. Sometimes, it is done within groups. Depends on the lesson. 90% of the time, you will have the speaker say Hello > and have the class respond Hello. Then they will say their name: My name is Travis > then you have the class use one of the grammar points. After that, the student gives their speech and ends with: Thank you. The class claps, and the next student comes up. So you let the students think about their topic and help them with pronunciation to make sure they get it right.

Practicing for the happyo: Kids repeat the parts that don't change. Then you have them repeat while filling in the blanks two times. Then you have them stand up and read their happyo three times before sitting back down. Finally, they repeat while filling in the blanks one more time.

Happyo race: This is where the kids of a row or column compete to see which one is fastest. The first person stands up and reads his happyo, when he sits down, the next person stands and reads theirs until it reaches the end. I do from the front to the back. From the wall to the window. From the back to the front. And last from the window to the wall.

That's the basics of teaching a class and preparation. Later on, I'll go over some more specific details.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for reading,

Next: As an ALT at a junior high school 

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