The Links - everything

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

After reading "The Man Next Door"

Describe some one you have lived with & how they influenced your lifestyle.

When I was going to abroad and study Chinese in Tianjin, China, I have lived with two girls. We have own rooms and share the kitchen, bathroom and living room. One of the girl is Korean-American. She speaks English and Korean a little. Another girl is Korean. They can talk with Korean each other. As I couldn't speak Korean, I had to use Chinese to communicate with them. It gives me many chance to speak Chinese.

The Korean girl was good at cooking. She often took care of me for breakfast and ask me whether I had a break fast or not. She often cooked some steamed rices and Korean pickle. I ate breakfast together with her. After that I need to have a breakfast before going to school or company. Sometimes I couldn't eat something which wanted to eat or couldn't speak Chinese well but these experience influenced my lifestyle.

Posted for Reiko

Monday, 21 July 2014

Workshop No. 5: Class Management & Lesson planning

          My third instalment in a series of reports on the IIEEC Teacher Training Program. I do apologise for such a big wall of text in advance, if any of you are able to go through the ordeal of reading my ramblings I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Class Management & Lesson planning was presented by Naoko Saitio and it's an area of my teaching that I currently wish to develop the most 

         Classroom management is crucial to creating the most optimal learning environment for your students, whilst a solid lesson plan is something every teacher should be equipped with in order to transition between activities smoothly and to avoid spiralling into a state of panic when things don’t quite go how you imagined. This workshop covered how to manage our classes in the most effective manner as well as how to build lessons plans that give the students the motivation and incentive to improve their English. A good lesson does not solely depend on the teaching ability of a teacher, having a successful lesson means that you must be able to plan accordingly and have the ability to stay composed and encourage your students no matter the circumstances. I must confess that classroom management is probably the aspect of my teaching that needs to be improved the most so I listened very intently and was very busy scribbling notes throughout this session.
            We covered several key topics when considering classroom management such as; discipline, praise and motivation, the use of classroom language and also the use of the mother tongue. Let’s start with discipline. It’s usually quite straight forward to spot the “problem” pupils; maybe they prefer to roll around on the floor instead of take part in the lesson or would rather continually blabber on in their native tongue. A good way of avoiding these situations in the first place is to make sure the students are always engaged and focused on the task at hand by having active student centred lessons (a good lesson plan comes in handy here!). However times will arise when you will have to discipline your students, and we were instructed to consider the “good” and “bad” ways of disciplining our students. We should avoid comparing the student’s behaviour to each other’s whilst not continuously scolding a repeat offender as your words will fall on death ears.
            Instead of resorting to scolding students, we can establish a set of classroom rules that outline the teacher’s expectations and what constitutes as acceptable or inappropriate behaviour. The students, as well as their parents, should be made aware of these rules and it is important to remain consistent when enforcing them. Additionally we can have the rules written and clearly displayed in the classroom to serve as a friendly reminder to the students, it is much easier to remind the students, or let them remind each other, what is expected of them rather than having to resort to disciplining them continuously. Telling students off should be kept as a last resort and avoided as much as possible. I always find changing your tone of voice when addressing misbehaving students works wonders, it also doesn’t hurt to arm yourself with a mean glare either.
            As for giving praise, we have to be very careful. If we give too much praise, especially undeservingly, students will begin to ignore praise as it becomes something that is expected and not earned. We were taught the importance of praise to promote motivation, as praise serves as encouragement, whilst being aware of “praise junkies” who become dependent on praise and recognition. By praising each student conditionally and subjectively based on their individual progress we can instil confidence and the desire to challenge themselves. By giving specific praise to individual accomplishments, we can show our students that the praise is genuine and that we are investing a real interest in them and what they are doing. This will lead to intrinsic motivation that comes from within, the students will become more willing to complete tasks and take genuine joy in doing so rather than doing them out of necessity.
            The point I found most interesting about classroom management from this workshop was the use of L1 within the classroom. Japanese parents typically prefer to send their children to classes taught by native speakers and this is reflected in many English schools in Japan primarily hiring native English speakers, with little to no focus on their Japanese speaking ability, due to the demand on behalf of the parents. However if we consider classroom management objectively, most of us will come to the conclusion that economical use of key words in L1 will in fact benefit the students as well as avoiding confusion when understanding the meanings of certain words or phrases. I always make a note to confirm the homework task with my students in L1 to avoid instances with uncompleted homework with the excuse “I didn’t know what to do”.
I am in complete agreement with this stance of teaching young learners, even though I sometimes have a bad tendency in overusing L1 when it comes to introducing a new game or activity. Let’s consider a situation I experienced where the use of L1 helped clear confusion: in one of my classes we were learning the phrase “I like” with items of food, the students came to a reasonable conclusion that the phrase was only associated when talking about things we like to eat as those were the only examples we covered during the lesson. When I asked them whether they like cats or dogs they all responded with looks of distaste and called out in unison “No I don’t!”, even though they regularly comment on how “kawaii” the illustrations from the textbook are. In this instance a quick clarification of “like” = “suki” resolves any confusion whilst minimising interaction in the native tongue. All it takes is picking out the key word from a sentence, not translation everything word for word, for the students to come to a better understanding of the English language.
Following in from the use of the mother tongue we considered the importance of classroom English. There are two types of classroom English that we must be aware of: a teacher’s classroom English and the students’ classroom English. Now hopefully the teacher’s classroom English the students are exposed to are along the lines of “Take out your homework please” and “Close your books”, rather than “Shut up!” or “Stop punching each other!” Classroom language is the most natural form of speaking that can occur within the classroom and should be used at every available opportunity, even if they are not taught as a part of the usual curriculum. Once the students become familiarized with the common expressions it deters the use of L1, there is nothing more infuriating to me than hearing “Nann pergi?” (What page?) for the umpteenth time having repeated “Open you books to page X” several times.  However, through responding to and using classroom language on a regular basis, these expressions will eventually become second nature to young learners allowing them to react automatically to instructions (or as the case may be being told off).
The final point to be covered was creating the ideal lesson plan, no easy feat as there is much to consider. Firstly we must look at the different kinds of lesson plans: long term plan, year plan, unit plan and daily plan. Considering all four of these lesson plans allow us to set realistic short long term goals for our classes and whether or not you and your students are able to reach these goals can also be used for self evaluation. If you were able to hit your target, what were you doing well and how were the students responding to your teaching. In contrast if you were unable to reach your targets you may be able to identify which areas of your teaching need improving or changing.
I was rather encouraged by the fact that my current lesson plans coincided with the suggested daily plan presented in the workshop, although the time I usually spend on the main part of a lesson (i.e new material) exceeded the recommended time allowance by two-fold. I’m unsure whether I am not using class activities efficiently and effectively or my teaching ability is not up to par but I find myself spending 20 minutes or so teaching and practising the main language focus of the lesson. Personally I believe that spending 8-10 minutes on the main part of a lesson is too brief to be able to sufficiently cover the topic and practise for fluency. So as on open question to put forward to those of you reading: How much time do you believe should be spent covering the main language focus of the lesson? Can it really be done in 8-10 minutes or is that an idealistic dream that most teachers may be chasing after for their entire career?
Getting back to the lesson plan as a whole, take careful consideration on how you will approach each lesson. How do you intend to teach the class: drills, group work, pair work, and extra resources such as games or worksheets? What extra resources/material will you need? There’s nothing more panic inducing than realizing halfway through your lesson you don’t have the right. How will transition smoothly between activities? What are your students going to be doing while you prepare for the next activity? Will your lesson be student centred with over 80% speaking time for the students? Or will they be jabbering away about how cool the latest episode of “Yo-kai Watch” was. This is just a brief list of seemingly endless things to consider for each lesson. And let’s not forget an after lesson checklist. How did your students respond? What needs adjusting?  What did your students learn? Mulling over your lesson plans afterwards grants you an opportunity to reflect on how well you managed the class and how you can make improvements to update your lesson plans for the future.
On some occasions however no amount of planning can prepare or save you from unforeseen circumstances that may suddenly spring up. Perhaps over half of your class falls ill, a student slips, falls and bursts into tears or having a busy day at school just takes its toll. Sometimes you have to accept that you cannot be prepared for everything and hope you can act on your feet confidently and automatically when the situation arises.  When I was put in these circumstances early on in my career I wish I had the understanding and hindsight I do now, but it’s the mistakes and bad experiences in which we can learn the most from.
 I feel that I have hugely benefitted from attending this workshop and by consolidating my thoughts onto paper by writing this report. Although my approach to lesson planning may not alter too much, I have gained a better understanding of how to manage my classes more effectively and highlighted my areas of weakness. Hopefully I can take all these and past experiences in my stride to improve myself as a teacher and a human being.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Bride Wore Black - letter from beyond the grave (after reading)

 Imagine Steve could write a 'ghost' letter to Kate...

My dear Kate,

I am sorry to leave you feeling lonely. But when you fell onto the ground next to the grave, I was very glad that I felt your real love for me.

Certainly I am a criminal. I was in prison at the age of eighteen. But my life was changed after I met you! I love you, Kate. You were always singing and laughing. I was always happy to be with you. I never feel you are noisy. If I will be able to be reborn, I want to get marry with you again.

I have a lot of enemies. But I did not notice that Bea deadly hated on me… It was my fault. She was a secretary of my dad, but I should not have invited her for our wedding. I needed to care about her feelings. Don’t blame Bea on my death.

And I was sorry about my mam. As you know, she was not hate on you. She just wanted me to marry her friend, Bea.

I love to see your smile. I want to see your nice smile again. So do not cry any more. You have nice mam and clever young sister. Smile again, Kate!

With real love from heaven,


Ghost written by Mio

Pass the cake, please!

YLEs use Sockpuppet app on iOS to activate a conversational exchange from English Time (OUP textbook) in English class.

Hotel front desk - checking in

Teens practice for that first overnight?!

Where's the bank?

A nearly successful attempt to get uncommunicative junior high school girl/boy to talk to each other! Trying to role play a basic 'in the street' exchange, asking for directions.

Pre-schoolers sing with Sockpuppet!

Want to get the shy ones trying? Use this app & tweak the voice pitch - and use one 'sock' for the group. Guarantee hilarity!

My classroom "What is it" on Sockpuppet

Great way to get kids to sing the song again from their English textbooks! My Wednesday afternoon pre-schoolers took the Sockpuppet bait!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My classroom "What is it" on Sockpuppet

Great way to get kids to sing the song again from their English textbooks! My Wednesday afternoon pre-schoolers took the Sockpuppet bait!

My schooldays

The building of my elementary school used to be the focus of attention as ‘futuristic’ in Nagano.

The heating facility used to the energy of Suwa hot springs. So I had no experience to see a potbelly stove until I entered Junior high school. I didn’t use to take off my outdoor shoes in the school building, although sweeping the floor was very hard. One corner of the building, the school entrance, was covered with a big glass window. It used to be shining and beautiful. Now, the glass is faded, and we can see shoe cupboards through that window. The school provides shoe cupboards for all students near the glass, because outdoor shoes brought mud dirt into the building.

The building was a true square and there were two small gardens in the center. My school used to have an elaborate garden. One used to be made with rocks brought from Yatsugatake mountain, which were made as a small Yatsugatake in shape. The other one used to be a flower garden, full of beautiful colorful flowers.

I used to be in a chorus club from 4th to 6thgrade. My homeroom teacher was a music teacher, and he coached the club. So me and half of my classmates joined this club. Every day, I used to sing songs with club mates after school, including weekends. In the last grade of elementary school, my club won Nagano 1st prize competition. NHK Nagano broadcasted this competition, and I watched this video with my class mates the next day. I was on TV. This was first time to watch myself on TV.


Between the Flags - after reading & I still can't swim!

I don’t like swimming. And I can’t swim the butterfly.

When I was an elementary school kid, I swam every day in our gym class during summer. We practiced mainly crawl and breast stroke, but we had to learn butterfly from the upper grade. We could learn it only for 5 days per season. Our teacher and our classmate who was a member of swimming club taught us. But I could not understand how to move my hands and legs. And there was not enough time for us to practice it.

But the last day, our teacher said “Now let’s swim the butterfly 25 meters without stopping! If you stop, start again.” I tried to swim hard and long time. I thought the goal was very near. But I noticed that I could swim only 10 meters! I was exhausted, and I could not keep swimming. Our teacher looked at me and said “Start again!” I thought my butterfly form was almost drowning, but my best friend was same level. I saw her swimming hard next to me, and I started to swim again. Finally I could swim 25 meters without stopping.

I think it is no problem for me not to be able to swim the butterfly. Because if I find a drowning person, I would swim crawl or breast stroke to rescue her, not butterfly.

Posted for Mio

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A day to remember - trip to see Matilda

Matilda (novel)
Matilda (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In December I went to a musical called Matilda. It was brilliant! I went to the musical with my friend called Misha and her sister Tiana and their mum.

After school, Misha's mum picked me up in her car and we drove to the station. When we arrived at the station, we got on the train and went to the musical. When we arrived, first we had dinner, it was pizza and pasta. After that we went to the musical.

Matilda was very funny and it was very good story. The musical finished about 11 o'clock. We went to the shop and buyed some gift. After that we went home. I will never forget.

Posted for Rui (10)

Summer in Kamikochi - traveller's guide

Kamikochi (Photo credit: dwedelstein)
  • clear blue skies
  • lovely cool days
  • icy cold water
  • beautiful green forest
  • pretty, chirpy birds
  • friendly wild monkeys
  • secretive rare Ptarmigan
  • dangerous black bears
  • shy quiet deer
  • massive tall mountains
Things to do:
  • camping = safe, cheap camp site
  • hiking = enjoyable easy tracks
  • boating = interesting small boats
  • photography = beautiful natural scenes
Posted for Kaoru - who knows a thing or two about Kamikochi!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Workshop No. 4: Getting Maximum Results in Reading While Speaking

        My second in the series of reports I have written after completing the IIECT Teacher Training Program in Tokyo run by Ritsuko Nakata. As always feedback and comments are welcome. This workshop was presented by Naoko Saito & Junko Nakamura, entitled: Getting Maximum Results in Reading While Speaking

        The primal focus of the second workshop was how to develop the reading capability of young learners, an integral part of many young learners’ curriculum. Learning to read is no easy task, especially if you’re limited to 1 hour (or less) classes once per week, hence the significant importance of building a solid foundation by learning the English alphabet, the building blocks to becoming an accomplished reader, and their relation to sounds (or better known as phonics). From the alphabet we can build onto phonics and then progressing onto words and eventually sentences. If there is no foundation everything we build around it will crumble and fall, so it’s very important to get the basic right so learners don’t fall into bad habits early on. It’s also important to note that the students should know the meaning of the words and produce them orally before they attempt reading them. However, even just teaching the basic phonics sounds can be arduous and time consuming. This lead to the development of “MAT Phonics” so that students are able to, so they told us, learn all the sounds of the alphabet in just a few lessons. We were also told that in order to accomplish this successfully the students must already know how to say the alphabet correctly.
            The “MAT Phonics” method begins by teaching the vowel sounds in conjunctions with “MAT Vowel Actions”, these gestures helps young learners remember the short vowel sounds by replicating the shape formed by the mouth when saying these sounds. Next comes the consonant sounds. The consonants are split into four sound groups: “ee”, “e”, “ei” and “Mixed”. Once the consonants are split into their respective groups we implement something called “Phonics Math”, where we subtract the common group sound from the letter sound. For example the letter “b” belongs in the “ee” group and by applying “Phonics Math” we remove the “ee” sound to achieve the “b” phonic sound. Finally we have built our solid foundation and can move onto reading words and sentences by using these phonics sounds alongside some essential key words, some of which cannot be read phonetically (also referred to as sight words) that the students should already know such as; I, you, he, her, they, this, that, yes, no etc.
            Unfortunately I have had neither the time nor the opportunity to fully integrate these methods into my lessons. I have a habit on concentrating too much time on oral communication and not enough time on reading and writing, which is an aspect of my teaching that I want and need to change for the benefit of my students. On the other hand I have tried some of the suggested activities from the workshop, such as cutting up letters to piece together again and tracing the letters of the alphabet in the air with our eyes closed. I am very interested using the “Phonics Math” method but I am slightly weary that the concept may be a bit too difficult to grasp for some of the students. I guess there is only one way to find out.
            Although I did find this workshop useful and insightful, I am still slightly apprehensive about including more time to cover reading and writing skills during lessons. It’s something the students need to be exposed to on a regular basis so that they can progress, but I am fearful that there are not enough minutes in each lesson to cover everything satisfactorily. The MAT method mixes reading and speaking at the same time, and I believe this is the tact I must take to achieve a balance of reading and writing activities within my lesson plans. It is not enough just relying on the textbooks and workbooks as sources for reading and writing practice, I must diverge more from what I have become accustomed to by including supplementary reading resources such as the Oxford Reading Tree series or the Oxford graded readers.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Workshop No.3: Know Yourself, Know Your Students

Over June and July I have participated in the IIEEC-Oxford University Press Teacher Training Certificate Program in Tokyo run by Ritsuko Nakata. For each workshop attended their is an additional task of writing a report. Even though I am not intending to apply for the certificates, as I have no plans of attending all 6 workshops, I thought I would give them a go anyway. Any feedback or comments are very welcome.
Here is the first instalment of the workshop reports: Know Yourself, Know Your Students presented by Miki Sakai.

The focal point of this workshop was the “Multiple Intelligences” (also referred to as MIs, which is something I learnt about whilst completing my TEFL course), understanding the details of the different intelligences and how to apply them effectively within the classroom when teaching young learners. Everybody is said to possess each and every type of the 8 intelligences, albeit in different proportions. Unfortunately, especially in my case, just possessing these MIs does not necessarily make you intelligent. However by understanding the 8 intelligences, we are able to identify our students’ skillset to create appropriate lesson plans that coincide with their learning strengths by catering to their strongest intelligences. For example, a person who possesses strong “Math Logic” (or “Number and Reasoning Smart”) will be better suited to activities involving counting or logical thought, whereas someone who is “Bodily-Kinesthetic” (or “Body Smart”) is more geared towards activities which comprise of gestures and bodily movement. By combining as many of the intelligences as possible during our lessons, we are able to improve our students’ aptitudes for learning English.
It is interesting to note that each of the intelligences can be trained or developed, much like any other skill, meaning we can turn any weakness into strength. Or at the very least develop it to a point where it is no longer considered to be a weakness. The MIs also interact with each other, often in complex ways; they are not so black and white.  Students may be accomplished in many of the intelligences and may respond better to tasks that integrate various skillsets rather than focusing on them individually. People can be intelligent in many different ways and we can come to realize this fact through the MIs.
Even before attending this workshop I have always made a point of having variety in my classroom by trying new fun and invigorating activities as often as possible. Sure it’s great to have a little structure and routine as well, but as we all know young learners can be quick to lose interest in repetitive activities, which can lead to a dull and mundane classroom environment. Having attended the workshop, I now understand the importance of respecting my students’ proficiency in the different intelligences, not just the intelligences I am most comfortable and familiar with, in order to incorporate activities that focus on my students’ capabilities as well as providing flexible lesson plans that utilizes the MIs that the students are most skilled with whilst also developing their weaker intelligences.
Now comes the important part, applying what I have learnt from the workshop into my classroom. From previous experiences I have found that a majority of students tend to be visual learners, meaning that many of my classes include activities that revolve around the “Spatial” intelligence. I like to use props and items of realia as visual aids where possible in place of flashcards and promote associating gestures with words or phrases, even if some may not seem all that conventional. Students respond much better when presented with a visual stimulus when introducing new vocabulary, whilst the gestures can serve as prompts for when the students are unable to recall a word or phrase. I have also found that at times students are able to remember the gesture associated with the word instead of the word itself, although this doesn’t mean they have learnt and memorized the words completely I still view this as progress nonetheless.
Songs and chats are also a fantastic way of involving many of the MIs at once, it also gets the students motivated and energised whilst allowing them to express themselves with their bodies. There are such a multitude of songs to choose from it’s sometimes hard to decide what to use! I tend to go with songs that allow the students to express their individual creativity while interacting interpersonally with their peers. One of my favourite songs to perform is “5 little monkeys” from Knock Knock English. It combines the “Verbal Linguistic”, “Math Logic”,  “Bodily-Kinesthetic”, “Musical”, “Interpersonal” and (to a lesser extent) “Naturalist” intelligences in just 1 activity. There is even a video version available on the “Super Simple Songs” YouTube channel that would then additionally include the “Spatial” intelligence. This song also gives me the opportunity to work on my monkey impression, which always gets a great reaction from my students. Some of my students probably think it’s TOO realistic.

All in all I found this workshop constructive and beneficial towards my personal development as an English teacher, especially for young learners. As well as learning about the MIs in more detail than I had previously, the workshop gave me the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and teaching techniques which I will be adding to my ever growing repertoire.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A nice song despite blurty boy - any advice?

Having a bit of a problem with 'blurty boy', who challenges every single thing I say, usually at decibels that would make a modern F1 car blush. Issues his own, contrary, edicts...continues a train of thought commentary on what he (and everyone else) is doing (or not doing), how much better he is at doing whatever it is we are doing, and that he has finished first etc.

If we throw in nose-picking, banging chairs, slouching, well-developed line of off-colour (L1) language & a weak bladder...well, I am struggling for a practical approach. Some days, it's just too hot or we've got an unexpected newbie in the class; that extra 5 minutes for 'focus, visualise the steps, have everything you are going to need to hand' evaporated and now I look daft trying to find the right track on the wrong CD. And so on. Oh, of course forgot to bring his own colour pencils & instead trashes mine/prevents anyone else from sharing nicely.

I'm amazed we managed to get this lovely little song squared away without getting shouty - think a tribute to the girls' patience and overwhelming niceness of the rest of the class members.

What do you do with alpha males in your YLE classes? Would love to know!

After reading about a wedding...The Bride Wore Black

Last autumn, my younger sister married and had a wedding.

In Japan, a bride and broom serve all guests delicious meal and give them entertainment in their wedding party. So, the bride and broom need to consider/arrange various issues/goods before wedding party.

I did a part-time job in wedding party for almost 2 years and my younger sister also arranged various issues with me and my advice.

My younger sister spend hard time before her wedding party, but on the day, she enjoyed her wedding party very much. I was very glad to see her happy smile and also enjoyed her wedding party very much and laughed all day.

Not just the wedding party of my younger sister, a wedding party always feel me happy and can hope truly that the bride and broom (sic) have a happy life.

Posted for Ritsuko

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My idyllic place - after reading "Double Trouble"

There is a place, which is called, "Takabocchi" tableland in Shiojiri.

You can take Road 20 from the center of Shiojiri by car, and make turn to the East. After making turn, the road is going to be narrow and winding. The road to get Takabocchi tableland is not so far, but as the road is wild, you may feel nervous, and may think the road is finishing.

After 10 to 15 minutes, the view will be clear, and it's the Takabocchi tableland.

In summer time, you can see pastured cattle. When you walk to the South, you can see Suwako lake in your below view and Fuji mountain if you are lucky. When you walk to the North, you can see North Alps mountains. The bank of clouds is near you and move fast. The contrast of white clouds and blue sky is brilliant. The temperature is cooler than city area, and wind is fresh. In August, there is horse race. It's not so big festival, but you can hear foot sound of horses, and can see the exciting race so close.

I like the place because the color is beautiful, and clear air refreshes me. However, I don't think I want to live there because winter is too hard to live. The road is closed during winter, so I don't really know how hard it is, but it must be cold and heavy snow. Although it's hard in winter, I definitly recommend there to refresh your mind in summer.

Posted for Yumi

Monday, 30 June 2014

After reading "Shopping for Trouble" - Describe your very best friend, and explain why you stick together.

My mother and her mother are good friend. So I and my best friend have known from we were 4 or 5 years old. But we have been best friend from we became adult. Of course we were good friend from we were children.

I don’t know why we became best friend. I think one of reason is we like same artist.

From ten more years ago, we go to their concert every New Year’s holiday. And we stayed same hotel room two or three days. I find I don’t care about my life style when I stay with her. And I don’t care about her life style, too. So I feel comfortable with her. We only can meet twice or three times every year. But we can understand each other.

One day, I understood she felt uncomfortable about her friend. She said nothing. But I could understand. After few years, I said to her about this. She was surprised, and she became smile. I think she understand me, too. If we say nothing when we stay together, we don’t care. And we don’t feel uncomfortable.

My sister said to me, “Your friend is always looks like her.”

Posted for Yuri

Trattoria Gallery Matsumoto - Tetsu Yamashita Paper Quilt Exhibition

Tetsu Yamashita Paper Quilt Exhibition is going to be held at Trattoria Gallery Matsumoto from July 7th to August 25th. 

“Paper Quilt” is Tetsu Yamashita’s original art work. At first he makes colorful small parts which he cuts out of paper, and sticks them onto a paper. It requires incredible patience and delicate work. At first sight, it is difficult to recognize that it is a paper cut work, but it is. His motif is Africa. When he was younger, he was interested in Africa, and he studied African language in Africa. After that he traveled around 5 countries in Africa. He was inspired by African culture, nature, people and animals. He presents them by colorful sensitive cutting art work.

I really recommend you to see these brilliant art works up close. You can find exotic power in these sensitive works. You can also enjoy fabulous Italian pizza, pasta and so on in the gallery restaurant. Having good food whilst appreciating art will be a special time for you.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Let's get physical - the alphabet coming to life

Alphabet 03
Alphabet 03 (Photo credit: Leo Reynolds)
As we all know, the alphabet is an integral part for anybody learning English. I mean how else will they learn to read and write otherwise. Of course communication is just as, if not more in my opinion, important and should never be neglected as it seems to be in many Japanese school classrooms. Now it's no short and easy task teaching your students to become proficient readers, else I would probably be out of a job! But building a strong foundation and getting to grips with the alphabet at an early age will hugely benefit your students' ability to recognise and read letter combinations and eventually words and sentences in the future.

There are a plethora of activities, exercises and tools for learning the alphabet and it can at times be difficult in choosing what's best for your students. As I teacher I endeavour to have as much variety during lessons as possible so that the classroom is an exciting and fun learning environment. Recently I have added another activity to my arsenal of tools to teach the alphabet; using our whole bodies to recreate letters of the alphabet. I know that this may not be the most original activity but I regret not trying it sooner once I realized how enthralled my
students became with the activity.

Some teachers like to do this activity by marking out letters on the floor using tape as guidelines, but unfortunately we don't have the luxury of spacious classroom at "new Luna". However this is not necessarily a bad thing is it allows more scope for ingenuity and creativity amongst the students.

I have found that some students tend to take a much more active role than others, essentially becoming group leader and making sure the others stay in place and are not rolling around on the floor in a fit of giggles. Takasumi is the biggest culprit of either lapsing into fits of laughter or doing his best whale impression and proving immovable, whilst on the other Rin and Ruka are struggling to put him into place! This activity allows the students to learn the importance of teamwork as well giving them a chance to get out of their seats and get physical.

After reading "Deadly Holiday" - Write about a trip you made with them when you were afraid.

Is there someone you know who drives badly?

I traveled to Los Angeles with my friends to meet our classmate of high school. It was second visit to LA but it was difficult to catch what they are speaking. My friend lived a small city near LA. She took us to go to a lot of place by her car. One day we went to the outlet stores where placed between LA and Las Vegas. In the way going back to her room, we talked a lot of things and she found she was going to be missed the gate to get out the highway. She turned the handle to right side suddenly and all of us in the car was floated. I felt I was going to die when I was floated!

Posted for Reiko

Friday, 27 June 2014

After reading "The Man Next Door" - student digs

Describe where you used to live as a student

I used to live in Tokyo for four years when I was a college student. It was the first time and only time to live away from my parents, but I was not lonely since I lived in the college’s dormitory.

There are about one hundred students who came from other prefectures. The dormitory was built in the area of the college, so it was very convenient to go to the college. I was happy as I didn’t need to ride the crowed trains.

When we were freshman, we had to share a room with other student. My flatmate was from Osaka. She was very smart and active. In addition, she liked to talk and go out a lot. I didn’t like her, but in fact, I was a little bit no match for her as I like to spend the time by myself. Fortunately, she had many chances to stay the nights in her relatives. Therefore, I could keep the good relationship with her.

After that, we were given each room. It was very narrow, but very comfortable to live. Drinking was prohibited in the dormitory, but sometimes I bought some alcohols with my friends and had the small parties in the room. The dormitory curfew was 9:50 pm which was too early, but I enjoyed the college life in Tokyo as much as I could.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

After reading "Stranger Danger"...hiking memoirs

Write about a hiking trip you made when you were young.

In Mastumoto, it is very popular activity to go hiking during the junior high school years. The destination depends on school, but I went to Kamikouchi for hiking and camping when I was in the first year at my junior high school. We went to there by bus and arrived in the noon. In the afternoon, we walked around the field to see some ponds there. It was a summer activity, but it was very cold there.

We had to cook by ourselves, so we packed food in our backpack. Our group brought a watermelon as a dessert after dinner. We put the watermelon in the river as soon as we arrived there. Our teacher cut it for us and we could share it with everyone in our class. It tasted really good and the most delicious one in my life.

In the night, we watched the stars before we sent to sleep in the tent. The sky was full of stars which were brighter than what I had seen in my town. I felt it was even nearer to me. Watermelon and starts are my good memory of hiking.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

After reading "The Secret in the Farmhouse"...

The boys make the front page of the local newspaper. Write the dramatic article.

Brave Four helped police! 

 The local police office has been looking for the stolen goods in the town. They could not find out anything until those four kids gave the great hint.

The four kids came to the town for their school trip this week and discovered the stolen goods in the old farmhouse during orienteering. They saw the robbery at the old farmhouse and remembered the car number. The photo taken by a girl helped the police as well. She always carries her camera and takes a lot of photos. She could have a confident with her photo and will be a good photographer in future.

A boy had been in a trouble and was not a good student, but he changed his mind through this school trip. He realized he is not alone and he had good friends. They discussed how they should address this issue and decided what they should do next. They helped each other and showed a really good team work to solve this case. After the robbers were arrested, those kids got lots of reward money.

They have decided to donate money to help young people who are now in a trouble. What wonderful kids! We can say the robbery would not be arrested without brave four kids.

Posted for Tomoko

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

After reading "Death at Hadrian's Wall"...

 Explain how to put up a tent, and to make sure you do not get wet during the night.

When setting up a tent, it is important to find a flat area that is relatively high to ensure that you will not get wet if it rains. It is also important to clear the area free from stones and branches that could pierce or chafe your tent. It may be good to use some dry branches as a broom to sweep the area.

Now it's ready to set up your tent. When you pull out all the items out of the tent bag, make sure you have them in front of you neatly so you don't get confused.

Place down the four corners of the inner tent and spread them out so the base part is on the ground. Peg each corner to the ground and make a nice square by pegging each opposite corner in turns.

Next, assemble the poles and run them through the sleeves to give the tent a shape. Make sure you know which poles are for which section, and the ends of each pole have to be stuck firmly into the fastenings.

You also need to hook up the outer tent but I’m running out of space. Hope you read the instructions carefully and have some nice rest in your cosy tent.

Posted for Nobuyuki

Transformers - student becomes teacher

Recently we were asked if we could provide a 'non-teacher' speaker for a high school-aged class, and from a 'different' background. We immediately asked Rukshini...

This young lady's English is tremendous, and she is a wonderful ambassador for Sri Lanka (who, as I write, are giving England a cricketing lesson at Headingley!). She is also a poster girl for everything that is wrong with Japanese education...unable to get into uni (here) despite her academic talent, worldly perspective, driven nature and obvious smarts...having bashed her brains out all the way through JHS & HS and catching Jim's attention within seconds about 5 years ago.

Destined for great things - with FCE
"For the first time in my life, I had opportunity to speak in front of a class at M school, not as a student. I was nervous full of doubts. How are they going to react? What if I say something goes wrong?
It's so much easier to be the student!
Preparations for the presentation well. I had a lot of advice and I was adamant to try my best. It was fun to do all the planning from a different perspective , get the new ideas but the real job lay ahead.
The few minutes before the class, I was shaking, but the moment I started talking the tension vanished. I was actually enjoying myself. It was more like a conversation than a speech. Ms R was very supportive asking questions and encouraging the students.

My theme was to speak about life in Sri Lanka and Japan. How do I see things as a foreigner in Japan, things I've learned...So I was eager to talk. There is so much to tell and it kept me going. The students were shy, but I could tell they were interested. 

In the second period, we had a Sri Lankan tea-time and questions from each student. I had to think back on some of them. “What surprised me most in Japan?"
To tell the truth, there were too many !

At the end of the class some students even thanked me ��
I know how difficult it is to learn a language, especially if it has nothing interesting. You need the spark, that desire to learn....and I wonder if I had given them that spark..

So, it's easy to be student but it's thrilling to be a teacher!

I am no longer nervous. I could say I got over the fence. I'm quite looking forward to the next one, and thanks to Luna for providing me this wonderful opportunity ��"

Monday, 23 June 2014

After reading "The Show Must Go On"

Write about your contribution to a play/performance from behind the scenes

My mother teaches the piano and Koto (Japanese traditional instrument). She gives a music recital for her students every year. Almost students join the recital and they play in front of audience.

When she gave the recital last year, I helped her. I announced player’s name and their message before they played. That was my first time to try indoor announcer. Before the recital started, I felt nervous. But when the recital started, I didn’t feel that. I tried to speak slowly and clearly. And I enjoyed the being indoor announcer. Each player was more nervous than me. So I tried to being smile.

I think if the announce has a lot of mistake, the player felt more nervous. And they couldn’t play well. But it was difficult to say each player’s name. Sometimes their name was difficult to say clearly.
I think my announcement was good! I did not play the piano, but I felt I join the recital.

I will try to be indoor announcer this year, too. So I try to practice I pronounce clearly. I think this year’s announce is better than last year!

Posted for Yuri

Sunday, 22 June 2014

After reading "The Bride Wore Black" - a 'Dear John' letter from a ghost

Dear Kate,

I'm sorry that I leave you alone. I wish I could live together with you.

Please don't forget one thing. I was happy after I met you. Your are so kind and beautiful. I was the happiest man in the world to marry you!

I have a request for you. I want you to live happy for future. If you will meet nice man, you can marry him without considering me.
I hope you spend wonderful time.

Don't forget I'm always around you.


Posted for Miyuki

Saturday, 21 June 2014

After reading "The Bride Wore Black" - tell us about a wedding you've been to

I went to wedding on February 8th. It was heavy snowing that was record. To go wedding of venues, I wore rain boots. While driving, it was keeping snowing.. When I arrived at venues, car park had been covered snow. Everything was white.

The wedding ceremony was delayed due to the heavy snow. The parents of groom could not arrived on time. The ceremony was scheduled to start from 12 o'clock but a lot of people include the parents could not come by the time. I waited a hour and the wedding party started without the parents of groom. There was only few people for groom. He felt lonely and his speech was sad. Eventually, his parents and his friends arrived. The groom face became happy. The friends prepared video letter for the bridal couple.

The beginning was not good but finally the wedding was nice and happy.

Finished wedding, my car was buried by snow.. I dig snow to rescue my car..

Posted for Miyuki

Friday, 20 June 2014

After reading "Shopping for Trouble" - shopaholic confessions

Why do you love shopping? What is the best store/place for you, and why? If you hate shopping, what is the worst store/place for you, and why?

I love shopping. My best store is Marayka which is in a mall called " I City". Marayka is an import shop from Southeast Asia and Africa. I bought some jewellery, like bracelets and necklaces, lamp, and wood carvings etc before. I can relieve my stress to buy something I like.
And I feel comforted that I am just in this store !

Posted for Mio

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Twister in the classroom? - Not just for parties!

A blast from the past
Most of you will be very familiar with the game Twister, but have you ever considered it as a fun and interactive teaching tool? My students (and I'm sure yours do too!)  love to play games, just a mention of the word "game" during lessons perks everyone's interest.

Twister is a great activity for in many ways, first of all it gets the students out of their seats and moving around. Always great for shaking off those undesired yawns. The game also focuses on recognising colours, alongside interpreting and following simple instructions whilst also making sure not fall over with limbs flailing everywhere.

Head on red, bums to the sky!
You can adapt this classic game by using your own instructions, catered to the needs and curriculum of each class, in place of the rather boring and limiting Twister spinner. You can use the different body parts you have studied in textbooks or come across in songs, even get the students to stand or sit on the colours instead. I have to admit it's, quite the sight when you call out "Head on red!". Lots of falling over and plenty of laughter.

Confusion in the ranks
Another idea I have been meaning to try out is writing the alphabet over the coloured circles, or maybe even attach vocabulary flashcards. I still haven't quite worked out a creative and reliable way of keeping the flashcards in place during gameplay. I don't think trusty old blu-tak is going to be able to stand up to the challenge and come to my rescue this time. It's always inevitable that in the heat of the game that the flashcards will go flying everywhere when students are rushing to be the first player to reach the coloured circle. So any ideas or recommendations for attaching flashcards to the Twister board, without damaging the board for future use, will be greatly appreciated.

So why not expand your horizons and give Twister a try, not only as a fun game to play when you're bored but a teaching tool to aid your students' learning.

All smiles :)
"Play dead"

Friday, 6 June 2014

Spacing out!

Just because we are packing everything up into boxes before the big move doesn't mean we can't still have loads of fun!

We actually found loads of things we haven't seen or used for a couple of years - sure, they needed some dusting...but all new stuff for most of our little learners. We also needed to 'do something different' because the things we really want to use have been packed "high priority" ready to use as soon as we have moved into the new place. Will we be able to find them though?!

Hope you enjoyed the last flickers of fun from our large classrooms...we can assure you little Luna next to Big Boy will be a Tardis, just like Dr. Who's...much bigger on the inside and full of exciting adventures!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Exhibition in Trattoria Gallery Matsumoto

 From May 22nd to Jun 7th, we are having the exhibition of Bolormaa Baasansuren in the Gallery. Bolormaa Baasansuren is a budding Mongolian illustrator. Recently she was awarded some international prizes and she has published about 10 picture books in Japan. The theme of her pictures is mainly about traditional Mongolian life and nature in huge fields of grass in Mongolia. She draws Mongolian’s spirit really delicately and finely. Her hand works are amazing and touching. The colors are also interesting. She tries to express Mongolian traditional colors in her pictures. I recommend seeing them with your own eyes.

 You can also enjoy fabulous Italian pizza, pasta and so on in the gallery restaurant. Having good food whilst appreciating art will be a special time for you.

Friday, 30 May 2014

In a tree? On the ground? Under the ground? - Where does it grow?

Jungle in the classroom
The weather is hotting up and some of you may be keeping yourselves busy by tending to your garden and getting your green fingers dirty. As some of you may know back in March we ran a workshop where some able and willing volunteers planted a collection of seeds in the hopes of seeing them flourish after a rather cold and harsh winter. In fact one of the plants has grown to about the same size as some of our younger students! As these plants have proved to spark wonder and curiosity into my students I took them as inspiration to include more nature based activities within the classroom.
Enjoying the sunshine

Ideally I would love to have a huge garden where we could grow lots of different plants, especially fruit and vegetables as they are a very common topic within a young learner's curriculum. Plus we could always eat them when we get hungry during class.

Is that a mouse?
Rather than dwelling on the fact that we are inhibited by a lack of gardening space me and my students turned instead to the next best thing. Our imaginations! Always a great alternative when things won't quite go your way. Instead of actually planting fruit and vegetables we took on the task of illustrating where some of the fruit and vegetables we've learnt in class would grow if we had the means to grow them.

Now some students took this activity more seriously than others, some intentionally drawing potato trees and mice nibbling at the underground bananas. However it did prove to be a fun and productive activity where we could practise prepositions, our writing skills and fruit and vegetables vocabulary as well as test the students' critical thinking and logical reasoning.

We will be looking to expand our flower pot garden, with lots more surprises to come. Maybe even adding a caramel plant to the collection. Or even the proverbial money tree. What will you be growing in your garden this year?

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After reading "Stranger Danger"

My hiking trip...

There was customs around my county to go hiking when I was elementary school student. At fifth grade, I went to a camp place where is located in East of Nagano prefecture.

The first day, we learned how to use saw by cutting wood actually. A bird expert taught us what kind of birds were in the forest and head their actual voice.

After we learn about forest, we divided 6 or 7 parties, and built up tent. This is the time to make team work, and grow self-initiative.
Some members of the party built tent and others went to fetch branch to lit fire for cooking. All parties made curry. Some parties cooked rice over, and some parties made light taste curry. All task was fresh and fun for me.

The next day, we had a game, called orientation. Each team gets a map, and find points which are located in the map. After they find all points, they go to goal. The faster team to go to goal is the winner. My team had a nice team work and could win the first prize.

It was fun camping, and I could learn team work.

Posted for Yumi