The Links - everything

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Making a mobile - butterfly flutter

"This is fun!"
In a bid to brighten up the classroom a little more, Ceilidh and Koutarou gave a helping hand in creating a butterfly mobile to hang up in the classroom (it was also another excuse to bust out the paint brushes and get our fingers dirty!).  We used folded card to draw on 1 wing, then by the magic of mathematics we were able to cut out perfectly symmetrical butterflies with half the work.

Following on from the symmetry theme, instead of painting these butterflies willy-nilly, we painted a pattern onto 1 wing of each butterfly with the intent of pressing the wings together while the paint was still wet to transfer our patterns over onto the opposite wing. It took a couple of attempts before the idea of painting only 1 wing sunk in, while some patterns transferred better then others.

Pressing the wings together
The class was also disturbed by Jim’s ALS ice bucket challenge, which meant we didn’t have the time to assemble the mobile during class. On the other hand, we did get to tip ice cold water all over Jim!

The mobile is now complete and on display by the window, with the butterflies fluttering merrily in the breeze. They can now serve as a reminder to the prospect of spring and sunshine when the cold winter months set in.

The finished product

Monday, 1 September 2014

After reading Rip Van Winkle...Nanako predicts 2034

Happy graded reader!
This is what I think I will see if I wake up after a 20-year sleep!

In people's houses...all the things have 3D screens, like your TV and computers. If you say "Lights on", the lights will come on.

In people's can go to work by a clean bus for free. People wear 3D shirts, and everybody prints their own clothes. You can decide the colour & design and everything on your computer. Life will be better.

In the way people work...some people work at home using their computers and the internet. People work more, because they do it at home - mums can work.

In what people do in their free-time...they can go to space for $1. People will play other new sports and you can do sports in the house with a special helmet. 

I would like to go the future now, cos. I want to see what I will be doing right now. I will not be married, and I will be a doctor in America and in Japan too.  My brother will be married, living in America and be a doctor too. My dad will be retired. My mum will be a normal mum, living in a small house in Matsumoto.

Nanako (7).

Can you do the vocabulary games on Quizlet for this story? Have a try!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

Damian's ALS ice bucket challenge

Damian's guerilla style ALS ice bucket challenge, storming the castle grounds with buckets of ice cold water for a very good cause.
Remember you can either donate some money to us (which we will be forwarding on ourselves) or donate directly at at

phonics; Masa. Long/short /u/

Created with Sock Puppets for iPhone and iPad.

At the supermarket

Created with Sock Puppets for iPhone and iPad.

I can't find my mum (Kaede/Daiya)

Created with Sock Puppets for iPhone and iPad.

Jim's Ice Bucket challenge

Thank you Steve Bond & Katie Malins for nominating me; proud to revisit Rag mentality! ALS a very worthy cause no matter how many of these you have seen - cough up a coin for charity please. Trevor Joseph, Anthony Hogan & Patrick Jackson are my nominees: get wet gents!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mobile phones - a great invention?

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...
The not so complete mobile phone evolution
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Almost everybody has a mobile phone. But is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.
First I would like to introduce some advantages. Firstly, a mobile phone enables us to contact our friends anywhere. We can meet friends even if we don't set the meeting place specifically in advance. Secondly, we can search a lot of things by using the Internet. We can search and get information when we want to. Thirdly, a mobile phone has a high definition camera. A mobile phone makes it easier for everybody to enjoy taking or sharing photos and movies.
On the other hand, there are also disadvantages. For instance, we are spending too much time with a mobile phone. We use it with no purpose to kill time and sometimes we spend a few hours a day by surfing the net. Also, a mobile phone is not good for your eyes. Watching a small display definitely damages your eyes. In addition, some crimes happen by using a mobile phone.
In conclusion, I believe a mobile phone is a great invention and it has changes our lives dramatically. It is true that is sometimes causes bad effects. However, if we take care of the way to use it, it's a very useful and safe tool for us.


Almost everybody has a mobile phone. But is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.
The first advantage is that people can contact other people easily anywhere, anytime they want. Secondly, they can use the internet to check something, book a hotel and buy something online. The current mobile phone can do almost everything. Thirdly, in case of emergence, they can use it to call.
On the other hand, there are also disadvantages. For example, people need to pick up their phone or get messages even if they take their holiday. Also, it is bad for their eyesight. We get addicted too easily a lot of using mobile phones.
In conclusion, there are some disadvantages, but the mobile phone is a great invention. I think that people need to think about how to use the mobile phones themselves.


Almost everybody has a mobile phone. But is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.
I think mobile phone is very useful item. Firstly, we can always contact with our friends. In an emergency, we can call the police easily by it. Secondly, everywhere anytime we can research everything by Internet. If you went out with your girlfriend, your mobile phone would recommend a nice café. So it is a nice item.
On the other hand, I think mobile phones are dangerous. For example, we can receive call or e-mails from our office or business. So, we can't relax on holiday. Some people get crazy about mobile games and lose creative or family time.
In conclusion, the balance is important. It is very good items with good use.


Almost everybody has a mobile phone. But is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.
The first advantage is that we can use our mobile phones anywhere and anytime. Secondly, we can use many functions with mobile phones like e-mail, photos and listening to music. Thirdly, incase we are in trouble, we can call our family or emergency call (110, 119, etc)
On the other hand, there are also some disadvantages. For instance, we also have a chance to get annoyed with unexpected calls. in addition, we must keep the battery on charge all the time!
To sum up, we need to switch off this great invention at least while we are asleep.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Kamikochi information requested

English: Kamikochi in Matsumoto, Nagano prefec...
Kamikochi in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture, Japan  上高地   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Kamikochi is about 40km west of Matsumoto.  It is one of the most beautiful mountain parks in Japan. There is a beautiful green forest, an icey cold river, waterfalls, beautiful old lakes, and massive tall mountains, many over 3,000 meters high.

There is a lot of wildlife in Kamikochi. There are friendly wild monkeys, secretive rare Ptarmigan, dangerous black bear and shy quiet deer. There are also pretty chirpy birds.

Our summers are lovely and cool, with clear blue skies. You can go camping in safe cheap camp sites and hiking along easy enjoyable tracks. You can go boating in interesting small boats, and  take photographs of beautiful natural scenes.

In winter, there is heavy snow, with good snow-shoeing spots. 

I hope this information is useful for you.

Best wishes, 

Tomoro's summer holiday report

English: Mount Jōnen from_Mount_Akaiwa 日本語: 赤岩...
Mount Jōnen from Mount_Akaiwa 赤岩岳から望む常念岳 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In my short summer holiday I went to climb a 2986m mountain called Jonendake with my mum. It was very easy to climb because it wasn't so high. At the top of the mountain we took some photos of the beautiful mountain scenery. The weather wasn't so bad but, it was raining a little bit. We stayed for one night in a lodge at the top of Jonendake, and we ate a good hot dinner of hunberger, rice, miso soup, vegetables and jelly for dessert.

I also went to my grandmothers' houses in Chiba and Kanami. In Chiba I saw a Japanese samurai film called Ruroni Kensin. It was really enjoyable because the samurai Kensin, the star, was a very cool killer. The rock music was super and the fighting was very glory. In Kanami I tidied my grandfather's room, which took a long time as it was really untidy. I also watched a lot of the high school baseball tournament on TV. All of the games were good. My grandmothers were very happy to see my face and I was happy to see them.

I had a very good time this holiday, but next year I will have a high school entrance exams so I won't be able to play much then.

My camping experiences in Japan - a student writes

When I was young, I experienced several camps with my family and as a member of school student and Girl Scout. The places were different every time, but I always used dixie to cook rice and had dinner outside.

In the camp with my family, the camp place was sea side. We enjoyed playing fireworks and doing BBQ. The tent was very narrow and a little bit hot. However, I was happy as my mother fanned me until I felt into a sleep.

In the camp as a member of school student, we hiked to Utsukushigahara highland and stayed in a lodge. I was happy, as a boy who I liked and I were in the same group. I could cook and had curry with him. In addition, I danced with him by the camp fire. It was my one-way love, but it was good memory.

The camp as a member of Girl Scout was more complicate than other two camps. Especially, building big tent was analog (physical?) and hard work. I remembered that talking with other members was fun in the tent, but next day, we had to unbuild and fold the tent…

I haven’t done camps for a long time, but they
were good experience for me. If I have children in the future, I want them to experience unusual life like camp.

(Posted for Chinasa, after reading "Stranger Danger")

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My favourite possession - my iPod drip!

Ipod touch 2gen
Ipod touch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's got two high quality cameras at the front and back, the one at the back has flash which also can be a flashlight. It's got a big 32GB memory can hold lots of apps, music and photographs. It's got a clear big touch screen.

I like to use it to text chat with friends and family, phone them, send pictures and videos. I also like to listen to my music, take pictures and videos. I can play games, watch videos on YouTube, check quizlet and search for some answers for my homework. I check the weather every day and use it as an alarm clock which has various ringtones. 

I accidentally dropped it in the river last week, so I'm really sad.

Takuro :(

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The most idyllic place I have ever visited is....

The most idyllic place I have ever visited is Ohshika-mura in Nagano Prefecture.

I lived in Nagano Prefecture for a long time, but I didn't know Ohshika-mura until one of my friend worked for elementary school there. I visited her together with my friends. It is located in the southern part of Nagano.

We drove to south by express highway and exit from Matsukawa IC. It was a long winding road to the village. It took over 30 minutes into deep valley to east. There were neither houses nor shops along road. Sometimes deer and/or monkeys jumped out from valley.

After coming out of a tunnel, there is a small village. There are dotted with houses. There is only one grocery store, but no convenience store. I love the hot spring spa there. It was located in the middle of mountain. It is a small facility and has only open-air spa. In the spring, I could enjoy the beautiful green landscape down to the village.

 Ohshika-mura is famous for Kabuki which is the traditional Japanese performance art. The people living in Ohshika-mura play some famous story every spring and fall.

Well, I love to visit there but I don't want to live there. I am living within walking distance from the convenience store as well as bus stop. Also our parents live near to our house. It is very convenient environment for me.

Posted for Tomoko, after reading "Double Trouble"

The Secret in the Farmhouse - writing about being brave

I have three dogs. The accident happened to one of them nine years ago. It had past several months since I had her. I had taken her for a walk every morning.

One day, I changed the lead to new one for her as the previous one was a little bit complicating. It, however, was too loose to hold her. When she stopped to sniff a tuft of grass, I pull the lead and moved forward. Then, she came out from the lead. When I tried to catch her, she was surprised and ran away! I chased her, but she continued to escape from me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have mobile phone. In addition, there were no any other people around there. Therefore, I could not ask anyone to help and I had no way but to keep chase her not to lose her. I had been struggling with the situation for twenty minutes.

After that, I found a dog in the backyard of a house. I suddenly recalled that my dog liked other dogs. I thought that she came close to the dog if she saw the dog and I could catch her.

I didn’t know the owner of the house, but I knocked the window from the backyard to call the owner. The owner was surprised, but when I talked about the accident, she took her dog to me. When my dog saw the dog, she was pleased to come close and I finally caught her. I was very relieved and appreciated the owner and the dog.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Voice in Silence - Shigeki Tomura’s Drawing and Drypoint etching Exhibition

Shigeki Tomura's work
Shigeki Tomura’s Exhibition “Voice in Silence” will be open on September 11 at Trattoria Gallery Matsumoto. Shigeki Tomura was born in east-northeast in Japan and he lives in Morioka-Iwate, now. Since 1984, he has been dedicated to drypoint etching. Drypoint is a printmaking technique, in which an image is incised into a traditionally copper plate with a hard-pointed needle. He has received some international prizes since 1989. His works are extremely delicate and sensitive. They are in monochrome silence world. You can feel real air and deep atmosphere in the works. His works are very quiet but they have great presence. His works are really popular for people. It will be his first exhibition in Matsumoto city. 
The gallery restaurant “Torattoria Gallery Matsumoto” is a unique style gallery restaurant in the city. Many kinds of homemade pizza and pasta are popular.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

World flag - design and describe

A recent little project some of my adult students have been doing, which at the time coincided with the FIFA World Cup, is a lesson plan from Beyond: Knowledge: Geography. The website offers a variety of resources and fully prepared lesson plans with materials for free, with even more to be unlocked from joining their "Staff Room". The lesson plan focuses on identifying and describing flags, alongside giving students an opportunity to design and create their own world flag. For this task I asked my students to be as original and inspiring as possible with their designs. So I would like to present to you a collection of "world flags", accompanied by a brief description.

Misako's design
I imagine everlasting world.
Pale blue part means sky.
Blue part means sea.
Read part means the sun.
Four leaves clover is a symbol of peace, hope, human love, fortune.

Misuzu's design
The green part is an earth.
The pink part is flowers covering the earth.
The blue part is sky.
Please imagine if you go to space, you can see the earth like this shape from spaceship window.

Yuuko's design
This flag has on green background.
It's football field.
In the middle, there is peace mark.
This year is FIFA world cup year.
FIFA world cup entertained all over the world people.
Sports games makes a world happy and peace.

Reiko's design
This flag has black background.
There are a big blue circle in the middle and olive leaf on the big circle.
And this have one big circle and one medium circle seven small circles slantingly and straight.
One medium circle is on bottom left.
The big circle is between one medium circle and seven small circles.
In left side one medium circle and 2 small circles.
In right side five small circles.
The medium circle's color is orange.
The small circle's color is yello.
The olive leaf's colour is yellow green.
The olive berry's color is olive.
Background black mean the Space.
The big blue circle mean the Earth.
The olive leaf is a symbol of Peace.
One medium circle in bottom left mean Sun.
Seven small circles mean the solar system planet.
From bottom left Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
The flag mean the peace of all of the world and all of the space.

Rie's design
In the middle, there is a symbol. A symbol that looks like a snake. This flag has gradation background. The meaning of the gradation is the variety of people on earth. There are various races, but it is connected like slow gradation. The ring formed snake represent the state that without opening and ending.

Shouko's design
The Earth is full of dreams.
I was represented by a star that dream.
Big dream, a small dream.
There is a dream of various shapes.
All its wonderful.
That dream come true and Holding Hands is people from all over the world.
The message "Holding Hands".
Blue is the color of the earth.
Also easy to match the skin of any color is purple.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Postcard from Dusseldorf, Germany

Hi Jim,

I arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany. It's a sunny day. There's a nice breeze coming through the window.

Tonight, I'll have a good beer with my company's staff.

Tomorrow's meeting will be tough, but I will enjoy my business trip.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Post Card from Ayres Rock, Australia

Dear Mr Damian Gowland,

Hi, I am in Ayres Rock, Australia. Do you know Ayres Rock Uluru? That located the middle of Australia
island. I have stayed for three days. Then, I am going to visit Cains. This picture is Uluru - Ayres Rock, second biggest Rock in the world. Yesterday I climbed up this Rock. I was too tired, because this Rock is very steap. My leg muscles have pain. Tomorrow, I will swim in the ocean. I want to enjoy and relax.
See you next class,

Muraki Takashi.

Friday, 8 August 2014

In the Garden - homemade flashcards + Quizlet

Lethargic students with thunder & rain rolling around the valley, my good readers quickly made this set of key words for a Story Tree book they read/listened to at home. A change of pace, and plenty of disagreement about which pictures to use. Like?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bon Bon 2014 – Let me see your Union Jacks

Ready to start
This year was my first ever experience of the Matsumoto Bon Bon, I don’t even know how to begin describing this immensely monumental occasion. The streets were jam packed with different companies, groups, organizations, schools, clubs, and anything else you could think of, in their various unique uniforms, happis or kimonos. Everywhere was hustling and bustling in preparation for the 3 hour dance marathon, the crowd was buzzing.

Home-made fans
We had a great turnout, with many of our students taking part including their parents and family as well as friends, both new and old. This year we got to show off our own custom fans to use for the Bon Bon, which our students worked very hard to make themselves. We were armed with our very own Union Jack design fans as we paraded the streets of Matsumoto, chanting and dancing, fuelled by the atmosphere of the occasion with the “veterans” of Luna leading the march.

Having never participated in the Bon Bon before, I thought it best to
In full swing
prepare myself and learn the Matsumoto Bon Bon dance. So I took it upon myself to search the dance on YouTube in order to familiarize myself with the steps to avoid cluelessly flailing my arms around when the fun begins. However when 6 o’clock rolled around and the dancing began, it became apparent that I had learnt the wrong dance! D’oh!  For the opening few minutes I was in a complete state of panic, I had no idea where my arms where going or where they were meant to be going. I found myself in the exact circumstance I was trying to avoid. What made the situation worse was the fact that the students were looking to me so they knew what they were supposed to be doing. I tried my best to stay calm and observe the participants around me, attempting to compose myself and fit in with the dancers around me. The initial few minutes were nerve-racking to say the least. Nevertheless, I soon became accustomed to the Bon Bon dance, and as the evening continued I enjoyed myself more and more. It was fantastic fun rallying up our group, I was very fortunate not to lose my voice from all the chanting.

Finishing troopers
A huge thanks goes out to everybody who took part, even those who joined us briefly or part way through, and a huge congratulations to those that made it to the end. An extra thanks to Kento’s granddad, who helped distribute drinks for our young dancers so they could remain refreshed and energized. Also a special mention must go to: Naomi, who without any obligations helped us set up, get organized and lead from the very beginning, Jim, for making sure everyone was safe and enjoying themselves, and more importantly made sure there was never an empty beer cup in sight, and Yukari who was the star of the show as she was responsible for all the behind the scene jobs of organizing such a successful event. I hope even more of you will be able to join us next year, I guarantee it will be another cracker!

Now, who has a spare pair of legs I can borrow for next year?

Suzuki Method's rather large violin lesson

Jim popped along to hear how the very big lesson was going at the gymnasium; and reports 'very well'. There must have been about 750 children of all ages joining in! Some more than others, one or two asleep, but by & large mostly on the same scoresheet.

So what do so many enthusiastic fiddlers sound like all playing at the same time?

listen to ‘Suzuki violin gig’ on Audioboo

Eleanor was playing in her favoured ambassadorial role, making friends and networking, but our Miyu & Saki were also there from Luna's YLE ranks. Anybody else I couldn't see?

Alphabet song sung well!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Yuto's amazing minibeast

I like ants because they can lift 50 times heavier than their body.

I like beetles because they are cool and they fight. 

I don't like spiders because they are disgusting. They eat mice & frogs' liquid.

I don't like flies because they are annoying and dirty.

This is my "kabuto" or Stag Beetle. I like it because it is big - about 10cm long. It eats syrup from wood  & banana. Mum says it smells bad, and it makes a noise like pencils clicking when it moves.


A place of interest - Melbourne

Great Ocean Road Cliffs-Beach-12=
Great Ocean Road Cliffs-Beach-12= (Photo credit: Sheba_Also)
Dear Chen

Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia. Melbourne was capital until 1927. The climate is dry. There are beautiful long beach called "Great ocean road". It is very confatable to drive there. And we can find Coara bears in forests.

"Ayres rock" is the biggest rock in the world.

In 1956 Olympic game was held. Japanese Takagshi Ono won the Iron rod game.

In the morning lets fly in a hot air balloon. You can look over the Melbourne city and natural park.

I hope this information is helpful to you.


Posted for Mieko

My home town - Azumino

DAIO Wasabi Farm (Azumino, Nagano, Japan)
DAIO Wasabi Farm (Azumino, Nagano, Japan) (Photo credit: t-mizo)
Dear Marcello,

Thank you for your inquiry.
Azumino is located in Nagano prefecture.
You will come to here in about three hours by express Train from Tokyo.
In the recommended spot, hot springs, museums and wasabi garden.
Wasabi garden is the most popular tourist place in Azumino.
I think trip's best season is early summer.
It is almost sunny and temperature is around 20 degrees in May.

Winter is very cold. Sometimes temperature becomes -10 degrees.
But you can enjoy in winter.
Because you can watch swans, and enjoy illuminations in national park in Azumino.
Please come to Azumino.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,

K Maruyama

Posted for Kazuko

Monday, 4 August 2014

In the Ocean with Nanako!

The ocean is deep & clear. There are many differents kinds of fish and mammals in the ocean.

In this book, the biggest animal is the whale, and the smallest is the clownfish. I think the scariest animal is the lionfish. I think the cutest animal is the dolphin, and the strangest is the lionfish. 

My favourite animal is the dolphin, because they are cute & active.
One day, I would like to go down into the ocean and explore, because I
would like to see lots of animals.

Friday, 1 August 2014

My teacher can't read properly - The Dolphin Pool with YLEs

One of the things I like to do with my YLE classes is to review a graded reader by reading it badly. Sounds a bit daft I know,  but for my way of thinking, if the teacher's making mistakes, it's alright if the kids do too!

This works as a listening exercise, as well as a (mostly) model for pronunciation, and gives learners time to think about the words & be reassured with how they will say them. No more than one 'mistake' at a time is challenge enough.

Importantly, reading out loud is not 'a test' or final proof of understanding, internalising the vocab etc. It is hard to do, as we are doing different things to reading silently (eg skipping words we are not sure about, just like the teacher told us to do!). Of course, I would like the higher frequency words to have gone in & be recyclable by now, but new ones (eg met for this first time in this book such as 'whale') or hard ones (eg 'through') ain't no biggie if we need help. Help provided to if, as in this case, we are a weaker class and struggle a bit with confidence. Nudging along and finishing is an important landmark for us all - no need to sweat on the hurdles.

listen to ‘The Dolphin Pool’ on Audioboo

Would love to know if other teachers have tried this and if it was successful/fun?

Rui's trip back to London

I went to London 2 Fridays ago. We flew from Haneda to London. It took 11 hours on ANA. We had Paella for dinner. I saw Captain America , Hunger Games and more. 

We stayed in Hilton near the airport for 1 night, then we went to an apartment near my old school. After that  my mum went to see her old friend and me, my dad and my brother went to shopping in Brent Cross. We bought books, a school uniform for my school. 

In my best day I went to my old school and surprised all of my class. They were very  happy to see me. At school I played and watched a movie. I was very happy to see my friends again. After that We did barbecue with are class because it was end of year. I also had sleep over with my best friends. We went to a park and played football. 

We went to Harrods for some shopping but it was so so so boring ! Nandos was better. English food is rubbish compared to Japanese. 

I want to come back to London soon because my best friend is there. I enjoyed my trip a lot !

(Written by Rui on his cool iPad mini!)

Workshop No. 6: Using Activities Effectively

My final (a sigh of relief for both me and you I imagine) report of the series of IIEEC Teacher Training Workshops I attended, entitled "Using Activities Effectively" and presented by Miki Sakai. I have learned a great deal from attending these workshops as well as mulling over my experiences and writing them down in the form of these reports. I intend to continue to progress and develop as an English teacher, applying all that I have learnt during these workshops as well as taking some well needed self reflection time every step of the way. Enjoy my final rant and as always any feedback is appreciated.

Leaning activity: complete the alphabet
As teachers, using our time in the classroom efficiently is crucial. In most cases we are limited to 45 to 60 minutes (or even less!) of contact time a week with our students, further emphasising the importance of putting effective teaching methods into place. In this workshop we were taught the importance of implementing “learning activities” and effective review activities, as well as using the students’ mistakes as a way of highlighting the weaknesses in your teaching methods.

First on the agenda was differentiating between the use of games and “learning activities” in the classroom. Learning activity can be another name for a game but in this instance they are implemented with a specific purpose; either reinforcing vocabulary, correcting pronunciation or providing context to what you are teaching etc. Games tend to be more orientated about having fun and not necessarily practising for fluency (even though you can adapt almost any game in order to suit your students’ needs or build on the main focus of your lessons).

Reviewing numbers by matching
Learning activities should be short and repeated many times. I know from experience that some games can seem to go on for an eternity, with minimal speaking time for the students. A short activity that is repeated many times is going to be much more effective than a long drawn out game. It’s important to consider when planning and introducing learning activities that you yourself are familiar with the activity. How are the students expected to know what to do if the teacher is stumbling over their words? On top of that, always, always, always demonstrate the activity rather than attempting to explain it in detail. You are wasting your time! Students will learn much more quickly from doing rather than listening. Also don’t forget to revert back to the 6-second MAT drills if the students are struggling, (this was drummed into our heads continuously throughout all the workshops) or are in need of straightening out the kinks in their pronunciation. And if all else fails, abandon ship immediately and resort to “plan B” or move onto the next activity.

Something's a little off...
The next thing to consider; student’s mistakes. We must acknowledge that mistakes are unavoidable. We should expect our students to make mistakes and in turn learn from them through trial and error. Although mistakes (especially repeated mistakes) may become frustrating at times, avoid blaming the students, instead reflect on your approach to teaching them. Student’s mistakes can be used as a tool to analyze aspects of your teaching that need developing, perhaps the way you introduce the language is not clear enough, maybe your learning activities are not up to scratch, or your students’ concentration levels are dropping due to the lack of engaging classroom tasks. Try changing your teaching style to see whether you evoke a different response from your students.

The final area to consider during this workshop was effective review activities. Review is hugely important, especially when it comes to younger students as they have a knack for forgetting things quickly. The easy part is getting information stored into short term memory, but difficulties arise when embedding new information into long term memory. This is why we must review EVERY LESSON. No exceptions. This does not only mean reviewing what was covered in the previous lesson, but reviewing everything covered from lesson one, book one. In order to do this effectively, we must be creative in our review activities by combining as much of the previous language as possible. Otherwise your hands will fall off from attempting to review previous vocabulary by cycling through flashcards. Another significant point to take away from this workshop was to alter the way you review something from how the students initially learnt it. This provides an alternative means of students to express themselves, whilst adding much needed diversity in your classroom 

Since attending this workshop, I have been making more of an effort to include more learning activities during my lessons, even something simple as rolling a die to elicit vocabulary from the textbook or throwing a ball to each other in order to practise the question and answer form of a sentence. I have always made it a point to vary activities, as conveyed in this workshop it is important to differ how you review a topic to how you introduced it. This prevents lessons from stagnating by repeating activities over and over again as well as allowing students to use English in a different context.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Photo slideshow for June/July inside lovely new Luna

All of us are very happy to have finally moved premises. Although we lost quite a lot of space and had to rationalise materials (throw away a lot of junk, basically!) it is an absolute pleasure to be able to relax - and not have a miserable git of a landlord sneering constantly.

We have been gearing up to turn Bon Bon red, white & blue this Saturday evening, as you can see...but so much more too! Check out all the happy faces and busy bodies from our classrooms in June/July.

More photos shared at

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Postcard from London

Hi Jim,

I have arrived in London.
It is very hot in London.
Is Matsumoto hot?

Tomorrow I am going to my school.

from Rui

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A day at Sasabe Kindergarten – a new perspective

Sing-a-long time
I was fortunate enough to be invited along to Sasabe Kindergarten, for their last day before breaking up for the summer holidays, to observe how it’s possible to manage a class of over 20 youngsters effectively (just the thought of it was mind boggling for me), get involved and have some fun.

The teachers at Sasabe run a pretty tight ship to create an ideal learning environment for their students, with very little need for disciplining students directly. Instead of it being the teachers’ duty to pickup on misbehaviour, the majority of responsibility is handed over to the students to make sure nobody is being naughty or disruptive. There is a focus on peer to peer recognition, where students are given the
Better than any school lunch I ever had!
opportunity to praise each other for good behaviour or doing a certain activity particularly well. It’s fantastic to watch students in this sort of environment, it’s completely student focused with the teacher acting as a safety net when they need to. Every student is aware of how they should and shouldn’t behave (not by being told by the teacher but being asked by the teacher whether certain behaviour is appropriate or inappropriate) and are willing to help with the teacher’s job of reinforcing classroom rules.

Ready, get set, paint!
Of course in any classroom there is going to be at least one rebellious figure who will try their best to not conform to the rules, but in these instances the teachers are looking at the bigger picture. There is no need to fret and panic if only a small proportion of the class are doing their own thing, they will eventually integrate with the rest of the class through peer pressure while their fellow classmates encourage them to stop messing around.

Getting their hands dirty
The teachers are also able to control classes through certain cues, such as music, tone of voice and facial expressions. Responding to these cues is similar to a natural reflex, ingrained as part of the daily routine in order to maintain structure and order. Time to sit down and get ready for the next activity? Cue song. Time to be quite and focus on the teacher? Cue short but clear instructions. Time to stop misbehaving? Cue grumpy face.

You missed a spot
After spending the morning going between classrooms, joining in with the end of term assembly and eating lunch with the students it was time for the grand finale. The playground apparatus had been covered in plastic wrap in preparation for what was about to go down. The students were instructed of their afternoon task in their classrooms before being given free reign to paint the plastic covering most of the playground (this also provided as part of the decoration for the Sasabe festival held the following day) with their hands. Even me and Jim jumped in the fun and couldn’t help but laugh and smile as we all lathered up every available space on the plastic wrap. Nerves of steel on the teachers’ behalf for even attempting this but during the whole event there was not a single individual who was doing something they were not supposed to, everybody was following the instructions to a tee and there were no instances of painting each other (only themselves by accident!) or any signs of “kancho” handprints.

Thanks to Jim and all the staff at Sasabe for an enriching experience, I learnt so much and had a wonderful time. Looking forward to dancing our socks off at Matsumoto Bon Bon together!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Drum finale Matsumoto Castle

Drums at the Castle

Sunday evening at Matsumoto castle was a knockout event, with the drum festival or taiko matsuri  being held within the gardens once again - usually relegated to the gravel beyond the inner moat with not much view. Last time we enjoyed this setting was seven years ago, to my reckoning.

Fabulous view and some very good entertainment as well - name check for our ex-student Haruna playing with the Matsuoka group. Enjoy a sampler below :)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Your Dead Friend - a vengeful ghost letter

The story in question
Dear Ling Cane,

Do you still remember me? I am Terry Sweet, the man you shot. Did you enjoy shooting your friend? Do you still think of me? The time has come and it is your turn to die..

          I am watching you from beyond the grave. From tonight something mysterious will happen, and I am going to be in your dreams from now on. Do you want to see a flying fork or a flying saucer? With me haunting you, you are going to see both.

          I will turn your dreams into nightmares. In the dream you will be me where I was carrying the painting. Then you will see your self get shot by yourself and feel the pain of the cold blooded bullet. Enjoy the show! It is free.

          I am sending you this letter from beyond the grave, so this means I can send letters to the police giving evidence of you killing me, but before I send the letters, I will continue to haunt you.

Select your destiny.

Your Dead Friend


Friday, 25 July 2014

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.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cambridge English Teacher Scholarship Application

Mug shot of the (rather hopeful) winner
Recently Jim brought to my attention about the Cambridge English Teaching Framework and the Cambridge English Teacher Scholarship, which I can apply for by submitting an outline of where I believe I lie on the framework as well as how I intend to progress in each category. This doubles as a chance to reflect on my progress and future development plans as well as an possibility of winning a free trip to the 49th Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Manchester next year. Fingers crossed I can win with my entry! (I may be in trouble with Jim if I don't!) Do you think I have a chance? Feedback and thoughts are, as always, more than welcome. 

As an English teacher who is still in the early stages of my career, I know that there are many aspects of my teaching that can be developed and built upon. In order to achieve this, it’s important to have realistic and challenging goals with a plan to bring these goals to fruition. Teaching ability is not necessarily quantifiable, but using the Cambridge English Teaching Framework as a reference allows you come to terms with your own skill level whilst providing a positive platform for further development.
 Having had a chance to read through the framework and do some well needed reflection, I find myself positioned somewhere between the “foundation” and “developing” categories. I am still at a stage where I am aware of and understand various techniques, methodologies, assessment principles etc when it comes to teaching, but I am not necessarily able to translate these concepts into my lessons effectively nor consistently.
Moreover, I currently have a tendency to concentrate more of my efforts on expanding my repertoire of teaching activities and resources rather than focusing on my weaknesses or adjustments that are required in my approach to teaching. Furthermore, as I gain in teaching experience, and in turn confidence, I appreciate more than ever that I cannot neglect the importance of my own professional development.
Taking a step back from my day to day position as an important member of staff at a small language school, I have realised that with the bigger picture in mind, I really do need to benchmark my progress and motivate myself beyond “developing”. Now, you may be wondering: “How do you intend to progress through the framework whilst achieving your career goals?” Good question!
I have found that a fantastic way of advancing personal development and finding new innovative ideas is by sharing experiences with other teachers. I am rather fortunate in having an enthusiastic and experienced long term English teacher as my mentor, as well as being fortunate enough to have been encouraged to attend a number of EFL seminars, workshops and training courses (such as the IIEEC Teacher Training Program) already. Through continued interactions with as diverse assortment of educators and instructors as possible, I believe that my open-minded and enthusiastic approach, along with my work situation, will grant me to put learning into practice quickly.
In addition, I intend to re-visit and critique past lesson plans in order to identify my strengths and weaknesses so I may adjust my teaching style accordingly. Deliberating over these points will enable me to enhance my development in the “teaching, learning and assessment” category, by identifying the most effective teaching methods and key concepts to apply within the classroom, and at the same time expanding myself in the “professional development and values” category by analyzing my flaws.

All in all I hope that I can start to achieve my full teaching potential through a combination of factors with the Cambridge English Teaching Framework acting as a solid reference point and as a bridge to my future development.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Evaluating apps in class - crowd sourcing problems!

Prepping for Successful Meetings
It's not often you get to a class and the students are already doing exactly what you wanted them to do...but that's exactly what happened for me this afternoon and I really want to give my class a pat on the back. So, Chinasa, Reiko, Yumi & Tomoko - well done!

I was going to give them a telling off, truth be told, because I could not see any evidence of them having done the homework I'd asked them to last time - to create & then share, do, vocabulary quizzes. But here's the thing, between us we figured out that the app we were using on our iPhones & Android was not up to scratch and was letting us down. While we thought our work in-app would show up online, it was not doing so. Likewise, material we wanted to share we were unable to (except in one case where the creator had gone to her PC and worked around the short-coming).

I was delighted, because we'd all byod (brought our own devices) - which these in-company students are otherwise told to leave in their lockers - and were finally using them instinctively (and not falling at the first hurdle failing to remember passwords etc!). Will they take their text books on a business trip? Nope. Dictionary? Nope. Phone? You bet - and there's so many different things we can make available for ourselves to make the job & the learning easier!

Negotiating pronunciation (an app for that too!)
So, now they kind of generated their own need to do an extra homework, which is to write to the app developer and point out their disappointment/frustrations with the tool, and to ask for improvements. Nothing like realia!

I look forward to hearing what kind of replies they get (I was going to write myself, but figured four end users sound louder than one intermediary!)

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

Write about an act of bravery that you have personally witnessed or experienced.

I have three dogs. The accident happened to one of them nine years ago. It had past several months since I had her. I had taken her for a walk every morning.

One day, I changed the lead to new one for her as the previous one was a little bit complicating. It, however, was too loose to hold her. When she stopped to sniff a tuft of grass, I pull the lead and moved forward. Then, she came out from the lead. When I tried to catch her, she was surprised and ran away! I chased her, but she continued to escape from me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have mobile phone. In addition, there were no any other people around there. Therefore, I could not ask anyone to help and I had no way but to keep chase her not to lose her. I had been struggling with the situation for twenty minutes.

After that, I found a dog in the backyard of a house. I suddenly recalled that my dog liked other dogs. I thought that she came close to the dog if she saw the dog and I could catch her.

I didn’t know the owner of the house, but I knocked the window from the backyard to call the owner. The owner was surprised, but when I talked about the accident, she took her dog to me. When my dog saw the dog, she was pleased to come close and I finally caught her. I was very relieved and appreciated the owner and the dog.

Posted for Chinasa