The Links - everything

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Sensei, I don't have a story to tell...speaker's block & interrogative teaching

Andy Offutt Irwin telling a story, Atlanta Bot...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Casually mentioned I was trying to teach "The Narrative Tenses" last Thursday evening, via Swarm,  and then had a bit of a 'mare doing so. Friend, inspiration and twitter vivant +Michael @mickstout promptly asked me about resources to do so. Oh hell, called out!

Back story = used to employ a DELTA-qualified teacher whose every second sentence was about teaching the narra'ive tenses (Geordie), how good he was at it (them?) and that we should all d'off caps & bend a knee to the genius before us. But seeing as we have never had that many students in the rarefied reaches of advanced storytelling...you do need a bit for YLE Movers but you can generally get by without having to display any grasp of the past perfect simple/past perfect continuous/etc...in fact if you even tried, I think the speaking examiner would shake your hand!

This particular class week was missing the storytellers, instead only the 'answers on the next page already filled in' students had turned up. Any story telling they do attempt is in L1. My 'pardon?' usually gets a 'No, no' + dismissive hand wave. Been there? Can never introduce something stealthily or creatively because my thunder eternally stolen "that's on p45"...

Nuts & bolts of had + past participle etc all diligently underlined. But grasping the actual concept? Timelines, arrows, arm waving...Jim sensei needed to hit reset and start again.


So not only scratching my head all week about how to rescue the befuddled students from last week's grammatical cul de sac, needed to actually impress a colleague as well - or at least try to reply.

My students share the same language, and are not natural story tellers nor inquisitors. Imagine the opposite of Irish or Italian, maybe? Any contribution usually delivered as a set piece, accepted universally & scarcely a comment or question there be afterwards.

As usual, simplest is best, and decided after rummaging my collection of supplementary materials that nothing was really going to present itself. I needed to detox the class from the dreaded G terminology & translation mindset, and in some parlance flip the classroom. Keep books in bags, concentrate on imaginative brain, banish pencils, avoid turn-taking & prevent dominant personalities railroading others. Time too for me to be quite a lot more intrusive than I usually am (inviting fluency and letting 'errors' go).
A board game with out story telling limits

Solution. A narrative.

Dived into the back of our games cupboard & found Never Ending Stories (sorry, that awful song will start in your brains too!) - for age 6+ it says on the box. Ideal. Very simple. Totally random. Players plop cards onto a board in turn, and develop a story as suggested by the images on them (characters, objects, locations) in the order they have been played. Past tenses great. But the 'forgotten' past?

Start at the end of the story and add cards to try to get to the beginning, back-filling detail as you go. This is where the teacher needs to be very involved asking for connections, suggesting links, checking/requiring details eg Were they married before? What happened? How did they meet? and letting the whole group contribute - player whose turn it is selects 'best help' and adds the bits up. Importantly, before the next turn, teacher as narrator recaps - helping everyone keep up with developments and providing a model. Embellishment with current events etc as they occur to you are great, as students then get to see the rationale for the tenses you are using, without focusing on the tenses you are using per se - at least if the story is interesting! I challenge anyone to recount the same (and ever expanding) story the same way twice without leaving bits out; students need to see this is the beauty of storytelling not the mental linear blockage some see it as. Grammatical flexibility gets you over the hurdle and you can 'keep going' without having to go all the way back to the beginning of the timeline and get things 'in order' Students love pointing out the teacher's mistakes....ask them if you left something out...and 'rescue' yourself with a post script.
How our story unfolded - narrative to come

So, for me, interrupt like mad at the creative brainstorming phase, establish chronology and link bits together grammatically - then let that part of the story be told however it comes out. Once a turn is 'done'; gently re-tell it to check you got it right (include 'corrections' here?), and help the other students with a second listening before connecting all the other previous parts.

So there has to be a digital way to do this, for classes with wifi & tech savvy learners.Voicethread would be one way to collate a final version, I think, and could be done outside of class/before the next class. Sock Puppet, minus the time limit, another idea. Fotobabble only gives you 90 seconds - but ideal per pic?

In class, with confident students I think a Pecha Kucha type approach might work. You could also trawl ELTpics or any theme in Flickr - or go random and use flickr as a screensaver (hands free, adjust time images shown to suit skills).

Another randomiser = give a student a slip of paper with a ridiculous scenario on it and have them bluster their way out of it - kind of Liar's Game. (eg "You were seen climbing out of a nightclub window at 8am this morning wearing a superman suit")  Of course allow questions from the floor. Big class, have 2 or 3 students sit at the front and have them tell a story. Only one is true, room votes at end of story & Q/A on which one. NB They can all be false, but the winner = most convincing liar?!



Friday, 3 July 2015

My favourite place - Kamikochi

Matsumoto is a city in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Because this city is surrounded by mountains, in winter it doesn't snow much like Nigata and in summer it isn't so hot.


The most popular place for tourism is Matsumoto Castle. The castle was built in the 16th century, and a samurai called Ogasawara was governing the whole country of Shinano (The old name of Nagano). It is a famous castle which never had a fight. And also it is called "karasu jyo". It means crow castle and this is because it is black. In Hyogo, there's a another castle called white heron castle and it is because it's white.

There are many other places to visit. Kaichi elementary school is a place where you can see combinations of the Japanese and the Western styles. Japan used to do national isolation for 200 years during the Edo period. When a man called Perry from the U.S. came to Japan, it ended. And many Western things came into Japan. This building is one of an example.


English: Taisho-ike, Kamikochi, Matsumoto, Nag...
Taisho lake
My favorite place is Kamikochi. it's a scenic spot and it's being popular and popular. These days many people from cities comes to escape the summer. In Kamikochi, you can see lots of beautiful mountains of the Japanese Alps. If you climb to an altitude of about 1500 meters, you'll see a beautiful lake called Taisho lake.




Posted for Remi

E-mail to Elizabeth

Elizabeth,

I am writing this E-mail from Fotheringhay Castle.  You must be surprised to see my E-mail.  Tomorrow, I am going to die and meet my God.  You cannot imagine how I feel now, but my heart is peaceful and quiet.

Promise me.  Please take care of my son, James.  He becomes the King of Scotland tomorrow, but he is a young boy and doesn’t know how he should rule his country.  Please support him and never let him die by unnecessary fight.

Before God, I have to tell you the truth.  You may still believe I killed James’s father, but I didn’t.  I know nothing how Darnley died on that day.  I was not there when he died and don’t know who killed him.  I know I had a lot of enemies and someone wanted kill me, not Darnley.

You know, the King or Queen is always lonely.  I had a few good friends, but more than that there were a lot of enemies around me.  I could not believe the people from the bottom of my heart.

James will fall into the same situation with us.  I just hope he will find a good woman who will love him and support him all his life.

I did want to see my son, James before the end of my life.  Please pass my message to him, I really love him.

Yours sincerely,

Mary

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Karen finds a huge computer

I lost control of my space ship and it goes faster and faster. It's broken but I'm excited. I come to a strange planet, land safely, and find my crew is safe.
Purple planet with local inhabitant!

The purple planet has small mountains and water, and I am wearing a spacesuit. It's cold - zero degrees!

I decide to explore alone because I do not like my crew. I find a tunnel and a ladder. I don't like tunnels because they are dark, but I go down the ladder because I met an alien. It's small and pink with three arms and two legs, and it can fly.

I find a huge computer. My computer is good, so I push a button. The computer explodes and I am very shocked. The tunnel collapses and I am trapped.

THE END.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Yu-chan`s final mission

Yu's cold green planet.
I lose control of my ship, and it goes faster and faster because of engine trouble. I don't feel good - I'm going to be sick.

I come to a strange planet, land safely, and find my crew is safe. It's big green planet. There are not any animals. I'm wearing a space suit. I'm cold. It's zero degrees outside.

I decide to explore alone - I am brave. I find a tunnel and a ladder. I like tunnels because they are dark, but I go up the ladder because I saw a flashlight. I'm excited.

I find a long corridor with four doors at the end. I want to open the gold door, but I go through the black door and enter a room with metal walls. A panel in the wall opens and I go through it. I find an elevator and want to go up, so I do, but the door closes behind me and I realise that I am trapped. I shout and shout, but nobody can hear me....


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Mutiny on the Bounty– after reading

Pitcairn Island - Use the internet and write about the people of this island now

Pitcairn Group of Islands consists of 5 islands including Pitcairn Island. They are the colony of England and located in the South Pacific Ocean. There are no other islands that the people live 300km around Pitcairn Island.


56 people live in Pitcairn Island. They are the children of marine who participated in Mutiny on the Bounty. They believe in Protestant Christianity. They do not drink any alcohols and not smoke. In addition, they do not eat pork and shrimp.


After 2004, England started to invest in infrastructure in the island. There is still neither a radio nor a TV broadcasting service, but the people can watch the overseas broadcasting for free through the satellite TV. In addition, the people can use internet through the satellite connection. On the other hand, they have neither gas nor running water. Although there are no water sources in the island, rain water is used for drinking water. 6.4km road is maintained. The people use bike or four-wheeled buggy for the transfer.

In 2005, the police office and school was founded. The police officers and teachers are sent from England. They are controlled according to the



same level of criteria as England.

Story maze - Yuto's space trip

I lose control of my space ship. I was flying in space to find a planet. It goes faster and faster because the aliens were pushing. I come to a strange planet, land safely and find my crew is safe. I decide to explore alone. I found a tunnel and a ladder. There are so many rocks in the tunnel. I decide to go up the ladder. I find a long corridor with four doors at the end. I go through the gold door and break the door and put the gold in my pocket.

Story steps dictated by the throw of a dice!
The corridor leads to a maze of one hundred corridors. There is a transporter machine at the entrance. I enter the machine then I came to a strange orange planet; I landed safely and my crew is safe too. I decide to explore around and find another tunnel. This time I go down the ladder and find a huge computer. A door opens when I push the button.

I found yet another long corridor, and at the end I go through the silver door this time. I am trapped.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Dream in Space - Nanako`s story

I am in my space ship going to the purple planet, when I lose control of it and it goes faster and faster. I feel scared because it`s fast.

Storyline from Nanako's story maze
I come to a strange planet. It is purple and small. I land safely and find my crew. Everyone is safe. We are wearing small space suits, and they are cool inside. We decided to explore in a group because it was scary.

We came to a hill. We go around it and find a deserted space station. We go inside it, but there is nobody there. It is a little dirty and smells like lemons. The computers are off. There is fruit on the table, but I don`t eat it because it is very yucky.

I find a comfortable bed and lie down on it. It is very smelly but I fall asleep. When I wake up, it was only a dream. I am back in my cabin in my space ship. We are still flying in space on the way to the space station on the purple planet.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

We Can Do - taking Young Learners in Matsumoto

Proud, once again, to be able to provide Young Learners for our students in Matsumoto - as well as continue our open door policy and welcome children from Okaya & Yamanashi as well.

Space not an issue, as we rented the big room at the Fukushi Kinroshya Centre this year. Nobody told us the bell was going to ring at twelve noon, which made us all jump! That apart, everything went very smoothly indeed; well-organised Yukari, thank you. Everyone knew where to sit, which colour pencils to sharpen etc.
Are you ready to start?



This year we had takers for Starters & Movers, so some first timers looking very small on the big chairs and a wee bit nervous - not a bad thing; handling pressure once in a while is an important achievement.

Also some children moving up a level, and coping with a sizable jump in level. Needed to hand out a tissue or two...important we are all smiles at the end of the day, and the promise of an ice cream seems like a decent bribe!

Thrilling to know the children in our care today are measuring themselves against a global benchmark in tests that again let them display what they 'can do' and rewards them for having a go. We do not teach to pass the exams at all - we teach English, with strategies built in which enable learners to operate independently & confidently.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Newest YLE venue in Tokyo

Delighted today to announce that "Hello Kids" in Miyogadani (Tokyo) has become Luna's newest venue for Young Learners, and run their very first Starters session today...which takes me back to our own very first YLE session and the amazing feeling of pride I had when the likes of Sayaka, Wakana, Yumeka, Tatzi came bouncing out of their speaking tests in 1999 into mummys' arms...

Thank you Greg, Jeff, Hitomi et al at the school today for undertaking very new roles; it was obvious you all have a very close relationship with your students and care deeply about their performances. Thank you for digging in to your roles weeks ago & being on top of the job today.

At Luna we expect every venue, every session, to meet the MAXIMUM requirements of an Inspection; regardless of an inspector turning up or not. To that end we do not allow any new venue to offer YLE (or any other exam), through JP004, without them proving to us first that they can & will get the job done as per rules & regulations. It is vital all candidates are taking their examination in the exact same circumstances as another around the world, otherwise the whole process is invalid.

Delighted to report all the children seemed to enjoy themselves, so everyone looking forward to getting their certificates back soon!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Health questionnaire - the results

Mmm, pie
I asked some questions about health to people through the Internet. People from under 20 to 80, 13 people answered it.

The most interesting question for me was: Question 4. In Japan, it is believed that blood types determine your characteristics. I agree with this. But 70% of the people disagreed with this. And I was surprised to hear so.

I was impressed that 77% eat breakfast everyday. I think in Japan, people who eat breakfast are decreasing which is not so good. In my opinion eating breakfast is the first thing to do after you wake up and it is one of the most important thing in your daily life.

I was curious why many people love meat than fish and vegetables. From this response I found out 54% love meat. And most of the people don't eat more than five kinds of vegetables a day. I think people who answered these questions should try to eat more vegetables and fruits.



Tuesday, 16 June 2015

First Aid - my first (painful) experience

When I was 7-years old, it was caught a finger in the heavy front door in my previous house.  The door of my previous house had a thickness of about 8 cm and was so heavy.  It had strong pain and my nail of injured finger was gradually turned purple and finally whole nail of injured finger turned to purplish black.

left index finger nail of a Caucasian woman re...

When 2-3 month passed after injured, I visited a small farm nearby my grandmother's house and gathered grass to give to goats, sheep, and houses etc. After I gathered grass a few times, I found that my injured nail was removed completely without any pain. I couldn't find removed nail in grass field.

Have you ever seen under the nail? I have memory that under the nail, there was winding muscle? construction like large/small bowel and it was not good to see for a while. At that time, I was given first aid.

I couldn't remember how long new nail took to grow. I am sorry that I didn't carefully saw my nail's growth at 7-years old and didn't take any picture. If I have iPhone at that time, I will take many photos and update my nail's growth to twitter.

Posted for Ritsuko

Monday, 15 June 2015

Paradise - my idyllic place

I traveled to Fiji three year ago. I stayed Fijian village and resort.

As per this reading book, Fijian people was really friendly. They said to me "Bula!" in the town. In country side in Fiji, there was no enough electricity. Also, I could not take a shower. There was some difference in Fiji compared with Japan. But I liked the place because people was really friendly and there was beautiful sea. I could swim in the beautiful sea and watched real "Nemo"! Also, I could see beautiful coral reefs.

Fiji
Fijian beach near Nadi, Viti Levu
For resort area, the commodity price was expensive than local area. The water was twice price! But the hotel was luxury and relaxed. The staff's hospitality was great! They gave me smile a lot.
The food was delicious. Fijian food also was tasty. There were Indian people in Fiji, so I could eat spicy curry with naan.

I liked Fiji so I would like to live there because the time is spent slowly. I can enjoy swimming in the beautiful sea. Fijian people is kind. But I prefer to live urban side (Nadi is better). I want to take a shower everyday and need electricity!

Posted for Miyuki

Saturday, 13 June 2015

After reading - My homestay life in London (Part 3)

English: One mile to the Animal hospital Bridl...
Going for a stroll in the British coutnryside
Day 3.

Today I had a lot of walk around with Daniel. His family had a dog and he loved the dog named Patrash very much. It's his important role to take a walk with Patrash every afternoon. he is an important friend for Daniel.
He said he loved to watch the TV program about wildlife like Animal Hospital. It was the house of sick animals and unwanted or homeless animals.
Danial's parent brought Patrash to their home. He was was and was spending very happy days and lived with them. Daniel said he wanted to be an animal doctor in future.
I thought he was very gentle boy. We stopped walking after 30 minutes.


Posted for Mine

Friday, 12 June 2015

After reading - My homestay life in London (Part 2)

Day 2.

English: Grimsby B & Q Busy with pre-Easter sh...
"You can do it if you B&Q it!"
It was Friday. When I got up, and opened the winder, I could see a lot of beautiful flowers. The house was very beautiful. I could sleep on a comfortable bed last night.
Mike and Jane made their house by themselves by DIY. Every weekend they went to DIY centres, and garden centres. They sold good wood and plants for the home. Mike and Jane were proud of their house and garden very much..
They brought me to the garden centres. There were a lot of beautiful flowers, they were very cheap. They bought some of them and brought back to their home. I helped them to plant those flowers.


Posted for Mine

Thursday, 11 June 2015

After reading - My homestay life in London (Part 1)

Day one.

Bread and butter custard pudding
Not something I would want for dinner
London is the biggest city in UK. I stayed in a house there.
There were three people in the family. Mike father, 40 years old, Jane, mother, she was 35 years old, and their son Daniel, he was 10 years old. And I was a new member of their family.
They were all very friendly. Also they were my English teacher. Each of them spoke in nice English. But at first I couldn't understand their English well.
In the evening I ate bread and butter pudding for dinner. They liked that food very much. It was great and delicious. Jane phoned them to a local restaurant and they brought the food to their house.
Mike and Jane are working, and they can't cook large meals in the evenings. So take-away meals from fast food restaurants are very popular now, they said.
We talked a lot about British food in the past and now. After that I changed some presents from Japan.
I helped clear the table with them.
Posted for Mine

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

How's the Weather? Again?

One of my favourite songs with YLs, but after a while struggling to come up with new ways to present the song and do something interesting with it - apart from the obvious song & dance routine, which is still the best bit!

My badly drawn snowflakes (you try?!), leaves and clouds + my not so bad raindrops & suns, given to each child (group of 30+, don't try this on the fly!) at tables with crayons poised for action. Usually don't ask kindergarten kids to colour on already cut-out things (end up scrubbing a lot of tables) but a bit short for time with this activity.

Pres play and watch Jim-sensei make a dope of himself waving his arms about...OK...some joining in takes place as the Q & A parts are repeated three/four times. Press pause, and ask "How's the Weather?", accept any/all correct shout outs and point to the five pictures they've got. Which one? Whole class checks by holding up a picture, changing one or two to conform (we're in Japan!) - and then colour it. I did not say which colour (wanted this to be their work) but staggered they all went for a red 'sunny' sun! When done (new group so "Finished?" "Not yet" got a lot of practice) glue your sun onto a big sheet at the front of the class.

Repeat as above through the remaining four verses - I did nominate "rainbow" for 'snowy' - and presto, the classroom has a very colourful weather chart for daily use, and a chant embedded in it/30+ little heads.

Monday, 8 June 2015

In-Conference Professional Development - PANSIG

Back-pedalling a couple of weeks to tell you about a very exciting afternoon I enjoyed (though working very hard) in Kobe at the recent JALT PANSIG Conference held there.

It has often struck me how many of 'my' (Cambridge) Speaking Examiners attend the various workshops & conferences I sometimes manage to get to - without being surprised; they are operating in our natural recruiting zone and showing an interest in professional development. Ideally then, make it an extra-worthwhile weekend for everyone and have something tangible to take home.

So what did we do? Prior to the Conference, announced that there would be an opportunity for teachers to attend a full speaking examiner training workshop, with a discount if attending the Conference already - or a discount to attend the rest of the day at the Conference if signing up for the training. Good deal either way!

We received very positive interest and had the session fully booked in no time at all; online pre-training meant we could start at speed with everyone on the same page...my job really a matter of fine-tuning interpretations of instructions and delivery of materials. You would have thought that reading out a few questions from a script would be easy. Usually, it would be, and you do not have to be an experienced teacher to be able to do that. However, add in the pressure of two (sometimes) three nervous/expectant/shy/chatty/non-native speakers hanging on your every word, plus the need to give each a 'fair' turn, plus manage the timing of the tasks, plus pay attention to responses and body language, plus remember what to do next? Not so easy. And with Conference providing us with a roomful of dummy candidates to actually practice on in real time, a lot of pressure. Speaking Examiners have to rise to the challenge and appreciate the necessity of delivering a standard test each & every time. For me, this impacts on the test-takers perception of the test more than anything else they do on test day. They will not remember the questions, but they will remember how they felt in the speaking test.

Job satisfaction for me in examiner training comes with recruits managing to control the above calmly.

Which is at odds with the expectations of recruits, who want to know 'what the scores are' from the start! When we do eventually get to the assessment phase, recruits get excited to see the actual criteria, and then there's a good deal of head scratching as few have assessed with benchmarked criteria before - and very few with 'Can Do' in mind. Invariably recruits begin by noticing 'mistakes', 'errors', and 'can't do', and picking on accents they are not familiar with etc. It takes 'a few goes' looking at different samples of speaking for the group to come around - and it needs to be the group, in the same scoring ballpark, for the lesson to have sunk in. And this is where teachers can stretch their experienced legs and share/discuss/argue/negotiate around interpretation of the criteria v what they saw/heard - and explain all of that couched (only) in the terms written down in front of them. Bye bye 'funny accent' and 'can't do the present perfect simple' etc!

And then the satisfaction of 'nailing' scores when final marks are collected, and the reassurance that there is a lot more support hereon in for all our successful new SEs - in this case 14 people catching the train home glowing with a very real sense of achievement from their weekend to reflect on & put into practice. Well done the PANSIG Cadre!



Need to thanks a couple of people for pushing this unique initiative through - an idea I have had in mind for a couple of years, but needed implementers like Jon Dujmovich and Mark Brierley. Overall, I should thank the PANSIG organisers for seeing the win-win, Tim Pritchard for his 'can do' attitude, and the volunteers who were thrust into practice speaking tests. This event would not have happened without the support of Cambridge English Language Assessment in Japan, specifically Tomoe Aoyama.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Photo album from a very old party!

Karaoke Queens!
I'd like to share - a bit late , sorry! - photos from my birthday party last weekend. It was a 60's theme party, which some people even tried to adhere to. It was great to see so many of of our younger learners enjoy the early start, and show the oldies how 'own' the karaoke microphone!

I really appreciate the special effort Yukari made with help from Naomi & Chiyo, and want to thank everyone for all the lovely presents (even the ones without alcohol content!). Thanks everyone for coming - pretty obvious we had a good time, I think.

Check out the album, by all means download your favourites, like & share!

https://www.flickr.com/gp/saint_george/S9LE11

Monday, 1 June 2015

Better than karaoke - What do you have?

Everybody Up is a popular series here at Luna and after watching the following clip you can understand why. The songs are wonderful and allow for us to add our own actions to get our students interacting with each other. The following video is from my new Monday class and there's no lack of enthusiasm! Leave a comment of your favourite song from the Everybody Up series.


video

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Piano Man - after reading, choose another Tim Vicary book

"The Everest Story" of  Mr. TimVicary looks very interesting for me.

Some Japanese tried to climb up to the top of the Everest before. The climbing was broadcasted to the world including Japan. There are also a lot of climbers in Nagano as there are lots of high mountains in Japan. Actually, I had climbed up to the middle of the mountain in Nagano when I was 14 years old. That was my first climbing of a full-scale mountain in my life.

I got used to seeing the people of the climbing mountains since my childhood and liked to see their stories to reach to their final goal after the harshness of nature, various difficulties and enjoyable beautiful scenery. It is difficult to climb the Everest by myself, but I think I could imagine and enjoy when I read the book. And I also would like to learn how difficult to get the top of the mountain and how to find the way to climb to there.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Empress Michiko

The current Empress Michiko
The current Empress Michiko (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Queens- Write about a powerful woman in our country’s history.

Empress Michiko (皇后美智子 Kōgō Michiko), born Michiko Shōda (正田 美智子 Shōda Michiko) on 20 October 1934, is the Empress consort of Japan as the wife of Emperor Akihito, the current Emperor of Japan reigning from 7 January 1989.

Michiko Shōda was born in Tokyo, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburō Shōda, president and later honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company. Raised in Tokyo and in a cultivated family, she received both traditional and "Western", learning to speak English and to play piano and being initiated into the arts such as painting, cooking and Kōdō. She is the niece of several academics, including Kenjirō Shōda, a mathematician who was the president of the University of Osaka from 1954 until 1960.


She attended Futaba Elementary School in Tokyo, but was obliged to leave in her fourth grade because of the American bombings during World War II. She was then successively educated in the prefectures of Kanagawa, Gunma and Nagano in the town of Karuizawa, where Shōda had a second resort home.

After attending college, she admitted to have also been named in her childhood as "Temple-chan", because her curly hair and reddish colors were unusual for a Japanese girl and it made her look like the American child actress Shirley Temple. Although she came from a Catholic family and was educated in Christian private schools, she is not baptized.

She graduated summa cum laude from the Faculty of Literature at the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1957. She also took courses at Harvard and Oxford.

Since she came from a particularly wealthy family, her parents were very selective about her suitors. Biographers of the famous writer Yukio Mishima had considered marrying Michiko Shōda, and that he was introduced to her for that purpose sometime in the 1950s.

In August 1957, she met then-Crown Prince Akihito on a tennis court at Karuizawa near Nagano. The Imperial Household Council formally approved the engagement of the Crown Prince to Michiko Shōda on 27 November 1958. At that time, the media presented their encounter as a real "fairy tale", or the "romance of the tennis court". The engagement Ceremony took place on 14 January 1959.

Michiko married Crown Prince Akihito and became the crown princess of Japan until the death of Emperor Hirohito. She was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Family. She has three children with her husband. Her elder son, Naruhito, is the current heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. As crown princess and later as empress, she has become the most visible and widely travelled imperial consort in Japanese history.



Monday, 25 May 2015

The Mutiny on the Bounty - Pitcairn Islands

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. That is the British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. It consists of the four islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno. They are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and the total land area is about 47 square kilometers (18 sq mi). Only Pitcairn, the second largest island is inhabited.

There are no inhabited islands 300km around. Why do people live in this solitary island far off in the ocean? The Bounty mutineers who are famous in the several movies serve as a trigger. The people in this island are the descendant of the sailors who took part in the mutiny of the Bounty.

Their religion is Christianity. All islanders are protestant of Seventh-day Adventist. Basically they don’t drink nor smoke. The alcohol and cigarette are sold in the government store which is only one convenience store and the Christian’s café which is only one café in the island but is thinly distributed.

There is a rule for the food, they don’t eat pork nor shrimp. This is because they are dedicated to their passion in the practicing Christianity. After the mutineer lived in the island, some of drunken islanders killed each other. The Adams who was the last person in the accident sought help from the Bible and the islanders have practiced hardly and don’t eat pork nor drink in the end.





Saturday, 23 May 2015

Why I hate science - after reading C.H.O.I.R. Boy

I hate science.. Because everything is difficult for me!! I have an aptitude for humanities course not science course.

I don't like see mathematical formula at all, so I have never felt that science class was fun or interesting. I didn't remember the science words although I tried to study hard. So, my test score was terrible.. I liked to empiric test but I could not find interesting poing for the other stuff.

Also, science teacher class was difficult and it is hard to understand what he said. I'm not sure but I liked science more if the class was fun.

Posted for Miyuki

Friday, 22 May 2015

Guest Blog: Tom & Damo's adventures (Part 3)

Customs finally catch up with Tom
Lastly we headed to Matsumoto, close to the Japanese Alps. Although not a big city like Tokyo or Osaka, it holds many things to do and is situated in a great location. Even in May you can see the snow capped mountains in the distance. I really enjoyed the visit to the castle and even got a photo with a Samurai. With admission to the castle you can also visit the nearby museum for free. Although information written in English was limited inside the museum it still held some interesting artefacts from both the castle and Japanese history.

Majestic as ever
 On my final day me and Damo headed out up into the hills. After getting a little lost and taking a detour, we made our way to Utsukushigahara Open Air Museum. It holds a bizarre collection of art, with what seems like hundreds of unique and crazy sculptures. Some pieces I thought were incredible, thought provoking and of interest, whereas others were just plain weird and I had no idea what they were. The weather wasn't great, but on a nicer day, the viewpoint at the museum would provide a great view of the whole region and definitely worth the hour and half drive from Matsumoto. After this it was time for me to head back home from my visit and leave Damo to get back on with his English teaching.
One of the more bizarre works at Utsukushigahara


After 3 flights, 22 hours of flying and a very tired Tom, I made it home back to the UK. I really enjoyed my time in Japan and will definitely make sure I come back in the future!!


Time for goodbyes and the end of our adventures


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Mary, Queen of Scots – after reading

Catholics – Write about the history of this religion in your country.

Catholics was introduced to Japan by Francis Xavier in 1549.  He arrived at Kagoshima prefecture and worked a lot to expand it in Japan.  About 450,000 Japanese became Christian over 50 years, but as the unification of the country progressed, Catholic was prohibited and the country was closed to foreign commerce.  Many Christians were martyred for their faith.
After the country was re-opened in 1859, Christian missions were restarted.  The foreign missionaries visited Japan and the churches were built by them.  However, Japan stated that emperor was a religious head of state after 1890 and unified the thought and education.  During World War II, the churches were forced to cooperate for the war.

After the war, a freedom of religion was accepted, and many missionaries came to Japan from North America and Europe.  Even though that, it was difficult to expand Catholic to Japan as the traditional religions and the customs were deeply penetrated to family life and observances.  Therefore, the number of Christian is only 1% of Japanese population.  Nowadays, many people came to Japan from South East Asia, Middle East and Latin America for work, and Catholic Churches in Japan are also expected to fulfill the international responsibility.

Guest Blog: Tom & Damo's adventures (Part 2)

Making friends
On next to Nara. Having not heard of Nara before my visit, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount it had to offer in such a small town. We visited the park and fed the deer some deer crackers. Once the deer realised you had food, 4 or 5 would surround you in seconds and nudge you in the hope that you fed them. I have never seen deer so tame and relaxed with humans. Although it was very funny to see one of the deer sneakily steal a pack of crackers out of a lady's hand when she wasn't watching. We also visited some more temples in the area, including the Big Buddha at Toudai-ji. Standing at 15metres this Buddha was enormous! And surrounding him the temple itself was also huge. A very impressive sight and a must see. 

We saw Jim on our travels
Along our stays we also camped. Damo brought along a tent and sleeping bags, and so we ended up building the tent each evening. Although slow at first by the end we got pretty quick at building it. Trying to find a spot to camp at 11 o'clock on the evening was not so much fun though, especially when really tired from the sightseeing in the day. However, this was all worthwhile when we found a perfect spot at the top of a hill overlooking the town. This had a shrine, and a viewpoint which gave an awesome view.




Enjoying the view from Umeda Sky Building
Next onto Osaka. I knew the city was big, but didn't realise the size it would be. We drove through the hills and mountains then suddenly appeared on the outskirts of Osaka, with buildings as far as you can see. After finding a hotel to stay in what I would call, a 'rougher' part of town, we planned our days and set out on the city. We went up the Umeda Sky Building which was awesome. I recommend to any visitor, the view was amazing and you can see across all of Osaka in all directions. Any couples, make sure you look for the lovers seats at the top for a photo. You can also buy a heart shaped keyring to lock on the wall at the top to ensure your love is everlasting. In the evening a trip to Dotonburi was required. After getting off the subway, we ended up walking the wrong way by mistake for 20 minutes! This meant we had to work backwards, oops! We walked down the famous street and took a photos of the Glico man, the big crab, and the great bright lights outside of every bar and restaurant. After a few drinks at the foreigner friendly Zerro and Murphy's bars we headed out to the clubs until the early hours. Dotonburi definitely provides a good night out. 





Tuesday, 19 May 2015

School trip to England - Yuya's report

I went to England for about 2 weeks in April.It was my school trip. The flight took about 12 hours and I didn't sleep so I was exhausted.

English: White Cliffs of Dover, England - the ...
White Cliffs of Dover
First, I went to Cambridge. The main event at there was to learn from the students of Cambridge University. The program is called Blue Bridge Education and I had a great time because the students were very funny and clever. They told us the importance of body languages, eye contacts and big voice. It is quite hard for me, but I'm trying to do them when I take communications, even in Japanese. We also did a shopping with the Cambridge students and I bought many teas.

Next, we went to Dover, where we were really lucky because there weren't any clouds in the sky. Dover is at the south end of the UK, and it is near France. We saw a gravel beach, blue sky and the white cliffs all at once, so it was awesome & beautiful.

After that, we went for a sightseeing trip in Canterbury. I bought many things there, like T-shirts, chocolates, and some drinks, because they were so cheap!
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Canterbury Cathedral

The final place we went to was the capital city, London. I stayed there for about a week, and I felt the difference of the scenery between it an Tokyo. In Tokyo, there are many kinds of tall buildings, but in London, of course, there are also tall buildings but not only that. There were also many kinds of old-fashioned buildings. Because of that, we could easily feel at home there.

The food in the UK was very delicious. Before this trip, I heard that British food is not tasty. So I was a bit nervous. However, we didn't have any problems. The best food was fish and chips, which I ate at a restaurant called "Garfunkel's Restaurant". The fried fish, with some fresh lemon, was absolutely fabulous.

Traditional Fish 'n' Chips
Traditional Fish 'n' Chips 
Finally, I will talk about where I stayed. First in Cambridge, I had a home stay for the first time in my life. The host family were very kind, but the food was a bit oily. In London, I also had a home stay. The host mother's food was delicious but she was very strict. For example, when we went for a drive, she shouted at any driver who didn't give way to her. Nevertheless, while I was staying there I was touched by her kindness, so in the end I was very sad to say goodbye. So where did we stay on the rest of the days? Of course, we stayed at a hotel. We were very free during the hotel stay, so it was a lot of fun and I really wanted to stay there.

My Secret Garden


Open a door to a secret garden for me, there are a lot of plants. The garden is green and fresh. There are also various flowers. It is very nice smell. In the middle of the garden, there is a river which is clear water. I can swim in there without any concern. My secret garden has miracle power, if I want to drink beer, some birds bring bottle of beer for me! This place makes anything whatever I want!

Also, there is a library. I can read any of books, magazine. I wish I could have the secret garden.

Posted for Miyuki

This is my house!

I like the big garden and the big trees.

I like the white, purple and pink flowers.

I like my piano, and I like our big bathroom.

Everyone likes the house.

Satoka

 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Guest Blog: Tom & Damo's adventures (Part 1)

Skytree selfie
Hello all!

Just to introduce myself, my name’s Tom and I am Damo's friend from England. We became friends at university in the UK, and now although Damo is living 5713 miles away we still keep in touch!

I have been travelling in Asia the last couple of months including stops in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, all of which I had a fantastic time seeing some amazing things. Whilst I was in Asia I had to take the opportunity to go and see Japan, having never visited before.

I flew into Narita Airport, Tokyo, and was welcomed by Damo and his family. After being treated to a very traditional British beef roast dinner in the evening we made our way the following day on our adventures. First stop was Tokyo, and having only seen pictures of it on television, I was amazed by how busy it was and all the amazingly colourful lights everywhere. We stayed in a capsule hotel (something I think is unique to Japan!) which was a strange experience. We almost felt like cattle, having so many people staying in such a small space. We visited some temples in the city and went to the base of Tokyo Skytree. The evening was filled with good traditional Japanese food and many, many beers!

"Let's nick it!"
After a very hungover morning, we made our way to Tokyo station to get the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. I was amazed how quickly they travel and how smooth the ride was. Trains in the UK are slow and always late, so this was a complete contrast! Arriving in Kyoto we picked up a rental car and after attempting to get used to an automatic (in the UK all cars are manual) we made out way around Kyoto. Visits included going to Kiyomizu-dera and Chion-in amongst others.

An okay view from Kiyomizu
On the outskirts of Kyoto we also visited one of the Onsens. This was to be my first of many Onsen visits during my stay. I loved the hot spring water, and after a long hard day visiting Kyoto's sights, was well needed. Sitting outside with a slight cool breeze, but with lovely hot water was the perfect balance.



Friday, 15 May 2015

Remi's health questionnaire

As part of Remi's project she has written a short health questionnaire. We are looking to collect some date so that we can present the results to all of you. It would be hugely appreciated if you could take a couple of minutes out of your day by clicking this link and completing it.

Posted for Remi

My childhood collection

Colorful Super ball, home
Colorful Super balls
When I was a child, I collected little balls. They can hop higher than other balls. We call them “ super ball”. There are various colour and size. I put them in a little red box which my grandmother gave me. The box has the lid. So I can easily carry them.

I could get them in the festival. There are many shops at the festival. One of them was a shop of “super ball”. We could get the ball using a wafer, ladle, cup, or bowl. The cost was different which I use to get them. The balls were float on the running water in the little pool. Using wafer was the cheapest, but it couldn’ t get balls a lot. So I always use a ladle. I think I could get them 5-15 at one time. I had over one hundred balls.

Now I have about 50 balls. Some of them I gave to my niece. I played with them using balls. And they are collecting the balls. So they ask me to give the balls to them. It is interesting to hear they collect the balls like me. I enjoy playing with my niece using the balls.


 Posted for Yuri

Monday, 11 May 2015

Jet setting around Japan

Where's Damian?
I hope that you've all had a grand Golden Week, letting loose and relieving any pent up stress.

I was one of the more fortunate souls and got over a week off! I made the most of it and went travelling around Chiba, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and even a little bit of exploring closer to home. Had an absolutely amazing trip and would like to thank Jim for lending us his tent. We really would have been roughing it without it!

Replicating Tom's favourite movie scene
I won't go into  further details as there will be a guest post from my friend Tom (once he finishes his 30 hour transit home!), who I am grateful for putting up with me during our travels.

I took my fare share of photos, so if you're interested in having a look, here's a link to my album on Facebook (should be able to access without a Facebook account).