Friday, 24 February 2017

Describing my house

It's a brown detached house, off a quiet street in central Matsumoto.

Matsumoto Castle 
It's spacious. There's a living room with a kitchen where there are two long modern counters for preparing lovely warm meals. It has a training centre with weights & a huge TV. There are three bedrooms; one for my parents, one for my older brother, and one for me & my middle brother (T). My parents sleep on a Japanese-style futon, my older brother has a double bed, and me & T have a bunk bed. There are two toilets, which are modern, and a store room, full of emergency food & old bags,. There is a big garden with a breath-taking wooden deck. There are a lot of beautiful flowers in summer and the wooden deck is very handy for BBQs.

My house is fifteen minutes on foot from the city centre and the castle. It is not convenient for busses. My house is in a sleepy neighbourhood near a shrine & a temple.

My house is ideal for a family with pets. Sorry, definitely no smoking.

Posted for Tomoro

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Revised Cambridge English: Young Learners tests – an overview

Important news for all YLE teachers & schools out there - suggest you pay careful attention to the changes & plan accordingly.

Please don't ask me for new sample or practice materials - the ink is still very wet!

Likewise, SEs, I'm trying to find out when the new materials will be available & implications for certification before the 2018 changes take effect. See the section from 22'35 - 25'00 & a comment at 47'


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Well hello there!

Absolutely thrilled to bump into my former line manager at Sasabe kindergarten on Friday, with her resignation in her arms! 

To be honest, I did spy her the day before, helping out at the school's music festival. She didn't have to be there of course, but cool schools generate & retain those unquantifiable little extras - loyalty, goodwill, even love. 

Ikuko was an amazing teacher (see previous eulogies!) and I am very sure will an awesome mum. We have never spoken the same language with each other, but you don't really need to when infectious enthusiasm & obvious talent is available in spades (her side of the equation!) & jaded teacher wants to impress!

And I wanted to share this cool pic. Why can't all teachers smile like Ikuko!?
 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Kimi no na wa (Your Name) - a film review

'Your Name' is a film that you must see. It was directed by Matoko Shinkai, a popular animation
movie director. It stars no one because it is an animation film. This film should win the Japanese Academy Prize for Best Animation film.

This contemporary film is set in Tokyo and Hide-Takeyama, in rural Gifu.

The film is about two high school students, a boy called Taki and a girl called Mitsuha. They had never met each other, but they started to reverse roles in their dreams. They come to know each other, and one day Taki decides to see her, but she wasn't there...

I totally recommend 'Your Name'. The animation is spectacular and it makes you laugh a lot. The story is a bit complicated, thus I would recommend you watch it twice. The soundtrack was made by a Japanese popular rock band 'Radwimps', and it is captivating.

Posted for....Yuya

Forever burning

Helen Margaret Gowland passed away at the age of 99 in late January. A mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an aunt and a great aunt. A figure held dearly in the hearts of many. Here is my tribute to one of the people who shaped me into the person I am today.

I shall always cherish the memories I have of my grandmother in my very first year living in England. At the time my surroundings were new and alien, I had yet to get a firm grasp of the language, customs and the way of life. When I first arrived, I could communicate in English, but my reading abilities were rudimentary at best. Yet amidst all the unknowns, and at the heart of all this unfamiliar territory, there shined a beacon of light.

I fondly recall sitting atop my grandmother’s lap, story book in hand, waiting for her soft gentle voice to bring the words to life, eager to turn the page and see what adventures awaited. It was her patience and guidance that ignited a flame for a love of books and reading. Her tender love and care allowed me to flourish, spread my wings and fly. I was soon able to read independently, yet would always look forward to every opportunity of sitting beside her, enthralled by the magic of her storytelling.

The precious moments we were able to share together will always be close to my heart, and I often reminisce about those days. It was at that time that sparked a burning desire in my heart. A desire to nurture, help the world shine brighter, light the darkness. A flame that was passed on to me, and lead me to where I am today. An eternal flame that will shine radiant as it did in your heart. A flame I wish to pass on to my students, friends and family. And for you Helen Margaret Gowland, I will blaze the torch dazzling bright, forever in your loving memory.

Damian

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Postcard from...Hanoi, Vietnam

Dear Jim-sensei

3 days has been past in Hanoi. It was very fast! Although it is second time to visit Hanoi, I could enjoy "new" Hanoi & felt Vietnamese kindness a lot. It seems so cold in Japan, I don't want to go back!!

See you next class :)

Best regards,

Reiko

Monday, 13 February 2017

L.A. Winners - my lottery winnings plan

The reading book “L.A. Winner” is a story about stolen race force.


If I get big money by horseracing, lottery etc, what do I want to do? I will write my vision in my mind.

Firstly, if I get big money from lottery, I will not say that issue to many people. A half of money from a lottery, a horseracing will be saved to buy next lottery or bet on next horse rating and to get money from a lottery again.

And the bal. half of money from a lottery will be used to followings.
  1. To go graceful/high trip (to spend slow-moving time at graceful/high hotel) 
  2. To go all football games of Matsumoto Yamaga which are played at adversary stadium to give the Yamaga team a supportive push 
  3. To make a large donation to groups who help animals that were not bought at pet shops and who are taking actions to reduce pet shops and slaughter of animals. 
  4. To buy 2 rooms of assisted-living condominium for my parents because I heard many news that many people are now leaving their job to carry out elders’ care (ex. Parents) and when their cares are completed, it is really hard to go back to work. So I want to continue to work with a sense of safety which my parents receive enough care during my work. 
  5. To make a large donation to the Matsumoto Yamaga team to improve their practice environment. 
My vision in my mind makes me happy..., but if it becomes true, that is unbelievable happy thing for me.

Monday, 30 January 2017

After reading - The Quest

Do you know the CHATUCHAK weekend market in Bangkok? If no, I recommend to you to visit the market in the weekend. As you can see, the market is only held on Saturday and Sunday. It's very big market and many tourists visit this market every weekend. The place is 2.5 times as large as Tokyo Dome and 0.2 to 0.3 million people come per week. There are everything you want, souvenir, clothes, fruits, restaurants, furniture, bag, hat, shoes, lamps, figurine of animals,,,everything!! And all of them are very reasonable prices. When I go to the weekend market, I enjoyed to buy small pouches made by straw, a bracelet of natural stone, accessories, hat, table cloth, T-shirts, and so on. As the place is too large, I recommend to buy it when you like it. Once you passed the shop, you might not be able to come back the original place. In addition, there is no air conditioning. You may not be able to walk for a long time as it's too hot, the average temperature is around 30℃ and highest temperature is 39℃. Please enjoy your weekend in this market when you visit Bangkok.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Have an ice evening!

Last weekend saw temperatures plummet appreciably here in Matsumoto, with local & international ice carvers rubbing their hands enthusiastically!

Rumours have it that this event might not continue - which is a crying shame as it is one of the most under-rated nights out locally.

Night out? Yes! I can't remember the last time I went in daylight. Seeing the professionals and keen amateurs chipping, sawing, carving, blow-torching their creations into life is a treat. You need to be patient - wrap up well - and hot sake has excellent thermal properties...give a carton over to the lads & you'll be friends all night (and have access to the heating tent!).

Through the night designs change, bits fall off or ambitions need to be pulled back. Attachments carefully chiselled into shape get hoisted up to height on the forklifts waiting for work - snowflakes, horns, legs, carp, penguins - you name it!

For the photographer a delightful ongoing vista. Men-at-Work portraits, icy black & white super contrasts, shadow play & backlit studies. And a very cold trigger finger! (Keep your spare battery in a deep warm pocket, by the way). I really enjoyed my Saturday night out - and had to laugh at the white-lens warriors who turned up too late on Sunday morning as the bell rang at 6am to announce competition time was finished (put your tools down & step away from the ice).

When the sun comes up you do have the amazing Alps as a backdrop, but the magic is gone as the dawn approaches; the statues' poses are set and the decay starts almost immediately...before noon limbs have fallen off, carefully carved features have melted into tell-tale puddles.

Matsumoto ICE - 2017 Festival

Friday, 27 January 2017

Augmented reality island poster

In an attempt to explore the potential of Aurasma (read more about it here on a previous posting) and bringing in an extra dimension (the augmented kind) into the classroom, my bi-monthly housewives class went on a journey into uncharted territory: using a smartphone app to expand their learning and augmenting analogue into digital.


This project, which spanned a couple of lessons, revolves around a remote mystery island. We began by learning vocabulary for types of terrain, points of interest and landmarks, alongside adjectives which they collocate to. This served as a base to be able to be more descriptive when it came to summarising the key features of the island.



Obviously, we need an island to describe before going about specifying what it looks like. Everyone was given a blank island, with a key to label the different types of terrain & landmarks: ocean, ruins, rivers, forest, lake and mountains, with space to add their own. Everyone used the key, plus their own ideas to design and draw their mysterious remote island. There were also caves, a lighthouse, and even a volcano added in amongst many others. This concluded the first lesson, with the homework task to go away and choose 5 special points of interest on your own map and write a brief paragraph for each location. Still very much all analogue so far…




2 weeks later we regrouped and ironed out any errors in the writing. What I wish I had done in hindsight is added in a listen and draw activity, where everyone paired up and listened to their partner’s description of their island and re-drawing the island as it is described. It would have really helped activate all of the useful language we had studied. Tunnel vision focusing on the final output with Aurasma may have obscured my vision here!


Alternatively, we split into pairs of speakers and listeners. The role of the speaker was to describe the special interest points on their map, first with their written summaries in hand, and after a few practise rounds over their summary to their listening partner, whose role was then to prompt when the speaker when they stumbled. For the finale, the listener video-recorded their partner (finally starting to go digital) much to the objection of those involved. At this stage they had rehearsed and practised their summary, not just reading out loud and were ready for the big stage. Even if they didn’t believe it themselves at the time.


I then went through the process of embedding the videos into everyone’s poster, using the images on their islands as trigger images. Jaws on the table when given my phone to point at their poster, and out pops an audio/visual combo of the creator describing what exactly it is that they are looking at. Pretty cool! It’s quite rare to be able to have a record of what students have produced orally and be able to showcase it too. Aruasma is the perfect medium to do so, and has a great WOW factor. It can make your 2D poster, into a living, talking, interactive masterpiece!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Killing time with a jigsaw & YLE Starters practice!

As I have written in the description, this was not a planned practice - we were waiting for her study-buddy to arrive and had already put the massive jigsaw together and talked about the things we could see.

The smaller cards I'm holding would be larger in an actual Cambridge YLE Starters speaking test (and the picture a lot simpler!); there would be eight to choose from, and at most the candidate would be asked to place only three into the picture (so we overdid it a bit here!). Note though, we've never done this before and were coming across new words (which we have not learned eg frog, kite) which we might not know, but we do know they were not apples or fish! Not all the vocabulary is in the Starters word list either - never mind!

My students have not come across prepositions before, so we were learning (and teaching each other) as we went. You can see the dynamic changes instantly with the boy joining us? The girl assumes the role of explainer & intermediary, supporter etc. This would not happen in an actual test - one at a time please! The examiner would have a script & time-plan to follow, too. We would be sat at angle like this, or next to each other. I think it is clear that young learners CAN DO if given time & a fair chance; they don't need translations or super-genki distractions!

We are going to be adding more Cambridge English speaking test practice videos on our Youtube channel this year; you can already find loads of examples of our learners making/singing/doing/giggling (a lot)...mostly fun & games at Luna but this I think the proof of the pudding: a serious CAN DO pay off.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Mind the (Learning) Gap - relevant materials for teens in EFL classrooms

We have been so busy at Luna over the last year or so exploiting the wonderful resources that are Mary Glasgow magazines, that we have completely forgotten to write about them!

Published by Scholastic, and available for learners across 5 carefully graded (CEFR) levels from A2 to C1 (Cambridge YLE Flyers/KET for Schools to Cambridge Advanced) and in five editions per year, the challenge is really upon learner & teacher to motor through all the amazing content quickly enough!

Please change here for Tower Bridge!
We promise to keep you better informed of our experiences this year - we already had the third of five editions for 2016-17 land on our doorstep though!

A theme with the Crown (CEFR B1 level) magazine this year (the publisher's "year" sticks to the British school calendar which runs October to September) is a double page spread per issue on one of London's Underground Lines. So far, we have run the rule along the Central & Circle Lines. I think this is a fabulous idea - and extremely well set out - with highlights and photos of the best places to go sightseeing & which station is closest...historical & cultural information too. Also very practical - London IS the world's most visited tourist destination after all, and the map is an iconically simple representation of a very messy bowl of spaghetti!

A lot of Japanese learners can relate to major underground networks - more people pour through Shinjuku station (in Tokyo), for example, than the entire population New Zealand. Per day! And a lot of internationalised students, or returnees if you like, have tackled an underground network somewhere along the way. How often do you struggle to find relevant (and current) material for travelled & more fluent/capable kids if you are running a school/teaching outside eg the Circle Line?

We've had a redundant board game in the cupboard for yonks, which is a great game but impossible to give any relevance to apart from the odd "I'm going to London next month" panic scenario! Now? most popular game in the building as our pre & young teens want to roam around London checking out the sights and transfer urgently to get Hamley's, see Big Ben and get to Wembley Stadium!

As we adopted these magazines to replace our reliance on Oxford University Press's Story Tree (you fools, brilliant YLE resource for EFL chopped off at the knees) we went to bat making resources to cover the entire glossary for each article in each of the five magazines on Quizlet. This allows us to flip our classrooms - teachers get early editions as institutional subscribers & we roll-out sets (per article) well in advance. The subscription deal with Scholastic is SO attractive, and the resources available online so staggeringly comprehensive & archived, we feel the very least we can do is share.



Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Invisible writing - get those reluctant scribblers going

In September 2010, Peter Ross made a presentation at Shinshu JALT here in Matsumoto on Invisible Writing. It remains one of the most practical & helpful learning tips I have come across over the years of workshops & conferences I have attended. It is a technique I have occasionally deployed with my learners aiming for exam success.

Keep that plan handy - or you'll get lost!
A never-ending frustration with my learners - and I suspect a nationwide issue at least here in Japan - is how slowly ideas are formulated into words, and how slowly those words are organised/connected/embellished/collocated/contrasted/developed...brainstorming is not a concept familiar to very many students I have taught over the years, and certainly not as a communal effort after primary school age.

An observation as well, from hours and hours spent invigilating Cambridge exams, is how poorly (if at all) candidates plot out their writing. Time is critical in an examination especially, but skipping the thinking & planning stage is a massive mistake - which writing invisibly illustrates beautifully!

So let's assume we have focused on the writing task and identified:

  • The audience - who are we writing to and why? 
  • The format - is this a letter? an email? a memo? a report? an essay etc?
  • The voice - formal or informal? Contractions, abbreviations & emojis going to be suitable?
Let's also assume we have determined the time we have available for this - after the planning stage (please give that about 10 mins if you are at FCE level), and the target word count. Let's also assume we have written on A4 before & know approximately how many words we can get on a line so we know approximately how many lines we need to write (and not count every word back every two minutes?!)...

What stops writers even starting?
  • Blank paper panic
  • allergy to writing joined up ideas
  • lack of muscle memory - how often does anybody use a pen these days?
  • lack of confidence in vocabulary range, grammatical accuracy, spelling, my own voice
  • time stress
Familiarity with the task & a checklist of how the writing will be assessed helps enormously. Small steps first, and build on what you CAN do. Get those hands & brains trained!

What slows the writer down?
  • erasers
  • re-reading or editing on the go
  • re-thinking the plan
  • winging it
  • word counting
When you are planning or blitzing ideas, making a mess is part of the gig. Scribble everything down as it comes to mind & don't stop. Scrap paper is literally that - it goes in the shredder. Once you have blurted ideas onto paper, organise quickly with arrows & numbers. Add extra words or replace repetitions, order logically into paragraphs. Contemplate spelling at this stage & use another word if you are stuck - don't rub stuff out or compose fully fledged sentences.

So far, this invisible writing is kind of invisible! You will need a thin plastic 'wallet' for loose leaf papers, that a pen will be able to make an impression through, within which a sheet of carbon paper sandwiched between a sheet of lined paper (top) & a sheet of plain paper below. Make sure the carbon paper is the right way up. A pen that doesn't work - I prefer a pen the students will usually use (no not a pencil) or even the wrong end of a paint brush! The whole point is that the writer will not be able to see what they have written.

Can you see what we just wrote?
I promise this exercise will transform the way your writers will think about & approach writing tasks. As they are unable to see what they have done/are doing, the following tends to happen:
  • focus carefully on what they are actually doing & where they are on the paper, physically. This stops day-dreaming dead!
  • extra care in writing neatly
  • careful adherence & constant referral to the plan - get everything 'in'
  • maintain a flow (stopping to do anything else means you lose your place)
  • no editing or re-reading
  • erasers are out of the equation
  • writers 'see' their writing in their heads & concentrate hard to keep it there
When your writers have finished, ask them what they were doing. Let them identify what has changed in their writing process. One thing my writers never do - yours too? - is re-read their work afterwards critically. Invisible writers can't wait to review their work...spelling, missing punctuation, word order, grammar. You will never see your students keener, and you may even have to let them do a re-write (that precious second draft!) if they ask. 

I love invisible writing - does it work for you?












Friday, 30 December 2016

YLE success at Luna in 2016

Super sunny Starters
 Back in September, before the cold dark nights set in, some of the children in our classes took the chance to sit their Cambridge Young Learners exams right here in Matsumoto - an opportunity we have proudly been making possible for sixteen years now.


Unfortunately, our preparations were thrown into considerable turmoil with Damian's CELTA course being delayed, and his eventual absence coinciding with Chuck's very unexpected bout of pneumonia. Thankfully, we were very fortunate to be able to rely on our good friends to see us through a very tough fortnight. One of the reasons we love the Cambridge YLE exams is because we do not feel we need to teach towards them - we know good teaching leads to Can Do,
Marvelous Movers
and we know our fun learning environment encourages our learners to be bold.

Over the last week of school this year we were thrilled to be able to give our exam takers their certificates, with proud hand shakes & big smiles - and you can also see Damian & Chuck are also back in action!

Friday Flyers
Particularly chuffed we could hand out certificates at all three levels (Starters, Movers and Flyers) this year to first-time takers - and that for our Flyers this meant they have now achieved all three levels.

Well done to all our entrants - having a go is all we can ask of you, and you can all be very proud of your achievements. Can you see how proud your teachers are?!

Looking forward to plenty more positive Can Do Luna stories in 2017!




Wednesday, 21 December 2016

After reading - Claws


Write about a time when you were outdoors, in a scary situation - fact or fiction!

This is a story when I was in childhood. Our family had a old house in the deep in the mountains. This house was almost made from wood and its roof was covered by a lot of straw.This house was broken down some decades ago, but we used as a rest house while working on a farm in those days.

One day, I was supposed to stay at the house alone during our family’s absence.
I was playing alone at first, but I slept while I was unaware. When I was awake, it has already become dark. But our family did not still come home. I was alone. It was very silent.
At the moment, suddenly I could hear the sound something walked around our house. I knew something was not man. But I did not know what it was. I could not see the creature since the door and window was close. But I would be found by the creature if I open the door or the window to see the creature. The creature walked around our house for a while. I was very scare, but I could only just wait the creature went far away without screaming.

After some minutes or hours, I was asleep again. When I was awake, it was already morning and our family was in our house. I did not know what that is in the end, but I believe that was not my dream. Because I found the footprint in our garden!



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Biggest day of the year - FCE

December 10th saw 31 experienced English teachers struggle up a steep hill to deliver speaking tests to over 300 high-schoolers in central Tokyo.

The candidates had already done their Reading & Use of English, Writing, and Listening papers - an altogether long & tiring day for them all. Final prospect of their FCE day was their paired speaking test with people they'd never clapped eyes on before.

All examiners are trained to deliver the speaking test from one of several randomly selected scripts on the day - to the same very high standard, ensuring each candidate has a fair opportunity to show what they Can Do. While one examiner invites the candidates to express their opinions & converse with each other on a range of topics, his/her colleague is paying very careful to attention to their output in order to assess each of them against a standardised assessment scale. The whole process per pair lasts about a quarter of an hour, and is a very intense experience for everyone involved.

My role on the day was to monitor the examiners and provide feedback - fine tuning essentially, to ensure quality control. Speaking examiners after all need to be delivering & assessing at the same level no matter where in the world they may be...and in my experience really appreciate being observed as they don't get that too often at work. Common objective shared, and therefor total confidence that the results will be reliable.

Massive thumbs up to Hibiya High School for adopting Cambridge English: First and a pat on the back to the organisers for achieving a smooth flow of candidates during the whole afternoon. And well done my speaking examiners - proud of you!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A very big gig - entertaining an entire kindy!

Way back at the end of summer, one of my 'old' students (now a young mummy!)  asked if we'd be able to 'do something in English' at her son's kindergarten. Of course we said 'Yes' and 'Can Do'!

The date got pushed back a few times - Damian's original CELTA course in the Galapagos was re-scheduled and I needed him to deliver the hour or so of fun I had in mind...


We kept getting asked by the PTA reps etc what that needed to do - which was nice of them - and they didn't really get it when I said 'nothing - just join in'. They begged for a plan, and a translation of what we were going to do so they could explain to the kids. Quite hard to insist on a 'No' with that, but we did. They were not convinced with 'the kids will get it. trust me' response.

So, the day before the event, Damian & I did a dress rehearsal in the car park (looking a bit silly to passing traffic). All sorted, timings crunched & props prepped. Then Yukari told us it was a 90 minute event (not the 60 I'd molded in my head for weeks to come up with the show). A few harsh words and gnashing of teeth, emergency re-hash & an 'it'll be alright on the night'.

Until the phone call later with news that because of 'flu risk' kids in the city should not hang out in large groups for more than an hour! Actually, 45 minutes would be pushing it. Thanks for understanding & all that. Back to Plan A, shaved!

On the day, Damian & Jim led a merry song & dance with about 120 children & parents, PTA & teachers well over an hour (we knew the diktat but we were in the groove, man!). Yukari MC'd, and no-one seemed to notice when Jim got the verses mixed up! As everyone went back to their rooms we got to meet some familiar faces - mums we know - and share a lot of high fives with the children in each of their classrooms just before lunchtime. Lots of curiosity and bouncing from the tunes we'd all been running & jumping to.

For a one-hour event, a lot of phone calls & preparation. on the day, the kids did very much 'get it' (never a doubt) and in the headmaster's den later there was genuine shock (the good variety) from the staff & PTA at the way we'd approached the 'Entertain 101' challenge.

Guess we'll find out next year if they were just being polite! We had a good time, and we know the kids did :)

Snow, tree, and lights....must be Christmas soon!



The tree-builders did their job earlier this week, just before it snowed. Brrr! Bitterly cold! Jim got the ladders out to hang the lights & jolly up the house. Hope you enjoy the light show - tell us if you like the tree, please!

Ceilidh had the right idea and painted a tree instead - which we'll be using tomorrow afternoon - so please don't forget the Christmas party (I got a text message from Santa that he's already packed his bag & given Rudolph an extra carrot for the journey over from the North Pole).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

My Thai food safari

English: Shrimp Green Curry, Bangkok, Thailand...
Green curry
I went to Thailand to meet my husband last week. We enjoyed a lot of delicious Thai food in Bangkok. I would like to tell you about Thai food.

We ate a lot of spicy food in nice restaurants:

  • green curry - it has coconut milk, chicken, and vegetables in it. Delicious!
  • Tom Yam Kum - this is a soup, with chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, lemongrass, coriander, and chilli peppers. A little hot!
  • Thai noodles - Like Japanese ramen, but with different kinds of noodles. Cheap!
We ate lots of mangoes, mango sticky rice, and mango smoothies.

Closeup of pad Thai, a Thai dish made from ric...
Pad Thai
We tried Chinese Shark Fin soup (very nice, and a little expensive). I love Pad Thai (fried noodles with minced pork, spring onions, peanuts & lime juice). 

We drank mineral water because you can't drink tap water in Thailand - it's too dirty. 

I like Thai food, a little, because it's interesting. It is not too hot, and it is cheap.

Aoi

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

After reading - The Quest

Write about a holiday you have had when the weather has spoiled everything.


My family loves Matsumoto Yamaga who is the professional football team in Matsumoto. Last year, Yamaga was in the top category in professional football league in Japan called J1. We tried to go to the other team’s stadium to watch the game as much as we can.


In summer, there was a game in Sendai. There is a professional baseball team in Sendai, which is called Rakuten Eagles. Luckily, we found there was a baseball game in Sendai on the day before Yamaga game. For my son and me, it was the first time to see the professional baseball game. So, we decided to go to Sendai to watch both baseball and football games though Sendai is approximately 500 km away from my home.


It was the night game. We went to the official shop in town to get the team T-shirts and towels and we were fully prepared for the game. In the stadium, we enjoyed the game and the supporters who sang and yelled. In the 2nd inning, we saw the lighting in the sky then heard the big thunder. Soon, the sky became dark with thunder cloud and then it rained. We had to wait for the rain to stop. But, it didn’t stop raining. Finally, the game was canceled and we were announced we would get the refund on our tickets.


On the next day, the weather was good. But Yamaga couldn’t win the game.


We enjoyed a lot of good food in Sendai, but we couldn’t enjoy both games.

「The quest book」の画像検索結果

Monday, 21 November 2016

The best footballer I have ever seen

Logo
Matsumoto Yamaga
I usually watch games of Matsumoto Yamaga football club and rarely watch games of Japan football league called “J league” and other leagues in the world like league Espanola, Premium league etc.

So, I would like to explain a best footballer I have ever seen is Hayuma Tanaka of Matsumoto Yamaga football club. I think that his football skill may not be good as other football players, the points I respect him are as follows.

His leadership
He tells his many experiences to younger players to be good football player and many players respect him, but he respects all players regardless of age. Thus, the team is very well organized.

His sense of responsibility
When the team loses a game, he doesn’t throw other players in their fault and is thinking what he should do.

His positive thought / action
When the striker’s shoot doesn’t get a goal, the supporters will disappoint it. But he offers the striker a compliment on his shoot or his fighting.

His prompt switching
His position is “Side back” and its position is requested to have a lot of exercise volume because its position is related to both of offensive and defensive. His switching between offensive and defensive, so the team can make a lot of chances of goal and can reduce a lot of risks.

I would like him to work for team until his retire and after his retire.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Great Wall of China

When I studied abroad in China 13 years ago, I have seen some of the Great Wall of China, which is one of the world heritage. I lived in Tianjin city at that time. Great Wall of China have been placed in several area of north China. Before I tried to go to Great Wall of China, I didn’t know that it consists of several fortifications and some place has already gone the wall. As I thought it should be one great wall continued from north-east China to north-west China like a dragon, I was very surprised and a bit disappointed of the fact. There were three famous places near Tianjin and Beijing city, which is Simadai, Mutianyu and Badaling. The Badaling is the nearest and most famous place because there is another famous place that is an emperor’s tomb in Min dynasty near the wall. When my mother came to see me, I take her to go sightseeing to the Badaling from Beijing by tour bus. The road to the Badaling and the emperor’s tomb had been developed and it was comfortable trip than I expected. We could get ropeway to go up to the wall on top of the mountains and enjoyed the view from the Great Wall of China. When we go down the mountain, we got truck and it was so excited. It was easy for us to go there but a lot of Chinese people go there and it was like packed train in Tokyo, it is difficult to walk on the wall or take pictures. On the other day, my friend came to see me and I took them to another famous place of Great Wall of China, which is Simadai. This place is very far from Beijing and a few people go there. However, the Simadai is most beautiful and exciting place of the Great Wall of China I have ever seen. Although it was a little hard for us to go there, we don’t have to take care of so many Chinese people. We enjoyed beautiful view from the top of mountain and the scared ropeway which is always shaking. Now these places are not same as the one I saw, but I would like to go Mutianyu if I have a chance so that I can go all of the famous Great Wall of China!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Brazil - an armchair traveller's wishlist


I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Brazil where is very far from Japan and my images of Brazil are “Football” and “Carnival”.

During this travel in Brazil, I would like to experience famous Brazilian cultures and to know other aspects of Brazil which I don’t know at this moment.

The most interesting plan of this travel is to see a football game. Any category of football is fine for me. How Brazilian supports/fans give their team or their team’s footballers a boost? How Brazilian supports/fans lift football audiences or whole stadium alight? I would like to creative a positive atmosphere in a stadium of Matsumoto Yamaga football club even though the team is behind. And I would like to see football technique of highest level in the world.

Next. I would like to visit the “Fall of Iquazu” and “Barreirinhas”. It seems that there are so many attractive places to do sightseeing, but if we visit many famous places, we will spend much time to transfer because Brazil is big country. So, I will visit to limited places and will spend much time to see them enough. I have to check how far those attractive places are placed.

As for the food, I would like to taste Brazilian chocolate candy “Brigadeiros” and “Mate” tea from special cup made from fruit called gourds. I can drink “Mate” tea in Japan, but I think that the Mate tea sold Brazil in Japan is adjusted to suit Japanese taste and would like to taste real bitter tea.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Using smartphones to learn "Telephone English"

English: Large image of telephone switchboard....
 Photograph courtesy of Joseph A. Carr
I have a dread fear of trying to teach telephone English, especially in business classes. Why?

  • The more realistic the set up, the more impossible monitoring
  • Students know each other & understand each others' short cuts/linguistic tics
  • Students are expecting this call
  • There is usually some kind of hierarchy in the group
  • Not always possible to use phones 
  • Work arounds, such as Skype or Google Hangouts firewalled 
  • Odd number of students
Obviously, making phone calls & answering them at the office/on the road are everyday working situations, and vitally important that the user masters the absolute basics very well. There are stock phrases to be used, which to sound professional & proficient just can't be mangled. We need to hear the right phrases to trigger the required responses & manage the conversation forwards in a predictable fashion.

Things learners do that kill a telephone exchange:
  • get the giggles
  • panic attack & go silent
  • start nodding or just make sounds that other cultures do not understand
  • use their own language as much as possible
  • repeat poor pronunciation more slowly
  • lack empathy with the listener's level of English
English: This is an example of the angst cause...

Whether making the call, or answering it, learners simply have to 'learn their part of the dialogue' - an observation I heard years ago as a complaint about native speakers in Hawaii, who didn't function as expected from an Interchange 1 dialogue! On the phone, we do need to learn our lines.

So how to do this in class? 

Well, this may sound stupid, but use your phones! But no, I don't mean start calling each other - recipe for multiple overlapping snippets & malfunctions which you cannot control. The answer is still BYOD, though. Although slow adopters in Japan, most of my business classes now boast mostly smart phones. 
The preparation:

I created a set of very simple phrases I wanted the receiver of a call to use, on Quizlet (here). In this instance, I took out a key word or words. We had already listened to a short dialogue and filled in the blanks, as you do. I asked students to open up the set in the Quizlet app. A few stunned faces (I have only asked them to install the app every week since May)...mini hiatus while 'expert' users led their less coherent colleagues along the app store, password, install, register, join the class dance. OK, itself a learning moment! 

The set up:

Reassuring nods as they scrolled across the flashcard function. Easy. Race each other in mad screen-tapping game mode (scatter) against the clock...pecking order established?

The Challenge:

I asked students to use the 'Learn' feature. 'Too hard!' - needed to toggle the 'term' button so they only had to write in the key word(s) and not the rest of the phrase!

Realisation:

Typing too slowly/deliberately - copying from books open. And why are we typing a telephone dialogue? USE THE MICROPHONE to fill in the answers/blanks!

Reaction:

'Cool! I don't have to type stuff', shortly followed by 'Oh, stupid phone doesn't understand me. I said "and you" but it reads "Andrew"... the dominant students cockily barking at their phones and reacting indignantly at the jumbled message received, looking around to see more deliberate & gentle pronunciation making better progress.

Relaxation:

 At this point all I needed to do was put my hands in the air and let the penny drop. Talk to the phone nicely! And as the teacher, I am totally absolved of any blame or shame game in picking on students' intonation, enunciation, elision etc. Fine tune your own pronunciation! Students wandered off to find quieter corners, they practiced and practiced more than they ever have done before with any dialogue - and importantly, with phone in hand & an unknown 'partner'.
English: logo of quizlet


We didn't get to the other half of the phone call (the caller) which was just fine with me. Nail the most important bits first, then we'll get adventurous!

Development: 
  • 'Harder' Quizlet sets (though of the same content/conversation), with caller 'terms' to match with receiver 'definitions'. This would really challenge sentence level pronunciation, with stress & intonation features etc
  • Use other apps eg Dragon Dictation to polish pronunciation further, again, without the teacher being involved in critique mode, but enabling/suggesting tweaks
Conclusion:

The students 'got it'. If their phones won't understand them, nobody else is going to! They needed to moderate their output to suit their listener, and not be critical of the listener eg 'He's from China' or something. Now they can see another function for their smart phones - a most excellent phone training device.

Jim was teaching from International Express Elementary (OUP) 3rd Ed. when this hallelujah moment struck. Check out "LunaTeacher" on Quizlet for plenty more creative uses of the site.






Friday, 28 October 2016

Postcard from...a safari, Kenya

Hello everyone!
Wildebeeste & Impalas

I stacked in Narita Airport about 30 hours!! but finally got the exciting and wild earth of Africa.

Today I met some group of elephants, gnus, giraffes, and lions!! They were amazingly beautiful.

This morning, I was able to enjoy the view of the Kilimanjaro clearly. The guide said it is really rare recent years.

Tomorrow I am going to enjoy a boat safari!!

Teruki, who is impressed by Africa!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Postcard from...Hawaii, USA

A Plumeria cluster - perfect for lei making
I arrived in Hawaii "Big Island" yesterday.

We went to the volcano. Lava had erupted.

I am impressed by the wonderful scenery.

Mie

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Night at the Museum - film review

Ben Stiller claimed that he watched Tom Cruise...
Ben Stiller
Night at the Museum is a fantasy movie. It came out in 2006 . The director was Shawn Levy .

The story is about a rookie guard in a big museum in Washington D.C. That museum has a secret, which is that all the stuffed animals and statues and models come alive at night. The guard has lots of adventures and there are lots of exciting action scenes. Old guards want to steal something important.

I thought the film was exciting and made me feel nervous. My favorite character is played by Ben Stiller, but I also like the Pharoah and the Moai. The story was only 108 minutes but it is really funny all the time. This movie really good for children and parents.
Nanako (9)

Monday, 24 October 2016

My Neighbour Totoro - film review

The film "Totoro" came out in 1988. The director was Hayao Miyazaki. This film is a fantasy film.

There are two girls, Satsuki, Mei, and a monster "Totoro" in this film.One day Mei wanted to give a corn to mom in the hospital, but she got lost. Satsuki could not find her, so she asked Totoro to help find Mei. Totoro called "Nekobus", which took Satsuki to Mei. Then Nekobus took them to Mom in hospital. Everybody was happy.

I think everything is good in this film. I like the music, design and the story. I don't think anything is bad. Everybody likes this film because Totoro is a fantastic character.

Yuto (12)

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Yuka, my best friend

Yuka's Toca Hair Salon make-over!
This is a photo of my friend, Yuka.

She's 31 and she's Japanese. She lives in Matsumoto. She's a good nurse.

She has long, orange hair with green & purple highlights, and she has dark eyes. She's always kind.

She loves snowboarding and does it very well. She goes to the mountains many times every winter.

I like her because I'm relaxed with her.

Megumi

Friday, 21 October 2016

Introducing my best friend, Megumi

Megumi's Toca hair salon make-over!
This is a photo of my friend, Megumi.

She's 34 and she's Japanese. She lives in Matsumoto city. She's a HCU nurse.

She has a bob haircut. She has orange & yellow hair & dark eyes. She is intelligent and always funny.

She loves music and she likes drinking alcohol. She can cook meals very well and she can play the piano. We like eating when she cooks dinner.

I like her because I enjoy her company.

Yuka

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

More thoughts on my trip to England

English: The City of London skyline as viewed ...
The City of London skyline 
I found many things about England through this trip.

England is a racial melting pot. The air of London is stale. Many people in London use bikes for commuting.

There aren't any high mountains in England. The underground in London is smaller than Tokyo's. There are so many Chinese tourists in London & the Cotswolds.

When we were driving on the motorway, we can see many Japanese cars, but German cars are large.

In England people drive on the left. In the morning & evening, London has traffic jams. London is a very busy city.

Post offices in London sell sweets & stationery.

There are old & new buildings in London, and new buildings are now under construction.

A road sign in Kent, reminding traffic to driv...
Keep Left
In London they are parking on one side of the road, in high-class residential areas too.

Prices in London are higher than Tokyo.

Takeyo