Thursday, 30 September 2010

Neighbourhood rules & obligations

Japan has its fair share of unfathomable rules, which I asked my class at NHK this evening to have a go at expressing. My objective was to get them to use modals of obligation more confidently/accurately.
Now, I have lived in Matsumoto for a fair old while, but there is always something 'new' that usually has me scratching my head in dismay! Here are the final results of pair-worked brainstorming.
Anything on this list strike you as particularly practical, or utterly bonkers?

You must do the following:
• separate your rubbish (steel v aluminium cans, plastic v organic etc)
•put rubbish in the designated place, on the designated day, in the designated bag (one city I know has 41 different ways the locals have to split their rubbish!) after dawn
•write your name on your rubbish bags
•take a turn to be 'rubbish monitor'
•carry i/d (if you are foreign)

You mustn't/can't do the following:
•fly tipping
•burn your own rubbish or anything else in your garden
•put your rubbish out the night before
•park in the street
•ride a bike in a pedestrian area
•throw away rubbish in black bags

You can do the following:
•smoke in the street (depends on the ward)
•drink in street
•set off fireworks (but not in parks/school yards)

You don't have to do the following:
•register your bike (but it's a good idea)
•cross the street at a crossing (but everyone does)

You shouldn't:
•make a racket late at night

What's the daftest neighbourhood rule in your town? We'd love to hear!

Posted by Toshimasa, Ayaka, Teruki, Takeshi, Chisato, Teruki

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Subliminal Grammar - Story Tree exploited

I love OUP's Story Tree graded reader series for a lot of reasons, as I have mentioned before here.
My class of boys on Tuesday were thinking a story about feeding dolphins was a bit naff, so I asked them to find a few words in their reader that were 'new' for them, such as up, down, through...and asked them to tell each other what they figured they meant - encouraging them to look back at where they found the words and to think about what was happening in the pictures (eg naff dolphin jumping through naff hoop!). I asked them to underline each time they could find these words; then we wrote them on the inside rear cover with a simple drawing to indicate the direction of movement (and no, I don't think they want to be blinded with a word like 'preposition' just yet!)

Next, we highlighted words like big, wet...same process but asking them "What is big/wet?" etc. Didn't take them too long to realise what these words were doing ie describing something. Could they think of any opposites? "Are you wet/big?" etc!

Finally, we searched for 'doing' words (I had to cheat and explain a bit in L1 - my attempt to gesture fell flat and time was short) like jump, give, take...their TPR was much better than mine!

End result I think was a 'naff' book  suddenly full of cool words they could readily apply to things they see and do. Acting their way out of class jumping, being big, and going through the door!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

predicting sequences - cuisennaire rods 101

Getting a hang of logical sequences is a big step for little ones - noticing patterns and predicting a continuation thereof is no small achievement. We tackled this today threading different shaped buttons onto pipecleaner, and asking the children to repeat a series (eg. triangle, circle, star) - this got easier after all the pink ones had been used and they had to put up with inferior colours!

We backed this up with red & blue cuisennaire rods, building a sequence that repeated (B, B, R). Small beer so far, but much bigger challenges ahead now that they've 'got the idea'. We will be starting to think about categorising things and making sets, as well as measuring things and comparing sizes etc. Going to get very scientific (no - we'll be using hands, feet, elbows etc!)

We also made weather machines, to help us track the changing weather now. Pretty pointless doing this during the overwhelming heatwave we have endured here this summer. "Sunny and hot" would have become a bit dull, day in day out! Mind you, "rainy and cool" will wear thin quickly too!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Student profile - meet (another!) Misaki

My name is Misaki.`Misaki` means spring because my birthday is spring.
I live in Matumoto city and live with my parents.I don't have any brother and sister. I'm 16 years old,and I'm a student of Agatagaoka High School. My class is like girl's school because we have 38 girls and 3 boys. But I love my class very much.
I'm going to tell you about myself.I have medium hair and black eyes. When I meet someone first time,I speak polite language and look like shy but that can't be true because I love talking with friends.
I have two dreams.One is to become a kindergarten's teacher because I love children. So I want to learn about children in university. Next is to live in UK.I went to there when I was 13 years old and I became love there.
My favorite thing is to dance.I had learned ballet and Japanese dancing. Now,I go to jazz hip hop's lessons on Wednesday night and I also go to English classes on Saturday evening.I love English too.
I hope I can see you again sometime soon


Saturday, 25 September 2010

About Japanese Politics

Written by Teruki
Japan is a Constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the Emperor, but he is a just symbol. The leader of the government is the Prime Minister. In Japan, elections for the government are held every four years for the House of Representatives, and every six years for the House of Councilors. Citizens also vote for their Governor, Mayor and the members of the city and prefectural governments. People over twenty years old can vote. People are not given any punishment if they do not vote.
Nowadays, the Democratic Party is the main part of the Japanese government. In my opinion, the Liberal Democratic Party is more right wing, and   the Social Democratic Party is the more left wing. It looks strange. 
 The government buildings are in the center of Tokyo, in Kasumigaseki, Nagatacho in Chiyoda ward. It is called the government office area.
  The country belongs to the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic, Asia-Europe Meeting, ASEM, and so on.
  The flag design is extremely simple, a red dot in the center of a white flag. Some say the red circle represents the sun. Ancient people believed in the sun god, and people called the country “the Land of the Rising Sun”. Therefore, a red circle “the sun” became the symbol of the flag. People think the cherry tree is a one of our country’s symbols. Japanese people love cherry blossoms. A party under a cherry tree is a special occasion for Japanese people. When enjoying cherry blossom, people remember their nationality.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Student profile - meet Misaki

My name is Misaki. I am Japanese and I live in Matsumoto, a city in middle of the country. My family has four members-my parent and my younger sister, Mizuki. I am 18 years old and I'm a high school student. I'm in third grade in Matsumoto Agatagaoka high school's English course.

I'm going to tell you about myself. I have long black hair. I don't wear glasses but my eyesight is bad. So I wear contact lenses.

I think I am a calm and friendly person.

I like drama, music, and reading books. When I have free time, I watch dramas, listen to music, read books. I also like English. If I have a chance, I want to travel all over the world.

Please write soon and tell me about you and your life.

Best wishes


Friday, 17 September 2010


What you need
A fishing rod,time,bait,line,hook.

My friend goes fishing. She goes with her family. She goes fishing to river. She really enjoys it. She goes to river and waits and catches many fish. She is a good fisherman. And she is a good cook too. She cooks the fish with her mother. And her brothers catch the fish with her father. She goes fishing once a month.


Basketball explained

Basketball is popular in Japan.

If we play basketball we need five people
in each team.(Team A and Team B)

First come to the center circle. And the one person of each team will come
to the center.Then hit the ball!

The team that gets the most points is the winner.


Our neighbourhood - urban safari!

On Tuesday, our pre-schoolies 'went bush' - exploring the riverside which is a stone's throw from the school. A week ago we found 'Men at Work' - electricians, builders, bin men etc, on the 'quiet side' of the river.
Today, we had to hold hands tightly as we explored the busy main road, looking for shops and stores. We found all sorts of businesses not very far away, and challenged Naomi to draw a quick picture of each one. We think she did very well, as we told her what we could remember about each one - we went into the supermarket & found fruit & veg., meat, milk etc. In all, we found eleven different places where people work.

Chiaki-sensei in the supermarket
logo of quizletFrom Naomi's sketches we produced a fantastic flashcard set on Quizlet. Check them out for free (you can 'learn' or 'play') - download them too if you like. If you have an iPhone, you'll need an app eg "flashcard touch" - download them & use at home! Don't just use ours, by the way - whatever you are studying, somebody somewhere has already made a set! There are millions of cards for you to enjoy.

In the hardware store we found lots of colours - carpets, curtains, balls, slippers, and tools - a hammer that took two to pick up! In the DVD store we found comics & books as well as our favourite anime (cartoons). We checked out the 'oden' pot at the convenience store, as well as the ice cream freezer!

colourful carpets
Then there was the petrol station, busy with cars and a hairdresser's. We passed half a dozen restaurants - French, Chinese, fast and slow.

We really enjoyed exploring the shops and talking to people, but the main road is a very busy road. Maybe the most important thing we learned was to wait for the man to go green and beep before we crossed.

I wanna hold your hand

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Preposition Expedition - not a Google Map!

How many prepositions can you find?

Preposition Expedition - looking for trolls

As we all know from our nursery rhymes, trolls live under bridges. OUP's Three Billy Goats DVD is a hot favourite with our pre-schoolies and they remembered the songs very enthusiastically a long time ago. So whenever we go for a walk, we can break into song about
  • There's grass, there's graa, there's green green grass, over the river, over the river...
  • There's a nasty troll lives under the bridge, he eats frogs and mice, and he's not very nice...
(There are more songs - it's a cool video!)
This morning was a beautiful early autumn, blue sky affair. Just right for a troll hunt - we took a map so we knew where we were going, just in case.

Where did we go? We went down stairs and across a road; down steps and across the riverbank. We walked into the river, but Jim carried the little ones through the water.

We sat on the top of the steps and waited for Naomi, then we tip-toed under the bridge. We did not find a troll, which was OK...but we did find a very smelly looking bed. Maybe he wasn't far away?!

We met a dog called Momo and Eleanor took his picture, before we walked over the bridge to look at the fish in the river, and a duck paddling. Finally, we crossed the road again, looking carefully left and right, up the stairs and back to Luna.

That was a long little walk, and a headful of prepositions! We powered up with snacks then set to the map - it needed decorating with things that we saw on our safari. We drew fish, flowers and ourselves in crayon, and painted with watery poster paints on shoji paper. The end result should be worth a few quid, we think!

My summer holiday

I went to Kurohime plateau last weekend with my family. We went by car.
We stayed there for about 4 hours. It was fresh in the cosmos field around. But the sun was hot.
We walked around the cosmos field. At noon we went to restaurants. We had Soba and soft Ice-cream of corn taste and non-alcohol beer. Then we went to the top of the mountain by the lift.
We had a great time. Plateau was fresh and food is wonderful.

Posted for Jun :)

My summer holiday

I played sparklers with my family in our garden.
My parents bought sparklers.
My son played it for the first time. Because he was frightened.

Posted for Takahashi :)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Shinshu JALT presents - West Tokyo JALT

Chicken or fish?
Nothing like a free lunch to encourage people to turn up to a meeting. The good food of Baden Baden was only served after the Shinshu JALT Chapter's AGM had been concluded. Most posts were re-elected as proposed and seconded, with the exception of Program Chair which is likely to rotate around members able to make their connections work for one offs.

We were joined for lunch by a travelling quartet of West Tokyo JALTalites, who in the afternoon conducted three workshops as chicken or fish settled nicely.

Peter Ross asked for problems teachers face with writing classes, and soon had a board-full. If you have a writing class you'd probably come up with same/similar issues. Recognise any?

Visible topics - invisible writing: Peter Ross
His Y100 shop special Invisible Writing pack (when was the last time you came across carbon paper?) were distributed and attendees asked to write on any one of randomly suggested topics. Writing atop a plastic envelope, you do not see what you've written - the carbon paper below a top blank sheet instead imprints a bottom sheet. Then we were asked to do a 'seen' writing task for the same amount of time (ninety seconds), on a new topic, repeating the process for one more invisible and visible. A quick word count revealed for most that in both cases word count was up. Generally feeling that 'mistakes' were no longer something we could do much about & that fluency of production improved (albeit untidily). Point being that this is an excellent way to improve continuity, train of though - mentally and mechanically focusing the writer on the job ahead. Would you want to produce a final draft in this way? Unlikely. Will this get students to produce more rough work/brainstorm themselves into gear/larger first draft. Very likely.

Tadashi Ishida told us about his PEACE work (People's Educational and Cultural Exchange) and his various experiences enabling foreign visitors to Tokyo to try various aspects of Japanese culture (for free), such as Kimono, Shamisen, Tea Ceremony & Calligraphy.
Is this the ladies?

David Boon and Eric Skier then managed not to clear the room of local participants, bringing home the reality of hosting next year's PAN-SIG conference in Matsumoto. Has Mark Brierley bitten off more than Shinshu can chew? There looked to be about four jobs per person present, all of which are going to take a lot of time and this (and other) spaces.

Tana showed us a nice Thai restaurant near Parco which did not light the afterburners as Thai food often can, before seconds in El Sol and karaoke. So, a working Sunday. Thanks to the Tokyo team for caring & sharing; think their experience and guidance will be vital if next May's event is going to be as good as we want it to be...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Meet Yukiko - student profile

My name’s Yukiko. I’m from Japan. I was born in Matsumoto, Nagano.
After high school, I went moved to Tokyo for school. I was staying in Tokyo for 5 years, first 2 years for school and other 3 years for work, and then I came back to home town.

In 2000, I have been to Brisbane, Australia as working holiday for 1 year. First I could not speak and catch the English word, so I was really stress and I thought that this stay is mistake choice for me. But I could make a lot of friends there so it was getting better my English and could enjoy in Australian life.  

After working holiday, I have been to Brisbane again many times. If possible, I would like to visit Brisbane again next year.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Super study Saturday

I have to admit, teaching on a Saturday is not my favourite way to spend the weekend, but the students we have here at Luna make it a very enjoyable day at the office for me.

These two lads know they're playing a dangerous game, coming to class not only in an Argentinian football shirt, but with a number 10 on it...I am sure they can both draw better than Diego, and have a longer attention span :)  Great work today remembering how to spell animal names with this/that.

We have an unusual class in the afternoon, with two great girls just started studying with mum & aunt. Don't ask, please! Managing the adults as best as possible out of the learning is tricky - giving the girls as much chance as I can to actually learn (and not get corrected before they've finished an utterance by well meaning but misplaced & inaccurate observation) needs a lot of experience and a fair amount of chutzpah - basically making as much as possible out of adult 'errors' and elbowing my non-verbal encouragement into the girls line of sight in preference to less accurate though well intentioned interventions.

Giving (even unplugged) microphones to 'teams' in a Q/A or back & forth chant is a cool way of making sure one half 'shuts up' when it isn't 'their turn'....and that they are also forced into giving up their 'go', even if they haven't finished or kept up with the tempo - challenge the other team to start on cue too. It really makes sure the mic holders listen, and the mic-less watch!

Need to make a Q & A go faster? Ancient nugget here in Japan is the 'Janken Race' - rock/scissors paper. Adapt to suit class size, but start at opposing ends of the table/room (how big are your flashcards/room?). Student produces a sentence (or whatever you have set your parameters to) as triggered by flashcards lined up along the table edge (far side if you want to work on that/those) , and works towards the middle - ditto the other team. Very easy to monitor - sit down on the other side of the table & go with Caesar thumbs! Teacher can substitute cards sneakily, leave in the tricky ones or make the line shorter to get a result...This one does get noisy!

Highlighting two classes from a full day today - I had fun, thanks y'all!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Success in First Certificate (FCE)

His mum was so chuffed she called us the evening they checked his First Certificate result online. I did my little jig to celebrate - we don't get enough students continuing on properly to achieve this level (CEFR B2) at Luna.

Huli Wigman from the Southern Highlands of Pap...Image via Wikipedia
Not Trevor Joseph
Cambridge ESOL's FCE is widely recognised in Europe as the gold standard for English language assessment, and it is known worldwide (with the exception of Japan, possibly North Korea & more remote parts of Papua New Guinea) as a very good certificate to have in your learning portfolio. It is a lifelong achievement, and it opens doors. Doors to academic pursuits, and doors to careers. For example, our good friends studying with Trevor Joseph at King's Road English School in Tokyo know that a Pass at FCE gets them into university in Moscow. Sadly, recognition in Japan is woeful.

Ask a teacher though, which exam should students be aiming for...good chance the better the teacher, the more likely they are to say FCE. Go ahead, try this sensei test?!
Chuffed with FCE success
My concern about T taking FCE was that he'd do his usual half-hearted checking, skip the pre-writing plan he desperately needed to do, get blase in the reading and reboot to High School pronunciation in the speaking test. Oh, and I guaranteed his dad a year ago he'd pass!

So, well done T for proving me right (and wrong)! You now have a shiny FCE certificate for your wall, and should you ever think about studying/working overseas, a proven advantage (as well as a better chance of getting a visa). All you have to do now is get out of basketball and tennis club, daft English classes at school and come to me twice a week & start reading your readers again, we'll have you passing CAE before you go to uni.

Tonight we celebrate your success in FCE - very well done. One proud teacher here.

Our neighbourhood

This month in pre-school we are going to be talking about our neighbourhood, so we thought it would be a good idea to get our shoes on and have a little look around.

The first thing we did after the hot summer (it was too hot to venture out, really) was rediscover our river, which is only a trickle at the moment. We disturbed a heron, and from the bridge we could see what he was looking for. Brown fish. We didn't see any ducks, or the troll (he lives under the bridge, eats frogs and mice, and isn't very nice!). We saw spiders, butterflies, dragonflies, dandelions, and grasshoppers.

We found a truck with some workmen repairing wires overhead. They had hard-hats on, uniforms, and safety shoes. Opposite, were some men fixing a house. They also had hard-hats on, but soft plimsoles for gripping the scaffolding they were putting up.And baggy purple pants.

We found a lot of uncollected rubbish in red plastic bags (today is 'burnable day') - everyone has to put their name on their rubbish, can you believe.

We saw a stupid lad racing around on his noisy motorbike wearing shorts & a t-shirt ("He'll learn", said Jim), and some old people driving very carefully. At the barber's we found a lot of tomatoes, and we saw a recycling warehouse full of newspapers. We couldn't find a toilet at the little temple, so we had to scamper back to Luna! A big, black dog barked at us.

Lunch was a very busy time today - everyone got the call of nature so Jim & Naomi barely had time (nor the appetite!) to eat. Would you like to see what Japanese pre-school kids have in their lunch boxes? Jim is very jealous of the Thomas knife, fork & spoon set one of the children has!

A lovely day, finished off with a big book about the fruit we like - so energised they actually dived into the big bag of plastic fruit we had ready! Obviously, "We like fruit"!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Run & Spell

I've always loved doing running dictation and today was no exception. We'd spent some time on "The Dragon" already, reading the book itself and doing various activities around the book. And this was the ultimate test - a spelling test with a didifference. Yes, you can look at the words in the book, but the book has to be in a different room and you cannot bring the book back with you and just copy it down. Worked a treat! The students were able to remember (most of the time) and got all the spelling right when we checked at the end. I also asked them to point at various words on their page once we'd finished to check if they could recogonise words by sight, and was very pleased to see them working it out for themselves. For example what's the difference between "dragon" and "dolphin". A whole lot as I'm sure you'll agree!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Sota in September

We welcomed Sota to our little coven called pre-school last Friday, and a torrid time did he have. My oh my. Never actually seen a child wail themself to sleep before. Poor lad was distraught when mummy left. AS I was the only person he knew, he was naturally dangling from my neck most of the day - only really letting go to join in a run around towards the end of our day. He promised to come back today and play with "Thomas" - train bonkers - today.

For sure we had a few tears again this morning, but didn't last long, quickly joining in with the girls in their new challenge - finding matching pictures and circling them. He quickly got the hang of that and we all settled down to a number of tricky pics!

Everyone is doing really well in their bathroom training - only trouble is when everyone decides they want to go at the same time! Bit difficult to prioritise three year-old claims of urgency! Neither do we want to rush things along - very important they get the space & time they need to start managing this function. All in all, I think they are coping very well (touch wood, OK?).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Love of a king

3. Do you agree or disagree with these sentences? Explain why.
1 Edward was right to marry Wallis. Love is the most important thing in the world.
Agree. I think that he had been happy since he married.

2 Wallis married Edward because he was rich and famous.
Disagree. She married him because he sincerely loved her.

3 The British Royal Family were very unkind to Edward.
Agree. They didn't attend Edward's wedding ceremony.

4 Photographers should leave royal families alone. They need a private life just like other people.
Agree. They need to live humanly as they can love freely.

Long time no see.
I hope that you are not suffering too much from the heat this summer.
We are studying English well.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I don't want to go to school today

I saw the Boomtown Rats perform "I don't like Mondays" in Bradford in 1985. I actually saw the Almighty Sir Bob G in the pub round the corner of the gig about half an hour before the start. Before he was famous famous, before Live Aid & the TV stuff, before his stunning autobiography. Still too important to go and say hello to. Who wants to talk to students?

When that song was a hit, I was only vaguely aware of the backstory. Seems America is reminded almost annually. As a teacher, I am acutely sensitive to that emotion.

As one of our pre-schoolers arrived I picked up there was a vibe. We have to know if a child has had a bad night, or is off their food or something else is going on. Thankfully, we were told. Pointless confronting any issue like that head on, and even if you do not 'know', it is a teacher's job to assess or suss this kind of stuff out pdq. Can't? You are in the wrong job. Seriously. If you can't read your kids, you are not capable of doing the first part of your job. Care.

So we had a young lady who had a birthday yesterday, and probably didn't enjoy having to share her presents/private space...with exactly the same people she is going to spend today with. Who would?!

As a teacher though, how do you manage that? Can you lunge into your game plan regardless? Can you go toe to toe with an unhappy young learner? Any "Yes" answers need to sit back a bit, I think. however, thee answer is not an unconditional surrender either. You always need to have a reliable (and recent) success to fall back on, one that engages as much as possible and that does not have unhappy connotations - tricky!

You have to weigh up what you are trying to achieve long-term with what you can realistically achieve on the day. I suggest avoiding a short-term melt-down. The particular child isn't going to benefit much from a "yada" day full of tears and remorse, after all. Your other students are not going to go home with a happy story to tell either, are they? Problem you need to assess is whether or not you have a bigger issue to defuse, or it was just a "wrong side of bed" situation.

What did we do today? Not half as much, educationally, as we hoped. Did our "I want to stay at home" youngster miss mummy at all? No, not really - a bit sniffy at lunch time when energy levels were a bit low. What do you do then? Don't panic - stick to your routine, don't get ambitious about new stuff, lend the lead to your children. "Which songs do you want to dance to again?" etc.

We are lucky at Luna - we have a lot of space a ton of brilliant resources to call into use...and a bit of experience in these things. Tears today we had none.