Saturday, 30 October 2010

Sayonara sweet & smiley Saturday mornings

Come in number 86, your time is up!

Sad to say, today was our last class together on Saturday mornings. Now, I'll be the first to admit this is no teachers' favourite time slot, but this little group has been lovely, which makes things a lot more fun.

Tis a shame, as with any class we had established a winning routine and were making good solid progress; Tana and I had pencilled out a medium-term plan  just a week before the unforecast "We're quitting" phone call - the dreaded school club activities trump a sensible education option.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Fond Farewell

At the end of these three years I find myself asking "Where has the time gone?" So much has happened in the last three years that it would be hard to recount everything. Sufficeth to say I've had a wonderful time getting to know my students, have had lots of fun in the classroom and have really enjoyed my life in Japan. Also, thanks to Luna being a Cambridge ESOL centre, and Jim's tireless efforts, I have been able to train as an Oral Examiner for the Cambridge exam suites, and have had a lot of input with regard to professional development.

It is with mixed feelings that I return to my home. On the one hand I will really miss this beautiful country, the fresh air of Matsumoto, and the people I have met here. On the other hand I am really looking forward to seeing my friends and family again and seeing what has changed in my hometown, if anything, since I've been away. I will spend a year back at university studying General Education, and then will continue my career in teaching.

Many thanks to all the Staff at Luna, and to all my students for making my experience of Japan a really special one. Please come and visit me if you ever find yourself in Durban! I would love to see you!

All the best,

Yosuke's favourite photo

One of my favourite photos is of member team iTec 2.0
iTec Corp, Shiojiri, Japan 30/1/09

We took the photo in the winter of 2009 when my company organisation changed.We had held a conference before taking the photograph. Then a new start was made.

This team was my favourite team. Sadly, a few members have already left iTec. I pray for their happiness.

I keep this photo in my desk. Sometimes I look at this photo and remember a wonderful team and days.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Exciting Junior Ice Hockey Game

On Oct 16th, The Okaya Mayor’s Cup was held over two days at the in Yamabiko ice arena in Okaya city. Six elementary school ice hockey teams from Nagano prefecture, or 120 pupils took part. They fighted powerful games.

My nephew, Daichi Yokoyama played in the games as a captain of the Yamabiko Busters. Unfortunately, the team lost the games, but their fight was applaudable. Anyway, the small ice hokey player play was amazing. Their skating is quick and smart. They showed their fabulous turns on the ice. They were totally brave. For me, it was unbelievable! On ice, my legs become looks lake the Bambi’s. I was impressive by their skating technique.

The audience enjoyed heated games with big cheer. Parents shot their children’s play. Some parent is so excited. They shouted louder than the manager of the team.

(photo by an article on Shinano Mainichi Shinbun on Oct 17th. )

posted for Teruki

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Takuro's Guide to a Happy Life

Brainstorm ideas, order & expand
Some people don't go to bed early, which makes them exhausted. You have to finish your homework early. You have to eat fast when it is dinner-time.

Another way to improve your quality of life is to move to another house with your family, for example if your house is nota good place to live. Maybe you need a bigger house or it is too far from your friend's house or the school.

Lastly, people need to laugh a lot. You don't think life is fun. You should make fun your self. Say jokes to get laughing. Try to keep your smile. All this will help to improve your quality of life.
Posted for Takuro

Monday, 25 October 2010

Halloween witch

by Ritsuha and Haruno

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Snapdragons & very basic origami

 We are getting to the stage in the year when we are having to keep the windows closed, and limit excursions outside to nice sunny days. Tis getting a tad chilly. The evenings are drawing in as well, which seems to subdue everyone. Chins up folks -cool things will be happening at Luna in the next couple of months.

This afternoon our pre-schoolies needed some chill time of their own - had  a busy morning squeezing first letter sounds into heads, and lunch was a bit of a stand up/sit down saga!

Colouring things can be a waste of time; I usually much prefer to make colouring activities listening or reading based. It strikes me as odd though to instruct children what colour certain things should be. For instance, Japanese people rarely see green apples (and if they do, they are 'blue' anyway)...they 'should' be red. The little green men to help you know when it is safe to cross the road? They are 'blue' too, as well as the traffic lights. Children have vivid imaginations, it goes without saying. Nice to give them the scope to express that. As they worked, they chatted (unfortunately in L1) & commented on each others' work - 'stay inside the lines' or 'don't use all the colours on the gorilla' kind of stuff, as well as family updates & the usual bragging.

We dragged the activity back to a teacher-led thing once everyone was happy they'd coloured every last little bit, and then some. Helter-skelter & psychedelic, monotone and trim, no matter. Task was to fold carefully, corners to the middle. First attempts produced chaos & blubs of 'I can't do it'. Try again and pay attention! Watch me this time too! Folding neatly is a bit of an art, and one we'll need to work on I think. We aren't origama masters just yet - but our snapdragons turned out nicely, and just in time to amaze mummies. Have a nice weekend y'all!

Complaint to a hotel

Tokyo Chiyoda

4th October

The Manager

Teikoku Hotel

Dear Sir,

I spend 4 nights in the Teikoku hotel with my girlfriend last week.

When I booked the room, I asked the staff to leave the roses with my card at my room. But, when I arrived, there were no roses, there were another flowers with just a post card.

In my room, there was no soap, towels, teas or glasses.

When I arrived at the hotel on the first day, I asked a restaurant staff to sing a birthday-song for her at last day dinner. Your staff said me “Certainly.” However, last day dinner, the staff sang a wedding song and had her name confused with someone's name.

I looked forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Zyunichiro Koizumi

posted for Hidemi (Monday)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Unexpected visit

Rie stopped studying with us to start a new life with a new hubby in a new town some time ago, so today's surprise visit was a real joy! She is looking so well and I am happy to say enjoying married life immensely. No shocks there, it seems when the time is right these things just happen of their own accord. All well and good.

Last week we were also surprised by another student who is taking a break to have a baby. She is seven months now and starting to waddle a bit, as all pregnant woman do, looking radiant.

So we're feeling the love. So happy that students miss us when they're away and they can be sure we miss them too!

Here's to happy reunions!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

iPhone apps in the classroom - Quizlet flavour

A quick warm up flashcard game got my boys in the mood this afternoon...for another game. As they'd been stars last week (Wordle story-telling) I figured they'd earned it. But, I wasn't going to let them 'burn off' valuable classroom time.

logo of quizlet
I plonked them in front of the PC & went to Quizlet. Giving them ownership was important, so they did all the work - typing in the words (from our flashcard game) of everyday actions. This gave me a chance to assess their typing skills as well (worryingly slow!)

Online, we then 'played' with what we'd created - there's no time lag, just leap in. 'Scatter' = matching the two sides of the cards you have created - in our case eg "wash" + "the car". Seeing they were automatically being timed meant I did not have to force them to pay attention! This, in effect, was exactly the same game we'd played in class!

There are a number of other ways you can challenge yourself on Quizlet, with the set(s) you have made. One of the lads was well-impressed (Sheffieldish for you) I had an iPhone, so I had the idea to use it as follow up. By the time we'd closed down the PC & opened books, I'd downloaded the flashcard set. Our textbook (OUP's English Time 3) has a picture dictionary/glossary in the back, of target vocab. I showed them how to use the flashcard app on the phone, and they realised tapping the tick in the corner meant they 'knew it'. Aha!

Gotcha boys! "Please write the words you have learnt next to the pictures of the actions." Scramble to un-tick the cards on the phone!

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Classroom management situation I want to avoid here is kids just copying from one page in the book to another. What does that achieve? At best, a bit of letter writing practice. First, I asked them to write what they could. (I was impressed with what had gone in already.) Then, the coup de grace, use the phone if you want, to double check - the phone was on the TV in the corner, and they couldn't bring it back to the table.This internalises the spelling or phrase, and has them visualising the shape of the word or whatever they are doing to remember how to write it down. They are changing media: text - brain - pencil. I'm no theorist - what are they doing?! Result I want is footballers practice dead-ball moves or transitions etc.

And the boys? Competitive as usual, trying to mess up each others' turn at the font of wisdom, swishing the cards around on the phone. Taught them how to express themselves strongly in English once it was obvious they were getting tetchy in L1.

In all today I would say we took care of eight daily actions. Not a lot I know, but we are not going to forget them in a hurry! Sorry, no pics - phone was unavailable (could you have said that sentence 5 years ago & made any sense?)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Colour coded grammar - Cuisenaire Rods

Ever since IH filled my head to bursting point in Hastings on my Cert. TEFL course oh so many moons ago, I have failed to exploit my Cuisenaire Rods properly.

I had to use my very ex-girlfriend's connections in Sheffield to source a decent set made of wood; it seems in England if you are not a 'real' teacher you can't buy 'real teachers' stuff.

I wanted to colour code words for my girls this evening, because they've been getting a bit confused lately using their ~ing endings (actually not the endings but the "be" part). I really wanted to avoid L1.I found the exercise invaluable. In pairs, I asked my girls to represent each word (from the 'grammar model' in their books) with a particular rod - coloured ones help a lot, as length alone can mis-represent the importance or length of words.

We'd "done" the book work. Homework looked OK too. I found through this that they were not actually aware of what they were doing; inverting subject & "be". Nor that the subject & verb had to be consistent.

In vivid colour, the pattern became obvious: I did not want to explain (nor could I) in Japanese. Watching them work together (important - creates a dialogue you can monitor, even if they use L1, because they have to 'label' the blocks.

Graphically, my girls saw they were doing two things "wrong". First, they were using /'s/ twice, and then that they were ignoring the subject & just using "is" all the time.
Tasking them back to their books, pointing & showing I was not 'happy' yet, they really targeted the grammar (their choice!) and ended up teaching each other what their varied colours/lengths of rod represented.

Books closed, "read your rods". This the fine tuning, & group check stage. There's a tendency for this to happen in L1, but if you can't monitor confidently, insist on English. Of course, a great class would want to do this in English first anyway.
From this I realised my girls had the same problem I did at school; I didn't understand the (grammatical) words being used (in either language). Colour coding took care of that: not meaning but order - not rule but consistent pattern.
In our case:
Q: purple'white red green light-green
A: red'white brown light-green
Translated =
Q: What's he doing?
A: He's eating.
Loved the way this task migrated from book to table, heads down to heads up, mystery to accuracy. An internal struggle with 'abstract' grammar, to a co-operative vocalisation of "this is what I have figured out so far" dialogue (easier to monitor!)

This is analog digital. When the lights go out, we will still have twigs, right?

Monday, 18 October 2010

How many ladybirds?

A commonly asked question, I'm sure you'll agree?

Players race to the middle, telling you (teacher) how many of whatever there are on the flashcards. Change out the 'easy' cards to make it harder/review a wider vocabulary set than you can fit on the table. You can do this as a relay race with larger groups; beware it gets noisy when they "rock/scissors/paper" in the middle!

A real challenge? Use the flashcards of items in a big picture eg textbook with a lot of objects in it, after children have asked each other "How many...?" as a memory test. Or use number cards (read the word, not the numeral) Lots of fun, even if you are 'drilling'!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Wordle for extensive re-telling

I wanted to challenge my confident boys to be a lot more productive yesterday - and in the process milk their OUP Story Tree reader for all it was worth. They first attacked it, underlining new words or words which they weren't sure about pronouncing. At home they listened to the story on CD, and in class the following week told me what they'd learnt. One way I like to do this is to play the CD in class and pause it (apparently randomly!); first hand up gets to tell class what the next word is, and score a point.

They have also since done the puzzles & crossword problems etc in the accompanying workbook. Spelling is behind their reading level, but that is not a key aim; of course, I expect them to be spelling at the level we are managing phonetically in class 'proper'.

I used wordle to make a word cloud out of the entire story - it only came to a paragraph in word, and even with my typing non-skills it didn't take me long. Wordle is a few clicks of simplicity itself. I wanted to include all text - it can remove 'little words'. One mistake I made was punctuating capital letters at the beginning of sentences - I ended up with "The" as well as "the" etc. Memo to self = only capitalise names.

As we'd 'listened' through already to warm up, I then asked the lads to close their books and re-tell me the story. Umming and arring of course. A couple of key words, but nothing coherent. Of course! Very unfair to dump such a hard task on when I gave them a print out of the word cloud each, they quickly recognised the vocab & started nodding appreciatively. They still could not put the story back together 'in their heads'; my book open with text covered, and off we went. I'd say they could produce 60% of the text in pretty good word order. We all knew it wasn't quite right though, and they were keen to correct themselves. Key part of the exercise!

I let them check in their own books - on the floor in the corner of the room. Naturally, they could memorise a sentence & recite it at the table. To control the blurt, they were asked to point out the words (on their clouds) as they went. Slowed down fluency? In a way, yes. Made them focus on the word order proper? Yep! Did they feel really pumped up about being able to re-tell the story? Absolutely!

The next tool I want to try out is websequitur - have the lads rebuild the next book (The Magic Key). Cooperatively or competitively though?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Shigeo Nagashima

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Baseball. This ...Image via Wikipedia
The most famous baseball-player in Japan is Shigeo Nagashima.He was born in Sakura, Japan in 1945.

He hit a home run in a game that the Emperor was watching. His play was exciting and miraculaus.


The Emperor of Japan

TOKYO - DECEMBER 23:  (L-R) Crown Princess Mas...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The most famous person in Japan is Emperor. He lives in the Imperial Palace. He is the symbol of the nation by succession. He became the Emperor in 1989. He is the 125th Emperor. He is a good Emperor because he loves peace and he always thinks about the Japanese people.

Yuri (Thursday)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

My shopping experience in India

One of our students went to India a short time ago(see postcard below) and here she recounts her experiences. Thank you Sari!!

My shopping experience in India

I took a trip to India three weeks ago. Since it was a packaged tour, the tour guide took the members of the tour many places, which included several souvenir shops.

At one shop, I found a beautiful Indian cotton fabric. It was 15 dollars at first, but I negotiated with the shop assistant for a discount. After a 10 minute-talk, they finally offered me 10 dollars and I accepted.

Some of the other group members were also interested in it. However, they thought it was a rip-off and that they’d have another chance to buy something like it later on.

A few days later, we dropped by another souvenir shop. They were selling an Indian fabric which was similar to the one I bought before. They asked the shop assistant how much it was and he answered ‘It’s 80 dollars’! We all were amazed. It was the real rip-off. They ended up going home empty-handed!

Posted for Sari (Wednesday)

Of Heffalumps and Hunny!

Eeyore as depicted by DisneyImage via Wikipedia

Hina (Piglet) wants to win
We had an attack of the "Mummy Mummy" this morning - I think was a sympathy thing, as Sota is still a bit delicate early in the morning. We talked about our daily schedules, after we made a big jigsaw showing a typical busy day...getting up at 8 o'clock, going to school at 9 o'clock etc.

Keeping things quiet we tried a new game - Winnie the Pooh's adventure through the forest, with Piglet, Eeyore & Tiggr. This was all about turn taking, counting from the right place, and managing disappointment! The girls can already count to twenty, so now stretching for sixty! (Eeyore won, by the way)

After lunch we had a big phonics race; cards absolutely everywhere in our lovely big room. In spite of the big choice, the team did really well matching first sounds. We read two very nice books ("Look at me" & "I can") and then made cards deciding what we can and can't do ourselves - dance, cook, ride a bike...

...but the excitement finished off Sota, as you can see :) The girls enjoyed a quiet version of Carla and the King (available as a podcast read by Jim) before a special request for Peppa Pig and home time.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Changing their Skies

4)In the story Leaving what do you think will happen to Aloo in America? Here are three letters- one from Aloo to his mother, and two different replies from his mother. Use these words to complete all the letters.
Dear Mother,
After five years, I have at last finished my studies. My exams went well and I came top in my class! I know I promised to come home when I finished, but a big hospital here offered me a job. I will learn a lot working in an American hospital, so I must stay here for a few more years. And there's another thing. I know you won't like this, but I have met a girl. She's lovely! She has red hair and green eyes, and she comes from Ireland. Her name is Jacky. We want to get married next year. Please try to understand, Mother. I have to live my own life. Love to all my brothers and sisters, and to you. Aloo
Reply 1
Dear Aloo, you have broken my heart. You promised me that you would come home, and that you would not marry a white woman. I will never speak to you again. Mother
Reply 2
Dear Aloo, top in your class, and a job in a hospital - that's wonderful! And I'm so pleased you've met a nice girl. Jacky sounds very beautiful. Why don't you bring her here for a little holiday? We'd love to meet her. All my love, Mother
Dear Jim-san
Good morning! I'm sorry too late for posting blog.
3 days weekend started from today , but today is rainy. (probably tomorrow too)
I will enjoy to play with my sons on Monday.
Have a good weekend.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Sniffles, snuffles & snores!

This is the week everyone seems to have come down with the lurgy - running noses, sore throats, coughs, headaches and fevers...teachers are not immune, and usually end up getting triple doses + as they are exposed to all their students' bugs! My take on this is catching a cold early in the winter probably helps our immune system beef itself up for the long cold nights ahead.

We do ask genuinely poorly students to excuse themselves from school; it's a bit difficult to cope in a small school if the teacher is off for a week though.

So, in pre-school today we had chance to review "cover your mouth, please" and "blow your nose, please"; "don't wipe it on your sleeve" and "use a tissue"! Eleanor couldn't come at all, as she has lost her voice. Walking around the neighbourhood looking for people working was therefor a bit quieter than usual! We only really found these men working in the petrol station, but they were not very busy. I think everyone was on a tea-break!

 We passed a conga-line of children from a local kindergarten crossing the bridge, but they were not looking for trolls under the bridge - we think we saw one but he was drinking a can of coffee and smoking a cigarette. Unhealthy troll!

Five minutes after Sota was bouncing off the furniture, he fell asleep sitting on Jim as he was reading a story. Now, that is either a dull book or a comfy lap! 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Environmental issues where I live

Tomoro's environment list - problems in Matsumoto

There are too many cars
There is too much pollution
People waste too much electricity, water, paper, wood
People cut down trees and use them to make chopsticks
People don't recycle plastic
We use too many oil products, like paraffin heaters.

Things Tomoro can do to improve the environment:

Recycle cans, PET bottles, etc
Don't litter
Don't waste water when I am washing the dishes
Don't throw useful things away. I can make something out of them
Switch lights off when I go out of a room
Don't sleep in front of the TV
Reuse plastic bags
Don't start smoking

Posted for Tomoro

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Talking about jobs

Well, to be honest we were only trying to act out what some of the jobs we already know might do - doctors and dentists are easy, as are painters and bus drivers...architect, engineer &  secretary are a bit trickier!

You can see all our jobs of the month on Quizlet

If the weather is nice on Friday, we are going to go for a walk and see how many of our occupations we can see at work - and if there are any others we have missed off our list. Can you think of any we should add?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Stop the class!

I turned around to pick up a pen in class this afternoon and was rewarded with a stunningly vivid double rainbow, arcing completely from one pot of gold to another!

Postcard from...India

Dear Tana,

I enjoy travelling to India! Taj Mahal (photo) is definately fantastic. What I found interesting the most is women's dress, such as saree or panjabi dress. Vivid colours of those are striking in a dusty town or huge firm.

See you soon,

Sari xxx

Friday, 1 October 2010

Mobile phones - a great invention?

Almost everyone has a mobile phone, but is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.

The first advantage is that people can get in touch with friends whenever they want. Secondly, you won't need to go back home or go use a public telephone to call people. Thirdly, it is very small and light so we can take it anywhere.

On the other hand, there are also disadvantages. For example, people won't talk together so much and use email. Also, we are not allowed to use them on the train or in places where there are lots of people. Additionally, mobile phones need to get charged and batteries don't last long.

In conclusion, there are some advantages and disadvantages, so I think that we should not use them too much if it is not necessary, and talk together face to face instead. I think mobile phones are a great invention, but I haven't got one yet.

Posted for Toshiya

Imperial or metric - and how long is a piece of string?

Luna measurements - NASA accurate!
We went 'old school' today in pre-school - using things readily available to us to measure the other things around us...bit like back in the day before anyone my age knew how long a centimetre (or even a centimeter) was, how heavy a kilogramme (or a kilogram) was....deploy hands, feet, and elbows!
Do you like my castle? Do you?
First off, we drew around our hands from thumb-tip to pinky-tip, in the process Yuki turned Hina's hands green with the marker pen (she was helping out today as Naomi sensei is away in Tokyo)! Then we drew around feet. We quickly photocopied them so we had six of each, for each child - a measuring set. We also managed to solve the "How long is a piece of string?" conundrum at a stroke: it is the distance from your elbow to your finger tip (a cubit, I believe).

Tooled up, we set about measuring our surroundings. The table we were sitting at, the jigsaw we had done first thing, and the castle we'd built for snack-time. We jotted down our results and noticed something quite odd - our results were not the same. Why? Maybe we are different sizes? We tested this theory on Yuki's feet and hands - much bigger than the children's. Jim's were even bigger - the biggest in fact.
"Six feet tall" Luna Giants!
We measured each other - from head to toe and from finger-tip to finger-tip. According to this survey our three year olds are approximately 7 feet tall :) and I'm about 4 yards across the chest (getting there!)

While our results then were not the most scientifically sound you'll ever see, they were cast-iron true for our kids today. Stimulated them to think about which things are bigger or smaller, longer & shorter etc - and have a way of proving if these ideas are true/false.

I know what a foot is (I've got one or two), and a yard - three feet...what was the premise for a centimetre?!