Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Goodbye, goodbye, it's time to say Goodbye

The day finally arrived when we asked Yuki & Tana to give us back the keys to the school. They will always have the keys to our hearts and cherished memories of their endless cheerfulness will linger long after we've lost the keys.

Thank you Tana for being super every single day you've been here, last day as bubbly as the first. Everyone will agree she has been a wonderful advert for English teachers in Japan, a (nice & quiet) ambassador for South Africa, a friend & confidant to our adult students and a warm-hearted buddy for all our younger learners. Tana has been great to work with and has never (really) complained or stopped smiling. YOu have seen aspects of her work here on the blog, and rather than me waffling on, I encourage her students to add their voice to my thanks here.

Likewise, I invite you all to 'big up' Yuki. She has been the rock upon which the school was founded. I do not have the words to express my admiration, affection, and faith in Yuki. She has forever been the voice of reason over stupid gaijin boss, of organised calm against stupid chaotic owner, of planning ahead versus where is it Jim. She learnt everything about the school from the ground up - everything necessary about using the computer, immigration law, accountancy, internet connections, banking, gaijin cards, driving licences, studless tyres, children's books, Cambridge ESOL exams, the English language, parenthood, Bon Bon dance, first aid, flu epidemics, tax, bizarre foreigners & their weird girlfriends/habits/food/hair/hygiene, landlords, contracts, train timetables...Yuki is Wikipedia in Japanese. She is a one off, and we will never be able to replace her - and we don't want to. She is staying nearby, and can now concentrate on really being our friend and not having to do everything Jim asks her to. Thank you, Yuki, you have added "Yuki" to a lot of peoples' dictionaries around the world.

Jim, Yukari, Tomoko, Kevin & Naomi all wish you both the very best for your futures. Thank you both for giving so much of yourselves to the students, our community, my school, and to me. Miss you enormously.

Tana Benzon  2007-2010
Yuki Momose 1999 -2010

I say to you Mr. Gorbachev - paint this wall, kids!

Such a beautiful day - would have been criminal to stay indoors! It was chilly though, and still a frost in the shade when I walked up to school first thing. Hats & woollies order of the day.

Our primary mission this morning was to find some paint brushes - to the hardware store then. We found all sorts of things before that though. Bicycles of all shapes & sizes - we even tried a couple out for size. Soft & smooth carpets as well as rough ones. Colour pencils of the rainbow. And finally brushes.

Yesterday the chippy put a partition wall up, blocking us out of our old large room (and now I realise the light switch for our corridor too!). Apparently they'll remove the freight lift as well, which has never been used & must weigh a ton or more). It's an ugly grey, plasterboard thing. Mmm. If they are going to rip our precious school to bits, we may as well enjoy ourselves - sound like a plan? Yeah, thought so too!

We are lucky Naomi-sensei is an artist. She is Michael Angelo to Jim's whim - "scenic rabbits & stuff". Jim did 'sky', while she created an idyllic landscape which the children quickly started colouring - crayon so we could paint over with bigger colours later. And did we colour? Fish, rabbits, goats, owls, fruit, mountains, trees, squirrels.

I think they fleshed out my inspiring 'thought' brilliantly, don't you? It's a tremendous bit of graffiti (can we take it with us??? Somehow think there's be a pick axe coming through it in January. Never mind - can we create? Yes, we can!

The remainder of our pre-school day was marked with green/blue hands, and a large amount of time under the table in Tana's room. It is very cluttered with 'stuff', so it was a nice hidey-hole where we could read a couple of books & lace buttons.

Highlight really was our masterpiece though - we autographed it with palm prints, just in case it is worth a few quid!

Monday, 29 November 2010

The penny drops

Well folks, the moment is finally upon us as we are no longer able to use our lovely large room. This morning I moved the last few bits & pieces out & cleaned up the balcony, before helping the builders rip up the carpet tiles. It looked very bleak - and sad - and empty, just as it did four years ago when Yuki and I decided we'd move in. The world turns and we have to get on with things!

Tana's cosy classroom
Squeezing all of our stuff into 50% of the space has proved to be a challenge, and I am afraid the next week or two we will have rather cluttered classrooms. I assure you this is temporary - we are moving through this month as our new premises get cleaned get & a lick of paint. Please bear with us?!

Jim's very full classroom
Our students and mums arrived and looked disorientated this afternoon; which proves that the letters we gave out didn't find their readers again. We are going to make a big effort in 2011 to get our message out to everyone electronically. Tana's room was even fuller than it looks today, as Kevin joined in with her classes - let's hope the students don't scare him away?! Jim's students needed a shoe-horn to get comfortable, but at least it was easy to keep warm.

In Jim's first class, Yusuke & Sho had a good giggle singing the "Are you Happy" song from English Time 1; check out the podcast - they were really good!

What of tomorrow? Well, it's our very very last day to have the Unique Yuki & Tremendous Tana on the team...going to be a bleary-eyed one I think.

Shrine etiquette

Before you go to the main place of the shrine you should wash your hands and rinse your mouth. Once you reach the main building, to pray you ring the bell, throw the coin, two claps one bow, and pray your hope, then one clap and bow again.
Posted by Kevin for Chit Chat.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Putting Man. Utd to shame!

Last week I posted a cool commercial featuring Manchester United. This team from Iceland (Stjarnan) have been much more inventive. If I were playing for the other team though, I think I'd be likely to get very annoyed with them! What do you think, pundits? What's the best celebration?

Friday, 19 November 2010

We are moving - Panic ye not: business as usual!

Luna will be relocating over the Christmas/New Year holiday. We are only moving about 150 metres! The new location is lovely, and I am sure you will like it (I know, we love MK Building too!). We will be telling you about parking places, directions etc soon. Please excuse any inconvenience through December as we prepare to move all our things. We look forward to welcoming you to Luna #3 in 2011. Lots of exciting new ideas to share with you! 


Mutsumi' delicious Apple Cake recipe

One of the benefits of being a teacher is that every now and then a student likes to show off their cooking skills by bringing something delicious to class for us all to share. Mutsumi made an Apple Cake, which was delicious as well as low in calories (very important for us women who are watching our figures), and was kind enough to furbish us with the recipe so we can try it ourselves at home.
Here is the recipe:
apples(Kougyoku) 3, soft flour 1 cup, eggs 3, sugar 1 cup, salad oil 1/4 cup, some baking powder, some cinnamon, some salt
1 Cut apples
2 Whisk the flour,baking powder,sugar,cinnamon,salt,egg,salad oil and apple in a medium bowl.
3 Plase baking sheet into mold, pour in.
4 Bake for 60 minutes at 170 degrees C.

From Mutsumi Maruyama

Bathing etiquette and advice for foreigners

With the arrival of Kevin next week, there has been a lot of opportunity to exploit the "foreigners in Japan" topic. Besides the obvious questions we might like to ask him about his country and his experiences (look out for the pod-casts later on), it is also a good time to extend a hand of friendship, anticipate any problems he might have in his first few months here and offer some valuable advice regarding cultural taboos, and customs.

To this end my adult class this morning devised a list of pertinent points regarding a visit to the onsen (hot spring public baths). It goes something like this:

* Before entering the hot bath you should wash your private parts and armpits.
* Don't wear a swimsuit in the bath.
* Don't put your towel in the bath (but on your head is ok!)
* Don't wash your underwear in the bath! (taken from a real sign)
* Don't swim, splash or dive in the bath.
* If you suffer from high blood pressure, you should not enter the bathtub for a long time.
* You should dry your body with a towel before going into the changing area so you don't wet the floor.
* Sweep the area after using the hair-dryer.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Football Focus - name the Man. Utd players in this ad.

And who is the gentleman reading?

Mr.T directs "Bye Bye Cowbow" - a modern story!

Meet Yousuke

Location Map of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture...Image via WikipediaHi Jim,

My name's Yousuke. I live in Matsumoto, a big city in the Nagano Prf. I live with my parents and my two brothers. I am 26years old. I work for Itec.

I'm going to tell you about myself. I have black short hair and brown eyes. I wear glasses, but I wear contact lenses on holiday.

I think I'm a shy person. I don't talk when I meet a person for the first time. However, the second time I'm talkative.

In my free time I read books or play the guitar. My favorite writer is Hiroshi Ogiwara. His books are interesting.

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

Best wishes,


Sunday, 14 November 2010

An Iraqi refugee shares her story

This afternoon I went to hear a talk about Iraq from Dr Alkzayer, who is one of 4m Iraqi refugees; not many in Japan. Was 4th yr med student Mosul at start of Desert Storm 1991. Nearly 2m in surrounding nations, 2m more internally displaced (of a total population estimated at about 30m). 5% of the pop. is Christian.

Worked as doctor 1993-2000 on $3/month. Set up 1st pediactric oncology practice in Mosul on graduating as pediatric oncologist.

US Army occupied her hospital in 2004, forcing her to move the unit for sake of her cancer patients, having to recruit new staff who could not relocate due to the danger.
Experienced 3 bombings and was shot at in her house 3 times, and as a Christian doctor received 4 death threats on her mobile. Was at the top of a hit list of doctors the terrorists intended to murder.

Her brothers, also Christian, had death threats; one a refugee in Syria now. Her driver shot & his son killed.
7/10/2008 Christians warned on loudspeakers to leave Mosul or be killed. 2,000 families left that night; she came to Japan.

The attack on a church 31/10/2010 killed 50, injured 76. One of the two priests who died was her relative. Gruesome pictures; distant background TV news for me comes a lot more poignant. In 2009 she came to Japan with her brother after chance meeting with person from JICA.

Horrific images of cancer cases from her wards at Ibn Al Athir hospital, with huge jump in cases over her 8 years there: depleted uranium suggested as a very obvious candidate for the cause. Majority of victims appear to have been children. Sourced a lot of her specialist drugs from Japan thru NGOs JIM-NET (Japan-Iraq Medical Network) & JCF (Japan Chernobyl Foundation). Claims 80% recovery rate in patients there. JICA supporting her research now on Genetics of Cancer in Children & very grateful of Japanese support. She is extremely grateful to the Japanese for their support of her medical endeavours in Mosul & for providing her & her relatives safe haven now.

Q/A she says one day they woke up with no government & that American attack in Hussein was not planned; I think the war was well-planned but nothing to deal with the consequences. She says the Americans did so much more for religious conflict & instability than ever Saddam managed - all pretty harmonious until he was removed. In attacking Iraq & creating the current climate, US has piled a lot of wood on a bonfire for Al Qaeda to light. Christians & non-Muslims throughout Middle-East now in danger of attack for their beliefs/lack of Muslim faith.

A smiling Saddam Hussein sitting easily on a g...Image via Wikipedia
Does not see how she can return to Iraq, though she really would like to, because of the recent & increasing sectarian violence. However, she will go back to Iraq &die after her PhD is complete in two years time.

Ex-Honda employee (Hiyoki?) spent 2 months in Iraq & 3.5 years in Saudi 34 years ago & comments on beauty of the place. Dr Alkzayer says that changed 1991, but with invasion 2003 of ground troops whole situation turned upside down.

Was Saddam good? For Shia he was not good news. His domestic policies apparently good, but his foreign policy was disastrous. Christians were safe under Saddam. For 5 years she lived in Baghdad cheek by jowl with Sunni & Shia Muslims very peacefully. Now being murdered even in their place of worship (as Shia are also targeted by predominantly Sunni Al Qaeda). Kurds obviously not safe under Saddam, nor are they safe from Al Qaeda despite being Sunni.

My fault for inaccuracies in this article; written during her slideshow & Japanese interpretation - bit hard to catch every detail. I would like to hear more from this very dedicated & brave woman.

Postcard from - Okinawa

Dear Tana and Yuki,


I went to Okinawa on a school trip this week. This was the first time I go to Okinawa with my students as a HRT. We had a wonderful time! I really missed you when I heard you'll leave Luna. But I hope you'll be happy and take care of yourself.

Thank you! See you next week!


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A tool I found during the weekend and can even do on my iPhone (I think - haven't tried yet).

 What do you think of it so far? Worth $5 a month?

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Comments please!

Find Jim's Dream place

This is the podcast that was put together during one of the workshops I attended at TEL on Saturday in Tokyo.

I like the quality of the recording and the jingle which jollies it up. Listen carefully - where would Jim like to live & why?

Click here

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bus man's holiday

I have tried to make it to the annual Tokyo bookfair (TEL) as regularly as possible for the last sixteen years or so. I was struck this year by the very low number of participants, and the absence of several publishers. This event used to be unmissable; I worry it may no longer be so. There are a number of other healthy mini- conferences eg Niigata, Nakasendo, Pan-SIG (in Matsumoto, May 2011) that might supplant this calendar staple.

I was unimpressed with the first presentation I went to about "Expansive Reading": I can read, so having someone read their own (dull) PowerPoint made me reconsider the wisdom of waking so early to catch the first Azusa to Shinjuku. Reading is a favourite topic of mine and something I wish our own students did more of...the Black Cat Readers look attractive but promoted like this I doubt they'll find much room on our shelves. Useful teacher resources at www.blackcat-cideb.com

Nothing to see here - Lexxica for Kids
I was equally annoyed that the next presentation I went to see was mis-titled "introducing the Kids Word Engine!" because Guy Cihi patently did not. It has not been made, nor was there anything even beta to see previewed. Clearly very keen on himself and his financial success, I was cross that this chap had no grasp of delivering phonics. Go have a look at some great iPhone apps? Basing his next money-maker on Smart Phonics is flawed as the book is unsound; the book while introducing good sensible phonics practice uses the same font 'a' as here for instructions to learners...who don't recognize it. Also, 'practice' will involve learners having to translate (& therefor be able to read) hiragana. That, for me, is not language acquisition. Now, if you were using images...I saw Charles Browne present at the first ECAP conference in Tokyo and know Lexxica is a very good product for certain aspects of targeted learning, especially exam preparation (but not for my beloved ESOL ones!). Last comment I have is that this kind of technology has to migrate to smart phones pdq.

Two Oberlin University teachers held a very good workshop on podcasting in the classroom. Sensible, practical & jargon-free demonstration of how easily this can be done. I am not a computer techie or anorak myself, but have managed to produce our own school podcast (on Podbead & found on iTunes). Reassuringly, David Brewster & Hans von Dietze had to cope with unfamiliar equipment! After explaining the how (I want to check out "audacity" for editing, especially if it comes with jingles etc) the audience was challenged to record group answers to a simple question - the content (you have students brainstorm & plan before this stage of course). Within 20 mins this was done, edited on the hoof, uploaded & published. Think you'll find it as 'teachers' at www.podspress.com A very worthwhile 45 minutes, inspiring me to make our students do more of this (exploit our graded readers more, I think).

Rob Waring is the man-mountain of Extensive Reading. I have heard him make sense many times before and am always impressed with his calm authority of his mantra - and totally agree that learners have to read to make progress (but they have to want to. Teacher can't read the books for you!) New titles in "Foundations", "Pageturners" & "Footprint" series - I love these non-fiction titles Cengage have come out with National Geographical. These are standalone + CD or backed up with related DVD material. Best of all, these titles are all supported on ER Moodle. The 4th Extensive Reading Seminar will be in Okayama Feb 13th; Rob Waring will be a featured speaker at Pan-SIG.

@mickstout presents Whodunit
Michael Stout (@mickstout) is the inspiration behind this blog; his presentation at TEL three years ago was a "Eureka" moment for me. I rely on his presentations for new ideas and angles into old media with Web 2.0 approaches. At last somebody showed me the much acclaimed "Whodunit" which is going straight into action with one of my adult classes asap. Will try to incorporate smart.fm & mindmeister as suggested; think there is a role for quizlet perhaps, and certainly Edmodo, timetoast.

ELTNEWS.com ran a very good Charity quiz, Russell Willis in sparkling form keeping team-members onside & audience involved. ¥50,000 went to charity & an iPad prize drew a good crowd.

I was more than happy at stumps; saw some good stuff and caught up with the usual suspects. OUP are peerless, but I want to know more about Colin & the librarians. Likewise, Koichi needs to explain the source of his KitKats. Last time I saw those distributed at TEL (Ikebukuru) an urban myth was born. And no tequila tonight - safely on the train home!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Gunpowder, Treason & Plot: plasticine, glue, and snacks

What are you making? What are you doing? I must remember to keep the plasticine in a warm place during the winter, or we'll end up with house bricks for toys...was jolly hard getting the stuff up to a workable temperature this morning. Snow on the mountain tops a telling sign that we need extra layers & warm slippers now.

Now, a pet moan: I don't get the whole Hallowe'en kerfuffle. It's an American import at best. Only good if you happen to know where all the student nurses are going to be partying. Guy Fawkes? Now there's a proper story you can work with! Head, shoulders, knees and toes (all ended up in separate places). Head bone connected to the, neck bone etc. Admittedly did cannibalise some Hallowe'en material, but the fun was in trying not to cut off toes or knees as we re-built our skeletons and glued them together for a Bonfire Night collage.

Left-handed scissors are essential (for lefties!) and can be found even in Japan now - like the Catholics, olden time Japan had a thing for converting southpaws into ortodox righties.

Fortunately, fish are ambidextrous (?!), though they are sensitive to having their heads squashed in a bucket - less so than a tank full of gunky slime though. We retraced our 'neighbourhood shops' walk to get some 'magic water' and a new filter. Ugh! Fish poo stinks, but not as much as the prices in Starbucks (our pre-schoolies were demanding we stop in for a coffee break!)

Your challenge with the picture right is to decide what interaction is taking place, and what language structures should be used! how do you think this is going to end?

Don't stop me (singing) - I'm having a good time!

Dictation by song is an engaging way to use a song 'differently'. I cringe every time I hear a teacher throw in a CD & announce 'now listen to this' & then 'OK: now let's sing'. Could any of us do that in a foreign language with a song heard once? No, of course not...Would we even want to? Probably not (unless it really wails!).

Do something else, and generate the need to hear the song over again and again. Don't force the singing - it'll happen spontaneously or not at all...at first! You can start this as a blank page if you like; you need to be confident in your students abilities as a)listeners b)artists. Younger ones need a 'leg up' - in our case I raided Andrew Wright's bible "1000 drawings for teachers to copy" (one of the best speakers I've ever seen at a JALT conference, incidentally). I am woeful at drawing myself, and wince whenever I am asked to draw something! A little bit of prep is key!

"The Black Cat" song from OUP's Let's Go (one) by Carolyn Graham lends itself very nicely to an activity like this. Our young learners have been nagging for a chance to do some more painting, so a large photocopy each and watery paint. It's a simple chant with an echo of most of the lines - "Green grass, green grass; blue sky, blue sky" and so on. If the children find it hard to pick out the colour or the object, then teacher can take the lead and sing along with the CD again or just sing it (a bit slower/more clearly). 'Seeing' the words close up helps a lot! To make things easier for yourself, warm up your charges with a Q & A about the template & predict what colour the different objects might or should be.

Obviously you play the CD or repeat the song yourself over & over, pausing for drawing, coloring or painting; it 'goes in' very naturally. Try and stop your tiddlers singing along?!

Interesting talk about Iraq - Nov 14th Matsumoto

Dr. Lika’a Alkazayer, a pediatric oncologist  from Iraq, now studying and working at Shinshu University, will be giving a presentation describing the situation “on the ground” there.

Dr. Lika’a resisted leaving Iraq because she wanted to help her patients, but after several people she knew were murdered, and she was told that she would be next, she accepted an invitation to do research here in Japan.

She will be presenting a slide show and talk, in English with Japanese translation at Ohte Kominkan in Matsumoto, on Sunday the 14th of November from 2:00 PM. There will be tea and some Iraqi food served,
and there is an attendance fee of Y500.

Ohte Kominkan is just south of Matsumoto Castle, just behind the Tourist Information Center, which is only about 50 meters from the south entrance to the castle.

I was sent this info in an email and am posting here because the topic looks very interesting & worthy. I hope some of you will go along?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Karaoke Kids corner & Floppy Spine Syndrome

I get exasperated with slouchers - some classes are just chronic! Can't stand up without leaning on the table or hanging on a chair, worse feet on the walls or getting in each others space. Floppy spine syndrome tends to coincide with mumble central.

Clever K did not want to sing any more than the other boys. However, displaying considerable courage (he was new today!) he took the mic...and then very sensibly shoved it into Rui's face when the music started! Excellent chutzpa, and you can see it clearly worked :)

Why the mic? Find it makes children (and adults) anticipate their turn better... it doesn't have to be hooked up to anything! Japan did invent the hollow orchestra phenomenon, so reap the whirlwind kids!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Goodbye NOT YET!!

Dear friends and students,

It seems that I have created some panic by not saying WHEN I will be leaving. Let me assure you that I haven't left yet, and that there is still plenty of time to say goodbye!

In fact we'll be having a joint farewell/welcome party on Saturday, 4 December, so please keep that day free.

My last teaching day will be the 30th of November.

Sincere apologies for any misunderstanding.
I hope to see you at the goodbye party!


House for sale - a wordlised story

Wordle: House for Sale

At the end of November we welcome: Kevin Churchley...A letter of introduction.

I studied art at University. I did a lot of photography. There are a lot of artists I like but some of the best exhibitions I’ve seen are of work by Paul Gaugan, Henri Matisse, Howard Hodgkin and Herge’ (Tintin ). 
After University I decided to pursue a career in the emergency services. I became a swimming pool lifeguard, an ambulance man and then a fireman. All these careers were interesting and I met a lot of amazing people.
Kevin with OUP presentation helpers
In 1984 I saw a movie called Yellow Earth which made me interested in Asia and when I had the chance to teach in Japan in 1989 I took the opportunity and have been a language teacher ever since.
I have worked in language schools, big and small, public and private high schools and kindergartens, in 2006 I was a special needs teaching assistant in a UK primary school and I also write and present for the UK publisher Oxford University Press. One of my favourite series of books is the Oxford Reading Tree.
In 2005 I made a DVD published by OUP about teaching English to children in Japan.
From 1990-2004, I was an examiner for the United Nations Test of English Proficiency at their testing centers in Yokohama and Tokyo.  In 2009 I moved to Singapore and taught English to kindergarten, primary and high school students at the British Council and Hwa Chong International school.
I have traveled quite a lot in Asia and a little bit in Europe. I used to do a lot of sports especially swimming, squash and running but my main hobbies now are listening to music and reading. 
I also dj. My dj name is numonix and I play a kind of music called drum and bass. You can listen to this kind of music at www.humanelements.jp
Kevin Churchley.
Jim adds: Kevin will be presenting for Oxford University Press around the country in February and March next year, and will be adding a special date to the calendar in April - right here at Luna. Parents and teachers alike will want to see Kevin's very special classroom style and exciting ideas for involving young learners in their reading books. One of the major reasons we adopted OUP's The Story Tree series was because of the magic presentation I saw Kevin make years ago. I have known Kevin for several years, and I am delighted we have been able to tempt him back to his beloved Japan from Singapore. Please join me in welcoming him to our chilly town and to our warm school!

Story telling - passive voice

Witches coven? Black for Hallowe'en?
Recently my NHK class has been talking about 'news' and relating stories/headlines, and showing them how we are often more interested in the actual event than the person ('actor') responsible. Good thing about using the newest news is that we often don't know that bit anyway eg Who was responsible for a certain act of terrorism or why was there an accident; instead, we do know the result, and that is the thing we are most interested in discussing. eg "hundreds of people have been evacuated from the area around Mt. Merapi in Java".

Big Blue Teruki & team!
Today's activity was set up in class last week and finished off as homework, namely writing a (passive) sentence about an event in a famous fairy tale (in Japan these are not so familiar culturally, but certain Disneyfied versions are well-known).

A class-wide issue showed up - using a vague indefinite article vs definite 'the'. In starting five different stories with "The Princess..." it looked like the same very busy princess (likewise the dashing hero/prince!)

A second, later event had to be described, again a passive sentence, written upside down on an interlocking piece of paper. Stories then cut in half like a jigsaw, and switched between groups to rebuild as a race.(You can see what I mean below).

Team work - fairy tale building

They then had plenty to argue about - which re-telling was better & why. Peer correction a lot more 'critical' & picky than I like to be!
What I liked about this exercise was the realization that vagueness or lack of specific detail does not mean you can't tell a story.