Monday, 28 February 2011

Interactive media & old card games

Something rather odd happened with our pre-schoolers on Friday, and I still can't put my finger on exactly what it shows up.

You can see quite clearly that the children were very animated & engaged with the game at hand - matching images. They couldn't wait to have their turn and were trying to push the monitor through the wall!
We insisted they tell us which card they wanted to click on (bit young to be accurate enough with a mouse) with "This one please, Naomi". They couldn't say it quickly enough! Once the picture was revealed, they had to tell us what it was before the next picture was clicked. Sometimes they'd remember where the other pair was & tell us before clicking!

OK, so nothing too odd here...except that if we play exactly the same game with actual cards, they do not get enthusiastic at all. They keep turning over the same (often nearest) cards repeatedly, and seem determined not to make pairs. It gets really, really boring! How come? I thought it would be the other way round.

So, I'm glad we found an exciting new way to play an age old game...but I'm disappointed we have to turn on the PC when we've got a mountain of great flashcards to play with!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Raising the bar

Nothing like a spot of jealousy to get the students motivated!

In 2009, Takumi took Young Learners (Starters level) and did a really good job. He was the only one in his class brave enough to try...after wards he said it was fun and not scary at all! Of course not - the exams are very child-friendly and invite the children to normal classroom things like match pictures to words, colouring in, answering simple questions about everyday things. Everything very familiar.
Who's a clever Mover, then?

Fast forward to late last year, and Momoko this time took Young Learners - but the Movers level (next one up). On Tuesday evening after class she was presented with her certificate and the very first thing Takumi said was 'Right, I'm doing it next time!' Momo-chan got very good results in listening and speaking, and as good as we expected in Reading/Writing...

Come October 30th 2011, can guarantee the first name on the list of candidates will be Takumi! Question is though, will he match Momoko and do very well in Movers, or up the ante again and go for Flyers? Ideally, they'll both achieve knock out results.

For now, Momoko has the bragging rights - well done you!

It's all about fluency - Rob Waring's abstract for PANSIG Conference

Wordle: Rob Waring PANSIG abstract 
"Dr. Rob Waring teaches at Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan. He is an acknowledged expert in Extensive Reading and second language vocabulary acquisition and lectures and publishes widely on these subjects. He is on the Executive Board the Extensive Reading Foundation and is also author and series editor of the Foundations Reading Library, the Footprint Reading Library, and the Page Turners Reading Library by Cengage Learning."

 Coming to PANSIG in Matsumoto, May 21-2

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Cool Fundraiser in WA for Qld Aussies

On Saturday just gone, at Karrinyup Shopping Centre (yes, Western Australia) the Variety Club Youth Choir organized a FLASH MOB where they all were incognito in the Food Hall, and started standing up in groups singing "We are Australians" 

The purpose was to raise money for the QLD floods. Each time it is clicked on, money is raised thru google ads, SO PLEASE WATCH!!!!!! It is a beaut way of suppporting those poor ozzies over on the other side of our country. 
Go to -

A postcard from...Turkey

Dear Jim & NHK guys!

I am in the wonderland in Turkey. Here, Cappadocia is Jim's dream land, isn't it? Who did make these curious mushrooms? It is actually nature. It has been making for hundreds of years. It has been changing eternally, so when come here some day, the shape and scenery will be (a) little different.

I can't be here in Turkey without thinking about ancient time and never ending history.

Love, Teruki 12.2.11

Say a little prayer, please

Location map of New ZealandImage via WikipediaWould all of our Luna family mind saying a little prayer for our former teacher Phil, and his family in New Zealand? As you will know from the news by now, Christchurch has been flattened and scores of people killed & seriously injured.

Phil's hometown, Lyttleton, has apparently also suffered severe damage. Our thoughts are with you Phil; we hope you are all safe & sound.

I also hope the school group from Toyama is rescued from their traumatic experience quickly.

Rose between thorns

Jim interrupted Kev's class yesterday evening to present Ritsuha with her Young Learners certificate. She did really well and her classmates were very impressed with her results.

Jim says she did so well that the next level up beckons this year - Movers everybody?!

Monday, 21 February 2011

A friend writes about his ski trip to...

Corvara and the Italian Dolomites 

 My Aussie friend Greg recently had a superb holiday skiing in Europe. He took some gorgeous photos and writes about the experience >>> the link below.

He spent two weeks in Hokkaido & Hakuba a couple of years ago  - anyone want to hear about that too?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Time to sink in

 It has been ages since we played My First Scrabble - mostly because we couldn't find the boxes!

What a difference a couple of months make! Last time we had tantrums and 'can't do it/won't do it' shenanigans - snatching, pushing, and hiding tiles.

We also had the rawest guesses about the words we were making, Hinata especially literally flew through the words, choosing the correct letters regularly and begging for the next card! Sota hasn't been with us as long, but he too was putting sounds in order to solve the puzzles.

As you can see, the puzzle is colour coded, matching the tiles required. This makes scanning 26 letters much less challenging - the tiles are still in order so players get used to the run of letters without having to start at the beginning again, every time they look up. Finding a /t/ sound from 5 orange letters is much more manageable than rummaging a jumble of the entire alphabet. And the children were matching sounds to letters, saying the words suggested by the picture prompts, rather than relying on the names of the letters. A subtle but important difference!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Setsubun No Hi - Bean Throwing Ceremony in Japan

On February the 3rd there is a ceremony called Bean Throwing Ceremony. We do this at the beginning of spring and the Lunar New Year.

People prepare with bought dry soya beans ("Daizo") and masks. The masks have to be hand-made. We sometimes use a baseball bat.

This ceremony starts at 8pm and in people's houses. When people throw beans we say "Oni wa soto, Huku wa uti!" and we beat the evil spirit up.

Posted for Tomoro

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Fotobabble snow trek

First footprints are the best!

This morning we waited for the sun to warm up a little bit before our pre-schoolies togged up for a wintry walk around the neighbourhood. It was beautiful, fairly warm, with the sound of people digging their paths clear & snow melting & dripping from rooves.

Plenty of snowball ammunition, which Sota aimed exclusively at Jim :) When we got to the river, we found a new target - the frozen river itself. Icebergs to break off as we bombed it with big dollops from above. The Troll kept his head in. With Wellies on we gingerly slipped down to the riverbank and made the first footprints in the pristine snow; always the best! It was a bit deep - spare socks and a drying rack when we got back...but who cares when you're having this much fun!?

Along our way we saw bitterns, a heron, and lots of little tweetie-pies looking for food. One big kite was looking at them hungrily too!

We left a mini snowman on the bridge. He might last longer than our footprints? If it snows again tonight, we might not find him though!

See the whole set here!/album.php?aid=34774&id=125002814212039

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Romance fills the air - Luna's little Valentine's party

l Luna's re-jigged Christmas Party y was a great success! Thank you Yukari for organising all the food and generally being organised!

We had a super turn out, but no way filled our nice new classroom. Students and parents had a good search around our building, looking for hearts to mend their broken big hearts - great way to make random pairs! Quite a search was required, as they were deviously hidden in drawers, on table-tennis bats, under tables & chairs, behind flowerpots etc! Sho & Rui won this little game. They obviously know Jim quite well!
Once we had plenty of love in the room, we tried to pin our hearts on Cupid - more romantic than a tail on a donkey? There was a lot of interference/unhelpful 'help' from friends as all the boys and girls took turns. Michiyo refereed the final outcome - Rei got the chocolate winner's prize.

Actually, chocolate featured a lot during the party. Too much, perhaps, as I am sure someone barfed (on my painstakingly laid nice new carpet!). Smarties for bingo tokens, as we got to know each other better - everyone was asked to sign everyone elses' cards. Everyone was a winner; eat the game when you finish!
Gorgeous Nanako won the cup race for her team - twice. Daddy Twister was a dead-heat between two of our doctor dads, who proved to be very flexible. Well done dads!

A full-participation reading of the Farmer & the Beat had everyone trying to pull up a very big beat indeed. With a well-earned hunger, Yukari's catering choices proved very popular.

We made sure Daiya & Masanori had clean hands after wards, as Jim presented them with their Cambridge YLE certificates. Both boys took Starters for the first time late last year, and got a big round of applause from everyone for their achievements. Well done boys, and well done all our YLE candidates who will be getting their certificates in class this week. Proud of all of you.

Find all the photos from the party on Flickr

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Successful YLE candidates

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Teacher's PETs (and KETs)

Double success - Misaki & Misaki
Our two Misakis are now proud owners of shiny Cambridge ESOL Certificates, for the exams they successfully took in November. Very big congratulations to you both!

'Younger' Misaki announced she has also passed Eiken 2, so her success is no fluke. Passing KET at first attempt is something she should be especially proud of.

It is a bittersweet swansong for 'older' Misaki, as she is leaving us next month - spreading her wings and flying away (not literally, she will probably go on the train). Life as a university student beckons. We are sure she will flourish, as she has been a super student with us...first taking Young Learners (Starters) in 2006.

We are now recruiting students to join this class - must be smart, hard-working and enjoy English. Places are limited!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Pirate Adventure - young readers

The whole point about encouraging younger learners to read is, contradictorily, not making them read out loud. If they want to, well, absolutely and go for it with bells on! I mean, do you read as a group? I usually read in the bath, and I would be seriously less relaxed & likely to enjoy my peaceful page-turning if was not in there alone. Company in the bath can be fun, don't get me wrong there either! But a good book? That's a solo effort usually :)

However, I have a powerful class of lads every Wednesday, and they literally munch their way through the OUP Story Tree series - it can't get 'hard' enough quickly enough for them. These chaps do like to make a noise, and they like to rib each other. Peer abuse, in small doses, can be a teacher's best bit of help!

This short podcast features an unedited team reading of the green level book, Pirate Adventure. The boys did rock/scissors/paper to decide who would read the boys' parts, the girls' parts, and the pirates' parts. Doing this 'live' is hard - you have to scan ahead to see who the direct speech is ascribed to - and this is a very difficult thing to do if you are reading in a second language/unused to seeing direct speech/performing. So, before we recorded I asked them to quickly re-read their books and circle 'their' bits in a colour pencil.

All set? Please sit comfortably, and enjoy this live reading. NB Recorded in the classroom!

We would love to hear/read your comments!

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and follow us on Twitter @luna_intnl & @oyajimbo

Pirate Adventure - young readers

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Someone agrees with me!

Please follow the link to find out more about CALL - using computers to assist learning in the classroom.

Here is a link to another article supporting my enthusiasm for getting our students more tech savvy, from the Education Technology Site

See my original article about this from Feb 4th

Friday, 4 February 2011

CALL - Computer Assisted Language Learning at Luna

Gaining keyboard fluency
Three 'go for it' boys, gagging for a new game...three computers just sitting there waiting for some warmth!

Last week in class we played a simple bingo game with prepositions, some of them new, some already tackled with our classbook. Playing the same game again was quicker as they remembered a bunch more (and knew how to play/to ask if they couldn't remember). I cheated but still lost!

Why is the screen pink?!
Post game deflation. Done that. Old hat. Bored! I asked each boy to find a PC & press 'learn' (already fired up & at the start page). This task on Quizlet required them to type in the word which the picture represented (familiar images...from the game we'd just played). Ah! Can we have the game back? (Say 'please' then!)

The bingo cards did not have all the images, obviously, so there was still some running around/sharing/helping to do, and the clock was ticking (literally) while they did this. Pressure!

I was so delighted with how the took to this task that I just had to show them off to their mums, waiting downstairs. They barely noticed the intrusion and stayed on task! That's one of the great things about our new classrooms - SPACE. I explained to the mums what the boys were learning (besides a dozen words).
Building mouse skills
  • keyboard layout
  • typing skills
  • matching upper/lower case letters
  • independent thirst for English
We moved on to a game - 'scatter' - where the challenge was to drag & drop an image to the corresponding word, or vice versa. This was also against the clock, and they would not stop 'play again' as one of them had set a cracking 'record'.

The beauty of Quizlet is that you can find freinds' sets or just go hunt for something. Beauty for us is that we can embed or link any set in Edmodo class reports for learners/parents to follow up on at home. Which will hopefully increase out of class English activity & free me up in the classroom to push the analog boat out a bit further :)

Champion demo job today boys - proud of you. Now go away and learn the words!

See inside the world's oldest canal tunnel (there are lights now!)

This 5 minute video is fascinating...and not too hard :)

Dudley is in the heart of England, and was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, as you will hear.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

How to milk a pirate

Another extensive reading project got a bit intensive in class today!

My lads had read/listened to the accompanying CD narration of the story for homework, and been asked to tackle some of the challenges from the workbook to get into the nitty-gritty of the story.

We played the "Ping the next word" game I described last week, and patently obvious who had paid more attention at home than the rest. Well done Takuro.
That got us refreshed with the storyline & characters, blew away the after-school cobwebs.

Vocab mining: I asked the students to find how many times they could find the word 'pirate' or 'pirates'  in the book. Not a high usage word you may very well argue (and I'd agree - Matsumoto is in the middle of a landlocked prefecture!) but it does crop up with persistent regularity in C.ESOL Young Learners exams...good to know?! And it was a new word for them - 'say' it when you see it. Which worked out at thirteen times each. A drill, perchance?

Grammar decoding: I asked students to underline all the action words they could find with an 's' on the end with a blue pencil (no special significance with the colour!). Pirates? No. Looks? Yes. Says? Yes. Quickly figure out what is a verb and what is not ("Can you pirate?"). Next, we looked together for action words without an 's' on the end & underlined them in another colour (red, as you ask). Similar number, often the same word. How does that work then? Good suggestions (in Japanese was OK - I only know the right words so all the other ideas get a frown!) until we narrowed it down to the word or words before the verb. Aha. The he/she/it thing.

Stick your tongue out & colour it: Finding voiced & unvoiced /th/ sounds (as a review - we have discovered this frothy pair of sounds in our phonics work lately). I HATE katakana and the myriad bad habits it insists Japanese learners are strangled with (there are no /th/ phonemes). Students tasked to find every /th/ sound and circle them either pink (unvoiced) or orange (voiced). Again, say the sounds to check them - 'imaginary' sounds in your head have no voice/teeth/tongue or lips involved do they? And ever so hard to monitor. Altogether, 46 'the/they/them' and a slippery single 'thank'. A lot of practice and a penny dropping about just how frequent this sound occurs!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Nagano fails to protect against bullying

This article appears in full in the Daily Yomiuri.

I have paraphrased it - our local Board of Education should be hanging its head in shame. Ten years since the law was passed. That is a generation of school kids still not being protected as they legally and morally should be.

"Municipal boards of education in 389 cities, towns and villages have not established procedures to suspend students for bullying or violent behavior at school, despite being required by law to do so, according to the education ministry.

The School Education Law was revised in 2001 in the wake of a spike in cases of serious bullying and violence in schools, obliging municipal boards of education to set rules for such students to be temporarily barred from attending primary or middle schools.

The ministry conducted the survey in December, in the wake of the suicide in October of a sixth-grade primary school girl who had been bullied at a school in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture.

"The priority should be protecting the lives of the victims of bullying. Aren't there some cases where officials should be brave enough to bar students from attending school?" asked Midori Komori, director of Gentle Heart Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing bullying. 

Komori's daughter killed herself at age 15 in 1998 in Kanagawa Prefecture.

In Nagano Prefecture, more than 70 percent of the municipal boards of education have not taken the required action."

Animal Adventure - our game on Voicethread

In pre-school this morning we had fun playing an animal adventure board game, and I thought you'd like to hear how well our team could play! (They were very patient while Jim messed around on the computer - thank you guys!)

We love Voicethread for this kind of interaction between students, as it gives them a real sense of achievement & ownership. It is also a wonderful chronicle for them to cherish. Real Player also allows you to download/convert to eg iPhone, which is pretty funky!

Would love to hear your comments...add them. Follow this link (couldn't load to Blogger for some reason today).

Pre-school avatars : )