Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How hard can a game be?

It was a slow day and one of our trio was absent - bit pointless pushing on with a new project if we have to re-start & epxplain everything all over again next week.

I really like Junior Scrabble as a fall back for strong students, because it allows them to show off how well they can spell. "Seeing" words in ajumble of letters is a very difficult thing to do in a second language at any age; it os doubly tough when your culture does not involve playing games. Seriously, when was the last time a Japanese person told you they played Colditz, Kerplunk or Top Trumps at the weekend?

So, I would argue that not only is the actual game a bit hard, but the entire concept of game play something that needs to be taught...and that getting the 'perfect' answer is not strategy one! So, chill out players, and let the teacher (who knows what you know, so this actually works nicely as review, a test almost) supply you with hints - not the actual words you can make of course!
Scrabble
Image via Wikipedia

Hinting - use your classroom language, naturally!
  • A kind of ...
  • The opposite of...
  • It's big, and brown, and ...
  • It sounds like...
  • Use L1 if you are stuck/can do it eg "How do you say ******* in English?"
Making/doing crosswords is also something students are not often exposed to (and top > bottom spelling is something we avoid, right?!).

Anyway, that's my share. My lads really enjoyed their 'easy' lesson as they had to think their socks off! What kind of word/game play do you do with your students?

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Saturday, 26 November 2011

New Yorker's stories

James and Della sold each other present's and they went to a nice restaurant who had a great dinner instead of present’s.
The policeman didn't find Soapy in the church. After three days, soapy couldn't find any jobs, so he tried to go to prison again.
Elwin went home, and he also back his job, but he got amnesia and he run away again. His wife is trying to find him, but she couldn’t find him.
Tildy had dinner with her friends, and she met a nice guy who is friend of her friend’s, they had a date and a great time. Now they are in a relationship.
Arthur is into her, but she found a nice guy immediately, so she will never go back to him.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Talk to the cat? Learn with a sock?

A lot of people think that childrens' apps in iPhones etc are 'just games'. Well, they can be, if you don't take advantage of them.

A while ago I used a voice recorder in class for a couple of different tasks, and I was pleasantly surprised that the students were very keen to hear themselves. Not only that, they were also critical listeners (much more than me). They got competitive about the time taken, and passing the recorder around in a question/answer drill accellerated the activity nicely too - more fluent and natural.

There is quite a debate about the pros and cons of reading out loud. Yes, it is not a usual feature of English usage, but there's little other way we teachers can monitor what the children are able to read/pronounce. NB Not 'understand'! I have always asked my students to read their homework after we have checked/marked/corrected if necessary. I don't like the whole class speaking at the same time - how can I hear everyone (and for the same time I don't speak when they do)? Instead, I will repeat the sentence after the students, to reinforce their pronunciation. If I model first, they are not reading, are they?

video
Reading a lot out loud is counter productive. I do not want a performance - so we do not do this with our graded readers. Readers are for fun & internalised consumption (instead, I really like to milk the workbooks/quizzes etc which we use for follow up, vocabulary development, finding grammar patterns, spotting rhyming words etc)

A big bugbear here in Japan is conformity. In my classroom, this manifests as everyone trying to speak at the same speed, pitch, cadence. The dreaded katakana-isation. One of my classes does this so much I pulled all my hair out last week - extending the last syllable in their responses in a falling sound which is horribly unnatural. Still trying to iron that particular issue out, but my one hour a week versus the rest of their exposure to badly done English = feeling a bit like King Offa with his dyke.

Talking Tom, and a number of other "Talking...." apps are very useful indeed. Basically a voice recorder with attitude - an animated cat does a few moves and doen't like being poked or punched (who does?) - so children are allowed to do that after they have done the job. And the job is? Read your sentence through, from start to finish, without pausing. If you pause, the cat will repeat what you just said. Daft? Yes. Annoying? Yes. Judgemental? No. Does it work with longer utterances? Not really. All I want with my young students for now is for them to get to the end of their sentences once they start. The cat repeating their production is funny, but not useful for pronunciation (the voice is distorted). It IS useful for intonation though - usually very difficult to provide feedback on. It picks up all chatter and giggles, which is nice as it breaks the ice...it also means everyone has to take a breath before they start. Good. Students realise they need to preview the entire line that they are going to say, and you can see them nodding their heads as they practice internally with the beat they want to use. So we are getting word level stress and sentence level? How cool is that?

(Our pre-school age learners enjoy Talking Tom et al as well - it encourages them to speak up and try out silly phrases because the cat is just as silly as they are. They love to hear their own made up words repeated perfectly! Very shy children will talk to the cat much more quickly than to me or another adult!)

I wanted to share a Sock Puppet video too - but to do that I have to pay Y85 per scene. What a rip off - lots of fun and very creative, but could get expensive as we have a lot of talented actors at Luna. I like this tool because it has to be collaborative, planned, and quickly executed (30 second limit on the free version). Hope to share somehow, soon.

What's the best use of a voice recorder you have found?
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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Confessions of a twitter stalker? Meeting Shelly Terrell

Shelly Terrell addresses the tech converts, JALT 2011
The highlight of my weekend was meeting Shelly Terrell, even briefly, and to see her present two workshops at this year's JALT Conference in Tokyo. I have been 'following' @shellterrell for some time now on twitter; she is a very healthy spider in the middle of an extremely useful network of teachers/ideas/links & inspiration.

And in person, she's a delight. It's always a bit uncomfortable meeting fellow twitterers in person - "Hello, I follow you" makes you sound like some kind of stalking perv! A good friend of mine was once approached in Tamita Gumtree with "Hi, I've been watching you from across the room". To which he replied "Well you f*** off back to the other side of the room!" Fortunately, Shelly is more approachable : )

A lot of people, especially here in Japan I think, don't "get" twitter. I did, very quickly, after overhearing Barbara Sakamoto (@barbsaka) at JALT two years ago, and deciding that if something was working for her, it should be worth investigating. Since then, following the likes of Barb and Shelly has opened up my professional horizons beyond all imagination. I am trying hard to make sense of and share on (if that is good English?) the useful bits and bobs I come across.

On Sunday I saw Shelly present on using an iPhone with learners - something I am particularly interested in as my daughter mastered my iPhone from the age of two. I would LOVE it if all of Luna's students could arm themselves with an iPod Touch - or even better, iPads...as it is, lending my phone to students is the best I can do, and on a limited basis as there is only one phone to go around. Whatever we do with it needs to be co-operative and simple.

Shelly mentioned a number of apps that I am familiar with, and a couple of others that I downloaded immediately afterwards! I also had the pleasure of finding myself sitting next to a former ESOL examiner trainer & ongoing football fan, and catching up as best we could in between furious note taking and app sharing ideas! Here is one link to take you the rest of the month to research. Find out what and how Shelly shares her great ideas here, and find her kitchen sink over here.

One thing I will be searching out for our YLE preparation is the Story Robe app and key words "learner autonomy" & "collaborative stories". You can see our Monday students working with a couple of these apps in use here...would love to hear some feedback.

video


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Playing to learn - powerful tools in your children's hands



Postcard from....New York City

Jim sensei & Yukari-san

Nephrology meeting was finished successfully and Keita, Sota Shigeto had waited me and behaved themselves very good.

I enjoyed a stay in the USA!
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Monday, 21 November 2011

Children's Christmas Party at Luna - Announcement


                For Children
ルナ(るな)インターナショナル(いんたーなしょなる)では今年(ことし)クリスマスパーティー(くりすますぱーてぃー)(ひら)きます。
先生(せんせい)(ほか)クラス(くらす)お友達(おともだち)一緒(いっしょ)楽しい(たのしい)時間(じかん)()ごしませんか?
サンタ(さんた)さんも来て(きて)くれますよ!お友達(おともだち)連れて(つれて)きてください!
皆さん(みなさん)大好き(だいすき)キャラクター(きゃらくたー)変身(へんしん)してきて下さい(ください)ね!

会場  ルナインターナショナル 
日時  12月8日(日) 14:00~16:00
持ち物 500円相当のプレゼント(プレゼント交換用)
会費  ルナ生徒さんは、会費無料です。  生徒さん以外の方の参加費 1,000円 頂戴します。

参加される方は下の申込用紙に記入の上、費用を添えて12月12()までに講師へ渡していただくか、教室でお申し込みください。FAXでも受け付けています。
人数が一定に満たない場合や、インフルエンザの感染状況によっては中止させていただく場合がございます。予めご了承ください。
☆パーティーで撮影した写真の現像販売は致しませんが、写真のデータをルナのfacebookflicker
おのせいたします。アドレスは下記の通り、ご閲覧下さい。
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Matsumoto-Japan/Luna-International/125002814212039
Flicker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint_george/sets/72157625497898378
※お子様の好きなキャラクターに変装してお越しください。わざわざ衣装をご購入いただかなくても結構です。手作りのお面などでも構いませんので、サンタ以外のキャラクターでお願いします。

MMj02837290000[1]LUNA Internationalクリスマスパーティー申込書☆
パーティに参加されるお子様のお名前等をご記入のうえ、□の中にチェックを入れてください。
当日は軽食を用意しますので、食物アレルギーなどがある方は必ず下記にご記入ください

ふりがな
参加者氏名                年齢   歳  □ルナ生徒 □生徒様友人(\1,000


食物アレルギーはありますか   ない □ ある 食品名                  

保護者様は同席されますか? 

同席する < お子様のものとは別に軽食を希望する(別途¥1,000) □ 食事は希望しない>
同席しない 

パーティー費用合計 ¥       

保護者様お食事 1,000(ご希望の方))・ご友人様参加費 ¥1,000・ルナ生徒様は参加費無料)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Christmas Party for Adults (& families) announcement

 
ルナインターナショナルでは大人の方々(生徒様・保護者様)を対象に、
クリスマスパーティーを開きます。(お子様のパーティは別の日です)


先生や他のクラスの生徒さんと一緒にわいわいと楽しい時間を過ごしませんか?

ご友人もお誘いあわせ頂き、是非ご参加下さい!


会場  ルナインターナショナル 
日時 12月17日(土) 18:30~


ポトラックパーティーといたしますので、皆様、それぞれ食べ物などをお持ちよりいただきますようお願い致します。(特に、出欠の確認はおとりしません。)

“テーマ” 2012年!! (オリンピック・辰年・etc. 来年をテーマのコスチューム大歓迎!!)


☆パーティーで撮影した写真の現像販売は致しませんが、写真のデータをルナのfacebookflicker
おのせいたします。アドレスは下記の通り、ご閲覧下さい。

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mining graded readers - the collective

Last week I mentioned that I/we had been 'mining'  our young learners' graded readers in class.

I very much felt that was a work in progress, and more could be achieved - I set out with the same broad lesson plan in mind for another group, using the same level readers from OUP story tree series. I wanted to see if the same approach would work again, if there'd be a different result.

As per last time, I asked students first of all to figure out what kind of words they were looking at eg "Jim eats fat green frogs" - nouns/verbs/adjectives? Admit a bit of L1 to help them suss this out, but not a lot. And, as per last time, then asked them to find ten examples of each in their reader.

Well, kids being kids, when I asked them to get out their reader, there was the usual time out while pencil cases clattered to the floor/indecision about which book I meant/chatting opportunities...I had asked them to get out book 1 (they'd read all eight titles, and done the accompanying workbooks/listened to the CD narrations), so maybe this one was rustiest in memory.

Lightbulb moment: let them choose their "favourite" - quickly! First come first reserved - can't have the same book as another learner. Bingo! Decisions made pronto.

Now the students are responsible for the choice they made. I overheard a sotto voce discussion on how that choice was made (in L1) - "choose the book with the least pages". Aha! File that info away, see what we can do!

Also as per last time, I set a target of 10 nouns/verbs/adjectives - I was worried they would be lazy. Stupid teacher! This inhibited them from compiling a jumbo list - yes, they ignored my 'rule' and kept compiling, just writing smaller to squeeze stuff in! OK...I can work with that ambition too!

As they had all chosen a different book, they all had different questions about the words they were considering. Even with only four students I was getting dizzy. Bombardment nice, but I don't want to be the focus of this - figure it out yourselves, together! And so they did. Net result of that was a constant barrage of Qs at classmates "Hey, is treehouse a verb?" - "Erm. Yes, like dog. Is like a verb - it isn't "-suru" in Japanese. I intervened when one or two things crept up (like assuming all words had to be either noun/adjective/verb - my fault again...up/in/this etc started a need for a column with 'other'!)

So, now I have four kids speed reading four different books, scanning, skimming, analysing - and beautifully, interrupting each other & co-operating all the while (essentially side-reading the other three books & relighting all those memories of stories read). I was sitting there unbusy, glowing in pride - and mad as hell that one of this class announced (via mum) that 4 nights of ballet practice a week was not enough NO!!!!

I called time when they had all more or less got to the last page of their chosen reader (awesome - they were getting pissed off because there weren't enough adjectives!)...always interrupt a good activity just before it runs out of steam! The easy finish = "How many verbs etc did you find?". I realised this was not going to be fair as some of them had got very enthusiastic/lost count and written down more; there was some repetition too (which helped us figure out why go = goes, for example). All good - we are learning TONS.

Scattergories box
Image via Wikipedia
Solution. Remember the board/word game Scattergories? It's another EFL goldmine of a game, especially for end of term. Basic premise is that if you have written down an original word ie one that no other student has done, you score a point. (Part one winner was the student with the most words total; and sub-champions for each sub-category - everyone a winner). And then the penny dropped, as we read out all our words...Ayaka was going to win all ends up (even though she had complained the most about her book because her book was the 'hardest'?) Book 7 trumps 1,2,3! Oh, the books get harder? She had all our words and then some?

Gorgeous. The smile on Ayaka's face. Triumph!
Gorgeous. The dawning of ambition!
=========================================================================

OK, I got excited about my kids killing a lesson plan as we went? Oh yeah! What they did ticked a dozen boxes all over the place, with materials otherwise 'dead'.

This 'mining' activity will work with adults - especially if they are all using the same reader - give them the same chapter and a time limit? Let them choose their fave character if there is dialogue....and that is their word pool. Or their favourite chapter, or even number pages - whatever!



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Monday, 14 November 2011

What's been going on in the classroom lately?

Shigeto finds the springHalloween collageShigeto explores our riverOn the ballIt's a butterflyAutumn funshine
It's a bug's lifeExploring parksOn the swingsOn the slideField trip - stationPlatform 2
Where's the train?Is the train down there?Milk shakeHello goat!Hamster attackWild animals - Alps Park Zoo
Bacon sandwichShigeto finds the poniesWalking trip - Matsumoto CastleChecking out the castleSnakeskinCeilidh claims a kill

Thought you'd never ask - here is a gallery of our superstars over the last couple of months. We'd love to hear your comments, by the way!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Mining in progress - YLE graded readers

My strong readers on Wednesday have been doing great work lately, and impressed me with their discovery of past tense /ed/ ending sounds...after they figured out what verbs were. We don't usually dwell on grammatical terms, but we have reached the stage when we do need to start differentiating/labelling things. The reader we have just read was a good starting point. They had colour-coded the past tense /ed/ endings red/blue/purple, according to the pronunciation. This lot are all verbs, we agreed. The current reader they are reading features irregular past tenses for the first time...handy, we just got that page in the textbook too - stroke of luck or what?!


Then we looked at 'things' eg rocket, computer...before trying to figure out what 'red', 'big' etc were - and what they went before/added detail to (erm, nouns?)

So we made three columns in our notebooks, and then had a race to find 10 of each (nouns, adjectives, and verbs - in the present tense ie transform the past tense back) from the reader. Absolutely milking the material to death, by way of speed reading, skimming, scanning, analysing, categorising - and competitive too (I've got 7 adjectives!").With a young reader title like this, you can be sure they'll get almost the same sets of words; suggestion for a thicker book would be a point for every word that your friends did not write down, encouraging them to dig into the text for the juicy (new?) words.

After all that heavy brain work (and aggressive writing!) we needed a game. Silly Sentences seemed random (to them!) but they quickly got the idea - categorising words again. The lovely thing about this game is that the different parts of speech are colour coded, and jigsawed so that that will only go in the right order. Kunpei found a pattern he liked and stuck with it (photo). Takuro won, though, as he found the other 'secret' of success which was finding words that rhymed. Toru? He was the real winner, as he decided he was only going to make sensible sentences - smart lad!

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Friday, 11 November 2011

This is me! Using iTech with YLEs

 My very flexible Friday afternoon class always gives me a decent energy boost at the end of the week, and today was no different (but Masa "Get well soon").

We were reviewing parts of the body. We've already drawn ourselves and designed monsters etc with funny ears or green hair etc. Wanted to try something else.

Tip. Get your students to pose naturally, before you start explaining what you are going to next if they are going to get shy. If they are already shy, do it the other way around, and show the disguise they can make.

I actually got the idea from one of the kids before class, as he had a mobile phone. I asked him what his number is (something else we have practiced lately - number fluency as well as useful thing to remember!) and he didn't know. He explained that he only used it for the camera - so I posed and his mates had a giggle. Mmm. Idea!

Quickly took the portraits I wanted on my iPhone (would let them, but chaos would decend/blurry pics etc.and we were in a hurry). With the image above, we opened it up on the phone with FaceGoo. Friends immediately piled in to distort the image - hilarious. You can get big/small features easily & have a whole chat about that ("Do you have a big nose?" is usually a bit insensitive!). Here, we added some facial hair - but we could have gone with fangs, even noises etc. A cool app for Y85

The image on the right we opened with a "Face in the Hole" app (there are plenty to choose from), and everyone suggested the usual body-builders, chimpanzees etc before she agreed with the final result. You resize the face you are inserting behind the template, rotate to fit etc.

The actual English language practice bit I was aiming for came next, as we stuck postcard-size prints into their books (you can always use inside front covers/fly pages for this kind of 'extra', if you do not have them set up with a scrapbook or file/folder) which they then labelled. Need to know new words here obviously 'tail', 'moustache' and 'beard'. The children then talked about themselves/described their pictures.

The beauty of using the tech is that it gets you past the reluctant artists or as here in Japan, the generic anime style of drawing. No rubbing out either or scruffy UFO type productions! Very personalised and at the same stroke, one step removed - imagination time! Despite the protestations, children immediately had to show mums what they had been howling about.

Disclaimer: Make sure you have permission to use their pictures - and be careful about disclosing their identities...basically don't.
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Days of the Week

It's not easy finding a way for students to practice using the names of the days of the week, especially if they are not very strong or insist on working in their mother tongue/count on fingers or have to start at Sunday with the popular chant - rather slow ways to get to a high frequency word. Problem with teaching English is...you always have your class on the same day! You will only ever get one answer to "What day is it today?" and you'd look a bit daft if you kept asking the same question every week.

I have no idea where we inherited this old "Days of the Week" boardgame from, but it does a job. I wanted my lot to sight read the days as the moved around the board, collecting seven pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to win. With the days 'in order' it is still possible to drill from a common starting point, but I really prefer not to do that as soon as we can move away from rote into random access. Much more useful memory file!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Examiner Professional Development in Tokyo

A quick posting to say thank you to our examiners who made themselves available to top up their training this weekend in Tokyo, and to thank OUP for their generosity in letting us use their new office space/various bits of malfunctioning equipment (glad it isn't just me to have issues with decaying laptops, speakers that don't work etc!) Thank you Kayoko for looking after us!

Our team will be busy later this month and in December, so the work this weekend was to make sure our examiners are properly up to speed and competent with the sometimes tricky materials. The interlocutor (person delivering the test to candidates) has a lot to do (and look in complete control):
  • stick exactly to the script
  • manage the time candidates speak
  • assess the candidates' performances
  • make sure both candidates get an equal opportunity to speak
  • have  the 'next' materials ready
  • respond, if necessary, to candidates/problems
  • interrupt or redirect candidates
Easy? If you think you can do it, get in touch!