Tuesday, 25 December 2012

And now, that Christmas party with some blues!

I have been buzzing since our end of year Christmas party on Sunday; the room was bulging with children - many of them them very young and dangling off mummy or older sisters! Two or three were so little they managed to sleep through the entire afternoon - the innocence of youth (but absolutely wonderful to see Miki-chan, Anna-chan, Fumi-chan as mummies again!). Not everything went to plan - hope you didn't notice! Main thing was that everyone was involved and everyone seemed to win something!

For the first time we "dressed" the tree - a new idea I came across through twitter last week as an alternative to musical chairs (we don't have enough!) and pass the parcel. We had an enormous alphabet soup which took a while to figure out, and then tackled Naomi's wonderful Christmas picture montage. Yukari & Mayumi delivered a delicious Christmas lunch, before a surprise guest in a red suit arrived to give everyone a present.

Enjoy the show, as we enjoyed the day!

You can find all the photos on flickr right here

Sunday, 23 December 2012

ijiwaru jimbo's photostream

Who's that?Jim's favourite AnnaAiri's mumSanta scrumMiki-chanSanta smorgasbord
Primary coloursHinata's certMichael's egg nogNaomi pic - beforeI can jump...Super Starter Masa
With Michael & Jim senseiNaomi pic - afterSee you SantaOur special guest...Pulling mussels from a shellKids in the bath
Colouring frenzyBig Red ElfXmas_gig 026Naomi explainsXmas party 101Airi colours

A very hot edit of the fun and games we had this afternoon at Luna! If you have your own photos, please do share them with us here, on Facebook or on Flickr!

A massive party which we must say thank you to Sho, Naomi, Misuzu & Michael for making things go so well. Backstage Mayumi got us out of jail, and Yukari was unbelievably strong. Thank you so much. Oh, Father Christmas too - good job, big guy!

Children - you were very good today and we all had a lot of fun with you! Thank you for being so well behaved, and to the bigger ones for looking after the smaller ones!

We especially love seeing old friends come back - you know who you are...really makes us feel that we are 'a family'. Mums who were once students are starting to make @oyajim feel old - but also really proud that you trust us to teach your children.

We are now talking a break for the holidays - classes start again January 7th. If you don't have enough homework, make your own and show us!

We wish you a very Merry Christmas - whichever way you celebrate the holiday all the very best from us xxxx

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How many arms do you have? (We need ten!)

Four students is a very nice number to be working with. Ever noticed how most board games & activities are designed for four players?!

We have heard this song a few times now in class and at home, and have pointed/stabbed numbers on the table. Thought we'd warm ourselves up the other afternoon, and get physical with our numbers from one to ten. The song is one of the delightful tunes found in the Everybody Up (Starter) book from OUP - haven't really come across a bad chant yet in it. What I do like especially about the songs is that they are long enough (and repeat the same verse) that we can change around in the middle ie assume a different 'role' - in this case two new numbers. This does mean children are adapting quickly/being more flexible with the vocabulary, and putting it 'in order' in their heads.Catchy music gives them 'hooks' to hang this all on, and as long as it is a mutual giggle and not a command performance, everyone will try; brave ones might even sing.

I know a lot of inexperienced YL teachers panic about 'losing control'...a class out of control is a nightmare, to be sure. The key I find is to know what you are trying to do and have a number of options handy; plan A might not be suitable if the children arrive tired or hyper; plan B might not work because the cheerleader in the group is absent or 'the monster' is on form; plan C might not work due to missing CD or xyz malfunction. Whatever. The children will give you a break if you give them a break! If they can laugh with you and about themselves, then you can be the focal point of mayhem rather than one of them, which gives you time for transitions/finding the CD track, flashcards etc. Involve them in your problem eg "Where's my book?"

Compare that with "Sit down. Next we are going to talk about animals. This is a cat. Repeat. This is a cat. Do you like cats? Yes I do. You say that. Yes I do. What's this....."

Another thing children love to do is test the teacher (linguistically, rather than emotionally!). Using numbers is important, but one of the easier things for learners to pick up I think. The question bit is what they need to use just as much!  Gang up on the teacher? Even better! After they have exhausted a picture with each other asking eg "How many.......s?" and you are happy with the monitoring you have done gently - challenge the teacher. Make a big deal of being confident, and get the answers wrong :) This will generate plenty of student talk ha ha!

What games do you like to play with numbers? Love to hear about them!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Adventure Capital of the World - review

The book I read title is "The Adventure Capital of the World".

In this book, it tells you about extreme activities in New Zealand. The activities are bungee jumping, jetboat, helicopter and hiking. I would like to do the jetboat and the bungee jumping, because the jetboat looks so fast, and it's cool! I love fast boats. Bungee jumping looks fun! I think it's very fightening and scary. You might think that you flew in the sky!

I will be in Queenstown for a week. I will do bungee jumping, ride a jetboat, get on the helicopter and skydive.

I would like to go to a farm. On the farm, I'd like to ride a horse, feed the animals, milk the cows and eat steak.

I would like to go to New Zealand when I get bigger.


Reading to write - boardwalking (running!)

We had an end of term kind of feel yesterday, and playing one if our favourite 'race' games went down well. Re-reading an old reader is never a waste of time, but my copy seemed to have lots of mistakes in it as I read it aloud!

When the children noticed a "mistake" they ran to the board to spell out the proper word. Lots of giggles and rethinking/double-checking. Silly teacher can't read - but the students can, and they can spell!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Postcard from Barcelona, Spain

Hola, Jim & NHK members

I'm writing this card in an Euromed left Barcelona for Alicante. The Meditarranean Sea from the window is so calm like a mirror. I visited Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo yesterday. The impact was beyond description. I enjoyed Jamon Iberico & Cava, Que bueno! You can imagine how excited I an here in Spain, can't you?


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas ninja? Take the test!

Christmas Quiz (Questions)

Monkey's Paw - after reading

I read "The Monkeys Paw" and did #2 of afer reading as below

#2 Perhaps Tom Morriis's friend wrote a letter to Tom before he died. Complete his letter with these linking words.

Dear Tom
I am going to die soon and I want you to read this letter before I am dead. I have no family , so you can have all my things. You can have the monkey's paw too, but be very careful. Think and you make a wish. My wife was very unhappy because I wished for the wrong things. It's never good to want to change things, and the wishses don't bring happiness. The old Indian told me that, but I did not listen to him. So, please be careful, Tom.

Sherlock Holmes and the Sport of Kings

After reading 5.

I found the fourteen words in the word search.

10. OWN
11. LAME
12. BET
13. MUD
14. WIN

I think the words in 1. to 4. can be make a headline for the hewspaper report.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Where in the world are our readers?

The above word cloud was generated from the clustr maps widget on this blog, showing us roughly where our readership is based.
Thank you readers - we'd love to hear your international comments too!

The Phantom of the Opera

In November, I read "The Phantom of the Opera". Here is my answer to After Reading #1. >>> To the Persian I am leaving this letter for you, because one you were my friend. Now, of course, I have only enemies. People scream when they see my face. I am clever, it is true, but no woman can ever love me. And how can a man live without love? When I was a child, I was very unhappy. My mother never kissed me. She didn’t want to look at me because I was so ugly. And years letter, when I was a man, I did many terrible things. I know that, and I am sorry now. But I did one good thing in my life. Christine is free. She can marry the Vicomte and be happy. But I can never forget her wonderful voice, and I cannot live without her. And so, goodbye. Erik

Monday, 19 November 2012

WordFoto - now you can read a photo

 To be perfectly honest, I was scratching my head in a one to one class recently, with a very bright young lad wading through his (not ours) phonics book. It's a very dry affair; each page unimaginatively the same as the last, minute line art pictures as mysteriously unfathomable as they are hard to see.

There has to be a way to make this a bit more interesting, I was thinking to myself. I didn't want to make a list on the board (lazy, and just the same thing again). I thought about a mind map, but we've done that before.

Brainwave: WordFoto (find it here) app

I wrote the big 'ph' in fat chalk on the board + 'sounds like /f/' & took a quick picture. Then opened up the picture in the wordfoto app. There's a grey toolbar across the bottom.
  • crop the pic if necessary; I wanted it nice & tight.
  • words - tap this and then select "add a new wrod set >". add each word you want to see in the image as a new item
  • style allows you to find a treatment of your picture you are happy with - pre-set transformations of your image as well as adding your word list in different fonts (compare ph set vs wh set below)
  • finetune - does exactly that!
When you are happy with that, you can save to album or export to Facebook or by mail.

NB The images are not intended to be definitive lists of all the words in the English language with ph spellings as /f/, or wh with a silent h.  What posting to FB did was generate a blizzard of suggestions though (and some nice exceptions - shepherd & haphazard).

Now I can save these images to my YLs Evernote dossier too, for future reference. How have you exploited WordFoto? Would love to know!

Speeding up speaking with YLEs

Another gratuitous video clip of our students using their English; I don't use flashcards as much as I should, but the novelty factor was obvious in this class as we tried to 'act' the adjectives out at the same time as trying to get a sentence together quickly - to win the race. Aim = He or she is + adj (and then add the negative opposite eg She isn't cold).

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How's the weather? Gales of laughter!

Last Saturday was our monthly workshop for younger learners, when we shift the desks out of the way and do something 'less structured'....as much song, dance & action as we can OR break into the arts & crafts drawers for a project. The workshops are fun, as it is a sign up class and children get to meet new faces from other classes/days - then again we are a local school & sometimes end up with school chums.

No prizes for guessing what the theme was - an oldie, but a goodie! Apologies for the video being a long one, but we had a big giggle and I wanted to share!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Blending media: graded readers + iOS devices

This was originally going to be a quick posting about how I was trying to integrate Quizlet sets more into class at the table (rather than at the PC) now that I have my old iPhone 3 freed up as de facto iPod Touch.
Created on Tagxedo - regular past tense verbs in "Lost in the Jungle"

I was just about to start tapping away when I came across a blog posting on a very related topic - how to "teach" the pronunciation of regular verbs in the past tense: the -ed ones. It has taken me a few days to think about this one in a wider context...

I do not think (young) learners need to be told what they are going to learn, explicitly. Nor do they need to be scared with the mechanics of what they are going to do - before `we` have got there together (something I am sure David Paul would want students to realise for themselves). Of course, we (teachers) need to teach; that does not mean we have to stand at the front of the class & deliver pronouncements from on high. Far from it...

Complementary media - book & iOS
I like the dawn of realisation to sneak up on my students nice and quietly - preferably while they are reading. And that is secret weapon number one, methinks. Graded readers, deployed nice and strategically, quietly. Children aren`t daft - they recognise patterns, form opinions, arrive at conclusions. And after that, they ask questions or can have ideas teased out. With -ed endings, my favourite is to ask them to underline all the verbs (or 'doing' words, however you explain them?) as we listen to a new reader. My fave series has a CD narration of each title in the pack. I don`t have to explain they are all past tense; by the end of the book they want to know why they have all got -d or -ed stuck on the end (they have already come across the same words enough times to keep Paul Nation happy!). Teacher question = "When did this happen?"

Using Quizlet app to find irregular past tenses
Leave "it", the nutty crunchy grammar thing alone. Play with the book; get into the comprehension questions, true/false stuff, vocabulary mining. Mess about with the pictures and generally ENJOY READING. Again, my fave graded reader series has a dedicated workbook for each story - puzzles, yes/no, gap filling. They get suitably harder as the books climb in ambition. These are not a class activities; extra-curricula & opt-in. We follow up in class for sure - but the past tense thing is something I want to focus on here.

Once we have done everything else we usually do with the readers ("finished" them if you like!), one last teacher challenge. Listen for the words you underlined, and circle them in one of three colours (you choose the colours - but be consistent after this decision!)
  • Red - if you hear a /d/ sound on the end
  • Black - if you hear a /t/ sound on the end
  • Blue - if you hear an "extra" syllable (ie longer than the original word) = /Id/ sound on the end
A word to the wise; every teacher has a slightly different way of pronouncing words. Decide how you are going to say your own -ed endings as a teacher, and hereafter be consistent. There are no golden rules; a general agreement, yes. What does your school want the students to be producing? What do the other teachers teach?

After all of that, I can`t imagine a book which managed to only use regular past tense verbs. Can you? Would be rather odd. I love Quizlet for making, saving & sharing online falshcards; a dedicated app means they can also be accessed by iOS. In this instance I wrote a list of the verbs (present tense) that occured in the story, and asked students to copy the list onto the inside back cover of their readers - usefully bank. Using the 'learn' function, students could match the present & past tense forms & then scribble it down - if they had not already known or guessed (encouraged them to dive back through the book to find the words too).

Screen shot, Quizlet app 'learn' function
Once learners have finished this task, there is a 'scatter' game, with a timer = immmediately compels YLEs to compete. Drilling, anyone?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Sharing classroom work: In-hand tech solutions

Image representing fotobabble as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase
As soon as I can figure out QR codes, I will be doing more with photobabbles to give our parents a bigger clue about what we get up to in class. I have a one-on-one class with a very able young lad once a week and we can tend to munch through material (too) quickly. He is my (willing)  guinea pig at the moment, as we try to do the same stuff differently (ever the language teacher's millstone?).

Some of our efforts have ended up in spectacular giggles as things didn't work out; often we both learn more (he that I'm a bit of a pillock, me that I'm more of a pillock than I thought possible...)

I deliberately chopped off the vocabulary items from the top of the text book page (and covered the target structure once we'd had a go with it "How do you/they go to school/work?" / "How does he/she got to school/work?") but used the original picture as it was too small on my phone (craving an iPad!). I want to be able to share our students' great work with parents (I think very few read this blog, tragically, nor access the stuff we share in Edmodo) at an interface they can cope with (around the stove downstairs while they wait & gossip, phones in hand. Hence, the QR codes, which will take them to the recording. Update once I get that sorted out.

Edmodo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, how: Use the online portal to open up Fotobabble & set up an account (free). Open up the fotobabble app on your iOS & take a picture (or import a picture if you are prepared - you can crop/edit in advance then too). Hit the record button when you are ready to go, and get cracking as you have only 30 seconds or so on the freebee. As I have said about other free apps, I actually like the time stress as it hurries everyone up/necessitates re-recordings (students demand to have another go, not forced to be teacher!). Fiddle with the settings to share or hide to your own desire. You will find your fotobabbles created on your iOS on the fotobabble site, which you can then share again as much as you like - Facebook, twitter etc or embed as I have done with this one.
Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

An 'extra' save I intend to do from now on with students' solo work is to add items to individual folders within Evernote. I saw a blog posting about doing this yesterday & it makes absolute sense. Down the line I will not remember who did what, when & where; will want to be able to share/give to them. Think we might do this prior to open week - certainly as a leaving present. ePortfolios is a significant part of how I see teachers empowering students (they can take their classroom & work with them) - after all, I am laying the foundations for their journey of lifelong learning.

Final thought - students always need to be able to ask questions, don't they? Here is the tables-turned recording :)  http://www.fotobabble.com/m/bjUvS3g2VWl1RGc9

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Postcard form Naples, Italy

Fontana barocca di Antonio Cafaro (1668)
Hello (NHK) guys,

It's been 5 days since I arrived at Rome. After spending great days in this romantic city, I visited Napoli. People say Napoli is a dirty, dangerous city. A woman I met at a bus stop, lives in in Napoli, warned me that many thieves aim at your things, be very careful. However, I enjoyed this exciting, noisy, casual city. Now I am going north by car from Rome.