Saturday, 30 June 2012

Shinshu JALT and apps for the classroom

 As Programme Chair for Shinshu JALT, I had asked Cambridge
University Press to sponsor an evening
of professional development for our chapter on Saturday evening.

You can find a full description of that presentation by Asia Senior Sales
Manager Rob Habbick right here. As I have personally known Rob for
over 15 years, it was a pleasure to finally get him up to

Matsumoto again in his professional capacity and to share his wealth of knowledge & catalogue of
online tools with us (Rob & Ritsuko Nakata presented our very first Cambridge YLE certicates to
our children back in 2000 - a very good friend of Luna's!). Rob gave everyone plenty to think about, as
well as codes to access some online tools for free over the next fortnight.

The second half of our evening was given over to mini-presentations. I had intended this to be a mostly
local effort from new speakers; few answered the call despite Tonya Kneff's best efforts to rally the ALT
crowd. However, we had interest form further afield - Andy Boon came all the way from Tokyo to tell us
about he explains:
"As a global phenomenon, Facebook has established itself as the
de facto Social Networking Site. With its various utilities to connect
people via the Internet to  post messages and comments, start
discussion threads, upload photographs and videos, and chat
via IM or video, the pedagogic potential of this tool to encourage
and facilitate language learner  use of the L2 outside of the
classroom setting is being realized by educators worldwide. In this 
short presentation, we will provide an overview of how setting up a Facebook group with a 
2nd-year intermediate university class in Japan has enabled group members to interact with one 
anther by posting and responding to comments to work on course assignments or just to say hello 
to classmates in English. Data from the Facebook group will be provided to highlight activities 
that may be of use to other educators wishing to set up Facebook groups with their own classes."

Mike Honywood teaches at Shindai in Ueda, and awed us all in 
presenting an app he developed to help second language learners. 
Obviously a labour of love and a lot of fun, Mike's presentation 
explained not only how his app works but how he got into making it, and
the technological changes that are making that challenge less 
complex/more exciting and accessible to non-programmers.

Our Chapter President Mark Brierley went retro with an egg timer app
and a quick round of "Just a Minute" - audience challenged to avoid
hesitation, deviation & repitition
on the topic Spain v Italy. Yours truly won, leaving a late challenge with 3 seconds left to talk about the
football tonight!

Fred Carruth (our Membership Chair) explained what an EBM
(Executive Board Meeting) is & what happened at the last one in
Tokyo,  last weekend. Fred is retiring as Chair of the Presidents' Liaison
group after 4 years, where he has helped keep Shinshu on the map.

Dave Callaghan demonstrated an app (SayHi) that claims to
automatically translate
between about 45 different languages. Given Dave's demonstration there is very little
chance that any of the participants will be using this or any other auto-translate app any
time soon.

Me? Of course I have loads of ideas of apps & iOS solutions for classroom hiccups! I
demonstrated two which I had to use earlier in the day. Snapguide and Sock Puppets. I used Snapguide for the first time earlier this morning, when a student asked me for assistance in preparing for a video conference call she was to be involved in next week. This is what we came up with.I think you will agree it is clear and simple? It was very easy to make, with the app on my iPhone following a simple template, with photos very easy to incorporate and annotate. The voice recorder is a cool tool if you are not hands free eg hands covered in chocolate or something! I love to use Sock Puppets to enliven dialogues - there's a 30 second time limit (on the free version) which is just fine...encourages students to hurry up & allows us to have to have another go! Students also tend to let go of their books to touch (activate)/move their character around the screen.  You have a choice of characters & backgrounds, props. I think it's great, and our students love using. Check out this sample - it has lost some lustre in rendition :(

Sunny summer in Shinshu

Hi Ikuya

What's the weather like with you? It's sunny and hot here and there isn't any snow on the mountains. We're having a school bazaar today. My brother's going to play football in the sun. I'm going to go shopping with my grandfather at the bazaar. I want to get some snacks. Come and visit. You can stay at the my home. You can sleep on a futon.

Email me soon.


Thursday, 28 June 2012


I think you can see we had a lot of fun with our new topic yesterday - we will be talking about our bodies and doing more cool stuff. The trick I learned from my daughter's kindy was to use rubber bands as well as string to prevent tearing.


If you have got any cool masks you have made, why not share them?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bon Bon yourself silly!

As any fool know, Bon Bon is the BIG GIG of the year in Matsumoto!

August 4th

Can't read the form on the left? Well, that means you probably ain't a Luna student. No problem. (If you are a Luna student, and you can't understand this...Nihongo posting on Monday!)

Want to join the festival? Email oyajim at and I'll let you know how you can register. More importantly, we'll send you t-shirt iron-on prints (you buy the cheapest white t-shirt you can), and supply as much ale as you and all the other reprobates we recruit can drink. This will only cost you Y1,000 - and you will not get arrested for singing, drinking and dancing your little behind off all around our historic town!

Can my friends/wives/kids come? Yes, of course - but please register with us by the end of the month.

Can I just turn up? No - dress code applies, and Jim totally hates the idea of giving away beer (hints of Scottish relatives in the closet).

When does this part start & end?
  • Meet up 17:30 (don't know where yet). Break up at 21:00 - if you are coming with toddlers, please advise (recommend a 8pm curfew)
  • Apres dance knees up - don't want to miss out?!  Tell us the now!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A young reader reads :)

A little star called Rei blew this little reader away this afternoon. Can you guess what the key phonic sound was in the story? 

How did we do?

Follow the link to more great audios from our classroom on Audioboo or subscribe through on iTunes.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mr.T's busy Saturday

I had a great time playing with my friends. Before I left the house I got the ball and the Frisbee , and I got in to the car and I went to the  park. First we played football. I was the playing with “Yutaro”, “Junnosuke” and “Riki”. I was the keeper and I saved some shots, but they scored one goal. Then we played “it”. We ran away from the person who was “it”. I climbed a tree and over fences.  We ran a lot so we got really tired. After that, I went home and then I went to the foot ball practice. I was very tired ,  but I ran and saved a goal. In the afternoon I had kendo practice.  After kendo I was really tired. In the end, I went home and ate dinner, and I slept.     

Friday, 15 June 2012

Team reading - first draft

listen to ‘New trainers on Friday’ on Audioboo

I am not a big fan of 'team reading' - tends to be at the speed of the slowest and 'pronunciation by consent'. As you listen (press play) you can hear that the children get quicker & more 'into' the material. You can't hear me moving my arms around like a windmill to gee them up!

This did help me fogure out which words they needed a bit more focus on (which ones did you identify?) and we did just that next with a board race. After that, I read it through and made some atrocious mistakes ('cow' instead of 'now', hungry/angry, nappy/happy, mad/sad, daddy/dirty etc) which was mildly entertaining and increased the volume significantly.
Image representing AudioBoo as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

What iOS apps do you use to get more out of your classes?

Check out some other experiments with my AudioBoo here

Find this recording/download it at

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A postcard from - The Chocolate HIlls, The Philippines

'Only found in Bohor, the world-renowned, cone-shaped Chocolate Hills is one of the world's natural wonders. Spread over the municipalities of Batuan, Sagbayan, & Carmen, it consists of approximately 1,268 haycock hills with heights ranging from 40 to 120 meters.

Formed centuries ago by tidal movements, the hills are considered a National Geologic Treasure. In summertime, the lusg green grass covering the limestone hilss dry up and turn brown, creating the semblance of endless rows of giant chocolate "kisses".'

Thank you Yanissa :)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

We're engaged!

There's a really nice review game towards the end of "Sounds Fun 1" which our young learners have a lot of fun playing - nothing scary like words involved (to read).

In a digital era (and I am a big fan of web 2.0 and plugged in classrooms) it is nice to get retro with dice & erasers for counters! A personal philosophy is to get out of the way as much as possible - set up the activity and retreat, help out if necessary (and when asked properly!) and monitor.

Another thing I think is very important (and often missing) in kids' classes is the questioning role. Kids are asking questions incessantly in their native tongue, aren't they?! Just as important to be able to do so in English - and of their peers as much as of their teacher. In this case, asking teacher was a last resort. And as a last resort, I got to find out which vocab had gone in, and what hadn't. The nice aspect to this game is the likelihood of repetition, so players get the chance to remember for themselves/prompt each other/slag each other off if they have forgotten the same word three times over!

As you can see, the students are fully engaged with each other (actually demanding each other to hurry up & ask the question do they can answer 'their turn') and having a lot of learning fun. Student centred, loads of interaction, meaningful...

Use the same game template with your vocab, I am sure your students will enjoy!

Barrier free Young learners

If you read this blog regularly, you'll remember a little melt down situation a couple of weeks ago? Pleased to report there was no apparent legacy to endure - a week is a long time for a child & they tend to get over things much more quickly and magnanimously than teachers sometimes don't!

It never ceases to humour me that doing something simple like shifting the furniture in class can be such a big deal to the kids; wonderment that life goes on even without a table to lean on?!?!

With young learners, hitting the floor means you can massage the dynamic around (no "I always sit next to Tom" or "This is my chair") without being too obvious. Big room? Cushions prevent strays! A large cushion (even a towel) if you want a close-knit team.

To avoid tantrums this week the teacher did the donkey work, managing the board (but students had to tell me what to do). Use Japanese? Miss a turn (for the team - big deal with peers!). Being a bit thick & repeating an answer? OK, but no points. Only thinking linear ABC? You won't win. Open the class book to "cheat" - absolutely ok & encouraged! Of course the teacher is only using words that we have studied so far.

Alright, so we only played _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Boys, being boys, wanted to "kill" the game - until 'double homework' was suggested! Pretending to be deaf made them careful to enunciate clearly & often draw their letters in the air.

Now they know the game, they can be their own quiz masters next time!

Board readers! A graded playing field.

As a follow up to last week's posting about using graded readers with this homemade board, I realised that it is a very good "last minute" or "emergency" option for any class, and works with mixed ability classes.

One class we have at Luna is a family group, so it is often quite contrived to make sure the younger daughter can win a game or be as successful as her big sister etc.

Making sure she could see the board ( and aunt couldn't!) I was able to sneak hints/prompts onto the board to give her a head start. This was really motivating/rewarding for her, as she notched up a cricket score & thrashed her aunt!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Phantom of the Opera

Hello, I read "The phantom the opera" After reading--#1

To the Persian I am leaving this letter for you, because once 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 later, 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. Erick