Friday, 31 January 2014

Guri & Gura's Picnic Adventure

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Some lovely new flashcards created on Quizlet...for YOU!

Check out a recently created set of flashcards for PET level learners (CEFR B1), which is all connected with the topic of travel. There are many ways to study with Quizlet as I have talked about before - search the blog! Thought you would like to see how attractive and clear the actual flashcards are, and how much they can help any/all learners build their vocabulary. Do you like Quizlet? Find a class you like by searching for "LunaTeacher" in the site, and then choose some classes or groups to join. I am sure you will find yourself learning more & more!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A new job, a new start, a new teacher.

It’s Sunday 26th of January and I’m up at the crack of dawn to meet Jim at Matsumoto station to catch the first express train to Nagoya for my first ETJ experience: a series of presentations at the Sugiyama Jogakuen University. Or so I thought. After missing our train by the skin of our teeth, we decided to hole up at the nearby Mos Burger for a quick nap and recharge before getting on the next express train to Nagoya.

We arrived fashionably late, so unfortunately we missed the first set of presentations which started at 10:00. We went to get ourselves signed in and were asked to make some name badges for ourselves, I felt like a student arriving for his first day at a brand new school. This feeling was further enforced by every presentation that I observed, learning new and creative materials or teaching tools from many experienced English teachers and publishers working around the country.

Ritsuko Nakata
My first presentation, “Getting forgetful kids to remember” by Ritsuko Nakata, outlined the importance of her “MAT (Model, Action, Talk) method”. It focuses on giving students a meaningful context to the language that they are learning, as well as encouraging the use of gestures within to classroom to aid students when learning vocabulary so they are not dependent on the teacher to practise the language by constantly listening and repeating. This allows the students to practise the language among themselves and also feel accomplished for doing so.

Next up was David Paul’s presentation on “motivating teenagers and adults to communicate”. This was a presentation I did not want to miss as from personal experience a student who is not willing to communicate is the most difficult to teach. Many ideas and techniques were presented with an emphasis on personalization and the importance of recycling language to build confidence in the students (also as a way making sure they aren’t forgetting everything you teach them as soon as they walk out of the classroom!). We looked at using activities which encourage a communicative response rather than using language that is situational and regurgitated from any old classroom textbook.

Mari Nakamura
My next presentation was by Mari Nakamura on her new book “Lily and the Moon” to engage children’s hearts and minds with a picture book. A story inspired from her childhood following the adventures of Lily the ladybird as she meets an array of little critters on her journey to see a ladybird on the moon. The book can be used as an aid for teaching times of day, colours, animals, nature and comes with an array of activities and flashcards to use within the classroom. There was a strong emphasis on the use of gestures and the involvement of the students whilst reading.

David Paul
Next was another presentation by David Paul on his publication “Finding Out”, a step by step child centred course for children. What I found intriguing was his use of “nonsense” words in his book to strengthen the students the ability to read, rather than focusing on their ability to recognise written words from exposure and repetition. In this manner a student can’t learn to read any word regardless of if it is real or not and will never be afraid when faced with an unseen word.

Last of all was Jo Ando’s presentation on the importance of phonics textbooks in the classroom. Albeit more of a sales representative than an experienced teacher with multiple publications, he pressed the importance of incorporating captivating images and the use of colouring in phonic textbooks to maintain the interest of the students.

Having only just started teaching my own classes the Monday before, I have had very little opportunity to try and implement ideas and activities of my own into the classroom. Now having attended the series presentations, I feel armed to the teeth with new techniques and activities that are going to help engage the students in the classroom environment and inspire them to further develop their English language skills. The whole experience has aided me in broadening my mind into the depth and excitement of English language teaching, and I am looking forward to implementing the plethora ideas, techniques and activities that I was able to take away from this event.

Thank you to all the staff involved in organising such a wonderful event, I will be waiting in anticipation for the next event.

Also a very big thank you to Jim for encouraging me to attend, showing me around, introducing me to many new people, as well as convincing me it would be a great idea waking up at 6 a.m on a Sunday!

Damian Gowland

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Friday, 24 January 2014

The sweetest voices singing a thank you tune!

I absolutely love the singing in this little photo! I am very biased, but it's a heart-melter :) Can't think of a better way to finish off the week!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

From 'my first game' to my First Certificate!

"I Spy, with my little eye..."
We've been enjoying various board games this week in our classes, as you can see!

I Spy is a cool game without any English it it - so you could use this for any language, actually. Four game cards are beautifully illustrated with loads of content, intricate detail and variety. Each card has a different picture. The aim of the game is to cover the picture with jigsaw pieces when you 'find' something the teacher has asked for eg Something beginning with "P" (for spelling, or do it phonetically). You can also call for "something big/small/hot/delicious/dangerous etc" or by colour. Children love exploring their pictures and getting creative with their answers - and checking each others' answers! Suits all sorts of levels...
Alphabet Squares

Alphabet Squares is a game I picked up in Australia years ago, and is based on the characters from an ABC kids' TV show - never mind we are unfamiliar with them. It's a simple A to Z dice game/race, with players collecting letter cards as they land on squares. Add a bit of motivation for the lagging players by giving them the chance to 'steal' these cards when they land on them later - rock/scissors/paper injects some noise! Ask players to tell you the letter name as they pick up; make it harder and get players to name all the letters as they move; make it harder still and tell you what the pictures are eg 'M for moon'. Unfortunately the pictures are not phonetically thought out eg 'C for Charlie' and obscurely Aussie here & there eg 'J for Jup Jup'. However, children still get a lot of enjoyment from this kind of game and are repeating & repeating the letters, and using game taking language each & every turn.

Animal ABCs
Another ABC race we like is from Learning Resources from a pack of 6 games "Pre-School Fun game board book". I was amazed this week that some of my students simply could not spin the spinner (dice alternative - harder to throw off the table!)...seems they have too many fingers/dangly winter cuffs or something! An animal on each square by first letter, and can be 'milked' by asking students to tell you what noises the animals make, if they can be seen near where you live, if they have ever seen one, are they safe or dangerous, do they like them etc. My learners love to play an Old MacDonald game (by Loesch Ware) on iOS, incidentally, which extends the theme, uses the familiar song but with un-farm friendly animals such as fox, shark, giraffe...highly recommended!

Old MacDonald iOS game
And of course, even the ultra-serious classes secretly want to have some fun and play a game! Most readers will be familiar with Scrabble, which can be a bit quiet/slow if you don't 'manage' the game properly - time limits, ban dictionaries (ask the teacher?), etc. I like this card game version just because it's bigger & feels different (put your own double/triple letter/word cards where you like); only limit is the size of your table. Encourage players to write down all the words in their notebooks & review at home, do a spelling test next time or ask students to make sentences with etc - don't waste the vocabulary generated. I like to play semi-open hands so I can give clues about 'better' words & avoid getting stuck with 3-letter minimalism/clogging up the vowels!

FCE practice
So game play works from my first class all the way through to my First Certificate. Games need to have a language/learning point & produce output. Should be used sparingly, enthusiastically (by teacher to get the most out of players, not players goofing off!) and sypathetically - don't make a big deal out of winning/losing...unless of course the teacher loses, which everyone enjoys :)

What is your favourite classroom board game?