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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