Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cambridge English YLE in Matsumoto - the most valuable English qualifications in the world.

Last Sunday saw our annual Cambridge Young Learners exams take place in Matsumoto - held this year at the spacious Kinroysha Centre (spell?!) nearby. It was nice not to have take down all our classroom posters and hump furniture about the night before!

Ironically, there was another organisation holding an English test in another building was easy to spot the candidates as they were children, of course, but also looking very glum. Contrast that with the cheery interaction we had to try & prevent our candidates from carrying on into the exam room! Struck me quite clearly as we were waiting for people to arrive that our YLs have a ton of fun, and that manifests itself in behaviour as well as language. They enjoy being with each other, always do things together in class, and are comfortable hanging out together outside as well. Tick that box!

I spent a few seconds in the lobby as one of their staff when we arrived early - "You're an English teacher?" she said, as though she'd never met one in the flesh before and had only heard rumours...think she might have run off shouting "I met one! I met one!"

Anyway, our unfazed kids - and well-organised Yukari - got started with Starters bang on time. Invigilating was hard, as I had a great view of some comedy car-parking below; good job there were three of us keeping a careful eye on proceedings. Luna's sessions are always 'open', by the way, so we accept candidates from any school or area. This session no different, with candidates from Okaya, Nara and Tokyo making the trip to excel.

Older candidates get stressed about the speaking parts of their Cambridge exams - I think they over-think the whole deal. Children don't, especially when you distract them until the last possible minute - play a game, chat, anything. In you go, pay attention to the other person in the room & enjoy the nice colourful pictures. And "Thank you, that is the end of the test. Goodbye." I've finished?

Watch an example of a Starters Speaking test:

As usual with Movers, we had some of our students stepping up the ladder and being ambitious. I will tell students and parents till I am blue in the face, just try! I honestly believe a lot of the "I can't do English" syndrome here in Japan comes from being battered into submission all through school with the prospect of very hard English and constantly failing complex & convoluted Englishes in test after test (all conducted in the Japanese medium). I could not pass a Japanese test of English. Make any sense? In taking a Cambridge YLE exam (or any other) you are assessed on what you CAN do, and what you  are trying to do. There is no such thing as the 'wrong answer' in any assessment scales I have ever seen, and certainly not in the speaking test. Consideration is given to whether or not the child understood the question or not, had the word(s) to make an (any) answer, and pronounced anything they did say in English intelligibly. Can an experienced teacher of children, who is the examiner, make sense of the response? Bingo!

Follow the link for a Movers speaking test here

So I should thank our examiners Magnus & Rico for making themselves available not only on the day, but in advance of the session to certify with me in person and to meet Cambridge's stringent assessment benchmarks online. Thank you both very much for your time and professionalism.

I think all of our candidates taking Flyers were only warming up for much greater things - 'easy' they all said?! Can't wait to see the results and fast-track these go-getters towards FCE before they enter JHS. Possible? With the raw talent they showed today (no prepping) and intelligence I have enjoyed in Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, "Hell Yeah!"

See a Flyers speaking test here

Looking forward to the results coming back, and seeing lots of faces light up with smiles again. Yukari deserves a very big thank you, as the new online system for the YLE exams is far from perfect and she has had to figure it out pretty much on her own. Proud of her :)

About my ideal, simple lifestyle - taking inspiration from Venetia Stanley

This photograph was taken in the city of Takam...
A basic room for a simple lifestyle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My favorite way of lifestyle is to live every day without having a lot of things. I'm longing to live my life simply.
Because simple lifestyle is beautiful, healthy and relaxing. So I want to live without so many possessions, like a heavy burden on my back. I long to live clean and lightly every day.
But when I look around my house, my room, there are full of a lot of things, such as clothes, books, pottery, china and other decorative things. My cupboard is full of china, the dresser is full of old and new clothes, my shoebox is full of many shoes, my garden is full of trees, flowers and plants etc. I want to reduce each of these things down to at least half.
I have to do it this autumn before cold winter. Otherwise I will live my life having a big, heavy burden on my back next new year, too. I want to live a refreshed and good healthy life. It's my ideal happy life.
Sometimes I clean my room and my house very clean completely, but after a few weeks, my rooms become full of lots of things again unconsciously. So it annoys me greatly. I think to live is wonderful but it's not easy.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Driving stories - just in time

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...
Happy Birthday! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I had been taking driving lessons, I had been working for the company in Tokyo, and my son was just before 1 year birthday. So I was definitely busy.

I don't remember, but maybe I've got a licence after 3 months later, as I might expect. It was a day after my son's birthday. His birthday was Sunday, so I couldn't get on the same day.

The company said, after my son became 1 year old, I had to work harder and I couldn't get child care time. It was the limit of my getting the licence time. It was relief.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Driving stories - riding without a windscreen

English: Mountain road
Mountain road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I was twelve years old my father had been driving with my family for about two hours. He drove very narrow mountain road. There are no fence beside road.

Suddenly he shouted "Oh no!" and the car fell from the road. It revolved and landed on the road below. The front window broke all of it.

But we didn't have an injure. Only my father cut his finger a little. Then he drove to his university hospital. We were examined. We were all well.

We went home from Kyoto to Osaka by that car. It was very cold because there wasn't front window.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Driving story - parking problems

A multi-story car park in Kingston, Ontario, C...
A multi-story car park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have driven a car more than 30 years. But I haven't had serious accident yet. Until now I've had some experience to make a scratch and a damage on my car.

It was one of them.
When I went shopping, I drove a car into a parking lot. It was under the park near Hotel Vuena Vista.

That parking lot was called the method of puzzle. When the car was put the parking space, it moved it back by machine. So there was the edge around the space. I didn't know it.

There were always some staffs. One of them said turn right slowly. So I did it as he said. When I was driving my car, a strange sound was occurred. But I didn't know where the sound was from. I didn't care anything.

But when I got home, I found the damage in a part of the bumper. So I was shocked.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Driving story - ticket trouble

Closeup of parking violation sticker.
Closeup of parking violation sticker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got my driver's licence 38 years ago.

To my surprise, during this 38 years I just got only one police ticket in Japan because of speeding.

I can say I'm a safe driver inevitably, so my driver's licence is Gold as you might expect. But I got three police tickets in the US while I was living there for 4 years because of parking and stop sign.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Local environmental news: Mount Ontake eruption

English: Mount Ontake from_OtakiTop 日本語: 王滝頂上か...
Mount Ontake from_OtakiTop  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mt. Ontake burst angrily into life on Sep. 27th. Unluckily, it was around noon in the middle of the busy hiking season, so a lot of hikers had reached the summit and were enjoying lunch in the autumn sunshine, taking in the clear views of the Northern Alps

Officials of the volcano division of the meteorological agency said that although there had been a rising number of small earthquakes detected,they couldn't predict the eruption easily. These reasons made the damage worse.

Up to now, 56 people have been found dead, and 7 people are still missing. Most of the victims were killed by falling rocks, spewed out by the eruption. Unfortunately, a typhoon hit Japan just after, and the rain changed the ash to very sticky clay, so the rescuers can not help but halt the search, due not only to toxic gas but also the risk of mudslides.

Some annual events like the Soba festivals that a lot of people must have been looking forward to visiting and enjoying, were canceled. Furthermore, it must be impossible to open the ski slopes this year.

Nature is far beyond human beings' control.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Silly sentences - making sense of nonsense

Mouldy banana

 We all know that making mistakes is part of the learning process when learning a new skill, learning a language is no exception. However in most cases it is extremely difficult to get Japanese students into this mind-set, the need to be coherent and not stick out as “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. Recognising the issue is always to first step to resolving it, so we focus on making a learning friendly environment where making mistakes is not frowned upon but in fact encouraged, it’s much more fun having a go and making a mistake.

Fire-fighter to the rescue
A really nice activity that encourages the use of new language is the game “Silly sentences”. The main focus here is not to reproduce or revise previous language patterns, but instead targeting syntax without the need of being barraged by a set of grammar rules. The cards are colour coded into nouns/adjectives/prepositions etc, and it’s up to the students to work out how to combine them in the correct order. The game cards also only piece together if they are in the correct order to ensure that the language being created is grammatically correct.

Don't stay in this house
So the end product is solely dependant on the student, achieved through cognitive thinking with a bit of trial and error mixed in. It’s a fun way of building confidence and exposing students to language they would not normally encounter. It’s not everyday you hear “the green scary baby ate the dinosaur”.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Who was to predict? Can you predict?

Active volcano Mount St. Helens shortly after ...
Active volcano Mount St. Helens shortly after the eruption of 18 May 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Saturday fine Autumn day, Natural disaster happened suddenly.
Why it was not rainy day?

It was very fine day, many climbers visited Mt,Ontake. They were enjoying the fall foliage. At the time suddenly Mt,Ontake erupted. They could not understand what had happened.

Many people had forgotten that Mt, Ontake is an active Volcano.
Over 50 climbers died. Is it cold have previson (prediction) of eruption?

Eruption prediction is very important for natural disaster.
I hope we will have foresee of danger soon.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

The pros & cons of mobile phones

Almost everybody has a mobile phone. But is it a great invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages.

The first advantage is that people spend more time talking to family and friends. Secondly, they read books and newspapers to get a lot of information.

Japanese mobile phone keyboard
Japanese mobile phone keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On the other hand, there are also disadvantages. For example, they can't be contacted in an emergency. Also, it is not true that all mobile phones' contents are bad. There are also good contents, like news, weather news and navigation (I know my position).

In conclusion, although living without a mobile phone has some advantages, I think it's case by case - it depends on the situation.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Do you know Mount Ontake ?

English: Mount Ontake from Kuraiyama 日本語: 位山から...
Mount Ontake from Kuraiyama  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mt. Ontake is an active volcano which is Japanese 100 famous mountains and is located at the prefectural border of Nagano and Gifu. Although it is a 3,000m class alp, it is relatively easy climbing and it is very popular in a broad generation. It is also known as a showplace of autumn leaves.

11:52 a.m September 27, 2014 steam explosion -type eruption took place for the first time in seven years. Since two or more factors increase damage, the death toll became the worst situation exceeding over 50 persons. It was Saturday and the weather is good from morning, large number of climbers were visiting from the distant place as well. Many people had concentrated near the summit of the mountain to have a lunch looking at magnificent view.

Help and rescue activities formed by the Nagano Prefectural Police and fire company as well as the Ground Self-Defense Force, run into difficulties because of a toxic gas and heavy rain caused by the typhoon.

Some events are cancelled under the influence of an eruption and the tourist is decreasing sharply, while damage does not reach the skiing area near Mt. Ontake. It usually passes, and preparation of commencement of business is advanced towards winter!

Posted for Saki

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Postcard from Moomin: Finland

Hi Jim,

I went to Finland the other day, and found this reminded me of you & Luna!

I hope you are all doing well :)


Sari xx

P.S. Helsinki is a very peaceful place, so I highly recommend you go there! (Prices are so high though...)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My role model Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi of Barcelona against Osasuna.
Lionel Messi of Barcelona against Osasuna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lionel Messi is a one of the best football player in the world. Messi is a good play maker and good team player. Messi plays for Barcelona in La Liga and for Argentina. He's a good creative player like Maradona, and he also wears number 10.

Messi scores a lot of goals and has won lots of trophies like six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, six Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cup (wikipedia). He has won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA world player of the year.

Messi lives in Spain ( Barcelona ) but he is very famous and recognized everywhere. He has established a charity called Leo Messi Foundation to help kids. He earns $65 million a year, but I like him because hes really good at football.

by Rui ( 11 years old )

Things to see & do in Japan

Mt. Fuji and Shinkansen
Mt. Fuji and Shinkansen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Japan, you can visit Tokyo Disneyland, Mount Fuji and Matsumoto Castle. They are famous places.

photo by Jim George
You can ride on bullet trains. Because it is very fast. You can eat sushi. It is very good. People like playing go and cards. You can buy kimono and models of Matsumoto Castle.

Nanako (7)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

E-mail is necessary in the modern world

Quick and easy
Before E-mail, we had to write a letter or call to communicate other people in a long distance. Writing a letter is a good way to communicate, but it takes time to write and we have to buy a stamp (cost a lot) and go to the post office. And when I call someone, I have to consider what time is it there when I call to other country and if it is a good timing for them.
But E-mail, it cost low and it doesn’t bother people’s life, they chechk mail-box when they have time, so it is very convenient.
With E-mail, we can communicate other people equally even though they live in the opposite side of this planet.

Written by Yasumi

It is necessary for me to use cellphone E-mails when I want to meet friends and to send student’s parents information at work.
I can send some friends same contents at the same time. It’s really convenient and I don’t care the time besides.
But I sometimes send summertime letters and new years letters to old friends. While I write letters I think them. It’s a good time for me.
I think each way has each good point.

Written by Hiroko

English: Telex machine Svenska: Telexmaskin
English: Telex machine Svenska: Telexmaskin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What the heck do you do with one of these!?

When I had been worked for the company, about thirty years ago actually, we had used telex. Our company’s head office is in Massachusetts so we had to contact them everyday.
To send telex, we had to use the special machine and spend time. Sometimes it failed to send. Those are terrible memories for me.
But, one day, the head office decided to use the electric mail, and it made us surprised. It was easy, beautiful and spend short time. But, those days, electric mail was still unstable ways to send important letters.
Now, we call it e-mail and it is easy and quickly to send our situation, opinion, or many other things. We can’t back to telex age. Because we can’t have the telex machine each of us. It’s not easy and it will make us to waste time and money.

Written by Naoko