Monday, 15 November 2010

Battle Report: Result EPIC FAIL

I tried the ammendment to the lesson plan. Giving the students the lifelines and the result was
not so different. They just seemed to ignore them or did not understand what they
were for..

I'm bummed out right now...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Lifeline Cards (An attempt at adapting Task Based Learning)

I read alot on Jimbo's Teaching in Japan blog about the difficulty of adapting Task Based Learning to Japanese Junior High School and High-School environements.

Last week I attempted a TBL activity where I got the students to decide on a 'dream schedule" as a group and then fill out page two of this document. As I mentioned many of the students didn' really take it seriously and spoke in Japanese anyway.

A JTE at my school and I talked about the problem. She suggested an idea which I will try tomorrow. Give the students a Lifeline! In the TV gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the people can use a lifeline to 1)call a friend or 2) ask the audience 3) Have two wrong answers removed from the choice.

The JTE suggested that we give each group life line cards which allow them to say one sentence or word in Japanese during the task.

The other card would have a question mark, this lifeline would entitle them to ask me or the JTE a question in Japanese. For example how do I say 'yubinkyoku' in English.? They can use five of these cards.
The existence of the cards would reinforce the idea in their heads that they must speak English as much as possible , but still give them a chance to use Japanese if they get stuck.

Here is a picture of the cards I made today.

I thought this might be a good way to avoid the problems I had last week. So today I made a set of cards.
Three Japanese Speaking Permit cards and five Question Mark cards. I wonder if it will have an effect.

This could be used with any TBL task to give the students a time-out.  I hope that as the year goes by we can give less and less 'Lifelines' as the students will be better at doing the tasks without needing them.

My presentation.


                           Dr Evil's Secret Mountain Base

I was asked to do a presentation on Saturday 13th November for the Federation of English Speaking Associations for High Schools in Wakayama. In short it was a big meeting of the English Clubs.

Each school did a presentation or performance. The standard was really high and the English is getting better and better each year!

Exchange students did speeches in Japanese. I was really impressed at how quickly these students have learned Japanese.

I did my presentation on the topic of "Thinking more Deeply about Words". I wanted to get across to the students that language is not a code and words have deep meanings which require cultural knowledge to understand. I showed some examples of some horrible "computer translations" from the internet.

I also wanted them to practice thinking about how to explain nuances in language. For example the difference between Kawaii and Kirei or Tanoshii and Ureshii. I used examples from the comic Darin wa Gaikokujin and Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo.

To be honest, I think the students were a little bored and they were exhausted after completing their presentations. Some kids came up to me and said they liked it though.
I have learned alot about how I need to improve my skill at delivering presentations as well. Especially when presenting in English to ESL learners in Japan.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Report from the Trenches!

Task Based Lesson (Make your own 'dream schedule'

Well I ran the lesson plan from the last blog entry.  I had a class of forty high first grade High- School students. They were able to handle the listening from Birdland quite easily. They are used to this kind of listening activity.
The Karuta game was also very easy for them. I may need to give two sentences at a time in order to make it more difficult.  However, I felt it was a good way to warm them up and get used to being in their groups.

After that I tried the listening II. It was a little different to what they are used to but they were able to fill out the schedule table after two listening.

After that I pointed out the phrases which I had stuck to the board. We practiced some substitution drills with these phrases. They repeated them well and seemed to understand how the drill worked.

Then it was time to explain the task. I wrote the task on the board and explained in English two or three times. They understood what to do in general but were unsure of the details.

I tried to build up to it. I told them that this TASK was their special 'mission'. I told them it would be fun trying to complete the schedule sheet as a group but only speaking English.

I said GO..

but alas 

Limited Success....

Only two groups out of ten really attempted the task. They saw its as a challenge. Like talking in code. They completed the task using only English. A large number of groups used all Japanese to complete the task therefore rendering the task useless as an English teaching tool. Some studends spoke a little English or tried to initiate in English but other members of the group refused to co-operate. I had to prompt one group three or four times.

I begged, pleaded, cajoled, threatened! (well I didnt threaten) but I could not get them to co-operate with the task. I guess the students are not used to this kind of activity. Perhaps the task wasn't so interesting. They didn't seem that excited about creating  a dream schedule. Maybe I didn't spend enough time setting up the activity or explaining exactly what I wanted them to do? Many students didn't seem to know that they all had to contribute one idea to the discussion. I repeated myself four , five, six times. I guess explaining the activity in Japanese is an option.

I will have the opportunity to conduct this lesson one more time. I will run over the plan with that JTE and see what advice she has about the plan.

My first Task Based Learning lesson with High School 1st grade.


Firstly, let me start by acknowledging the influence of Jimbo's English Teaching in Japan Blog. I saw his blog and realised that I could get alot more out of my job if I experimented more and tried to improve my methodology. Lets say I was inspired to be a better ALT.

I was interested in Jimbo's discussions of Task Based Learning. He uses the following definition for the word "task".

" A task is an activity in which a person engages in order to attain an objective, and which necessitates the use of language."
(Van den Branden, K. (Ed.) (2006). Task Based Language Education: From theory to practice. CUP.) Quoted in Jimbo's Blog. Here

I am just a lowly amateur but I have decided to adapt the Page 56 of the Oral Communication text-book "Birdland" into a task based activity. The chapter is entitled Habits/Customs and the first page sees the main characters Shin and the overly prudent exchange student Lisa in conversation.

L "Shin, what time do you usually go to bed?"
S "I usually go to bed at around Two O'clock"
L "Two O'clock? What do you do until so late"
S " I usually study until midnight. Then I watch TV"
L "Don't you think you should go to bed a bit earlier? I have to go to bed before midnight?

This is the relevant part of the dialogue which I want to build from. The Target Language is in bold. Lets get into my plan!

Negotiate together only in English and fill out a 'Dream' daily routine.

 The students will work in a group of four. They must create a new "Typical Day" for themselves. This new schedule will be their 'Dream Schedule' and should include daily activities which all members like. They must fill out a schedule in English. It must include contributions from all members of the group and they can only talk in English! 


Greet Students etc.
Ask a few random questions about their routine. 


Read the dialougue with from page 56 with JTE
Students to listen and they must cover the conversation.
Read Questions
Then Repeat Dialougue
Then Check answers.!

Organise the Students into groups of four. They should join their desks together and sit at one big table made from their joined desks.

Each table is supplied with a set of flash cards with the following cards.

Students at this level SHOULD know all of these words. If not I will be sure to pre-teach them the next time.

Everyday Actions: Take a bath, take a shower, go to school, wash hands, play soccer, walk the dog, brush teeth, wash hair, play the recorder, go to bed, exercise, play cards, eat dinner, study

Adverbs of Frequency: Sometimes , Always, Occasionally, Usually Click Here

Times of day: 6.00 AM 7.00 AM . 8.30 AM , 11.00 AM, 12.35 PM, 7.00 PM, 3.35 PM, 9.00 PM 12.00 AM

1) Students spread the flash-cards around the desk. Face Up or Face down it doesnt matter. It should look like this.

2) I read a sentence using the Target Language

eg They always study at 7.00 PM.
    I always get dressed at 6.00 AM
    I usually take a bath at 9.00 PM
    We sometimes play soccer at 11.30 AM
    I always go to school at 8.30 AM
    We usally cook dinner at 7.00
    I always go to bed at 7.30

Students must pick out the study card, 7.00 PM and Always. They will be racing the other groups
They then all stand up
First three groups will get 3,2,1 point respectivly!
At the end I get everyone to repeat the sentence.


In this activity, the students will work individually. They will listen to a model conversation which will be a model for what I want them to produce to complete their task. They will listen twice and fill out this sheet.

A) So,.. What time shall we wake up?
B) Lets wake up at 7.30
A) No, I want to wake up at 8.00
B) Ok lets do that

A) I want to go shopping every day
B) oh ok, what time shall we go shopping
A) Lets go shopping after dinner?
B) What time do we have dinner?
A) We always have dinner at 6.30

A) I want to play sports at 1.00
B) No we are studying at 1.00 until 2.00
A) Ok

Draw Attention to Useful Phrases which are stuck the wall

The following phrases will be stuck to the black board using magnets.

What time shall we _______________
            I want to _________________
Lets wake up at 7.00  

TASK (Decide on a Dream Schedule)  Dream Schedule Sheet here

MUST INCLUDE: Study, wake up, go to sleep, clean house. PLUS FOUR MORE

1)Explain to the students their task
2) Each group member must contribute one idea.
3) It is not a holiday so they must include activities like school or job.

5) They must write  a summary of their new daily schedule in the bottom. The summary should be similar in style to the summary on page 58 of Birdland.

Ok thats all for now. This was hastily and definitely not perfect. It took me ages to make the flash-cards.
I will let you know how it goes.............