Culture · Culture Shock · Education · Elementary School Education · Japanese Language · Lesson Plans · Living in Japan · Teaching

Good-bye Elementary School. See You in September

Today was my last day at my elementary school until after summer break and let me just say that I am still totally in love with teaching elementary school kids. It was also the day that my boss came to observe me so I was kind of freaking out a little during the beginning of my lesson. Things went fine and he told me that my lesson did what the Institute of Education had been hoping the new English Activities would accomplish, but he did have a few things (things I learned from observing other ALTs) that he suggest (instructed?) me that I do not do. Just to make things simpler, I will first outline my lesson and then go into what was talked about during the mini-meeting after.

My lesson:
After doing our usual morning greeting the kids sang “Ten Steps” and “Twenty Steps” (in the afternoon I changed this to the “Key Number Game” because it was too hot). For those of you who do not know, the “Key Number Game” is played in pairs where each pair has one eraser between the two of them. I then select one number and say that that number is the “key number.” When they hear that number, they have to try and take the eraser before their partner does. If I say any number other than the “key number,” students repeat that number and clap twice. Next I moved into a review of pronouncing the numbers and a review of “How many 【 】do you have?” “I have 【 】.” As usual, I wrote these sentences on the board and did a few examples. We then did the “Pyramid Number Game” that is listed in Eigo Noto. In this game, students pick numbers between 0 – 20 and write them anywhere in their pyramid. They then do rock-paper-scissors with a classmate. The loser asks “How many?” and the winner picks a number from their pyramid and circles it. If the loser also has that number, they can circle it too. When students have circled all of their numbers, they come to me for a coveted strawberry scented stamp. After doing this (which takes a lot longer than you would expect) we moved into the “Hop Say Jump” game that I described in my post about my visit to the handicapped high school. At the end of the class I handed out a print that I had made that listed all the English they had learned this semester with the Japanese included. Then, that was it.

My boss’ biggest complaint was me writing English on the board and having students repeat after me while I pointed to the English. As he put it, that is what happens in jr. high school and we should not/don’t need to do that in elementary schools. Instead we should use gestures to convey the point. I get I just made the assumption that since the kids had seen the gestures, done some activities using gestures and speaking, and that it would be a good idea for kids to at least see the English. Part of the problem is what I want to do it not 100% fitting with the goals of the Board of Education.

I think that it just made things worse that he told me all this right after my lesson while I was still standing in the front of the classroom and students could hear. A few students told me that they were glad I wrote on the board. Might just keep doing it to be honest.

While I might be teaching English activities, I am not teaching the students English but instead “encouraging a growth in communication and children’s confidence in communicating.” I kind of have a problem teaching without writing the English on the board. I know students this age cannot read it, but they might become familiar with some words that they see over and over again written on the board in their classroom. Isn’t reading also a form of communication? It seems like the Board of Education has noticed that in jr. high schools students are not learning how to communicated, but instead are just memorizing words and grammar through reading and writing. To fit that, students are learning “how to communicate” in elementary schools.

Not so sure this is going to work in the long run though…

Aren’t students just going to lose all that ability once they hit jr. high school and are essentially silenced with repetitive reading and writing exercises? Not to mention that most students in jr. high school lose any confidence they might have had in English because of all the root memorization and serious lack of fun. I remember my language lessons being fun until high school when things got serious. In jr. high school, my Spanish teacher still had us play games, watch movies, read us stories, had us act short plays out, and give presentations on a topic of our choice relating to the Spanish speaking culture. Japanese English education is very unbalanced and flat out dry. ALTs in jr. high schools (at least the ALTs that I know) are hardly ever used and we brought down to the level of a breathing CD player. The third year teacher uses me more than the other two. She has me give short speeches in English about something and does some role play with me during class. The first year teacher seems to think that I am best used as the BINGO-word-giver. This entire year, every time I have gone to his class we play BINGO. I say somewhere between 15-30 words, a totally of about 10 minutes, and then I just stand there. The second year teacher was starting to use me, before the students made it so I refuse to go back into their classrooms. –sigh-

Still, despite that one critique he only had good things to say and all the teachers and the school’s principal all said how much they love working with me and how well students respond to me. Then came the big question: “Will Katherine be returning next term?” I totally freaked out here because I was not sure what the answer would be, but the answer ended up being “yes.” I almost shouted “YES!” when I heard this. At least I know that I will have one school that I can feel happy and comfortable at next term. My boss knows how severe the problem at my jr. high school is and several ALTs backed me up when talking with him about it, so if he tells me to go back there…he is crazy. Maybe I really will just be an elementary school teacher… I would totally love that. My boss did bring up a few points that are useful on how the HRT (homeroom teacher) and I can interact better during each lesson and just how much Japanese should be used by the HRT. During the summer it looks like I will be coming to this school a few times to help with some seminars about cross-cultural communication, so I will be able to communicated a lot with my teachers from now on about how best to proceed with each lesson.

This week is starting to look like a turning point, and it is about time.

Harry Potter tomorrow and Jun and I have had our tickets since Janurary. So excited!!!

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