Culture · Education · Elementary School Education · Lesson Plans · Living in Japan · Teaching

I Can Swim Very Well! – Penguin

Let's Listen page
Let's Listen page

Today was my first attempt at teaching from the 6th grade book and I found the lesson given to me to be more frustrating than anything from the 5th grade book. The point of today’s lesson was for students to be able to understand and say the expression 【Can you ~? Yes, I can./No, I can’t. I can~. I can’t~.】. While this may seem simple enough, these kids have a very hard time hearing the difference between can and can’t and the concept seemed to be a little over their heads. By the end of the 45 minute lesson they were able to ask each other what they can and can’t do, but I am not sure they are doing so with a lot of confidence just yet.

For comparison, I’ll stick with the trend of posting the intended lesson plan.

① Greet the students
② Quiz “Guess the Animals” – the ALT gives students hints like “It’s very big, it can swim, it has a big mouth” to explain what a hippo is and kids guess.
③ Let’s Listen 1 – students listen to the CD as each animal talks about what they can and can’t do. Students guess which animal is talking.
④Let’s Chant 【I can swim!】- a bird and a penguin are talking about what they can and can’t do. HRT and ALT act it out while students follow along in their book.
⑤ Let’s Listen 2 – students listen to the CD to see what Mai and Ken can and can’t do
⑥End class

OK, so my original problem with this lesson was that students were sitting in their seats the entire time and we not given the opportunity to use the target language to express their own abilities – not to mention that there is little to none time to give the students and explanation. I checked the lesson for next week, and next week students are never in their seats and are instead constantly moving around. The balance between the two lessons seemed way too uneven for me, so I took an activity from next week and threw it into this week’s lesson.

picture cards for the bird and penguin conversation and chant
picture cards for the bird and penguin conversation and chant

Here is what I actually did:

①Greet students
②Skit between the HRT and the ALT using picture cards. ALT is a bird, and the HRT is a penguin. After the skit, students are asked to explain (at first in Japanese) what the conversation was about. Then, they repeat after the ALT the entire conversation and check for understanding again (this time in English).
③Let’s Chant 【I can swim.】 using picture cards – done several times because the CD is sooo fast.
④Ask each student individually what they can do for some speaking practice (We first asked “Can you fly?” to trigger the “No, I can’t” answer and then asked students “What can you do?” for them to answer on their own.
⑤Interview Activity 1 – using one of the pages from the textbook, students walked around and ask their friends “Can you~?”. If their friend said, “Yes, I can.”, they got their signature. If they answered, “No, I can’t.” students simply said “Thank you.” and continued to ask their friends until they found people who could do the thing they were asking. When they finished, they came to me for a strawberry scented stamp.
⑥End class

For those who are interested, I’ll post the conversation and lyrics to the song. I seriously want to strangle the voice cast of 英語ノート because there are some extremely annoying voices. I apparently do a very good job at imitating these voices, so my students often ask me to talk instead of the CD. I need to get on that voice actress career I guess.

Dialogue using pictures between the HRT and the ALT
ALT: Hello, my name is Bird. Nice to meet you.
HRT: Hello, my name is Penguin. Nice to meet you too.
ALT: Hi, Penguin. I have a question for you. Can you sing?
HRT: No, I can’t. I can’t sing.
ALT: Oh really? Can you fly?
HRT: No, I can’t. I can’t fly.
ALT: Really? What can you do?
HRT: I can swim. Can you swim?
ALT: Oh no. I can’t swim.

Let’s Chant 【I can swim.】
Bird: Penguin…Penguin…Can you sing?
Penguin: No, I can’t.
Bird: Can you fly?
Penguin: No, I can’t.
Bird: What can you do?
Penguin: I can swim…I can swim…I can swim…very well!
NOTE: this chant is done to a cheesy jazz tune and the voice of the bird is the annoyingly cute girl voice, while the penguin is the overly goofy deep voice. Students were laughing so much at the voices that I made them mimic the voices as they chanted – got kids a little more excited.

animal picture cards
animal picture cards

I used the above pictures for the listening activity and we actually did some “thinking” before we listened to the CD. I put the bird and penguin on the board and asked the kids if the bird and penguin can fly or swim, and they answered accordingly. I then put the hippo and flying fish pictures on the board and taught them the pronunciation. I then asked them if they thought either could fly or swim. With that out of the way – and students .already heard the key English expressions they need to listen for – we listened to the CD. The speakers on the CD are way too fast for the kids, so I always repeat after the CD complete with the voices. This has lead students to believe that I am the voice of every single character on the CD. They have even come to demand that I do the voices because “we can’t understand the CD” (complete with giggles).

I won’t pretend that everything went 100% smoothly, but I think the changes I made, along with some input from the teachers, was a more successful lesson overall than the original idea of having students just sit in their desks listening to English for 45 minutes.

Like I have said, the book is not all bad, but the way each lesson is being approached needs some serious revisions. I wish ALTs had been included in the creation of these lesson plans *sigh*

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