Culture · Culture Shock · Elementary School Education · 英語ノート② · Lesson Plans · Living in Japan · Teaching

英語ノート② Lesson 1 – 1 : the Alphabet

First week of 6th grade English is now complete. Everything went so smoothly that it kind of worries me. Maybe it is because the 6th graders are just used to my teaching style and the overall rhythm of class, but I had zero problems outside of asking the kids to be quiet and listen. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm? Anyway, good solid week with the 6th graders, and here is what we did.

Goals: in this lesson students learn (or in my case reminded) how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet.

Greet with students

My students start out with the class leaders saying “Hello/Good morning Katherine” and then the rest of the class repeats after them. I then greet them back and ask, “How are you?” Students respond and then ask me the same question. I respond and tell the students they may sit down.

Introduce the letters of the alphabet (flashcards on the board)

I got my flashcards from First School. I like using alphabet flashcards that are meant for native speakers of English because there is an added phonics element to the cards. The alphabet cards that are included with Eigo Noto are just the capital letters on a white piece of paper. You then have to print out another set to get the lower case letters. I put the cards on the board in 4 rows according to how the alphabet song is sung in Japan (see next section). After going over the pronunciation of the letters, I took a few that have similar sounds to the Japanese ear: D, G, and Z; B and V; F and S. I had students listen to me pronounce the letters a few times and then had them close their eyes. I then said one of the letters twice and then students opened their eyes. They then had to tell me which letter I had just pronounced. The kids did a pretty good job with this, and I think I am going to do this exercise a few more times.

Let’s sing 【The Alphabet Song】

happy, happy, I’m happy
I can sing my ABC’s
America (English speaking countries?)
Now I know my ABC’s
Next time won’t you sing with me?

Chances are that by the time Japanese kids are in 6th grade, they already know the alphabet song. My kids did, so we did not spend much time on learning it, but instead focused on keeping the rhythm and working on singing the song at a faster speed. After kids were able to keep up with the CD, I explained to the kids that the version they know and the version I sang in elementary school are a little different. Then, I sang the alphabet song and asked the kids what was different. The kids cracked up when I got to the LMNOP section and they all liked the ending better than “happy, happy, I’m happy” – which I agree with. I told them that we would “challenge the alphabet song” next week.

Play 【Key Word Game】

Students play with the person sitting next to them. They have one eraser between the two. Students start with their hands on their head. When they hear the key word, in this case the letter “K” for example, students try to grab the eraser before their partner does. If they hear a word that is not the key word, for example the letter “S”, they repeat the word. This was great listening practice after doing the mini quiz of “What letter did I just say?”

Play 【Alphebet Bomb】

Students are put in small groups – I always use their lunch groups. The first person says a series of letters (ex. A, B, C). The next person continues on and can say an additional one, two, or three letters (ex. D, E). Continue around the group until one person is forced to say “Z.” The person who is forced to say “Z” must now make an exploding noise. Kids love this game, especially if you have them practice the exploding noise before you start playing. After a few minutes, I had kids play again, but this time they had to start from Z.

Activity 1 pgs. 4-5 (find A-M)

can you find all the letters of the alphabet?

At one of my schools I used a projector, while at the other one I has a poster made of the activity to put on the board. I explained to the kids that we were going to search for the letters of the alphabet in the picture, but that we were going to find them in order starting with “A.” When a student had found a letter, they raised their hand and then were asked to come to the board where they pointed (poster) or circled (projector) where the letter was. I then gave them a small stamp in their textbook above the letter that they found. The kids absolutely loved this activity and were kind of sad when we got all the way to “Z” and were done.

Sing 【The Alphabet Song】one more time for review
Review and say good-bye with students

Very similar to how the students greet, the leaders say, “Thank you very much, Katherine” and the students repeat. I say, “Your welcome everyone and thank you for a good class. That’s all for today, good-bye everyone!” and then the students say “Good-bye Katherine” which is then usually followed by a few “see you”s.

All in all, the kids did a great job and it seems like the 6th graders are off to a great start as well.

There was only one problem with my classes Friday, and that came in the form of my schedule suddenly being changed to add a 4th grade class.

Now, this may make me sound a little bitchy, but I just don’t have time to teach the other grades – nor do I really want to anymore. Before Eigo Noto made its appearance last year, the ALT went to elementary school once a month and taught all the grades. We usually had 6 classes every time we went to the elementary schools and were, usually, given lesson plans made by the school – kind of weak lesson plans, but lesson plans nonetheless. When Eigo Noto came out, I was a little upset that I was only going to be teaching 5th and 6th graders because I liked teaching all the grades. Once I figured out how to use Eigo Noto and how much extra effort I needed to put into it to make it more interesting and more efficient (the lesson plans provided by the city suck), I appreciated the fact that I only had to worry about teaching two grades.

At first, the schools were also upset about this because all of a sudden grades that were used to getting an ALT were suddenly cut out of the picture, but my one elementary school accepted that. My second elementary school does not seem to get the picture – at least the teacher in charge of me does not get it. She is constantly adding other grades to my schedule even after I explained to her that 1) I cannot prepare for teaching the other grades because I am too busy doing prep for the 5th and 6th graders 2) I was told I cannot teach English to the other grades, but I may do cultural activities and 3) I cannot have more than 5 classes in a day. Today, I was more than frustrated. One of my 6th grade classes had to be cancelled because of an afternoon ceremony at the school. I asked about it being moved to 4th period because I had that open. I never really got a response, so the 6th grade teacher and I agreed to do a makeup before next Friday. When 4th period rolled around, I was busy doing prep for next week’s fifth grade classes when all of a sudden a 4th grade class comes to the teacher’s room saying they came to bring me to their class.


Not only had I not been told I had a class 4th period, I also had not been told that I was going to be teaching 4th graders and to prepare something (not like I had any time to do that anyway). So, I go to the class and have to explain to the teacher that I did not know I was supposed to teach their class…nor did I have any idea about what to do during the 45 minutes. We ended up playing various “rock-paper-scissor” games for the entire period. It felt like a total waste of time to me as I was in the middle of working on some phonics activities to use next week.

The other ALTs I work with feel the same, and maybe we are being too mean, but we should not be teaching the other grades – especially when it is at the expense of the 5th and 6th graders who are supposed to be our focus. I have explained to this teacher many times that teaching the other grades takes precious prep time away from me for the other grades, and she listened to me last year. Last year, she was a 5th grade teacher…but this year she is a 4th grade teacher who seems dead set on having me come to the 4th grade classes. She even scheduled me to teach 6 classes both days I am at the school next week. I talked to the school’s principle and vice principle about it and they agreed to talk it over with the teacher. I hate to be mean, but I have to put my foot down somewhere because schools can take advantage of an ALT and having me teach 6 classes (and the other grades, technically) is a breach in my contract.


5 thoughts on “英語ノート② Lesson 1 – 1 : the Alphabet

  1. I’ll ask my friend Elizabeth how they sing the ABC’s here, but I DO know that they say “zed” for z, which I think is strange, odd, and distressing (yes, I’m exaggerating).

    1. few! I wasn’t wrong when I told my kids that the “zed” is from England. One of my 6th graders got upset about the fact that English is not the same. This then turned into a mini lesson in which the teacher and I explained that Japanese is not the same (Kansai dialect for example) and I thought the kid’s eyes were going to pop out of his head from the epiphany.

  2. You certainly put in a monumental amount of work on your lesson plans and the students seem to enjoy and appreciate your efforts. Speaking of other pronunciations–red in the New England states here is pronounced “rad.” My friend Betz that you met and played the pinball machine with when we went back East taught for a while in Massachusetts and no matter what she did the students always said rad. She would go bed, fed, led, red, ted, wed. Everything was pronounced as it should be except for red.

    Go figure

    1. Haha!

      Thankfully, my kids say “red” how real Americans do. They have a hard time remembering the “z” is not pronounced “zed.” They say it fine when they are singing the alphabet song…but things go down hill a little bit when they have to say the letter on its own.

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