Culture · Education · Elementary School Education · 英語ノート①

英語ノート① Lesson 1 – 2 : 世界のこんにちは

It will just not stop raining here in Japan! I swear, spring went away with the sakura. Sakura only last about a week before the petals fall from the tree and leaves begin coming in. All the pink that I posted about a few weeks ago is gone and replaced with loads of green. You would think that this means spring has come, but you would be naïve. It is more like winter is having its revenge and bullying spring.

Anyway, this week’s elementary school 5th grade lesson once again went well. I was met with disaster one of my days as I was supposed to go on a field trip with my entire school to a park to each lunch and play some games. I had been asked to teach the kids a game I used to play as a child, so I was excited to teach something from soccer camp like “Doctor Tag” or “Fire in the Forest.” However, my boss called me the night before (after my working hours were up…on private time here) and told me that I was not allowed to go and did not give me any reason besides “it is difficult.” Needless to say, I was a little pissed as the school had been expecting me to be able to go and therefore did not ask to have my day switched. Instead, my once a week visit consisted of me reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the teachers’ room all day. On the bright side, if there is one, we all learned that ALTs are not allowed to go anywhere except school – at least in this city. I know plenty of ALTs who go on the 3 day trips to Kyoto with their Jr. high school kids or other trips to Tokyo Tower. I could say some nasty things about how I feel regarding this, but I will refrain.

Let’s get back to Eigo Noto, shall we?
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.

Play 【Classroom of Babel】for review
Activity 1 (pg. 6 of Eigo Noto)

can you guess what country everyone is from?

In this activity, students are once again asked to match a greeting with a country by writing the corresponding number in the box labeled with that country’s name. This time, the pictures in the book also include each country’s “greeting gesture.” Last year, I hated this. This year, I understand how to use it, so I don’t mind it as much. At first, I had students listen to the CD two times. For a final round, I stopped the CD after each greeting and had a student tell me which greeting they thought they had just heard. I then explained how people use gestures while greeting another. In America, we shake hands. For the Maori people in New Zealand, they touch noses. In Saudi Arabia, you kiss the other person on each check. Now, this activity can cause some “inappropriate” outbursts from kids – especially with the different gestures. In every single class I had to play up how weird and “creepy” I thought it was that everyone bows when they say “konnichiwa” in Japan. The teachers chimed in and some even lectured the kids that we should respect different cultures. Once kids realized that I thought some things about Japan were strange, they got the picture that different culture can feel strange to an outsider. Also, the pronunciation of “Mongolia” made a lot of kids say “MonGORILLA” and then laugh hysterically. You can bet I got my mommy voice out for that one.

Chant 【Hello Chant】

This chant is…pretty lame, but I try to approach it as a chance for the kids to act really silly. The Chant goes:
Ken: Hello (clap) hello (clap) My name is Ken (clap)
Mai: Hi (clap) hi (clap) My name is Mai(clap) Nice to meet you! (clap)
Ken: Nice to meet you too! (clap)

I know, it is not exactly poetry and it lasts no longer than 20 seconds to sing it. I drew my ghetto versions of Ken and Mai on the board and then had kids listen to the chant. Since we had already practiced how to greet in English the previous lesson, the kids had no problem picking up what the chant was saying. Then came a few practices without the CD followed by several rounds with the CD: kids saying both parts, dividing the roles between the girls and the boys, and having them sing it using their own names. I followed this by having kids greet with 5 friends and called it a day.

Remaining time is spent making name cards. Unfinished cards become homework.

The challenge with Japanese children writing their name is that 1) Eigo Noto has the order incorrect for English speaking countries. The book has a nametag example for “Suzuki Ken” and I have to explain to the kids that if they go to a foreign country and introduce themselves that way, very few people will be calling them Ken. Kids didn’t really get that until I used a famous person, aka the late Michael Jackson, to explain. “If Michael Jackson introduced himself in America the way Japanese do, it would be Jackson Michael. Everyone would be calling him Jackson!” Cue lots of laughs from the kids. The other challenge is 2) the romaji that they learn to write their names in does not always translate. I felt terrible explaining to one boy, who had already written his name 8 times, that “Tihiro” would not be pronounced “Chihiro” when a native English speaker read their nametag. There were several cases of this. Still, the kids did not get discouraged and were actually more excited when they learned how to write their names “the English way.” I told the kids that they needed to have their nametags finished and cut by our next lesson (May 12). I had previously had students glue envelopes in their textbooks to keep things like this, so hopefully they won’t lose these.

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.

And…there you have it.


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