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6th Graders & What to do with them!@

Just about everyone loves teaching at Elementary School, but there is just one problem. Every year, usually after the summer holidays, what were previously model learner, genki kids suddenly turn into "I'm far too cool for this" 6th graders! Not fun. Now don't get me wrong there are some brilliant 6th grade classes out there, and lots of teachers do get good (if not quite so good as with younger grades) results with the songs and games. But as a general rule teaching 6th graders is like teaching a brick wall.

I also had the same problem and it comes up every year on the discussion boards. But it's not their fault, and it's certainly not your fault, it's just their age and it happens everywhere. So don't worry about it, if they weren't like this you wouldn't appreciate the other grades half as much.

So what to teach?

The Genki English curriculum is designed so that starting with first grade and doing one lesson a week (ideally) or 2 lessons a month (more practical at the moment) plus 5 minutes a day review (very important, get the class teacher to sing a song in the morning, or play them on the lunchtime broadcast or cleaning time) then by the 4th grade Elementary Students will be able to say anything they want to say in English. That's the target. We went round the country eating school lunch with hundreds of kids, asking them what they want to be able to say and that's how I made the curriculum.

So by the 4th grade they can have the conversations that they want to have (not stuff that some old textbook guy in Tokyo has decided) and that then means that the 5th and 6th years are freed up to do more challenging projects, and a chance to get back to the title of the course that we are supposed to teach "International Understanding"

6th graders do like to think and even to express themselves, but just in a more subdued manner. As with teaching any grade the key is to always illustrate your lessons with what the kids are interested in i.e. for 1st graders use a picture of "Kitty Chan" for "cat" or for 6th graders do an exchange project about food, video games, music or pets.

On the site there are two great international exchange projects that work really well:

The kids get very, very motivated by the international aspects of this and it really helps open their eyes. As they have already mastered the necessary language using the Genki English songs in previous grades they have no problems coming up with things to say in these projects.

You may also want to try the

Or the Genki English Card Game is very popular with older as well as younger kids.

One other idea is a little simpler, and although not quite as educationally effective, it is a good way to show the kids what they have learnt in Elementary School or to show the Junior High Teachers or Town Officials what you are teaching. That idea is to write an English Book - check out the lesson plan with some cool examples.

So try your best with 6th grades and don't worry if it doesn't work out so well. If you have the unfortunate position of only teaching 6th grade then ask the school to switch to lower grades, it's a much better use of your time! ( You might want to print out the Japanese version of this page to show them) If they really insist you do teach 6th graders, then take a leaf out of the Junior High book and instead of boring English like "Do you like bananas?" ( which for an eleven year old is about as boring as it gets), use famous people to illustrate the English, e.g. "Do you like Harry Potter?". Just remember to keep it current, someone who was totally cool 6th months ago is probably the most uncool person on the planet now! How do you find out who is cool? Look at the kids' Shitajiki ( the plastic sheets they write on) there'll be at least a few names that are written in Romaji, and you can then do a quick google search to find out more about them. It takes a bit of time, but if it brings around even one kid in class it's well worth the effort.

And the silver lining of it all is that even the most horrible sixth grade classes turn back into angels at first year Junior High School!

Please feel free to discuss more on the discussion board

Be genki,


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