This article is taken from "kids com" Magazine - for more articles,
see the "advice" page!
An Apple a day... - November 2001
"I wanna be a baseball player!" says Hiro-kun. "OK", says the teacher, "Practise once a month for 40 minutes in a group of 30 other kids and you'll be good enough to join the American League!!"
What do you think? 40 minutes a month (or even a fortnight) and he'll be good at baseball? Well that is what a lot of people are expecting with the new English lessons, an ALT visits for 40 minutes maybe once a month and the kids are expected to be able to speak real English! This is another reason why you, the Japanese teacher, are so important in this type of education, to let the kids practise every day, even if there is no ALT present!
Now don't run away, it's a lot easier than you think! One of the problems that I often had in classes was that I would end up spending too long reviewing the previous lessons work, which I always felt was a waste of valuable time! So that's when I started writing songs! The idea was that I would teach the song during my lesson, and then the kids would sing along everyday during class meeting. Great practice, even though I wasn't there! As songs are usually quite short they don't take up too much time, and they make sure that everyone remembers the English for the next lesson - great! Some schools play songs during cleaning time and also at lunchtime on the school's broadcast system (songs with actions are the most fun whilst eating lunch!). Other ALTs have even made videos to be played during lunchtime, they say out the words with pictures or even take the video camera outside, back to their own country or round the supermarket teaching the foods in English (but be careful because I got thrown out of Fuji for doing this!). The important point is "everyday", creating familiarity with the English is the key, get the memorization out of the way, and then they are ready to practise the real communication when the ALT next comes! This is a popular system in the UK, a 30 minute lesson once a week and then 5 minutes review everyday!
Other great ideas that ALTs have had is the idea of an ABC book or a "vocab basket". With the ABC book, each class has a large book and whenever they learn a new English word, the ALT writes it in and someone draws a big picture. Kids love to get these books out during break time and review the words (just remember not to write any katakana!!). The vocab basket works in a similar way, each time the class learns a new word the teacher puts a doll or model of that thing in the basket!
Notice boards are also great, try placing pictures of all the vocab learnt by the class that week (use the same pictures as those on your picture cards), the kids love to try and remember what they all are (a good trick to use is "Can you say all these words in English?" Keep updating the board with cute, colourful pictures and it will become very popular!
Other ideas are emailing, voice mailing (very effective) or sending letters to the ALT. Similar to email exchanges, these projects work because the ALT can often respond quite quickly. If the ALT doesn't visit that often it's a great way to build a relationship with the kids, and many ALTs would be glad of something extra to do whilst at the Junior High School. One of the best topics is "Do you like...?", and as I said once before, let the kids choose the questions themselves!
You could also try naming the school rooms (such as the gym, nurse's room etc.) in English and then actually use the English words (ask the ALT to teach you the correct pronunciation)
So there you go, just a little bit everyday and slowly English will become a part of the kids' everyday lives. The idea is for them to think English is natural and easy. Another great idea is to do an English play for parent's day, the kids practise the Japanese dialogue, the actions, making costumes etc. in normal lessons, and then during the ALTs lesson they can learn the English. My recommendation would be the "3 Little Pigs" it has great, easy English and a cool song. And the kids seem to find one of the phrases amusing for some reason......
or Get my top tips, games & hints via email