Your first day at Elementary School!


So you're a new elementary school ALT!  Congratulations, you have one of the best jobs on the JET programme. In the beginning though, it can be a bit frightening, the teachers don't speak English, there is no real syllabus nor training available.  What do you do?

Well, as with anything on JET "every situation is different" or rather "every situation is what you make it" but in this article I'll try and give you a few hints and pointers about your first few lessons!


Check out the Real Video and see what other JETs think of shougakkou!

For your first visit to the school you'll probably be invited into the Head Teacher's office and be offered a nice cup of cold tea (be polite and let the Head Teacher drink first!).  Then you'll probably be invited to introduce yourself to the teachers.  A simple self introduction prepared in Japanese will go a long way towards creating good relations with the teachers.  If you try hard with Japanese, they'll try hard at making you feel welcome!  In most classes you will be team teaching with the "homeroom" teacher of that class.  Good relations are what will make your year!

Next you'll probably be invited to do either a simple speech or game or something with the kids, probably all of them in the form of an assembly.  This could vary from a simple "hello" to a full blown school event with mini-plays, songs and speeches!  Be prepared and have some "realia" to hand.  Things like big, enlarged pictures (get colour photocopies at a convenience store), or a flag or anything fun and colourful for the kids.

After that you might have the day off!

If not you'll be ready for your first lesson! 

So, first lesson plans.

First of all a brief self intro is in order.  If you speak a little Japanese, then use it if you want.  If you don't then don't bother, just speak in English.  If you use lots of gestures and have lots of things for the kids to look at and touch then they will quite happily pay attention even though you are speaking a completely foreign language! Be prepared though that if they have never met a foreigner before then they may just go into "shock mode" and freak out - that's what you're here for! 

Next you could maybe try a bit of English with "stand up, sit down, jump, clap" etc.  I do this every lesson, building up until you have a whole series of words! I call it the "Warm up game".  Even the smallest kids can do this well!  Why not try playing "Simon Says".  But instead of saying "Simon says stand up " or whatever, you say "Please stand up".  If you don't say the word "please" then they shouldn't do the action!  If they do they are "out".


Other ideas include colouring in your country's flag.  Prepare a black and white copy of your country's flag and give one to each kid.  Teach them the names of the colours involved.  Then simply point to whichever part you want to start colouring in and say something like "OK, this part is red".  This is a cool game that can last about 20 minutes.  If your flag is too tricky (e.g. all the American stars!) then a simplified version might be an idea! The kids will go home saying "wow, look what our new teacher gave me!!". Most kids in the younger grades don't understand maps yet, and don't be surprised if even the older kids have no idea where your country is!!

Teaching "Nice to meet you" is another good idea as it introduces the idea of a western handshake.  You could do a few examples with the Japanese teacher.  Then try playing the "gokiburi game".  All the games on this website are in both English and Japanese. Simply print out the Japanese version for the classroom teacher and he or she can explain the rules to the kids. As this is your first lesson, then a simple "Nice to meet you" with a handshake is probably cool! This could be a bit tricky, however, if this is their first ever lesson!

Other ideas simply might be to rush around the classroom and shake hands with every kid.  Or how about having them paint your picture! Remember that you're not just here to teach English, your lessons are called "international understanding" lessons!

So these are just a few ideas.  Read my general hints and tips section and then start off with the Genki English Curriculum. These lesson ideas will give you a head start and make sure you are teaching the kids effectively!

  Also look at the article I've done on "What are we supposed to teach?"

But above all enjoy it!  You'll have a great time and will have a bigger effect on your kids lives than you could ever imagine!

 be genki, 

Richard

And as always, if you have any questions or comments then please email me or better still, post them on our discussion board! Any experienced ALTs got any questions,  comments or advice? Again we'd love to hear them, put them on our discussion board!

 


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