Richard's Diary!

Take any problem in the World and it's invariably caused (or made worse) by a lack of education. Too many kids hate school because it's too boring.

The aim of Genki Learning is to have all subjects in all countries taught in a fun, engaging and effective way. There are already a few million kids benefiting from this, and even a whole country where the government has put it in all their schools. But there's still a long way to go!

While I'm on the road you'll hear about my travels & workshops, and when I'm doing studio work I'll keep you up to date with ideas, updates to the site and some of my favourite teaching resources. So if you want to find out what's it's like behind the scenes or how & why I do what I do or even if you're just nosey or a bit bored, have a read.

I'll update the diary as often as I can, so keep coming back. And of course whilst I'm away, the office staff are always ready to send off your CD orders just as soon as you send them in!

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December 24th 2008 - Christmas Card for You

Here's a song I'm dedicating to all of you to say thank you for supporting Genki English throughout this year. Thank you for buying & using the materials, for posting on the blog and forum and thank you for telling your friends and students about Genki English. I've had an amazing year with you all and really appreciate every single one of you.

This song I wrote with Eileen Ellis a few years ago as a Christmas card to our friends who we realised were going to be all over the World for Christmas. It seems quite appropriate. I did plan to spend more time on the visuals, so apologies for those, but close your eyes, have a listen and I hope you enjoy the song.

Have a wonderfully Genki Christmas wherever you are and I'll be back with you next week for some New Year surprises!

Be genki,

Richard



December 21st 2008 - Xmas Presents Video

Wow, I wasn't expecting people to like dance music so much. So here's a video to go with the Where are the Christmas presents song for you. I hope you like it!




December 20th 2008 - Another Xmas Song: Where are the Christmas presents?

Where are the Christmas presents?Hopefully most of you will be enjoying the Christmas holidays by now. But for those of you who will be teaching until Christmas Day and beyond, here's another Christmas song to make the time fly by.

It goes with the Where are the Christmas presents? picture book, complete with the infamous page 10. The song is still Christmassy, but this time in a Christmas party dance mood. You can't help but smile when you sing along!

It's available as a demo mp3 on the members forum now, and as usual if you're not a member yet, just buy a download pack right now and you'll be joining in all the fun members' stuff!

Plus of course anyone can have a read of the picture book online.

Merry Christmas!

December 18th 2008 - Christmas Markets in Europe

Last year touring round Europe, Christmas Markets were everywhere, from France to Germany, even Luxembourg. I took a break from writing new songs this afternoon and popped along to one of the UK ones. It's very Christmassy isn't it!




December 16th 2008- What colour is Christmas?

This year rather than just use Christmas as an excuse to teach Christmas related English, I've also been looking at trying to use some Christmas magic to teach the English we normally teach but in a Christmassy, and hopefully more fun, way.

Here's the first song, "What colour (or color if you prefer!) is Christmas?" it's very slow and very Christmassy and the first version is fresh out of the oven for you to try now over on the members forum.

If you're not a member yet, you can buy the Download Pack right up to Christmas Eve and you get to download it straight away! Enjoy.

December 10th 2008 - Gingerbread Snowman Pics & Vids

As you might have seen in the monthly newsletter yesterday, I've just uploaded picture cards and mini cards for both the "Let's build a gingerbread house" and "Let's build a snowman" themes. Enjoy!



And I've also put together a mini video for the Gingerbread House song. If you have any friends back home who you think might like it, please tell them about the video, the more people who watch it on YouTube the more videos I can hopefully put on there in the future! It's also available on my YouTube podcast.




But it gets even better! Over on the member's forum Flossy has taken the video project idea one step further and her daughter has made this amazing video talking about the really cool gingerbread house she made!



What do you think? Maybe your students would like to do the same?


December 8th 2008 - Magic Whiteboards

I don't know if you watch the BBC's "Dragon's Den" program, where small businesses get investment for original business ideas, but one of the companies featured during the Summer was Magic Whiteboards. They are funky "stick anywhere" sheets of portable white board paper. They're having a competition at the moment on novel uses of the boards and we're entering how we use them with our schools for lower income families in China and India.

In Japan white boards are magnetic, you simply pop up a picture card with a magnet and voila. In the UK that's old-tech as all classrooms have interactive digital whiteboards. Of course for our schools in India where budgets are a major concern neither of these are an option. But we need a way to put the Genki English picture cards where the kids can see them. We did try a clothes line and pegs, but it didn't work very well!

So enter the Magic Whiteboards. It's just like a sheet of plastic that you put on the wall, but it clings with static, no glue or blu tac needed! The great thing is that you can not only stick paper onto them but laminated picture cards actually stick as well. They aren't perfect and take a little skill to hold up smoothly, but they do actually work, which is amazing. Here's a video and picture. They might be useful in your classroom as well.



And hopefully we'll win the competition! We're letting the new school in China put the entry in so they'll get the 1000 pounds prize money, which will make a huge difference - hopefully they'll spend it on improving the toilets in the school!





December 1st 2008 - Warm ups in order

It was back to more training sessions (same teachers) this morning. And they did really well.

The Genki English curriculum you have is purposefully non-linear so you can change the lessons to your students needs. But in India and China I've given them sets of 20 lessons to do in a set order. The nice thing about that is that the warm up content is clearly written out for each theme e.g.

1. Warm Up
Warm up with stand up, sit down, hands up, hands down, clap, cheer, left, right, forward, back. Count the numbers 1 to 12 whilst jumping. Ask the children "What's your name?", "How are you?", "How old are you?", and "What's the weather like?"
Sing "What’s the weather like?" song from last time.

It means that everything is reviewed every lesson and is really making a big difference. If anyone is interested I might be able to make those lesson plans available here.

After the 9th lesson this can get a bit boring though. So from then we also introduce the Lines Quiz to review everything in a more fun way!



Just after you've taught something, thinking time is really important i.e. give the kids plenty of time to remember what the question and answer are when you talk to them. But as this is a review game then speed is what is needed!

We also had the great news today that because we're only going to be researching Genki English in grades 1 and 2 i.e. where we have the flexibility to re-design the curriculum, then we can actually have the lessons in the computer room. That will be so good. Especially today the new-to-English teachers were saying the words perfectly after hearing them on the computer, but the "learnt English the traditional way" teachers were still making mistakes e.g. "Kozea" instead of "Korea". It only needs one machine and it will make such a difference to the kids' pronunciation.

So that took a lot of the pressure off the teachers and I didn't have to worry about how to produce picture cards or how they could do the pronunciation without the software. Everything's taken care of for them and took a big load of everyone's shoulders!

More jolly phonics in the afternoon and again they were perfect before an early night, because I think everyone was totally shattered!


November 30th 2008 - Great Wall of China & Birthday Eggs

It's your Sunday day off in China, so what do you do? You go to the Great Wall!

I always thought it would be way out in the middle of nowhere, but it's right next to Beijing. You just pop on the highway for less than an hour and you're there. There were lots of people, but nowhere near as crowded as any tourist resorts in the UK on a Sunday. And it is every bit as impressive as everyone says.



The only thing is that it is very, very steep. And it's not all steps, some of it is just a steep slope, you certainly wouldn't want to go there if it was raining!



Once we got to the top we found out there is a cable car that can take you there, which I hope explained the 78 year old lady who just walked straight past us as we were all out of breath!



Then after some very nice Chinese tea (think flowers instead of leaves) it was out for dinner with everyone. It also happened to be our host's birthday. So what do you get in China on your birthday as everyone sings the song? A cake? Nope, in China you get birthday eggs! Eggs because they are whole and rounded and noodles for longevity!

birthday eggs

What an amazing day in China. Highly recommended, and thanks to everyone for taking us there!



November 29th 2008 - Day 3 & Chinese School Lunch

Yes it's Saturday, and yes we have teacher training and yes the kids are in school as well. Working hard seems to be second nature here.

Genki English

This morning was supposed to be simply getting the teachers to teach another Genki English lesson each. But word seemed to have got out because we had new teachers turn up as well. This is great, but it also meant I had to go over the basics again, which when you add in translation time took up almost an hour (Under the Sea worked great as an example lesson though.) So the teachers didn't get to the "perfect" stage with teaching Genki English but they were a heck of a lot better than yesterday.


The Left & Right blindfold game was a big hit!


Jolly Phonics & Tears of Joy

Then in the afternoon they were doing a similar thing with the Jolly Phonics lessons i.e. given a lesson plan and having to teach a lesson from that, then everyone else gives feedback. After this morning's pretty much unanimous feedback of "make sure you read the lesson plan" and "make sure you practice before the class" nobody wanted to be criticised on the same points again so they actually did 2 spot on 100% perfect lessons! Excellent.

I was a bit miffed, well not really but curious, as to why they were so good this time. But they were saying that having the feedback in the morning session was what spurred them on to do so well. Plus of course in a phonics course you only teach one new sound in one hour, in Genki English there are loads! But they're all totally on board with the idea of reading the lesson plans and preparing the lesson which is great.

The best thing are the head teachers who are attending. They have never studied English and the look of delight on their faces when they can say or read a sentence or answer a question is amazing to see. I thought one of them might actually cry he looked so happy! And having the head teachers on our side is going to help so much in the battle against the traditional "chalk & talk" rote learning lessons.

School Lunch in China

I also videod the school lunch today. Partly because of the school lunch project, but also because it's the best school lunch I've had in any country, plus it's different everyday. Very healthy, just a touch spicy. Chinese food for lunch everyday, can't be bad! Be sure to share your school lunch on the members forum.


(I hope the video is OK. Although I can upload OK I can't actually see videos here)

So after a long, but very fruitful day we went out for dinner in Tiananmen Square.
Certainly an experience to remember.

And be sure to read tomorrow, it's our day off so we're going to the Great Wall!



November 28th 2008 - Day 2 Blues & Chinese Food

Regular readers will know that day 2 is always the hardest in any training. Day 1 is always "Wow, this is amazing". Day 2 is "Wooo, we'll never be able to do this". Luckily day 3 is usually "Wow, we can do this!".

This morning started off well enough with going through the phonics lesson plans and getting them into groups to prepare to teach a lesson tomorrow. They were very good at this. The best thing was one of the head teachers who was just beaming because using phonics he could read a whole English sentence perfectly for the first time. It's those types of experiences that have made phonics the force it is.

Then in the afternoon we had Genki English i.e. speaking and vocabulary. I ran through a demo lesson to illustrate the basic lesson plan and they were great. Then we got them in groups, gave them a written lesson plan, in Chinese, and a CD to practice with to prepare a lesson. As what usually happens they didn't bother to read the lesson plan and just enjoyed playing around with the CD. Needless to say when they then came to the front to teach the lesson it was terrible. The usual culprits were there:

* Jabbering on at 100 miles and hour in English.
If the target language of the day is "I'm hungry" then there's no possible way the kids could understand all the explanations in English. If they could then you should skip "I'm hungry" and move on to lessons that are at their level. The key here is "L+1" Krashen's theory (nice overview here) that the language you use in class should be at the students level, L, plus just a little bit. Anything less and the students aren't learning anything new. Anything more and they lose interest. Remember that students don't turn off in class because they are not interested. The major reason students stop paying attention is when they don't understand. To illustrate the point I started gabbling at the teachers in Japanese, and sure enough they couldn't understand, stopped listening and started talking to their friends. Unfortunately they couldn't make the link between this and their own gabbling in English turning students off, which was one of the main problems they had yesterday.

* No eye contact with students
They were "presenting" but not looking at the students. We were sat there not speaking, not moving and not responding. But they continued on regardless.

* Getting angry at students
I was pretending to be a "bad student". One teacher came up to me actually told me to "Be quiet" and told me off! I thought she was joking at first, but then we feared she might be serious.OK, that's one major source of the discipline problems found.

* Not using the computers
The computers (or CDs) are there to teach the correct pronunciation. Bad pronunciation was one of the main problems they mentioned yesterday. But if the kids get authentic English pronunciation from the start they'll be able to reproduce it perfectly. Unfortunately the teachers were simply saying the words themselves and everyone was reproducing the Chinese accent perfectly, a lot of which none of us could understand a word of. To get them to understand how important using the computers is I said I'd teach the UK trainer a Chinese lesson. I spoke the Chinese in the most appalling Yorkshire accent I could do. They said it was terrible. and only a native Chinese speaker should teach Chinese. Unfortunately they didn't make the link between this and their own English accents!

* Not having read the lesson plan
Instead of reading the lesson plan they decided they would simply make something up on the spot. That's never a good idea! Everything in all the Genki English lessons is there for a reason. They've taken 10 years to develop by hundreds of teachers. If you are really good then please improve them, but if you actually follow them they'll make the lesson easier than you could possible imagine!

* No idea of how the games are played

This is always a bit of a problem with adults. I guess it comes from the fact that the games were designed to get the most out of the kids rather than being particularly easy to teach. Hopefully by tomorrow they'll be able to "think like a kid" and see how they work. Especially things like thinking about how the kids will cheat is always tricky!


Anyway, so it's always a bit of a downer on day 2 as the teachers have seen how well Genki English works but then how terrifying it can be to stand in front of a class and actually teach it yourself. Which is fair enough. Although to be honest most of the problems are general teaching issues more than anything else. Once they've done 2 or 3 lessons and have given each other lots of feedback and seen how other teachers do things, both good and bad, they'll improve no end.

Over the years I've tried to make it more and more easier to teach, but the priority has always to be what works best for the kids learning, rather than what is easiest for the teachers to do. Plus of course if they could do it all straight away then they wouldn't need the training, they could have simply just watched all the videos online!

So after another long day (jet lag had me up at 4AM!) we popped out to see the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium & Olympic Swimming pool before another gorgeous Chinese meal.






November 27th 2008 - Teaching in China

I have to be a little careful how I blog about this trip for various reasons. Let's just say that we're not working with the rich posh schools nor the government schools. The project here is to help children who really are poor get an excellent education, which can sometimes by a complicated business!

Anyway today we had the first day of a week's training with the teachers from our two schools. We also got to look around the actual school and just like in India even though most teachers in the UK would probably cringe at the classrooms, I didn't think they were bad at all. A class isn't the room and if you look at the kids eyes then you can see if it's a good school or not, even if they don't have all the material things. The one material thing missing here though is heating, it became very cold when the sun went down, but Japan is the same in that regard and they have all the money in the world!


Kids waiting for school to start in the morning.

Lack of heating is not a problem for Genki English though, I was doing it in a T-shirt after moving around so much. I'm not sure how the girls did it in heeled boots though!

Discipline
I did an hour in the morning with just a warm up and the usual Genki English rules and theories, then we had the excellent phonics training for an hour (their eyes were lighting up at the results of all the research in other places!) then I did another hour getting them genki and confident enough to fill whiteboards up with their problems, which would form the base of the "mini lecture" style parts of the rest of the week. The usual things came up like pronunciation, but also lots of classroom management issues like how to get students to pay attention, concentrate, be interested or not disrupt the class. These are all things we'll cover when the teachers actually start teaching the Genki English lesson plans tomorrow, we'll become students from hell and give them the materials to rein us in!

Differences in China?
One big difference between China and other countries is the textbook. In most countries I take one look at the textbooks and just throw them away as they are so bad. But here the textbooks are actually really good. They have good stories and illustrations with child centered language that builds from chapter to chapter. I was even tempted to forget Genki English and just go through how to use the book! But whilst we were testing to see if the kids could actually do the things in there I found out that most of the English was narrative rather than communicative. For example the kids can say things like "There is a big bear over there" but there weren't any questions I could just ask the kids to see if they could answer me. So it looks like Genki English will be needed in that respect, and as long as we cover all the good stuff from the textbook as well everything should be OK, after all these teachers are going to become amazing teachers by next week!

P.S. you can now access Genki Chinese in China (GenkiChinese.com is actually blocked still!) using this link: Learn Chinese for free! Enjoy.



November 26th 2008 - Genki in Beijing

I'm very tired as I write this, but I'm now in Beijing! Tomorrow is the start of a week of workshops, but today was arriving after a long flight and meetings for most of the day. It's great again to be working with such a dedicated team.

Beijing is very different to what I thought. It's very wide and open and green, there's hardly any smog and the amount of cars is really small compared with most capital cities. Plus I happen to be staying right around the corner from the Olympic Stadium which is cool. Mind you tomorrow we move out to the suburbs to the schools where we are doing the training, which might be very different!


November 19th 2008 - Discipline 2: Fred Jones

The other week I was at a conference and the most popular workshop, by far, was the one on discipline. Although I get lots of requests for discipline ideas at workshops in Germany and elsewhere, I never realised quite how popular a subject it is.

The presenter the other week was taking a few ideas from the king of classroom management, Fred Jones and specifically from his "Tools for Teaching: Discipline, Instruction, Motivation " book (or here on Amazon Japan) A very recommended read.

For example one technique that was presented was to control the class simply using teacher presence. For example if we have a class like this with the teacher at the front, which student A,B or C is going to give the most problems?



The answer is C of course as they are furthest from the teacher.

So one of the simplest ways to combat this is to simply move around the classroom as you teach. Sometimes being at the front, sometimes in the middle or sometimes even teaching from the back of the class. This simple thing is sometimes all you'll ever need!

One other very effective technique is to remove the podium or teacher's desk from the front of the class. Not only does it create a communication barrier between students and teachers, it also hinders your movement around the class.

Sometimes in larger classes the desk arrangements can prohibit this movement. So Fred also suggests a few other seating suggestions e.g. islands of desks or clear walkways between desks.

There are lots of other techniques in the book, including why kids behave like they do and it is highly recommended.

However having said that it seems quite a few teachers prefer picking up the ideas from his DVD set instead of the written page, which I can quite understand. I can't find the DVD set on Amazon, but it is available on his website for $795. (I tell you the Genki English Teachers' Set is way under priced!) If your school has the budget it seems well worthwhile.

Needless to say with such a high ticket product there aren't that many video clips around to see what it's like. But here are a couple for you. One is Fred in action so you can see his speaking style, and one is of some teachers who have used his ideas. They are a bit "salesy" & don't have too much substance, but have a look and check out the book on the US or Japanese Amazon.

Fred Jones on why traditional punishments don't work



Behavior and Grades Improve after Fred Jones Training





November 18th 2008 - Snowmen & Gingerbread Houses

Ann sent in a brilliant comment to the "Let's build a house" theme:

Great addition to a gingerbread house making session

That's such a good ideas isn't it! In fact I was so impressed I've recorded a Christmas "Gingerbread House" remix of the song to test over on the Beta Test Forum.

It fits very nicely with the "Let's build a snowman" song I put up there over the weekend. I hope you like them and take the chance to help make changes to them.

Tomorrow I've got another post about discipline - always a popular subject!



November 10th 2008 - Education Policy and Entrepreneurship for Development

Today I was invited by the University of Newcastle in the UK to give a guest lecture on "Education Policy and Entrepreneurship for Development" for their Masters course in International Development and Education.

As an "Education Entrepreneur" I was asked to run through how (i.e. songs, games & projects) & why (because too many schools are failing the kids) I started Genki English and a quick demo of a lesson before moving onto the differences between problems with public schools ( Mr Sleepy Head got another mention) and private schools for the poor.

I thought I went through things really quickly, but the students were asking all the right questions at the end, e.g. how do you do this without any staff? How do you support the teachers afterwards? etc. etc.

It was also amazing that they were all from different countries with different experiences in the field. Actually I wouldn't have minded taking the course myself!

I also tried out a touch of Power Teaching in the demo doing clap, clap, clap "Pairs" and getting them to reply clap, clap, clap "OK!" before doing the Warm Up game in turns in pairs.

We'd been doing a review of an academic paper before hand, and there was another presentation before mine, so it was good to see them all joining in, and getting genki, before going onto the main part of my presentation.

Hopefully a few of the students will be reading the blog, so please get in touch if there's anything I can help with!



November 9th 2008 - Another new country

Tomorrow is my first Genki English presentation in the UK, and it's quite strange to be in "travel mode" here as I haven't the foggiest idea about anything. I know the trains will be late, but how late to expect them to be? Free WiFi and power was a nice thing, but I was quite surprised on the Newcastle subway that no one bought any tickets? And just how noisy everyone on the trains is! I tell you I have no consciousness of being "English" at all.

Anyway this evening was very nice with a gorgeous dinner in a wonderful railway cottage in the middle of nowhere. It was very nice chatting to very clever people about amazing stuff, like how one of them was invited to Google over the Summer!





November 5th 2008 - Discipline & Power Teaching

After yesterday's less than positive (but heavily commented!) post, I figured it would be good to balance things up with at least what I think is an example of good teaching. And it isn't even Genki English! ;)

They're techniques called "Power Teaching" designed by Chris Biffle. They are similar to what great teachers have been doing for a long time, but Chris has boiled them down to several key techniques that anyone can use. Here's a fantastic introduction video, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!



Chris' rules:

1) Class - OK. Whenever the teacher claps and says "Class", the kids clap back and say "OK". Gets their attention every time.
2) Teach - OK. The teacher teaches something, then claps, then says "Teach". The kids clap back, say "OK" and teach the item to their partner. Perfect way to learn by teaching.
3.) The scoreboard - keeping a score, but check the sounds he has them make, isn't that so cool!
4) Micro Lecture. Teacher talking = snoozy students. Split the lesson into tiny, tiny little parts you introduce then do "Teach-OK"
5) Hands and eyes - how to get the kids' attention for an important point.
6) Comprehension check - as the kids are doing "Teach - OK" wonder around the class to see if they really have understood it or not.

Isn't that so easy and so amazing?

Fair enough the video is done by the guy who invented the method and these look like a really good class of college kids, so how do real teachers get on with it...

1st grade "Days of the Week"

The most impressive part of this are the videos of teachers using the exact same techniques in other grades. For example have a look at this 1st grade class. You also get the bonus of seeing a cool song for teaching "Days of the Week".




6th graders.

6th graders giving you a hard time? Not in this class, just look at the attention on their faces!



(Note: you need to be able to speak the kids' language to teach these rules. For example in Japan "class" means the classroom and most kids would never make the link between the English and Japanese meanings. If you can get the class teacher to help it would be great!)


Are these teachers super fantastic teachers? Well, yes, otherwise they wouldn't have taken the time to learn these new techniques. But they are things that anybody can learn, I know I'm going to try them out. The other day at the ETJ conference the workshop on discipline was the most popular. I've got a post coming up about discipline soon, but if kids all learnt like this then there'd be no discipline problems at all.

Heads up and much gratitude to Joelle for sending me the original links!

What do you think, is there anything you can use here?



October 21st 2008 - Okayama - Bang! in Japan

For the past few days it feels like I've been flying along in a Ferrari doing 200mph, talking with all sorts of people about all sorts of amazing projects. All the education stuff was a given and we were talking about really leading edge stuff.

Then what happens today? I'm back in Japan and I feel like the breaks have been applied and we're slammed into permanent first gear....

After taking the midnight flight and arriving at 6AM, I got a quick shower at kansai airport then took the shinkansen bullet train to Okayama. They were having an open day for hundreds of teachers around the country. I was supposed to speak but because I couldn't guarantee the flights I cancelled it. It's probably just as well as I don't know what I would have said to them. Well, here was what I saw when I arrived...



Well maybe I was too harsh on them? But then again am I just covering stuff up by saying that? Just look at the kid at the front, does he not look seriously bored or what?

We know what works in primary school, we know how to engage kids and make curricula and we know what ages to start. But just look at the results here. And it's even harder for me to say because I've actually taught demo classes here and have given training to the teachers! In the other grades they were apparently also using lots of Genki English. But... it seems they were just using them for the songs and not really taking any of the important points and it all just falls apart. They were handing out a DVD today of "chants". They'd taken the Genki English songs, stripped the melody, the rhyme, the music, the fun and just zapped the life out of them. It's such a shock and disappointment after seeing the results we've been getting in the other countries. The sad thing is that the teachers are trying hard. But still...

In the afternoon we had a few speeches about what they were doing. There was nothing the teachers could really take away to use in class, it was just going over information we already know, such as kids find English more enjoyable in lower grades etc. They were even handing out materials on floppy disc! Dude it's 2008!

Everyone was, as usual, super paranoid that elementary school English shouldn't be like junior high school were the kids hate it. That's the biggest worry of everyone here. But we already know that! We know how to make it fun and so the kids learn and we've known that for 10 years!

Everything is "difficult" they keep saying. Like what? Not having electricity? Not having clean water to drink? Kids being tired from biking 12 kms? Afraid of a war or landmines? They need some perspective.

There was also a guy doing a speech about the Eigo Note. He was really distancing himself from the content, I guess he knows how bad it is. Then again, maybe not, because he didn't seem to be able to speak a word of English himself. The main thing he was saying is that the content should be used as a "common ground" of material that kids have covered before entering junior high school. Which is fair enough.

The guy did go on a bit and was seriously boring though. I hadn't slept, had just come off an aeroplane and was really tired, but I kept listening. Which is more than can be said for the teachers around me, they were fast asleep!

If anyone knows the guy in the photograph and wants me to take it down, then I will, but not after he's told me what he's doing sleeping when he was being paid with my tax money to be there, and more importantly entrusted to teach the children of people I know!

It really, really makes me appreciate all of you who read the blog and help on the forum, as well as all the other teachers this week, even more when I see things like this. Thank you! :)


October 20th 2008 - Thailand British Council

I've been working so hard this week, but that's the pace that everyone has been keeping and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. Luckily this morning was my day off so I took it in Bangkok, doing a little shopping. You can't believe how futuristic the Siam Square area is, just look at the cars they sell in the Paragon shopping center!



Then in the afternoon I popped into the British Council to say hi and to see how things were going with the Genki English project here. It seems all the teacher's packs have now been delivered to all 30,000+ schools and they are also apparently well on the way with the local training sessions, which is fantastic to hear. There might also be some chances to expand into other countries in the region, which would be fantastic.

Then just as I was leaving I looked up at the huge display screens they have outside the office, and what should pop up on the screen but one of my workshops! That was pretty weird!



Then some more Thai food before, for the second time this week, catching the midnight flight to the next country ....




October 19th 2008 - Cambodia to Bangkok

I woke up in Siam Reap, got breakfast, had a great chat about the project and about the amazing things that are being done with education in Ontario before getting a tuk - tuk for the ride back to the airport and then Bangkok.



I crashed for the night at Joel's house. He's also doing some amazing projects for education in Asia. I tell you this best thing about this trip has been meeting some amazingly bright people and listening to all the things they are doing to promote sustainable development through education. It's such an exciting, vibrant and positive community of people all working to do great things, and I'm even more shocked when I can keep up with them!

Plus being in Bangkok seemed really "easy" after Cambodia and India. No need to worry about water born disease or dust killing anything electrical or mechanical, plus being able to speak the language and knowing the food makes a huge difference!

I lay awake tonight looking out over Bangkok and thinking what an amazing place Asia is to be in.




October 18th 2008 - Cambodia Road Home

Then it was time for home. I've only been here two days, but we've done so much it feels like I've been here for ages. Everyone was so, so friendly asking so many questions and it's just been such a positive experience.

So we stocked up in a Cambodian "drive through" i.e. shouting out from the truck whilst stopped at the lights!



Before a fabulous sunset for the ride back to Siam Reap and "civilisation", which apart from the hot showers and lack of dust in the air, is probably beaten by the quality of life in the villages!




October 18th 2008 - Cambodia, school lunch, I can do it!

The teachers lunchtime project was to photo their school lunch using the XO and then present to the class. Here's the lesson plan if you'd like to try it.



They were also getting into the "I can do it!" song.






October 18th 2008 - XOs and Genki English

This school is also trying out the $100 laptop "buy one get one free" scheme where people in the US buy one machine and another is donated to places like here in Cambodia.

Yesterday I had a look at and to be honest I wasn't too impressed. "Laptop" probably isn't the best way to describe them. They are more like the LCD computers we had as kids, and when you look at it like that they make much more sense and become a great learning tool. The best thing today was that one of the guys got the Genki English download pack working on the machine! Wow, that was impressive.

The thing is that once you have the Genki English software in the classroom it changes everything. Instead of the teachers havening to worry about pronunciation or about what English to teach, they simply leave all the English up to the computer and concentrate on their real job which is motivating the kids. Even the teachers who had never touched a computer before loved it, their eyes just lit up.



Plus as they have enough enough machines for each child in a class they can use the computer games to race against each other. With tools like this these kids could well end up leap frogging western schools!







October 18th 2008 - Cambodia School Day

School starts at 7 AM here. Kids start arriving at 6. School finished at 5PM. One advantage of not having Playstations at home I guess.



Showers were cool, one teacher has to pump the water using a "stairmaster" like machine whilst the other teacher gets a shower! They called it "natural temperature" water. I called it cold, but fair enough.

We started workshops at 7:30 and just worked through solving the rest of the teachers' problems, the rules of Genki English, more teaching techniques and building their self confidence and "I can do it" attitude. We also had new teachers so one technique I use here is to give the lesson plans that the teachers wrote yesterday to the new teachers to see if they can do them!

It was also great when one JHS teacher said "Oh no, I can't do this" to which all the other teachers spun round and shouted "Yes, you can!" Nice.

It was also brilliant when we were doing the "kids aren't interest" points. Every time we sat down to do something boring you couldn't see a kid for miles. As soon as we started a Genki English song or game it seemed like we had every kid in the school trying to see in the windows or actually joining in with us!




October 17th 2008 - Be verb: I am, You are Game

One of the specific questions today was how to teach grammar. I got this a lot in India as well. The thing with Genki English is that you don't explicitly teach grammar. The kids learn it from context. This is a much better way than the traditional "identify the nouns in this sentence" approach which helps no one to communicate better. For example you learn "a" and "an" and "this" and "that" in the Fruit Market song without even thinking about it. Many of the GE songs are designed like this.

One follow up question was then to ask "What about teaching the verb to be i.e. I am, you are" We are beta testing a song for this on the owners forum. But I also have a cool game for it.

1. Put the kids in pairs.
2. One kid says something like "I am hungry".
3. The other kid flips it to be "You are hungry"
4. The first kid says another "I am ..." phrase.
5. The other kid makes it into a "You are ..." phrase.
6. But... if the first kid says "I am a dinosaur" both kids have to run to the nearest wall.
7. The first one to touch the wall gets a point.
8. Change partners.

It's very simple but the adrenaline from not knowing when you have to run means you really concentrate and get lots of speaking practice. You can also use slightly larger groups of 4 or 5 to do he, she, they we etc.

Here's how the Cambodia teachers got on:




October 17th 2008 - Cambodia - What do you need?

As we were late it was straight into a 1.5 hour intro workshop. The teachers were happy and smily and the building, built by Pepy, was perfect. We even had power from the solar cells on the roof, again another prize from Pepy.



The big challenge though was with the teachers' attitude.

The first thing you have to do when going into a developing area is to do a needs assessment. You find out what the teachers' needs are and help them find solutions. This is where many, many NGOs fail. They simple bound in there with their "This is the right way to do things" attitude, do everything in English and bound back out. It's easy to see why many people get jaded by this and I could easily see it today! It was really my own fault as this time I hadn't done a proper needs assessment before arriving, but every single thing I said or asked them to do was met with a "But ... in Cambodia we can't do that". The trick as a trainer is to sort out the cultural things that you must respect e.g. not bowing or mentioning certain animals etc. from the general "can't do" attitude which is the main thing that all humans need to change.

The biggest thing the teachers said was that none of this would work in junior high school. Fair enough. My assurances that we would do junior high stuff in the afternoon met deaf ears. But as luck would have it there were two junior high school classes with no teachers. So I popped across during lunch break and did some Genki English stuff with them. They loved it! So now we know for that particular problem it's the teachers, not the kids!

Problems to be solved

So in the afternoon after a couple of warm ups and identifying my translator (there's no point doing any of this without translations) I got on with a game to figure out what it is they really need. It's very simple, you just ...

1. Split the class into groups.
2. One person from each group writes one teaching problem they have on the board.
3. The next person from each group comes to the front and writes one other problem.
4. The team with the most answers on the board at the end of the time limit is the winner.

Everyone always starts off very shyly with this game, but the competition combined with loud background music soon relaxes them into writing down the true problems they have!

Here's what we came up with, the English translations were just for my benefit:


- want new games
- noisy students
- no space to play games
- kids argue
- difficult for the kids to understand new words
- kids are shy, not brave
- don't have books for students
- students not interested in class
- students don't listen to the teacher
- students are quiet
- students come to school late
- students can't remember the English
- don't have enough time


Now the thing you notice here is that although the kids may bike 12km to school everyday, that they have no mains electricity and pump their own water, that the village is so poor that many teachers have to have several jobs or many other factors that many in the west may "feel sorry" for, all the problems that the teachers face here are exactly the same problems that you or I faced when we first started teaching. That was great for me as these are just the things I work on in my workshops, but it just goes to show that the material things we complain about in the west such as lack of budgets or space etc. etc. aren't the real problems at all because compared with these guys we teach in palaces of gold!

Anyway, we spent most of the day working through the list using the Genki English games, songs and techniques and the teachers loved it! Rather than just songs & games, it was mainly general classroom management, class control, general professional development issues. I even sent them across the playground to the 8th grade classes to try out their new skills and they all went in their with a positive attitude and everything worked just as it should!

We rounded off the day with them writing up the activities to put in a Khmer language resource book.



Most of the teachers also live in a house next to the school, so we all went out for dinner before an early, by my standards, night. Mainly because we didn't have much solar power left, but also because lights at night attract bugs!




October 17th 2008 - Cambodia - Getting to the Workshop

I've done workshops in rural Thailand before, but this was my first time in Cambodia. It's an hour and a half to the village where the schools are but in a truck over rough and ready roads! We were covered in red dust before we arrived.




We also stopped off for some breakfast and drinks!








October 16th 2008 - Angkor Wat

I finished everything at 9PM last night, then hopped on the midnight plane from India, via Bangkok to arrive at 9 AM in Cambodia! Siem Reap airport is very impressive in the glorious sunshine.

Daniela from Pepy, who has organised this week's workshops, picked me up in a Khmer tuk-tuk.


(That's the driver, not Daniela)

Then I had an hour's sleep before lunch of Khmer "Amok" - very nice.



Then I had the afternoon free for a tour around the Angkor Wat temples. They are unbelievable, certainly one of the wonders of the World and I can't believe I'm lucky enough to be working near here this week! Everyone was walking around with "Amazing" written across their faces. You have to visit here!






The half day tour was $12 for the Tuk-Tuk, $20 for an entry ticket and $20 for the guide.


Apologies for the soundtrack, that's about the only thing YouTube had!

Then in evening I met back up with Daniela for dinner.



It was great to chat about the amazing things she's been doing with Pepy and to get ready for tomorrow's workshops, which start with a truck drive into the country at 7 AM...



October 15th 2008 - People are the key

One of the things that kept coming up last week was an objection to the games because the classrooms were so packed. But as you saw in the videos for most of the schools it was a bit of an excuse. However today we had so many kids packed in one tiny room!

Just looking at the classrooms you'd never think much learning would ever go on. But they had some of the best kids this week!

Kindergarten were doing the songs with the CD player and loving it. Other kids were quite happy mixing up Doctor Doctor and Make a Face to come up with sentences like "My eye hurts" etc. Elementary had no problem with the What are you doing? song and the class 5 kids aced everything including all the phonics and the What's your favourite? game.

The reason they were so good? Two very passionate members of the team. One is based in the office and has spent so much time helping, training and supporting the teachers that she has taken the training we gave and built and built and built on it. The other person is a teacher in the school who really stood out in the training and is now in charge of a whole group of classes and is doing so well with them. You both know who you are so thank you so much you've been doing amazing work!

We also had some international visitors from a very well known organisation that I'm not allowed to mention. But they were talking about the private schools for the poor i.e. these schools, and comparing them with the government schools, and why so many very low income parents choose to pay over going to free public schools. The best line they said was "What does it say for the product the government schools have when they can't even give it away for free?" Indeed.

I was also really happy at today's school because the teachers had all been using the teaching guide videos. There are so many teachers who just ignore the instructions and just try and teach how they think it should go and just fail miserably. But today I asked the teachers to teach a lesson they hadn't done, to which the reply was "But we haven't studied how to teach it, we have to watch the video first" which was a very professional attitude to take. Apparently she makes all the other teachers watch them before doing any lessons!

Then we had another school just before lunch. Again they were really good. And I was really impressed with the kids' lunches, it looked so nice! It will be great when they start moving on to the projects.



Anyone want to do the school lunch project with our kids in India?



October 14th 2008 - Rote Learning is Appalling

Talk about chalk and cheese, this morning's school was 100% different from yesterday. It's actually the school whose teachers I spoke to on Friday and was very impressed by. However they weren't putting anything into practice. They'd been doing the songs, and the kids liked them, but they hadn't been teaching the meaning of the words so the kids had no idea what they were saying! I tried testing one class with the Lines Quiz and it was just torture.

The worst ever way to teach...

We quickly found out why. In the neighboring classroom they were also doing English. But not part of our English course, it was the review for their social studies quarterly tests. If you think your school has "teaching for the test" problems you've not seen anything.This is what was written on the board:



"Social Revision

What do we need to live?
We need food to live.

Why do we wear clothes?
We wear clothes to cover our body.

From where do we get wool?
We get wool from sheep?


Fair enough you might think, they are at a much higher level than we thought. Oh no, you see this is what they memorise, the teacher reads the line, the kids repeat, the teacher reads the line, the kids repeat, for lesson upon lesson upon lesson. As the teacher is reading occasionally she will say "sheep is spelling?"

But the kids have no idea what the meaning of any of the words they are saying is. It's not that they have forgotten or have forgotten some parts, it's that they are never taught the meaning of any of them. They go through years of schooling like this. All in the name of tests.

Then in the final exam, the question paper will always be "What do we need to live? Why do we wear clothes?" etc.and the kids have to perfectly write in their memorised phrase without understanding a word. No deviation, no thinking, just the worst possible kind of rote learning.

I wish I could put the video online it would make you cringe. These are some of the best schools. In the government schools the lessons are apparently even worse!

But you can see why Genki English is such a breath of fresh air for the teachers and also a huge burden. They are amazed that they can have fun whilst teaching, that kids can move around and talk. They are also amazed when kids understand and can respond when people talk to them in English. It's something the teachers have never seen before! But it's also a huge burden because they are still told to teach social science, like here, or natural science in a purely rote way.

Chocolate & Telegraphs

Getting parents and school heads out of the rote way is the thing we have to do. Whilst ever it's there the phonics and Genki English stuff is always under threat because the naturally tendency is for the teachers to slip back to their old ways. If you tell a fat man to stop eating chocolate he won't, but if you put him on a desert island with only fruit and vegetables, that's what he'll eat.

I did think when I joined this programme that we were going to completely revolutionise the education system here. We certainly have the people to do it, they are some of the most brilliant minds in the education world. But with lessons like this it feels like we are just improving the telegraph when what should really be doing is inventing the telephone.

Then again I spoke to the Prof tonight and he said, paraphrasing, "But look this is just after three months, compared with what the schools were like before it's entirely different, the teachers are happy, there is energy and life in the classrooms and that's something we'd never seen before. Think what this will be like in 5 or 6 years time."

So then we went to the next school...


October 14th 2008 2008 - Poverty to Success

I went to this school before, it's the one covered in flies that I compared to Pompeii, not in its heighday, but how it looks now.
Here's the street it's in:


And I found out why there are flies everywhere, this is the building that joins the school building:



Apparently the school used to be dark, smelly and just downright horrible.

I say apparently because what I saw today was amazing. They haven't been doing the Genki English games, but they were loving the songs. When we walked in there was one class doing Doctor Doctor. They were using the computers we'd provided, but were playing the audio CD of the song. The kids were still loving it, but they actually have the software version so I showed them how to bring that up, and the kids just went massively huge eyed. I played the software with the animations and I mean seriously you have never seen such happy kids. They looked like they were going to explode! I really wish I could get permission to put the videos online because you just have to see it. At the end, one of the little girls said "Sir, thank you!". All the teachers in our group were nearly crying again!

Upstairs they had a class doing rote learning, but we took a break and did some phonics with them, which they aced. We asked what Genki English song they had been doing most recently. It was "What's your favourite colour?" They could sing it brilliantly and had no problem at all with the quite long "What's your favourite...?" part and could understand it all. I did the simple game that goes with that, i.e. everyone says "What's your favourite colour?" one person responds and everyone has to rush and touch something that colour. They were loving it. It's probably the only chance they get to move all day, plus the were actually using English instead of rote learning abstract words like "tenacity" like in other classes. They were doing so well, with such a happy teacher in one of the poorest areas we work with here.

Let me see if I can get permission to post the videos, you'll love them But for the time being, here's a quick shot of the surrounding area.





October 13th 2008 - Good Teachers, Bad Computers & Doctor Games

Japan should be very worried.

Last time I went round our Indian schools the kids were hesitant, speaking in whispers if at all and the teachers were just doing rote learning. You asked a kid a question and you got no reply. The teachers, never mind the kids, didn't know much English at all.

Today was completely different. They were amazing.

My main aim was:
1) Observe how the teachers were teaching.
2) Test the kids to see what they know.
3) Show a computer lesson.


Some of the youngest kids, and a teacher reviewing phonics. I'll try and get some Genki pics for tomorrow!

The schools have 4 hours (2 x 2 hours) of Genki English each week plus 8 (4 x 2 hours) of phonics. And the teachers really are doing it. We feared they'd just learn by memorisation, but when the kids were asked questions they replied, and often in big loud voices. When we gave them phonics exercises that they hadn't done, or tested them with nonsense words, they flew through them at native speaker pace. We were very impressed and if I hadn't seen the teachers and kids before I would have thought that India didn't need Genki English.

It wasn't so much a learning curve they'd gone through but a vertical line!

The training we did in May has obviously helped, but more than that they've had experienced trainers going round the schools helping the other teachers and they've gone from strength to strength! Amazing.



Simple Body Parts Game

As we have very, very tight budgets in the India schools, the traditional "Doctor Doctor" game (e.g. here's the Funky Mummy version) can't be used as we need to make the games use as few materials as possible and if possible zero materials. So here's the Simply Doctor Doctor Game:

1.One child comes to the front.
2.The class ask "Are you OK?"
3.The child becomes a patient and says No, my (part of body from the song) hurts
4.The first person to touch this body part on the patient wins!
5.But, the patient has to try and run away from the fake doctors!




This is actually a very spacious classroom for our schools, but if you have more space the kids can actually run about. Tomorrow we have to see how they do this in the most cramped classrooms you've ever seen!



Bad Computers & Lots of Books

However we've also put small computer rooms in all the schools. There is a very famous ICT professor in charge, but we went in today and it was chaos. With no teachers allowed to supervise, the kids were watching Tom & Jerry or playing GT Rally, some computers had the fronts bashed in (they were at perfect knee height for the kids!) and some wouldn't even boot at all as the kids had been switching them off and on by the mains switch.

From an ICT perspective that could be considered good, as if kids are left to be totally free on computers that's how they learn and come up with the next Google. But with so many students, the computer time is so limited and the main aim for us is to use the Jolly Phonics and Genki English software to reinforce what the teachers were doing in class. So we threw the kids out, re-installed the Jolly Phonics & Genki English software, brought them back and did a model lesson i.e.

1) Ask the kids to launch the Genki English software
2) Ask the kids to quit Genki English.
3) Repeat steps 2 and 3 lots of times, making it into a game to see who could do it quickest.
4) Told them them the theme to select.
5) Told them to select "Game" and press "Start"
6) First team to finish is the winner!

Here's a quick video of how excited they got, even just pressing "start" never mind the rest of the quiz!




This video does make the school look very, very posh, but it isn't. Here are a few shots of the surrounding area, plus how many books the kids have to carry home for other subjects!


Those books are for other subjects!


Then in the evening we had lots of meetings, a nice dinner with teachers from China and now I've got to go and prepare their quarterly exam. I don't know how we manage to cram in so much when we're here!


October 12th 2008 - A4 Trick or Treat Cards

Here are the latest versions of the Trick or Treat song pictures, all done up as A4 pdfs! The black background looks best, but I’ve also done a white background version for when you have an ink budget to think about.

Changes can still be made if necessary so please leave comments and I hope there are no mistakes as I am really tired after a hard weekend in India! zzzzz

Owners Club
Bonus Materials...


A4 Flashcards
(What's this?)


(White background)


(Black background)


October 11th 2008 - Indian Breakfast

Tons of stuff going on today and meetings which I'd love to blog about but can't!
So here's a video of an Indian breakfast for you.




October 10th 2008 - Man with no feet

You've really got to admire the Indian teachers. Today was spent going through the feedback on the GE materials and they'd really thought about it and really gone into a lot of detail. The good points the teachers and administrators were surprised by were:

1) The kids are really enjoying it.
2) The parents and people nearby are seeing something is different in the school and want to know more.
3) Kids are actually responding when asked their name or about the weather etc. etc.

This last one they seemed particularly amazed to see from younger kids.

A few problems were:

1) Parents want homework
2) The timing of a couple of the songs
3) Teachers who have been skipping the games and just doing the songs.

These were actually a lot less than I thought. I guess the biggest problem is number 3) in that the songs are where you learn the English, but it's the games where you learn to speak the English. So I think we're going to change the timetable to be "Listening" and "Speaking" with reviews and new song in the former and reviews and the game in the latter.

They were also wanting to know what comes next. They were amazed by the projects, and how easy they are going to be, especially the international part.

The next thing they were wanting is more training which I'll have to try and fit in next week.

Plus of course there were lots of other little problems and also big problems with teachers who are still teaching rote style etc. and at the end of the day they were saying they had lots of things to contend with. So I talked about some of the schools I worked with in Thailand whose biggest problems were landmines around the playgrounds. Often teachers just shrug at that. But the head teacher today, with some of the poorest and under privileged students you'll ever meet, nodded and quoted:

"I felt sorry I had no shoes. Until I met a man who had no feet.".


"We'll make this work," she said.


October 9th 2008 - Thursday Evening in India

With all the things you see on TV some people really don't like other people. But when you actually party, eat and smile with them we are really all the same. Just take the guys at the end of this video, they look pretty scary, but all they were wanting was check their make up in the video playback!

P.S. All these bits were just from tonight.





October 9th 2008 - Back in India



The Indian presentations I did in May were a huge success. But however big or motivating a single week of workshops can be, the teachers face new challenges and come up with new ways to use the materials in the classroom.

So this week I'm back in India, mainly as a fact finding mission to find out what what works, what needs changing, what other materials are needed and what problems the teachers are having with Genki English and their new phonics programme. Rather than just writing on the blog, I thought you might like to see an Indian street hence the video! Our schools are in the poor areas of town (I'll try and shoot some video there next week), but this video today is in the very posh part of the city.

I'm invited to a wedding this evening and it's a festival day today (hence all the orange flowers) so if I can I might update this post later tonight.

Anyway, let me know if you want to see more videos!



October 8th 2008 - 1 Billion Students Use Genki English

I was out drinking with Steve Nishida (and here) the other week and I happened to mention my new goal for the next two years:,

Have one billion students learning with Genki English.


Yep, that's billion not million! The thing is that he never batted an eyelid. He knows the projects I've been involved in and with the India and now China projects coming online, fingers crossed this should be a big, but achievable goal.

Goals are bad?
Conversely, goals can be one of the big things that let English learners down. We all know we should have them, but in learning a language it's so difficult to actually set a concrete level you want to attain in a specific time. I guess that's why so many teachers start with the ABCs, because it's something concrete and easy to show you've done, even if it doesn't really help beginner students.

Some people use the TOEIC tests. I have a friend of mine who's been overseas and wants to get something to prove she can speak English, so her aim is to get 850 points on the TOEIC test. I guess that's a good goal, but again it's not the most suitable for someone who just wants to learn how to speak and communicate in English.


GE Goal
The goal I use for new learners for Genki English is for the kids to:

Be able to say anything you want to say in English.

It doesn't mean fluent (whatever that means), it just means anything they can think or feel they can find a way to express it in English that is understood. e.g. if you can't say "My Grandmother is ill", you find a way around it such as "My mother's mother is sick".

Of course a goal without a time limit is just a wish, and the time limit I usually say is around 200 hours of lessons, or around 4 years at one lesson a week. I know that's a little (a lot?) on the taking too long side, but you know it's a start for less confident teachers.

Your goals
Anyway, goals are important, and your students need to know them, and it's so easy to improve the kids' abilities with a even a mediocre one. But then again you might as well make it a big one, you never know you might just achieve it. As I've said before, President Kennedy didn't decide to go to the moon because he knew they could do it, he did it because he didn't know it couldn't be done!

So the question is: what are your big goals for your students?



October 7th 2008 - Halloween Video & Crosswords

Back to the original Happy Halloween song, I just realised I'd never uploaded the teaching guide video. So here you go! Videos for 30 of the other songs are on the Teaching Guide DVD.

English Version




Japanese Version




I thought you might also like a Crossword, Word Jumble & Word Search as a nice Halloween present for you kids to take home with them, especially after their Halloween party!





October 7th 2008 - ETJ Osaka Socratic Speeches

As I'm flying out of Kansai airport this week, on Sunday I popped along to the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) Osaka meeting. Eric Kane did an excellent workshop and if you're in the kansai area on November 16th I'd highly recommend you to pop along to their big yearly "Expo".

Eric went through his basic lesson structure right from the beginning. Personally I couldn't find anything to fault it. Basically he had ...

1) The teacher and 3 students sat in a circle (this is for private classes, not elementary school)
2) Teacher says their name with lots of gestures and expressions.
3) Teacher prompts the children to tell their name.
4) Continue round the circle.

Dead easy. But then everyone in turn stands up and does a little speech "Hello. I'm ..... Thank you". This is similar to what I do with the projects, but Eric starts it from the very first lesson, which is great. Then in the next lesson you add something else in like "Hello. I'm.... My mother is .... Thank you" and do another speech. Just building up layer by layer.

He also had some great stuff about picture cards. e.g. instead of just flashing the card, let the kids study it for 10 seconds then ask questions e.g. Is the bus blue? etc. He recommended starting off with closed yes/no questions, then moving on to open "What colour is the bus?" type questions before finally letting the kids make their own sentences. Again all very stress free and fun. The next step was to give the kids several cards to study, and then to do a lines quiz style game where all the questions are about the picture cards!

A great idea for teaching "You are ... " came up:
1. Put the kids in a circle.
2. Blindfold one kid and put them in the middle.
3. One child shouts out "hello".
4. The kid in the middle guesses who said the word with "You are" + the name of the child.

He also took picture books and instead of reading the story just used the pictures as sources of information for words or prepositions etc. Personally I'd prefer to do that after doing the story, but Eric also had the idea that you could go right to near the end asking questions about the pictures, but then just flip back to the beginning before the punchline!

For when kids weren't sure what to do, instead of saying the word and getting the kids to repeat, which is what a lot of teachers do, Eric was mouthing the phrase for the kids. This seemed to work much better.

For elementary school he also had a great idea of writing the word "house" on the board. Then get the kids to choose what colour it would be. Then get them to choose how many windows there are or what other features it has. All using imagination and English. Then the kids get into groups and come up with another funky house with 15 iron doors and 24 cotton candy windows or whatever. I'm thinking this would work great with the "Let's build a house" song which I'll be putting on the site in November!

There was also another teacher there called Michiyo who had some cool ideas. One was to do a remix of Eric Carle's "Brown Bear, what can you see?" but using combinations of the same vowel sound instead of first letters, e.g. pink fish or slender gecko. She also had some "spot the difference" mini cards. I've already got some Halloween Spot the Difference big sheets on the site but she had the idea to do actual mini-cards with spot the differences.

Any as you can see there was a ton of really good stuff there, and as I say if you can head to expo it should be definitely worth it as it will be 36 times bigger! Just tell them I sent you. And thank you very much to Ailsa for organising today.

The only bad thing was that in evening along with all the good, heated discussions about phonics and teaching methods and stuff we also had teachers saying "Yes, but parents only want me to teach the tests, I can't use what we did today". But the point is that if you do things like today where the kids get really good at speaking what they want to say with confidence, in general it's the single biggest thing you can do to boost their test scores. There's every reason to do both, they get the short term aim of passing the test and master a skill that's going to make them much more employable in the future. Two for the price of one can't be bad!

I think tomorrow I'll try and upload my article about setting goals.....



October 4th - Phonics & Funk Vocab Builder

Here's the latest Genki English project, the Phonics & Funk Vocab Builder. But which do you prefer, the fast or slow versions?

Normal "Fast" Version




Slow "Teachers" Version


These songs came about because I get a lot of people asking when I'm going to do the next Genki Phonics CD to cover the rest of the alphabet. I promise I will ... eventually! The thing is that it's really difficult to write a good song that only has one sound. Hence this new type of track.

The fast version is the speed I used to do this at when I was in high school cramming French vocab and it's what learners tend to respond better to. If you can understand it all on the first go then it's not much use! The idea is you sit down in front of it and play it over and over till everything is well and truly stuck in your head. But of course it's teachers who buy and choose what materials to do in class, so I've also done a slowed down "teacher version" for this song to see which people prefer.

I planned the main benefits to be:

1) Phonics sound recognition (you hear the "p" sound so many times without realising)
2) Very fast review of vocab (great for cramming high school tests)
3) Helps with spelling (as the words are almost all in alphabetical order)

But what do you think? Would your students find these useful? Would you like me to make some more? And which speed do you think is best?

I've been working on this project for 6 years now so I'd very much appreciate your opinion! : )




October 3rd - Monster Halloween Songs

Just a quick word to say there are now two new Trick or Treat songs for you to try on the owners' beta test page. One is a happy "light" version and the other is the full on scary monster version! What do you think?

October 2nd 2008 - Older kids teach younger kids

In two weeks' time, on the way back from my India workshops I'm stopping off in Thailand and then Cambodia to do a two day workshop for the Pepy ride teachers.

I got their newsletter again yesterday and one of the great stories is how they are using the new XO "$100 laptops". The amazing thing is that instead of using the machines to learn, the older kids are using the computers to make teaching materials for the younger kids. As the saying goes, if you want to master something, teach it.

I've seen English lessons where older kids teach younger kids before, but to be honest they never seemed to work. The younger kids were always learning faster and had better accents!

But to actually make teaching materials sounds like a much better idea, it's something the kids can take time over, it will be fresh and exciting (because it's made by kids and not teachers!), it's something that will last forever and it's something the kids can take a pride in. It is a wonderful feeling when people learn something from something you've created, be it a worksheet, a poster, a song or an animation.

So the question is, how can you adapt this idea for your classes? What could your older classes make that would help them and their younger schoolmates? Maybe it's a silver bullet that will make 6th grade classes really work?

Here's the full article: Khmer Literacy and XO Computers


October 1st 2008 - Halloween Apple Bobbing Song

The main Happy Halloween song has been a huge hit with teachers and kids. But of course if you use it every year then it gets a little too easy. So over on the forum last week we had a request for some new Halloween songs. Ever pleased to oblige, and thanks to a visit to Universal Studios last Thursday, I've written two for you!

The first one is a little darker and more scary and will hopefully be finished soon. So the other one I deliberately made silly and fun and it's simply the rules of how to play Apple Bobbing! Needless to say the chorus sticks in your head all day.



What do you think? Please write your comments below, who knows, if you write lots of nice things it might motivate me to get the other Halloween song finished a little quicker. It is sounding very scary! ;)

There are also mini cards and A4 cards as well as an mp3 available on the Halloween Apple Bobbing page.


Be genki,

Richard

P.S. Also thanks to everyone for all the comments last month. The competition winner for September, chosen at random from the 110 comments was ....... me. So I re drew it and this time it was cj. Congratulations, I'll be in touch soon for you to choose your free CD, either a current or future one!
The competition is reset again from today, so everyone get commenting and you might win October's prize which is again a free Genki English CD of your choice.



September 30th 2008 - DL software & Parents 親子英語

I've got something big planned for you tomorrow (fingers crossed!) so today we just have a few little bits of news:

New Software Download Pack (+Upgrades)

If you've previously purchased the MP3 download pack, you can now upgrade to the new Software Download Pack i.e. all the illustrated versions of the songs & mini lessons, the pronunciation guides and computer games. The price is simply the difference from what you originally paid e.g. $19 or $27.99 or $37.99 which is a bit of a bargain really. Just send me an email and I'll send you the link.

If you haven't bought the pack yet, take a look. If you can use a laptop in class it makes a huge difference.


New talking "Phrase a Day" blog for parents



You might have seen the link on the right already, but I've just started a new "Phrase a Day" blog for parents. It's designed to be a fun, easy way for parents to try and add in a little English every day. My Mum did the recordings so they are all nice and soft and not at all scary for the parents!

(Whilst you're over there it would be cool if you could vote for it by pressing the blue button on the right!)


Last day for Kids English discount

Kids Englishタイトル

I mentioned this last week, but today is the last day of the huge Kids English set discount. From tomorrow the price goes up from 62,790 yen to 220,000 yen, so if you're interested then today is the day to get your order in! In preparation for the price increase I've jazzed up the Japanese description page to include details of all the prize winning artists who wrote the picture books with me, plus feedback from customers and a letter from the TV star who used the materials in "Wataru seken wa oni bakkari" - which I guess is the Japanese equivalent of Coronation Street or Dallas?


Right, I'm back to work on the present I have for you tomorrow, or if you can't wait, there's a little bit of info in the owners' forum!

Be genki,

Richard



September 29th 2008 - Why language classes don't work

Tim Ferris, of Four Hour Work Week (on Amazon US or here on Amazon Japan) fame, has just put up a new blog post: Why Language Classes Don’t Work: It's certainly worth a read and as usual he gives lots of food for thought. Is this how your brighter adult students see you? Here are his main points:

1. Teachers are viewed as saviors when materials are actually the determining factor.

Needless to same I'm going to like this bit! I also like this "no matter what, do not begin with classes or texts that solely use the target language (e.g., Spanish textbooks in Spanish)".


2. Classes move as slowly as the slowest student.
Totally agree for private schools. It would also be great if we could do this in public schools as well.

3. Conversation can be learned but not taught.

"The rules (grammar) can be learned through materials and classes, but the necessary tools (vocabulary and idiomatic usage) will come from independent study and practice in a native environment."
For individual learners I'd agree with this as well. This is the reason we try and use games for kids classes, to try and artificially create a speaking environment. Ideally we should be moving on the using Skype and projects as quickly as possible!

4. Teachers are often prescriptive instead of descriptive.

In conclusion—the learner is the problem (what?)
Now that just makes you want to read the rest of the article, doesn't it!

6 Day CourseThis weekend I've also been looking at Rocket Languages.
Have any of you tried them? They've got free trials on at the moment for Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish & German which sound good,

Anyone care to try them out and let me know how if they work?

I'm thinking of trying the Chinese one.


Be genki,

Richard



September 25th 2008 - The Pirate Song

I just found out about Eric Herman on YouTube, and I just love his songs! The English is probably way too advanced for beginner learners, but they are so funny and 100% authentic. This is my favourite, the new pirate song...."Dude, that's a pond!"



And here's one that's a touch simpler, if you've got some very bright students they'll might enjoy it!





September 24th 2008 - When is the critical period?

ELTNews have put up a nice interview with David Nunan. In case you've not heard of him, he's sold over 700 million textbooks in China (which is more than Harry Potter has in the world!) and has just had an institute named after him at Anaheim University in the US.

Although some of the interview is the back and forth nature of linguistics research (should we teach grammar? or vocab? etc.) some nice parts are....

...about Task Based Learning:

In a task-base approach you don't start with the language, you start with the learners and you layout ... what the kinds of things that they may potentially or actually need to do with the language. So instead of having a list of grammar items you have a list of tasks -- the things the people want to do with the language.


And on whether to start from 5 or 9 years old..

there is this theory called the "critical period hypothesis" that something happens to the brain around about puberty and that if you start learning a language prior to puberty you are given a comparative advantage, but starting at very young age doesn't give you an advantage.

Interesting take on the critical period there. You can see why that makes some people nervous about starting English too early in schools.

But then he says:

Now, I think the jury is still out because I think that one of the problems is that a lot of young learners programs are not specifically designed for young learners so they have just imported a curriculum that's been designed for older learners and given it to young learners.

Which I think I would tend to agree with.

Anyway, have a read of the full article and let's discuss it in the comments below!



September 23rd 2008 - Warning!

WARNING: Do not press play!
This video is the Japanese version of the "How much?" song, and seriously it will really mess up your head for the rest of the day if you play it just once!



You see the torture we inflict on our poor students with these songs! (Just joking of course!) :)

iTunes have also just approved the podcast of my Japanese videos, you can find it here: Learn Japanese with GenkiJapan.net (it's an iTunes link so will open the program). You can now put the videos on your iPod or iPhone.

Other new stuff

Elsewhere there's a new video for When, when, when? That's one of the best songs for losing weight! The video makes it a lot easier to see how to teach it.

Plus there's loads going on in the forum at the moment, thank you everyone.

And thank you everyone for your support yesterday, you are all stars and I really appreciated it.

Finally if you look at the end of this post online there's a new section I've added which automatically pulls in similar blog entries to the one you're reading. It throws up all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff that even I'd forgotten about. But here's the warning:

WARNING: Don't click the links under the "similar posts" title.
It will seriously suck up your entire day! ; )

Take care, be genki, and enjoy Autumn Equinox day,

Richard




September 22nd 2008 - Teaching 2 & 3 year olds

I've done a lot of research on how parents can help younger kids learn English, but actually teaching 2 and 3 year olds is not something I know that much amount. But I get asked the question a lot especially as my 0-6 year old Kids English set isn't available overseas. So here's a brief intro I did a while back:


Teaching 2-3 year olds is one of the hot topics at the moment, mainly because there aren't many good systems out there to teach with. The best thing to do is to just play with the kids, do like a parent back home would with a 2 or 3 year old, but structure your lessons to include lots of repetition of the English. Basic things to think about would be manners like "please" and "thank you", simple colours, actions and motions, reading story books or themes like getting dressed, things that the kids do everyday. Keep it really simple.

If you can, try and hang out with some friends who have babies and see how they interact with their kids. Then with the students you are teaching just watch them play normally for a while, and find out what toys, games and activities they like. Then use those in your "lessons". Practical things like child proofing the classroom should be given some thought as well! You could try some English teaching type games, but usually just general playing is best. Similarly songs can be useful, but don't expect the kids to sing along, just listen and do actions or gestures. Ask your parents what they used to do with you at that age might help as well!


Recently I've also heard lots of good things about Baby Sign language (here's my song) and Eurhythmics which you might want to check out.
With regards the Kids English set, yes we really are putting the price up to 220,000 yen next month. It's still 62,790 yen
until September 30th, but we're putting the price up so as to better compete with the Disney and other systems that cost sometimes 3 times as much! In fact the original price for our set was 45 man yen! I thought we were helping people out by making the price lower, but the parents didn't seem to agree. It certainly does seem to be true that the more people pay for something the better they use it as those children were getting really good with it, I was so impressed!

Anyway, what are you tips for teaching younger kids?


September 21st 2008 - 28 Tips for Teaching Numbers

I've just been updated the Genki Spanish site to have a new Spanish Numbers game, so figured I'd do a list of games and ideas for teaching numbers.  So far I'm up to 28.  If you have any more, please put them in the comments!

Online Numbers games:

1 Numbers in Spanish (Just updated!)

2 Numbers in German

3 Numbers in Korean (they have 2 types!)

4 Numbers in Chinese

5 Numbers in English

Classroom Games featuring numbers:

6 Numbers Golf Game

7 Thumb Sumo + Timebomb Game (part way down the page)

8 Rich Man Numbers

9 Bargaining game

10 Simple Numbers Dice Game

11 Secret Code Game

Numbers Songs:

12 Numbers 1-12

13  Hip Hop Numbers

14 How many c do you have?

15 Numbers 13-20 Song

16 How old are you?

17 What time is it?

18 Do you have any pets? ( Numbers Mix)

19  How much?

20 Rocket Launch.

Numbers Printables

(These ones you need to be a member to download, the quickest way to get membership is with the download pack)

21. The one card game (what's this?)

22. Numbers A4 Flashcards (What's this?)

23 Numbers Mini Cards (What's this?)

24 Numbers Black & White Mini Cards (What's this?)


24 Numbers Dice Game (What's this?)

25 Numbers Spaghetti Game (What's this?)

26 Numbers Islands Game (What's this?)

27 Numbers Snakes & Ladders (What's this?)

All the games are free online, you just need need to be a member to download the printables, the quickest way to get membership is with the download pack.

If you've got any more numbers ideas then please share them!

September 19th 2008 - Days of the Week

Yumiko has posted some great ideas for teaching Days of the Week.

The best one is to use a TV schedule to illustrate days of the week, e.g. instead of saying "What do you study on Tuesday?" which is really boring, you can ask "Today's it's Friday, what's good on TV?" That's sure to get the kids interested!

Or if you have to teach Days of the Week & Subjects together, like in the Eigo Note book, it's not quite as fun as TV but Yumiko had the idea of using the "I like pink fish" game. But instead of colours and noun cards, use Days of the Week & Subjects cards e.g.

1. Put the Days of the Week cards at one side of the class & Subjects cards at the other.
2. Kids get into teams.
3. The front person from each team runs to pick up one Days of the Week card & one Subjects card.
4. They then run back to the front of the class and shout out a sentence using those words.
5. The quickest team gets 2 points.
6. The other teams get 1 point if they can say the sentence correctly.

The only tricky bit is deciding which English to use. In the Eigo Note they recommend "On Monday I study Japanese" which sounds very "textbooky" to my ears. Plus of course you can't use it with PE, "I study PE" just doesn't sound right!

In England we'd say "On Tuesday I have French / PE / music etc.". Is that how you'd say it? Or do you think there is a better sentence that fits all subjects?

P.S. One of the requests from yesterday was for a Days of the Week crossword. This one only works in Japan, but enjoy!




September 18th 2008 - Crosswords, Dominoes & Wordsearches



Roger has just reminded me about his page of crosswords, dominoes, word searches and word jumbles. They're all great review materials for older kids, or junior high, where you also teach writing.

This morning I've just started an assistant making more of them for all the Genki English themes. It's going to take a while to get them all done, so if you have any themes that you'd like sooner rather than later then please make a request in the comments below!

Update: I've just added a couple of new ones to the comments.

September 17th 2008 - How to get a job in Japan

Loads of people have been telling me how much they are desperately wanting to come to Japan, there certainly is a "Japan Boom" going on at the moment especially in the US. Those of us that live here sort of take a lot of things for granted, but when you see how jealous people get of being able to work here it really does open your eyes.

I put this video up on my YouTube Channel yesterday and it's proved really popular, so I thought I'd share it with you here.

One of the funny things is that I used the American term "College" which has confused the Brits (and a Canadian!) no end, because in the UK college is something you do before or instead of university.

Anyway, the main point of the video is that whatever dream job you want, just go for it! Set a goal, set a time limit and work hard to make it true. For most jobs these days rather than qualifications or experience, it's having the right attitude, energy and determination that many employers are looking for.




September 16th 2008 - ESL / EFL Teaching Workshop

I've just uploaded video of the first hour of my Genki English training workshops. Starting at the very beginning I go through lesson planning, warming up, how to do songs and games and lots and lots of practical hints & tips.

Beginners should see it a few times and experienced teachers can probably pick up a lot of new ideas as well.

Some of you may have seen the video on the site before, but now that it's on YouTube you can see it full screen and in DVD quality!

Here's the first part, the other 5 you can find here: Richard's Workshop Video.
It's an hour long so skip the latest episode of "Dancing with the Stars" and have a look!



Part 2 is here: Richard's Workshop Video Part 2


September 15th 2008 - Games for Grannies!



Photo by dominikkustra

Today is "Respect for the Aged" (keirou no hi) public holiday in Japan. "Silver" English lessons, as they are politely called here, are hugely popular. With one million people expected to be over hundred by 2050 they're going to get even more popular.

So what do you teach older students? Genki English of course! The old ladies in my adult classes used to go crazy for things like karuta or any game involving running around and knocking down all the other old ladies in class!

Sometimes middle aged people complain at the amount of jumping up and down in Genki English. But as one of the very old ladies at my workshop in Nagasaki said a while back, doing Genki English everyday won't kill you, it's not doing Genki English everyday that will!

Enjoy the holiday.

Be genki,

Richard


September 14th 2008 - Genki Spanish

Fancy learning a little Spanish? Here's the new Genki Spanish site full of games to learn Spanish for free.

Please tell all your friends about it, either Myspace, Facebook or even real life ones!

Just to give you a quick taster, here's the colours (or colors if you prefer!) game.

Learn Spanish for free

The trick is to:
1. Know nothing before you start,
2. Get a friend on another computer at the same time
3. Race to see who can do the game the quickest.

If you'd like to try it with your students, there's also the Genki English and Genki Chinese versions.

If you plan your lessons right you can virtually eliminate pre-teaching by moving everything online!


September 12th 2008 - FREE Games & Songs eBooks

I've got a couple of free eBooks for you today. (eBooks are basically "pdf" files you can read on your computer or print out as nicely formatted A4 pages).

The first is of Top 10 Games from the Genki English site. It's free when you subscribe to the email version of this blog (don't worry you can unsubscribe at anytime and we'll never spam you - I hate spam!) It's a great little freebie to have lying around for emergency lesson planning. Just enter your email address below:



The other book is from Matt of DreamEnglish.com and it's a free eBook of how to use songs in class.

Matt's songs tend to be for younger kids, but there's some useful stuff in there and a very special Genki English offer as well. You might also be interested in Matt's new site which has free mp3s of classic kids songs such as London Bridge or the Hokey Pokey.

PS If you've already subscribed to my blog (thank you!) and would like the eBook, just send me an email and I'll send you the link.



September 11th 2008 - More people speak Chinglish than English

A little while back Wired Magazine had an interesting article: How English Is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand. It's all about how so many people speak English as non-native speakers that stand "mispronunciations" are actually becoming standard.

There's a similar (but opposite) thread on the BBC today: Italian call to use fewer English words

Brits often say that English English is the accent to teach because that's where it was "invented", Americans often say that more Americans speak English so an American accent should be standard. Personally I'd go with the British accent, because if you speak with one of those in the States people love you! ; )

But if you take that argument to its natural conclusion, the Indian accent should be the standard as there are more Indian native speakers of English than anywhere else. Indeed when I do workshops in India the teachers don't let me "correct" their pronunciation, claiming that it's the pronunciation of the 21st century!

I often hear the same thing in Japan, however unfortunately with Japan having a birthrate of just 1.21 then simple numbers tell you the future of English will be a battle between Indian and Chinese!



September 10th 2008 - Mr Rabbit Magic

Mr Monkey's Magic Corner was really popular last year, and I've been looking for other ideas to use in class. Even just one good magic trick can keep a class enthused for a whole year.

Today I'm very glad to say I've found one, and it is soooo good! I use it to help teach the How many? song and it's called "Mr Rabbit." I'm not that good at it yet, but here's a video and a link to Amazon to show you how it works... I think you'll like it!



September 9th 2008 - The Power of "Try Again"!

"Losing just means try again!" is one of the most powerful things you can teach your students.
Here's an email from Todd, who very kindly let me post it for you:

------------------------------------------------------

When I first had my school purchase your teacher's set (with CDs and workbooks) I was truthfully skeptical. All my years of teaching at elementary schools was synonymous with searching high and low for games at a dozen different websites, cutting and pasting, copying, coloring and straining my brain. Your website was so simple -deceptively so -I thought at first. Simply too good to be true.

After three months I can say you made this English teacher's job super easy. I now simply follow your curriculum to a tee and effortlessly succeed 99% of the times - avoiding the spectacular disasters of my own game plans or someone else's ideas in the past.

I see the power of teaching kids English they want to learn.

Today I saw the transformative power of your central tenet -Genki English rule of "losing means try again!" I've been at it for 8 years. I know -as well as you - that Japanese kids take light competition far too seriously. I've been in desperate need of solutions.

The first time I explained the idea of "losing means try again" -I had trouble translating into Japanese. The HRTs unfamiliar with the idea and themselves sore losers always said "makettemo daijobu" -like EVEN if you lose its OK. Well, I thought...telling a kid its OK too lose is like telling an adult its OK to fail. I tried games like the "Line Quiz" and there were still a few crying, devastated kids who lost in the end.

But then I saw your demo-lesson "you tube" clip on the Rock Paper Scissors lesson when you explained simply "makeru no imi wa...moo ikai ganbarimasu." And about how Japanese athletes (as you showed humorously) don't boohoo. I did the exact same thing....just imitating exactly how you did it....and the kids got it. We played the Line Quiz -and when asked the losing team "donna kimochi?" they chanted like Rocky Balboa "try again! try again!" It got so infectious that they were chanting it long after the game ended as I left the class.

Thanks again man.

Todd

-------------------------------------------------------------------

How do you introduce "Losing just means try again" in your class?


September 8th 2008 - The Ponyo Song

Apologies for another Japan themed post, but this song coming to every other country pretty soon...

If you're wondering what that song is that every single kid is singing every single minute of the day at the moment, it's from the movie "Gake no ue no Ponyo" (Ponyo on the cliff by the sea) by Ghibli studios. I just mention it because if you do have any kids not paying attention, just mention the song and all eyes will be on you!

Warning: Don't press play unless you want the song in your head all week.





September 7th 2008 - Primary English FAQ videos

During the summer every day and in every city I had the teachers being stressed out by the same problems and worries. Most of them are really easy to solve, but seeing as they are so widespread I've just uploaded several videos to the Japanese FAQ (yoku aru shitsumon) page. Adding in the video jokes really takes away the stress!

Here's a quick summary for you in English:

Q: How can I teach English if I can't speak it?


A: Ideally all English teachers would be fluent and have great teaching skills. But there aren't enough of them, so you have to do it! But don't worry. Instead of "teacher teaches the kids" simply flip it round and see it as "kids start from zero AND the teacher starts from zero and we all just learn together".


Q: What should I teach?


A: Think like a kid. For my curriculum I just took all the English that kids ask me at lunchtime or in the corridors and made it into lesson plans. It's free on the website so please feel free to use it. After all there's no point re-inventing the wheel when you're so busy!


Q: What about pronunciation?


A: Just as you wouldn't want kids learning Japanese from my pronunciation, we don't want them learning your katakana pronunciation either. But don't worry. Just use the the talking picture cards on the software part of the GE CDs. Just hit a button and the computer does all the work, you just learn with the kids. Then in the game the kids will noticed your accent is wrong, but don't worry, at that point it's the trying that counts!


Q: I want more games and songs


A: Look on the Genki English site, there are loads. With the songs, traditional songs aren't that useful for kids. So I simply made my own that only use the target English from each class. Use these and it's really easy to review everyday i.e. the kids don't forget everything by the next lesson!


Q: How can I structure a 45 minute lesson?
A: Here's a simple example to start you off.

Q: What to do about letters?


A: Just like with a baby, speaking and listening are first. Then once the kids can converse in English you can introduce reading and writing. Personally I'd prefer to keep reading and writing for junior high, where it can be a new challenge. But in any case speaking and listening first.


Q: I want to learn English myself?
Great! Here's a book I wrote with all the ideas I use myself to learn languages. It's free online, so please enjoy!


Show the videos to your teachers and hopefully it will lead to a stress free year for you!

Or do you come across any other problems with your teachers? If so I've probably got a few more ideas that can help!



September 5th 2008 - Kobe - New Mini Cards + Your Requests

Whilst I was visiting Gaz' town the other week he showed me lots of new minicards he'd made, including mini versions of the picture books and these mini cards for "Do you have any brothers and sisters?"

They're great for games, for example do the song then even something simple like...

1. Everyone asks one kid "Do you have any brothers and sisters?"
2. This kid takes a card from the pack and answers with whatever is on the card.
3. Repeat from step 1 with a new kid.
4. To add tension, make one card a "magic card", if this card appears everyone has to rush to the wall before being tagged!

It's also the time of year again for you to make requests for new materials or picture books. Please leave your request in the comments below (comments are great aren't they!) Some things I might already have ready to go and just haven't put on the site yet, some others may take a little time, but for example here are some of the items from this year that all came about from your requests. I hope you find them useful!

water melon
Photo Real Flashcards
"The One" Card Games
The Vegetables Song
Printable Snakes & Ladders Games
"One page" Lesson Plans
40+ Spaghetti Worksheets
Islands Game Worksheets.
Printable Dice

So, what would you like this year, you know your kids better than I do, so get requesting away!


September 4th 2008 - Kobe - Anyone can learn a language?

Yesterday the Guardian in the UK had an article about my favourite of favourite language teachers the late Michel Thomas.: My message "anybody can learn". The interesting think about this article was that it is about taking Michel Thomas' ideas and methods and using them in normal schools instead of just private learners. I think this is a great idea, and something I do already, his method is the best in the world. For example just telling your students not to worry about learning, to just relax, all the responsibility is with the teacher and the materials, makes such a huge difference.

The best bit is there is a new book out soon about his method called Michel Thomas: The Language Revolution which looks like an excellent read for any language teacher

To prove again how good his system is, I'm supposed to be learning Hindi for when I head back to India next month. But I'm having a hard time of it, just because there aren't any good materials out there. I bought the standard "phrasebook CDs" (e.g. the Lonely Planet and the Berlitz one) but they never stick. I also splashed out on Rupert Snell's Teach Yourself Hindi which just sends you to sleep (in fact that's what I use it for if I can't get to sleep on a night! Sorry Rupert.)

But in complete contrast, when I heard about the upcoming Beijing gig last week I put on the new Michel Thomas Speak Mandarin Chinese course and it is the best Chinese course I've ever heard. Even though it's done by a new guy, Dr Goodman, who actually emailed me the last time I blogged about the course, he's taken all Michel's best bits and really made an excellent Chinese course.

So anyway, getting back to the Guardian article I do agree with the guy at the end who says that any method gets watered down when 400,000 teachers start using it (I see that all the time with teachers just taking bits of Genki English and leaving the most important stuff!) but I also think his ideas will be very useful for many teachers.

Also here's the BBC documentary about Michel Thomas again:



Well, don't just take my word for it, now we have the funky new comments (and a chance to win a CD of your choice when you make one!) why not let us know what you think of Michel Thomas and his ideas (have you tried his materials? Or why not?) or do you have any other great language teachers you could recommend? Looking forward to hearing from you!



September 3rd 2008 - France to offer free English lessons

There's an article on the BBC today about the French Education Minister's decision to offer free English lessons to all students in the school holidays. The BBC says ...

Xavier Darcos announced the plans on Monday, insisting that speaking fluent English was the key to success. Xavier Darcos said it was a "handicap" to speak poor English. He said that while "well-off families pay for study sessions abroad, I'm offering them to everyone right here".

Coming from France, which usually resists any English, this is a huge statement to make. I also imagine this might lead to new employment opportunities for those of you in Europe!


P.S. Speaking of school holidays, I've extended the CD7&CD8 Owners Club half price offer until Friday, be sure to take advantage of it if you don't already have CD7! After Friday CD7 will go back to the normal price of 4,200 yen (around $38)



September 2nd 2008 - Politics & English

Today I was going to introduce the YouTube video by the new (well, 2 weeks ago) Education Minister in Japan.

For ten years the government has been saying "primary school English will be compulsory very soon" but every time we get a new Minister they cancel it. For example in 2007 it was supposed to happen, but then Mr Bunmei, as the new Minister, cancelled it as the pretty much first thing he did.

So it was nice to have a video with the new guy saying what his plans are. But.... last night the Prime Minister resigned! So it looks like we're going to be having another cabinet re-shuffle so once again no one knows what will happen next year.

It's the same thing in Thailand, where the next stage of the Genki English project , i.e. training every teacher in the country, is on hold until the political situation settles down. And with today's news of Bangkok being under a state of emergency that doesn't look like anytime soon. Of course that's the least of the worries for my friends over there in Thailand, I hope you're all well and safe!


September 1st 2008 - Welcome Back!

I hope you had a very nice Summer holiday, and welcome back to the new term!

To start things off, here are my top 3 most fun lessons of the moment!

1) I like animals with the Dinosaur Danger Game
2) Numbers 1 to 11 then Numbers 13 to 20 with Number Golf
3) Genki Disco Warm Up (wiggle your toes extended mix!)

Have a try in your classes, kids love them!

And if you've got your own top three, I'd love to hear them, please write them up over on the forum!


Click here for my diary April - August 2008

Click here for my diary January - March 2008

Click here for my diary November - December 2007

Click here for my diary September - October 2007

Click here for my diary July, August 2007

Click here for my Diary April, May, June 2007

Click here for my Diary January - March 2007

Click here for my Diary August - December 2006

Click here for my Diary March - July 2006

Click here for my Diary January - March 2006

Click here for my Diary October 2005 - December 2005

Click here for my Diary April 2005 - October 2005

Click here for my Diary July 2004 - Apr 2005

Click here for my Diary Jan - June 2004

Click here for my Diary June - December 2003

Click here for Richard's Diary Jan-May 2003

Click here for Richard's Diary 2002!




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