Karatsu Kunchi 2013
This is an extremely arrogant, “I’m an awesome ALT”, post, just to prepare you. It’s for any newbies who are a bit nervous about their first ES classes to show they have nothing to worry about- everything about you, the new teacher, will be the awesomest thing ever!
LESSON 1: THE SELF INTRODUCTION CLASS
I really enjoy using the textbook Hi, Friends but I like to use it more as a guide for my lesson planning or as a way of introducing the topics that I then expand upon.
So! My first class with the fifth graders usually goes like this:
I come in, they scream hello at me, I smile and am very expressive when they talk to me but try not to say anything until class starts. Once we’ve bowed and everyone sits down I take a deep breath then bellow “BONJOUR!” and wave wildly. Hopefully, they will stare at me in utter confusion then laugh as I look worried and try and think of another word. “JAMBO!” I’ll try, to potentially the same response although some students may start to catch on. They all suddenly realise what I’m doing when I next try “NIHAO” and “ANNYEONGHASEYO”, stumble over “Kon… Kon… Nichiwa?” and eventually “HELLO!”. And then I give my self introduction.
“Hello! My name is Emily Jane Atkinson.” I write my name on the board, say it’s a bit long so add, “Just call me Emily,” as I underline my name.
“I’m 24 years old,” I say, flicking a two then a four up with my fingers. When they get it, I write it on the board.
“I’m from the UK.” As the UK has such a variety of names, I thought I might as well go for the shortest and easiest to read one although they usually don’t know it so I have them guess for a bit then maybe give them a hint like, “What’s USA?”
“America!” they cry.
“So how about the UK?”
Eventually they get it and I write it on the board finishing with a cheerful “Nice to meet you”.
So then I explain that today we are going to practice meeting and greeting. I write A-san and B-san on the board and ask them what would they say when they first see each other. That’s easy, “Hello.” I write hello (even though they won’t be able to read it- it’s a nice guide for them later) for A and B. We then practice this initial greeting by throwing my mascot back and forth three times. They love my mascot (a round cat with a samurai helmet christened Samurai-chan) and I highly recommend getting one although don’t expect them to be careful with it. After three years, Samurai-chan is a little beat up.
So next! I ask them what would A and B ask each other if they’d just met for the first time? They may suggest “Nice to meet you” as that’s the typical pattern for a Japanese greeting so I say that’s good and write it but at the bottom of the board and ask for another idea.
They will suggest, “My name is _____”
It’s up to you whether you teach them the question and answer or just the answer. Just practicing “My name is _____” is easier as they tend to already know it but if you practice it with them a few times, “What’s your name?” isn’t particularly difficult for them either. I chuck the mascot to a few volunteers to practice then finish the greeting off with “Nice to meet you” and throw my mascot around some more.
Then we practice the entire dialogue together and maybe even split the class into A and B to really hammer it home.
Give them all a small piece of card (coloured or otherwise- just a scrap piece is fine though) and have them write their name in hiragana (if you can’t read kanji, like me!) or let them write it in English if they know how- if they do, they write it very proudly; it’s very cute!
Write one for yourself and the HRT (Home Room Teacher) can write one, too. You will quickly get to know your HRT and how much involvement or what sort of role they want to play within your classes so if they are particularly into it and on standby- use them for as many demonstrations as possible as it’s really good for the students to see a Japanese person using English. Also, if you want to only use English in your class then it’s good to have them there to either give a Japanese explanation when the kids are stuck or try and explain it in a way they know their class will understand; don’t worry or get bothered by it, they know what they’re doing!
NOTE: the HRT may not know a lot of English so you might want to run over the dialogues with them before class. Anyway, I’m writing my lesson plans like it’s mostly all on you as the ALT but if you can, get that teacher as involved in your classes as possible.
Anyway, if you’ve got a willing teacher, demonstrate the dialogue with them in front of the students then swap name cards. You then become the teacher and the teacher becomes you so when you next introduce yourself you say, “My name is Tokunaga Sensei!” for example. A friend of mine recommended this idea to me and it’s great fun. I have the students running around introducing themselves and swapping cards for a few minutes then have them sit back down and have a few volunteers give self introductions.
“Hello. My name is ______” -everyone laughs- ”Nice to meet you.”
Done! Then, I go back to the greetings I used at the beginning of class. We think about what countries they come from (very briefly) and I show them flags if they don’t know. We also practice a few greetings together.
Then, I erase the question “What’s your name?” (no problem if you decided against teaching it) and add “I’m from ______” and work out what it means with them and practice it with the mascot.
I give each student a card with a country and the country’s greeting on it (again, a game from a friend). Instead of saying “Hello” they say the greeting on the card (written in katakana) and instead of “I’m from Japan” they say the country on their card.
This is where I complicate things- it works but if you think it’s too “busy” then you obviously don’t have to use it.
I give each student a “nice to meet you sign sheet”. To show them what to do, I demonstrate the dialogue with the HRT, swap papers with them, we sign each other’s paper and swap back. Have a loopy, quick signature ready to flaw the kids (I also have them choose their favourite colour pen to write in)!
I then challenge them to see how many names they can get under a time limit, we check, clap and/or give out stickers and that’s a wrap!
I really think it’s a good way to start out with very lively speaking activities so they are introduced to your pattern of speaking and can feel confident about starting out as you and they will be surprised at what they already know (“hello”, “my name is” and “nice to meet you” being some examples!) and you’re not overwhelming them with loads of information about yourself and your country in a stream of English.
Some people argue that it is really important to use lots of Japanese in Elementary School classes. I partly agree as it’s useful when they’re really stuck to drop in the odd keyword but I am very much on the use-lots-of-English side. Even explanations. Remember that gesturing is a big part of communication, too and it is pretty amazing how much they can understand without translation.