Advice Box

Usage and Methods

For Teachers Using Learning World

Compilation of Advice

There is no one way to improve English level. It is important to understand children’s interests and reasons for studying English, and work with them.

Recommendation for Children’s English Education — Continuity —

Japanese children in this 21st century live in an increasingly international world. They have responsibilities to become international Japanese citizens. English education has an important role in preparing children for this responsibility.
If we just focus on increasing children’s English knowledge, it is not enough and we’ll continue to make the same mistakes. Students do not need to just practice the language in the textbook. They need to be taught in a way that is more comprehensive and contributes to their overall development.
The effects that the various processes of language acquisition have on children are infinite. It is important to understand and teach in accordance with children’s intellectual curiosity and developmental stages. Our aims are to provide guidance to children so that they can have a prosperous future.

How to Improve Teaching Methods

Do not forget to listen during the initial period of study. All four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) are important to language acquisition. But often we do not devote enough effort to listening. At this early stage, you should expose children to as much spoken English as possible. Listening to English helps students learn not just vocabulary, but also how words relate to each other and their positions within sentences. You don’t need to worry too much about reading and writing with students who are just beginning. You should also be careful not to “overcorrect” students’ grammar and speaking mistakes at this stage. You can gently repeat the correct way of saying something to them, but without pointing out their error. By listening to English, children will naturally begin to correct their intonation, pronunciation, and word order. Let students listen to lots of fun English during this time! (“Fun English” can be anything from songs to picture books to textbook audio.)

Shortcuts to Improving?

The next important thing to keep in mind is what the children want to know and say. Lessons should be planned around what children want to communicate about their daily lives. Every year, choosing the materials to use in class is important. But even more important on a daily basis is how the teacher interacts with the children. This is important to keep in mind when teaching students of all ages!

Really, There are No Shortcuts to Improving.

Most teachers are probably unfamiliar with the concept of communication that conforms to children’s lives, learning English by “experiencing” it. When children talk about their everyday lives, it is really impossible to predict what they will talk about. Instead of trying to guess what they might say, take the time to really listen and think together with them. You can learn together. Instead of trying to “teach” children, you should help guide them to express what they want to say. Lately, a popular word when talking about the role of a teacher is “facilitator”. It is essential to understand the meaning of and work towards becoming a “facilitator”. are important

When to Start Children’s English Education?

Nowadays, many English schools claim that English education should start from age zero. Many organizations that study English education say that children should start studying English before the age of nine. They say that children up to this age still have the ability to learn and remember the distinctive sounds in the English language so their pronunciation will be fine. Actually, no one can really say that there is an absolute age by which children should start studying English. The fact is that whatever age children are, if they are interested in something, they will mimic and repeat it without getting tired of it. Because of children’s abilities to follow what they are interested in, preschool to lower elementary school is a good time for starting English education.

Children are More Sensitive to Words Than Adults Think!

Children consciously and unconsciously imitate the words and sounds of the people that are most familiar to them. By listening to a lot of English around them, children will little by little begin to chat in English. After the age of 10, it becomes harder for most children to distinguish between sounds that do not exist in Japanese. They will try to make sense of these sounds by comparing them to the closest sounds that exist in Japanese. Therefore, there is benefit to introducing children to the rhythms and sounds of English from a young age. Being introduced to the rhythms and sounds when younger helps children’s ability to hear and pronounce English correctly.

To Teachers

In order for children to acquire language, rather than teaching, it is important to make English a part of their daily lives. Give them lots of opportunities to do things in English. This is the important point of early childhood English education. Children at this age do not have it in their heads to “remember” things, and they also do not yet grasp the concept of “mistakes” in language. At this younger stage, real success is that children are curious about and think English is fun. Children’s English education becomes more complicated when dealing with students who have studied for a few years and with students who are in upper elementary school. With these students, it becomes more important to consider the children’s differences in age and their individual abilities. But with younger children who are just starting to study English, you can relax a bit and enjoy “learning English with them”.

Songs are good for remembering new vocabulary and phrases. Just setting the “lyrics” to a fun melody makes it easier for students to remember the English.

Why are songs good for teaching?

Trying to remember new words and phrases can be intimidating for students.
But if you take the words and phrases and turn them into “lyrics” set to a fun melody, it removes a lot of their anxiety.

When kids are singing a song, a lot of the tension that they feel about trying to remember language just disappears. The vocabulary and phrases become easier to remember. In an emergency when a student cannot remember a certain word or phrase, you can just hum a bit of the song and it will come to them easily!

If you think back your own childhood, you can probably remember some of your favorite advertising jingles. Why? It’s not because of the phrases themselves, even though they may be entertaining. It is the connection you made with the music.

In other words, using music makes it “easy to remember” and “hard to forget“.
Many teachers have observed that when using songs, “children’s voices are louder”, “repetition is not boring”, and “the class atmosphere is more involved and focus is better”.

The feeling that “I can read English!” really comes when students are able to read and understand English that is not in their textbook.

Extensive reading means that children can read in English and understand the content. When engaging in extensive reading, children should be able to understand the meaning without looking up every word they do not know, and it is important that the reading is something the children are interested in. It’s important to start out using materials that have a limited number of words and a controlled vocabulary, so that kids do not need a dictionary and do not feel overwhelmed. The materials should start out with simple sentences and gradually build up to compound and complex sentences. The goal is for readers to build up their reading ability, and more importantly ENJOY reading so that they want to continue reading. One way to get students started on extensive reading is to establish a “reading time” at the beginning of class, having students read 1-2 short books.
In the beginning, you may want to pick a book and read it aloud with them. You can have the students practice until all of them can read it. Recommended reading materials: Springboard series. The series has 16 levels with 8 books per level. An audio CD is sold separately.

Important points to improve children’s reading ability
  1. Choose books that are “easy” to read. (Remember: it’s important for them “to read” and enjoy it!)
  2. Have students read one book at a time at their own pace and level.
  3. Make sure that students are not reading for individual words, but rather the meaning of the phrases.

You want to help students improve their confidence and willingness to read by making reading fun and exciting. “I could read a foreign book!!”

Now, everyone knows that chants are beneficial for language input, but why… Why are they good?

Chants originated in American and Canadian preschools and elementary schools. For the past 15 years in Japan, they have been an effective method of “inputting” English language.
Chants have many strong points. You take the English you want to learn and set it to an appropriate rhythm. Japanese students are particularly weak at understanding word accents, but using a chant makes it easier and more fun for students to grasp this. Students can listen, practice, and repeat as many times as needed without being bored by it. The fun atmosphere created by chants relieves students’ tension and makes it easier to remember. Similar to songs, children can learn grammar and idiomatic expressions without being full cognizant of “studying”.
One advantage of chants over songs is with kids who do not like to sing. Often older kids get shy and do not want to sing anymore, but they feel perfectly comfortable saying words and phrases to a rhythm.

Children quickly forget! It’s important to review and practice more, and it’s never too late to start.

“It is normal for children to forget.” This idea should be the guiding principle behind your curriculum. German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus did research that showed that without reinforcement, it is difficult to remember information. He established the “Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve”.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve Line Graph

The chart shows:
After 20 minutes, 42% is forgotten.
After 1 hour, 56% is forgotten.
After 1 day, 74% (3/4!!) is forgotten.
After 7 days, 77% is forgotten.
After 1 month, 79% is forgotten.
This means that the next day, students will only remember 20-30% of newly learned English!

There are things that you can do to help reduce students’ “forgetfulness”: activities which input the language as “knowledge” and not just phrases to remember and activities that get students really thinking about and using the language.

Certain types of actvities have been found to be effective in helping students remember more language:

  • Visually appealing materials: 20%
  • Group study: 50%
  • Experience: 75%
  • Telling another person: 90%

Most students in Japan only have “1 lesson per week”, so they are prone to forget easily! The Learning World series books have a few features to help students remember language more effectively. One features is that every fourth lesson is a review lesson to go over language from the entire unit. Some other features include:

  1. Lesson plans have plenty of time and flexibility (play time) built into them!
    • Each unit: 3 regular lessons with a 4th review lesson so teachers can spend time on language students are having a hard time remembering.
    • Each text: 10 units, with the goal of completing one unit a month. This leaves 2 months at the end of the year to review the entire text, and allows teachers time to use for other activities (including phonics, reading, and writing — based on age).
  2. Rather than continuously “increasing” language, the key aim of Learning World is to “use” the language!
    All of the books review and slowly add language in a spiral so that students can remember and use it.
  3. Start from listening, and build from there.

In order to increase students’ opportunities to hear language, the Student CD track number is printed in the Student Book.
At home, students can easily open to the page they studied in class, and listen to and practice the language they used in class. You should encourage students to practice the language at home with the goal of being able to say it at the beginning of the next lesson.
(In order to avoid the effects of the “forgetting curve” above, it is important to get students into the habit of listening to and practicing English at home between lessons.)

* Many teachers have reported that it is difficult to get students into the habit of practicing with the CD at home. But teachers have said that when students practice with the CD at home, their English retention rate is noticeably improved. Assign students listening homework, but then you have to make sure to follow up at the beginning of the next lesson by having them review the language they practiced at home. This provides better motivation for the students to practice at home.

Many believe that “just phonics” is not adequate to teach students to read. What does it mean “to be able to read”?

Phonics is a tool to teach students the sounds of the individual letters and the sounds certain letters make when combined in various ways. It is a tool for strengthening children’s reading ability. When students understand phonics, they can see a word they do not know and figure out how to say it.
For children with English as their mother tongue, they already know many, many words from their daily life. Japanese children who start learning phonics usually only have a limited vocabulary. This is a big difference.
When beginning to study phonics, it is recommended that students know how to hear and say some vocabulary first. Then use these words to start teaching phonics rules. If you have to teach students a lot of vocabulary in order to teach them phonics, then it’s too soon. You don’t want to spend your time teaching words for the sake of teaching the phonics rules. It is better to wait until the students have built up some basic vocabulary through regular lessons. Also, after teaching a phonics rule, an effective way to reinforce the rule, is to read a book with words that follow the rule. The Click on Phonics Handbook outlines a 44 week curriculum for teaching phonics, including photocopiable phrase, sentence, and picture cards. This curriculum is designed with Japanese elementary school children in mind. It teaches basic rules and can easily be incorporated into regular lessons.
When talking about language education, we talk about four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Phonics is designed to improve the level of reading skills. As students reading skills improve, they can naturally pick up vocabulary and phrases. As their vocabulary increases, students can better understand stories and get information on their own. It is important to teach them some of these skills as you teach them phonics. Phonics is a first step to extensive reading.

Should students practice writing capital and lower case letters from pre-school age 4 (年中) and age 5 (kindergarten/年長)?

Beginning writing really depends on the children’s developmental stage. The first step to writing is being able to properly write alphabet letters.
Some people involved in early childhood English education believe that students should start writing as soon as possible, but it is really not necessary for children at the kindergarten age to start writing. Starting writing in English from second grade, once children have mastered the concepts of how to hold a pencil correctly and apply proper pressure, is early enough.
When children are younger, it is a great chance to really focus on listening and speaking skills. You can introduce students to the letters and words on picture cards when teaching vocabulary. Students can start out learning how to “sight read” some of these words. When students are able to write letters properly on 4-line ruled paper, it is a good time to start teaching them how to write. In the Workbooks accompanying the Learning World Student Books (from Book 1), students will start writing little by little.
(In some cases where students have been studying English for 2 or 3 years, it may be appropriate to start teaching them writing earlier.)

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