Matthew's Classroom

I have been teaching English to kids in Japan for more than 20 years: public elementary schools in Tokyo for 11 years, and Hello Kids Komazawa for the last 9. For 3 years I have been teaching weekly lessons to students at Tsutsujigaoka Kindergarten. As I tend to stay at the same workplace for a long time, I've been able to see the long-term results of my work. Being able to really see children's English communication ability grow has been very rewarding. I mainly use APRICOT materials in my classroom. They best suit my goal of having students use as much English as possible while developing confidence and self-esteem. I enjoy teaching development, and I love discussing English education with other teachers!
  • 45. 10 Useful Pieces of Advice for Teaching with LEARNING WORLD #4


    This post will look at #4:


    4. Evaluate your lesson on how successful each student feels.


    It is important that students feel “I said what I wanted to say in English!”, and this should be the basis of your lesson. Kids tend to speak when placed in a situation that requires them to do so. As you review your lessons, ask yourself “Was I able to provide enough opportunities for the students to speak?”


    Whoa, now this is a big one. This point asks teachers to really ask themselves “Why am I teaching English? What do I want my students to achieve by taking my lessons?” In most countries around the world where English is taught as a foreign language, teachers (and students) are very clear on what they want lessons to result in: the ability to speak English. In Japan however, our English education is not geared towards this aim at all.


    As you may know, I teach in a small English conversation school for kids in Setagaya, Tokyo. I have a class on Mondays with 5 junior high students. Three of them enjoy speaking out and the seize on every opportunity I provide to do so. The fourth student isn’t really as expressive as her classmates, but will answer any questions addressed to her directly. The other student is fairly new to this class, he is the only boy in the class, and isn’t yet comfortable with speaking out.


    Last week, during an activity that required the students to share information in order for the activity to move forward and be completed, the young boy was not cooperating at all, and this was becoming frustrating for the girls because they really needed the information that he had!
    Suddenly, the student sitting closest to him leaned over to him and whispered in Japanese: “Hey! Come on! Speak please! This is not school here!”


    This comment, I felt, very adequately summed up Japan’s junior high English education: English is not studied as a language for the purpose of speaking it, rather its grammar rules and vocabulary are memorized only for examinations.


    My student’s comment to her classmate also confirmed that my lessons were indeed providing an alternative to her school education, and that is what I believe all of us outside the public school system should provide. As Kawahara-Sensei points out, this should be the basis of our lessons – whether we are using LEARNING WORLD with our students or not.


    For those teachers who are not used to providing speaking opportunities, who are not sure how to do it, but recognize that their students need it, Kawahara-Sensei gives a big hint:


    “Kids tend to speak when placed in a situation that requires them to do so.”


    This is exactly right. Kids on the whole will speak when they need to. So creating that need by way of situations in the classroom, is a major responsibility of their teacher.


    Try asking students to open their textbooks, but don’t tell them the page number. This situation will elicit “What page?” from the students.
    Try standing directly in front of the whiteboard as students are copying information from it into their notebooks. This situation will elicit “Excuse me” from the students.


    There are countless situations to create for students in the classroom. Each situation needs to be created for the specific purpose of students’ output. If your students don’t know the English expression for the English you are trying to elicit, then give the expression to them at that time, then try to elicit it from the students in the same situation a short while later.


    Eventually the amount of English your students can use will grow, and so will their feeling of success with English.

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