Facing Forward: Teaching Japanese

Since I wrote down my goal of teaching Japanese, and thereby set it in burnable, erasable, rip-up and throw away-able, yet tangible paper, I have seen the world around me with new eyes.

I’m glad I had this realization now and not a year or two from now.  If I’m going to be teaching Japanese in the future… I should be collecting things that will be worthwhile to my future students.  Real applications of Japanese language.  Hand-written bits, printed bits, good bits and pieces of everything around me become treasures for the learning process.

I had a pretty cool idea for a motivational system to integrate into my classroom.  I want to have three treasure chests sitting in the room.  If the students collectively score above a certain number on tests or an assignment, or otherwise perform well on some criteria, I will give them the key to unlock one chest.

Within the chest is an “artifact”.  A man-made item of some sort, somehow related to the subject matter, Japan and Japanese language.  First the students must attempt to figure out what in the world the artifact is.  Once they’ve determined what it is I will present a challenge or activity related to it, some sort of supplementary activity that is both fun and educational.  Then I will restock the chest with a new artifact.  To be unlocked at the next opportunity.

Some of the teaching materials I’ve collected so far, whether to be used in regular daily activities or to be put into my future treasure chests include: Thank you cards with photos from my read-alouds, a letter regarding the nuclear power situation in Shikoku, a letter asking residents to conserve energy by limiting their power consumption for the winter, my Mohei marathon completion certificates (1.5km and two 10km), and issues from my village newsletter.

I just started the collection so it’s not particularly full yet, but I want to continue to add relatively “bite-sized” pieces of Japanese language and culture.   Other things I’m thinking about including are “Gatcha-pon” keyholders and such related to some bit of Japanese culture on which I could do an activity, also Japanese picture books (or if I could somehow manage, kami-shibai).

Also I’ve restructured my adult eikaiwa class to follow a curriculum designed to develop capable and confident speakers of basic English especially with travel and survival English skills in mind.  I started the first lesson aimed toward that end last night.

Major changes to the structure of my eikaiwa will include thematically oriented lessons carried out over a course of three weeks to a month for the same topic.  Review and role-play will become essential aspects of the lessons.  I’ve also decided to change my warm-up activity to phonics work, as at least two of my students have some trouble reading English and others have trouble understanding native spoken English that isn’t said with a heavy Japonicization.

I’ve been changing my Eikaiwa structure since I got here, trying to find a way to accomodate the different levels of speakers that I teach, but lately I’ve come to appreciate the fact that by aiming at the least common denominators in terms of English skills I’m doing the greatest favor to everyone.  The advanced students will learn anyway, by virtue of the fact that they can ask questions and I pose realistic situations and circumstances for them to deal with.  They can also help me by serving as exemplars of how to tackle the role-play situations using English.

I still need a lot of work on my methods, but for a non-Education major I think I’ve come a long way.


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Filed under language, musing, teaching

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