“To speak Japanese or not to speak Japanese, that is the question” – Hamlet. English teachers in Japan have been pondering this NOT so famous quote from Shakespeare for centuries. Dost thou or dost not thou? My goal with every class is to use as little Japanese as possible. Show how, rather than explain how. Use gestures when possible. And only use Japanese when it’s necessary to the flow of the class.These are a few of my personal guidelines. But how do you prevent your students from speaking Japanese? For my older students (fifth and six grade). I introduced “Don’t speak Japanese time!” During a speaking activity, I take out a timer and sign that says “Don’t speak Japanese”. Depending on the activity and level of students, I set the timer for two to five minutes. During this time, no Japanese (or any other language) except English is to be spoken. When the activity is over, I praise all the students and take the sign down. This does NOT mean speaking Japanese is encouraged, just acceptable when nessesary. I find if the students know there is a time limit, there is little pressure to speak only English. They even correct me when I slip up! When you first take out the sign, some students will applaud and some will groan, but in the end they will all have fun!
Recently the amount of classes I teach a day has increased. Which leads me to think more about energy management. Not just classroom energy, but personal energy. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re having an energy crisis. So go get yourself a cup of coffee now and think about these questions. How do you feel at the end of your lesson? Are you exhausted or are you sleepy? How about your students? Are you conducting your lessons like a rabbit on double espressos or are you a sloth on cough medicine? Do you have a good healthy breakfast everyday? Do you get enough sleep? Do you exercise? Whats the flow of your lessons like? Is there a mix of high energy songs and activities and calm activities? Are YOU talking too much? Do you pause enough to let things sink in? Do you have an activity or song ready to quiet your students or bring the energy level up?
If you don’t have a problem with energy management, congratulations. Just ignore these questions and have a good lesson you young whippersnapper.
What do I enjoy most about teaching kids? Making them laugh. I learned a lot about making kids laugh from doing magic and from other magicians. Here is a link to a article for magicians, but you can apply it to teaching kids as well. Some of the points he makes are:
- Treating and object like something else
- Calling an object by a different name.
- Name play
- Make up sentences.
- Thing that don’t belong together.
- Physical comedy.
Speaking of “Bob’s Frog”. You weren’t? Anyway, A very famous frog, as well as a lot of talented people are celebrating their 40th anniversary. You guessed it. Sesame Street. Recently I have been watching a lot of Sesame Street with my one year son. It’s brilliant! Are you stuck for ideas for lessons? Watch some Sesame Street. Do you want to learn how to talk and treat kids respectfully. Watch Sesame Street. Sesame Street is the place where imagination lives!
I’m always happy when a student wants to try some new English word or phrase on me. Today a 10-year-old boy came up to me and said, “cough please”. Surprised I thought I miss heard him. Again he said, “cough please”. Now the last time I was ask this was at my last physical checkup, but I politely covered my mouth and coughed. The boy replied in English “BLESS YOU!”
Try this activity towards the end of the class or when you need your students to quiet down a bit. Tell your students to “read my lips” or “what am I saying”. Using vocabulary words, letters, numbers or short phrases, without speaking pronounce the words correctly but in a slightly exaggerated way. Students try to guess what your are saying. Give a point or sticker to students who guess correctly.