Long Ago Lessons in a Japanese High School

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13 Responses

  1. David says:

    Great reflection and I especially enjoyed number 3! Yes, we got to laugh.

    About number 2. I also have learned the lesson to not just learn some of the L1 BUT more more more more more more more importantly, allow them if they are communicating about the task/activity/learning – to speak their L1.

    Yeah, many will question me but it I’ve come to the conclusion that great teachers really focus on “meaning” and not the form. Then, when students are comfortable to produce / output the target language, it will come. Until then, let them use their L1 – in all cases they will be getting receptive language and progressing. Too often teachers “strangle” learners with one language (even if not explicitly but by manner, philosophy). Let them communicate , whatever, so long as on task…. took me a long time to learn this.

    Your lessons are not long ago. Still pertinent.


    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Good point, David. I’ve also noticed that understanding my students’ language helps me to identify what my students want to be able to say English, especially with my younger students!

  2. danilyra says:

    Thank you for making me laugh after the lousy game I had to watch yesterday. Nobody was really happy about it down here in Brazil… I’ve been an EFL teacher for ages and I truly benefit from people’s experiences in a different cultural environment. Yes! a sense of humor will always help!

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thanks, Dani. Happy to give you a laugh! A sense of humor helps with everything, doesn’t it? Even soccer 🙂

  3. Colin Graham says:

    Oh how I identify, Barbara, and it’s not just Japanese 16yr old boys either!

    One of my first experiences with Japanese boys of that age was when they were visiting my place of work for the typical 2-day package… My lesson was supposed to be ‘Homestay’ English. Their class teacher had two groups to supervise and once we got started, she disappeared to the other group.

    Three of my 24 decided to make paper planes with their worksheets and started a trend. We ended up having a paper-plane throwing contest. Their teacher returned, watched for a couple of minutes and asked me why we (=I) had departed from the agreed upon (and paid-for) lesson. I explained. She just said “I see” and encouraged the use of target language, organized the boys into teams and helped explain the competition rules.

    I was pretty new to teaching in Japan, and I learned a couple of things – the importance of group-work, teenage boys are the same the world over, and most importantly: experienced teachers observe, ask “why?” and then (re)act.

    Funnily enough, the boys’ teacher said they’d probably spoken more English during that 90 minutes than they had during the prior year. She thought it was probably because they forgot it was supposed to be an English lesson!

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      What a great addition, Colin!

      This group is also the first class to have given me a nickname. I didn’t learn about it until I discovered that we had a seating chart. Everyone had nicknames, actually. Mine was “barabara hochikisu” which was a nice play on Barbara Hoskins, I thought. Apparently, my fast English felt like staples shooting across the room (barabara meaning scattered and hochikisu meaning stapler, for readers not familiar with Japanese).

      The seating chart also FINALLY solved the mystery of which of Takashi Takahashi’s names was his given name and which was his family name 🙂

  4. Hi Barb,

    This post made me miss my high school English language learners from Texas! They were from 12 different countries including Japan, but the ones from Mexico were the ones I had to watch out for! I’m so glad I was never easily offended and could laugh things off. They did the same thing, except with post it notes so it was easy to remove! 🙂 Some of their journal articles, though, still had evidence. I remember doing an incredibly cool project they loved where each student chose a commercial and identified the stereotypes, hyperboles, and biases. They wrote papers identifying these then proposing how they would improve the commercial rectifying the things they identified. Then they actually redid the commercial. I have some incredible essays and video commercials that I can’t show because of one little thing here or there since they got all their dorm buddies to participate! Some weren’t even in my class but we were a tight community since there were 70 of them. Arggh they’re my favorite commercials I still treasure and get a laugh from and are pure genius but they will remain off my blog so as not to offend.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Gotta give them credit–post it notes are clever!

      Maybe some day you can post the commercial videos with a disclaimer–if you’re easily offended, don’t push “play” 🙂

      I’m sure many of us would enjoy them!

  5. I love this post, and so à propos. My dear friend Jennifer Yphantidis did a presentation at Nakasendo 2010 about an action research study she did about Japanese use in the classroom. It was great. I tweeted a bit about it, and Colin lead me to this post in reply to one of those tweets. Thanks for this!

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      I actually saw that series of tweets, and appreciate Colin mentioning this post. You did a great job with Nakasendo this year–wish I could have been there with you all.

      I’d love to hear more about Jennifer’s action research study on Japanese use–always a fascinating topic 🙂

  1. June 16, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Barbara Sakamoto and chuck sandy, David Deubelbeiss. David Deubelbeiss said: RT @barbsaka: New post: Long Ago Lessons in a Japanese High School (Lessons learned from students) http://ow.ly/1ZaBJ #efl #esl #edchat […]

  2. June 19, 2010

    […] But, whenever my students were working in pairs, or in small groups, I heard more Japanese than English . I coaxed, I threatened, I separated, I even deducted points from games. But still, when I gave them an activity, I heard whispered … Read more from the original source: Long Ago Lessons in a Japanese High School – Teaching Village […]

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