Aftershocks 3

Teachable Moments

We love JapanI had a wonderful moment in class this week.  I printed out the comments on the We love Japan message board and took them to one of my adult classes. I thought they would provide some lovely, simple reading material on a topic that my students are very familiar with—the earthquake and tsunami. My hidden agenda was to review (again!) how posting comments works online. (On the one hand, my students are sure that any comment they post anywhere online will result in their identity being stolen. On the other hand, they just don’t get the point of anti-spam words.)

Students divvied up the comments, and started by scanning them for locations and then posting them on a world map. Since my students travel a lot, they were especially keen about comments from places that they’d been.

Then, they noticed that most of the comments had a similar message, but used different words to convey it. So we identified the primary messages in the comments–I’m sorry this happened, I’m thinking of you, Be strong—and  I wrote each of the categories on the board. Then I got out of the way. Students took turns reading comments and deciding which bits fit the various categories. At times they asked for translations or explanations, and wrote words and phrases they particularly liked in each of the categories on the board.

They were particularly impressed by comments left by language learners or children–that they were brave enough to leave a message even though they made mistakes.

When they were finished, they’d created a very nice vocabulary bank of words and phrases to show support and caring. They ended up back at my hidden agenda a bit by writing their own comments and pretending to submit them–filling in email and spam word and all (we don’t have Internet in class, so I printed out that part of the message board, too).

Not a very flashy activity, but quite satisfying all the way around. It isn’t often that we have such a collection of short, simple messages on a common theme. I recommend it.

Students can donate $1 to help Japan just by leaving a message of support

After the quake, I heard from teachers whose students wanted to send messages to show they cared. Russell Willis at ELT News was kind enough to create the We love Japan message board so that teachers and students (and anyone else) could send a simple message of support to people in Japan. They’re promoting the messages through their Japanese language network as well, so a lot of Japanese teachers and their students will be aware of the messages (at least when they have electricity and Internet and computers again).

This week, Russell announced that will donate 50 cents for each message (up to 2000) to the Pearson Foundation’s Japan Relief Fund. Since the Foundation is currently matching donations, each message will end up meaning a $1 donation. I think it’s a great opportunity for children to be able to feel like they are making a difference.  You can read more about the program in Russell’s editorial. (plus information about other exciting relief projects!)

Pearson has only promised to match donations until March 31st (so far), so I hope you will consider taking this idea into your classes early this week! If your students have already left messages, please let them know that $1 is going to be donated on their behalf.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with more news about relief efforts big and small, and more ways we can all help :-)

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

About Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto has taught English and ESL in the US, and EFL in Japan. An EFL teacher and teacher trainer since 1985, she has conducted workshops throughout Asia, the USA and Latin America. Barbara’s motto is ‘Always try new things’, so these days, when she’s not teaching, writing, or giving workshops, she’s exploring the potential of new technologies for collaboration and professional development. You can often find Barbara online working with teachers around the world as Program Director for International Teacher Development Institute ( or on her new blog for English teaches who work with young learners, Teaching Children English.

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2 Responses

  1. I have just left a comment myself Barbara and urged my students to do so, as well. That is the very least we can do!