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Japan

Very Cool! Meeting online friends face-to-face

Last year, I had my first ever “Tweet Up” at the JALT Conference in Shizuoka. For those not familiar with Twitter, a Tweet Up is when people who know each other through Twitter have a chance to meet face-to-face. Even though we were still a relatively small group of Twitter-using teachers, the excitement was huge. It added an entirely new dimension to the conference for me, and for others. Because the conversation began before the conference did, and continued long after it ended, the conference “high” lasted longer, too! (more…)

What I did on my summer vacation…

Ohisashiburi!

That’s a Japanese greeting for when greeting friends after a long absence, and I certainly have been gone a long time!

Where I’ve been….

I actually planned on unplugging for a little while this summer. My daughter was home from college and I wanted time with her.

Then, we went to Maui, and most days I was in the water,

hanging out with the fish . . . .

. . . . and the turtles.

(If you can’t get enough of other people’s vacation photos, more of mine are here.)

Then, we returned to Japan. After helping friends buy furniture and move into their new apartment, I was inspired. After over a year and a half living here, I figured it was about time to unpack our books. (with a professor and a teacher who both write, books are an occupational hazard!) From there, events unfolded rather like one of my favorite picture books–

If you want to unpack the books, you’re going to have to buy some shelves.

Then, if you buy (relatively) inexpensive shelves, you’re going to have to put them together.

Before you can put up the shelves, you’re going to have to move all the boxes and clean the floor.

Then, you might as well wash the drapes.

And, while the drapes are off, you might as well wash the windows, too.

And the screens.

Finally, you can put the books on the shelves.

But, because you have way more books that you thought you had, you’re going to have to buy some more shelves :-)


And suddenly, it was September!

Where I’m going to be. . .

On Sunday, September 26th I’ll be at The Chubu Junior and Senior High School Teachers’ Seminar in Nagoya. The theme is “Collaborate to Motivate.” If you’re in the area, there’s a great line up of speakers (Chuck Sandy, Darren Elliott, Mark Kulek, Mike Stockton, and more!). It’s free, but you’ll need to pre-register.

I’ll be doing an online presentation/workshop sometime during the weekend of October 8th and 9th for the 3rd Virtual Round Table Conference. The theme for the conference is “Language Learning with Technology.” This will be my first online workshop, so fingers crossed! The conference schedule has not yet been finalized, but I’ll link to it as soon as it is.

November will be a busy month. First, there’s JALT 2010, the biggest gathering of language professionals in Japan. This year, JALT will be in Nagoya from November 19th through the 21st. The theme is “Creativity: Think Outside the Box” , and I’ll be doing two workshops. The first, High Tech Ideas for Low Tech Classrooms, will explore ways that teachers with limited technology access in the classroom can exploit the benefits of Web 2.0 technology and the social Internet. The second, Making phonics work for your student: from sounds to reading, will take a lighthearted journey through the history of phonics and the many ways we’ve taught children to read since the 16th century. Rather than adhering to any particular “brand” of phonics, teachers can pick and choose from among an array of approaches and techniques–some familiar, some not–in order to create a phonics programs as unique as their students. I’ll also be part of the OUP Experts forum, with Michael Swan and others (Sunday afternoon, sometime). If you are going to be in Nagoya for JALT, I hope you’ll let me know–I love meeting my online friends!

I’ll finish up this year with two workshops at ETJ Expos. On Sunday, November 28th, I’ll be in Osaka, for the Kansai Expo and on Sunday, December 5th I’ll be in Fukuoka for the Kyushu Expo.

What else I’ll be doing…

Blogging. I have several great guest posts for Teaching Village in the pipeline—great ideas on exploiting Power Point in the classroom from David Dodgson, more ideas for using mind mapping for writing from Hobie Swan, and another game makeover from Marco Brazil. Then, of course, there are my own posts, waiting in draft form. And, several interviews and guest posts that I’ve promised to others (and won’t jinx by mentioning specifics!).

Other writing projects. I write a monthly editorial for ELT News (sharing the duties with David Paul, Steven Herder and Theron Muller). I had an interesting, if unexpected experience trying to access my facebook account from a new computer in a different country—what happens when you can’t identify your friends from their pictures—and I’ll be sharing that experience in my next editorial.

I also write a column for the Teachers Learning with Children (from the JALT Teaching Children Special Interest Group). The next two issues will be online, so they’ll be easy to share. Or, you can join the TCSIG and get all of the issues :-)

I’m also going to start working on a series of easy, digital English readers to get some more mileage out of the photos I got on vacation–can anyone recommend a program to create online books that allows me to embed narration?

I had a great time offline, but it’s good to be back! See you around!

PALAYOK: Reinvention of a Traditional Game for EFL Classrooms (by Marco Brazil)

Cultural Background

Ask any Filipinos about Pukpuk Palayok or Hampas Palayok, and chances are they played it or saw it played at least once during their childhoods. The game is so immensely popular that any celebration or town fiesta is not complete without children (oh yes, sometimes adults) playing it. Having been colonized by the Spaniards for three hundred and thirty three years, Pukpuk Palayok is the Filipino version of Piñata, and just like the fiesta, Spaniards used the game to attract natives to their ceremonies and convert them to their religion. The Filipinos, known for reinventing things to suit their needs out of limited resources, adapted it by using a clay pot instead of the Mexican painted paper Piñata. In those times paper and paints were scarce and expensive, whereas clay pots were plentiful and cheap.

In the Philippines, pupok means to hit, and palayok is a clay pot, so the game literally means to hit a pot. Traditionally, the game is played with the decorated clay pot filled with goodies (candies, sweets, coins, and sometimes peso bills), suspended by string in the air, high enough for players to reach it. A long bamboo stick is used to hit and break the pot, so that players as well as by-standers can grab as many goodies as they can. The player who breaks the pot wins a prize, usually in currency.

Pukpok Palayok: Reinvented for EFL classrooms

For EFL classrooms, Pukpok Palayok uses no clay pot, nor a bamboo stick. Instead, the game makes use of the white board, picture cards (with magnets attached at the back), and an oversize hat (my children hate to be blindfolded with a handkerchief). In this adaptation, hitting is not permitted; children make use of their sense of directions, understanding of the commands given, and using their hands to feel for the targets. In my experience, the game works wonderfully for preschoolers, for teaching the alphabet, colors, shapes, fruits and vegetables. While, for elementary graders, it works very well for foods, practicing specific target language (“I’m hungry! What do you want? I want a hamburger. Go find it!” or “Where are you going? I’m going to the supermarket. Go find it”).  In addition to the target language, this is a great way to reinforce language for giving directions like; go straight, to your left, to your right, stop, that’s it, etc.

Target Language Examples

S1: I’m hungry!

Class : What do you want?

S1 : I want (hamburgers).

Class: Go find it!

***

Class: What’s for (lunch)?

S2: (Spaghetti) is for lunch.

***

Class : Where are you going?

S3 : I’m going to the (park).

***

Class: How are you going there?

S3 : I’m (riding a bicycle).

Class: Have fun!

Players

Two (2) or more (the more the merrier!)

Materials

picture cards

board

some magnets

a party hat (oversize) or blindfold

How to play

  1. Determine the order of play.
  2. In random, attach all the picture cards on the board.
  3. Instruct the players to remember the placement of each card.
  4. The first player takes his turn. He stands 12 steps (more is better) away from the board. The other players ask the question; for example, “What do you want? The first player answers “I want (a hamburger).” The other players answer back “Go, find it!”
  5. The first player puts on the over size hat (covering his or her face), and turns around three times.
  6. The other players give directions, starting with “Go straight!” “To your right!” “To your left!” etc. The aim is for the player to find the target by following directions given by other players.

Note : For large number of players, for example twenty (20) , it is best to group them into four (4) teams of five members each. One player will have to be blindfolded, while the other four members give the directions to find the target picture card.

Marco Brazil has been training teachers and teaching children English for over fifteen years. He maintains strong a strong commitment to making English fun and easy for both teachers and learners. He occasionally writes articles and gives teaching presentations for Oxford Kid’s Club Teaching Tour mostly, on games (You can see handouts from his workshops here and here).  Marco is the director/owner of SmartKids Circle. You can find Marco on Facebook or follow him on his blog, Mabuhay Classroom.

The Star Festival: Teaching Tanabata in English

Part of the series: EFL Makeovers

July 7th is Tanabata, or the Star Festival, in Japan. Legend says that Orihime (a weaver, represented by the  star Vega) and Hikoboshi (a cowherd, represented by the star Altair)  are allowed to cross the Milky Way to meet each year on the seventh evening of the seventh month each year. Children often decorate bamboo branches with colorful origami decorations, and their wishes. (more…)

Long Ago Lessons in a Japanese High School

Part of the series: Lessons Learned from Students

Back with the ink was barely dry on my MATESOL, I had a group of students from whom I learned many, many lessons. This post is about three of those lessons…

The setting: A once-a-week English class at a high school in Japan, in the mid 1980s.

The characters: Sixty 16-year old boys who had never seen a foreign person “up close and personal” and me, a teacher who still thought she actually knew something about teaching and whose Japanese repertoire consisted of hello, thank you, and I’m lost. (more…)

30 teachers from 16 countries (and counting!)

Earlier this month, I awoke to a lovely message telling me that Teaching Village was the TEFL Site of the Month. While always thrilled to get an award of any kind, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t sure what this award was for (I’m still sort of new to this blogging business). So, I went over to TEFL.net and learned Teaching Village was being recognized for having developed “a rich community of English teachers from around the world.” (more…)

Teaching Young Learners with Songs (by Matt Richelson)

Barbara was so kind to ask me to write about how to use songs with young learners.  I have learned a lot from teaching English using songs, and I am happy to share what I know.

I have a background in music, and bringing music into the classroom has been very natural for me.  What if you don’t have a musical background? Don’t worry!  You do not have to be a great singer, or musician to use songs with kids. Just be enthusiastic!

If you are new to using songs you may think, why songs? Songs are great for many reasons. The melodies help the words stick into children’s heads. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head you couldn’t get out? The rhythm of the songs helps the children speak in a natural flow.  Simply put, they are great practice! Also, many ESL and EFL songs nowadays have built in actions and activities.  So when we sing “I brush my teeth”, then we can do the action while we sing. This combination of singing, and doing actions really helps stimulate the memory of the child. Oh, and it is fun! (more…)

Whatever gets them through the door (by Daniel T. Kirk)

Over the last twenty-three years, I have taught English to people in every demographic category other than homeless people. Over that time, the issue that continues to pique my interest is their motivation for carrying their feet across the threshold of my classroom. I have an idea about what gets my college students into class, but what about other hard working folks that don’t need a credit?

(more…)

Flap Books: A Simple Secret for Student Support! (by Lesley Ito)

I think what every teacher needs to know is this simple secret to successful ESL/EFL classes: Students can accomplish so much more if the lesson has proper support. It is very difficult for students, particularly at the EFL level, to stand up in front of the class and spontaneously tell a story or talk about their lives. One great way to provide support is with a simple, versatile craft called a Flap Book. Students can use these as a prop for communication as they hold their Flap Books and then lift the flaps as needed to remind them of what they want to say.

(more…)

Love, Kindergarten Style

This year, my kindergarten class liked each other a lot, in song and craft.

(more…)