Friday, 29 April 2011

ESOL English game - dice, vocabulary and grammar - JET programme

Hey there,
I thought I would share with you all the most successful game I made for my Japanese High School's English Conversation class. In every English lesson I have an activity or game that helps to teach the targeted English. Whenever you are teaching a foreign language it is great to get the students using it in a fun way, and make a good teaching environment. This game in particular really succeeded in waking the students up, they actually became quite excited to play it. Let me tell you how to works...

Well, I call this one "dice, vocabulary and grammar" for a reason. It is pretty much exactly that.

The goal:  Review/Practice recent grammar and vocabulary that has been taught in the classroom.
Required: Dice. I gave each team 2 dice (you can probably pick up at a 100 yen store). A set of cards (printed if you like) with vocabulary on them.
Class size, etc: I played this game in a class of about 16 students (senior high school students). I think it could be easily scaled up. You would have to have more vocab and bigger teams however. I think if you make the number of teams close to the size of teams (e.g. 5 teams with 5 in a team) then that'll work better.

How it goes: So this is how my class went down... My class had just learned about weekend activities (going to the gym, watching TV, etc), so I based it on this. I made some vocab cards from the different activities e.g. "watch T.V.". As I said, I had about 16 students. I broke them into 4 groups. Make sure that each team gets about 4-5 vocab cards (scale up/down if needed). Each team gets 2 dice.
So how it works is: 1 or 2 students from each team stay at their table and all the other students will go to other teams tables to try and take vocab cards from them. To steal a vocab card from another team a student must ask a question (based on the grammar/content you are trying to learn). For example "Did you watch TV this weekend?". If the team being asked the question has the vocab for "watch TV" then they must hand it over and say "Yes, I watched TV in the weekend". The student then takes it back to their team. However, before they are allowed to ask the question they must roll the dice. If the student who wants to ask the question win the roll, they may ask. If not, then they must continue on to another group. Whatever team has the most vocab cards in the end wins (time of this activity is decided by you).

Note: This may need translation into Japanese if the students don't understand (which is likely). Ensure you explain the game adequately to your Japanese Teacher of English (JTE).

The dice roll makes the game exciting because of the element of chance. This game works great to teach the grammar and vocab that class is currently working on. It can pretty much be adapted to any targeted grammar or vocab list.

If you ever try it, leave me a comment and let me know how it went. If it works any well, it might just be one that you can print off and save for those surprise classes you will probably receive ;)

Friday, 22 April 2011

Japanese language text book with Manga examples (learn with Manga) - My first textbook

I just wanted to let everyone know about the book I first started learning Japanese with.
So when I first started learning Japanese I was looking for something interesting and also for a text book which actually had good content. I wanted something to follow the Japanese pop culture but also have good teaching. In short, after spending a long time reading amazon comments, I went with the book "Japanese in MangaLand". Yeah I know how it sounds haha, but the cover itself will intrigue you before you even get to the contents.
The title "Japanese in MangaLand" makes it pretty obvious you will be learning Japanese with manga. The book itself consists of around 30 lessons (covering big topics). Each of these lessons has an example section that makes use of Manga illustrations to get across the lessons content. I believe the book itself is aimed at people wishing to read manga. What I like about this is that it starts from the useful Japanese straight away. Traditional textbooks will teach you the formal Japanese long before any casual Japanese. You don't want to be stuck in formal forever, and i'm glad that this book quickly introduces both. This is done especially because Manga (and anime) often use informal language. 

So, this book is about learning the basics (as it says on the cover). It lead me through learning all of the writing systems: hiragana, katakana and beginning kanji (Chinese characters). After first introducing the writing systems at the start, with great charts and an excellent Kanji reference in the back, it will then use them for the rest of the book.  In my opinion, i'm glad the book had a solid stance on learning all of these from the start. Many people will know one or two of the writing systems, but you really need all of them to even begin reading. The sooner the better (esp because the more kanji you know, the easier it is to learn new words and guess meanings of new words).

The books topics range from the writing systems, to basics like counting, days & months, to things like Swear words and insults, onomatopoeia,  particles etc. If you actually have the guts to stick with this book (which isn't to hard to do because of the manga) you'll come away with a good foundation. Of course, this will not be your only Japanese textbook, but it does a great job getting past those basics and actually covering some advanced grammar. Again, this shouldn't be your only textbook, you will never only have 1 textbook when studying languages. One thing this book doesn't have is audio so you can hear the new vocabulary, however, the Japanese language is not exactly the hardest phonetically. But make sure you have a few text books to strike a balance ;) I myself use about 2-3 different sources (textbooks and online).

To those about to come to Japan. If you haven't started studying the language yet, you could probably pick this thing up and get through it nicely (at a nice pace) in 2 months or less.

Anyways, cheers, hope you find this book as helpful and enjoyable as I did.

(Also there are workbooks, intermediate and advanced levels of this book)
Japanese in MangaLand 2: Basic to Intermediate Level  Japanese in MangaLand 3: Intermediate Level (Japanese in Mangaland (Numbered))  Japanese in MangaLand: Workbook 1 Kanji in MangaLand: Volume 1

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Planning your first lesson - JET Programme

Hey there. Just finished being told that New Zealand husbands (followed by Italian) are highly sought after in Japan. Yeah! I was just thinking of making a song called "I still don't have a Japanese wife", guess there is still hope. Hold off on that song for now.

Any way, I want to tell you a little about preparing for you classes (in a Foreign English teaching environment). Just so you know, I work at a High school with both a general English course and a fishery course. So here are a few tips. I can't spell it out to the details, it is highly variable.

Firstly, perhaps most importantly, know what kind of situation you are about to teach in! Best way to do this is to talk to your predecessor about the type of preparation they did for classes. For me, I will plan a class a few days in advance (and sometime on the day). Recently, I've been sitting down with everyone that is involved (same material, different classes) and making a teaching plan. However, I heard from a friend that she just finished planning months of classes in advance. See what I mean by different situations, yeah! So figure out what your getting into.

Secondly, your predecessor should have left you a nice bunch of previous lesson plans (if they are nice people). Use these to get a general idea of how a class goes down. If not, you can always ask your Japanese English Teachers that you'll teach with.

Next, when you come around to planning that first class (and all classes) don't forget the objective. What type of class is it? Oral Communication? General? Reading? Writing? Meet your objective.

Write it down! You will probably have a bunch of classes, you can't remember it all. I just write it down on scrap paper and keep it safe. Many go full on with printed templates and things (at least that is what they tell you in seminars, realistically...?). If your you're into that, then do it that way ;)

Plan for the small things. Write them down, don't forget. I try to guess how long things take and make up a 50minute period. Try have some games you can use in the case you have time to spare.

A lot of the time you may have a book that the teachers follow (ask if you use one).That is great, it can provide guidance. However, not all are great books. Adapt the lessons to make them more interesting for the students. Think about encouraging participation and what environment you want in each class. For example, a list of vocabulary is pretty boring. Learning by repetition is not exactly fun (unless you can funk it up). The same vocab can probably be learned in more interesting ways with games, worksheets, in class examples, etc. You will be teaching for at least a year, if the method is interesting for you, it will probably be interesting for the kids.

So without any more rambling i'll let you in on how my lessons go down.

Intro: Greet the students. Ask about their weekend etc, Ask new questions, introduce a new "cool English phrase".

Warm-up: I will play a English song for the students while they fill in the blanks. Quiz them on previous classes, homework check, or some game to wake them up. I mean, not all of these, but around a 10 minute warm up.

Introducing the content: Today I did a little skit with my Japanese English Teacher. I tried to involve the students by asking random students "May I borrow your pen", "Could you open the window" (new grammar). Just someway to make the new content fun. 

I always seem to have worksheet so the students can work on the new material. This can be many things from filling in blanks to writing a letter/story. 

I usually have a game that is directly related to the new content. I love involving props and stuff. Bringing dice along to class and making up a game with them turned into one of my most enjoyable classes.

I usually like to do a range of activities in the period. If there is too much pair-work, it can get sluggish, to much monologue up the front, they'll go to sleep. Too much paper work, and it can lack interest. Try balance it all out. Think about it as cutting a class into sections of pair-work, self-work, class activity, instruction and talk from the teacher. Of course, you can't segment lessons perfectly, but you can ensure it isn't too unbalanced. 

I can probably write a whole lot more. For now, that is enough. But finally, a great tip. If you want to study Japanese (or another language) try and go along to classes, small ones are preferable. Then, steal teaching methods from your teachers ;) I went along to a free Japanese lessons once a week. A whole lot of fun, and it shows you some good teaching tips.

Ask me questions. I'll answer you directly.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

My problems finding a computer in Japan

Recently I've been wanting to finally get an upgrade to my 7 year computer. T'was a long time ago that I could play a decent game on this computer. That is where the problem starts. To begin with, Japan is great for electronics. At the moment they have every kinda 3D appliance you could want; TV's, laptops, computer monitors, Nintendo 3DS. It is easy to find the latest phones, mp3 players, anything with an 'i' in front of it. They surely keep up with the tech and they can do a good deal.
All this is great and a paradise for me, however, gaming computers are absent. I've been to many a store looking for a decent gaming laptop. It seems the only computer with a dedicated graphics card is the ones capable of 3D movies and games. I'm not quite on that boat (though you can turn off the 3D). All I want is a decent graphics card in my laptop! It seems hard to come by in a Japanese store. In fact, most of specs here don't mention anything about video cards (who would if you have integrated).
There is some relief, Dell in Japan sells the same computers it does everywhere else in the world. It is also somewhat cheaper than in my home country (New Zealand).

So, just a heads up to those gamer types out there ;) Unless you are into your nintendos and PS3's then make sure you come prepared!

Now I really hope someone can correct me and show me some more options here in Japan. Perhaps tokyo has more options, but graphics cards seem rare. Probably because there is no demand. I mean, I haven't meet many core gamers in Japan (COD, Halo, Counterstrike, Battlefield, etc), and if I did I bet it would be PS3 anyway.

Tokyo Dogs - Japanese Drama - Recommended viewing

Hey guys,

We'll you are either in Japan, love Japan, or are about to come to Japan. Either way, it is really good to dig into some decent drama, and other media. Watching dramas is an awesome way to become knowledgeable about the famous people of Japan (which tend to be all in one actors, singers, comedians). Which is why I will recommend to you an awesome drama that I watch called Tokyo Dogs. Pretty much, if you want to watch something with great comedy, a decent story, and awesome actors (cute girl... suppose the girls like the dudes too) then yeah, i'd watch this.
I don't want to give to much away, but it is a story involving 2 detectives with an interesting working relationship (introduced quickly) and a cute girl that happens to come along for the ride (for reasons I won't give away). The relationships between the characters provides the main comic relief. The reason I found it so great is because each of the characters in the story has a really well built up personality which just makes the comedy that much more great.
The action is not terrible either. I mean there are a few of those cliched moments, but it is surely entertaining to watch.

In all, this small drama (with only about 10 episodes) will become a favorite to both the girl and guy audience. Haven't meet anyone that has walked away disappointed.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Preparing your self introduction 2 - an example - JET programme

So, I just finished doing some little updates to the powerpoint presentation that is my introduction. My high school has just received this years new students, and the new school year is just kicking off. I will be doing my self introduction for each of my 1st year English classes (apparently that is about 5 classes). However, if your about to come on JET, you'll do your introduction for every class :) Don't worry it can be fun, it is all up to you. It is actually one of my favorite things to do.

Anyway, as the title says, I've got an "example" of my slide show presentation. Truth is, i'm not going to upload the powerpoint, it would be useless. Most of it is picture which aren't much use to you. However, I'll walk you through (with nice bullet points) each of my slide and videos I show the students. Hopefully this will give you some ideas.

Ok here we go, a slide per bullet point:

  • First slide: My opening slide. I've put a nice green theme (good for New Zealand) for my slides. I started off with some weird picture to grab their attention and a local "Kia ora" (Hello). Generally want to get the attention at this point. You could play a small vid?
  • Next slide is my personal info. All the details about me. Age, name, picture, what I studied, my job, etc. They'll probably be interested in your blood type too... I wasn't sure what mine was :S
  • With the next slide I explained my life (in simple terms) before Japan with pictures. My home, job, countries I visited before Japan. Only a few pictures, don't want to go on forever about me. 
  • Next slide: My country (New Zealand)! Where it is, simple layout, where the hot pools are, pictures of hot pools, volcanoes, and major cities.
    At this point I go into a tourism video about New Zealand. Try find a decent video with a good pace, coverage, music (to keep them awake - plus it can be cultural). Students generally love watching the video. But, try not make it tooo long.
  • Next slide! Stats about NZ (at this point I'll remind you to get the audience involved, try not to make it a monologue. For example, ask them to translate the population size into Japanese... can be hard for them sometimes) Populations size, sheep populations size ;), how big the country is compared to Japan, the capital, pictures of the capital. 
  • Food! This section they love! This slide I filled with all the different foods that you cannot find in Japan (and sometimes they're interested in Japanese you can find in your country!). Ice cream flavors, meat pies, meat, ridiculously sized food portions, lollies cakes, corn fritters, the whole deal. Nothing more cultural than your food!
    Actually, recently I brought some "vegemite". A Australia/New Zealand breakfast spread made from yeast extract. I use it to torture students and teachers alike. Something like that is great. Bring a sampling sticks or something (make sure you know the size of the class!).
  • Famous people of New Zealand. I used Flight of the Conchords, a comedy duo. They loved the video.
  • This next slide I made into a quiz. I broke the class into teams quickly and asked them to tell me what NZ is famous for (sheep, rugby, sports teams, zorb, bungee jumping, etc etc). I went through slides with pictures from Lord of the Rings, King Kong (remake), Sir Edmund Hillary, Last Samurai (filmed in NZ), etc etc.
  • Things to do in NZ slide. About everything you can do in New Zealand. E.g. ride in a zorb (big ball thing), Bungee jump, sky dive, jet boat (Hamilton jet invented in NZ), camping, tramping, canoeing, visiting all those sheep. Of course, this is all with picture.
  • Now I introduce some of the culture. This slide I introduce the "Haka". A traditional dance usually done before a rugby game by the All Blacks. I showed them a video of this. They loved it! (esp the adidas logo at the end). Sometimes they want to watch it again. Feel free to spread your cultural propaganda ;) It is part of our job.
  • More culture and interesting NZ fact. I did a slide about the Maori (the NZ natives) and there buildings, food, etc.
  • This slide is all about NZ animals. NZ famous animals (Moko the friendly dolphin), weird animals (giant weta), and just common animals, etc. If you have a cute video i'm sure it'll go down well (reminds me of that cat and dolphin video I saw recently)
  • Ok, this last part I reserved for some ridiculous/amazing fact they probably wouldn't know. I introduced 2 extinct birds: the Moa (think huge emu), and the Haasts Eagle (eats the moa). Did some comparisons to the leg height of a Moa to a human (think giant KFC chicken leg).
  • The last few slides I ended by doing a quiz of the things we had been over. See if anyone can remember the capital of NZ (so far 1 or 2 students haha... suppose it is a hard name).
So yeah, that is how my powerpoint goes. Hope you get some ideas for your own. You will probably have a lot of time to work on this during the school summer break, so don't worry to much. Get some pictures, info, and stuff before you leave your country, if it makes it easier. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sakura (cherry blossom) in Nagasaki (plus a Sakura song)

So, it was just the end of May. That means the 桜 Sakura (cherry blossom) is starting to fade away. At school this is a time when some teachers are transferred to new schools. Perhaps it is not the best time for some teachers. However, it is a exciting time for others (as they get to leave, or are happy because they get to stay). Some ALTs supervisor are transferred... sad day. I, however, have been lucky, my supervisor and the teachers I'm close to are staying. Unfortunately some of the younger teachers were transferred.

Anyways, during Sakura it will be common to see families or companies set up picnic style under Sakura trees. Some will go all out with BBQ, chiller and all. I went up 立山 Tateyama (Tate hill) in Nagasaki for "Hanami" (Cherry blossom viewing). Here are some photos:

Here is a song which is kind-of related, Sakura by Funky Monkey Babies (a popular Japanese band at the moment):

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The greatness of Japanese convenience stores (konbini コンビニ)

So I just want to share a bit about the wonders that await at your local convenience stores. I find it a whole lot more convenient than the ones back home. I not really sure where to start so i'll just throw it all out there.

Well, I've actually just come from the convenience store because I forgot to order lunch at school. I walked away with a Pizza roll (one handed pizza sandwich thats rap tasted like an Indian bread...good) and a small pack of cold Kimchi  (a Korean fermented vegetable dish). In all it probably cost me about 300en. It was actually a humorous visit. As soon as they saw the Pizza they asked if I wanted it heated. Yes. While taking my cash one of the older men asked how I was with chopsticks. The typical question for the gaijin. But it is nice, since mostly they don't make small talk around these busy places. I didn't want to be to cocky and say i'm awesome, so I just said I ate a lot of Chinese food before I came. Really, I should have prepared something more witty over the past 8 months. Pizza was done before i'd even finished paying. Back to school I go.

Anyway, I'm not sure what that story accomplished.

Ok here is what you can look forward to (and what you have to try):
Sorry, I love bullet points...

  • Nikuman, Anman, Pizaman, Kare-man. These things typically sit up the front in warm steamer. Take a look at the below picture to get an idea of what it is. Typically a sweetish steamed bread filled with something like Niku (meat, the original but always good), Anko (red bean paste, not as sweet as the Chinese ones but good), Piza (pizza), Kare-(curry flavor).

  • Pan (bread) - you can get a whole variety of sugar filled bread, donuts, pancakes, curry bread, melon pan (a common favorite). There are so many varieties it is crazy. Plus you can get your normal sandwich in the fridge. Such classics as egg and salad, ham, etc etc.
  • Onigiri (rice ball) - Rice balls are a great snack. Feel a lot more healthy after eating one of these instead of the sugary bread. Many many flavors... Salmon, tuna & mayo, chicken, pork, sour plum, vegetable ... many that I haven't even tried. 
  • Oden - So i'm going to use a dictionary def. here "oden (various ingredients, such as egg, daikon, or konnyaku stewed in soy-flavored dashi)".  Idea is: you get a disposable bowl filled with warm soup and add fried, and stewed ingredients such as daikon (radish), egg, etc etc. I haven't tried this yet, but it looks healthy and tasty. It is tempting on those slow winter days. 
  • Alcohol, tobacco. Easily available at most konbini. Alco-beverages range from beer to Japanese sake, shochu, whiskey, mixed drinks etc. 
  • Nomimono (drinks) - drinks aren't hugely surprising. You will find a whole lot more tea in general. Coffee is available cold or hot (in a can). There is a bit coffee variety. You may be surprised that Coca-Cola actually makes green tea and western tea here. Energy drinks aren't the same as the Red Bull kind. Energy drinks here are smaller and potent. Not really targeted from daily drinking (but then no energy drink should be a daily thing). You will find some interesting drinks such as Calpis (just try it, can't explain), and green tea Cola.
  • Candy, Lollies - Again, nothing to surprising. You will find some interesting flavors here. Most sought after is usually green tea chocolate (for me and my friends anyway). Chocolate blocks are not as big as back in New Zealand.
  • Fresh fruit... some will have fresh fruit.
  • Magazines, manga, etc - You can find ... all sorts of magazines here. It is usual to see the students reading manga in the morning while waiting for school to start (at least I hope they're reading manga).
  • Other things you can do - Some bills payments can be made at konbini. They simply scan the barcode and you press a big green button on the touch screen, hand over the cash, and done. ATMs are available in all the konbinis I've been too. Also, sometimes other machines such as photocopiers and a ticket machine or something. 
Ok enough! They are great. That is all. My breakfasts while travelling around Japan were mostly at the konbini. It'll give you a taste at what is on offer here anyway.