Sunday, 22 May 2011

Buying a Nintendo 3DS over a electronic Dictionary - Japanese/English Dictionary

It was some time ago that I thought it was about time to get a electronic dictionary, esp because i'm meeting a Japanese friend once a week for 1-on-1 English/Japanese lessons. Having a dictionary is just plain helpful, esp if you can enter kanji in it.

So the features I really wanted were Kanji entry, Jap/Eng dictionary (and of course the opposite), and some good examples in the definitions.

Well, I finally finished looking around the shops and figuring out what the best product would be for me. I checked out a whole bunch of the new Electronic Dictionaries...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Castle game - simple but great ESOL game

Hey guys,

So I read about this game somewhere, but it is easy to adapt and can be used on any type of quiz or whenever you want to turn answering questions into a game. Pretty much anything which has a lose/win scenario. I've used this game on classes with 15 students to classes with 40 students. It creates a bit of playful competition and can liven up a class if done right.

So this is how it goes. Firstly, I break the class into 2-6 groups. Each group has a castle on the blackboard that represents them. I usually draw the castles myself. The students usually love this part. Watching as my castles get worse and worse as I quickly draw them. The castle usually consists of 2-3 wall segments (dependent on difficulty) and 1 tower which has a flag. Usually If I have a large class, or want a shorter game, i'll only use 2 wall segments. Now you just start the quiz, any team that answers the question correctly first has the choice to destroy another teams castle (and I also allow them to rebuild their own if damaged). You can simply erase a wall segment of an attacked castle (or draw in the damage). Once a team is down to only their tower, it is their last stand before the other team can steal their flag. If a teams flag is stolen it can be placed on the attacking teams castle. And that is how it goes. Really the game can last as long as you still have questions to ask (and I always chuck in a few fun questions like who is this actor just to wake them up).

So I just quickly spewed this out. Now that you get the general idea you can easily adapt it as you wish ;)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Relationship with Students and generally just people on the JET programme

So things have been getting pretty busy again in school. The new year has started up and is in full motion. Things have been moving fast. Summer break is coming up, which means the new JETs are getting ready to arrive.

You may think your first challenge here will be your first class and introductions...wrong! Well, it may be a little challenge, but I don't remember it being terrible. The major challenge in human life is and will always be: relationships. This is because they have a great potential to reward or destroy you. Working on your relationships with people will really be beneficial for your time in Japan. I mean you won't exactly be invisible here, in fact you might as well glow. Plus, Japan is a fresh start in a brand new place for many, so why not try something new. Relationships, I believe, are really the flavor of life (i'm not just talking about romance, think more generally ;). So before I get philosophical/theological I'll let you know how it is for me.

So, I'm not exactly a relationship guru or anything, but i'm not ignorant, and have spent time working on this area in my life. Anyways, when I first was told I was going to 2 high schools I was thinking... NO! Not high school! I want cute little Japanese kids that love you no matter what. However, even though a challenge, i'm glad I got this placement.

Here is how my first day meeting some of the kids went:
During a summers day roughly 1300hours, I was sitting in the staffroom while the English club girls prepared their ambush. They shyly waited at the door trying to catch a glimpse of the new foreigner. Then, as the english club supervisor (one of my Japanese English Teachers) approached me, they took this as their cue to attack. The group came to surround the area at the end of my desks-group aisle (what do you call those?? haha). It was a brief meeting, but I felt kind-of awkward with all the people. But it turned out nice. One of the girls that was especially genki 元気 (full of energy, lively) said many random things (which is great for students to do: not be afraid). I called her crazy. They were kind-of shocked at first, but then I explain "good crazy" which they accepted. Since then, she is called crazy, mostly by herself. Great attitude. Great kids. They visited me nearly everyday when I first came. I see them every week at my English club now.

Another situation may also crop up. Many students have come up to me and ask "What is my name?"   I got this from day one. I'm like, you haven't even told me your name! So they tell me. Next day... "What is my name?" just to make sure. And it won't stop there. I've been asked this question since the start of the new year by the same students (and they know I know). It has now been continuing for about 3 months with other students joining in. So, if you haven't guessed, it pays to remember students names. This year, actually last week, a group of 4 students (all girls) waited outside of the class before I arrived. When I arrived they all proceeded to ask me "What is my name?" I won that round. I lost a round once at the start of one class. The group all said "what is my name", and I knew all but 1 of their names. Then they celebrated "We won!".

You can start a good relationship with students just by trying to learn their names. You may be thinking, what is going on? All the students he mention are girls... whats up with this guy...      Thing is, and I've asked around with my JET friends, I think students from the opposite sex to the JET teacher find it easier to engage with the foreign teacher. So males students may all gravitate to the female JET teacher, etc. (If you are on JET or are a  foreign teacher, let me know what you think about this)

In life, perhaps one of the most important things you can know about someone is their name. It counts. Back in my home country before I left to Japan, one of my Chinese friends told me "Thank you so much, ... because you remembered my name" (it isn't as romantic as your probably thinking). She explained, being Chinese (a minority) not many New Zealand people would remember her name.

So my simple piece of advice is: remember peoples names. Common knowledge, I know, but make a special effort. When you arrive in Tokyo you will probably receive a small schedule/calendar/notebook. I am now using this near exclusively to write down peoples names and details to remember them by. Not just students, but teachers, and others. Also, another helpful thing to know (I didn't know this for a while) is that most schools probably have a book filled with the names/pictures of each classes students.  If you ask, you can probably scan your classes and start writing the student names next to their pictures. The names are all in Kanji (and first names can be impossible because of the amount of different readings) but you can slowly write in names as you learn, or ask teachers. Another way is to assign homework that requires marking. Ask them to write their names in English, and their class and student number (this is standard anyway). Usually you can match the student number and name to the same number in the photo book. A lot of teachers also make seating maps for the students. If you ask you might be able to get a copy for your classes.

Doing this can be really hard from some JET members. I only have 1 school now, some JET members visit more than 7 schools. Sometimes they won't see the same students for a few weeks. So yeah, it can be difficult, but worth the effort. If you can get a photocopy of the students names/photos then you can jog your memory if you have many schools.

A few hints. Hope they help.

Monday, 2 May 2011

My trip around Kyoto - Part 1: around Kinkakuji and Arashiyama

Since I've been on the JET Programme I've been to Kyoto twice for holidays. I think I could easily go back again, the place has so much to do and see. At the moment, it is my favorite place that I have traveled to. To me this place seemed to have a laid-back style or maybe that was just because of the way I choose to do the sightseeing. It also has the traditional Japanese feel to it because of the many temples and markets you can explore.

If you look at a map of Kyoto you can easily split up the sightseeing locations. I split my sightseeing into 3-4 different sections. Since I was there for about 5 days it worked out nicely. It seems to split up pretty nice into the North, East and West. East is around the area of Arashiyama (my favorite zen garden in Kyoto), and the West is around the area of Gion (geisha territory, if your lucky you can spot them being bused around in their taxis). You will probably be doing a lot of walking, but Gion in general is a nice place to walk around and explore. Further North is Kinkakuji (the Golden pavilion) and Ryouanji (zen rock garden).

If you plan on going for a few days, you might want to fit Nara into your plans. Nara is a great little place that you can conquer in about half a day. It has some amazing temples and everything is inside a massive garden that is filled with pesky deer (they ate my damn map!). You probably get on the train from Kyoto in the morning and make it back in the early afternoon.

If anyone is looking for a good place to stay in Kyoto I would recommend Kshouse Kyoto backpackers hotel for accomodation. I have been there twice and have not been disappointed. It is a great hotel with awesome staff, and only about 15 minutes walk from the station. You can easily book with their website. I would go back again (esp because it says outside: New Zealand style backpackers... NZ pride or something).

Anyway, the best way to introduce this is through pictures.
The Golden Pavilion 金閣寺

The Golden Pavilion is situated North of Kyoto's station. About a 35-40 minute bus ride.

The Golden Pavilion is probably Kyoto's biggest attraction. The pavilion itself is situated in a nice Japanese style garden. You can almost walk right around the pond. It is surely worth seeing. I mean it won't blow your mind away, but it is a nice tranquil place, beautiful and a great walk.

Ryouanji 竜安寺

Just a short walk away from the Golden pavilion is Ryouanji 竜安寺 (zen rock garden). Actually, on the way you pass a nice kaiten sushi place (conveyor belt sushi). I'm pretty sure it is a chain restaurant, but still cheap and good.
Ryouanji is also situated in a nice garden. In fact, the garden has got a lot more places to explore than Kinkakuji. This place is really worth going too. Even if the rock garden doesn't interest you, there are other nice things to look at around the garden. The whole thing can turn into a nice relaxing stroll.

There are a few smaller but great temples in this area. One of the places include, I think, Japans largest pagoda. Check them out if you wish. They are easy to find on maps in the area, and are also in walking distance. I can't go through it all, it would take far too long.

Arashiyama (嵐山) - Bamboo grove

Arashiyama, in the west of Kyoto, is a great place to spend an afternoon. Located around Arashiyama is a Zen style garden also with a rock garden.  Right next to the garden is a road through a bamboo forest. Also, a place that I really wanted to go to, but didn't make it: the monkey park.

I went during winter, so this day was especially freezing. I thought I would rather try to survive the cold (quite literally) than try the monkey park.