Sometimes in higher grades kids will have taken on board influences from
bad teachers, bad parents and bad TV and sometimes in class will gladly
boast "Eigo wakaranai!" - "I don't understand any English".
Obviously you need to stamp this thinking out otherwise actual "learning"
will be impossible. The best way I've found is to prove that it's a lie.
I do this by saying ( in Japanese) "Really? OK, let's do a test, I'll
read out some English words and you say them in Japanese." Then you
read through the list below. Ham it up a bit to make it interesting but
what you'll see is a slow realisation spreading across the kids' faces
that they do indeed understand a heck of a lot of English.
Of course they can't speak the words correctly yet, far from it, but they can understand it. That's what we're trying to show them here.
Japanese speaking kids who have never even studied English before can understand the meaning of 300 - 400 words. If you think about how many words they use in Japanese everyday, this is quite a lot. In fact the world famous teacher Michel Thomas claims that in the New York Times there are only 500 words used each day. So your kids can understand half of the NY Times! Well, obviously the half they do understand is the easiest half, you don't often see articles about "banana, koala, kangaroo". But it shows that even if you consider learning English to be as tough as climbing Mt Fuji, you're already starting half way up!
But herein also lies a trap. Very often teachers will think they have done a good lesson if the kids have remembered some of these words. In fact if your lesson is simply based around just words and vocab then you won't have taught anything new at all, they already knew the words! So make sure that your lessons concentrate on questions, sentences etc. that are new. Just doing things you already know isn't the way to improve!
Anyway here is a list of a few of the words that most kids will know 90% of. Test them and see. And their teachers too - it's a great confidence boost!
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