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Working with the ALT - June 2001
You know, you don't need a lot of English to teach English in Elementary School! Some of you may remember your Junior High School days where the teacher would have a long, drawn out set of introductions to the class with a greeting and a very strange sounding "Let's enjoy studying English". But you don't need these! In fact they'll probably turn the kids off. Your best bet is to bound into the classroom with a big smile and a big "Good morning"! That'll work just great!
OK, so that's easy, everyone can do that! So the next step is to teach some English. Your job isn't to show the kids perfect pronunciation, that's the ALT's job! So whilst you should always try to sound the best you can, don't worry if it sometimes comes out a little strange -- it'll be fine! You're there to help the kids communicate with the ALT and to show them a good example of how to try their best!
Remember that in any class the only English you'll need to speak is maybe 10 or so words and a question or two. That's easy as well!! But how do you work with the ALT? Well, there are 3 ways, I think, and which one you choose depends on yourself and the ALT.
The first way is probably better for younger classes, or ALTs that don't visit too often. In this class you can take the lead, and let the ALT join in where he or she can. A couple of things to watch out for are:
If the ALT feels comfortable doing more, let them!
Sometimes the ALT might not understand the kids questions -- especially if they speak in a strange accent. In this case, don't translate from Japanese to English, instead try translating into easy Japanese. That way the kids will learn how to phrase their questions in an easier form. Try and help if the ALT needs to know one word in Japanese, but don't translate everything from English to Japanese -- let the kids have fun in trying to figure it out themselves!
The important point is that you are there as a facilitator, to let the kids get closer to the ALT. Keep everything friendly, and rather than having the ALT as an "animal in a zoo", keep it like a friendly chat between 3 friends, you, the ALT and the kids!
ALT takes charge!
The other type of lesson is where the ALT leads, and you help out where you can. This type of lesson is more usual when the ALT knows the kids a little better. But remember that you are still an important part of the class!!! One of the best ways to help out is to practice model role-plays with the ALT. For example, when teaching the time have the ALT come up to you and ask "Excuse me, what time is it?", you reply "It's 5 o'clock". Keep it fun and easy!
Finally, when teaching "Where are you going?", one other card I use is "Shopping Centre". Everyone in my class was stunned to see the pictures I had of an English shopping centre, complete with 20 cinemas, 280 shops and space to park hundreds and hundreds cars!! English people do like to shop!
Again, don't worry about the English! You're expecting the kids to learn the language in one lesson, so I'm sure you can! And of course, you could always cheat by asking the ALT to practice with you before the lesson!! Try and help out where you can, for example in the beginning warm up, take turns in giving commands to the kids. For example, "Stand up", "Sit down", "Jump", "Spin", "Play tennis", "Play the piano" etc. You say the ones you feel comfortable with, and let the ALT do the others!
This way of working is the best way to go!
Sit back and relax!
However, in the real world you're probably really busy and would like the ALT to take charge of the lesson. Some, but not all, ALTs prefer this way, but ask to make sure first! In my schools the kids used to figure out the games really quickly, but in the staff room before class some teachers couldn't seem to understand them, so that's how I started leading my classes.
But the kids still need to see you trying your best, so take it easy and become a student for a lesson!! Sit down in a spare chair, say the words out loud, sing the songs and play the games! The kids will love it, and you're always there in case anything goes wrong! Actually "becoming a student" is a really great way to see how much fun these lessons can be! I often do this myself and can really understand how my lessons work, for example I think "Oh, this is fun", so do more of it next lesson or think "Hmm, I didn't like that!" so change it for the next! If your ALT is OK with it, have a try at doing this! You have a whole lesson you don't have to plan for, you can sit down and relax and best of all you get a free English lesson!!
So there you go
These are some ideas on how to go about lessons with an ALT. On my homepage and in this magazine, myself, along with many others, all are here to help you out! Start off slowly and work your way up! Even if you think that you don't speak English (but I'm sure that you do!!), ask the ALT to record the next lesson's new words onto a tape and practise in your car on the way to school! Less than 10 words a week -- you can do that easily!!
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