Kobe 2001

Elementary School Visits
Group A - May 29  

Joel Bacha

All of the games, activities, and information from the Group A Elementary School Workshop, can be found here. Check it out…

If you have any questions of comments about anything, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Cheers all,

Funky Intro

1. Pet Bottle Rocket - Count down from 10.
(Background Music Starts)
2. Good Afternoon
3. Actions - Stand Up, Sit Down, Jump, Spin, Cheep, Sleep.
4. Pronunciation - V,B, Volley, Ball, Volleyball
5. Pass the Ball game - (See Ball and Music game)
6. Pass the Keitai - You can get fake keitai from most keitai shops. Just ask for
their old samples. I got mine in Tokyo's Akihabara (300 yen).

Variations: - Pass a can with colors in it. The student who has the can when the music stops has to pull out a piece of colored paper and say that color.

- for small classes, put pictures on the ground and have students jump to each picture. Assign students a number. When the music stops, call out a #. That student has to say what he or she is standing on.

7. Pass the Number - Give half the students a number. When the music plays, they stand up and pass the numbers to other students. When the music stops, call out a number. Ask that student a question. Change the game by having everyone ask the question. Please e-mail me if you want further details: jbacha@dokidoki.ne.jp


8. When Teaching a Class:

*Keep things moving. This keeps the kids excited and constantly alert. For example; don't play Pass the Ball for 30min. Add some other activities/games into the lesson.

*Change your activities every once in a while. Try different variations of games. For example; don't play Pass the Ball every lesson, try passing a keitai, stuffed animal or something else.

*Get as many students involved as possible. This keeps everyone interested, everyone having fun, and allows for maximum participation and/or learning.


9. Questions to the Audience:

(about 400 people attended all the workshops)

1. How many people go to shogakko at least once a week? About 50%
2. How many people do one shot visits to shogakko? About 50%
3. How many people are solely shogakko ALTs? About 15
4. How many people play games, have played games, or want to play games in their lessons? About 100%
5. Why do we play games? It's fun.
It's fun for the students.
It takes the kids' minds off of learning.
It gets the kids interested in English.


10. Take it, Adapt it, Try it.

When learning a new idea, you need to be creative and adapt it to your own situation. For example; if you learned about the karuta where you slap vocabulary cards hanging on a chalkboard and you have class of 40 students, then most of the students will be standing around doing nothing while they wait to play. Not good. So…make sets of cards and break the kids into groups so everyone can play at once. If you have small kids, put the cards on the ground and have them dive on the cards. Simple variations can go along way. So before saying "I can't do that idea because…," Take it, Adapt it, Try it… then if is works, Pass it on to others…COOL!!!

11. Introduction Game

- Introduce yourself to as many people as you can in one minute. The person who introduces themselves to the most people wins.

Variations: -Play music. When the music stops, talk to the nearest person.
-Talk to 5 people, then sit down. Time how long it takes.
-Sit in a circle, say phrase to the person next to you. Time it.
(see Stopwatch Game)
-For a big class, have more than one circle and have the circles race.
-Super small class, do a relay in the gym and time it.

(all of these variations can be used while practicing any phrase…YAY!!!)

New Curriculum for 2002

After getting a show of hands in Kobe, it looked as though only about 50% of everyone had heard that there will be a new curriculum implemented in Japanese elementary schools starting next April, 2002. Therefore, I'm happy I handed out the following. It is from the ALT Advisor at Monbukagakusho (new name for Monbusho.)

The following is not the new curriculum itself. It is just a brief description of how the curriculum is laid out and an overview of the International Understanding (kokusai riikai) portion of the curriculum, which ALTs may be expected to help with. It mentions what may be expected of ALTs and suggests what types of activities could be used. It is possible that your schools would like to explain the International Understanding portion of the curriculum to you, but aren't sure how. So, please have a read.


Beginning in April 2000, elementary schools in Japan were allowed to introduce a new "Period of Integrated Studies" into their curriculum. Next year, in April 2002, with the introduction of the new course of study, all elementary schools in Japan will be required to do so.

The Period of Integrated Studies is a period that has been allocated for cross-curricula study. Some of the suggested areas that can be covered in this period are: international understanding (kokusai rikai), the environment, welfare, and information technologies.

Teachers at individual schools are asked to develop their own programs after considering the interests and abilities of their students as well as the situation of their school and local community. In addition to elementary school teachers, members of the local community and other human resources may be utilised in these programs.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

International understanding is one element that many schools may choose to incorporate into their Period for Integrated Studies. As an ALT, you may be required to assist elementary schools with their programs.

International understanding education has three main goals:

1) The development of attitudes that are respectful of other cultures and qualities, and the development of the abilities necessary for living together with people from different cultures.

2) Establishment of a strong Japanese identity to better contribute toward international understanding.

3) The development of basic foreign language skills, the ability for self-expression and other communication skills for expressing one's own thoughts and intentions, while respecting the position of others in an international society.

In terms of specific learning activities at elementary school, they may take the form of 'student research projects,' 'international exchange activities,' and 'foreign language conversation'. All are effective for developing international understanding and it is hoped that they will be employed in an integrated manner.

Regarding the points to consider in developing foreign language activities during the Period for Integrated Studies, the Elementary School Course of Study states:

1) Activities should incorporate experiential learning, appropriate for elementary school students, in which the children are exposed to foreign language and familiarized with the daily life in foreign countries.

2) The primary purpose is to foster interest and desire to use English-not to teach a language. It is important to assess the students' level and developmental stage in devising activities. The contents and activities are not fixed so teachers when devising activities have to consider first the emphasis on 'spoken English' and other areas such as: what the students want to say and do; items that the students can relate to in their daily lives; items that increase students' awareness of differences in other cultures,etc...

In keeping activities interesting, it is possible to use such activities as: games, chants, suitable songs, picture books, easy role-plays/skits, use of audio/visual materials, as well as events introducing culture, special events and exchange activities, etc..

The emphasis of foreign language activities at the elementary school is on speaking and listening rather than reading and writing. The purpose is to spark an interest in foreign language and cultures. It does not mean an early introduction of junior high school English.

Elementary School Handbook

This is Monbukagakusho's (new name for Monbusho) handbook for elementary school teaching. It is written in both English and Japanese.

It contains: - Sample Lesson Plans
- English Activities
- Information about Team Teaching
- Background Information for Teaching at Elementary Schools

This book can be ordered from almost any bookstore, or by the person who comes around to your school handing out brochures and pamphlets. It only costs 100 yen. All you need to order the book is the name and catalogue #. That info is:

Shogakko Eigo Katsudo Jisen no Tebiki.
(Practical Handbook for Elementary School English Activities)
published by Kairyudo
Catalogue #: ISBN4-304-04078-2 C307
Cost: 100yen

Remember, if some of these activities don't fit your situation, like all activities, try adapting them to fit your class size and your students' abilities…YAY!!!


I showed a 3 1/2 minute video of activities I did with my kids these past few weeks. It included both English and cultural activities, and featured my students speaking English. Things such as "How are you?" "I'm Great!!"; "When is your birthday?"; "What animal do you like?" The main reason I showed this video is to prove that the kids can do it, that they can speak English.

I will be happy to make copies of the video for anyone who would like one. Show it to your teachers to show them what kind of activities you can do, or show it to show those who might be skeptical. Show them that the kids CAN and WILL speak English.

Just e-mail me your address and a copy is yours: jbacha@dokidoki.ne.jp

Teaching "How are you?"

Many have heard the fixed phrase, "How are you?
"I'm fine thank you,"
"and you?"
"I'm fine."

When I asked the people who came to the workshops (about 400):

How many people teach this phrase? About 50% raised their hands
How many people use this phrase when speaking? About 20 people raised hands

In truth, this phrase is English and there is nothing wrong with teaching it. People, though few, do use it when speaking; and hey…it's polite. The problem I have with its use in Japan is that, often times, it resembles a computer response. For Example; if you ask Ryusuke, whose puking his guts out in the corner, "Hey Ryusuke, How are you?", between heaves he'll turn toward you and say, "I'm fine thank you, and you?" rather than saying, "I'm sick." My point is that most kids (and adults) don't say how they really feel when asked "How are you?" They are not thinking independently and expressing themselves freely. I believe that we must work toward Independent Thinking and Free Expression.

So this is what I do for "How are you?

From the above fixed phrases, in front of my kids, I pull out the "thank you" and replace the "and you?" with "How are you?" I'm then left with,

"How are you?"
"I'm fine"
"How are you?"
"I'm fine."

I then I teach them emotions such as, "I'm good, OK, great, hungry, happy…" Then I let them know that they don't have to say, "I'm fine." They can say anything they want.
For example, "How are you?"
"I'm good."
"How are you?
"I'm ok."

Independent Thinking and Free Expression!!!!

A great game to practice this phrase, and many other phrases, is the Cockroach Game.
See the Gokiburi Game.

Dance Chants & Songs

Dance Chants and Songs are a great way to get kids to remember words. The chants, tunes, and actions tend to stick in their heads. Plus it's a super fun way to get everyone speaking English. Here's what we did at the conference:

1. Months
My chugakko 3-nensei are still doing it from their days as 6-nensei.
The students simply repeat your words and follow your actions…

Hands out and relax.
Claps hands above your head…
(NOW GO!!!)
"January" (do the cabbage patch)
"February" (do the cabbage patch)
"March" (throw your right fist up)
"April" (throw right, then left fist up)
"May" (throw right fist up)
"June" (throw left fist up)
"July" (throw right, then left fist up)
"August" (throw right, then left fist up…slowly)
(One more time)
Claps hands above your head…
(NOW GO!!!)
"September" (do the cabbage patch)
"October" (do the cabbage patch)
"November" (do the cabbage patch)
"December" (do the cabbage patch…slowly)

2. Head & Shoulders

About 70% of the people who came to the workshops said that they had sung Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes with their students. Of these 70%, almost all said that the 5 and 6 nensei were not too interested in doing it. My 5 and 6-nensei were not so interested in doing it either, so I had them get into groups and make up their own dance. It went well. This is what one group came up with. I've done this with 3-6 nensei.

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (Touching the body part as always)
HAND!! FOOT!! (Stick out your hand and foot)

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,

Eyes and Ears and Mouth (Touching the body part as always)
and Nose.... (pick your nose and then… FLING IT OFF YOUR FINGER.......)

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,

3. The "What's Your Name?" Song

This is the song we sang at the conference while waving our hands above our heads. It can be found on the Genki English CD, Volume I.

4. The Hello Song

This is the song that I briefly mentioned at the conference. It is GREAT for learning "What's your name?" and is perfect for the 1 & 2 nensei. It is written by:

Carolyn Graham (she also writes Jazz Chants)
The first song of the "Let's Go" series by Ritsuko Nakata.
(Published by Oxford University Press)

Other Games

(Also see Joel's Ideas Page)

Unfortunately we ran out of time at the conference and we couldn't play all of the games I had planned. So I quickly mentioned a few ideas. Here's what I talked about:

1. "I like Color" Race - have color cards in the front of the class. Have team members grab a card, search for something of that color in the room, run back to the front of the class and say, "I like (color)." For more details, see Joel's ideas.

2. This and That - Use any flash card game for this. Both you and the Japanese teacher hold flash cards. If you say, "What's This?" then the students must say what card you are holding. If you say, "What's That?" then the students must say what card the Japanese Teacher is holding.

3. Newspaper Sumo - Two students stand on a newspaper. Whoever says the flashcard first gets to take a half step back. When the students' heals touch, they try to push each other off the paper with their bumbs. For more details, see Joel's ideas or Newspaper Sumo

4. Banana Taking Game - Students write 3 or 4 of whatever they're learning (adjectives, nouns, places, colors, etc.) on 3 or 4 paper bananas in a bunch. Two students practice the target phrase and try to find out what is written on one of the other persons' bananas. The person who guesses gets to take that banana. The person with the most bananas at the end of the class wins. For more details, contact Joel: jbacha@dokidoki.ne.jp

Many phrases can be practiced with this game. Such as: How are you?, Where are you from?, Do you like….?, Are you….?, etc. It can also be used in super small classes with one or two people.

NOTE: this is not a writing exercise, but TRY having your kids write the English words. Give them a few extra minutes…they CAN do it. For younger kids, try coloring the bananas.

Cultural Activities

We only had about 10 minutes to talk about culture, so I quickly read off some ideas. This is what I mentioned:

1. Holidays

2. Making food
-Gingerbread houses
-Vegemite or Marmite sandwiches
-Peanut butter and jam Sandwiches

3. Playing sports from back home (think back to when you 8 yrs. old)
-New Dodgeball version
-Capture the flag

4. Countries / The World
-Coloring flags
country names in English
languages in different countries
greetings in different languages
-Ask kids where they want to go
-Time zones in different parts of the world
-What day is it in different countries?
-What season is it?
-How long it takes to get to a country by train, plane, boat…show how big the world really is from their perspective.

Remember: When teaching culture, answer any questions your students may have about the world and/or different cultures. This way you can answer their personal curiosities and other questions you have not touched on. It also gives you a chance to see what level they're on. Talk to your JTE about asking questions before the class.

Lastly, one of the best ways to teach culture is to get to know your students. Do activities outside of your lessons with them. Clean with them. Study Japanese in class with them. Watch or join their sports practices after school. Get to know your students!!! What better way is there to spark someone's interest in the world than for that person to have a friend in the world?

Useful Websites

These are a list of useful sights that were listed in the handout:

o Genki English (www.genkienglish.com) - Great site with lots of games and elementary school stuff. Created by former Elementary School ALTs.

o The Three Wise Monkeys (www.edochan.com/teaching) - Great site with lots of game ideas

o ELT News (www.eltnews.com) - Has good information on teaching methods.

o Children only ESL/EFL (www.childrenonlyesl-efl.com) - Great stuff, but you have to pay!!

o E-Pals (www.epals.com) - Good to find e-mail exchanges!!!

Ideas, Questions, Answers

The followings are some Ideas, Questions, and Answers from the end of the workshops.

I1. 3 Questions Game: Play a game like Pass the Ball. When the music stops the student that has the ball has to choose a number between 1 & 3. These numbers represent ?s. The ALT or teacher then asks a question the question of the number that the student chose.

I2. Counting to 13: With young students, most people count to 10, but if you practice counting to 13, you can not only teach time, but you can practice the 'TH' sound.

I3. Teaching Hanukkah: Someone mentioned that he was Jewish, but his school wanted him to teach about Christmas. He used this as an opportunity to teach them something different. It turns out that his school had never heard about Hanukkah and they were delighted to learn about it. If your school(s) wants you to do something, but you have another idea that they don't know about, ask them if you can try it out.


Q1. What is the point of teaching English in Elementary School? They're gonna learn it in junior high anyway. I see where you're coming from. But think about it…kids are like sponges; the younger they are the faster their brains are developing and the easier it is for them to absorb information. They are literally creating synapses (connections in the brain) while they speak. If they speak English, some of these connections will harness English. We can use this as an opportunity to build correct pronunciation for sounds such as "R" and "TH," build their vocabulary, or teach them basic phrases so that when they get to junior high, English is easier to learn. The majority of adults in Japan started studying English when they were in Junior High, but listen to their English…IF they can speak it. So, why not teach the kids English at a younger age…besides, it can be tons of FUN!!!

Q2. How do you keep some of the older kids interested in the lessons? Good Question. When I first came to Japan I was playing a lot of flash card games. The older kids weren't too motivated. It turns out that it wasn't the games, it was the content. I tried challenging my kids. We tried more speaking games and activities. They were stimulated again and became more involved in the English lessons. Try challenging the students a bit more and see what happens.

Q3. Is your teacher always in the room when you teach? It is a law in Japan that a licensed teacher must be in the room during lesson time. Since we are not licensed teachers in Japan, it is law that a teacher must be in the room with us. However, this does not stop them from not coming to class or leaving the lesson half way through a lesson. I have had both happen and it's especially frustrating when I need their help. In these situations, I asked the teachers after class to please come to the lessons and remain in the room because I may need their help…even if I didn't mention it when we talked about the lesson beforehand.

Q4. How much Japanese do you speak in the classroom? Good question. I don't like to speak Japanese in the classroom, but I have noticed that I usually do on two occasions. 1) If I'm explaining a game and I'm running out of time I will explain it in Japanese. However, if I have the time to demonstrate a game with the Japanese teacher or explain it with gestures I will do it in English. 2) If I am asking or answering cultural questions that my students have. However, I also usually have help from the Japanese teacher cuz my Japanese isn't perfect.

NOTE: I find that if I talk to the Japanese teacher about lessons beforehand, then they can help with game and cultural explanations in Japanese if needed… thus I can avoid speaking Japanese altogether.

Q5. I want to hang out and talk with my students outside of class, but it gets old quickly if I just speak English. Do you speak Japanese outside of class? I totally understand. I want to hang out with my kids too and I think outside-of-class interaction is probably the most important part of this exchange. It's how our kids can really learn who we are and how we can really learn about them. It's a catch 22 though. Part of what we're doing is teaching English and we want our kids to learn/speak it. So…what I do is speak the English I've taught my kids with a few extra words that I haven't. I speak the English that I know they can understand and some extra English that they might be more challenging. The rest I speak in Japanese. Here's a basic conversation of mine (probably with 4 nensei):

Kids: Bacha, Umeboshi suki?
Me: No, they're supaisugi.
Kids: Watashi ni mo
Me: Do you like bananas?
Kids: Hai!!!
Me: Do you like big bananas? (gesture)
Kids: (giggle) Oki na banana?
Me: Yes!!
Kids: (giggle) Yes…
Me: Me too (pointing to my chest)
Kids: Soto de issho ni asobou?
Me: Yeah, let's go.
Kids: Dodge Ball suru?
Me: No, I want to play Oni goko…
Kids: Oni goko shitai?… eh…nande?
Me: Hashitai kara…
Kids: Wakatta, Ja…oni goko shiou!!

This is a pretty simple topic. With a more in depth conversation I'd obviously speak more Japanese. Hope this helps.


What I'd like you to do for a moment is just think…think back to 10 years ago…

How old were you? What grade were you in? Where were you living?… Think how big the world was. There was no internet, very few cell phones, and not so many international plane flights…

Now think about today. Think how much smaller the world has become. You can contact people across the globe in a matter of seconds. You can visit people on the other side of the world in just a few hours…

Now think about your students… Yuki, who is always out of his seat during your lessons; Rina, who can run super fast; the boy in the dirty shirt who always smiles when he konchos you… where are they going to be 10 years from now when the world is even smaller than it is today? Ten years from now your 6th graders will be 22 years old. What is the world going to look like to them?

As ALTs it is our job to help our students understand the world, NOT as it is in a text book, but as it really is in the eyes of others. It is our job to help them understand the world as we see it, and… it is our job to help give them the confidence to communicate with it.

We have talked about a lot of things today and I hope you are able to take home some new ideas. Just before you leave, I have three favors to ask of you:

1) Take ideasthat you come across, adapt them to your situation, and try them. If they work, please pass them on to others.

2) Work towards Independent Thinking and Free Expression.


AND….while you're doing these three things, please remember to…

If you have any questions of comments about anything, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Cheers all, JOEL BACHA

To email Joel, use the Genki English contact form:

And also have a look at his Play & Affect in Language Learning paper for a more academic look at things.

Joel Bacha's Curriculum GuideBook featuring even more ESL games

And there are even more ESL games ideas in Joel's Curriculum Guide Book


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