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Give your kids a real reason to learn English!
Written by Richard Graham

International Understanding is to me, learning about other people, their culture and their way of thinking. And what a better way to use the English that your kids have learnt than by actually using it to communicate with kids in other countries. 10 years ago this would have been a time consuming and expensive task of sending letters or parcels and waiting for replies. But thanks to the net, it's a lot easier these days!

For example, when learning about food.... This is usually quite fun, but why not use that English to actually learn something about other countries? I got my 6th graders to write down their school menu in English and exchange it with other schools in Canada! Straight away a real use of the English they just learnt, because if they wrote it in Japanese the Canadian kids probably wouldn't understand it! But when the English reply came they were all eager to find out exactly what it said, I read it out and they really tried their best to understand it!! How do you find the schools abroad? Simple, use an internet site like that lets you find partner schools for projects! This type of activity teaches the kids and teachers something about the World, and shows them that the English they just learnt can be used straight away, and that yes, really, people in other countries do use English, it's not just in the classroom!!!

Or what about the weather? Try asking "What's the weather like in Leeds?" (My home town!) On its own this may be fun for the kids, but what about actually asking the question via email to kids in various cities around the world? Or as one school in Imabari does, exchange weather forecasts via the net everyday? Or as I did, 10 minutes before the lesson print out some LIVE pictures from internet web cams and the kids can actually see what the weather is in various parts of the world RIGHT NOW!!! Check out the BBC webpage at Pretty cool! Of course it also takes the younger kids a while to figure out that if the pictures were taken in the last hour, how come half of the countries are in darkness!! But this again is a part of International Understanding!

These are just some examples of how I wanted to break away from the "My name is...." aspect of English teaching and into showing the kids that even if they know only a little language, with the right attitude this little can go a very long way to learning other things. Because that's the key here, English is a road which can lead anywhere, and for us our destination is a broader understanding of the world!

Email and the net are the communication methods of the future, and they provide the tools to let us do things that were impossible a decade ago. Choose a small defined topic, find a school willing to share information and give your kids a real reason to learn English!

And one of the most fun uses of English was to send a letter to Santa, and get a reply! Check out

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