Kobe & Tokyo 2006 Recontracting Conference Notes!

Sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education & the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations

First of a all a very big thank you to the nearly 1,000 people that attended the workshops in Kobe & Tokyo! You were great! As we'd all already met at Tokyo Orientation it was great to get straight down to things with plenty of theory and lots & lots of practical applications. Some of the basics you can also see on my online video workshops.

So as promised, here is a rundown of what I did. I didn't do everything in all the workshops, but most of you saw most of it!


  • The important points for Input are:
  • The idea of "L+1". Give the kids input just a little above their current level. If it's too easy, they don't learn anything new. If the English is too tough it's just babble and they switch off.
  • What you teach has to be useful. In JHS this may mean you have to "teach to the test", but for elementary school it means find out where, when & what English they can use. For most kids in Japan the ALT visits are the best chance they have to speak English, so listen to what they say to you in Japanese and base your lessons on that. That's what I did with the GE curriculum. With the amount of ALTs in Japanese schools they have a huge advantage over kids in other countries, give them the language to take advantage of this!
  • It's got to be fun. If it's not fun, students switch off.
  • But the idea of "fun" varies from person to person. So...
  • Have a look in the idea of "Multiple Intelligences" ( simple explanation - a more critical look). Different people learn, and hence have fun, in different ways. Which ones are you?
    • word smart
    • number/reasoning smart
    • picture smart
    • body smart
    • music smart
    • people smart
    • self smart
    • nature smart
  • But we always have to remember it's not about the teacher, it's about the kids. So even if you may not be "body smart", "word smart" or even "music smart" yourself, some kids will be. Our job is to address as many different types of learning when we introduce new material.
  • Then we used the "How are you?" theme to introduce new language using gestures, pictures and sounds, all designed to help as many kids remember the words.
  • To get out of the "What's your name?" "What's your name?" parroting back of questions, as soon as you can, start getting the kids answering questions. i.e. like when you asked me "How are you?", I did a gesture and then you reply "Hungry" or whatever. Another idea is to ask the kids "How are you?" whilst pointing at a picture card. The kids then answer with this card. Throw in random questions to keep then on their toes! You can of course use this for any themes.
  • One question and 8 answers is good for one lesson. But kids usually get bored after 4 answers, so split things up with a mini game. We did the "I like everything" game.
  • Plan your lessons like a Hollywood movie, "bang" big explosive start with a good warm up, get the meat of the lesson taught, then end on a massive high note. The kids will leave happy, the parents will see it and want to double the ALTs salary!


  • The important points of Output are:
  • Think! Don't just have the kids "repeat after me". Make them respond to questions or stimuli. Even if the answer is artificial at first, getting the link between questions and answers is important in solving the "answering a question with the same question" problem.
  • Pair Practice. Going round the class talking one-on-one is not the best use of time if the other kids are sat there being bored. The best activities are where the kids are talking with each other. This increases practise time exponentially. The teacher moves from center stage to being the "director", the kids are the real movie stars!
  • Games. But just telling the kids to "go practise" won't work, as we all know, they just look at you funny! This is where games come in, the mechanism of the game gives the kids a target to aim for, and the game is designed to make sure they have to practise the English to win the game.
  • I talked about the Gokiburi Game as being a classic example of a game where the kids get lots of practise and really enjoy it. I didn't plan to play the game, I was surprised in the first group that most people didn't know it! It's a real classic.
  • For super large classes, something like the "Weather Clap Clap" game is really effective.

Shyness and the GE rules

  • Remember the definition of shyness is " the degree to which we cannot communicate with other people".
  • Shy = cannot communicate with many people.
  • Not shy = can communicate with anyone.
  • We have to be careful that teachers don't use "shyness" as an excuse. For the kids to be "not shy" is the aim of international communication lessons.
  • To do this you need the Genki English rules:
  • Rule number 1: "I can do it!" - "Dekiru to omoeba, dekiru!"
  • We used the Rocket Launch to show how it works.
  • But if the kids who lose go home all sad and depressed, we've failed in motivating them to learn English. So...
  • Rule number 2: Losing means "Try again!". "Makeru no imi wa "mou ikkai!""
  • We tried the Rocket Launch again, and did you see how different it was?
  • Mingle is also a great way to get this idea across.

Talking with real kids

  • For 6th graders it takes a lot more effort to learn any new English.
  • From grades 1-4 we use the songs & games to get the kids to able to use lots of basic English.
  • Then in 5th & 6th grades let's use that English in projects.
  • ALTs were brought over originally as they were a similar age to high school students and could relate to each other. But your average JET doesn't have that much in common with an 8 year old, so let them practise their English with kids their own age in other countries. This way they are using their English to learn other things.
  • Try the School Lunch or Pet projects and you too could find yourself being paid to take a bunch of students to the other side of the World!
  • Also works in Junior High School. Use the English they are learning in English class to ask students abroad questions about things they are studying in social studies class. One student, one question for a one time exchange is easy to set up. See epals.com
  • I told you what happened with my JHS kids and their Korean project!


  • "Teachers open the door. You have to enter by yourself" - Chinese proverb.
  • If you only have one lesson a month, you have to sell the kids English!
  • Your job is to make English as cool as having a Playstation 3.
  • Give them the skills with the songs & games, the motivation, then the chance to use the English.

Being Genki

  • Being genki and enjoying yourself is important.
  • Remember how much more interesting the beer plans for tonight were in a happy way of saying it, compared with the sad way!
  • Being genki is easy. If you can get the kids to stand up straight, head back and smiling then it's impossible to make yourself depressed! Your mind controls your body, but your body position also controls your mind. Keep the kids active and moving and they'll be happy.

What about High School?

  • Things change in High School.
  • I don't know much about High School myself, but I think a lot of it has to do with the Harry Potter effect.
  • You have to let them think they own the World.
  • Give them goals, like the one of speaking to Beckham. Show them how far they can go, and how to get there.
  • "Your favourite subject is you", but also what you like. So..
  • Try using famous people e.g. Instead of "Have you every been to Kyoto?" ( yawn ), use "Has Nakata ever been to the moon?"
  • You can also use famous people for TPRS story telling, another good way of input.
  • Also see the Famous People Card Game.
  • Or use movies to wake the kids interest, e.g. Spiderman, Star Wars, Da Vinci Code.
  • As I showed you, in some high schools the elementary school songs & games sometimes work! You never know.

What's your job?

Then finally it was the Genki Speech which is really best to be spoken, but basically...
  • With the exception of being a record producer or movie star, you have the best job in the World!
  • If you have too much free time, isn't that the best job ever, getting paid to do nothing! Think of your mates back home or try the 101 Cool things to do on JET.
  • Your job is in three bits, 33% is to teach English, 33% is just to be the foreigner around town and get stared at, and 33% is to enjoy Japan and tell everyone back home what an amazing place it is! So enjoy it!
  • JETs are an amazing bunch of people, you're all young at heart, motivated, educated and have the most amazing skills and talents! Use the flexibility you have to use these talents for your students!
  • Whatever problems you may have, you just have to put them in perspective ( think of the mate back home).
  • You heard my story and how I wasn't going to let the bad things define my time in Japan.
  • You are a role model for Japanese kids ( did you find out any more world famous Japanese people?)
  • They see you as someone with get-up-and-go because you got up and went all the way over to their school just to teach them!
  • If you need some help, there's plenty around, or invite me to your town for a JET workshop.
  • Whenever I travel around the country the difference between a town, village or city with no JET and one with a good JET is tremendous!!
  • You are making a a huge difference.
  • Whatever happens just go into the classroom, smile, have fun, leave your problems at the door and just give your everything for the kids - however old they are.
  • Enjoy your time and above all...

"Be Genki!"

Any comments or questions?
Please get in touch! or have a look at the 2005 Conference page for some more ideas.

Here are some pages that may help out with topics from other workshops:

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