Page in Japanese

Key skills: Reviewing

I often get asked by teachers if I have any new themes for them. I usually reply by saying "Sure, there are loads on the site!", to which the reply is often "Yeah, but I've done that. And I've done that, and I've done that......".

But one of the important things to realise is that it doesn't really matter what you've "done" in class, what really matters is if the kids can actually understand and use that English.

How do you achieve this? With an integrated review policy!

Now if you only teach a class once per year then this chapter probably isn't for you, but for everyone else, here are a few ideas that should help get your kids actually using the English you teach them.

Building blocks

First of all, don't treat any lesson in isolation. Although it doesn't matter in which order you do the Genki English themes, you should always review the previous themes when practising the current one.

For example let's suppose that this week you are doing "How are you?". So you teach the song, and then to practise speaking you choose a game like, for example, the "How are you?" game. Then in the following week you decide to try "What's your name?". So you teach the song and use a game, for example The Gokiburi Game. But, and here is the key point, this time the target language for the game will not simply be "What's your name?" you'll also include "How are you?". i.e. the kids will ask:

"Hello. What's your name?"
"My name's .... What's your name?"
"My name's .... How are you?"
"I'm ..., how are you?"

True it does sound a little mechanical, but that's not the point, the point is that we want to give the kids the chance to practise speaking and hearing all the English they've learnt so far. They don't just do it and throw it away, they keep using it, every lesson. And by using it it becomes easier and easier and a natural part of their speaking.

Similarly in the third lesson, let's say you do "How did you get here?". And this time you include the previous themes in today's game.

"Hello. What's your name?"
"My name's .... What's your name?"
"My name's .... How are you?"
"I'm ..., how are you?"
"I'm .... How did you get here?"
" I came here by .... How did you get here?"
"I came here by.... Thanks, Goodbye"

Now after a while ( say 5 or 6 lessons), it will become a very long "conversation", which is actually a good thing! If you have good enough kids you can tell them to mix the question order, to try and trip each other up. But if it starts to dominate things too much, you can gradually cut back on the questions / answers that the kids no longer need practise in because they can use it effortlessly when you test them in the Lines Quiz ( see below!).

This is very important: no lesson is an island, build up and up, each lesson.

In the beginning ...

"This all sounds fine and well", you may be thinking "but my kids always forget what I did last week!". And I quite sympathise! But this is why you use the songs, to help the kids quickly remember the previous week's material.

There are three main techniques to help with this, all of them I'd really recommend to be used at the beginning of each and every lesson:

1) Warm Ups - always include previous themes' vocab words in the warm up. E.g. "Be an aeroplane", "Eat an ice cream", "I'm hungry" etc. Ask them questions in between commands, e.g. "Stand up" "Boys, 5 star jumps" "Girls, what's your name?" etc.

2.) Sing the song from the previous week, or the week before, or even 3 songs from the last 3 lessons! The music makes it fun to review and the melodies make it easy to remember. Simply try humming the tune and the lyrics will often come back to them.

3) Do the Lines Quiz in each lesson. This is very important in making sure the kids can spontaneously respond correctly to questions. Very often I see kids and ask them questions and they just go "Eh?" and their teacher then has to prod them saying "You remember, we did that last month!". You avoid this problem by doing the Lines Quiz in each lesson. It's especially effective in getting the kids used to "How are you?" and "How old are you?", for example.

When you're teaching the current theme you can also trick them by asking a completely different question at an unexpected time. For example if you are doing the Creepy Crawlies theme, instead of asking "What's this?" and pointing to each bug, occasionally try pointing to a card and saying "What's your name?" or "What colour is this?"! Lots of fun and it keeps everyone on their toes!

5 Minutes a Day ....

Experience in Europe has shown that teaching a little bit every day is more effective than one long lesson once a week. If you can get the help of your school, or parents if you teach privately, and can implement a "5 minutes a day" review, it will help enormously, will increase the speed at which the kids are able to learn and will virtually eliminate wasted time in your lessons.

The easiest thing to do is to simply play this week's song, once a day. For parents this can be in the car on the way to school, or for elementary schools, playing the song in cleaning ( souji ) or assembly time works wonders. ( But just watch out for the kids who start dancing instead of cleaning!). If you can get the classroom teacher to go through the song with the actions in the morning assembly, this is an even bigger boost. But usually teachers in upper grades are too busy to do this!

There is an article about this in Japanese here.

Only Reviews....

After 3 or 4 lessons of review + new material, I often find it useful to do a whole lesson that is just review, without anything new. The trick here is to go over the same English again, but in a different way so the kids don't get bored and still enjoy the lesson. You can do this by adding new vocab into a questions structure ( use the Karaoke Version of the song), or more simply by changing the game ( e.g. from the example above, try using a variation on the Namecard game to practise "What's your name?", "How are you?" and "How did you get here?". ) . This helps you to see how far the kids have come, what parts they are having difficulty with, and gives them extra practice.

It's all about what they can do....

Just remember it's not what you've "done", it's what your kids can actually do that counts. But follow these ideas and you'll have kids who can speak, have confidence and everyone can see how well they, and you, are doing!

Be genki,


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