ETJ Picture Cards & Speeches

As I’m flying out of Kansai airport this week, on Sunday I popped along to the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) Osaka meeting. Eric Kane did an excellent workshop and if you’re in the kansai area on November 16th I’d highly recommend you to pop along to their big yearly “Expo“.

Eric went through his basic lesson structure right from the beginning. Personally I couldn’t find anything to fault it. Basically he had …

1) The teacher and 3 students sat in a circle (this is for private classes, not elementary school)
2) Teacher says their name with lots of gestures and expressions.
3) Teacher prompts the children to tell their name.
4) Continue round the circle.

Dead easy. But then everyone in turn stands up and does a little speech “Hello. I’m ….. Thank you”. This is similar to what I do with the projects, but Eric starts it from the very first lesson, which is great. Then in the next lesson you add something else in like “Hello. I’m…. My mother is …. Thank you” and do another speech. Just building up layer by layer.

He also had some great stuff about picture cards. e.g. instead of just flashing the card, let the kids study it for 10 seconds then ask questions e.g. Is the bus blue? etc. He recommended starting off with closed yes/no questions, then moving on to open “What colour is the bus?” type questions before finally letting the kids make their own sentences. Again all very stress free and fun. The next step was to give the kids several cards to study, and then to do a lines quiz style game where all the questions are about the picture cards!

A great idea for teaching “You are … “ came up:
1. Put the kids in a circle.
2. Blindfold one kid and put them in the middle.
3. One child shouts out “hello”.
4. The kid in the middle guesses who said the word with “You are” + the name of the child.

He also took picture books and instead of reading the story just used the pictures as sources of information for words or prepositions etc. Personally I’d prefer to do that after doing the story, but Eric also had the idea that you could go right to near the end asking questions about the pictures, but then just flip back to the beginning before the punchline!

For when kids weren’t sure what to do, instead of saying the word and getting the kids to repeat, which is what a lot of teachers do, Eric was mouthing the phrase for the kids. This seemed to work much better.

For elementary school he also had a great idea of writing the word “house” on the board. Then get the kids to choose what colour it would be. Then get them to choose how many windows there are or what other features it has. All using imagination and English. Then the kids get into groups and come up with another funky house with 15 iron doors and 24 cotton candy windows or whatever. I’m thinking this would work great with the “Let’s build a house” song which I’ll be putting on the site in November!

There was also another teacher there called Michiyo who had some cool ideas. One was to do a remix of Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, what can you see?” but using combinations of the same vowel sound instead of first letters, e.g. pink fish or slender gecko. She also had some “spot the difference” mini cards. I’ve already got some Halloween Spot the Difference big sheets on the site but she had the idea to do actual mini-cards with spot the differences.

Any as you can see there was a ton of really good stuff there, and as I say if you can head to expo it should be definitely worth it as it will be 36 times bigger! Just tell them I sent you. And thank you very much to Ailsa for organising today.

The only bad thing was that in evening along with all the good, heated discussions about phonics and teaching methods and stuff we also had teachers saying “Yes, but parents only want me to teach the tests, I can’t use what we did today”. But the point is that if you do things like today where the kids get really good at speaking what they want to say with confidence, in general it’s the single biggest thing you can do to boost their test scores. There’s every reason to do both, they get the short term aim of passing the test and master a skill that’s going to make them much more employable in the future. Two for the price of one can’t be bad!

I think tomorrow I’ll try and upload my article about setting goals…..

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

4 Responses to “ETJ Picture Cards & Speeches”

  1. Flossy

    Thanks for sharing this information Richard. There are some really good ideas.

    I like your closing comment regarding speaking. When you live in or visit another country speaking is the most important thing. I know grammar is really key in perfecting a language. I also know from personal experience that if you cannot at least have the confidence to try and speak it is impossible to do anything. It was very hard for me initially and I always tell my students to just have a go!

    Tests are also very important for monitoring progress, however there are hardly any spoken elements to the tests where I teach. I wish that there was much more focus on speaking and not on written work, especially for the older children. So many adults here tell me they hardly ever spoke in the classroom years ago. There also learnt phrases and words that never come into daily conversations.

    After having watched you training video, that you posted, I started to use the line game. It is wonderful for the younger children to review. It is also amazing to use it with older children, who suddenly cannot even remember their name or age!!! I have also become obsessed with full sentence answers. Children can sometimes just give the minimum and I have started to push them for more. The phrases from the GE songs are building into wonderful conversations that they can show the whole class together.

    I am also looking forward to the house song. I like the picture book. I also do an activity where I give the children a big sheet of paper per group and describe a scene. There is a house in the middle of the page, with 4 windows, a cat on the roof, a pond in front of the house. a cat by the door, the house number is etc etc. We then check all the pictures are similar!! I also incorporate left and right too which is quite amusing sometimes. My favourite is the horse behind the house, some very long legged horses!!!!

  2. Rosebud

    A very interesting blog again. Interesting that parents in Japan push so hard for the tests rather than the speaking. In Germany, oral work makes up for 60 % of the marks.

  3. Desiree

    I love This stuff always helps me with my lesson plans., Thank you!

  4. Ailsa

    Thanks for letting everyone know how the meeting went. Eric shared a lot of great ideas and it was nice to get to together and chat with so many teachers.

    Hope to see you at the Expo too!


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