Kyoto – Kids in Kimono

Tomorrow I have a full day 9000 yen workshop for private school teachers here, so today they asked me to do a paid for show for their kids. I haven’t done any of these in a long while, but we had hundreds of parents and kids attend today, which is an amazing turn out.

Due to the size of the hall though we had to split it into 3 groups. Usually I’d insist on having everyone together ( it’s easier to do and less work for everyone!) but the teachers today had invited me before so I agreed, and it’s also a chance for me to try out some new ideas. I was planning on doing the new I like animals 2 song ( there’ll be a beta version to download in the CD Owners Forum next month), but the parents chatting at the back made anything new almost impossible.

It’s really important to have balance in a lesson, to have quiet and loud parts, fast and slow, pure fun and slow reflection, but you need everyone’s attention when doing this. Calming kids down is really easy ( have a look at the Online Workshop Video) but one group of parents were just ignoring everything me and the staff said to them about shutting up. And of course as soon as one person is talking, a few others start, then a few others and it’s impossible to do anything slow or reflective as you lose everyone’s attention. Plus the room was too jam packed for any games so it was non-stop mega genkiness for 55 minutes! But actually the kids did really well.

We did…

* Rocket Launch ( the long version )
* Genki Disco Warm Up Song
* Rock, Paper, Scissors
* Under the Sea
* Favourite food + family picture books.
* Come on! Soccer song
* and Thank you.

Which for an hour is pretty fantastic. Plus the kids were playing around on the computer games before hand so quite a few parents bought CDs.

Then after lunch it was the same thing again, but this time what a difference! These were total model parents, the best you could wish for. They were quiet when they should, and loud when they should, jumping around, joining in and laughing with their kids. It was exactly the same content, but with hardly any effort from me as everyone was enjoying themselves so much. They really got into shouting out answers for the picture books and it was as close as you’ll ever get to a perfect model show.

Then 30 minutes later was the last one, but this time for upper elementary school graders. Now I really, really don’t like to do shows for this age of kids and the success rate is pretty low, last time I was here it was just painful for everyone! This time the teachers wanted to do What do you do? and the name card game. So I sort of agreed, but on condition that we could test the kids first, there’s no point doing a game like that with so many kids if they either a) don’t know the English or b) aren’t bothered, as it will just descend into chaos.

So my first test was to see if they were in the mood to laugh or not. So I taught the Genki Disco Warm Up without saying a word. I just pressed a button to get the computer to say the words, then made a face expression as “hmmm, what does that mean?” and the kids did the actions, to which I did a big “Ah, now I see!” face. And they were killing themselves laughing. So test 1 OK!

The next test was to see if they can answer questions quickly. Very often with private English school kids you’ll ask them a question and they’ll just tilt their head and maybe give you an answer 20 minutes later. Obviously no good for the name card game. So we did the Genki English version of Karuta. And they were good, I could rush round the hall asking anyone and everyone spoke up strong and confident without any hesitation. Good, step 2 passed.

Now it was time to make sure they know all the English for the game,. You usually do this using the song, but of course 5th and 6th graders usually don’t like songs! The one exception is when you split them into two groups and get each group to sing louder than the other. The guaranteed always works song for this is Where are you going?, the teacher sings the “I’m going to the beach” line, the first group repeats “beach”, then the second group repeats it. Even the toughest as nails, too cool for school group always go full out to beat the other team. And they were great. They did already know the English, I was just getting them genki. Which nicely led into doing the same trick with the “What do you do?” song, the teacher says the line, the first group repeats, then the next. And they were even better. No gestures of course ( I tried but to no avail!), but big loud voices which is the main thing.

The final incentive of a pack of cards to the top three players in the game got the last of the “not bothered” boys into a “I want that prize!” mode and everyone did really, really well. No cheating, great pronunciation and loads of confidence. Nice.

Not that it was a perfect lesson by any stretch of the imagination, but I was just glad we made it to the end and didn’t have the parents asking for their money back. But then afterwards the kids’ teachers were beaming saying it was the best lesson of the day. So I guess you can’t complain!

So there you go, a very tiring, but very good day. Oh yeah, and for some reason some of the teachers and their students turned up in summer kimonos today, which after being out of the country for so long was a very cool thing to see!

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...