Teachers' Questions:
Training Japanese teachers in my school

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Q: During the Summer I have to train the Japanese teachers in my school. Help!

Now more schools are taking English seriously in Japan they often ask ALTs to help train the Japanese teachers during the Summer study periods. Sometimes they just want an "English lesson" but often they want help on how to teach on their own. Many people have written in asking for ideas, so here we go with a few....

First of all even though elementary school English has been around for about 20 years in Japan, most teachers feel isolated and alone in teaching English, but they all have the same questions and problems, which luckily all have answers! The thing is that they won't openly admit their problems, but here are some of the worries you'll need to address:

* I don't have confidence in my English ( biggest one !)
* What should we teach?
* What activities should we use?
* How to plan a 45 minute lesson
* What to do about writing?
* How to link High School English?
* Why do we need English in elementary school?

Some of these are simple e.g. writing is not allowed under the current guidelines. And sometimes the "excuse questions" pop up e.g. "If we learn English, our Japanese will suffer" ( simple answer: No, many kids in the world speak more than one language fluently. Live in Hawaii for twenty years and it might, live in Japan and it won't.)

But out of these the confidence issue is the main one. You have to let them know that English isn't brain surgery, it's just a foreign language. One of the easiest ways to do this is to tell them to completely forget their Junior High School English! If you speak Japanese, here's an online video of a workshop where I go through this with the teachers, using lots of jokes and skits you can see their reaction straight away! (It's number 4, "Eigo ha kantan").

For the other problems, on the Help/Advice page of the site there are articles most of which have Japanese translations you can give to the teachers.

There's also a Japanese page going through each of the points above with answers:
"Yoku aru shitsumon". Have a read and either come up with your own answers, or feel free to simply pass the article on to the teachers.

I scatter answers to these questions throughout my workshops, in between songs and games like a normal lesson. Things like how to link to high school can sometimes be a bit heavy but the teachers always come alive when playing games and songs! It's also good to do things like the newspaper game or ostrich game and put them in small groups and practise being the teacher. But of course, just like a real kids lesson, just doing games for the sake of it won't help them in the long run.

If you feel this is a bit daunting, I'm still learning how to make things easy to understand for Japanese teachers and I've been doing this full time for many years. But there are ways, and once the teachers are on board with how and why they are supposed to teach in Elementary School it's a whole new experience for you.

As usual if you have any questions please get in touch, or if you'd like me to do a workshop for you teachers, let me know, in Summer that's what I do do nearly everyday all over the country and if I'm nearby I can probably pop into your school!

If you have a question then please send it in! Or if you have any comments or additions to the above messages, then please send those in as well!

Or for more questions, have a look at the main Teachers' Questions Page.

Be genki,


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