TEFL Journal of Japan

The Journal of English Teaching in Japan

TEFL Journal of Japan

Teaching English To Non-English Speakers

February 8, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan, TEFL Asia

by: Yvonne Volante

Teaching the English language to a non english speaking person can be exciting and interesting. If this is of interest to you, consider traveling to other countries to teach.

It is generally preferred for the English teacher to be a native English speaker.

Here are some common terms you should familiarize yourself with:

Before you excitedly answer any employment ads you should learn the meaning of commonly used terms as well as recommendations for working locally or abroad.

TEFL: Teaching English Foreign Language; often refers to teaching English in a foreign country. Known to students as EFL classes.

TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language; usually refers to teaching English to foreigners in an English speaking country. Known to students as ESL classes.

Would you prefer to teach locally or abroad?

For people who wish to travel TEFL can be a great opportunity to interact with new cultures and to finance traveling. It is important to investigate the country you will be traveling to as well as the employer offering the position to ensure you will be safe and have reliable work. You may decide to work with an agency based in your home country that will assist you with legal questions and assist you in making living arrangements.

While many foreign positions are available to individuals without experience or certification you will likely find the education and resources of a class to be valuable before taking an assignment. If you think you would like to try this career out you might offer your services locally, as a private tutor, or take an instruction class to familiarize yourself with the responsibilities and work required to teach a language.

If you choose to work in your own country there will be various guidelines for certification, experience and materials as determined by the employers. If you consider private tutoring you can research recommended course materials and methods online or at a book store or library. You can then advertise your services in a local paper or on college and university billboards.

Teaching English can be very rewarding. However, English is a language that is full of rule breaking nuances. Trying to explain these to a student can be difficult and a person needs to have patience and good personal skills to become an effective teacher.

Do your research to be sure you are interested in the opportunities that there are. Teaching English to non-English speakers really is rewarding and profitable. And, you may get the chance to travel as a bonus!

About The Author

Yvonne Volante, the author, is a big fan of language and writes for aaalanguage.com, which is the premier language resource on the internet. You can see all of the articles over at http://www.aaalanguage.com.


Mindfulness and Teaching: Lessons From Dynamic English

February 8, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan, teaching ideas, TEFL Asia

by: Maya Talisman Frost

Back in 1983, I was hired to teach English in rural northern Japan. I had no experience teaching, and didn’t speak a work of Japanese.

No matter—I had the requisite four-year college degree and a thirst for adventure.

My employer/boss/teaching partner was Grif Frost, a 27-year-old budding entrepreneur who had married the Japanese exchange student who had once lived with his family. He ended up living near his wife’s parents in Mutsu, and did what any self-respecting English-speaking person did in Japan in 1982—he started an English school.

Now, Grif had no experience teaching, either. He had a master’s in International Management and a couple of toddlers at home. He was the token foreigner in Mutsu, and figured he might as well put it to good use.

Without training, he developed an approach he called “Dynamic English”—a high-energy, full-body, take-no-prisoners form of English as pure entertainment. He focused on presenting classes that were “Fast, Fun and Friendly”, and was notorious for his colorful puppets, loud singing, dramatic storytelling, and excessive sweating.

As his partner, I picked up on the style quickly. Soon, I was causing my own stampedes of 3-year-olds and getting my share of notoriety for creative book-reading. In one memorable moment, I was spreading my arms wide to demonstrate the concept of “big” when my blouse burst open. Talk about a visual aid!

We became something like rock stars among the kindergarten children. Imagine a hundred Japanese five-year-olds seeing big white Americans with squeaky oversized plastic mallets (great for elimination during “Simon Says”), an overflowing bag of what looked suspiciously like toys, and boisterous “Good Morning!” greetings. The kids would literally fall over laughing at our stunts, and never got tired of our silly songs and wild games.

We were doing what came naturally—fully engaging the students in a way that created real awareness of language, objects, directions, shapes, colors, and verbal and musical sounds. Our older students were thrilled with this active approach, so different from the “This is a pen” lessons they’d chanted in their mandatory English classes in middle school. By providing new triggers, surprising methods, and hilarious material, we were offering novel stimuli, fresh perspective, and 100% focus on the present.

Little did we know that a Harvard psychologist would later describe these same characteristics as essential for mindful learning! Dr. Ellen Langer, author of The Power of Mindful Learning, talks about the importance of being open to novelty, drawing distinctions, being aware of differing contexts and perspectives, and orienting in the present.

Learning a language can be incredibly tedious or outrageously active and exciting. We played with English and our students not only learned the lessons quickly but laughed heartily, burned calories, and created a whole new mindset about what it takes to learn something new.

Grif relied on mindful learning in developing his approach to teaching English—he was completely open from the beginning, and was never hampered by ideas of what teaching should look like.

He was creative about using games and songs he’d loved as a kid and turning them into fresh and powerful tools for teaching. He shifted the lesson plans when dealing with various age groups and English levels, and constantly improved his approach by paying attention to the responses and being fearless about making changes and trying out new ideas.

Years later, I am delighted to find myself applying this approach to teaching mindfulness. Instead of sticking with the meditation lesson plan, I’ve opted for the excitement of learning mindfulness in a way that is thoroughly engaging and surprisingly active. In fact, the basic guidelines for Real-World Mindfulness Training are remarkably similar to those for Dynamic English:

* Stay open to new things—including your approach to learning in general.
* Look for subtle differences in similar objects or ideas.
* Discover new uses for old tools.
* Explore shifting perspectives.
* Shake up stale notions.
* Engage all senses.
* Get physical whenever possible.
* Jump into the moment wholeheartedly.
* Be sure to have fun every single day.

Whether you’re learning a language or developing mindfulness, the key is this: keep it dynamic.

And never underestimate the value of large squeaky plastic mallets. Just imagine how much fun it would be to use one in a room full of meditators!

About The Author

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she teaches fun and effective eyes-wide-open ways to get calm, clear and creative. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit http://www.MassageYourMind.com.

[email protected]


Teaching English In China

January 14, 2007 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

by Michael Collins

Anyone willing to teach English in China meets with a voracious demand for their skills. As the country steps further onto the world stage, its people seek to communicate in the leading international language. These are a few impressions and hints, necessarily selective, based on my year teaching English in Beijing.

My first direct impression of China was a pleasant surprise at the quick and efficient way the Chinese Embassy in London produced my ‘Z’ work visa in eight days. The further necessary documents were supplied shortly after arrival by the Foreign Affairs Office at my employers, the Beijing Second Foreign Language University, after they had provided new members of staff with an expenses-paid medical and x-ray examination. The most important document was the green passport-type residence permit. One is supposed to carry it at all times, although it must be said that checks on foreigners in major cities are rare, away from nightspots.

Guidebooks to China rapidly go out of date; formalities tend to be fewer and facilities better when one arrives. Especially if you plan to teach outside one of the main cities, you are well-advised to get up to date information from someone who has taught there recently, or to register with the US-China Educational Exchange. http://members.aol.com/eduexchange/USChinaEdExchange.html and get Yong Ho’s excellent China File.

If you plan to teach in China, you first need to decide whether you want to serve as a volunteer or to be paid for your work. One source of volunteer recruitment is Britain’s VSO. Another is the British Council Teach in China scheme. Guides to opportunities can be found in the EEL sections of libraries or on the internet. You also need to examine your motives. If you are planning to leave behind a failed marriage, an unsuccessful career or money worries, forget it. Coming to such a different culture, where you are probably a complete stranger, will not solve your problems or make you rich, and your hosts, the Chinese students, have the right to expect that your mind is fully on the job in working hours.

If you are a Christian Evangelical hoping to come to China to propagate your version of Christianity, you should know that proselytizing is forbidden under Chinese law, although it is permitted to discuss religion in class from a cultural point of view. Otherwise, there are only three subjects which you should avoid raising, or weigh your words about if they are raised with you: the status of Taiwan, the ‘leading role’ of the Communist Party, and alternative lifestyles. As in any country, common sense and common courtesy suggest that one should avoid offending the deeply-held beliefs of one’s hosts.

You can certainly get teaching work without any qualifications or experience, although established institutions in the cities now generally expect at least one or the other. If you are new to teaching, you owe it to yourself and your prospective students to obtain either the RSA/UCLES Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (the Cambridge Certificate) or the equivalent Trinity Certificate. These are the only two basic qualifications for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language recognized by the UK government and are, incidentally, required for teaching in schools which are accredited by the British Council in the UK or overseas.

Being a native speaker may make you a useful role model and source of cultural information, but is no guarantee that you will be a success as a teacher. Chinese students are generally cooperative and good-humoured but they have been known to protest against incompetent teachers and teachers are occasionally sacked. In particular there is good money to be made for the competent teacher of Business English, but teachers who do not deliver can expect short shrift.

RSA and Trinity courses are widely available in Britain. They take four or sometimes five weeks. They give an intensive grounding in teaching methods and an introduction to sources of information on teaching materials, grammar, vocabulary, and phonology. The cheapest course in London is at Westminster College, where I trained. Trainee teachers are asked to digest such handbooks as Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener (Macmillan Heinemann, 1994) and The Practice of English Language Teaching by Jeremy Harmer (Longman, 1991). It may also be a good idea to have a look at these if you are not sure whether you want to teach English as a Foreign Language and want to know more about what is involved.

The basic books you are likely to need as a teacher are available much cheaper in big cities in China than in Britain, under agreements with the British publishers. Reference materials for teachers are usually available at schools and universities, who often prescribe the textbook to be used. (Enquire before you arrive.)

For preparing lessons, there is nothing to beat the convenience of having your own copies of a good dictionary (Oxford or Longmans), Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, Murphy’s English Grammar in Use and still (although it has its limitations) Anne Baker’s Ship or Sheep?

If you want or need to choose your own teaching materials, there is ample available from major publishers. When choosing it, bear in mind how appropriate it seems to be for China culturally; publishers have recently made big efforts to eliminate cultural bias. Local textbooks vary in quality. Some are full of misprints, errors and inappropriacies; others can stand comparison with imported texts. The main outlet in Beijing is the Foreign Language Bookstore in Wangfujing Street. Teachers planning to go to other cities should check out bookstores in advance and pack some materials as a precaution.


Fujikyu Highland, Riding the ALT Rollercoaster

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan

by Kevin Burns

“The children are great! Walker loves the kids. The kids love the classes. They light him up and they are so alive and open to anything. They really are great.”

“I saw a documentary on NHK recently and it said that if the foreign teacher is allowed to teach and the Japanese teacher assists, then the class will go well. But if the Japanese teacher insists on teaching in a Japanese way and wants to control the class, the students don`t learn as much and the class doesn`t go as well. The foreign teacher and the Japanese teacher need to form a team, and that means allowing the foreign teacher to teach in the way she or he knows best.” –a Fuji Film Executive

“The teachers don`t like you because you speak English better than they do, you don`t know grammar like they do, they think you are just another guy from down the block. You aren`t part of their teacher`s union, and you look different, so you are fair game. You scare them. You have the power to embarrass them in front of their students. There isn`t much Japanese hate more than embarrassment.” –A JET Official

Mr. Kawaguchi calls me on the phone, “Walkersan, can you please teach at two local elementary schools? We need a good, native English teacher like yourself.” Walker hesitates, he has never enjoyed teaching children, though has done it for many years. Does he want to do it yet again? “No sorry, thank you for asking, but I am really just too busy right now.”

A few days pass then Mr. Kawaguchi calls again. “Walkersan, I have reduced the hours and you can teach any way you want. You don`t even have to discipline the students, the Japanese teachers will do that.” Walker starts thinking about it again. What he hates most is having to discipline as well as teach. He would rather just teach, so this is a little tempting now. He could use the money, he has a mortgage to pay off, a family, it might not be so bad.

“No sorry, I really can`t do it.”

A few days later….”Walkersan, I have reduced the hours even more. It is just at two schools and the classes are small at one. Can I talk with your wife and explain more to her?” Mr. Kawaguchi uses all the weapons in his arsenal to charm Walker`s wife and convince Walker that this is one of the greatest jobs of all time. He does a Nixon with the truth.

He tells Walker that the previous teacher quit. She wanted more money. (In fact the previous teacher still wanted the job.) It is very flexible, Walker can teach however he sees fit.

On a bright morning in April, Walker goes to one of the two elementary schools he will teach at. There has been no meeting with the teachers he will work with, there have been no introductions with the teachers he will “team teach” with. There has been no instruction about how to teach. Walker is not worried about that though, he was told he could teach any way he liked, and he would not have to discipline the students.

He looks forward to weaving his TEFL magic with Japanese teachers waiting in the wings to discipline any trouble makers. Sounds like TEFL heaven. Walker elects to teach in a huge room as he feels the children will be able to move around more, and he likes active, fun classes.

The grade ones come in and they look so cute and tiny all 43 of them. Little brown eyes staring up at the visage of this foreign giant. The two Japanese teachers do not introduce themselves to Walker, they seem to want to stay as far away from him as possible, while still appearing to be “helping” with the class.

Their help is in the form of standing motionless, and silent. While one occasionally, scolds a few of the more rambunctious boys in a husky army sergeant voice. At the end of class one of the teachers leaves and doesn`t look Walker in the eye. In 8 months she never will.

The children are great! Walker loves the kids. The kids love the classes. They light him up and they are so alive and open to anything. They really are great.

Some of the teachers though look like someone told them they have one hour to live and will die painfully. It is amazing to see the teachers then realize that they must have been just like these children, only twenty years ago. What the heck happened? Then period one is over.

The next class shuffles in. Another teacher who looks like Dr. Death has paid her a visit shuffles into the classroom with her grade two`s. Then a second teacher appears. She is so different from the other three teachers, Walker has to take a second to take it in. She has energy, yet appears to be much older than the other teachers. She seems to love what she does, and she has command of the class. She turns out to be a joy to teach with. Walker puts his finger on it. She is still child-like herself, yet can lead the class. The other teachers seem dead inside. There inner child is buried. This happy teacher allows Walker to do what he does best—teach English. She doesn`t interfere, far from it. She works with him. She follows his lead and goes with the flow. She never second guesses him in front of the students as some of the teachers will. She works as a teammate. Walker comes to look forward to teaching with her. If only all the teachers were like her……………..

The kids are great. They always will be. Ironicly, this huge man who loves children, but hates teaching them, loves teaching the children at the elementary schools. The kids are great! Walker can`t believe it! Walker realizes in these eight months that he doesn`t hate teaching children.

Ironicly he hates teaching children in his own English schools, where many of the children are forced to study by their parents.

This is probably the greatest experience Walker will take with him from being an ALT. The kids are great! They are just a joy! Their eyes gleam with light and potential. They smile. They laugh. They grab Walker`s long legs and hang on, they give him impromptu tours of the school. They give him high fives. They show him the English on their shirts. They show unconditional love of life and everything. They write him letters to say goodbye. They bring tears to his eyes when he finally realizes it is time to move on. Walker is greeted by the children as a kind of celebrity a or pop star and that never changes. Walker has a fan club of over 300!

All 41 of the grade threes enter the classroom. Teaching such huge classes will be a big challenge for Walker, who asks his wife to help with the classes, as about half of the Japanese teachers are not of much help.

They will do all the discipline? Yah right! I can teach any way I want? Yah, hand me another plate of bs. More pepper please. A meeting with the staff department chiefs doesn`t change much of anything. Though polite platitudes are expressed about the English lessons, Walker comes to feel he is not heard, nor are his opinions valued, as the problems he has mentioned are not fixed in any noticeable way.

While his lessons are complimented, almost in the same breath he is politely criticized. So the impact of the compliments are quickly nullified and Walker comes to feel that he is not appreciated much by the staff. This is the Japanese way of trying to help improve you.

Perhaps this is not so. In retrospect, probably he was appreciated. But in the moment, it doesn`t seem so. The Japanese staff seem to want Walker to teach in a Japanese rote memory style. They want him to do the same song about the weather week after week. Walker wants to move on and teach something new. Or teach the same vocabulary but in different ways.

The school shows him how a Japanese teacher teaches. She gives a very boring rote memory style of lesson. The other teachers seem very impressed by it. Walker is not.
The grade threes enter. The children as always are a joy and one of the teachers is fine, but another teacher is a pain. Her game is to tell Walker at least once per class that the activity he is about to do, just won`t work.

“The kids can`t do this.”

“Let`s just try it.”

“This is too difficult.”

“Let`s try it.”

“Shouldn`t we write all of this down on the board for them.”

(Fuck…g shut up!he thinks to himself) “Let`s just try it.”

” I really think this is too hard.”

“It`s okay, it`s okay,” Trying to stifle a maniacal urge to strangle the 25 year old woman. His wife urges him to ignore the interference. Walker can`t. He has been doing this for 17 years and finds it really grating that a 25 year old is telling him how to teach, as well as what will work and won`t work in his class. Walker can`t imagine ever being rude enough to stop a Japanese teacher while she is teaching a kanji class, saying “this is too difficult.” This woman is making the class harder to teach. Yet her job is supposed to be as a team member and help him teach the class.

She seems to regard Walker as her rival. She seems to see him as some interloper teaching her students. He sees her as some kind of saboteur. In Japan, you are often not supposed to talk about problems. Simply bringing them up is something that shouldn`t be done. “Walker stops the 25 year old on the stairs, resists the crocodile urge to push her down them, and says

“Please stop giving me advice during my classes. I am busy enough. Tell me after the class, plus I have done all the preparation, it is too late to change things right before an activity.”

She looks stunned. Walker decides that is not enough. Acting like the Westerner he is, he goes to the boss and let`s it fly. Though he has mentioned this problem before Walker never named her; now he does:

The grade three teacher is driving me crazy. He tells him the whole story. The boss agrees it is really rude. The next week, she is on her best behavior. The grade six class is taught by a woman in her fifties. She turns out to be nice enough, but in the beginning she is cold. After the first or second lesson, she tells Walker the class was too difficult. Walker thinks, that Japanese really don`t know how to welcome the new guy. Why not give him a chance?

This was the lesson felt to be so difficult: “Hello, my name is __________________. What`s your name?” “My name is______________.” “Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you too.” Yep, rocket science ladies and gentleman. Learning English is rocket science. The new guy is expected to pay his or her dues and the dues seem to need paying a lot longer than in the West. He sees that at the tennis club, at parties and in the English class, where classmates don`t even know the other students` names.

A Westerner in Japan, if lucky won`t be the new guy forever at his work place and the clubs he joins, but he will be the new guy a lot longer than any Japanese would.

The society is certainly not geared towards welcoming people from other ethnic backgrounds, and that applies to any situation where you are expected to work together as well.

“Japanese people love foreign ideas and things. They don`t really want foreigners around to instigate them though.” -L.B, a company executive in Japan

It is a shame as the children really are great. Walker enjoys seeing their beaming faces. Even the junior high wannabes are not so bad. The teachers of the elementary schools are a real hit and miss proposition though, and Walker must work with them every class.

The range in the teachers seems to be from fantasicly energetic and simply great teachers, to people who look like they are really not enjoying themselves on planet Earth, and want you to be aware of it.

“I`m having my period today and I want to eat you alive!” I hate my life, I hate my job and foreigners scare me. You might embarrass me in front of all the kids.

“Okay let`s do the hokey pokey…” The grade four teacher informs him that he can`t dance, he must discipline those boys over there. Okay, Walker has learned to roll with things more.

“Five little monkeys dancing on the bed….one fell off and he was dead.” (like some of the zombies I work with). While reading the brown cow book, no one can hear him as the three boys in the front are being so loud. Not having to do any discipline Walker waits for the Japanese teachers to react. No one does.

“I can`t read this book with them talking, can you help me please!?” The statues move, and take care of the culprits, then return to their pedestal. One day a fax arrives at the Walker household:

“Walkersan, sorry if you made your lesson plan already, but this is how I want you to teach.” Walker you will remember was told he could teach any way he wanted. Now he was being told to follow Suzukisan`s plan. In the preceding weeks, though he was praised a lot, Walker was criticized in a polite way almost weekly by the Japanese staff. “Can you please hold the cards this way most honorable Walkersan?”

“We have these cards and these books for you Walkersan.” “Your books are too small Walkersan.”

“Your cards are too small Walkersan. Please use ours.”

“Please do the same songs that Noda sensei is doing.” Noda sensei was a volunteer teacher.

“Please watch our grade three teachers teach the class.” Walker did, found it boring and very Japanese, rote-memory, repeat after me, teacher centred, 1950`s style teaching.

“Please watch honorable Noda sensei teach.” Walker did, grumbling about being asked to watch the volunteer. More 1950s style classes: Repeat after me, sing the same weather song countless times; bore the students into stupor. Walker decides after 8 months that he will quit. He talks about being lied to about the job. The job he agreed to was not the job he recieved. He outlined all of the gripes above. He asks, “If you want me to teach like a Japanese, why not hire a Japanese teacher? Am I just here for pronunciation practice?” An embarrassed silence ensues.

Walker will never hear an answer to that question from any of the elementary school department heads he asks.

“One Japanese teacher always tries to sabotage my classes.” –an ALT in Japan

“The JETs say the same thing, that the schools of Japan are very unfriendly places to work.” –An official in the JET program who wishes anonymity

“The teachers in Japan are over-worked, under-paid, and are in an industry with declining numbers. They are stressed, under too much pressure, working too many hours, and not enjoying their jobs these days.” –An official in the JET program

About the Author Kevin Burns is an entrepreneur living in Japan. He and his wife own Kevin`s English Schools http://www.eikaiwa1.com

Merry Lue`s General Store http://www.import-food-japan.com and Travel Central Japan http://www.travel-central-japan.com


Using the Boardgame Settlers of Catan in the Classroom with Advanced Students

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan

“University of Catan Exploration, Education, Competition, Commerce “The Settlers of Catan can be used to demonstrate and strengthen a variety of skills necessary for success both in and out of the classroom. Best of all, it teaches those skills in a highly interactive and structured social setting that can be enjoyed by people of all ages!” – Alex Yeager, Mayfair Games The Settlers of Catan (“Settlers” to its friends) is one of the most popular international games of the past decade, with the game and its expansions selling over eleven million copies worldwide.”–from the Mayfair Games Website

For more information on using this great game in the classroom, visit the Mayfair Games Homepage at:

http://www.mayfairgames.com and click on the University

of Catan link at the bottom of the page. I have used this game with returnees and other advanced students. It is a nice change of pace from the usual class.

Kevin Burns


How to Teach a Child English, One to One

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan

On the ESL forums one often sees teachers asking for ideas to make their one to one lessons more fun. Many teachers are brilliant in the classroom but are at a loss for ideas when it comes to teaching children English in private classes, and that is a shame because teaching one on one can be very rewarding, as well as often being a good source of extra income.

By far the best approach for children for successful and fun one to one teaching is to use games and songs.

One of the tricks is to have a substantial library of games that work for one on one teaching. Another essential is to have a strong sense of fun and be prepared to join in the games. If you teach using games children will love your private classes, and their parents will love you for the results you achieve.

A bi-product of this already very successful combination is that by teaching children in a fun way, you establish an important link between enjoyment and learning, which can enhance the rest of that child’s whole life. Here now are some ideas to use games successfully when teaching one to one.

Most games need more than one player, which means that you sometimes need to join in and play the game too. You could say, “well then I’d just win all the time”, and that can be true. So if you are playing a game that is not just pure luck, and where normally you would win all the time, then you can do things like this: – Give your pupil a head start of 10 to 30 seconds. – Make your task harder. – Double the task you must complete in the same time your pupil completes it once.

Award your pupil three points to your one. – Award your pupil 10 bonus points at the start of the game. – Lose deliberately by being slow (but pretend to hurry), or ‘accidentally’ drop your pen. Another way of adding an element of fun to a one to one lesson is to use a stopwatch or timer to add excitement. This allows your pupils to race against themselves rather than always being in competition or playing against you.

Time your pupil each round of a game and see if they can beat their previous time. You can also use the stopwatch to give a time limit to an activity, aiming to allow only just enough time so that your pupil is more stimulated than if he or she were simply working methodically through the exercise. Oven timers that tick and have a bell that goes off after the given time is up are also good. Your pupil must complete the task before the bell goes off. Substitutes for an oven timer could be an alarm clock, a wind up musical box or an egg timer. Bells that you find on hotel reception desks are also fun. The students race to tap on the bell when they have their answer. This is more effective when you have two or more students but is still an added fun element for the younger children even in one to one lessons.

And finally, always be sensitive: be careful that one person does not always lose and only use competition if you see that it enhances the mood rather than causes unnecessary tension or a loss of morale. With children between the ages of 3 and 6 any form of competition is best avoided.

You can play the game or use the timer as usual, but make sure that you play until the end so everyone wins – not just the person who finishes first, and with the timer idea, it is essential that the child finishes before the time is up – even if you have to indefinitely extend that time.

If a young child does not finish in the required time it really upsets them and they will probably cry – and that is not the aim of the game. Rather you want the child ALWAYS to succeed, so that he or she feels great about learning English. Information about a special edition of 64 one to one games for children is available in the resource box below this article.

Teaching one to one is immensely rewarding, as progress can be fast. In addition to games putting on short plays with your student in front of their parents or friends is also a winning activity. Children absolutely love to be the centre of attention and show off what they have learned. One can write simple repetitive scripts with basic English, but with a funny twist in them and this will give a great deal of pleasure to the child, who will be happy to rehearse and perform, and for the parents who will be so impressed with your results that they will be sure to keep sending their child to the lessons.

If possible lend or recommend films to watch for homework, such as Spiderman, Batman, King Kong, or Cinderella and Walt Disney movies – all in English with NO subtitles. Your pupils will watch these many times over willingly and will absorb a huge amount of language subconsciously, even if initially they cannot understand the dialogues. If you are thinking about the cost of buying videos then take heart. You can find very cheap second hand videos and DVDs on the Internet.

You could also build a library of comic books to read for homework. You would not expect your student to understand all that much initially but the subconscious will be absorbing the language all the time. Take a deposit for the replacement cost of the video or comic (including postage) to encourage return of the video or comic. The combination of giving fun classes with games, getting results and offering extra services such as a video or comic library, will set you apart from your colleagues and you’ll be sure to get lots of recommendations from parents to you for private classes.

About The Author Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast. Improve the effectiveness of your lessons by up to 80%. Receive free English language games now on http://www.teachingenglishgames.com.


ESL and TEFL: Teaching English Grammar to Children through Games

January 1, 2007 · 1 Comment · teach in japan

by: Shelley Vernon

One of the questions ESL and TEFL teachers are asking on forums the world over is: how can you teach grammar through games?

If you don’t want your class to glaze over with dictation, writing exercises and “Jimmy, would you please read paragraph 1,” then take heart! You’ll find you can teach everything you want with games, and the children remember it better to boot.

Here is a disarmingly simple game, which can be used for many purposes. Please note this particular game is for small groups of up to 20 children or so, and you need floor space. If you have more than 20 children, or no floor space then please see the bottom of the article for games suited to your needs. The players stand round in a circle with one player standing in the middle. Each player has a picture of an item, or a word flash card, except for the player in the middle. Call out two of the picture card items or words. The two players holding these cards have to change places without the person in the middle grabbing one of their spots. If the person in the middle manages to slip into the spot in the circle then the one left standing goes in the middle. The new person in the middle hands their flash card to the child taking their place in the circle. If someone is stuck in the middle for two turns say, “All Change!” When the players hear this they must all change places, which gives the person in the middle a very good chance of joining the circle. Once everyone has had one go ask your class to pass their picture to the right, and take the one handed to them from the left. You can give them another go with the new picture. Notice that only 2 children move at any one time (aside from when you say “All Change), which makes it easy to keep control. How could you use this game in your language teaching?

Firstly, you can use it to reinforce new vocabulary, secondly, for revision, thirdly to help spelling by playing the game with word flashcards instead of pictures, and fourthly, to practise a grammatical structure. Let us say you want to teach the conditional tense and you start with “I would like”. Hand out pictures of food that your pupils already know. Call out “I would like bananas and pie”. The pupil with the bananas tries to change places with the pupil holding the pie without the person in the middle taking one of the spots in the circle. Continue until everyone has had a go, repeating the target structure each time. With a class that learns quickly you can also introduce the rest of the declension (he and she would like, etc.).

You are now ready to proceed to a speaking game where your pupils use the target structure, as they will have heard it repeatedly by now. You can follow the speaking game up with a writing game, and hey presto your children can understand, say, read and write the new target structure. Now what better way is there to teach grammar than that?

You are teaching grammar by absorption and repetition, which is the way we learn our native tongue, and for children it is by far the best way to go. You can sign up free for games and ideas for all class sizes, from private lessons to large classes on http://www.teachingenglishgames.com

About The Author Shelley Vernon, conscious of the vital role teachers can play in the lives of their pupils, promotes learning through encouragement and games. Sign up for free games and ideas on http://www.teachingenglishgames.com. Make your job easy and fun teaching English to children through games.


Culture Shock & English Teachers in Japan

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · english schools

 Moving halfway around the world, to a culture as foreign and difficult to penetrate as Japan`s is difficult for anyone. If you become an English teacher here, you will probably have to deal with a Japanese boss and staff with different cultural values from your own. This can lead to a feeling of paranoia in some cases; isolation and disillusionment. To a great extent, leaving your friends and family and going to Japan to teach English engenders some of the same feelings as that of teenagers rebelling from their parents in the West.

Teenagers rely on their parents, yet resent and rebel against them. Of course they complain to their friends about them too. Foreign English teachers in Japan must rely on their Japanese bosses for: their work visa, in some cases their apartment, and of course their salary. Some teachers come to Japan with virtually no knowledge of the country. Childlike, they ask questions about Japan that many six year old Japanese know the answers to. The new teacher can feel embarrassed at times having to ask such basic questions as how do I use the Japanese toilet in my apartment? Can you open a bank account for me tomorrow? How do I get home from the school? To someone used to being independant, it is an uncomfortable, flashback to the teenage years. Japan is a beautiful, interesting, yet daunting country for the newcomer. Some people thrive in the adventure that is teaching English in Japan and others don`t. For them it is the toughest thing they have ever done.

The new arrival to Japan is faced with three alphabets to learn just to read her pay cheque! One comes to feel pretty helpless and childlike at times. Going to the doctor for your first cold can be intimidating. You don`t understand her questions and she doesn`t understand your answers. Paranoia is common amongst immigrants the world over. Experts argue it is a symptom of not understanding what is going on around you–linguistically and culturally. The isolation this can lead to, causes the paranoia. Resentment can set in if you are not prepared for this kind of culture shock. The possible symptoms of culture shock are many, and of course different levels of culture shock can occur over many years. If you are not a member of the majority, culture shock can hit you at any time.

One symptom we often see in Japan is that of foreigners lashing out by complaining. They complain about the food, they complain about Japanese people, if they work for a Japanese company, they complain about how they are mistreated, and if they work for an English school, (which comprises most Western foreigners in Japan), they complain about the English school they work for. Some complain about all English schools as if all of them are the same, and all are bad.

Some expats in an attempt to beef up future sales for the book they are writing, even set up a whole website to complain about Eikaiwa. While there are certainly problems in Eikaiwa, there are many great things happening too. You only have to open the pages of an ETJ magazine, ELT Journal, or read the latest article at ELT News to see that. No this prevalence of complaints is something more.

Indeed culture shock is one aspect of this phenomenon. At many of the big schools the working hours are about the same as they are at public schools in North America. Yet the teachers of GEOS and Nova complain about their 28 hours of teaching and 40 hour a week shifts. (They work a 9 hour shift, five days per week at GEOS, with a one hour lunch break which equals eight hours of preparation and teaching).  One Canadian elementary school teacher said: ” I don`t know what they are complaining about. That is what I do every week. That is what we all do at the public schools in Canada.”

At many schools though, the shifts are much shorter and they don`t require you to be in the office. The work time of around 20-25 hours per week, would be considered part-time work back home. At Kevin`s English schools the teachers work between 20-25 hours per week with no requirements to be in the office when they are not teaching. Under the contract they can be asked to work as many as 28 hours per week but none are currently doing so. The current average is about 22 hours per week. They are not required to put in any office hours, so when they don`t teach their time is their own.  There are many schools like this, just check the Greenlist.

Many of the English teachers miss their friends and family back home. Some were not happy in their home country and escaped to Japan to try to sort out their lives–only to find they are not happy here either. The old saying: “Where ever you go, there you are.” springs to mind.

I assert that much of the rampant negativism on the internet about teaching at English schools is only in a very small part due to the schools themselves, but is more a symptom of culture shock and the difficulty adjusting to life in Japan for some teachers.

It is a reaction to the sense of dependancy some teachers feel as they have to rely on their bosses and Japanese staff for many things. The boss who is in some cases also the landlord, is cast by the teacher (unconsciously) in the role of parental figure, and the English teacher, the star of our show, is the rebellious teenager with a need to get it off his or her chest. The internet forums provide the perfect venue for that.

While most English teachers are well balanced and make the most of their time in Japan, it is the vocal minority we see on the internet complaining about how unfair their English school is. While some of these complaints are legitimate and the English school should be taken to task, others are merely venting a teenage like rage, as they rale against what they fail to understand is simply culture shock.

If the person is your friend, you need to listen to them and sympathize, but at some opportune moment, you may want to suggest to them, that couldn`t their negative feelings about their boss or school be due to something else? If their complaint is legitimate then talking with their union, labour relations board or finding a new job with one of the many great Eikaiwa schools here, might be the answer.

by Kevin Burns


About ETJ

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · teach in japan

About ETJ This is copied from the last ELT News newsletter: “ETJ is a free association for English teachers in Japan which encourages the exchange of information and teaching ideas, encourages training and professionalization, and obtains benefits and discounts for members. The overall aim is to give more power to learners and teachers in Japan. The intention is to complement and support existing teachers’ associations, so it is possible to be an active member of ETJ as well as other associations. For more information about joining ETJ, visit.” http://www.eltnews.com/ad/ETJ/index.html


Be Careful What You Read

January 1, 2007 · No Comments · english schools, teach in japan

At many of the forums the negativity is rampant. They distort the reality of teaching in Japan. At one popular forum, one of the moderators dispensing advice hasn`t taught at an English school in years! But she is advising people on how to get a job at one. If you teach in the university system as I do myself, it is a new game. The hiring practices and everything else are different. You can`t equate them to the hiring practices of English schools. Yet one moderator seems to. She tells people (incorrectly) how to get a job in Japan, and many at her forum are taking what she says as gospel.

At one forum I found a person based in Asia was listed as the moderator for the teaching in Africa forum. I think you are starting to see what I mean. Amateur hour! In a way it is ironic that so many at the forums claim our profession in Japan is a joke, the forums themselves are jokes, and can`t be trusted.

I`m not saying there aren`t problems at English schools, there are and I acknowledge that. But you can`t tar all schools with the same brush.  Some are very good, just check the  Greenlist.
Again I am trying to emphasize here is that a lot of what you will read on the internet is not well researched, is hearsay or worse; vindictive gossip. Amongst all of that there is some truth. But you will need to sort through the sludge to attempt to find what it is. This of course is very difficult if you have never lived and worked in Japan.

Further, a lot of the websites are hobbled together with volunteers and someone hoping to make a buck through advertising. The emphasis is on bulk of information, not quality and certainly not integrity in many cases. Controversy and angst bring more hits and more advertising revenue. A peaceful forum is a boring forum. Dirt, sleaze and heated debate bring more people to rant and rave. The google ad revenue and other sources add up. The webmaster is the only one laughing.

In one forum, the moderator stated that schools here won`t hire you unless you are already in Japan. In fact, most schools will hire you while you are outside of Japan. Why? They have to. If you have a school in one of the mid to smaller cities in Japan–which comprises most of Japan, you don`t have many teachers banging on your doors to teach at your schools. These schools must accept resumes by Email or post, and interview by telephone, or they can`t hire teachers. I am talking of course about the smaller schools. Most of the teaching profession in Japan is comprised of these smaller Mom and Pop schools, and they tend to be the best of the lot.

If you choose to work for a large school here then good luck to you. Some love it. Others hate it. I didn`t mind my stint at a large school.

At a small school though, you will get to know the owner and manager well. You will also become friends with your students. The above is very difficult with the large schools. Some of which, have an infamous non-fraternization policy.

Indeed one of my main points is that some of the so-called experts are anything but. Yet they are espousing their opinions on the internet and you are reading them, and sometimes taking them at face value. The people who post at forums rarely post anything positive about any of the schools they work for. There must be some positive stories but you won’t read them there.

The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan was set up by Kevin Burns to combat some of that negativity and to redress some of the balance. As well, to be of service in pointing out some of the good schools here that deserve a pat on the back for a job well done, and for being a beacon of hope.

There are many good schools in Japan and some great ones. You will find some of them at the Greenlist.   The forums and the sites they are attached to, are not doing their job of educating people in a balanced way about teaching in Japan.

I heard of a teacher from America, who is quoted at the end of the article, and she felt Let`s Japan was so negative that she was debating whether to even come to Japan. If the situation were so bad here in Japan, then the forums and the websites they are attached to, would be doing everyone a service. But it just distorts the actual reality of teaching English here.

Many of the teachers who post have had a bad experience at one school, yet in many cases still continue to teach there, and rant about it continuously at one of the forums. Perhaps someone can recommend a good counselor.

You won’t find the people who enjoy their jobs posting much. If they do, they will take a lot of abuse from the trolls already ensconced there, and they are too busy enjoying their lives to log on and post. Happy people don’t usually rant. Some people did not enjoy their time at Geos. Perhaps the profession and not the school were to blame? Perhaps they just weren`t suited to teaching? Or maybe Geos is not a great place to work for many people. But to tar all English schools with the same brush is irresponsible and incorrect. If one doctor is bad, do you say all of them are? Are some doctors not good or great? I would like to point out, that in general, the smaller schools tend to be great places to work. They are run in a more relaxed way, they are often a family business, so the owner really cares about her business, her students, and of course her teachers. If teachers are not happy afterall, that hurts the business. I know of a man who loved Geos. He loved the fact that he had his own classroom, would brag about the fact in his animated way, and enjoyed teaching and his students. He doesn’t post at the forums though. He is too busy enjoying life. He is very outgoing and friendly. This kind of person tends to thrive in a teaching position here, where the students tend to be quiet. Someone inherently quiet themselves, has a difficult time teaching English in Japan. They just don`t suit the job. They sometimes blame the school for this. I am confident in saying that some of the bitter people at the forums fall into this category. They really need to find a line of work that suits their character. I think they also need to realize that part of the blame at least, lies with them. At times some of the teachers seem to want to pick a fight over things so inane. In one story, a teacher said “Sayonara,” to his students as they were leaving. Being an English school he should have said, “goodbye.” His manager told him not to do it again. Had it been me, I would have simply said, “Sorry,” and said “goodbye,”to my students the next time. But this teacher argued with his boss over it. A person was called from head office to have a meeting with him. I gather his local manager felt she couldn`t get it across to him that what he had done was enough to make some students quit. I can see both sides, but a simple sorry it won`t happen again, would have defused the situation. I agree with the teacher that it is a pretty silly thing, but students quit over silly things, and a lot of arguments are over them too. Some teachers can be pretty immature. It is amazing at times. Then some have the gall to rant about it on the internet. By all means read as many articles as you can about teaching in Japan. You may relate to things you wouldn’t like, but keep in mind that all Geos managers are not the same. Personality conflicts occur everywhere. My point is, I am in favour of being fair and I am worried that some people believe the negative postings at forums. I am concerned that it affects them to such a degree that they choose to teach in another country. That really is a shame when there are many good schools here, and it is a great, safe country to live and work in.

Lastly, take a good look at some of the so-called “Mom and Pop” schools of Japan. As pointed out above, they are generally better run, and care about their teachers and students. In general, they are just better quality schools. To tar them with the same brush as the BIG schools, is completely unjustified.

“After reading what they had to say in the forums there, I almost decided to go to Korea, it is so negative. When I did ask, well what schools are good to work for?-no one answered.” –A.P., USA–commenting on Let`s Japan.org

by Peter Walker