How to get a job in Japan


Part 4: Suggestions for teaching materials

Teaching materials can take many forms. Please be as open to experimentation as possible. Teaching materials don’t have to be funny, but they ought to be effective. If you can do both, go for it.

Category 1: Writing practice

The lion’s share of my material has been worksheets of various types. The first category is writing practice. This is about as “work” as a worksheet can get.

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There are quite a few ways, however, that you can make it more fun. Pictures automatically make a worksheet less boring.

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Because these worksheets tend to involve simply plugging in the right answer, you can make worksheets that demand the students’ imaginations. (You have to be cautious to not overdo it, however.) You could even make correction worksheets that involve finding and fixing typos.

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One of my teachers asked me to make a game out of a correction activity. So I told the class to split into groups and move their desks together and I made the activity into a race. The first team to make all the corrections first won a small prize. I was told shortly afterwards that you’re not allowed to give candy to students because they might have allergies. So, don’t give candy to the winning team.

Category 2: Speaking practice

Speaking practice is very important because speaking activates language learning. If the students say something–anything–in English, it will cause their brains to remember it better. Consequently, I advise you to say Japanese words aloud when you’re studying. If you’re studying on the bus, move your lips but don’t vocalize.

The standard speaking practice sheet looks just like the examples given in the textbook.

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Notice that there’s no room anywhere for the students to write. This is deliberate. Impress upon the students that it’s time for speaking only.

Typically, students will form pairs and take turns saying the sentences to each other. The practice sheets above simply involve constructing the sentence with the ingredients given. But, just as with writing practice, there are ways to spice things up. Take, for example, the telephone conversation.

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The telephone conversation is great for practicing the same grammar point and conversation pattern many times in a row. But it is still very rigid. If you can encourage your students to eventually break away from the prescribed speech bubbles while still using the grammar point, then they’ll get the most out of it. Many students, however, lack either the skill, imagination, or bravery to do so. For them, practicing a set conversation many times in a row is great.

You can also make worksheets that involve the students’ creativity. The pair observation does this well.

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The pair of students will need to make a natural-sounding conversation out of the information given. This activity goes beyond constructing sentences from prompts or filling in the blanks, to actually making a conversation out of something.

A much simpler alternative to this worksheet is to give a couple of different images to each pair (such as a famous building or cartoon character) and tell them to talk about it using whatever English they please. You can also prompt them to use the most recent grammar point at least once each.

Finally, there are songs! Pick a song that uses multiple grammar points that are applicable to your students. The songs that are included in the New Horizon textbooks teach the students nothing, nor do they reinforce what the students already know. All three of those books are filled with baffling decisions.

Anyway, I’m sure that there are more, but I haven’t come up with them yet.

Category 3: Listening/reading practice and listening/speaking practice

More sophisticated practice activities involve combining skills. Perhaps the simplest listening/speaking practice activity is asking review questions. Make at least one question based on each grammar point or vocab word and put them on a key ring. Then flip through to random questions and ask one each to a student from each row.

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For listening/reading, you could have students listen to you read a passage and then answer questions based on it. This is a combination listening/reading worksheet because after listening to you, they’ll have to read and re-read the passage themselves to check their answers.

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Every once in a while comes an idea for an assignment which can only be called ‘sublime.’ A good assignment combines two skills; a legendary assignment combines four. Behold, the interview.

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Students have to read the prompts. They have to speak in English to interview their classmates. They must listen to the answers. Finally, they must write down the answers on the sheet. All four skills are used in one activity! Oh, it’s beautiful! I wish that I could take credit for this one, but I saw it online.

Category 4: Miscellaneous

Really, the sky is the limit. I’m sure that my weak imagination has only scratched the surface of what’s possible with teaching materials. But there are opportunities for presentations, including your self-introduction PowerPoint, and there are even opportunities outside the classroom to teach!

At some point you ought to consider making an English board in the hallway. Consult with your teachers. An English board can be on any topic you please: American culture, holidays, sports, movies, etc. Ask students what they would like to see. The board is for them, after all.

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Here’s a .rar archive of all my teaching materials to date. Feel free to use and alter them however you like.

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