Author Topic: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.  (Read 3923 times)

Offline Bex

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Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« on: May 14, 2008, 03:47:29 PM »
I have four classes in a row every Wednesday that are turning out to be, well, disastrous.

So I can do anything- reading, writing, whatever, as long as I stick to the vague topic of the textbook. Trouble is nothing is working. The text book topics for the next few weeks are proverbs, puns, maths (?!), and something strange about the origins of different words.
The kids can't write anything, and they are unmotivated, getting into groups or any kind of movement just makes them groan (and hate me). Filling in the blanks has proved to be all they are capable of. My problem is I can't make 'fill in the blanks' last 50 minutes.

To give you an idea of the level some words they didn't know today - same, different, change, stop, choose, take, must, dinner, clothes. Their vocabulary is pretty much non-existent. One boy couldn't remember how to write his name in romanji.

Does anybody have any advice at all? Any activities that require very little English? I will try absolutely anything.
Or does anyone have any advice about how to approach my JTE's about this? How do I put it to them delicately that these lessons are a) a nightmare and b) pointless. (The problem is these bloody topics. Puns? Really? How do I explain a pun (in English) to a boy who can't write his name?)

Any suggestions much appreciated.

Offline Sarah

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2008, 03:52:53 PM »
Your JTEs need to be translating more so that the students understand. I have classes like this that will go smoothly if my JTE is on top of things and is actively teaching with me. When the JTE is off in their own world wandering the classroom though, I have issues as well. Wish I could be more helpful than that.... :?

Offline Squealer

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2008, 04:56:37 PM »
Sarah that does not qualify you for eternal gratitude :-*
Well Bex..in my humble opinion.....the truth is I don't have the answer to this dilema either. I will add though that you can effectively fill 10-15 minutes with a game of pictionary or charades with vocabulary related to the particular lesson.
You could also instruct them to find meanings of words in a competitive way so that they have the basic understanding of key words going into the lesson. (Can they use dictionaries?) :|
That is my two cents for now. I know it might not have helped...but if it did, link me and I will gladly divulge some more secrets!!
Sorry though..it must be really irritating and depressing!
Procrastinators of the world UNITE..........tomorrow!!

Offline Avacado

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2008, 05:14:45 PM »
I understand my kids are higher level than that, but I like to include drawing pictures as opposed to just using the dictionary and translating with my worksheets.  They just draw and color all over the pages anyway, might as well accomodate them.

For example, for weather we drew: rainy, cloudy, snowy, etc.  They spend a good deal of time on it.  One of the things I made them draw was a labeled diagram of the Earth and stuff, so I did one on the chalkboard.  The JTE and I encouraged them to make one in their own style.  Worked out pretty well I think.  Killed a lot of time.  Then we could do the reading that went along with the vocab.

Maybe they could make their own flashcards if you give them supplies.  Granted the schools can be cheap sometimes, but I found a large stack of plain white cardboard cards in the trash in the classroom, so there's a chance you could MacGeiver it and work something out. 

A lot of lower level kids can put out high-quality artwork and more hands on stuff.   Plus it's more fun for teachers. 
There.  Now everything goes together.

Offline Sarah

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2008, 06:24:19 PM »
I played Bingo today for 35 minutes in my low level class with a worthless not mentally present JTE. We just finished making "Personal History Books" and each student had to tell the class about themselves while the others took notes, so I made the bingo game up to make sure they had actually been paying attention and taking their notes. I made it "Classmate Bingo" and had them write the names of their classmates in the squares. Then I described students and they had to X out the name of the correct student. After about 5 students had won and the game should have been exhausted, I turned it into "Blackout" which none of them had ever heard of. Basically the first person to black out all of their squares and yell "BLACKOUT!" wins. This went over really well in a normally lifeless class!

Offline Queen X

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2008, 08:48:35 PM »
I have four classes in a row every Wednesday that are turning out to be, well, disastrous.

So I can do anything- reading, writing, whatever, as long as I stick to the vague topic of the textbook. Trouble is nothing is working. The text book topics for the next few weeks are proverbs, puns, maths (?!), and something strange about the origins of different words.
The kids can't write anything, and they are unmotivated, getting into groups or any kind of movement just makes them groan (and hate me). Filling in the blanks has proved to be all they are capable of. My problem is I can't make 'fill in the blanks' last 50 minutes.

To give you an idea of the level some words they didn't know today - same, different, change, stop, choose, take, must, dinner, clothes. Their vocabulary is pretty much non-existent. One boy couldn't remember how to write his name in romanji.

Does anybody have any advice at all? Any activities that require very little English? I will try absolutely anything.
Or does anyone have any advice about how to approach my JTE's about this? How do I put it to them delicately that these lessons are a) a nightmare and b) pointless. (The problem is these bloody topics. Puns? Really? How do I explain a pun (in English) to a boy who can't write his name?)

Any suggestions much appreciated.


The topics of your textbook are not equally balance with the level of your students.

I have a warm-up that I do with logos.  Actually it was in the NASH newsletter a few months ago.  I have a worksheet with various companies, sport clubs, and organizations logos.  I divide the students into groups and have them write what the logo represents.  For example on one sheet I have the E.U., U.N., Ferrari, and Umbro logos/flag.  You might be able to do something like that with the maths portion of your textbook.  You could use +, =, %, <, >.  They should know these in Japanese and should be able to use their dictionaries to find the English translations.  On one worksheet I have about 28 logos and I give them 10 minutes to find as many as they can.  We check them one by one (students receive hanko points for answering.)  The team with the most usually gets a special sticker.

I hope you can use this idea.
"At long last we can embrace our Americanness without betraying our blackness." theroot

Offline Electric Barbarella

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2008, 10:21:51 AM »
I had this problem last year in my OCII class.  The book's focus was looking at graphs and drawing conclusions then debating about the topics.  It was a big leap from OCI for many of the kids.  My school has a lot of sample English texts lying around.  If you have the same thing, you could look through those to find a book with better topics to use.  Your JTE may not notice.

A great review game that I played in HS French was the fly swatter game.  You write the vocabulary on the board and then have two kids go up with fly swatters.  You call out a word in Japanese and they have to find the word in English on the board and smack it first.

Offline Bex

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2008, 12:09:33 PM »
Thank you for all the ideas people.

I'm going to try to talk the JTEs 'cause the topics are just too difficult. I'm sure I can use some of the stuff you all suggested with success if I'm allowed to teach the topics I want.

Last year I was allowed and I went back to basics. I taught numbers.  The JTE was pretty pissed off, she thought 18 year olds should be learning about global issues. I agree. But not when they can't count past 10.


Offline Tom

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2008, 12:28:13 PM »
Wordsearches and crosswords are always good.

Sometimes to make them last longer I give them a bunch of words, some hidden some not, but then I say which words are hidden so they have to use listening skills as well.
Cheryl!!

Offline EuropeRick

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2008, 12:33:15 PM »
When I had to teach shopping vocab to unmotivated, nose picking 12yr olds, I gave them something creative to do.
I presented an example town map I'd made with marker pens, and every major thing was labelled. Shops, parks, buses etc.
Then they each had to draw and color their own on a blank sheet of paper, and anything was allowed as long as it was labelled in English and Japanese. If they didn't know what something was called, they just asked in Japanese and myself and the HRT would write it up on the blackboard in English and Japanese so everyone would know the translation. The kids loved playing God by making their own towns. It worked really well.
A month later I did something similar but they had to draw their dreams, giving hanko and stickers to the most interesting / detailed ones.
Obviously give yourself 5~10 mins at the end to "... sei no ..." and give out stickers etc.

I hope this idea is useful, at least for the grammar part.
Perhaps for spelling you could try scrabble on the blackboard (full names in romaji maybe).

As for teaching puns, perhaps explain that a pun is a play of words, have your HRT explain in Japanese, give some famous Japanese puns as examples, give some simple English puns as examples, put class in groups of 5 or 6, each group gets a set of cards, each set is made up of 3 puns in 3 colors (eg 1 pun printed on red paper, then the sentence is cut up, 2nd pun on green etc), students must arrange colored word cards into order, fastest group to do all 3 sets of puns wins. If their English is good enough, get them to read it out loud, or loosely translate 1 of them, help them with the double meaning aspect.
Might work but the group thing could be tricky.  :|

Offline Avacado

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2008, 03:04:53 PM »
Why on Earth would the textbook have puns, proverbs, and math(s) :?.  Nothing deters the unmotivated student quite like mixing math and English together into one lesson.  The moment the see either one, they drop their head on the desk and go to sleep. 

How do they do with music lessons?  I imagine you've tried music in class before.  Sometimes songs use cliches and proverbs--often Japanese songs will mix in one or two.  Maybe one of our J-pop experts can offer advice.
I don't know how you would teach puns; I've talked about a couple in English club one day when it came up, but those mostly had to do with bad words and dirty jokes.  They really like learning new ways to use bad words.  That probably wouldn't go over well with the JTE.
There.  Now everything goes together.

Offline Qphelia

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2008, 05:37:20 PM »
Crossword puzzles and word searches are really great for killing time and building vocab or reading/skimming skills.  There are sites you can use to make both kinds of puzzles.  Just type in the words and clues.

Even the students who like to disrupt class are totally into the wordsearches.
"Embiggen" is a perfectly cromulent word.

Offline EuropeRick

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2008, 10:17:06 AM »
...
How do they do with music lessons?
...
They really like learning new ways to use bad words.

Perhaps one of Kim's CDs would help with teaching puns, and they're educational too.

Offline Avacado

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2008, 10:29:01 AM »
Kim does have some good songs and poems for the classroom.  You should sell those Kim.  Put the pronunciation one on there.
There.  Now everything goes together.

Offline Qphelia

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2008, 02:03:27 PM »
Most of my students sound like they're at the same level as yours.  Today, I encountered a few students who didn't know the words "read" or "ask."

Here's what I use to make wordsearches:
http://www.theteacherscorner.net/printable-worksheets/make-your-own/word-search/

Here are two other sites you can use as well.  Sadly, I can't use them at school with this 10-year-old computer.
http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/
http://www.armoredpenguin.com/crossword/

If you play with the encoding, you might be able to get Japanese text to show on the Aromored Penguin puzzle site.  I got it to work once...

And here's another resource for lessons:
http://www.abcteach.com/
Try the PreK education section.
"Embiggen" is a perfectly cromulent word.

Offline Sarah

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Re: Advice needed, eternal gratitude in return.
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2008, 02:53:02 PM »
Most of my students sound like they're at the same level as yours.  Today, I encountered a few students who didn't know the words "read" or "ask."

Here's what I use to make wordsearches:
http://www.theteacherscorner.net/printable-worksheets/make-your-own/word-search/

Here are two other sites you can use as well.  Sadly, I can't use them at school with this 10-year-old computer.
http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/
http://www.armoredpenguin.com/crossword/

If you play with the encoding, you might be able to get Japanese text to show on the Aromored Penguin puzzle site.  I got it to work once...

And here's another resource for lessons:
http://www.abcteach.com/
Try the PreK education section.
Karma for all that! Those sites look great  :-)