We have been teaching the Eigo Noto lessons now for almost a year,and it’s time for some evaluation of progress to date, and some rethinking of goals and approaches for the new school year.
When I received requests recently from my Home Room Teachers (HRTs) for Eigo Noto lessons to prepare, I was struck by how the requests resembled exactly those that I receive from the Junior High school Japanese English Teachers (JTEs) that I team teach with: Lesson 8, pages 52-53, I study Japanese on Monday.
This should not have been a surprise, given that most of the final activities in the Eigo Noto are English speaking activities. Nor for the fact that most, if not all, elementary school teachers’ experience with English study is a grammar- and/or target sentence-focused approach. In all other classes, teachers are also generally focused on productive outcomes (test scores) as well; students being able to speak the target phrase in the lesson would also seem a natural goal. Given these experiences and insights, you can review what the Mombusho stated goals are for the Eigo Noto, aka. International Studies, curriculum are here.
In the fall I listened to a podcast on the BBC program Forum in which educators discussed the differences of motivation and inspiration. Considering their thoughts, my own interest that underlies learning to speak 3 foreign languages (Spanish, Indonesian and Japanese), and also the longer-term goals of the International Studies curriculum, I had the following thoughts and insights.
- Students should not learn to dislike English.
- All students should feel a sense of success in the final activity (see more on this).
- Motivation can be thought of as a shorter-term approach, to which end making English class fun would encourage students to participate in the immediate task at hand.
- One of the International Studies curriculum goals is nurturing life-long interest in foreign cultures and languages
- English, like any language, is the voice of culture. English is too often taught as an impersonal academic subject, and often without meaning or social context.
From these thoughts I concluded that there needs to be explicit culture points included in each lesson. Real foreign language media (not just English), especially audio and video, are readily available at little or no cost, are engaging, fun and interesting for students, and do much to give deeper cultural meaning to the language component of the lesson.
Look for more cultural content links in the future here at EigoNoto.com.
Also, being able to share experiences of travel abroad, of other cultures, peoples and languages, is an immediate way that we as teachers can share our own enthusiasm with learning language and culture. The kids eyes kept popping out of their heads in a recent class as I kept drawing colorful lines upon lines of the many different things I found to be on Australian hamburgers (meat patty, cheese, fried egg, grilled pineapple, tomato, bacon, pickled beetroot, onion, shredded carrots, lettuce...).
One of my greatest learning experiences while traveling or living abroad has been via comparative analysis. Too many times there have been things in front of my eyes, or in my head, that I couldn’t understand. So my first response was to go back mentally to something similar I did understand- my home culture. And by looking more deeply at my own culture I was able to gain insight into the foreign culture around me.
Such a learning experience is just what the foreign language critics in Japan need to have, and want to see- how learning a foreign language deepens and develops our understanding of our own home culture vis-a-vis that of the foreign language and culture.
Facilitating such a learning experience in the classroom is quite simple, really:
When an aspect of foreign culture is presented to the class, simply asking students ‘What is similar, or different, to your culture, or the Japanese way of doing this?’, and giving help as needed (further questions are the best approach) to help students deepen their probe.
Another approach would be to model the thinking process, something like, ‘When I saw this, I didn’t know what to think. Then I thought about my own culture in New Zealand. In this situation we usually....’ And from there go on to contrast the differences in the two cultures, and note the similarities.
As an English Teacher teaching the International Studies curriculum it is easy for me do things my usual way. Many of the language activities here at EigoNoto.com were developed for my Junior High School English classes.
But I need to do better to keep in mind that students in the Eigo Noto lessons need to have a longer-term seed planted in them- an interest and curiosity in foreign cultures and language, and in their own culture and language, that is deep enough to inspire a life-long learning adventure.
EigoNoto.com copyright 2010 Elton Ersch