Wednesday, December 9, 2009

…But “Rice-Cake Ranger” has a nice ring to it

Today’s lesson is cool for me, but I’m also a bit worried about it. Around Thanksgiving, just at the beginning of my mildly different era, I typed up a long page describing a skit activity I would like to do with all the middle school classes. I did it mostly because the idea was pestering me, and I wanted to make it available to the school.

I find that the most demanding aspect of any learning experience is usually production. You can’t really produce anything of quality until you can first recognize and then comprehend.

We had to write and perform skits each year in Japanese class at Vandy. I did not really enjoy this activity, but I do recognize that it was valuable to both my learning and to my life. My first skit partner was Ex-Roommate, and I think working on the skit together is what sort of forced us to be friends in the first place (the first thing, not the only or necessarily most important thing).

It was a total drag to try to create a skit in the first year, when the only Japanese verbs we knew were to-be verbs, but somehow we all pulled it off. The idea has been sort of haunting me, so I made a write-up. I didn’t really expect we would have time to do this, so I didn’t really expect any of my co-teachers to go for it, but to my surprise, first the 1-nen teacher and then the 2-nen teacher both asked me to kick it off this week. Here’s the write-up:

Skit Activity

This is something that can be modified for all three levels, and this outline can be changed in any way the teachers want.

Students will write a skit as a group. It can be about anything, but they should include three of the grammar points they have learned this semester. They will underline their skit's use of the grammar point in the skit printout itself when they turn it in, and label it (and also submit a list of what three points they chose).

The skit should be three to five minutes in length. Every person in the skit must have at least two lines. Props are encouraged.

Students will write a first draft using dictionaries, which the ALT will review. She will write comments. Students will meet with the ALT to make sure they understand/are understood.

Students should practice together to memorize their lines and make their skits fun and interesting for other students.

They will make a list of vocabulary words (a handout for their classmates) if they are using any words their classmates do not know. But, they should try to use mostly words the others have also learned.

There may be appointments to rehearse with ALT.

On the day of performance, students will present their skits. They will be evaluated based on a rubric. Those not presenting will be making notes and comments (in Japanese). They will write one thing they really liked (a good point) about the skit, and one suggestion for making a better skit next time. They will rank the other groups, deciding which they think is the best.

Within the group, members will also grade their fellows' contributions to the skit, and make a list of what everyone did; they will turn this in after performance day. They will do this in Japanese, so JTE will use this in evaluation process.

If we do a skit soon, the topic can be Christmas, or winter, or something like that. It might help to give the students some direction and limits, but I do want them to be as creative as they can.


  • Clarity of meaning - can the ALT understand? Can the other students understand?
  • Energy - Do the students do their best at acting and presenting? Is the skit enjoyable to watch?
  • Pronunciation and intonation - Does their English sound pretty good?
  • Memorization (if we choose to have this; maybe for the first skit, students can look at notes, but I do not want them to stare at a paper and read instead of perform)
  • Use of three grammar points - at least three of the grammar points from the textbook are used and underlined.
  • Time - at least three minutes, not more than five (or whatever is decided by the JTE and ALT for that class)

Today, the 2-nen started working on theirs, and it sounded like they were having fun. I heard what may have been some good ideas, too. I felt strange because I wasn’t really doing anything but walking around looking over their shoulders, but I did want this activity to be student-driven. I think one of the strong points is that it is easily a student-driven project. I emphasized that I want their skits understandable and fun. We didn’t give them any topic limits other than that. Today I just asked them to come up with their topic, setting, and characters. This is often, in my experience, the hardest part.

So I’m happy that my teachers want to use my idea, but a little worried because I don’t know if it’s asking too much, or if it will take too long, or if they will enjoy it, or if I will. The problem with adapting activities from your own college experience is.. well, you were in college, and these kids are not. But the result, a funny skit in (easy) target language, might be attainable nonetheless?

The title comes from one of the groups who, while thinking of their main idea (mochi-ranger!), asked Mikan-sensei what “mochi” is in English. He said “rice cake," but just “mochi” is also okay. I threw in my two cents—while Mochi Ranger is cool, there’s a pretty sweet ring to Rice Cake Ranger. (I give them comments in English all the time.. they basically never understand them and have learned to just ignore it)


  1. I love this! In your previous post you said that basicly there are no set parameters to your job, this activity sounds challenging and fun! Let us know how it turns out.

  2. hello, this is your mail lady from woodstock just checking in to see what you are up to stay safe.