Thursday, May 20, 2010

A few good ideas

Part of the reason I keep this blog is to disseminate information and ideas. When I arrived in Japan, my predecessor had left me so many materials and copies of her lesson plans, I had to do what was natural to me to continue a big paper (or digital) trail of what works (and what doesn’t) at work. I can still remember what it was like to sit down at my new desk and wonder, omg now what?!

Anyway, here are a couple things I discovered or reused recently:

Musical chairs – If you need to be able to single out a student to practice conversation with you, this actually could work well. It takes a lot of help from the homeroom teacher, but what I ended up doing in my 5th grade classes was make a long row of chairs back to back, the chairs numbering one less than the number of kids in the class. They move around the circle to the sound of American music until it stops. When it does, they sit down. It’s always funny because there is this scramble produced by the fact that a bunch of kids are so focused on making sure they have their butt near a chair that they leave open seats between themselves and the people ahead of them. Which other students who at first think, aw crap, I am the odd one out, suddenly spot and make a dash for.

Anyway, once everyone has a seat (or not), the seatless kid has to come and demonstrate the target conversation with me. Then they all have to practice the type of conversation demonstrated with the person whose chair is back-to-back with theirs. Seatless kid is free to gleefully spectate this part.

Concentration – The simple beauty of this game is that you can play with the whole class, and everyone has to pay attention the whole time. Too often when I am trying to do small group or individual stuff, those not in the spotlight see it as a great opportunity to slack off/talk to their friends/etc. But in concentration games (we recently did matching lower and uppercase letters) you can have one group at a time choosing a letter from those magneted to the board, and those who disregard others’ turns do so at their peril. I generally play in groups, although even there kids can sometimes get all overcome by shame and indecision.


Aaaand apparently, my “letter project” is about to get some press.. Mikan-sensei just asked me for copies of a few of the letters so he can include them in some kind of report he is giving. I’m totally flattered. I only wish we had gotten replies put together before American schools dismissed for summer! Alas.

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