I was fortunate to meet Junko Yamanaka at the 5th Annual Extensive Reading Seminar in Nagoya, Japan. She is a well known figure in extensive reading circles, especially in Nagoya, and I have used several of her textbooks very successfully. We talked about her experience as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer, about education in Japan, and many other things. It was great to finally meet her!
Thanks also to the JALT ER SIG for putting on such a great event and doing such great work all year round promoting Extensive Reading in Japan.
Although I earn my money up at the university, my main job these days seems to be teaching of young learners. Two of them, boys, aged two and four. I’ve started sitting down with Ibuki everyday for ten or twenty minutes to do our ‘letters’, and both boys love being read to, but I wanted to try something a bit different for fun. So here is the first part of our family alphabet…. twenty one more letters to follow.
Step by Step
Find words for each letter of the alphabet. The boys need help with this, but older children should be able to do it. I asked them what they liked, what they play with, what they could see around the house and so on to prompt them.
It is preferable, I think, if you can keep some consistency with phonics…especially in the early stages of trying to read. But on the other hand I wanted to use words which they know and which have some meaning for them. With this in mind I was able to substitute giraffe (Satsuki’s favourite animal) for Gorillaz (Satsuki’s favourite band), but I stuck with ‘Ice Cream’ over ‘Ink’ or ‘Igloo’ just because it has more relevance for them.
I used an Edirol R-09HR digital voice recorder for the sounds, and a lo-fi video camera called a Digital Harinezumi (get one now if you can, because they will go out of production soon) for the visuals, but that’s just because I like the effects and I like playing with video. Once I had enough audio, I clipped together the parts I needed in Garageband, then trimmed the video to fit the length and edited them together in iMovie. I added the text at that stage too. I did one letter at a time, then stitched them all together and added a drum loop from Garageband to top it off. However, you could do something similar in far less time if you use a video camera with a built-in audio channel.
A class alphabet. You should check, but here in Japan I think just about every family has access to rudimentary video equipment, be it a mobile phone, smartphone, a feature of a point-and-shoot digital camera, or a full-on camcorder. If you are confident that your young learners have access to the technology, get the parents involved too. Give each student a letter or two for homework, and have them record a segment and email it in to you. You can quickly stitch them together for everyone to enjoy.
If you have flip video cameras or the equivalent, and your young learners are old enough, you could do the same thing in class time. Send each team out with a camera and have them look for a complete alphabet around the school. (You might want to plant a few items in preparation). If they do it sequentially, there is no editing required.
Other learners might benefit from recording lexical sets. Concrete nouns are obviously easier, but cataloguing abstract nouns, adjectives and verbs will force students to be creative.
This is a podcast version of the video interview available here.
If you have ever taught children, you may well have come across the ‘Let’s Go!‘ series, now on the third edition and a multimedia behemoth! I met with Barbara, one of the authors, at the ETJ Chubu Expo in October 2009 and she was kind enough to give this interview. She is delightful company and I wish I’d left the camera running because we talked for as long again after I turned it off. She has a lot to say about teaching children and professional development in particular, but we also touched on a few other topics. If you haven’t already, you should check out Barbara’s blog and have a look for her on twitter (@barbsaka ). Being in this part of the world opportunities to meet members of the online ELT community are limited, so it is always especially enjoyable to catch up with someone as lovely as Barbara… even if it is only a few times a year ; D
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Ritsuko Nakata has been involved in English education in Japan for many years, training and mentoring teachers of young learners, developing the MAT (model, action, talk) method, working on the multi-million selling Let’s Go! series, and (of course) teaching children. We discussed all these things and more in the longest interview yet! Thanks again to Ms. Nakata for being so giving of her time and knowledge.
A 2001 article from Ritsuko about discussions with the Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbusho) regarding English education in state schools.
Barbara is an EFL materials writer, teacher and teacher trainer working mainly with children in Japan. This interview was conducted for the lives of teachers website at http://www.livesofteachers.com/
If you have ever taught children, you may well have come across the ‘Let’s Go!‘ series, now on the third edition and a multimedia behemoth! I met with Barbara, one of the authors, today at the ETJ Chubu Expo, and she was kind enough to give this interview. As you can see, she is delightful company and I wish I’d left the camera running because we talked for as long again after I turned it off. She has a lot to say about teaching children and professional development in particular, but we also touched on a few other topics. If you haven’t already, you should check out Barbara’s blog and have a look for her on twitter. Thanks Barbara, I hope to see you again soon!