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Can ES Teachers In Japan REALLY Teach English ALONE?

This is the last entry in ALT Training Online's "Road to 2020" series about teaching English in Japan. Enjoy!

So it's time to ask the question: Can elementary school teachers in Japan REALLY teach English Alone? The quick answer is, “YES, THEY CAN!” With a little extra help that is. The MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) in Japan has set the lofty, and some would dare say unrealistic, goal of having ES (elementary school) students study English from the 3rd grade in 2020. While this should definitely mean that future generations will have a better command of English, there is still a lot of work to be done to get the ES teachers ready for the task.

From my experience, different ES teachers have different levels of enthusiasm when it comes to teaching English.

They also have varying skill levels. Some love the subject and jump at the chance to have conversations with ALTs and other English speakers. Other teachers who are less enthusiastic about English may do the minimum amount of instruction required to satisfy the requirements of the curriculum. Keeping this in mind, this post covers some things Japanese teachers can do to become better teachers of English elementary schools. A lot of the info applies to ALTs as well. Many of the following practices are being promoted by a local BoE (Board of Education) in my area and the good people who work there. Practice using picture books

ES students, especially the younger crowd, love picture books. However, there is a lot more to using a picture book effectively than just reading the words on the page.

When reading a picture book, make sure all the students can see the book

(I’m a genius, I know).

If you can add in different voices for characters and sound effects, the students really get a kick out of it. The students will be zoned in on you and your reactions to the story. If you have fun with it, they’ll have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to act really surprised, happy, sad, or scared. It really helps reinforce the meaning of the story! Lastly, you can also use the book for comprehension questions. You can ask questions like:

  • What’s this?

  • How many ~ do you see?

  • Do you like ~?

  • What color is this?

There are a lot of creative ways to get the most out of your picture books. Give it a shot!

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