Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Path L1 to L2

I have just returned (at least that's how I feel) from National JALT conference 2011, which was held from 19 to 21st. It was such an inspiring and thought-provoking conference. I have attended 5 presentation and 1 Pecha Kucha while helping at Aston table, meeting wonderful grads. All the presentations were amazing and educational especially the one by Dr. Fiona Copland, investigating complexities and contradictions of EFL classrooms. The question was if using L1 is effective in teaching L2. It was the exactly the same and recurring question of mine. I have started using L1 in case of supporting student's better understanding, however, it has more advantages than that, according to Dr. Fiona.

I have read a few articles on this issue and would love to investigate the result in my classroom. I must read more about bilingualism in classrooms and implement the method effectively. Otherwise, mother tongue would dominate the classroom language. which is not my intention.

Since I have found this interesting research point. I would focus on this topic and write relevant discoveries in my classes.

So far, in my 6 graders new class on Monday, using Japanese (mother tongue/MT) lessen the tension of using English and thus Ss can focus more on enjoying to find the similarities between MT and TL(target language). It also satisfies their desire to know all everything said in the class.

The obvious problem is overreliance on MT which might take away the joy of spontaneous discovery of the meaning of new words. However, some report stated that it would be achieved as their understanding increases. From my personal experience in learning English, I also believe in this view and will use "Sandwich Method" in order to decrease the stress of incapability to use the TL and increase understanding. Sandwich method is to use MT in between TL.

This will be interesting to investigate. I believe it would work particularly well in high-schooler's class since they are afraid of being considered as impotent in any fields and they refuse to talk in order to avoid to make mistakes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Class

In the morning I had the nursery school class and two classes in the evening.

The first class is always fun and wild with nine 3-year-olds and one 5-year-old. We played with everyone's favorite, One Little Finger song and reviewed numbers, colors with some new animal names. At the end of the lesson I read a funny book about ketchup. They loved to shout "YUK!" when they were asked "Would you like ketchup on your cornflakes?" Bless their innocence!

The second class went well with role playing. Each student got a part and performed while I was recording. They had fun and quite motivated to perform well :-)

In the third class, I had 6 students and did pair practice, asking a few questions each other and report what their partner said to the class. One of the coolest answer to the question, "Do you think we should do things on our own without depending on others?" was "Yes. Because God is busy." This high schooler wants to be a singer song writer. How cool is that!

It seemed everyone enjoyed communicating with their partners; however, one of the students, a high school girl said she didn't like to mingle with others because it was difficult to understand each other. She said she tried to avoid to talk with her school mates as much as possible except some of her good friends.
I would love to ask her more questions to find what she meant but maybe it would be better to do so privately. She is very sensitive girl so that she might have been hurt by misunderstanding or something. Fragility is beautiful but sometimes misses some opportunities to broaden your horizon. Sensitivity and fragility of youth reminds me of the emotional and soft side of myself. I really appreciate for that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday class

Sometimes a miracle happens for some reasons. It happened in the most challenging class I had yesterday.  I say "challenging" but actually it is relatively easy and fun class. I had three boys -one is a 1st grader who joined the class from this month. The other one is relatively new, 2nd grader who has a bit of trouble to sit still and shut his mouth more than 10 seconds. which can be a trouble in a big class but in my class no problem but adorable. But another one has been a heartache to me because of his apathy. I can handle too much energy but apathy has been killing me. He used to come to my class with a big irresistible smile on his face but as soon as he entered an elementary school this April, he eventually lost interest in learning English. He keeps saying he is busy for doing other things.

The heartbreaking boy didn't show up on time. I was a bit upset about that but it turned out to be good because I could pay attention to those two other boys till he showed up. I knew he forgot (or wanted to forget) to come so that I gave him a call and said, "We are waiting for you!" Others were already deeply engaged in their activities by the time he came and had no issue with me paying full attention to their classmate.

When he rushed into the class, I sensed something a bit positive in him somehow. Did he finally become aware how much I care? Did he have an exceptionally good time at school or after school? Did he have some magical food like chocolate to make him feel less intense and reasonable? Did he finally find how cool learning English can be?
Anyway, we were doing number bingo and I invited him to join us. Unexpectedly, he did gladly and won the game. I thought to myself, "YES! This might be the best time to show him his own capability." but remained as calm as possible not to deprive him of his triumph. Instead, without any break, we did phonics book. This time, he was quite engaged and managed to read the first word. With my spontaneous admiration, he became on fire. I enjoyed witnessing his enthusiasm as well as amazing capability and potential.

The big change to note here were that his school classmate joined this class and two big boys moved to a different class. And perhaps the biggest one was my mind setting. It has been changed in great deal since I started writing this journal.  I consider their circumstances more carefully and realized how lucky I am to share time with those kids including him. Having a brilliant consultant for my school from last month is also a great help for this positive change in myself. There might be more reasons for the positive change in this boy. Whatever the reasons are, I was so thrilled and blissful to feel the positive air in the classroom AGAIN.

Of course, it is too early to conclude that everything will be okay but at least I had a blast with those three boys for the first time in a while. Which will make me gigglish for a while and I know from my experience, such a giggle brings more giggles in others, making a big circle of positive vibe.

At the end of the class, I thanked him dearly for bring the marvelous atmosphere back to the class. He looked happy and proud what he had achieved. And I thought, "This is the reason why I keep on trying to be better not only as a teacher/ researcher but also as a person." It was amazing and humbling to recognize how much power such a little one can have over me.

I am really motivated more than ever and hope it would last a little more than a week.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Classes

From this month, I have only two classes on Monday. One is in the morning and the other is in the evening.

The morning class started from 10:30 but as usual, two students were 10 mins late for the class. They were too busy and tired to come to the class on time, I believe. One of them selected the most inappropriate story to read in the Monday morning. It was called "Pork chop" and unexpectedly a story about suicide of an old man. Really gross story to start your new week. But we managed to laugh about that as we shared and discussed what would we react to consideration of others in times of grief. All of us agreed that we would prefer to be left alone for a while because absolutely nothing can heal such a deep grief except time. 

It was obviously too deep and personal subject to talk about. I should have avoided the story but  interestingly it was one of the girls choice. She usually picks pleasant ones but this time she got the darkest one of all. I wonder why she did that. I didn't dare to ask the reason for the story was already heavy enough and I didn't think I could deal with extra heaviness in the class. However, I must ask her the reason later. 

Before reading the story, we shared our up-to-date stories from our journals. One of them has been having a personal problems and she feels very sick nowadays. I thought to myself "Oh, what a gloomy Monday morning." 

At the end of the class, I managed to talk about something uplifting such as enjoyable activities for each of us. One girl said "Shopping" and  the other said, "Theatergoing". The latter one loves Takarazuka, the only women theatrical company. Well, at least, they left the class with smiles on their faces. Phew!

The second class was with three super motivated boys. They are really priceless. One and only challenge was that all of them had difficulties to pick "l" sound such as in cellphone. They tried really hard to catch it and pronounce it. It is really typical obstacles that everyone knows and perhaps every English teacher at school have students practice "l" sound individually in his/her class at least once or twice but I find it unimportant whether they can say it or not at this stage. More importantly, they achieved to make a reasonably understandable sound after a lot of attempts. What a dream team this is!!! I thought to myself "This class is too good to be true."

Tuesday class with three boys is the reality. Sometimes I have to stop and reflect what to do to get full attention from them and keep them interested. Their reaction is instant and direct so that it can be quite severe. In the class, what I planned sometimes doesn't work at all for some reasons and I am sure none of them would tell me what went wrong. They would show me the total boredom.  Which is very very normal and healthy and I even appreciate their honesty and respect their pureness. The tuesday class is like a dance with wolves- wild, unpredictable and thus thrilling. With such a class, I can make my personal as well as professional development. In a very different way, it is motivating and inspiring class for me; however, this Monday class is surely my soul savior for almost everything works or they help me to make it work. It can spoil me badly so that I must be careful. Only my fear is to see any disappointments on their faces. Oh how spoiled I am!