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August 2009 Archives

August 17, 2009

I'm David. Nice to meet you.

Hello, I'm back! I've been very busy since the beginning of April and haven't had time to do this column justice, but now I'm back and have time on my hands, time which I hope to put to good use.

As some of you know, I'm busy developing Blending a Hand 4, a digital data disk full of support materials for New Finding Out 2 (NFO2) by David Paul, which I hope to publish before the end of this year. I have already created many of the materials, but have yet to sort them and write about them. Perhaps writing about them in this column will be beneficial for us all.


Let me start off in unit 1 of NFO2, where the main targets are "I'm..." and "Where do you live?" To teachers who have no experience with these books, then the targets may seem a little sparse, but after NFO1, then on your students should have some good reading, writing, pronunciation and spelling skills and be ready to tackle NFO2 with gusto.

The pronunciation "I'm" or "I am" is usually not easy for Japanese children as they often don't touch their lips together when speaking these words. I will help the children practice by using songs such as "I am five." from (American) Get Ready! published by OUP. My version of the song goes like this:

I am five. Yes, I am. I am.
I am five. Yes, I am. I am.
I am five. Yes, I am. I am.
I'm a little (big) boy (girl). I am five.

We also sing a version of the song "Are you hungry?" from Super Simple Songs.

These songs really help the children focus on the pronunciation of "I am". Page 5 of NFO2 has the children doing simple introductions such as "I'm David." I like to expand on this and have the children do some easy introductions using "I'm...". For example:

I'm Mayu.
I'm seven.
I'm from Japan.
I'm happy.
That's me.

For older or more experienced children then I have them fill in a worksheet and practise self introductions. Here is the worksheet:


This can also be used to introduce a classmate and for pairwork when one child asks the questions and the other answers. I sometimes have the children memorise and practise their introductions; this is great for impressing parents or surprising ALTs.

NFO2 is designed as a student centered course, so you'll find very little overt drilling and repetition. The "drilling and repetition" is built into the many games and activities which David Paul writes about in the Teacher's Book. So, in developing support materials I also try to look at the book from a child's perspective and create materials which children will enjoy. If they only want to play the game once, then the game needs scrapping or redesigning. A game or activity needs to be fun, every time it is played, and needs to practice or review/preview target language.

There is one more game from my up-and-coming disk which I would like to share with you, today. It is the "I am track.", which can be done competitively or cooperatively. Here is the game:


1. Played competitively
There are two tracks, the blue track and the red track, and the target is to be the first one to reach the end of your track. The two players start in the bottom left and right hand corners and say:

"Hello! I'm Takashi." (or "Hello! I'm a boy.")
"Hello! I'm Satoshi."

Then they each race along their tracks saying "I'm a cat. I'm a rabbit. I'm a cow. Etc. (I'm a dog. I'm an ant. I'm a mouse. Etc.). When they meet in the middle, they 'jan-ken' by saying "Nice to meet you." and the loser goes back to the start. Once someone wins the game, they reverse positions and play again.

2. Played cooperatively

"Hello! I'm Takashi." (or "Hello! I'm a boy.")
"Hello! I'm Satoshi."
"Woof! Woof! I'm a dog."
"Meow! Meow! I'm a cat." Etc.

You can of course throw in "Nice to meet you." If you like. When they meet in the middle, they reverse positions and do the activity once again. You and your students can probably think of other valuable ways to use these materials.

If you want a full size version of the board or worksheet, then please make a request in your comment. Otherwise wait for the disk.

August 24, 2009

I don't like cucumber!

Long ago I attended a weekend seminar for teachers and remember distinctly being pulled up in front of all the other teachers for saying "I don't like cucumber." I should have said "I don't like cucumbers.", but the thought of just a few slices of cucumber in a sandwich makes me feel ill, then when I imagine cucumbers sticking out of my sandwich, I almost die.

Japanese students of English often have difficulty expressing plurality in English. For them there is usually no difference between "I like chicken." and "I like chickens." Not a huge problem, but when they start saying things like "I like dog." and "I like cat.", then some people may begin to have misconceptions about Japanese culinary tastes.

New Finding Out 2 introduces the concept of plurals, orally, in unit two through games and song, but does not actively teach it until unit six. The game which specifically uses plurals is a chain game which focuses on the words "like/likes". Here I quote partially from the teacher's book:

"Get her to throw the stuffed animal to another child, who says I like (bananas), Maria likes (dogs) and (David) likes (rabbits). Encourage the other children to help the child who is speaking, or get them to say all except the first sentence together. It's fun to make the sentence longer and longer."

It is fun, but many children will make mistakes and say "Maria likes dog." and "David likes rabbit." And in Japan, neither dish is eaten. How do you get around this problem? Well, you could pull up the child and say, "No! Not 'dog', but 'dogs'". But all that will do is take the fun out of the game and upset the child. Let's consider a few alternatives.

1. Do nothing. The focus is on "like/likes" and the minor problem of plural endings will be sorted out in units 6 and 7 where the emphasis is on plurals.

2. Use plurals cards which have words and pictures. Each time a new 'like' is expressed, a child takes a card to match that expression. If a child makes a mistake and says the singular instead of the plural, then encourage him to read the word on his card as he expresses himself. There is a set of NFO flashcards, which includes plurals that the children are quite capable of reading. Initially, all the cards can be kept in view, but once they get used to the game, then cards may be hidden in order to make the game more challenging. Later, you can do the activity without cards.

3. Play the "I like/I don't like..." track race from BAH 4 (not yet published). The focus is now on expressing likes and dislikes of animals, fruits and vegetables.


Here's one way of playing (usually played in pairs):

You need a dice and counters. Jan-ken by saying "What do you like?" The first player rolls the dice and moves forward that number. If a 3 is thrown then she says "I like peas." or "I don't like peas.", whichever is true. If a 4 is thrown, then the dice is thrown again and the child moves forward the number thrown and expresses her like or dislike (unless she lands on the "I don't like..." place). If a 6 is thrown, then she throws the dice again and moves back the number thrown and expresses her like or dislike (unless she lands on the "I like..." place. The winner is the first child to reach the end with an exact number.

The 3 "I don't like..." and exact finish means that there is a good chance of moving backwards in the game, therefore heightening the suspense and giving more practice.

The "song" which is used to practise plurals is a version of an old favourite "Old Macdonald", which David Paul cleverly simplified. The teacher's book has a number of tips and suggestions for its use.

Children love learning animal sounds so I've made some animal flashcards (20 in all) to go with the song. These cards are also useful for practising the expressions "I'm a..." and "You are a...".


Let's play with 'I'm a dog.' and 'You are a dog.'

1. I'm a dog (double chip).
Lay the cards face down in a 4 x 4 grid. The first child says "Quack, quack. I'm a duck", turns the card over, confirms that it's a duck and puts two chips on the card. The next child goes "Cluck, cluck. I'm a frog.", turns the card over, sees that it is a chicken and puts one chip on the card. Played competitively, then the child with the most points is winner. You can also record the individual scores and have them compete against themselves the next time they play.

2. You are a dog.
The game is usually played in pairs. Lay the cards face down in a 4 x 4 grid. The dialogue goes like this:

"Quack, quack."
"You are a duck."
"That's right!"

Or like this:

"Squeak, squeak."
"You are a bird."
"No, I'm not. I'm a mouse."

In both cases, the card is turned over and a point claimed. If the pair get it wrong, then the card remains in play.

Here are some backs:


If you want a full size version of the "I like.../I don't like..." track or the animal sounds flashcards, then please make a request in your comment. Otherwise wait for the disk.

About August 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Classroom Activities in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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