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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

August 16, 2000

Making Your Classroom a Window to the World

by Reiko Tada

Teaching Children Through an International Approach
Kids Since the Japanese Ministry of Education announced the inclusion of English and foreign cultures into the elementary school curriculum starting in the year 2002, there has been a great deal of discussion as to how to do this. We need to consider how to effectively incorporate the introduction of foreign cultures into the ELT curriculum.

Exposing Japanese elementary students to the lifestyles of children in other countries around the world, will give teachers an opportunity to show students the similarities and differences among the various cultures presented. As a result of studying other cultures, the students should reach a deeper understanding of their own culture. Of course, I do not mean that we should focus solely on English-speaking Western countries’ cultures.

Another important part of teaching English through an international approach, is to provide children with the opportunity to talk about their own culture, Japanese culture, and more global/environmental issues in English. Of course, the activities with these aims should be fun and motivating. However, we should not forget that our students also need to learn the importance of self-respect and co-operation in order for them to become internationally minded citizens of the world. What class activities can we use to do this? Here are some ideas:

The World Musical Chairs

Grade: All ages
Materials needed: picture cards of flags, chairs, and music
Aims: To expose children to various countries and languages around the world. To show that co-operation is fun and important.

1. Show 4 or 5 flag cards and introduce the names of the countries and their greetings.
2. Put the chairs in a circle and put a flag under each chair. Each single chair represents a country and 5 or 6 chairs put together can represent China and for example one chair can be used for Japan. The number of the chairs depend on the class size.
3. Play the music.
4. The children walk around the chair with the music. When the music stops, the teacher calls out one country. The children go to the appropriate groups of chairs and shout out the greeting from that country.An alternative to this activity is to have the teacher ask children to find the country beginning with the letter 'c' e.g. China. And so on.

Find Your Friends

Grade: Over grade 3
Class size: large
Materials needed: small pieces of paper with names of animals written on them.
Aims: To practice question forms. To become aware that some animals are in danger of becoming extinct.

Divide the class into several animal groups which are endangered and which are not. For example, 10 students can be divided 7 monkeys, 2 tigers, and 1 panda. Write the names of each animal on a piece of paper.
1. Give students a piece of paper and explain they should pretend to be the animal written on the paper and find their friends by asking questions such as, 'Where do you live?', 'What do you eat?' or 'What color are you?'
2. Animals in the same group get together and sit together.
3. The teacher tells the students that this is actually happening in the world at the moment. This can be done by asking: 'Do you have a lot of food?' or 'Do you have a house to live in?' In doing so, they can really begin to think about the causes of these problem.

It is impossible to cover international awareness purely through teaching English, but it is important to teach this awareness at an early age because younger children are likely to be free from any prejudice and can in turn learn more flexibly. The 21st century is now here. I hope we as teachers will be ready for the challenges that face us.

Reiko Tada

Reiko Tada is an experienced teacher trainer and runs her own school Global English House. She is the coordinating director of GET, Group of English Teachers, and co-author of Our World.

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