Category Archives: TEACHING

5 Ways to Energize Your English Teaching in Japan as Winter Approaches

Source: Gaijin Pot
5 Ways to Energize Your English Teaching in Japan as Winter Approaches

With the novelty of the new school term wearing off, the weather turning chilly and the year starting to wind down, it can be a struggle to keep things upbeat in the classroom. If you find yourself lacking inspiration at this time of year, don’t despair. Whether you work as an assistant language teacher or at a private language school, here are five suggestions for things you can do to rev up your teaching and bring some fresh ideas into the classroom.

1) Ask to observe other teachers

Watch how they go about their work. How do they structure their lessons? What tasks and activities do they use? How do they set them up? How do they give instructions? What happens before the tasks? What happens during? What happens after?

How do they incorporate reading, writing, listening and speaking skills into their lessons?

Look at what works for them and what doesn’t. What would you change if you were teaching the class? How could you bring elements of this teacher’s techniques into your own lessons? Can you learn anything from their classroom manner?

Don’t just look at specific activities. Take note of general approaches. Do they pre-teach vocabulary? When and why? How do they approach feedback — do they correct errors immediately or later? Are they mostly positive or mostly negative with their comments?

If you can, convince someone to observe you and offer feedback on things you could work on. Having a conversation about teaching can give you insights from the mundane (“I need to speak more slowly.”) to the magical (“Wow! Good lesson planning really does make a difference!”).

2) Let the learners drive the lesson

Google “task-based learning” for ideas and prepare to step back from being the obviously dominant voice. Rather than always leading the class yourself, delegate responsibility to the …continue reading


What’s the perfect ALT-to-JTE teaching ratio?

Source: Gaijin Pot
What's the perfect ALT-to-JTE teaching ratio?

The actualities of an assistant language teacher and their job description can sometimes get a bit foggy. Our title, ALT, suggests that we should be assisting. However, many of us, whether it be in elementary or junior high school, have to take full responsibility and lead for the entire duration of the class.

Even though we have grown accustomed to this style, there should be more cooperation between the ALT and Japanese teacher of English (JTE) in the classroom. The JTEs should lead the class, while the ALTs are there for assistance with things that are difficult for the JTE to do, such as pronunciation, reading, grading other tasks best handled by a native speaker. As we all know, however, this is not usually the case — especially when it comes to elementary school. So, what things should the JTE be leading during the class and how much time should the ALT be leading?

In our last article on bonding with other teachers, we discussed the changes that will be made come the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. When these are implemented, Japanese teachers will have to take more responsibility. An ideal English lesson in the classroom should have a 1-to-1 teaching ratio between the JTE and ALT. However, depending on the English level of the students and the JTEs involved as well as the particular lesson being taught, this ratio may vary. At the very least, ALTs should always try to use proper English. The JTEs, on the hand, do not necessarily have to use the proper constructions, but certainly should use easy-to-understand English.

As an ALT, we have become used to teaching in a familiar way of leading the class ourselves with minimal help from the teacher. Moving to another style can seem foreign. In this article, we’ll discuss …continue reading


Bad ALT! The Unwritten Rules at Japanese Schools

Source: Gaijin Pot
Bad ALT! The Unwritten Rules at Japanese Schools

It’s only been a year, but I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve felt my face burn to a bright apple red from breaking what I now know are unwritten rules of etiquette at my school.

When we first arrived in Japan as assistant language teachers (ALTs) under the JET Programme, all of us had to attend a three-day orientation in Tokyo. There, we were given hours of lectures on what to expect in — and how to adjust to — the Japanese workplace. By that I mean, we really were taught how to say “good morning” in Japanese and bow properly. There was little to-almost-no information on what we should avoid doing — the “unwritten rules.”

With ALTs coming from the Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. to name a few, it is inevitable that we all carry with us different sets of values, beliefs and etiquettes. But somehow, after living in Japan for a period of time, most of us figure to balance our individual personalities with respecting local norms.

Unfortunately, no one will ever tell you the myriad unwritten rules until you break them — as I learned.

The hard way

I broke the first rule the first month I was living in Japan. My students were busy painting their team banners for sports day, so I decided to sit on a table to watch them. The moment my bottom touched the table, a teacher immediately rushed to me and yelled, “Dame Dame! (You can’t do that!)” As my students turned around to see that I was sitting on a table, my face instantly reached its boiling point.


Unfortunately, no one will ever tell you the myriad unwritten rules until you break them — as I …continue reading