Thursday, 27 April 2017

Current Magazine - Nujeen Mustafa

Inspired by reading a snippet of Nujeen Mustafas's 'Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair' in Mary Glasgow's Current magazine, some students wrote about the toughest journeys they've experienced in their lives.

It was the first time I had been to Hawaii. I was sixteen years old. I went to Hawaii with my brother
and my high-school friends. That journey was hard before leaving Japan.

Before summer vacation, we made a plan to go to Hawaii. I decided saving money to go to Hawaii. I worked in my uncle's factory from Monday to Friday at the beginning of the summer vacation. First my job was very easy. But some old women complained about it. They thought it wasn;t fair so my uncle changed my job. My job was getting harder and harder. Every weekend I worked at swimming school. I liked teaching swimming. I was very tired but finally I saved enough money to go to Hawaii.

We arrived at Hawaii early morning. We wanted to go to Hanauma Bay. It was a fine day. We decided to go there by bicycle. Hanauma bay wasn't so far from Waikiki  but our bicycles were gear-less, so it was very hard to pedal. The road wasn;t flat, it was a slope. If you slipped and fell into the car road you'd have been killed by cars. Finally we arrived at Hanauma Bay. We were all very tired but we were very excited.

Next day we borrowed an open car. It was a nice BMW. We were very excited. It was the first time I had ridden in an open car. In these days there wasn't navigation. We lost our way and wandered into a strange place. It was a beautiful residential area. There were many beautiful houses. When my brother (Lui) was driving slowly, suddenly one big dog appeared. The dog attacked us. Unfortunately our car was an open car! When I screamed, Lui drove at full speed. We were all safe.

Every day I swam in the sea without blocking sun, because in those days a tanned face and body were very attractive for me. So I wanted to get a suntan. But the place was Hawaii, ultraviolet rays were very strong. I got a terrible sunburn. My face grew bigger and I couldn't open my eye. I felt a stinging pain in my body. I was childish and immature, but sometimes I remember those sparkling young days.

Posted for Olga

Monday, 24 April 2017

Postcard from...Pingxi District, Taipei, Taiwan

I traveled in Taiwan for three days last week. I and my daughter went to old towns of Shifen & Jiufen. Shifen & Jiufen were small towns where gold was found.

In Shifen lanterns are blown into the sky, during festivals once a year. Tourists can fly lanterns even if it is not a festival day. We wrote a wish on a white lantern & it flew up into the sky.

Next I went to Jiufen which became a model for the story of "Spirited Away" (Ghibli's animation). A lot of red lanterns lit the sky. It was a really fantastic scene.

We went to the National Palace Museum on the second day. The Chinese Cabbage, which has green & white beads, was a very delicate & beautiful piece. It is made of precious stone & crystal. We found a dumpling restaurant. It was very delicious.

On the last day, we went to a skyscraper called Taipei 101. I could see all the places I went on this trip from the observatory at the top of the tower.

Posted for Kaoru

Friday, 14 April 2017

Postcard from...Fuji Speedway, Shizuoka

Hi everybody!

Last Sunday I took my brother & youngest Aussie nephew, as well as Ceilidh to see some classic Japanese cars whizzing around this racing circuit.

Uncle Mike & damp Ceilidh
It was a nice idea, but the fog and rain defeated everybody - we only saw two laps being raced in anger! Nevertheless, we could enjoy having a good look at a number of cool old cars such as Skylines & Fairladys; there were a few Porsches and a Ferrari and a Ford GT40, but the star car for us was a friend's Mustang, which sounded tremendous 'fanging it' down the hill.

I think we'd all like to come back when the weather is nicer!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Whitechapel - review of Episode One

The TV series is about an ambitious police officer investigating a murder case. It is set in Whitechapel in 2008.

The story starts with a murder scene. A man with a funny hat brutally killed a lady. A young police officer, who wants to be promoted, is in charge of this crime. However, he has never worked in the field, so he clashed with the cops who usually do. Back to the incident, the victim's name is Cathy and she is married to Bob, a butcher, who is suspected by the cops. However, he had a cast-iron alibi that he had already been arrested at the time of the murder. He couldn't be the killer. Moreover, the incident is extremely similar to the crime which Jack the Ripper committed exactly 120 years before.

What's similar? Of course the gender, the way of killing, the place, and even the date & time! In the last scene, the cops knew the crime was a copycat criminal.

I only watched the first part, so I don't know what the story be like, but I'm really curious about it. If I have an opportunity I'd like to watch the next episode.

Posted for Yuya

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

A music inspired postcard

Dear everyone,

It has been a month since I visited Chicago in U.S.A. I have great time here.

I watch the sunset over the sea from my room. The view is amazing and nice. It looks and feels different. I feel comforted. I began to listen to the music when I watch the sunset. The song makes me miss you all and Japan.

I'll be back to Japan soon.

See you soon!

Love Yukako

A postcard inspired from DJ Okawari - Kaleidoscope

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Music inspired postcard

Dead everyone in Luna,

I'm traveling in the south coast in France by car. Today I drove beachside of Cannes, which is famous for the film festivals.

The song I was listening during the drive made me excited and happy.

The driving in the beautiful sunshine cool wind from the blue sea was fantastic! I enjoyed very much.

The song that inspired this postcard is DJ Okawari - Kaleidoscope

Posted for Teruki

Sunday, 2 April 2017

postcard from...Chicago, Illinois

Hi Jim-sensei,

I'm in Chicago & saw a TRUMP Tower.
I'm now eating a snow crab (picture).


I spent a week in the States, and had a glass of freshly brewed beer, good meeting with lots of homework.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Postcard from...Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture

I'm watching you...
Nikko is one of my very favourite places in Japan - it's historic, but not overrun with tourists & their selfie sticks. There are a lot of international visitors taking their time to stroll around on their own & explore the place slowly, which is different!

It is also just a little bit eerie - tucked away in the forest, still a bit chilly at this time of year. Amazing architecture & woodwork panelling, gold detail everywhere, and heavy eyebrows following you around!

This was a flying visit with Damian-sensei; we had driven over very early in the morning to give Cambridge YLE speaking tests to one of our venues in Tochigi (the children were very good and the staff extremely helpful & cheerful)...but we felt we had earned a bit of tourism time after such a long drive & took a little detour 'on the way home'!

We really recommend making the effort to visit this incredible place - one of Japan's better kept & unspoilt secrets.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Postcard from...Kagoshima, Kyushu.

Sakurajima (volcano) from Kagoshima Port
Hi everybody!

I visited a very nice school here to give speaking tests to some very nervous children taking their Cambridge Young Learners exams. Although they were nervous, we did have a lot of fun.

When I had a spare moment, I walked around the historic part of the town and found the site of the old castle, as well as a couple of shrines and statues. I found out about the Namamugi Incident & the subsequent Anglo-Satsuma War in know I like my history?!

I also managed to pop down to the port & catch a glimpse of Sakurajima. Fortunately, it was not erupting!

See you all soon :)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A review of 'The Name of the Rose'

The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose
Historical mystery drama 1986

The Name of the Rose is about a murder in the monastery. The film is based on the book 'The Name of the Rose'. The film is set in Germany and Italy and starts in 1327. It tells the story of an old monk and a young monk who solve a murder in the Italian monastery. The story is difficult, but people who like history, (especially medieval European history) will like this movie.

Sean Connery acts as an old monk 'William', Christian Slater acts as a young monk 'Adaso'. There are no famous stars in the film. but the picture is very beautiful. Sean Connery is fantastic! William is a strict monk and he is searching enlightenment. He leads Adaso for the truth of the murder, like his father. It is a little awful but beautiful movie.

Posted for Misako.

Monday, 27 March 2017

A Review of 'The King's Speech'

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter filming T...
Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter
The King's speech
Historical drama

The story is about the King of the United Kingdom George VI. He had a strong stammer and he was terribly distressed by that. David Seidler wrote the scenario. The film is set in England and starts in 1925. His speech as the Prince of York disappointed people. He visited Lionel Logue, a speech-language-hearing therapist in London to ask him to correct his stammering...

Colin Firth stars as George VI, Helena Bonham Carter plays the role of his wife Elizabeth, and Geoffry Rush plays the role of Logue. I love the acting of Colin Firth, being distressed, losing confidence and fearing speech. I also love Geofferey Rush. His acting makes me feel that he is a real person not a character. This is a really good film.

Posted for Misako

Friday, 24 March 2017

A review of 'Honnouji Hotel'

Honnouji Hotel,
Comedy, 2017

Honnouji Hotel is about the Hotel connected to the age of (Japanese civil) wars, and heroine Kuramoro Mayuko meets Oda Nubunaga in there. The film is not based on a book. However, Nobunaga is a person who existed. He is one of the most important people in Japanese history. The film is set in Kyoto Japan, and starts in 2017. It tells the story of Mayuko's relationship with Nobunaga and his character as the Military Commander.

Portrait of Oda Nobunaga (detail)
Portrait of Oda Nobunaga (detail) 
I love the acting in this film. Tsutsumi Shinichi stars as Oda Nobunaga and Ayase Haruka plays the role of Kuramoto Mayuko. My favourite character is Oda Nobunaga, because he seems to be cold in history, but he is a warm and a charming strong man in this movie.

I think this is an ideal film for people who like comedy stories. Everybody laughs well and sometimes becomes sad. It is a pleasant movie. I give Hannouji Hotel *****. Go and watch it soon!

Posted for Reiko

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The God Father Ⅲ - Film review

The Godfather Part III
The Godfather Part III
The God Father Ⅲ
Maffia film 1990

The God FatherⅢ is a story of the Corleone family. The film is based on a book "The God Father" by Mario Puzo. The film is set in New York and starts at end of 1970's. It tells the story of his later life as the Don of the Maffia.
He (Michel Corleone) hopes for retirement and  try to legalize of the business but...

Al Pacino stars as Michel Corleone and Andy Garcia and Sofia Coppola play the role of his "family". My favorite character is Vincent Mancini(Andy Garcia), because he is hot-tempered,faithful and cold. he is good for the new boss.

I think this is an ideal film for people who like Maffia film.
Pictures are beautiful like a Rembrandt.  We can feel aesthetic sense and evanescence from the film.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Holmes' diary - The Last Sherlock Holmes Story

April 1891 Switzerland
Tomorrow I will kill Watson. I will kill my best friend.

I know that something was wrong when I found my bedroom's door was locked by Watson. When I got up in Watoson's house, I saw that Watson's cook had his letter. I took it from her hand while Watson were calling the cab. It was the letter telling Lestraid that I was the Whitechapel murderer. What a rubbish! How Scotoland Yard would laughed! But I have the letter here. You have failed Watson! No, he was't Watson. Nori arty had killed my friend and had taken his place. I saw that he injected the cocaine into his arm. Perhaps cocaine had destroyed him. He was two different people in him. One is very intelligent doctor,Watson. The other is an evil itself, Moriarty.

He told me that next day he wanted to walk over the mountains to the famous Rechesland falls. I know he will try to shoot me there. Poor Watson, he will not succeed . Because I took the bullets from his gun. He is clever, but he is just a doctor. I am the greatest detective on the world. I will win tomorrow.

I will keep this diary into a locked box and order that it must not be opened until many years later. I want none knows Watson's secret.

Tomorrow will become the great successful day!

Posted for Olga

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Rabbit-Proof Fence - A letter to the Australian Prime Minister

Feb/ 7 /2017

Dear the Prime Minister of Australia

I heard the government had failed to catch the half-caste girls who escaped from the Moor River Settlement several weeks ago. It is long way and must be a hard way to back home, especially for very young girls.

They must have been cold, hungry, and scared most of time, but they would have never stopped walking. They might hunted for their food, catching rabbits, lizards, and birds and cooking them over a fire. They build a shelter every night pulled them down in the mornings, covered their fire holes, and were careful not to leave easy chance for the police to follow.

They just wanted to get home to live with their families, and that's the best place for any child to be.

The government spent a lot of money to catch them. But they couldn't catch them. Some people who met the girls on the way to their home helped them. It is the natural things to do that as a human.

If the girls would survive their long way trip to home, you shouldn't punish them. I think you should permit them to live with their family. And I hope you to change the law for the half-caste children. 

No one is more important their mother when they are young. You shouldn't take them away from their mother. It is the right way as a human to live with their family. 

Sincerely yours, 

Naoko Hiramatsu

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A letter of gratitude - after reading A Christmas Carol

Dear Jacob Marley

I'm really thank you for coming to my bed at Christmas night. You have been travelling on the wings of wind for seven years as a ghost. You said there was no peace and rest. At first I didn't understand what you say. But the three spirits came by my bedside at Christmas Eve.

The ghost of the Past came and showed me my lonely life.My father was a cold, hard man who didn't love me at all. I always stayed at school in Christmas holiday. After I started work, I showed an interest in money. Once I had a girl friend who loved me. But I always love money more than her. So she married another man.

The ghost of the Present took me to the people I know. I understood the thought of Fred and Mr. Cratchit. The ghost of the Future showed me the last miserable life of me. So I changed my thinking. 

When Christmas comes, I always "Merry Christmas to you!" In the morning I go to church and give children money for sweets. In the afternoon I stay Fred, nephew's house. We enjoy a wonderful dinner, party games, every time. I feel wonderful happiness. Of course, I've never forgot Bob Crachit's family. Eapecially to Tiny Tom I become a second father. I always care of him.

If I keep Christmas cheerfully and do a lot lf good things to people, you might escape to travel with chains. See you as a ghost.

Sincerely yours.

Posted for Hiroko

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Hundred Year's War - after reading The Three Musketeers

The Hundred Year' War was from 14century to 14cenntury. The war continued for about one hundred years with several interval. The beginning of the War was Edward Ⅲ,king of England pretended to the French throne. And he sent army to France. It was just one reson of many things. One of other reasons was that England and France had contended for supremacy of woolen industry in Frandre district. First England was strong and superior for long years, but French girl Jeanne D’arc who had heard the words of God appeared, led French army and relieved Orleans from long siege by England. She is a historic heroine in France but her life was very short. She was soon arrested and had execution by burning. About her life many novels and films had been made. At all England lost possessions in France.

Posted for Misako

Friday, 3 March 2017

Reminiscing about a holiday - after reading The Long Tunnel

When I was highschool student, My friend asked some of friends to working in Tugaike. My friend's relative ran a guest-house in Tugaike. Tugaike was famous ski area. They wanted to working students during winter holiday. I imagined we could enjoy in winter after working. My friends thought so. We had pleasure to go there . But we guessed wrong. We had been swamped with work all day long. We were very tired. After working we could not out freely. We were under age. Resort earea had many temptations. My friend's relative had a sense of responsibility to us. So during working in Tugaike we could not enjoy. Of course no skiing. But it was important experience for us. "Life isn't as easy as you think"

Posted for Yoko

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - A letter to a loved one

To Mrs. Douglas

I’m sorry to run away from home without saying. My father locked me in a cabin. But I escaped from the cabin. And I went Jackson’s island on canoe. I met Jim there. I was frightened. Please don’t scold Jim. Jim wanted to be free. Our adventure started from there. We found a strong raft. And we intended to go to the Free State on the raft. The great Mississippi River was taking us away from St Petersburg. We prepared meals and had a long talk. We were very happy. Various things happened. Two white men running away to us. They were the Confidence Tricksters. In a small town they pretended to be another person, and cheated the money out of the girls. But I took the money and hided it. So the money was safe. The white man sold Jim. But I could meet Jim again. Surprisingly, I met Tom Sawyer there. The adventures were splendid for me.

Huckleberry Finn

Posted for Reiko

A letter of gratefulness - The Wind in the Willows

Dear Miss(the daughter of the prison keeper),

How are you? I am Toad who was in the prison. You helped me to escape from the prison. If you had not been there, I would be in the prison still now. You saved my life. Thank you very much. 

Eventually I have come back to my home. After I escaped from the prison, it was not easy to come here. It was quite an adventure. Sometimes policemen chased me, I happened to meet the person whose car I had stolen before, so they chased me, too. When I was running in the wood, I dropped into the river and I met my friend Ratty. He told me that the Wild Wooders (the stoats, the weasels and the ferrets) took my house and lived there. Idid not know what to do.

One night, I and my friends(Rat, Mole and Badger) had a meeting to talk about plans to take back Toad Hall(my house). Next day we fought with the Wild Wooders when they had a party till they run away to the Woods.

Now I have changed a lot. I know nobody can live alone. My friends taught me that. I am very lucky to have such nice friends.

Please visit me anytime. I want to introduce my friends to you. I am sure you will like them. And remember when you have trouble, let me know. I will do anything for you. I hope I will hear from you soon.

Sincerely yours,


Posted for Yasumi

Friday, 24 February 2017

Describing my house

It's a brown detached house, off a quiet street in central Matsumoto.

Matsumoto Castle 
It's spacious. There's a living room with a kitchen where there are two long modern counters for preparing lovely warm meals. It has a training centre with weights & a huge TV. There are three bedrooms; one for my parents, one for my older brother, and one for me & my middle brother (T). My parents sleep on a Japanese-style futon, my older brother has a double bed, and me & T have a bunk bed. There are two toilets, which are modern, and a store room, full of emergency food & old bags,. There is a big garden with a breath-taking wooden deck. There are a lot of beautiful flowers in summer and the wooden deck is very handy for BBQs.

My house is fifteen minutes on foot from the city centre and the castle. It is not convenient for busses. My house is in a sleepy neighbourhood near a shrine & a temple.

My house is ideal for a family with pets. Sorry, definitely no smoking.

Posted for Tomoro

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Revised Cambridge English: Young Learners tests – an overview

Important news for all YLE teachers & schools out there - suggest you pay careful attention to the changes & plan accordingly.

Please don't ask me for new sample or practice materials - the ink is still very wet!

Likewise, SEs, I'm trying to find out when the new materials will be available & implications for certification before the 2018 changes take effect. See the section from 22'35 - 25'00 & a comment at 47'

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Well hello there!

Absolutely thrilled to bump into my former line manager at Sasabe kindergarten on Friday, with her resignation in her arms! 

To be honest, I did spy her the day before, helping out at the school's music festival. She didn't have to be there of course, but cool schools generate & retain those unquantifiable little extras - loyalty, goodwill, even love. 

Ikuko was an amazing teacher (see previous eulogies!) and I am very sure will an awesome mum. We have never spoken the same language with each other, but you don't really need to when infectious enthusiasm & obvious talent is available in spades (her side of the equation!) & jaded teacher wants to impress!

And I wanted to share this cool pic. Why can't all teachers smile like Ikuko!?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Kimi no na wa (Your Name) - a film review

'Your Name' is a film that you must see. It was directed by Matoko Shinkai, a popular animation
movie director. It stars no one because it is an animation film. This film should win the Japanese Academy Prize for Best Animation film.

This contemporary film is set in Tokyo and Hide-Takeyama, in rural Gifu.

The film is about two high school students, a boy called Taki and a girl called Mitsuha. They had never met each other, but they started to reverse roles in their dreams. They come to know each other, and one day Taki decides to see her, but she wasn't there...

I totally recommend 'Your Name'. The animation is spectacular and it makes you laugh a lot. The story is a bit complicated, thus I would recommend you watch it twice. The soundtrack was made by a Japanese popular rock band 'Radwimps', and it is captivating.

Posted for....Yuya

Forever burning

Helen Margaret Gowland passed away at the age of 99 in late January. A mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an aunt and a great aunt. A figure held dearly in the hearts of many. Here is my tribute to one of the people who shaped me into the person I am today.

I shall always cherish the memories I have of my grandmother in my very first year living in England. At the time my surroundings were new and alien, I had yet to get a firm grasp of the language, customs and the way of life. When I first arrived, I could communicate in English, but my reading abilities were rudimentary at best. Yet amidst all the unknowns, and at the heart of all this unfamiliar territory, there shined a beacon of light.

I fondly recall sitting atop my grandmother’s lap, story book in hand, waiting for her soft gentle voice to bring the words to life, eager to turn the page and see what adventures awaited. It was her patience and guidance that ignited a flame for a love of books and reading. Her tender love and care allowed me to flourish, spread my wings and fly. I was soon able to read independently, yet would always look forward to every opportunity of sitting beside her, enthralled by the magic of her storytelling.

The precious moments we were able to share together will always be close to my heart, and I often reminisce about those days. It was at that time that sparked a burning desire in my heart. A desire to nurture, help the world shine brighter, light the darkness. A flame that was passed on to me, and lead me to where I am today. An eternal flame that will shine radiant as it did in your heart. A flame I wish to pass on to my students, friends and family. And for you Helen Margaret Gowland, I will blaze the torch dazzling bright, forever in your loving memory.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Postcard from...Hanoi, Vietnam

Dear Jim-sensei

3 days has been past in Hanoi. It was very fast! Although it is second time to visit Hanoi, I could enjoy "new" Hanoi & felt Vietnamese kindness a lot. It seems so cold in Japan, I don't want to go back!!

See you next class :)

Best regards,


Monday, 13 February 2017

L.A. Winners - my lottery winnings plan

The reading book “L.A. Winner” is a story about stolen race force.

If I get big money by horseracing, lottery etc, what do I want to do? I will write my vision in my mind.

Firstly, if I get big money from lottery, I will not say that issue to many people. A half of money from a lottery, a horseracing will be saved to buy next lottery or bet on next horse rating and to get money from a lottery again.

And the bal. half of money from a lottery will be used to followings.
  1. To go graceful/high trip (to spend slow-moving time at graceful/high hotel) 
  2. To go all football games of Matsumoto Yamaga which are played at adversary stadium to give the Yamaga team a supportive push 
  3. To make a large donation to groups who help animals that were not bought at pet shops and who are taking actions to reduce pet shops and slaughter of animals. 
  4. To buy 2 rooms of assisted-living condominium for my parents because I heard many news that many people are now leaving their job to carry out elders’ care (ex. Parents) and when their cares are completed, it is really hard to go back to work. So I want to continue to work with a sense of safety which my parents receive enough care during my work. 
  5. To make a large donation to the Matsumoto Yamaga team to improve their practice environment. 
My vision in my mind makes me happy..., but if it becomes true, that is unbelievable happy thing for me.

Monday, 30 January 2017

After reading - The Quest

Do you know the CHATUCHAK weekend market in Bangkok? If no, I recommend to you to visit the market in the weekend. As you can see, the market is only held on Saturday and Sunday. It's very big market and many tourists visit this market every weekend. The place is 2.5 times as large as Tokyo Dome and 0.2 to 0.3 million people come per week. There are everything you want, souvenir, clothes, fruits, restaurants, furniture, bag, hat, shoes, lamps, figurine of animals,,,everything!! And all of them are very reasonable prices. When I go to the weekend market, I enjoyed to buy small pouches made by straw, a bracelet of natural stone, accessories, hat, table cloth, T-shirts, and so on. As the place is too large, I recommend to buy it when you like it. Once you passed the shop, you might not be able to come back the original place. In addition, there is no air conditioning. You may not be able to walk for a long time as it's too hot, the average temperature is around 30℃ and highest temperature is 39℃. Please enjoy your weekend in this market when you visit Bangkok.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Have an ice evening!

Last weekend saw temperatures plummet appreciably here in Matsumoto, with local & international ice carvers rubbing their hands enthusiastically!

Rumours have it that this event might not continue - which is a crying shame as it is one of the most under-rated nights out locally.

Night out? Yes! I can't remember the last time I went in daylight. Seeing the professionals and keen amateurs chipping, sawing, carving, blow-torching their creations into life is a treat. You need to be patient - wrap up well - and hot sake has excellent thermal properties...give a carton over to the lads & you'll be friends all night (and have access to the heating tent!).

Through the night designs change, bits fall off or ambitions need to be pulled back. Attachments carefully chiselled into shape get hoisted up to height on the forklifts waiting for work - snowflakes, horns, legs, carp, penguins - you name it!

For the photographer a delightful ongoing vista. Men-at-Work portraits, icy black & white super contrasts, shadow play & backlit studies. And a very cold trigger finger! (Keep your spare battery in a deep warm pocket, by the way). I really enjoyed my Saturday night out - and had to laugh at the white-lens warriors who turned up too late on Sunday morning as the bell rang at 6am to announce competition time was finished (put your tools down & step away from the ice).

When the sun comes up you do have the amazing Alps as a backdrop, but the magic is gone as the dawn approaches; the statues' poses are set and the decay starts almost immediately...before noon limbs have fallen off, carefully carved features have melted into tell-tale puddles.

Matsumoto ICE - 2017 Festival

Friday, 27 January 2017

Augmented reality island poster

In an attempt to explore the potential of Aurasma (read more about it here on a previous posting) and bringing in an extra dimension (the augmented kind) into the classroom, my bi-monthly housewives class went on a journey into uncharted territory: using a smartphone app to expand their learning and augmenting analogue into digital.

This project, which spanned a couple of lessons, revolves around a remote mystery island. We began by learning vocabulary for types of terrain, points of interest and landmarks, alongside adjectives which they collocate to. This served as a base to be able to be more descriptive when it came to summarising the key features of the island.

Obviously, we need an island to describe before going about specifying what it looks like. Everyone was given a blank island, with a key to label the different types of terrain & landmarks: ocean, ruins, rivers, forest, lake and mountains, with space to add their own. Everyone used the key, plus their own ideas to design and draw their mysterious remote island. There were also caves, a lighthouse, and even a volcano added in amongst many others. This concluded the first lesson, with the homework task to go away and choose 5 special points of interest on your own map and write a brief paragraph for each location. Still very much all analogue so far…

2 weeks later we regrouped and ironed out any errors in the writing. What I wish I had done in hindsight is added in a listen and draw activity, where everyone paired up and listened to their partner’s description of their island and re-drawing the island as it is described. It would have really helped activate all of the useful language we had studied. Tunnel vision focusing on the final output with Aurasma may have obscured my vision here!

Alternatively, we split into pairs of speakers and listeners. The role of the speaker was to describe the special interest points on their map, first with their written summaries in hand, and after a few practise rounds over their summary to their listening partner, whose role was then to prompt when the speaker when they stumbled. For the finale, the listener video-recorded their partner (finally starting to go digital) much to the objection of those involved. At this stage they had rehearsed and practised their summary, not just reading out loud and were ready for the big stage. Even if they didn’t believe it themselves at the time.

I then went through the process of embedding the videos into everyone’s poster, using the images on their islands as trigger images. Jaws on the table when given my phone to point at their poster, and out pops an audio/visual combo of the creator describing what exactly it is that they are looking at. Pretty cool! It’s quite rare to be able to have a record of what students have produced orally and be able to showcase it too. Aruasma is the perfect medium to do so, and has a great WOW factor. It can make your 2D poster, into a living, talking, interactive masterpiece!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Killing time with a jigsaw & YLE Starters practice!

As I have written in the description, this was not a planned practice - we were waiting for her study-buddy to arrive and had already put the massive jigsaw together and talked about the things we could see.

The smaller cards I'm holding would be larger in an actual Cambridge YLE Starters speaking test (and the picture a lot simpler!); there would be eight to choose from, and at most the candidate would be asked to place only three into the picture (so we overdid it a bit here!). Note though, we've never done this before and were coming across new words (which we have not learned eg frog, kite) which we might not know, but we do know they were not apples or fish! Not all the vocabulary is in the Starters word list either - never mind!

My students have not come across prepositions before, so we were learning (and teaching each other) as we went. You can see the dynamic changes instantly with the boy joining us? The girl assumes the role of explainer & intermediary, supporter etc. This would not happen in an actual test - one at a time please! The examiner would have a script & time-plan to follow, too. We would be sat at angle like this, or next to each other. I think it is clear that young learners CAN DO if given time & a fair chance; they don't need translations or super-genki distractions!

We are going to be adding more Cambridge English speaking test practice videos on our Youtube channel this year; you can already find loads of examples of our learners making/singing/doing/giggling (a lot)...mostly fun & games at Luna but this I think the proof of the pudding: a serious CAN DO pay off.