Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Colouring & drawing

I've got some cool artists in one of my classes on Wednesday afternoons! This week we drew pictures called "Outside". Unfortunately it was a bit too cold to go outside, but we could remember the view from Luna's lovely big windows.

Then we coloured in, my favourite part of teaching! I always think of my old friend Ciaran when my students do colouring, because one child asked him if 'he could learn English by colouring?' Classic question. Today we learned outside words (like 'rock', 'river', 'tree', 'bridge' etc) - we already know all our colours!

Anyway, my tots today produced a great set of pictures which we wanted to share. Here's Shuntaro's masterpiece, which he was very proud of (he has a scrapbook of things he's drawn at home, so this will join his collection) when he showed his mum. Good job kids!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Working on Sundays

I have to admit, working on Sundays is not my favourite routine! I guess it goes with the territory - owning your own business & trying hard to stay ahead. The language school business is a very competitive one.

Every year the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) have a jamboree (Conference), which is attended by the "Great & the Good" of the industry - leading academics, famous authors, reknowned teacher-trainers, obscure researchers & many, many more. There are three days full of presentations, workshops, discussions etc, and an exhibition room packed with publishers & wholesalers, companies with EFL support materials & software developers.

I try to go every couple of years - it's expensive, and not always in a convenient location. The last two years it has been in Tokyo, so I've been able to attend. Bizarrely this year, I was so busy bumping into people I only got to one keynote speech - interestingly about "How many words you need to be a good (or 'effective') reader". A lot of you know I am a big fan of reading?! This speech made me want to crack the whip even harder - our students really need to get busy!

So who did I meet then? Well, I had a good chat with my friend Koichi, who works for Oxford University Press. He's a Shinshu boy, and we've been friends for over a decade. We usually don't talk about books, but on this occasion we did, as OUP has a really cool range of new reading materials from the UK. I also spied a series of lovely, interesting books I'd love to use at Luna, teaching other subjects in English (Science, History, Geography etc). Maybe a bit hard for most students, but certainly useful for returnees (children who've lived overseas).

I also met up with Tomomi at Cambridge University Press; she came to visit me earlier this month in Matsumoto & we had a good chat about Young Learners exams around the country. She, and quite a few other people I've met recently, are keen to become Oral Examiners for us next year (great news!).

In the coffee shop I caught up with Cambridge ESOL's Senior Team Leader, and a group of past & present Cambridge examiners, including Simon who'll be examining CAE for us in December. There were some familiar faces from the Matsumoto/Nagano/Ueda area, as well as catching a quick word with Taro from Hokkaido (YLE examiner) & Cynthia from Kyushu (she does everything).

I thought a pint with Luke would be relaxing, as we discussed next month's exams at his school: not so! I was introduced to one of his friends who knows one of my friends, and who is doing exactly what Shuji asked me about 2 years ago - putting dictionaries on mobile phones. I nearly spilled my beer, as she also told me about her next project to get reading books available onto mobiles...I can't wait! It also turned out Luke knows a guy from Australia that I used to know from Ueda - small world as usual. All in all, a busy Sunday - and for a working day not a bad one at all, as I managed to get in a couple of pints of Guinness & some fish & chips too!

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Monday, 26 November 2007

Postcard from Taiwan

How are you doing? I am in Taiwan now and enjoy doing business and playing at night. I will be back in Japan when this mail gets to you. From your class member Junichi M.

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Saturday, 24 November 2007

Luna firsts - Niigata & Tokyo

Today Luna International added two new 'venues' for Cambridge ESOL exams under our status as a Centre (Japan's most active).

Alan Morrison owns an English school called Sunshine, in Ojiya-shi, Niigata-ken; Trevor Joseph owns King's Road English School in Akasaka, Tokyo. Neither school has previously held Cambridge ESOL exams before, and naturally both Alan & Trevor were nervous about 'getting it right'. I am delighted to say that both ran really well-organised sessions, under a lot of pressure, and that all candidates today were able to sit their exams in professional & proper circumstances. Well done Alan & Trevor - you both earned a cold beer this evening, and put your schools on the map. Both Alan & Trevor should be very proud of themselves/their schools & students.

Both Sunshine & King's Road deserve a big thank you from me. In Niigata, we need to thank Ayako for her help ushering & Mark Brierley for giving up his day & a long trip from Matsumoto to invigilate & examine. In Akasaka, thanks due to Martin Nuttall for helping make sure the sessionwent smoothly, and to Malcolm Prentice/David Munn for examining a lot of candidates in cramped conditions & under time pressure.

Altogether, 20 candidates took K.E.T. today, and 26 took P.E.T. A lot of candidates came from the two schools hosting the exams today, but also a lot of private candidates from far and wide; high school & university students, housewives, engineers & business people alike sat side-by-side.

Results will be available online within 4 weeks, and candidates will receive their certificates mid-January. I am really excited with today's session for Luna too - first time we have run multiple venues for Lower Main Suite exams. Altogether a very good day!

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Friday, 23 November 2007

National Holiday

Feel I must share with you the fact that Luna's teachers were at work today, in their free-time, researching for new ideas & plotting our Christmas party. Not many school's staff have that kind of motivation & commitment...

Monday, 12 November 2007

Postcard from Saint Paul de Vence (France)

Hello everybody (Luna, NHK, Sayuri)!
I'm staying in an old village in France. It's at the top of a small mountain, like a hill. The houses, which were built in the 16th Century, are impressive. It is impossible to turn into the village in a car, so it is tough to stay in a hotel inside the village with big luggage. There are lots of tourists in the narrow streets. I prefer Roquebrune, which is a tiny village where we stayed 2 days before we came here. I was able to be like a villager. *Sorry lots of mistakes!

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Sunday, 11 November 2007

Chess Titans

Hi everyone! I have recently discovered Chess Titans on my computer and have become quite addicted to the game. So far I have won 2 games of 6, which gives me a 33% success rate, not bad for a beginner! If anybody is keen for a non-virtual game please give me a shout, I'd love to practice my skills against a real opponent. In the meantime I'll be building my artillery! Cheers for now, Tana.

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Saturday, 10 November 2007

Postcard from Portofino (Italy)

Hello Sayuri, Luna & NHK guys!!
It is the third day of my trip! I am at Santa Margherita-Ligure in Italy, a beautiful seaside resort near Genoa. I am writing this card on the terrace of the fantastic hotel. I can see the bright sea, birds are singing. We drove here from Milan yesterday. For dinner, we had extremely delicious seafood at an "at-home" restaurant - 'Restrante Arfled'. It became one of my best restaurants in Italy. We are going to Portofino (my dream), and get to Cote D'Azure in France today. The photos on this card are quite old-fashioned, but it is not old-fashioned here! I love Italy. Teruki

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Friday, 9 November 2007

Congratulations Trudi!

Brilliant news from China, where Eugene proposed to Trudi during the week. A delighted Trudi accepted, of course! Nice ring on display, of course!

Trudi worked for Luna a couple of years ago & has kept in touch while
teaching in China, and has been back to visit us too. Best news of the week,
and all of our best wishes from all of us to the happy couple.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Tokyo bookfair/Expo

An annual event that I strongly encourage our teachers to attend. We can join in workshops where authors develop ideas for using their books & materials; we can pick up new ideas for teaching different areas such as phonetics; we can find out about new trends and technology; we can discuss teaching philosophies with our peers; we can meet the publishers and see what is new on the shelf.

And quite a lot more. I have a lot of friends working in the profession - as authors, salespeople, teacher-trainers, etc - and the bookfair is a good excuse to socialise as well, network a bit, and make sure everyone knows Luna International is going strong. It strikes me as odd that other schools do not take advantage of this weekend, because even though I've been going regularly for the last 15 years, there's always something new to pick up.

This year my staff & I attended the following presentations:
  • Magical keys to the world of the Oxford Reading Tree (Setsuko Toyama). Setsuko has presented at Luna in the past, and will be coming back in 2008. Luna uses the Story Tree series of readers, which are better for students. Have a look at the display in the school?
  • Teaching reading to Children (Jason Good).
  • Task-based learning and authentic news reports (Daniel Ferreira).
  • Tips for teaching JHS/HS with 'My First Passport' (Jon Robinson)
  • What students really need for the TOEIC (Grant Trew). Grant presented at Luna early this year, and is a source of excellent exam-taking skills... doesn't have to be TOEIC!
  • Three worlds unite - using literature in the EFL classroom (Michael Stout). Several good ideas to connect readers with the 'real' world.
  • What else can you do with stories? (Tomomi Katsuki).
  • Fun supplementary activities for kids classroom (Hugh Graham-Marr)
  • Thinking beyond the story - exploring graded readers (Richard Attwood)
  • Developing confidence in early readers (Patrick Jackson). This the inspiring author of Potato Pals (new link on the right), who is a very good presenter & also coming to Luna in 2008.
Jim also went to a meeting of school owners, where a few interesting things were discussed - including the death of NOVA of course! We did of course have a couple of pints with old friends in the pub as well, where all the best business is done anyway. We met Trevor Jones, the owner of King's Road English School in Akasaka - venue for KET & PET exams in a couple of weeks.

All in all a very good weekend; think you'll agree Luna's teachers try harder than most.

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Monday, 5 November 2007

Bonfire Night

Remember, remember,
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

Yes, tonight is Guy Fawkes Night (or "Bonfire Night") in Britain.

But I found this amazing race which is far more exciting - double click on the title above, and put your seatbelts on!

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Sunday, 4 November 2007

With extra bits!

I went to Tokyo last weekend, for a bookfair. Sounds dull? It does, doesn't it! Over the years, the Tokyo English Language bookfair has produced some of the most incredible urban myths (I'll post a collection one day!). However, the most important thing for me, with my school owner's "hat on", is that I re-establish links with authors and publishers and introduce my staff to authors, publishers & colleagues/peers.

Luna is a small school. No debate there. But you really should see the response our staff get when they give a Luna International business card to people at an event like this! It's like Moses at the Red Sea. Doors open, eyes widen, "ah, Jim. Just a moment, I'll get my boss." It's great! And it makes my teachers feel really important - and makes them feel good about joining my staff. A Luna International business card is like a Gold American Express card!

In the 18 years I have been teaching here, I have been attending conferences/workshops/meetings/training events/bookfairs all over the country. Luna International's teachers have been attending the same events since the school started, which means that our teachers are at the forefront of new developments in English teaching - they meet the authors and get to talk about "teaching stuff", they are asked to test new material for the next generation of books (as we have been in the past - we piloted material for English Time and Potato Pals for instance ...check out the links which are now extremely active. Click on one!)

Anyway, news soon about the bookfair, who we met, what we learned etc., as well as a few new links. Meantime, I just want to ask if you like the new 'functionality' I've been able to add to the blog. Do you like the new bits (widgits, technically)? I think I'll add a poll (questionnaire) next week.

Is there anything else we should think about adding? Incidentally, some students cannot post from work (firewall/security issues) - so please email me from your home email address so I can then invite you again. Remember, this is still a closed group.

For now, any bets on when we get visitor number 1,000?

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My hometown - Shimosuwa

I live in Shimosuwa, which is a town around Lake Suwa. It has a population of about 20,000 people. It isn't so big a city.

Shimosuwa is famous for Suwataisya, which is a big and famous shrine. There is a big festival called "Onbashira", which is held once every six years. Most people living in Shimosuwa, prepare years before. We enjoy "Onbashira" and a lot of visitors come from throughout Japan and overseas.

My house is near the Tho River. We call it "Tho-gawa" in Japanese. In the summer, a lot of children swim in it. A lot of families enjoy barbecues on the banks. We can feel cool in the summer there. I like the Tho River very much.

The weather is clearly defined in four seasons. In the rainy season, sometimes the Tho River is brimful with big water, because of heavy rains. In the winter season, we have to clear snow from the neighborhood. It is hard work for me , but it is good exercise for my health.

There are a lot of natural things near my house, such as the Tho River, rice fields, fields, etc. I love nature. So that's the main reason why I like living here.

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

Reader - Walk About

Mary remembers a day in the bush:

I wake up early morning and looked for the things that can be eaten. Fortunately, we found some kinds of nuts and were able to pass hunger with them. On the other hand, we also had to find the way that returns to our home. When we are thinking about that we encountered with a bush boy. Firstly, because I didn't know how to communicate with bush boy, I feared to him. Besides we couldn't communicate by own language. For a while, Peter began to play with him. Swimming, Dancing, etc. Unconsciously, Peter was able to take communication and he began to understand the words that bush boy spoke. Also bush boy seemed to know what we want to do. In order to make it to the nearest town, we were walking day after day in bush. Bush boy became sick by the long journey. Day by day, he lost vigor. Finally, bush boy died. I regretted my thought that I scared to him. Thereafter, we could return to my home. I am writing about our varied experience now. Masanori Yagasaki

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