Thursday, 23 December 2010

Consonant Clusters for pudding

I always look forward to my Wednesday lads because they bring an interesting mix of attitudes to class. Takuro wants to talk about football all the time (annoyingly Arsenal) & today he started drawing premier league teams' crests on the board; Toru is all business; Kunpei tries to avoid answering any difficult questions at all.

Boys ganging up on the teacher!
This class chuffs me to bits, because they can spell very well indeed. I like our classes to use a dedicated phonics book to go along with their regular class books; the Let's Go Phonics series is super. They are now quite confident of two and three letter clusters at the start of words (eg SPRing, SHRimp, STRipe, THRow, SCReam, CHip, SHop,) and at the end (eg biRCH, beNCH, wiTCH, piNK, wiNG, haND). No big deal? Wrong - this is a monster big deal in Japan, as katakana-isation of pronunciation usually mangles these combos hideously & terminally. These lads know they do not need to break up the sounds with extra vowels in between, or lob an extra 'o' or 'u' on the end. This avoids 'su-per-ring-u' (for spring) or 'win-do' (for wind).

So they can read, they can spell, they can roll out lovely pronunciation with stress in the right place and exactly the right number of syllables. BIG DEAL! To celebrate their great work, pudding and a quick A-Z vocab game that Jim lost at badly!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Thank you for your patience

A quick thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts & words lately; Ceilidh was released from the hospital this afternoon, and he is very happy to no longer have tubes in his arm.

You will have noticed that Yukari has not been able to spend anytime at her (new) desk, and that we were unable to hold our Christmas party last weekend...we will make that up to you with a proper school-warming party in January.

Today is our last day of classes for 2010, and indeed our last teaching day in MK Building. It has been a great location for us for the last seven years - please don't forget to come to your next classes at the new premises > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >

Wishing all our students and friends a super Merry Christmas

(and would everyone cross their fingers for Kevin's long trip home to snowy England?!)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Heads I win, tails I win

If all you have to do for homework is colour in a few pictures and cut them out, can you really improve your English?

Somehow I doubt it too - actually, any homework that is not followed up on is homework virtually lost. It has to have a purpose and a value of itself to be meaningful & motivating for the learner, and it must also be seen, and have, a greater use ie in class. Whether that is having students read their work back out loud, or engage each other in Q & A, or pick on teacher's "mistakes" etc, some extension is essential so that 'just doing it' is not the task completed - for me it is next task prepared.

So, my simple dominoes game (combining colours with clothes) was a popular 'easy' bit of
homework & a very extendable activity. I encourage my young learners to find shortcuts
- in this case reading the colours off their pencils even if books are 'closed'. They know I know...pretty soon they were all 'cheating', and then deciding themselves that they shouldn't - "You've read that twice already!" Peer regulation is unbeatable!

As for the game, our most reticent reader won easily. Our best reader was annoyed that she ended up with too many cards...until although she had lost, she could put down and read all her extra cards with a big flourish and lovely pronunciation at the end, upstaging early finishers!

High five Ha-chan

Counting on Saturdays

Still a busy day for us at Luna, Saturdays are fun as well. Obviously 'games' are always popular, but as I have often noted here, they have their place in a lesson plan - but not always and certainly not as a default 'kill 10 minutes'.

Sometimes, though, you need a complete change of interaction, and quickly. Like if you push a little bit too hard on correcting homework errors or an innocent bit of competition turns into a rout....

Fortunately, with the space we haven't got at the moment, everything is within arm's reach! Saturday' rescue act was a quick game of 'Kittens' to make sure we remembered to put an 's' on the end of plural nouns.

Change of activity but on task. End of lesson with big smiles and traumas forgotten!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

NHK Enkai

End of year gathering for my NHK class last night was a lot of fun, with everyone over indulging suitably.

The China Trip Bar was a good choice of venue, as the food was good and the nomihodai a good deal - without the hassle you can sometimes get. Takeshi, Masa & I got stuck into the draft lager while the girlies ordered the usual bizarre range of chu-hi's, sours, teas, etc.

Takako dropped by to add glamour but couldn't stay because she has a test today - ambitions of a job in Singapore sounds very worthwhile!

Our old classmate Machiko was also able to join us with her lovely son Ryotaro, who spent the evening on my knee eating & getting tickled. Well-behaved children are a pleasure & especially invited to the pre-school!

No more classes this year for NHK (Luna is open until the 22nd) so Merry Christmas Ayaka, Chisato, Teruki, Masa, Takeshi, Toshimasa, Miyako, and Hana-chan. Thank you for being such a pleasant group to teach.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas card from Alex-sensei

Homemade Christmas card

What's big, tall, green and flashes a lot?

 Jingle Bells and ringing the halls with holly, or whatever you are supposed to do!!! With trying to move all our furniture out, we forgot to put the tree UP!

Thankfully, the pre-schoolers found the Christmas tree behind the sofa, along with the tinsel, lights and stockings - they ripped into the decorations and organised Jim & Naomi into putting things up.

The tree is a big job, and Santa sets wedged on top to stop it falling over...the stockings we hung up on the walls, after trying them on for size, and lots of other stuff dangling from the ceiling.

Thank you for your guidance kids - now we look nice and festive - just in time :)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas Party - sadly canceled

I regret to inform everyone that I am canceling the Christmas party this Sunday (19th).

My son is in hospital for at least a week, and Yukari is not able to get away from his bedside. You may have noticed she is not in the office?

I know our children will be very disappointed about this - it is one of the highlights of our year too. Santa is also sad he cannot meet our lovely students this time. He says he knows everyone has been good, so he will not forget to bring something to your home on Christmas Day.

We are very sorry to cancel the party. We will organise an alternative welcome 2011 party as soon as we can in January - and welcome you to our new school as well. Please understand our situation at this difficult time.

Thank you for your understanding, and a great big sorry from me.  Jim

Refunds will be made in full. Everyone will be invited to attend a replacement event in January.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Inspiring First Cert lady

I am not often able to spend a whole day in the company of a single woman, but Sunday was an exception.

In June I spent a shorter day with the same lady; she came back and requested more time - duly granted.

To say this lady is determined, brave and inspiring is not to over-egg the mixture. First train out of Tokyo to get to Luna for nine hours of an English exam. The journey with a white stick and the test with her fingertips.

She ran out of time taking Cambridge ESOL's CAE exam in the summer. It was our first experience accommodating a blind candidate; we had no idea what exactly the parameters were nor how much or how little assistance ( and of what kind) would be required. Jim learnt what amanuensis meant.

Fast forward to Sunday, and borne of our mutual experiences previously, we were much more able to look after our candidate as she sat FCE. For a start, I knew how much extra time she would need - try reading two pieces of paper at the same time, in a foreign language with the clock ticking with your eyes closed? No, I wouldn't like to try that at all.

I was thrilled that this time I was not crushing her every time I had to tell her there were only "ten minutes left" - and I could see she was nowhere near finished. Her confidence clearly took a hit. This time, she was empowered, able to address every question, and was still cheerful at stumps (I am in cricket mode!).

A big thing I'd learned was that the specially arranged materials were full of potential problems (for us). I'll be sharing these with ESOL; let's just say some of them are jaw-droppingly daft.

One solution is called Teruki; I asked her to take the speaking test with our real candidate in order for there to be a genuine interaction, and to help relax the situation. Thank you very much indeed Teruki - living up to your 'Terrific' reputation again!

So, I escorted a tired but unbowed champion to her train home (this time it didn't leave with me on it). I am extremely proud that Luna JP004 is able to go out of it's way to accept candidates with special requirements, and that ESOL provides the materials & discretion. Thanks Yuki & Yukari for managing that sensitively.

Pass (I predict) or fail, I am delighted to say I got to know a winner.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Super Saya celebrates

Bad news for all the boys in Matsumoto - one of the most eligible girls in town is off to the bright lights of Tokyo....and how?!

Sayaka will be studying as Waseda University when term starts next spring! How cool is that? I am personally over the moon for her, as a lifelong fan and sometimes her teacher, totally thrilled. Obviously Saya is rather happy with her news too, and deserves a great big hug for all the hard work that she has done to get in.

This is the same girl that:
  • hid behind her mum's leg for the first six months of our classes
  • cried all the way to New Zealand, on our homestay trip
  • escaped high school here & spent two years in Canada
  • just took FCE
  • is going to be very succesful
xxx well done girl!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Textbooks keep you fit

Kevin rebuilds Luna - with Lego
Kevin & Jim found out on Thursday that emptying our corner classroom of it's contents beat a session at the gym! We need the room back in service before the weekend, as we will be hosting First Certificate examinations...

Over seven years it's no surprise we have 'collected' a lot of stuff; we can tell you now it is quite heavy and needs several trips to the new Luna, where we unceremoniously dumped everything on the floor - place yet to get it's cosmetic redo.

Thanks Kevin for making this labour enjoyable. Playing with the Lego an extra bonus ;)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Urban safari - in search of springs

We live in an area rich in onsen (natural hot springs), but less people know about all the natural fresh water springs dotted around the city centre. Another beautiful day here in the central Alps, and the school still cluttered with boxes and stuff...bus trip!

Post office
Today we jumped off our bus before the station - we'd had fun waiting for the bus playing with the ice off the bus stop bench, and watching it melt quickly as our fingers got colder! We tried to walk on the sunny side of the street, as it was chilly in the shade. We inspected the post office and watched people put their letters in the post box.

We soon found a spring on Nakamachi street, with an old hand pump on top. We were careful not to wet our shoes. Across the road was another one, with bamboo pipes - and just up the street from there we found a man cleaning freshly cut poles of bamboo, which must have been 4 metres long. I never knew we had a bamboo business in the city!

We met a lot of older people at our next spring, and they talked to us as they filled their plastic bottles. It seems that a lot of people rely on the springs for their water supply. It was very fresh, and Sota said it was 'sweet'; it was also at a comfortable temperature - they never freeze over even in the middle of winter.
Bus stop gang!

On Frog Street we posed for a picture; what do you think? Clowns or really kool kids?! Snack time in the sunshine, gave us the energy to chase the pigeons around at the shrine, before we ran out of steam walking back to the bus stop...Sota and Hina were both ZZZzzzing in no time at all, and were transported magically back to a comfortable kip at Luna.

A delightful little excursion, lots of fresh air (and water!). Think we'll all sleep well tonight!

Little readers getting extensive practice

 Despite the lack of space in my classroom lately (full of boxes and desks from our internal move - ready for the 'big move'), my students have been working up a storm.

Moeka is as cute as a button and smart as well; she was quickly finished with our puzzle from Primary Colours matching up letters and finding the odd one out. Now we can just about recognise big and small letters from Aa to Nn - bu the boys are not as quick as the girls!

My boys on Monday are climbing their reading tree very bravely - they loved seeing Biff tackle a dragon in this book, and are very good at reading aloud. It will be a while before they are reading A Night at the Museum, like my girls on Tuesday evening are trying. Words like "Akhmenrah", "Smithsonian", and "Earhardt" are unusual; but we'd seen the film and wanted to try it!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Kanrou's opinion - what I think of swimming as a sport

View from the starting block of a competition ...                                Image via WikipediaIn any country, swimming is popular, as it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman. Some people do swimming for fun, where you play in rivers or seas, which isn't bad, but if you take it as a proper sport, you can enjoy it more.

I think that swimming is suitable for exercise at it moves all of your body. Also, there is no injury, so it is one of the best ways to exercise. Adding to that, as you try harder and harder, you can see the improvement in the times you get. That will make people continue swimming. Also, there is a good point that there is no need for special equipment.
Rock Pool. An Ocean pool in Sydney, New South ...Image via Wikipedia
On the opposite hand, there is a problem that swimming is a summer sport. If there is no indoor pool, you can't swim. Also, swimming is an individual sport, which doesn't include co-operation. Moreover, swimming isn't professional, so even if you swim, you don't get paid, which footballers do.

Pictograms of Olympic sports - SwimmingDespite all of the negatives, it is a worthwhile sport, and it is refreshing as well. When I see myself getting better, I will be very happy. It is your opinion to say good or bad, but I think it's an excellent sport.

Posted for Kanrou

Takuro's opinion - What I think of football as a sport

Rush goalieImage by ijiwaru jimbo via FlickrFootball is a very popular sport in the world. Most of the people I know seem to like football. Professional footballers earn a lot of money every year.I have heard that earn over 100 million pounds a year.
Dummy runImage by ijiwaru jimbo via Flickr
You can do football at any place anytime.The rules are simple and easy to learn for everyone.You don't need much special equipment, and you don't need special clothes. Football brings people together, not only players, but friends and supporters. Footballers get to travel to many countries and get to know many places. It is easy to learn and you can always improve your game. Also you can practice by yourself in your spare time. Mostly, football is fun to play with your friends.

Some supporters sometimes get too excited at the match, and sometimes too bored. Sometimes maybe you have to travel a long time to see the match you want. Also, some tickets are expensive and it is difficult to get them. Footballers can get injured, and it can be serious.

A Soccer ball.Image via WikipediaIn my opinion, football is my favourite sport. I can get fit by playing football. When I score a goal, it makes me happy and fun. Also football is a good participation sport.

Posted for Takuro

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The voices of the masses, recorded at Luna's goodbye party for Tana & Yuki on December 4th.

You can listen here, but why not subscribe and save yourself the agony of missing out on future and subscribe?

"I wasn't at the party but really want to sign the card etc" - leave your message in the 'comment' section below.

Animal in Danger - Tiger

 In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers, but today there are only 6,000.

Tigers are the biggest animals in the cat family. Sometimes Siberian Tigers can be 320kg! Tigers move by day and they go a long way when they are hunting.

In 1900 there were 9 different kinds of tigers,, but today there are only 5different kinds. These tigers live in China, India, south east Asia and Indonesia. Why are there only five countries? This is because people are cutting down trees and killing tigers' food.

What can we do for tigers is to think about animals when you are cutting trees and killing animals.

Posted for Tomoro

The New Faces - Team Twenty-teens

Amongst all the fuss we have been making about Yuki and Tana leaving, and 'Oh woe, how will the school ever survive etc?' we have overlooked the fact that we have two new and extremely good members of staff.

This has been easy to overlook because...they are both very good at what they do, and come to us with a lot of valuable experience.

It goes without saying that Yukari knows Jim quite well. It is a shame Jim is not the same person she married at work. All of Yukari's experience dealing with difficult customers, cultural differences, the unexpected, English language, and planning, as a tour guide with NTB will be needed to cope with the pressures at our language school. Jim has to understand there is a new sheriff in town!

Kevin has smoothly occupied Tana's classroom slippers with an untrumpeted, calm assurance that belies the massive change this has been for him, arriving after a year working in the rarefied atmospheres of Singapore's British Council...fitting in to a new flat, adjusting to the COLD, and a classroom full of boxes/school on the brink of relocating.

We are very lucky indeed to have two such competent and cheery professionals pick up the reins. We are destined for a very exciting new year, and an all new (well, apart from haggard Jim) team to drag us into the twenty-teens. Thank you Yukari & Kevin for accepting the challenge!

The Magic Key - a quick read