Thursday, 27 February 2014

Start as you mean to go on!

I came to Matsumoto, having been based in Chiba before, looking to expand my horizons, gain new experiences and to further develop my teaching career. I have always had in interest in travelling and experiencing the delights that the world has to offer first hand (hence basing myself in Japan!), and I jumped at the prospect of living and working in the mountainous landscapes of Matsumoto. When I first learned that I would be working for Luna, I was eager with anticipation get off on the right foot and to prove to myself, the school and to the students of my teaching capabilities.
            My first month at Luna has already flown by and what a month it has been! Getting used to a new city and a new environment is never easy but I feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful people and to be part of a school that has a real community feel shared by the staff, students and their parents who have welcomed me with open arms. Of course it has by no means been an easy introduction into the world of teaching, familiarizing myself with a plethora of new textbooks, resources and students, facing the wrath of the recent snowfall (I have never had to move any snow in my life, let alone several times my body weight!), the flu outbreak where students and staff alike were dropping like flies, as well as trying to work out how the kettle works! On a few days I felt as if I had hurtled into a huge brick wall and I have doubted myself at times on my class management and teaching techniques. But it is these times of adversity and hardship that allow you to improve yourself as a teacher and to learn from your weaknesses to strive for a better learning environment for your students. It is also very important to bear in mind that the negative times are often offset by the positive ones. Even just the simple joy of seeing your student smile for the first time or observing your students immersing themselves with the new activity you have been wanting to try out in the classroom. I even had one of the students, from a class I covered for when Jim fighting a losing battle with the flu, come to the school with his mother in tow the day after his lesson just to say hello to me. It’s moments like these that really warms your heart as both a teacher and a mentor and shows you how much of a positive influence you can have over your students. It’s moments like these that I will continue strive for as I continue my time teaching at Luna.
            A special thanks to Jim, Yukari and Tomoko for making me feel at home from the get go, helping me find my feet and letting me be part of this wonderful community. I appreciate all of the work you have done for me and I hope the future will be full of many more new and exciting challenges.

Damian Gowland

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Learning first letter sounds with Quizlet - on the desk, tablet, phone, online, offline, in bed....and now with your teacher's voice!

Yesterday afternoon, I spent most of the afternoon in between my kindy classes and my evening job, whipping together a series of flashcard sets for our new kindy+ class on Saturday afternoons. I did start this job on Monday, with a whole day ahead of me to scan, get creative, add audio post coming very soon (more a rant, really) explaining why that did not go to plan! It took me an extra 24 hours to finish the job I thought would be finished by Monday lunchtime...

Quizlet, people, Quizlet. I love Quizlet. Last week I noticed I had made 666 sets of flashcards. That is a lot, but I was actually worried about the number - especially as we have recently hired Damian as well! He's fine by the way...I checked - he thinks the ceilings are leaking, but it's actually Holy Water!

Anyway, exciting new class on Saturdays needed a bunch of online support from us, especially as mums are iPhone savvy and keen to boost learning and language exposure outside of class. Each unit is now supported with a dedicated set of flashcards (our own audio being added this week, a big improvement on the computer generated default setting previously), and a number of extra sets with built in variety/increased challenges. Of course we use actual flashcards in class - and how! - and the children have their own sets...but who to play with at home?!

Here is a sample of a larger set, asking learners to match a group of images to a letter of the alphabet which has their first/initial sound in common. Easier to do than explain - take a look, have a try!

What do you think?  Here is the link to the other 'sets' in the 'class' What other sets would you like us to add? Which feature do you like the best?

Why not register for a free Quizlet account for free at and join this class - or any of the other classes we have created?

We'd love to know what you think...use the comment tab!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Modern Times - film review (with Wikipedia assist)

The Tramp working on the giant machine in the ...
The Tramp working on the giant machine in the film's most famous scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Modern Times was directed by Charlie Chaplin. He also stars in it, played, produced and wrote the music.

Modern Times is a 1936 comedy film, in which Chaplin's iconic Little Tramp character struggles to survive in modern, industrialised world.

The film is a comment on the despotic employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created in Chaplin's view by the efficiencies of modern industrialism. The movie also stars Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Stanley Sandford & Chester Conklin.

The Tramp working on the giant machine is the film's most famous scene.

He finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos. He had more hardship, time in hospital, in jail, and leads a fugitive's life.

In the final scene, Chaplin & the hero walk down a road at dawn, towards an uncertain but hopeful future.

Posted for Keiko
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Huckleberry Finn - after reading

Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer are very famous names. Why isn't Jim?

I think there are some reasons why Jim isn’t very famous name.
One is because of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer is name of story. So people have some chances to hear their name.

Second is that Huck & Tom are boys. So if readers are boys or girls, they may be able to be Huck or Tom when they read the story. Or they may be able to be Huck & Tom’s friends. And they had adventures with them. But Jim is older than readers. So people couldn’t to be him when they read the story, I think.

Third is because of Jim is a slave. I got some information about slave from the story of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. In this story (“Huckleberry Finn”), Jim’s master was not a bad person. But I don’t have a good image for slave. People worked very hard. But they couldn’t get any money. And they didn’t have any freedom. I think Jim is a good person, but I don’t want to be a slave. Some readers may think so, too.

Fourth is Huck and Tom are active and positive person. So I think they are attractive. They are admired by readers.

Posted for Yuri

By these reasons, Jim isn't a very famous name, I think.
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Monday, 17 February 2014

The Eagle of the Ninth - book review


In the second century AD, the Ninth Roman Legion disappeared in Britain, and the Eagle, the symbol of the Legion's honour was lost. Later, Marcus, whose father also disappeared with the Legion, travelled to Britain to bring the Eagle back & know whether his father already died or not, accompanying Esca who was the young slave. During the journey, he pretended an eye-doctor to get into the tribes. Getting information from Guern, Dergdian and Tradui, finally they found out the Eagle and could bring back home. The truth of the disappearance was that some men including his father were killed by tribes, the others became members of the tribes.

I like the story has reality. Nothing happened special for disappearance of the Legion.

There was no characters or events I didn't like.

After reading the story, I was sure that invasion has nonsense. I like such a historic novel, and this story reminded me of a film "Apocalypse Now" which is a 1979 American epic war film during the Vietnam War. In this story, US Army Captain became the king of his own country there. I guess that the similar things would happen whenever & wherever the war occurs. I recommend leading this book.

Posted for Atsuko
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Cultural differences - after reading The Canterville Ghost

 The Americans in this story are very different to the British. 
How are Americans different to people from your country?

One of our main customers for electric shaver is American’s company. I often communicate with them by e-mail and a few times to meet them in a year. Whenever I go to America, I am surprised two points on the difference between Americans and Japanese.

One thing is the volume of meal. I love steak and pizza, but everything is too big for me to eat up. The cups for drinks are also big. I never drunk it up. Americans, however, can eat and drink up. I can understand why their body is very big.

The other thing is the endurance of cold. I feel that Americans are very tough even if it is very cold. I cannot stay in the room without outerwear, but Americans wear half sleeve shirt. I also saw some Americans who visited Japan wear half sleeve shirt even if it was winter.

Honestly, I don’t want to live in America as it is not comfortable on the meal and temperature. I, however, like to visit America and enjoy talking with Americans and finding the difference between America and Japan.

Posted for Chinasa
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Saturday, 15 February 2014

My friend on the fiddle - Tales from Longpuddle (after reading)

 Write about a time when your friends played live music (well or badly).

My friend, Masako can play fiddle.

One day, she invited Chinasa, Reiko, and me to the recital of an orchestra, which she trained in. I was very pleased to be invited her recital because she hadn’t allowed us to come and see her recital for a long time. I felt I could be a little more her close friend. I met her at work, where she was cheerful and unfussy person. I heard that she had played fiddle since childhood, and I thought it was great hobby when I heard she played fiddle.

Her recital came. It was sunny day in fall.

She showed up from the left side of the stage. The orchestra consists of forty people approximately.
I don’t know well about kind of instrument, but there were six people in the fiddle team. The conductor started music, and she also played fiddle with other member. She was very serious and concentrated in her play. She had a different face, comparing to work. She never lost her concentration during her play.

It was fantastic playing, and I felt how much she liked playing fiddle, and had a passion on music.
I saw Masako after she played; her face was back to her cheerful face as usual. It was good time to see her private face, and I grew to like and admire her more than before when I saw her fresh face.

Posted for Yumi

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Writing about The Big Apple - after reading New Yorkers

 Write about your trip to New York

It was a first visit to New York when I was 23 years old.

I worked for travel company in Matsumoto, Japan at that time. I wanted to go to various place as much as possible as I thought the experience could be helpful for my job.

As some of my friends lived in Las Vegas and Boston, I planned to go to visit these friends and stop by New York as well. I was interested in New York as it is a famous city in the world. After visiting Boston, I went to New York. I was excited the scenery such as yellow cab, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty which I've seen before in TV and felt that I actually came to New York!

As there is only one day for staying NY, I couldn't enjoy all of things I wanted to do but tried to do as much as possible. That was very enjoyable but I felt NY is too big to enjoy for me, it's kind of same feeling I visit to Tokyo. There is everything in the world in Tokyo and NY, but it's too much for me as I grew up in the countryside.

I thought it is the best for me that I live in countryside and sometimes visit the big city when I want to enjoy new things!

Posted for Reiko
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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I can't remember my part of the conversation if I stand up

So I asked my students if they took their English notebooks with them when they travel on business (the reason we are studying in-house)...a lot of blank faces at first, then shaking of heads as if it were a really stupid thing to ask!

OK then, you take take your textbooks..."Eh?"

Or the interactive DVD/workbook with your laptop...insane suggestion?

Thing is, I'm the native speaker/teacher operative, and I can't remember the right way to do stuff all the time in a business context (introducing colleagues, asking for assistance, making small talk etc) and need to double-check. It really is OK if my students do too!

Everyone comfortable sitting down? When was the last time you greeted a customer to your factory with a rug on your knees? If it's cold in the lobby, you'd better make sure you get this role play sorted out quickly and properly - no giggling please! In front of everyone walking past? Absolutely...can't perform now, imagine what you'll be like if an actual foreign visitor turns up. And if the conversation breaks down or turns with it professionally, or get help. Meantime, stay calm; name, rank, & number.

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Talking Animals - after reading The Jungle Book

There are a lot of stories about animals that talk. 
Describe your favourite one, and explain why you like it.

I only reminded the Japanese old stories for children when I saw this question. Such as Momo-tarou, Akazukin-chan, Urashima-tarou, etc.

After that, I reminded a famous animation from Ghibli. It is "Majo-no-Takkyubin" ("Kiki's delivery service" in English). The heroine is Kiki who is a young witch. She needs to live alone in a city to be a grown witch. She goes to a city with her black cat named Gigi. Gigi can talk to Kiki and always encourages her when she faced problems. But Kiki cannot understand what Gigi says when it comes to the end of story. I think it means the day when Kiki can live her life without Gigi's help.

 I like this story because it gives me a positive feeling after I watch this film.

Posted for Tomoko
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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sniffing, sneezing, snuffling & snoozing...flu bug

Quick apology for lack of content the last few days; has been plenty happening at Luna but I have had no idea what because I've been in bed with the flu & associated killer headache.

No fun at all
Thank you Damian for digging out the school in your "Oh my God, it's really deep snow" -unsuitable shoes on Saturday AND Sunday, as well as for covering some classes with Laurie as well. Thank you Yukari for keeping everything more or less together...

Now it's my turn, as my family is all sick & in bed with temperatures etc feeling blurgh...hope everyone else manages to avoid the flu-bug? Business as normal as possible here at Luna Towers, but please understand if the phone does not get answered!