This year I took on the challenge of a course – Japanese Beginner’s 11 – that I had not taught for 8 years . Wow has my teaching changed. It’s a unique course designed for students that don’t have a foreign language credit who suddenly need one. It tries to cover 2 semesters of language learning in 1 semester – and when you consider that in Japanese that includes 3 orthographies – yikes!
One of my goals this year has been to help students learn and use vocabulary more confidently. So for this I have set out to develop flashcards for each unit. Not just word flashcards – those are easy to make (thanks Quizlet) but rather ‘picture only’ flashcards. Yes you can add visuals in Quizlet but it is a paid upgrade.
Visuals for the Cards (and in the Stories) – for each unit I like to have a basic set of vocabulary that gives us a ‘common’ language to interact in. So for each word I sought out a clip art (it photocopies best) picture to try to encapsulate the meaning. I use openclipart.org a lot for this – to ensure that I am not using copyrighted material. I use the same pictures to supplement our stories that we read – good repetitions. The technical support comes via our office photocopier which has a ‘combine 8 pages onto 1’ option – and voila – easy to see small cards. I keep them in smaller envelopes ready to put into student baskets on the table to be ready to go. So at the end I have small card flashcards and the original large pictures to put on the board.
Colour-Coding By Area – the other key for me is colours. Yes we still have access to coloured paper at our school (I know not everyone does). So I code based upon content area. For the “What I Did…” unit that meant ‘white- actions’, ‘pink – places’, orange – ‘time frames’, green- ‘describing words’ and purple ‘transport’. Okay – it takes a bit to cut out and fill the envelopes but once it’s done – they are ready to go.
Adding on the Fly/Adding to Subsequent Units – It’s my first run through this and I discover as I go along that I do sometimes need to add pictures. The other thing I find myself doing is reusing certain pictures – especially the ‘actions’ as I don’t want to isolate vocabulary but build on it.
Easy to Practice by Group – Wow – this has made short snappy review of key words easy. “Take out your orange cards….” and they are away. I like the ease of doing this and the ability to focus on one area. Perfect 1-2 minute prep for an activity.
Sentence-Building With Ease – Love this for l¥practicing putting sentences together. Students can easily start with simple sentences such as “I play baseball at the park”. Then they can pull in another card group – and they are now “I played baseball at the park yesterday.”. It is easy to swap vocabulary groups in/out to target certain structures. For Japanese in particular this is a great way to reinforce particle use – for example in practicing “Place で 〜ます。” vs. “Place に Transportで いきます。”.
Colour coding visuals is new for this course but is already invaluable for me student learning. I look to expand this idea to other classes.