Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

January 24, 2017
by leesensei

TellCollab Day 2 – Know Your Goals & “Fail Forward” As You Model Learning!

Day 2 of the #TELLCollab continued my exploration of what an effective language teacher is – and my look at how effective I am/can be as a language teacher. It was a tough call to try to tweet and curate what Alyssa Villarreal shared with us! Needless to say it was also fab to hear her – rather than just read her 140 character tweets. If I could summarize what I took away from her talk it would be in the series of tweets that I sent out…a few standouts for me are my takeaways from this session:

“Fail Forward” and “Practice Makes Progress” – Alyssa reminds us that we spend too much time telling kids what they didn’t do correctly and not enough celebrating their risk in trying something new.  Too much is spent on ‘marking what isn’t right’. Where is the acknowledgement of growth – of improvement? Kids, she says,  are not afraid of something that is “hard” – just look at all the time they spend on video games!  What they want to know is that they can risk and try in a ‘safe’ environment…And why are we questing for perfect? If it is ‘perfect’ then they are not trying, growing and risking. I love this and it is my new mantra for my classes. I always ask them “do you know more than you did yesterday? Are you growing?” Validation that this is a way to go!


Students Need To Know What Their Target Is For Class and For Proficiency – this was also a focus of Thomas Sauer‘s session from Day 1 and it really hit home. There should not be any mystery or guessing as to why students are doing something in class. They should know what the daily goal is. They should also know what the target – proficiency – is for them in the course. They want to know how to be successful. Going back to the video game – they know what level they will achieve if they are successful. That’s why they are playing that game over and over trying to get better. Why am I not spelling out the goal. I do set out my expectations but what I have not done is linked that to what the ‘level’ of achievement will be. Truth be told I’ve never really seen the big deal of telling kids about ‘proficiency’ and what level they are. “Whoop de doo..novice” I thought. But now I am seeing it. The power in the hands of the student to see levels of proficiency in meeting the ‘goals’ not just the expectations for class. I’ve had the expectation but not the explicit goal that they are trying to attain. My goal was just what I expected them to do…not something concrete they could work on to ‘achieve’.  I’m going to work to implement them in my classes – even just starting next year with my incoming students (a gradual implementation for sanity!).

Model and Check More! – I like to think that I have modeled enough – but I realized that this includes all that incidental language I use. “Where is my pen?”  and why am I not muttering out loud in the TL. I will be now! Alyssa also made a powerful statement that if we model, we use the TL and then switch to English we do nothing for out students. That the minute a student knows that the teacher will move to English they just begin to ‘wait them out’ until they do. If we are going to model language use then we model it! This doesn’t mean 90% TL necessarily (no guilt please!) but it DOES mean that we are consistent (to me) in how we use the language in class. And once I model, I need to check more with students before the ‘practice with your partner’ part. More feedback from them – even non-verbally – that they are getting it before I ask them to use it….Duly noted.

And my final takeaway – I need an honest look at what/how I am operating in the classroom. I need to invite an administrator in, ask a colleague to observe or (gasp) get my students to give feedback on how I am doing in my goals for my classroom. Because if I am truly going to ask for risk-taking, fail-forward, goal-focused students then I better be that kind of teacher too. 

Thanks again to the organizing committee of the #tellcollab in Seattle, Thomas Sauer and Alyssa Villarreal for the great weekend of ‘learning’…



January 21, 2017
by leesensei

TellCollab Seattle Day 1 – I’m On The Right Path With Lots of Stuff to Learn!

I have journeyed to Seattle – a country away (okay a 2 1/2 hour drive)- to participate in the 2-day TellCollab workshop presented by the TELL Project. Excitement & trepidation all at once. Am I okay with what I do? What am I doing that others are doing? Am I on the same page as others? What are their concerns, hopes, frustrations? Are they like mine?

Day 1 began with a ‘meet’ of everyone attending (so glad to see fellow #langchat-er Catherine Ousselin & meet (in person!) Alyssa Villarreal) – who we are (name/language/where from) and what – in 3 words – we think effectiveness looks like in a language teacher. Three words – that’s it – Thomas Sauer knows his audience (we are language teachers – we like to and can talk!) and in confining us to 3 words we each get down to the essence of what we think ‘effective’ is. For me it is “Confident reflective communicators”.  It’s amazing to hear what everyone thinks and most of what they say I think “I could have said that”.

After some background on the Tell Project we are asked to look at a lesson and rate it for effectiveness. We look, listen and each silently rate. We report out and – not surprisingly – we have graded it from a 2/5 to a 5/5. Imagine – we are a group of ‘motivated’ teachers (we’re there at TellCollab aren’t we?) and we can’t agree on what effective is. I’m sensing though that I am not going to be “told” an answer….that I will have to find and develop an answer for myself (am I right?).

Our only ‘led’ session of the day for me is about looking at objectives. I learn that I am clear on my  ‘performance objectives’ for the end of the unit , even what the performance indicators will be to assess  but whoa …I’m not so consistent or great at each lesson objective. Three big ‘revelations’ for me: We then look at the ‘wording’ of those “I can…” statements. Oh I’m all about writing those. I can write them well I think…but maybe not…I see now that I will be revising many of them. Why?  They are either not ‘function’ oriented – ‘say’ and ‘write’ are not functions or they are not student friendly (Who actually uses the word ‘hobby’ these days asks Thomas!)  We look at a series of “I Can” and I’m getting a feel for how I can make them more ‘effective’ and meaningful (another post on this to come!).

Our breakout sessions are determined by our ‘post-it’ notes about what we want to learn. We are also encouraged to take charge of our learning. If a session isn’t hitting what we need we are to use our two feet to take us to one that is. This does not, surprisingly lead to people leaving from sessions willy-nilly. But it does allow us to change tables to really get to something we want to know if we want to – I like having that permission. I wanted to look at my own target language use in class. It’s something I don’t think I do well. Secretly, as someone who is not a native speaker, its something that I fear; that I don’t always think I CAN do well. I either run into something that I want to say that I am not sure of, or (yes) can’t,  or I ‘give’ too easily and revert to English in instructions.  I met teachers who hard-core refused to use any English. I met another who gave me hope – who talked about “how” she stayed in the TL even if her beginners asked questions in English. I learned that I am going to need to think my lessons through more closely for the language that I will need to use to instruct in. I realized that I can make use of my love of visuals in helping to facilitate staying in the TL. I have admitted my personal fear to myself (of not being ‘good enough’ in the TL) & through listening & learning have started to commit to ‘do more’ and have some ideas ‘how’ to get this done.

I’m not going to say I learned ‘oh my goodness this changes it/answers it all for me’ at both my afternoon tables. I’m also going to admit that in 1 table I could have two-footed it away and should have as it was moving in a direction that didn’t match my needs in that area.  But what did this all do for me? What were my end of day takeaways? It was interesting as teachers shared theirs that I kept thinking “I wrote/thought that too!” My ‘understandings for the day were:

  • I am on the way but not there yet – and that’s okay – I’m on the ‘road’….
  • We are all struggling to engage kids to use the TL
  • We are all trying to be “more effective” teachers but what that is is personal and unique to the teacher that we are
  • (And..I know what Thomas Sauer sounds like….I’ve spent a day hearing him actually speak – not type 140 character thoughts!)

What a feeling of empowerment and validation to be in a room with a group questing to be more effective but not thinking in any way that they have the exclusive answer on ‘how’ to be. End of day 1……! Looking forward to Day 2!!!


December 27, 2016
by leesensei

Top Posts of the Year – #2 – Novices – Learning to Add Details!

What a year it has been! A year of change and growth for me as a teaching professional (it never ends!). For the next few posts I am looking back at what resonated with readers of “Language Sensei”.

I am always trying to get my students to add more detail in their presentational writing and their oral interactions. For my novices I employ a brainstorming strategy that takes it’s cue from follow-up questions. Although this post is about my Yr1 Intensive course – I use this strategy right up my Yr4 classes – adjusting the ‘detail’ as the level dictates! So now the post I called “Wheel Of Detail….” With 2 months to go in the semester, my  Yr1 Intensive students (2 semesters in 1) are now using their language for communicating more than just “I went to the mall”. I am a big believer in using the idea of ‘follow up questions‘ to drive details – but it’s sometimes hard to encourage the ‘brainstorming’ required for this. As my students  were prepping for an oral I pulled out what I call the “Wheel of Detail”. Essentially its a modified mind map and I use it for both presentational writing and oral interpersonal activities.  I like it as it connects details to a central activity.   Read more…


December 15, 2016
by leesensei

Top Posts of The Year – # 5 – The “Feedback/Gradebook” Posts

file5381245784488What a year it has been! A year of change and growth for me as a teaching professional (it never ends!). For the next few posts I am looking back at what resonated with readers of “Language Sensei”. Curiously the top posts of the year can be grouped based on their common ideas….And here we go!

#5  The “Feedback/Gradebook” Posts – shifting my teaching also means shifting how students are evaluated. My classes are moving to much more formative feedback – and a change in how I communicate how they are doing. Gone is 73%. Here to stay is how well you are “meeting” expectations. More importantly students are now more able to articulate for themselves how they are doing (and why they are where they are).

My Evolving Gradebook – From Numbers to Descriptors: What does a 6/6 mean? Why do kids ask “How do I get an A?” and not “How fully am I meeting expectations?” and even more key – why are they asking me how they are doing? Don’t they know? Can’t they articulate where they are in meeting expectations for a unit? And More Pressingly…. How do I meld the desire to address student goals and achievement with the requirement of keeping ‘grades’ in my province….Read more

Descriptors Not Numbers – Students React to the Change: When you make the switch to descriptors what do the students think? The question on the form was “I made a switch to ‘meeting expectations’ grading instead of ‘numbers’ in order that you understand how well you are doing. What is your feedback on this style of grading?” And the responses came…Read more..

“How Am I Doing? I Know How!” Formative Feedback: One of the reasons I am making a big shift from numbers to proficiency/expectation descriptors is to ensure that students don’t wait for me to tell them how they are doing – but rather that they will know and be able to articulate for themselves. With this shift comes more challenges in improving feedback and learning opportunities for students. I am by no means good at this – but, as a believer in ‘small tweaks lead to big changes’ I have been experimenting with additional ways to provide feedback…Read more

Next up in my year in review #4 The “You Are Doing Enough” Pep-Talk…


December 7, 2016
by leesensei

Adding Choice Options for Novices – The “Meeting/Fully Meeting” Options

file0001801120400Choice. It’s a key tenet of many teachers’ approach to language teaching. Spurred on by #langchat colleagues such as Amy Lenord, I have worked hard to provide choice in the vocabulary that my students use. Although I maintain a ‘base set’ of words for each unit – after that it’s up to them. Our motto is “you can use any word you want – as long as you can help someone else understand it.” To support this we practice expressing not understanding and how to assist someone when they don’t.

But I’ve also been thinking about choice in early presentational writing and initial interpersonal speaking. How do I give choice options, beyond just the ‘words’? How do I also begin to build an awareness of achieving expectations? How can a student start to develop a feel for ‘fully meeting’ and ‘meeting’?  This is not easy with lower novices who have, really, basically memorized language at their disposal. (Keep in mind that my Japanese students have to learn a completely new orthography so it’s not a case of just learning to ‘put the words together’. This takes time and a great deal of ‘literacy’ work as many learn to read something not written with ABC’s.)

This semester I’ve tried something with my Yr1’s (the ‘never had any of the TL before’ group).  In the early months of the course they are speaking and writing with mostly memorized phrases, substituting their information into the structures. On the second unit test preparation sheet I gave them the type of questions they needed to be able to respond to, both in writing and in speaking. Then I gave them a sample answer to look at – and gave them a “M” (meeting) and “FM” (fully meeting) option.  It looked a bit like this…

  • Where are you from?        M= “from Korea”        FM= “I am from Korea.”
  • What do you think of sushi?”    M= “it’s good”   FM= “I think it is really good.”
  • How often do you drink tea?   M= “often”    FM= “I drink it often.”

I stressed to them that they could choose what/how they wanted to express themselves and it is their choice in trying for the FM option. We also discussed that you could get ‘in-between’ with your answer. The choice in achievement became theirs. Some just wanted to get the basics. Others went for the more FM option – and the vast majority of those did so successfully. In subsequent units I have introduced these M/FM choices – some without much fanfare – and see some gravitate to the more ‘complex’ option.

Why do this? I want to:

  • build in an awareness of choice in expression
  • provide a challenge to those who are seeking to extend or push their learning/expression
  • establish for them that there are always options in expressing themselves
  • ultimately have them be aware of the concept of  ‘meeting’ or ‘fully meeting’ as they continue on in their learning

Today we were working on a ‘choice’ writing piece. One of my more hesitant students called me over to ask about one of her sentences. She had used the unit book resources and opted to use some FM phrases. These actually involved a complex piece of grammar  “I like to listen to music” instead of just “I like music.” (for Japanese teachers おんがくをきくことがすきです。 instead of おんがくがすきです。) . It was perfect – and she was proud that she took the risk to try the fully-meeting option. And I am pleased that providing options allows students to ‘choose’ and that in that choice they are beginning to develop a feel for ‘meeting/fully-meeting’ expectations…


November 25, 2016
by leesensei

The Power of a Paper Clip to Reward Risk & Encourage Thoughtful Questions

file7731247069025“We’re going to play a game!”….what a thrill that is for students to hear…and then they come back with the obvious question (to them) “Will there be prizes?”. Oh my yes…and what prizes there will be! For you see the only prize you can earn in my class is …a paper clip. But these paper clips are not just your ordinary paper clip. Oh no – I offer the 2″ one – the ‘big’ one as the reward.  And I don’t call them ‘paper clips’. I refer to them as ‘extremely useful office products!”

Now I know what you are thinking. Paper clips? For a reward? Not cutesy Japanese erasers? Well I could spend a personal fortune on those. No the paper clip reward began one day when I had run out of my traditional ‘prizes’. And when they all oohed and aahed I thought “Well – I’ll never have to buy another prize again!”

But these paper clips are not just for games. In fact they typically make their appearance in other ways. Often they appear when a student notices and makes a connection to previous language learning …”Is this like…?”. When a student takes a risk to try to use – and even recombine – new learning in a new way.  When a student asks a question that stops and makes us all think, especially in the areas of cultural practice. The reward can come after a question or comment made while the whole class is working together or while they are working with their table/partner. Either way I like to announce it – to tell the student’s peers who I am rewarding and why. Sometimes when a student poses a question the class will chant “ペーパークリップ!ペーパークリップ!( paper clip! paper clip!). I then remind them that the clip cannot be asked must be earned through thoughtful questions, taking risks and, very occasionally, calling ‘bingo!’.

It’s a small thing I know…but one that is very effective. I found this out when a graduating student gifted me a necklace made from the paper clips he had ‘won’ during his time in class.

Simple but powerful….and ultimately useful …the paper clip!


November 20, 2016
by leesensei

Supporting Interpersonal Interaction in Class – What Helps Them Stay In The TL?

Group of Friends with Arms Around Each Other What allows you to walk out of the room, run to the copier and come back and still have them talking? What allows you to send them out to record a conversation and know that they won’t script? What is it that makes them confident to use and sustain a conversation in the Target Language? If you know – please share! This is an ongoing quest for all of us. I have been trying, as you all have over the years, to imbue in my students the ‘confidence’ to risk, to try, to talk.  Here’s a few of my ideas on what helps them out.. what I find helps them want to not only talk, but to sustain their talking in the Target Language.

It Begins with the Setting – A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Catherine Ousselin at her school – my first #langchat face-to-face encounter. What I took away from that, beyond the idea to do more ‘stations’ in class – was her setup. Tables – long tables that allowed students to sit in groups and face each other. Imagine. No desks in rows facing the front. How could I have a communicative classroom if I made it physically difficult for them to communicate. When I returned home I made the immediate switch to tables of 4. No more rows, no more facing front. In fact I also removed myself from the ‘front’ of the room – switching my teacher area so that I am the ‘coach on the side‘.  Now there is more room for their tables, and more room for them to move easily to find a new partner…

They Build Their Confidence With “I Don’t Understand!” – It’s their biggest fear – that they won’t know what someone is saying, that they don’t really understand what someone is saying and that they are at ‘fault’ because they don’t. So from Year 1 we take on this fear. Our belief in class “If you don’t understand what someone it’s your job to tell them! And their job to assist you in understanding!” So we practice saying “I don’t understand!” We even practice not understanding – yes on purpose – and how to help someone out. In Year 1 it involves repeating, giving your own answer and/or providing examples. By Year 3 and 4 they are including circumlocution practice for their self-selected vocabulary.  It’s these skills that allow students to use the vocabulary of their choice with their peers. As we say “You can use any word as long as you can explain it!” And knowing how to do so reduces the fear and increases the likelihood of risk.

It Includes Teaching Conversational Skills – I firmly believe that often the cry of “They won’t talk!” is really not because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how to. We just assume that they can – which I find ironic because I am terrible at it at age 54 – why do we assume that they are practiced conversationalists at 15? So we practice and learn how to via follow-up questions. We make it a game initially in the early years and then I continue to expand it as they move up in their studies (they are always found in their course resource package & up on the wall in my room.) Students know, because they have practiced and used them over & over, how to extend the conversation. Interestingly I have found that the follow-up question approach also helps them to expand their presentational writing – an exercise we call “Wheel of Detail“.

We Set The Expectation of TL Use in the Post-Activity Rubric – I firmly believe that the value of a rubric is not in what is filled in – but in what it can communicate about expectations. I have used the same activity rubric over and over. “How Did That Go?” rubric sets out the goals that the student will work in the TL, will be an equal partner in the conversation and will ask & answer questions. Prior to the activity we look at the rubric and I always ask my students to set out their personal challenge as well as something they know they will be comfortable doing. It is amazing to see the number of students who choose “Didn’t use English” as a goal. They actually want to speak in the TL. After, because we always reflect before the rubric is filled in they get a chance comment on how it went – and again many are thrilled that they used their circumlocution skills to stay in the TL.

The Intention of the Activity Is Clear to Them – “Why are we doing this?” “What’s the purpose?”. I know I’ve sat through many meetings or even ProD sessions when I couldn’t answer this. I know that, as a teacher, I have the idea of why in my head. So I’ve started to also let them in on it and go over the intentions of the activity. Now I don’t do these for every one – and sometimes I rely on past practice or the post-activity rubric to set them out less explicitly. But before many interactive summatives I now do. In the junior classes I find that I spell it out for them, but in my senior classes I ask them – and they can, as a group, tell me why every time.

They Have a “Compelling” Reason to Want To Talk –  I don’t think there is a teacher out there that doesn’t try to find a purposeful task to encourage students to interact. It is a challenge to continue to find them and I have used a variety of ideas, many adapted from those shared with the #langchat community by generous teacher. Lately I have been working to make the talking ‘valid’ by using the information gathered for a presentational task. In Year 1, for example, students find out if their peers like the same foods that they do (and how often they ear them) and then write out what they learned in basic comparing sentences (an extension that reinforces written work). In their reflections many said how fun it was to meet new people and learn more about them in another language. “Oral Worksheets” provide both an opportunity to talk and dig for information as well as practicing particular concepts. In my summative oral Interactive Fairs in all levels the information gathered is always used in the summative writing task.  As they go about all of these tasks they do so without my guidance – moving from a current partner to the next one on their own (something we call “Talk,Stand, Switch“).

There are so many more ideas out there shared by the #langchat community on how to encourage sustained TL use. The ideas above are a product of the professional development work that the community engages in on a daily basis. And I thank everyone for sharing what they have learned via their amazing #actfl16 tweets – it’s almost like I was there….







November 9, 2016
by leesensei

Talk, Stand, Switch….Developing Independent “Mixing” Skills

In my classes we do a lot of talking with different partners, often gathering information from them to use in class. Whether it is Yr1 finding out how often their classmates eat their favourite foods, or Yr4 creating and sharing their own stories, I ask my students (in a given period of time) to talk to a number of people. But…I hate being the timer. I hate having to direct my students “New partner please…”. I want to build in their capacity to meet, talk, and then ‘move on’. In the interest of building a class community also want to have them work with/talk to students they might not normally speak to. So I have been experimenting with what I call “Talk, Stand, Switch”.

Basically I set out the challenge – how many I would like them to try to talk with in the time period given (they know that there is no maximum – they keep going until time is up.)Then I tell them – when your pair is finished stand –  look around the room – and get a new partner from the others that are also standing.  Students move to the ‘open person’ – even if they don’t know them. They may work with someone who is weaker or stronger than them and that brings helping/circumlocution skills into play.

I used this yesterday with my Yr1’s as they spoke with each other for 22 minutes (!) in the TL discussing food preferences. Yes I had to do some guiding “Sam, Janie looks like she needs a partner!” However the majority of students moved easily to the ‘open person’. It was great – and many of them on their “How Did That Go?” rubric written response commented on how nice it was to meet new people.

It’s a simple thing – but I hope it builds the expectation in class that we work with ‘everyone’….that our class community is a safe place to risk, try and learn…


October 28, 2016
by leesensei

In Defense of the “Flashcard” Or “Yes I Use Them….!”

sentence cardsI notice flashcards talking some ‘heat’ on #langchat these days. “Not communicative”, “no real purpose for learning” etc. say the tweets. Mention the word in a tweet and watch your feed light up. Well…I like ’em. Yup I do. I use them a lot in my classes. I have flashcards sets for almost every unit in my Year 1 and 2 classes. However it is how and when I choose to use them that makes me okay with that…

Generally my flashcards do not use English and they are not electronic. They are a picture and another one with the word in the Target Language. Sometimes they are pictures only.  They are based on our ‘base’ vocabulary that I think we all should know. They are based on images we have used in class – the ones on the board as we told a story and introduced new vocabulary. If there is a key one we all want we add it.  Note – I have the classic solo-review flashcards on my Quizlet site (okay I don’t have the paid version for images – one day maybe).

The flashcards are never the purpose of the lesson that day. They are a warm-up, a 10 minute review, or a tool to a more communicative activity. They are not for ‘teaching’ – they are for short bursts of practice or review of something students have already encountered. My students always use them in class with a partner. Okay – sometimes I throw in one or two new words – they like to ‘find’ out things and its a backwards way to add 1 or 2 new words to the mix.

I use them many ways.  We use them in a ‘classic’  match the picture/word activity. Sometimes we play ‘grab the card’ with the pictures only (I call out the word – first one to grab it gets it) Other times we shuffle the whole deck – see the word-give the English; see the picture-give the Target Language. Always done as a pair…never in a ‘memorize this’ as an individual drill way.

But I have extended this – I use them for my novices as they get used to making sentences – essentially using visuals to create as they practice particular structures. We have used the pictures to create stories (always allow them to add 2 hand-drawn ones to spice up their story) and this becomes a story-relating activity. I have used this with student-generated flashcards for example in my Yr 4 class – and it became a 50 minute TL presentational/interpersonal experience.

I am convinced that we need to offer students a chance to learn in many ways. Some students learn visually and for some the kinetic flip of the card helps.  If we are working on something, and it involves vocabulary and they are trying to add it to their repertoire this is one way to do that.  I am convinced that they like to feel some confidence that they are learning and this is one way, and only one small way, to show them they are. “I know this” is a powerful inner statement. And working with a partner on these means that they have another person to support them (or to help find the word with).  It is a way to reinforce that does not involve a written worksheet – and this oral ‘worksheet’ is effective for them. No it does not appeal to all. No we will not be having a test on this ‘list’ of words. Yes we will be using these words in class in interpersonal and presentational activities. Every year I ask students “What is something that you found helpful/beneficial in class? What is something we did/use that helps you learn?” and it shocks me the number that say “the flashcards we use”.

So…there…I’ve said it. I like flashcards…

Do you use them in your classes…and if so…how?


October 21, 2016
by leesensei

Why My Year1’s Don’t Know The Word For “Homework” (They DO Know The Word “Preparation”)

img_0798The issue of ‘homework’ is big with teachers. What is homework? Should it be assigned? What about ‘choice’ homework? What about ‘no homework’ policies? I’ve had an ongoing ‘wrestle’ with this issue as well. I have hated the negativity around the word. I’ve watched kids struggle in their first year of high school with the mounds of math homework assigned. I don’t want to ‘assign’  a lot of work and, as far as I am concerned if you can show understanding/mastery on question 4, why do you have to do 20 more? Long ago I made the decision to not have them do homework for homework’s sake. But….

I do see a role in work that is not done in class but will be used in class – for class activities etc. Work that students do so that we can use our class time really using the language effectively for communication. So this year I made a change. I banished the word ‘homework’ from my room. Because, really it isn’t homework for me. What it is is ‘next day preparation’ (in my TL I choose to use the word “junbi”/じゅんび). I’m asking you the student to get something ready to be used the next day in class. It may be a self-generated piece showing understanding of the concept (like a ‘Sketch & Share‘), it may be watching a video a la a ‘flipped lesson’. It may be any number of things that will be used in class. But what it is not – is homework.

So I’ve erased that portion of my board that used to be titled ‘homework’ and put up the word ‘preparation’. In my class outlines I removed the word and replaced with ‘next day preparation’. In student monitor speeches (it’s a Japanese way to start a class) they no longer mention if there was homework but now say “we had things to prepare for today’s class”. It is all designed to instill in the students that what they do outside of class is important for what we do inside the classroom. That they have a role in how the class functions. That they also have a job to do in preparing to learn. They may not have something to prepare for every day, but when they do it needs to be done for their role in class to proceed as effectively as possible.

My students know that if they have not completed their preparation (and it happens to everyone once in a while), they are to see me prior to class to explain this and offer a solution as to when I will see the work done. I know that this ‘shift’ to preparing and away from ‘homework’ is starting when a young Gr 9 looked at me and said “Sensei, I don’t have my junbi for today…may I show it to you at lunch?”

It is my vow that my students will never know the word for homework….but they will know that they have things to do to help prepare for the class….



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