Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

The New First Days…(“Yo Ho Ho” )


imageEach year I strive to improve the way that class begins. This year, armed with my metaphoric pirate eye patch from my summer reading (“Teach Like A Pirate“) and a renewed belief in what constitutes review – my 18th start to the year promised to be different again – and it was.

No boring reading of the outline to start? Nope – this year we opened with “The Trailer”. I must admit I am proud of the visuals and the mood it sets but wasn’t prepared for the student reaction. Whispers to a student beside when they saw an anime character they knew, laughs at the “iron chef” line and unbelievably – applause – at the end. I congratulated them on being wise enough to choose Japanese and then followed up with a brief presentation on the ‘journey’ they were on with me as their ‘guide’…They were primed!

A pipe-cleaner? Fresh from “TLAP” reading – the pipe-cleaner activity. My new Gr 9’s (no TL skills) folded into an object that represented something about them and shared with me/partners in English. My Gr 11’s (1-2 semesters in TL) did a mixture – challenging themselves to do as much as they could in the TL  with their partner.  My 29 Gr 12’s spent time in groups of 4 or 5 (they were asked to change every 5-8 minutes) and used their pipe-cleaner object as a starting point for conversation – all in the TL. Fabulous.

But what about the outline? – Ah – that is now a reflective/informative piece – an idea that I borrowed with permission from Martina Bex (@martinabex). Homework on Day 1 was to read the new improved “infographic outline“& FAQ‘s for class and then answer 4 questions regarding it. The responses to this were really informative. Students showed a real awareness of how they best learn and what their particular challenges are in class. Many commented on my willingness to allow them to use technology in class and how much they loved it’s interactive nature. I wanted to reinforce what kind of learners I need and they were all able to pull out the key requirements of a good language learner – ‘risk’ came up again and again. I responded to each of their emails – an easy cut/paste “Thank you” in the TL with an added personal PS for each.

Will they review everything from last year? Okay I will admit that we are doing some in one class – as my Gr 11 class blends students from 2 different types of pre-requisite courses. But in the other ones we are mainly (as my previous post outlines) doing a lot of talking, game playing and story reading to review the “how” of learning. The “rules of the road” reminded the Gr 11 & 12’s of their role (and mine) in the room. As one student said to me “I may not remember everything, but I know where to go to find out what I forgot”…

My new first week has helped establish a strong relationship with my students, and between them. It has also rekindled their enthusiasm for studying Japanese and participating in class. It would not have been possible without the #wltlap and #langchat PLN support that I received…Yo Ho Ho …Onward I go!


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