I want to send my Yr 1’s home after the first few days of class with a “win” – already being able to communicate and starting to work on their character learning. Equally important to me is to begin building a class culture of cooperation & interaction – students all have a ‘partner’ and sit at tables of 4 and I want them to quickly start working together. With all this in mind my first few days…
Asking & Answering Key Questions – As a Japanese teacher my students not only have to learn to speak a new language – but they are learning characters for writing as well. So the first few days are all oral – and based upon key visuals we use to remind ourselves of the questions. There is LOTS of repetition – asking & answering the same questions over and over. We ask&answer as a class, then students work with their table partner – then their table – then we trade seats and do it all over again. By the end of 3 days they can ask/answer/greet (with support if needed). We build on the questions each day expanding what we can ask/answer. Age is added in after we learn numbers.
- Nice Weather isn’t it/yes it is
- How are you?/I’m fine
- What is your name?/My name is…
- How old are you?/I am __years old
- We’re meeting for the first time (key phrase in Japanese)
- Goodbye to a teacher & a classmate
I used to do…commands…and school supplies but now…I don’t. These things will come up but students only ever respond to commands – so they will come up when needed and we’ll key in on them then. As for school supplies – I do use this – but that comes later in the context of ‘have’ for animate or inanimate objects (2 different ones in Japanese). In context and not just ‘because they need it at the start’.
Numbers 1-14 and higher – We start by counting (orally) on our fingers 1-10. We work through it as a class and then with a partner. We go over and over it on our fingers. Then I bring out the playing cards. They flip a card over and work with their partner to give the ‘number’. There is nothing written on the board and any support is given orally. They go through all the cards as a team – not competitively. We add in 11 (Jack), 12 (Queen), 13 (King), 14 (Joker). As most of my Yr 1’s are in grade 9 that covers their current age. Then we switch partners – I ask them to find someone they want to compete against and they ‘compete’ to call out the number – flipping over the card with the first one to call it getting the card. We also learn what to do if we disagree – what we say to ‘challenge’ what a partner has said. Again there is nothing written down. We do this at the start of each class in the first week.
Character Learning/Writing – I made a big move last year to introduce characters right away – and not have my students write Japanese using English letters. That’s why the first 3 weeks for me is heavily oral. We start character writing on Day 1 as well – the first 5 of the 46 we will learn (hiragana). They go home after day 1 and can show what we have learned. By the end of the first 3 classes we have introduced about 20 characters – practiced writing them and put them on our ‘chart’. They have practiced reading them as well. On Day 3 they read a brief conversation with their partner composed of all the phrases they have been learning to say. This is also where I hammer home that we do not write over characters how to say them – we use our visual chart and keep saying it out loud until we get it. No ‘crutch’ of English to help us along.
Quiz on ‘what they know about Japan’ – Students come to my class with some knowledge, and misconceptions, about Japan. I have a fun 23 questions (multiple choice) quiz that they do as partners to ‘test’ their knowledge of Japan. I do this on paper (I do have a Kahoot as well – but choose not to use it in the first week) so that the partners have to read & talk with each other. Then they compare answers with the pair across table from them. Then we take it up as a group. It’s lots of fun to acknowledge what they know and to clear up misconceptions. This also encourages them to guess and risk – as they probably don’t know the answer. I want to them to know that I value ‘trying’.
Find the Website – First Week Picture Assignment – I want my students to know where there resources are and accessing my website is key for them to know. So their first week homework requires them to go to my website. I ask them to look at a series of pictures that I took on a trip to Japan. Then they are to send me an email in English telling me which picture they like most and why. They see some interesting pictures, and I know that they have found the website for future use. (I also have an email contact for them!).
The first week for me is about quick success in the language, its also about establishing my key ‘partner & table’ communication and building class camaraderie. And sending them home with a positive ‘win’ in the first few days…