Teaching tricks of the trade for the new school year

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

Spring means the new school year has arrived in Japan, and for Assistant Language Teachers and non-Japanese English instructors it also signals a lot of changes. Some will find themselves in entirely new school assignments, while those staying put will welcome new classes of students.

In either situation, the first days of school are an important time for teachers to familiarize themselves and connect with fresh faces.

An introductory lesson that focuses on the teachers telling their students all about themselves is one of the most common ways for non-Japanese instructors to endear themselves to pupils. Creating a great “meet-the-teacher” lesson early in the year can go a long way in the classroom.

Much also depends on what the Japanese teacher of English wants from the lesson as well, so always talk to them first to make sure you can accommodate their aims. If you are at a new school and an introduction is needed for every single class, talk to the head English teacher about each class’ general English ability to ensure you don’t go beyond what the students can understand.

A teacher’s presentation itself should flesh out you are as a person — describe where you are from, what you like. Visuals are great for this, and photos of a favorite food (especially non-Japanese items) or pets tend to work well. Another option is utilizing technology. A flashy looking PowerPoint presentation can grab and hold the classes’ attention. You could even play snippets of your favorite music, especially if the class is for younger children.

The best way to keep students interested, though, is to encourage the students to interact in the lesson. Make conversation — for example, ask the students “What sports do you like?” Then, ask them to guess what sports you like, before moving on. Allowing students to ask questions during the presentation is also a good approach to making sure they participate.

After the presentation, some teachers like to give the students a worksheet, something on which the children can write a little about themselves (and maybe draw pictures of themselves — a good way to get students less interested or confident in English involved). Others segue into an activity or game focused on students introducing themselves to one another in English.

The most important element of the self-introduction lesson, though, is showing the students you can be fun, and that when you are in the classroom they can expect to enjoy themselves while they learn.

Establish that and the rest of the year will become much simpler.