Saturday, June 03, 2006

Awash with resources - Internet Englsih teaching resources

My early explorations of English teaching material on the Internet seem to be confirming my first impressions, which is that the web is awash with resources.

The screenshot pictured is from the site On the front page you have a menu featuring, for example, "Idea Cookbook". Click on this and it unfolds to give a range of options, such as "Ice Breakers".

Continuing the search, I did a Google search for "ESL free lesson plans" and decided to take a look at:

Here I clicked on "conversational lesson plans" and then on "press conference", and there it was, a proper lesson plan.

Having taught English in Japan for a total of seven years, and having taught English in New Zealand for a year before that, I have no shortage of confidence in my teaching ability. But the massive resources available online help bolster my confidence.

My wife, having seen my self-made Japanese-language advertisement, could not wait to get started on a revision. Obviously the clunkiness of my text was painful.

She revised it on our ancient Windows 98 i-series Thinkpad, and I transferred the revised version to my XP computer via floppy disk. One thing I bought a few years ago was a USB floppy disk drive, since I have an archive of floppy disks.

Because I have enabled east asian fonts in XP, I can view Japanese script on the XP computer. Even so, as I mentioned in an earlier entry, when I was loading Japanese-language software onto the XP (two programs which came on CDs which came with the wi-fi equipment from Buffalo) all I could see on screen was, instead of Japanese-language installation instructions, meaningless strings of question marks.

My wife's first change was to add the following line:

"Eikaiwa o hajimete mimasho ka?"

Something like "How about taking a shot at English conversation?" or "Why don't we try English conversation?"

She saw fit to add in my alma mater, Auckland university, and mentioned that I had taught at junior high school.

My wife made a suggestion, which I think is a good one, which is that I offer students the opportunity of taking lessons together rather than on a one-on-one basis, because it is hard for a student who is just a beginner to be one-on-one with the teacher.

I thought this was a good suggestion, not least because it is easier to teach if you have more than one student.

The idea number, in my opinion, is six, because it is very easy to make pairs and change the pairs.

One activity I often do with a new group is to give the answers to a set of questions about me, for example "sushi" and "natto". The students are tasked to write the appropriate questions, for example, "What Japanese food do you like?" or "What Japanese food do you hate?"

I then have them pair up, with one playing at being a journalist and the other playing at being Hugh, the instruction being "interview Hugh".

I then change pairs and have them do it again.

I have never yet had an adult class which was unable to cope with this exercise, and it's flexible in terms of the students' levels.

If I have an odd-numbered group, for example eleven, and if I have the students run through two sets of interviews, then there is one person who has not played both the Hugh role and the journalist role. That person, ideally the strongest student in the class, gets a turn in the hot seat, again playing Hugh, only this time in a press conference setting, with all the students playing journalists.

For a teacher, there's really no more work involved in teaching six people than there is in teaching one, though, as the numbers increase, things do become more difficult.

In junior high school, there were often forty to forty-five kids in a class, so a class of twelve people looks small to me.

In Japan, teachers who take on private students usually teach them one-to-one, but I think one major reason for this is that many teachers do not have a venue to teach in. I think sometimes they end up teaching their students in coffee bars.

In my case, I have a house available to me, with a dining table and six chairs, and with a stereo where I can play cassette tapes or experiment with background music.

I've decided on how to direct students to the house. Very simply: by meeting them at the station on the occasion of the first visit.

Our house is in a maze of streets and streets in Japan, with a few exceptions, do not have names, which is every bit as silly and impractical as you might think.

As for getting the students, well, there's always the community noticeboard. I also want to think about advertising in METROPOLIS, which used to be called TOKYO CLASSIFIEDS (or, perhaps, TOKYO CLASSIFIED), and which you can pick up for free at selected locations.

I have just done a search and have found their site:

Also, and I think it's the same organization,

Meantime, life rolls on. Here in Japan, it's Saturday 3 June, and today, I think, my wife is going to cook banana cake.

I will look after our two-year-old daughter while my wife makes a quick trip to the supermarket, and then wife and child will go to the daycare center where, this Saturday, there is a screening of movies for kids from 1000 to 1100.

Time which I, quite possibly, will spend clicking round the Internet.

The really good point about getting back to Japan is that, here, we have a rock-solid broadband Internet connection, something which does not really exist in New Zealand, because, in Internet terms, it's a third world country.

Things are so bad that, in recent months, I saw an article in a newspaper in New Zealand about how major players in the software industry, such as Microsoft, had been pressuring the government into doing something about the situation.

And at least the government is making appropriate noises.

The basic problem is that the dominant telephone company, Telecom, is more or less a monopoly, and should either be regulated or broken up. The government pays lip service to this notion, and has been doing so, I think, for some years now.

But so far it's all talk and no action.

While I was clicking round the Internet, one question which popped into my head was "Does Saddam Hussein have cancer?" I saw him on the site, which made me remember that I read, somewhere, that he had cancer.

However, all the news about Saddam relates to his ongoing trial, which has, for the moment, been adjourned.

The news on the web about Saddam's cancer seems to be old news, and, judging by what I've seen.

On spec, I tried

And there it was, Saddam's blog, with a bunch of links to click on, one being, in case you have not seen them, "The infamous Muhammad cartons". Which seems to have a bunch of cartoons about cartoons rather than THE cartoons.

If Saddam had cancer then I would expect to see a link to this on his blog, but I don't, so I guess he's as hale and hearty as he seems to be.


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Deborah S. Chung, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism & Telecommunications
University of Kentucky

Sujin Kim, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Library & Information Science
University of Kentucky

12:18 PM  

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