火曜日, 1月 11, 2005

Third Term Starts

    I have 360 students in 9 homeroom classes, all first-year high school students. That sounds like a lot of work for me, but actually it's not; I only teach them in groups of twenty, once a week for 25 minutes each. Each 50-minute period is divided in half and each homeroom class of 40 is divided in half, because my school believes that a 40-student class is too big for a conversation class.
    Planning 25-minute, once-a-week classes that have any meaning or educational value at all is my sole challenge.
    Last year, because the third term is the last and the shortest, I didn't do much with them except play quiz-show style games and have them read the tongue-twisters in Dr. Seuss' Fox in Socks for pronunciation practice. In the first and second terms (last year and this year) they had speaking evaluations, but not the third because it's too short. Anyway awhile back I got the crazy idea I wanted to do a debate in the third term this year.
    Making Japanese students do a debate in English is kind of a pet project of many ALTs, and I've heard the topic covered many times in my teacher training seminars for JET. My ALT senpais seemed to believe that if you could just get students to debate in English, you will have succeeded on some fundamental level. The students are, as a rule, so shy in class, apathetic, non-opinionated, and non-forthcoming with their ideas, that I can understand why many ALTs seek debate as their holy grail. Debate is actually pretty alien to the Japanese educational system, but at my school the first-year students do debate in Japanese in their social studies class.
    For the hundredth time, I regret not taking debate in high school. I had to look on Wikipedia to find out what the rules of debate actually are. I've never seen a real high school debate, much less participated in one, so I'm hardly qualified to teach my students how to do it. But then I'm a bad public speaker too, and ever since I came to this school I've been forced into the role of expert on making speeches in English. I'm used to that, and maybe it's even made me a better public speaker. So now I'm learning about debate in order to teach it.
    The most memorable of my Chinese classes in college was the one where we had a class debate in Chinese. It was only one hour-long class, and we didn't get to pick the topic; it was the pros and cons of the "One Child Per Family" policy in China. Although initially unmotivated by the topic, I found myself becoming enthusiastic about it as the class progressed, activating my limited Chinese vocabulary in the process. With this good memory of debating in a foreign language in mind, I'm cautiously optimistic about the chances of success with my students.
    I simplified the rules of the "world schools style" debate listed on Wikipedia for my class - each side will have three speakers, but I don't think we need the final "reply speaker". The last speaker can summarize and give the "final appeal." I'm thinking of assigning three judges for each class, one student from each side and one teacher (me or the JTE). The other teacher will be in charge of making sure the debate proceeds in a timely manner.
    The debate lesson plans I just completed this morning will take 3 25-minute lessons. In the first class the students themselves can think of ideas for what they want to debate. I want each of the 18 classes of 20 to debate a different mini-issue, so that at the end we'll have an interesting little list of what they debated and which side won to publish in one of the school newsletters or something.


  • At 10:09 午前, Blogger Evelyn said…

    you teach so many students... do you get to remember all their face and name at least for the semester?
    i took japanese class at japan society in nyc once, and the instructor made us do a debate on topic of "who should be responsible for education of the kids, the parents or society at large" it was informal debate, i never did debate in high school either, so don't know all the rules. it was hard to come up with complete sentences of what we wanted to say though... one of examples given in the debate was Hillary Clinton's "It takes a village" i don't remember all the details, but just remember the impression that it was an enjoyable class, different from the regular grammar/ sentence pattern conversation drills.
    i got to read your older postings of traveling in china. i've never toured china actually, hope to do so someday. =) and i used to have inkan before (from elementary school times...) i don't think it was anything fancy, and misplaced it over time. i think typical people do not hold on to inkan of parents or older generations... maybe unless the material it's made of is valuable (jade?) or if the ancestor is famous? =b

  • At 12:46 午後, Blogger butterflyblue said…

    Sadly, no, I can't match all of their names and faces. むり. I know the names of the students who talk to me outside of class, the students in ESS club and the ones who turn in English diaries, but I can't remember the names of most of the students I only see during class. I have a grading book with all their names written in it, with furigana to help me with some of the weird kanji readings they have in their names. I use that book when necessary, but in general I prefer to design activities where they all take part at the same time (pair work, group work, etc) rather than calling on individual students in class. I also have a photocopied book of all of the students' pictures with their names, so when talking with the other teachers we can consult that.
    I've heard that the definition of a good teacher is "one who remembers all the students names". In that case I'm not a good teacher. But I've also had the experience of knowing someone who was just in charge of a large group of people briefly, and they made a point of remembering everyone's name including mine, and I can't say it gave me a very good impression. It seemed like 1) they were showing off, and 2) it felt a bit weird that someone I didn't really know at all was calling me by name--overly familiar, if you will. I didn't really like it. I might be closer to the students at my school than that person was to us, but I'm not as close to them as a real teacher who teaches them every day, and so I think it's okay for me not to know all of their names. Anyway it better be okay, since I couldn't do it if I tried!



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