- Be a friend to the kids. Play with them, talk with them, make an environment where they feel comfortable interacting with you.
- Wash your hands a lot. Schools are havens for germs, but younger kids especially are not as good at keeping clean and like to jump on you.
- Focus on teaching words and key phrases.
- Visual aids and games are the rule of the day.
- 1st through 3rd year students just want to run around and play all the time.
- 4th year students are at the transition from being "little kids" to "big kids".
- 5th and 6th year students are more like junior high school students, shy and reserved.
- Log all your classes, so you know what you have and have not taught yet.
- Teaching the 1st and 2nd years is a lot different than 5th and 6th, but you will be surprised at how well stuff for both can be utilized with either (given a little adaptation).
Basic Lesson Plan for Young Kids (50 minutes)
Start by picking a theme or topic for the class (fruits, animals, nature, school, shopping, etc.) and create a list of words/phrases. No more than 10 words and just 1 or two basic sentences.
Basic Lesson Plan for Older Kids (50 minutes)
Start by picking a theme or topic for the class nd create a list of words/phrases. Keep in mind that the older kids should already have a rudimentary English vocabulary of very basic, everyday things like foods and animals. Try to pick themes that are bit more stimulating for them. For example, things to say at a restaurant makes a great lesson.
Stock Games & Activities
A good rule of thumb to remember is that simplicity is best. Anything that lets them compete in teams for points or something is also very effective. The best classes are often the ones that take the least amount of time to prepare.
Fruit \ Animal \ Whatever Basket
- The classic English language game. See the rules.
- This is a great game to use when you have X amount of minutes to fill and no materials (flash cards) left.
- Younger kids are big fans of this but older kids will play it too.
- A good way to review is to play English Basket and ask the kids to come up with English words they already know and use that.
Have the kid gesture to "say" the meaning of an English word you say (use the words you studied that day). A good variant is to whisper the word to the kid and then have the other kids guess what it is.
- Just like the gesture game, but have the kids draw a picture of the word on the blackboard.
- You can also have the kids draw a scene using the words they learned that day and then present that to the class, pointing to the various things they drew and saying the English word.
Paper Airplane Game
- Draw the various words you learned that day on the board (in pictures or English) and divide the kids into teams.
- Have the kids make paper airplanes. Line them up in their teams, the kids then take turns, one by one, trying to hit the correct "target" that matches the word you say.
- If they hit the target they get a point.
Card Point Game
- Make two sets of large, A4 sized flash cards (you want at least two cards for each word).
- Write points (1, 2, or 3) on the back of each card, randomly. Make 2's and 3's rare. To mix things up you can put 0 or even negative points.
- Put the cards on the board with magnets.
- Divide the kids into teams. They take turns choosing a card from the board and saying the English word.
- After saying the word their team receives the points written on the back.
A simple Japanese card game where the kids try to grab the correct card, after it is called out by the ALT, before anyone else.
- Divide the class into two teams.
- Arrange large flash cards of words on the floor, face down (here it is best to use more than 10, if you can).
- Say "Go!", and a kid from each team begins turning over the cards and saying the word in English. When they have said it they get to move on to the next card.
- Eventually the two meet and janken. The loser goes to the back of his team's line and a new person starts while the winner gets to keep going.
- When one team reaches the other's end they are the winner.
For 5th and 6th years, introduce spelling with Hangman. You can play with teams or just have each kid guess one letter. They really love this.
In the same spirit as Hangman, play Scrabble with the kids. Start off by just giving them a bunch of tiles and have them spell different words. Later, let them play the actual game with points and building words off of other words. Help them out by giving hints for words they might not be able to spell out. Let them use more than 7 tiles at once, too.
Select one kid to go to the front of the class and stand with his back to the board. Write a word / draw a picture on the board. The other kids have to "explain" the word using other English words. For example, for "sky" they might say "blue", "bird", "cloud", etc. Let them use gestures and whatever other words they want as long as they don't say the word or use too much Japanese.
The classic basketball spelling game. Make the rules simple for the kids and especially for the younger kids it is best to make them all shoot from the same location, relatively close to the hoop. If you can't go to the gym, a waste basket and a waded up paper ball works just as well.
Duck, Duck, Goose
This is another classic kid's game. It is great for speaking practice.
The scoring for this game follows the rules of baseball: singles, doubles, triples, homeruns, and outs. Divide the class into two teams. 1x1 the kids get a turn at bat. They can select to hit a single, double, triple, or homerun. They then perform some sort of English task: spell a word, answer a question, speak to the class, etc. The most difficult is homerun, the easiest is a single. If they fail to perform the task to your (the umpire) satisfaction they are out (for stricter rules I also declare anyone currently on base as out if a student messes up). 3 outs and the other team gets to bat. If you are pressed for time, allow only 3 hits per each team before you switch batting teams. Draw the baseball diamond and scoreboard on the blackboard to keep track of things.
Making Flash Cards
Many schools will already have English flash card sets for you to use (in both large and small sizes). These are useful but can get boring after a while or don't contain the words you want to teach. In that case, make your own flash cards.
- Use Microsoft Word or some other word processor.
- For large flash cards put two images to a page (A4), for karuta-sized cards put 4 or 6 images per page.
- Use the MS Word clip art or Google Image Search to find the images you want.
- Copy and paste them into your document.
- Print out as many copies as you need, cut, and optionally mount on colored paper for a cleaner appearance. Laminate for longevity.
Elementary school teachers generally wear track suits or sports clothes during most of the day, and if you visit elementary schools you probably should too. Expect to be running around a lot and getting pretty hot, so plan accordingly.
- It's OK to translate words into Japanese, but when you write stuff on the board try to keep it English only. For younger kids, or when they just can't read the words at all, draw pictures. Above all, avoid katakana spellings of the words if you can, but the teacher may insist so do the best you can.
- Have at least 3 games activities planned and ready to go. You may only be able to do 1, but it is good to have backups in case things take less time than you anticipate or if things are not working well.
- Anytime you speak English, speak slowly but naturally.
- When you are speaking words for the kids to repeat, make sure they can see your mouth clearly. Speak slowly and enunciate properly and in a slightly exaggerated manner to allow the kids to see how they should move their mouths. Remember, speaking is mostly "mouth memory".
- Let the kids feel free to ask questions (the kid's teacher should be present to help translate if you need it, most teachers should be able to manage enough basic English to get points across).
- Involve the kid's teacher in the class. Even if it is just little stuff like asking how they are when doing the greeting, etc.
- Treat the kids appropriate to their age. The younger ones just want to play with you so join in. The older kids want to be treated more like adults so if you give them that respect they will generally respond positively to you.
- For many kids this will be there first real experience/exposure to English ever. They are still learning how to properly speak/use Japanese so a foreign language can be a really difficult concept for them to really understand.
- Pronunciation can be very difficult, but don't resort to using katakana English as a matter of course. Their ears will get use to natural English pronunciation as time goes by (but not if you speak to them in katakana).