Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cultural Discussion - Pets

Cultural Discussion - Pets

Do you have a pet now? Why? Why not?

Do you like animals? Why? Why not?

Your Pet History:

Did you have pets when you were a child? If so, talk about every kind of pet you had. Be sure to talk about each pet's:
  • name (give it in Japanese then give the English translation)
  • color
  • breed/type
  • good points
  • bad points
Rate the Types of Pets:

Here are some types of animals. Rate each pet from 1 to 5 in terms of how good a pet it would be. The "worst" score is "1" (not a good pet) and the "best" score is "5" (a very good pet).
  1. cat
  2. dog
  3. bird
  4. snake
  5. hamster
  6. ferret
  • Which of the animals above is the hardest to take care of?
  • Which is the most expensive to buy?
  • Which is the most expensive to care for?
  • Which are the noisiest and quietest?
  • Which are the cleanest and dirtiest?
  • What kind of animals make the best pets?
  • What kind of animals make the worst ones?
Domesticated Animals:

Animals that have been "domesticated" live comfortably with humans. They are no longer "wild" and are usually safe to be around. Domesticated animals live in people's homes or on farms for the most part. Cats and dogs are a few examples of domesticated animals.

What are some other usual domesticated animals?

Wild Animals:

"Wild" animals do not live with people or only live with people in rare cases. Wild animals can usually be seen in zoos though not all of them are large or interesting enough to be put in zoos. Lions, squirrels and bears are a few examples of wild animals.

What wild animals are in Japan?

Some animals are both domesticated and wild. For example, there are wild mice but there are also domesticated mice that people keep as pets.

Domesticated, Wild, or Both?

Look at the pictures below. Say the name of each animal and whether or not it is wild or domesticated.

Click this small preview for a larger version. These photos are from the Hemera Photo collection and are used here in accord with the royalty-free nature of the licensing agreement but they may not be copied and used for other purposes.

If you don't know the names of the animals, use the list of words below to help you:
rabbit, eagle, hamster, elephant, snake, ferret, turtle

Are there any animals that should not be kept as pets? Why?

Wild Animals as Pets:

More and more wild animals are being domesticated and kept as pets. In fact, some wild animals are being bred (繁殖するため) with domesticated animals creating hybrid (ハイブリッド) animals that are at least a little wild. Domesticated cats, for example, are bred with wild cats to make a bigger cat.

Do you think it is a good idea to try and domesticate wild animals and keep them as pets? Why? Why not?

Do you think it is a good idea to breed wild animals with domesticated animals? Why? Why not?

Cultural Differences in Pets and Domesticated Animals:

Different cultures tend to keep different animals as pets or at least to domesticate them. For example, in India, elephants are sometimes domesticated.

Are there any pets that are common in Japan but are not common in other countries?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Helping Students Think in English (to improve fluency)

Beyond accuracy, pronunciation, and vocabulary, there is the broader problem of gaining fluency. Even students who can speak accurately and express themselves in conversation adequately speak with hesitation or pause for prolonged periods of time. This problem is caused by a variety of factors but the primary one is that the student is frequently thinking in Japanese in whole or in part and then translating into English.

There are relatively few ways to improve overall fluency when the student is living in Japan and has few or no opportunities to travel abroad for a prolonged period of time. Exposure to English in a mundane setting over a period of time is the best way to promote fluency as it gives students a chance to pair English phrases with daily experiences.

That does not mean it is hopeless for students living in Japan but it does mean they have to develop daily habits to allow them build a "pseudo-English" environmental experience. Tips on accomplishing this are in the lesson "Thinking In English (While Living in Japan)". To teach this lesson, you may want to do the following:
  • Introduce the idea of thinking in English to improve fluency.
  • Discuss the section on reading in English and make recommendations appropriate to your student's level. You may want to check for children's books that may fall into the right reading level. A student with a TOEIC score of around 450 will probably be okay with second grade level books, for instance. Most Amazon books in the U.S. can be ordered through Amazon Japan so your student should be able to obtain them at a reasonable price.
  • Discuss the section on singing in English. If possible, visit the web site and play a song for the student and show him that the lyrics are there. If you are comfortable with the idea, sing along with the student and try to help him pronounce the words properly.
  • Discuss the section on parallel thinking. Make sure the student understands the idea. Reinforce the way in which this works by offering a phrase at the end of the lesson which can be repeated mentally each time (such as "The lesson is over now" or "I'm getting ready to leave").
In order to encourage the student to continue these exercises, ask him in subsequent lessons how he is doing in building his English thinking skills.

Thinking In English (While Living in Japan)

Study Tips - Thinking In English (While Living in Japan)

Many students hesitate when they speak English. They hesitate because they often have to think in Japanese then translate into English or because the English words do not come quickly and naturally to them.

Even though you live in Japan, you can train yourself to think in English. This will help speed up you speak more smoothly and quickly. Here are some techniques and ideas for helping you think in English:

Read in English:

Many students read in English to help them study but they often choose materials that are too difficult for them. They have to stop reading very often and check words in a dictionary.
  • You should choose reading material that is easy to understand. You should be able to read the content without stopping more than once or twice per page to check the meaning of new words in a dictionary.
  • You should choose a book, magazine, web site or newspaper which is about a topic you really enjoy. If you like sports, fashion, cooking, etc., read about those topics. Don't read the newspaper because you think it's good to know a lot of difficult words.
  • Read a little everyday even if it is just one page or one article. It's better to do a little often than a lot once a week.
Sing in English:

One of the easiest ways to learn a language is by repeating the same thing over and over. Unfortunately, this can be very boring when you are saying sentences over and over. Singing songs in English is fun and will get your mind used to patterns of grammar and sounds. At first, you can sing along with a recorded song. After you know the words, you can sing the entire song along.

Tips for singing in English:
  • Choose a simple song such as a children's song. You can listen, sing along to and read the lyrics for some simple songs at this web site:
  • Try to do this at least once a week.
  • Sing with your family members (especially children) to have more fun and help them learn some English, too.
Build Parallel Thinking:

"Parallel" means doing something at the same time. In this case, you want to train yourself to think in both Japanese and English at the same time.

Everyday, we think the same things again and again as we have the same types of daily experiences. For example, we will be shopping and think, "that's expensive," or "I want to buy that."

You can use these situations where you have the same thoughts again and again as a chance to think in English. To start, you should choose an experience you have almost everyday in Japanese. For instance:
  • "I need to brush my teeth."
  • "The train is coming."
  • "I need to comb my hair."
  • "I should leave for work now."
Choose one daily experience to begin with. Every time you have the thought in Japanese, make yourself also think of that idea in English. Do this everyday for this experience until the Japanese thought and English thought occur to you together.

After you have done this for one repeated experience, choose another and do it for that experience. By doing this, you are training your mind to think in two languages instead of one.

This material is (c) The Home Sensei

Games For Single Student Lessons - What I hear/listen to

In this game, the goal is to make as many sentences as possible using "hear" (or "listen to"). Depending on the teacher's options for lesson preparation, she may work from a list or make cards that the student chooses from in order to make sentences about what he hears or listens to in the given situation or place.

The situations and places for the game are as follows:
  • your bedroom
  • your office
  • your living room
  • your bathroom
  • your kitchen
  • beside an open window in your home
  • a train
  • a park
  • a department store
  • a restaurant
Give the student one point for each sound he says he hears in the given area or situation.

The student's goal should be a set number of points which the teacher may decide upon based on the student's level. For the higher level students, a loftier goal of 100 points may help motivate him to think hard about each area. For a harder challenge, the teacher may want to set a certain number of points per area given (such as 20 sounds you hear on the train). For a lower level student, the teacher can set the bar much lower either in terms of total points or the number of sounds per area.

Explaining the game to the student:

The teacher should begin by reviewing the difference between "hear" and "listen to". First ask the student if he already knows the difference. If he does not, explain that:
  • "hear" is used for sounds we are not trying to catch or pay attention to (incidental noises)
  • "listen" is used for sounds which we are paying close attention to or trying to catch carefully
Give some these examples:
  • I heard my mother talking to my father in the kitchen. (I didn't pay attention to their words but I could hear the sounds of their voices.)
  • I listened to my mother talking to my father about his job in the kitchen. (I was listening to their conversation and following what they said.)
Make sure the student understands that the type of sound is not related to which word you use. One can "hear" or "listen to" almost any sound. The choice of word is based on whether or not one is thinking about the sound or just experiencing it in the background.

Have the student make several practice sentences with both "hear" and "listen to" before playing the game.

Once the student clearly understands the difference between "listen" and "hear", explain that he will be given a place and he must tell you as many sounds as he can which are usually heard in that place. Explain that he will get one point for each sound and mention the total point goal he should reach. He must make a full sentence each time and say, "I hear ..."

If necessary, give an example by talking about all the sounds you can hear from inside the classroom:
  • I hear the air conditioner blowing.
  • I hear a car driving down the street.
  • I hear a clock ticking.
Purpose of the game:

The purpose of this game is to help the student learn and remember when to use "hear" as opposed to "listen" since making this distinction is hard for many students.

Classroom use:

This game is a good way to reinforce a full lesson on the use of sense verbs or as a way of simply teaching "hear" and "listen".


This game can be played to practice "listen to" instead of "hear" by having students make statements about what they listen to in each of the given places or situations. This variation can be done after doing "hear" or at a different time as further review. It's best not to do them both concurrently because it may prove too confusing and undermine attempts to solidify the meaning of one or the other with the student. It is advisable to set the total point goal lower when the goal is to use "listen to" since it is less common to "listen to" a variety of things in each area.

Explaining Japanese Food

This short activity can stand on its own or function as a follow-up to reinforce the cultural discussion lesson called The Taste of Home. To prepare for this activity, the teacher must purchase some Japanese snack or sweets (preferably something offered in small portions).

Tell the student that he must imagine that the teacher works in an office with him. Someone has brought a bag or box of treats that are given to everyone in the office. The teacher is a new foreign employee who knows nothing about Japanese culture. The student must explain what the food is in English to the teacher.

After setting the imaginary situation, give the student the sweet or snack and allow him to eat it as well as study the wrapping or package. If necessary, the teacher can ask leading questions as would naturally happen if she were given some food she didn't know about. Possible questions include:
  • Is it sweet/salty?
  • Does it have a strong/weak taste?
  • Is it made with sugar/salt/soy sauce/fruit/vegetables/nuts/etc.?
  • Is it baked/fried/grilled?
  • Is it a cake/cracker/cookie/chip?
Try to get the student to explain as much as possible and to consider how the food was prepared if he has problems explaining what it is.

This activity gives the student practice in explaining his own culture in a manner which could very likely prove useful in the future since it is relatively common for pre-packaged Japanese food to be given as a gift to foreign guests or friends. It also allows the student to enjoy a treat with the teacher and builds a convivial atmosphere.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Impact Issues - Teacher's Notes

Impact Issues Teacher's Notes
Lesson 8 – Family Harmony

Comprehension questions:

  1. What is the relationship between Mae and Chew? (brother and sister)
  2. What does Chew want to do? (send his daughter to a private school)
  3. Who is Wai? (Mae’s daughter)
  4. Can Mae’s daughter go to a private school? (no)
  5. Why can’t she go to a private school? (not enough money)
  6. Do Mae and her husband have good jobs? (yes)
  7. Why don’t they have enough money? (they just bought a house)
  8. Who is Shu-Ling? (Chew’s daughter/Wai’s cousin)
  9. Why will Wai want to go to the same school as Shu-Ling? (they are close)
  10. Why is it good for Wai and Shu-Ling to go to the same school? (go on trips together, in the same classes, go to school together, do homework together)
  11. Is Chew worried about Wai’s feelings if Shu-Ling is sent to a private school? (no, he thinks she’ll get over it)
Opinion questions (all followed by why/why not?):

How important is keeping your family members’ happy?
Would you change jobs without asking about your family’s feelings?
Would you move without asking about their feelings?
What decisions do you make which consider your family’s feelings?


Write an essay about which decisions should/should not be affected by family concerns.

This material is (c) The Home Sensei

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Impact Issues - Teacher's Notes

Impact Issues Teacher's Notes
Lesson 7 – The Unborn Child

Comprehension questions:
  1. Who is Sia married to? (Ashat)
  2. How old is Sia? (38) How old is Ashat? (42)
  3. How long have they been married? (10 years)
  4. What have they been trying to do for a long time? (have a baby)
  5. How many months pregnant is Sia? (3)
  6. What is wrong with the fetus? (its brain is not developing properly)
  7. What problems will the baby have if Sia gives birth? (mentally and physically handicapped)
  8. Has Sia been pregnant before? (yes) When? (3 years ago)
  9. What happened to that baby 3 years ago? (She lost it in the 4th month)
  10. Does Sia think she can get pregnant again? (no)
  11. How does Sia feel about having a handicapped baby? (she thinks she can love and care for it)
  12. How does Ashat fell about having a handicapped baby? (he’s having second thoughts)
  13. What is Ashat worried about? (money for the child’s special needs, the baby’s future life)
Opinion questions (all followed by why/why not?):

Do you think Sia and Ashat should have a baby?
Do you think all handicapped babies should be aborted?

Write an essay about why you believe handicapped babies should/should not be born.