If you teach English at elementary school in Japan, you'll probably be using Hi, friends! Most of the Lessons in this text book follow a four part structure. For ALTs that visit schools once a week, that means each grammar point lasts four weeks. Seems like too long? Personally, I think it's about right.

Plan with Steps that Build on Each Other

Language

In the Hi, friends! textbooks, the language of most Lessons have three components:

  1. A question
  2. An answer
  3. Some vocabulary

Students should start by learning the new vocabulary. Once they've got a good grip on the vocab, they can then try using it in the answer form. In many cases, this can be a statement on its own so it's easy enough to do and still make sense. Finally, students can learn the question and draw the answers out from their peers.

Input/ Output

The input side of language and communication is listening and reading. Output is speaking and writing. In my opinion, one of the biggest areas for improvement in how we teach English in Japan is giving students a chance to listen before we push them to speak. Too often, the first thing is "Repeat after me!"

Because English is a second language for Japanese students, with foreign sounds they aren't accustomed to, allowing students to listen and develop their ability to recognize a word aurally before we ask them to speak is a more natural way to learn, and also allows them to produce words (speak) with more confidence.

So, when planning your lesson, have listening before speaking, and reading before writing.

Hi, friends! Activities

Chants

There are two ways you can use chanting.

  1. Listening
  2. Mechanical speaking practice

Mechanical speaking practice should happen before you set students free with a communicative activity as it gives them confidence producing the sounds. The communicative activity is where they get the chance to use the language with meaning, often with the goal of eliciting a response from their partner.

However, before asking students to practice making the sounds, we should give them a chance to listen to the sounds first. Even better is when they are challenged (or guided) to listen for comprehension. You can read a little more on listening to chants here.

Let's Listen

These are listening for comprehension activities. Junior high school needs more of this! As they are listening activities, they should appear earlier in your 4 part lesson plan, before you are asking students to produce (speak) on their own.

However, these listening activities often also give you the chance to go through the question-answer dialog with the students after they have completed the listening part, when you are checking the answers. You ask the question, they give the answers of the characters based on what they understood and wrote down. This way, students are half way between mechanical speaking practice (in that they are repeating what they've heard) but they are actually communicating an idea (based on what they've noted down).

Activities

Hi, friends! Activities are usually speaking opportunities. These should be left towards the end of your 4 part lesson plan. These are the hardest for students because they have to recall the sounds of the language they are using as well as communicate specific information (ie. what color they like, etc).

Summary

Listening should happen before speaking. Reading should happen before writing. In addition, students should be learning the lessons vocabulary at the outset, followed by the answer or the part of the dialog that stands on its own (usually the part that conveys information), and finally they should learn how to request that information from someone else with a question.

An example 4 day lesson plan might be something like:

Lesson 1Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4

Listen to vocab
Repeat vocab
Listen to answer
Speak vocab

Repeat vocab
Speak vocab
Listen to question and answer
Repeat answer
Speak answer

Speak vocab
Repeat answer
Listen to question
Repeat question
Speak answer

Speak vocab
Speak answer
Repeat question
Speak question

Note that students are not expected to output the answer on their own till the last day. For each language component (vocab, answer, question) students work through listening, then repeating, then producing (speaking without help).

Keeping this basic idea of building each skill in a natural progression for each language component will give your lessons more structure, leading to more successful lessons and students that find English easy and therefore fun.

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