Tuesday, October 4, 2011

English Language Learners

I'm pretty sure having an ELL student in my classroom would be particularly difficult. I can hardly imagine how hard it would be learning any content when one does not completely understand the language it is taught in; how completely frustrating would it be to learn another language from another language that is difficult to understand? That would be terribly unfair to the student. If I ever had an ELL student in my classroom, I would try my best to communicate my teaching ideas to the student in his/her native language. This would be easy for some aspects; I could simply give the student vocabulary lists that translate Japanese words into his/her first language. Lectures and grammar lessons would be more difficult to convey, however. I would try to at the very least give the student a cheat sheet that translates key words from the lesson into his/her first language. I would also be prepared to spend extra time with that student to make sure he/she can keep pace with the rest of the class. I just hope that extra time would be available. Learning new material in a language that is not your first can be horrifying; I would like to ensure that learning in my classroom would be as painless as possible.

~A Future Japanese (日本語) Teacher

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Ethic of Excellence

Ethic of Excellence: Here we have another one of those fancy terms. If you asked anyone what an ethic of excellence meant to them, most would respond with "...What?" However, in the context of teaching, an ethic of excellence can be very simple. Another word for ethic is belief. I take an ethic of excellence to mean what beliefs and practices I implement into my classroom to promote and sustain an excellent school environment. The most important belief I have regarding my classroom is that the students have to want to be there and want to learn. If a student has no motivation at all to learn and succeed, it is pointless for them to even be in school. However, it is my job to ensure that the students want to be there and want to learn. If a student doesn't want to learn, there is something that I can do better to make them want to do their best. I would like my students to realize that it's okay to make mistakes and do poorly sometimes; the important thing is that once mistakes are made, they are corrected and understood. Once you do poorly on something, this does not mean that it is set in stone. There is always room for improvement and understanding. I want my students to understand that my classroom is a fun and positive working environment where they can enjoy learning and be successful. A classroom environment is only truly excellent if the students perceive it as so. After all, teachers are only in school for the student's benefit. A lot of teachers I have had in the past have forgotten this. We would do well to remember this fact in the future.

~A Future Japanese (日本語) Teacher

Writing Across the Curriculum

So, I really didn't know what this was. But, upon closer inspection, its not as difficult as it sounds. (Professional vocabulary, wonderful thing) I at first thought that writing across the curriculum included integrating writing projects across content areas. I kept thinking, 'There is no way that'll work in every school. Teachers won't cooperate like that....my content area won't cooperate with that!' But no, writing across the curriculum seems to be a lot easier than that. Its just writing. ....Across the Curriculum. I can see how this might be difficult for say, a Math content area, but writing as a skill in Japanese is pretty important. Without any kind of writing in Japanese, you wouldn't really be learning Japanese. Not only is there an entirely different alphabet for students to learn to write with, students need to learn how this writing system is integrated into the culture. Students also need to learn about the Japanese culture itself to fully understand the language. By writing essays about Japanese culture, students will have the opportunity to gain a more in-depth understanding of the areas where Japanese is spoken. In this way, students will be able to learn about actual situations where certain grammar functions would be used. Japanese is a very difficult language; by gaining an understanding of when certain word forms are used, it is easier to learn them in a classroom.

There are a lot of examples of writing that I can implement into my classroom. One important example would be the use of a Japanese honorific called keigo. To put it simply, one uses keigo when addressing someone very important, such as a teacher or boss. The verb forms can get very complex. I would have my students write about possible conversations using keigo. That way, they would not only learn when to use keigo, they would understand how to form the keigo verbs themselves.

Another writing example is culture based (My Japanese teacher also did something like this in my classes last year). Japan is a very unique culture; there are many videos online that depict and describe certain aspects of the culture. I would have the students watch a video and reflect upon it. I would have them answer questions such as What was their initial reaction?, Does this compare to American culture?, What would happen if this occurred in America?, etc. By writing about the Japanese culture, students will thoroughly understand and be able to discuss various aspects of Japanese life. When one simply talks about a subject, it can go right over the students' heads. However, having a student write about something makes him or her think about the topic; this will give the student a greater chance to read and understand the topic.

~A Future Japanese (日本語) Teacher

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reading and Writing

"Why do I need to read and write in this class?"

First of all, if a student ever asked me that question in my class, then I would not be doing my job correctly. A major part of learning a new language is learning to read it and write it correctly. This is even more important to Japanese students, as Japanese students have three new writing systems to learn: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. The first two systems are phonetic and relatively easy to learn, but the last consists of over a thousand symbols. Learning to recognize, read, and write in Japanese is a time consuming process. It is easy for speech to suffer if one focuses too much on the reading and writing aspect of Japanese. A balance must be struck for a successful education in Japanese.

Let's just say, for arguments sake, that I was having my students read and write about various aspects of Japanese culture, which is definitely going to happen. I could then see one of my students complaining about the extra work. Not only is it important to learn the tools of the language itself, it is also important to learn about the environment they are to be used in. You can be as fluent as you want in Japanese, but if you do not know how to act in certain situations, you are in trouble. Formality is so important in Japanese, not only are there longer forms of words that are more polite, there are even longer forms of those long words to make them even more polite. It is important to know when to use what words in any given situation. By reading and writing about Japanese culture, students are given the building blocks to succeed in a potentially hazardous situation. 

~A Future Japanese (日本語) Teacher

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Outside One's Content Area

For this week's Reading Apprenticeship assignment, I traded my Japanese content area for a ticket to the English Department. I constructed a literacy activity based on a poem entitled "The Most Beautiful Flower" by Author Unknown. I won't lie, it is a lot easier to learn about literacy from the point of view of an English teacher. English is literacy; there is no way to have an English class without some form of literacy. By going outside of my content area, I received a sneak peek as to how much literacy can be implemented into any given lesson. This fact makes me want to think harder as to how to implement more English literacy into Japanese. Japanese has a lot of literacy involved; however, this type of literacy is not as easy for children to learn. Reading comprehension is extremely important to convey in an English class, but in a Japanese class the students first must learn to read. I learned that in an English class, it is really easy to promote literacy. Almost too easy. Students recognize that literature and grammar are important to English classes; it is old news to them. The challenge for English teachers is to make literacy fun and exciting for the students. English teachers have a difficult time keeping their content fun and interesting. My content area comes with the difficulty of not only teaching the students about literacy from both a cultural and grammatical sense, but ensuring that the students do not panic from the overwhelming amount of writing and reading involved. In contrast, English teachers will have trouble keeping their students awake. I'm sure I'll have that problem too, but I may be biased. I've never liked English.

~A Future Japanese Teacher

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Ohio Core: Not Your Parent’s High School Curriculum"

This article about our ever-changing education and curriculum indicates how our society has turned into a double-edged sword. It's great that our society is filled with more complex technology and has become light years more sophisticated. However, education standards are raising the bar in order to keep up with these advancements, which makes a student's life and schoolwork just as complex. When a trade that used to be as simple as 'farming' becomes a complex "agribusiness," it's no wonder that we push students even harder to keep up. Such advanced technology has the price of hard work attached. I think it will be great to have students adapt to the new "Ohio Core;" my only concern is whether or not students will want to. Most students will be up to the challenge, but changing the structure of schooling to the tune of more work will definitely make it harder for students to keep up and want to continue learning. However, all of this extra effort will be worth it in the end. In our ever-changing technological society, one will never be able to completely stop learning. By preparing these students to become "successful, 21st-century global thinkers and competitors," they will have a headstart on being successful in the future.