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5 Tips for Creating an All-English Classroom

The Ministry of Education has stated that it strongly prefers all English classes be conducted solely in English. Even for those who team-teach with a Japanese teacher, the JTE should also refrain from speaking Japanese in the classroom, and will be expected to use English even in the grammar lessons with no native speaker. This can be difficult for many teachers and students. However, restricting lessons to English only can be a great chance to improve the English communication skills of both Japanese teachers and students. Here are some tips.

1. Make sure all classroom directions and small talk is done in English.

The earlier you start, the better. I’ve seen JHS 3rd years flummoxed by “open your textbook”, but this kind of incidental English can actually add up especially with repetition. Even as target phrases come and go, a standardised set of classroom English can reinforce their English all year long.

2. Help your JTEs.

The JTEs are undoubtedly busy, but take the time to make English conversation with them if there’s a spare moment and answer any questions they might have. Teachers with lower levels of ability may lack confidence, and the more they can use English with you the more prepared they will be to use it in the classroom.

3. Show teachers how natives teach grammar.

One of the biggest challenges for the Japanese teachers will be explaining the grammar needed for entrance exams in English. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of the proposed system - students will still need to learn the translation method and obscure grammar that has little to do with communication, but is on the university exams, only now all the preparation has to be in English. If you have any of your grade school grammar books or online resources, share them with your JTEs. Having an example of how to explain English grammar in English might help them in the classroom.

4. Create an English-friendly environment.

Have English books, magazines, music, games, etc. around that will encourage natural English use. Even if you can’t always use them in class, having things around for students to borrow and use will serve as conversation starters.

5. Gamify the challenge.

A fun way to gamify the challenge for students is to embrace the idea for the old “swear jar”. This works best when there is a clear beginning and end, or time limit, to when Japanese should not be spoken (during a game or activity, etc). Then, every time someone speaks Japanese, add a marble to the jar of their team. Whoever has the fewest by the end class is the winner. This is great because students will police each other and get competitive.

Laying this sort of groundwork will be a big help in making an all English classroom and upping the English level of your school. The more that other teachers will get on board the better results you will see. Good luck!

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