2007 Teaching Awards

Winner – Mr. Yoshikiyo Kasai

Ms. Lydia Leung wrote:

Mr. Kasai has inspired me as an ALT and other JTEs to change the traditional teaching methods in the classroom. He is passionate about teaching and coaching. When I heard about the National AJET Teaching Awards Programme, Mr. Kasai, came to my mind for many reasons including the following:
• Motivating and inspiring students to work and to achieve their full potential
• Promoting international awareness in the Japanese classroom
• Coaching students to the All Japan National Speech Contest for four consecutive years
• Challenging teachers of English to employ creative classroom teaching methods.
• Extending the English language curriculum to the whole school.

The usual teaching method is having the teacher lecture in front of the classroom. However, Mr. Kasai has been implementing the idea of Dale’s Cone. According to Dale, the most effective way to retain information is by teaching others/immediate use (90%). In every class, students learn in pairs. The higher-level student teaches the lower-level student, thereby, being able to retain the information just taught. If we can explain something to others it means we understand the concept. Active learning rather than passive learning is used in the classroom.

Motivation and Inspiration

Mr. Kasai has shown to me what the difference is between teaching and coaching. Anyone can teach but to stimulate the mind, stir up emotions and excite the imagination, one needs to become a coach. A coach brings out student’s inner potential by motivating them to go beyond their limitations. A coach gives them a reason, besides having to take an entrance exam to use a foreign language. Mr. Kasai’s vision is to have students become independent thinkers and learners.

International Awareness

Mr Kasai brings international awareness into the classroom. He thinks outside the box and veers away from the textbook. He provides time for students and the ALT to converse in English. He makes students aware of global issues such as poverty, war, child labour, and environmental problems through a picture, video or song. He asks students what they think and how they can help.

Mr Kasai has also directed cultural exchanges with Koreans and Australians. Three years ago, twenty Australian high school students and teachers visited Higashichu. They did a tour of the school and were introduced to school life, club activities and the city of Kanuma.

All Japan National Speech Contest

Mr. Kasai has coached students to the contest in Tokyo for four consecutive years. This is a very prestigious, English contest that allows students to compete against hundreds of other students. I have experienced the seriousness of the contest last year with Mr. Kasai because one of our 3rd year students qualified for the semi-finals. Countless hours have been spent on rehearsing for this big weekend.

Classroom Teaching Methods

There are several types of teaching methods that Mr. Kasai and other JTEs use to motivate students to acquire effective English skills. By providing a diverse number of activities to capture students’ interests, it motivates them into action and raises their English level ability. There include:

1.Word Mapping
The ALT makes a short speech about any topic using certain grammar points. Then, the ALT reads the speech to test the student’s listening comprehension. Next, 3-4 questions would be asked by the JTE to check whether the students understood the speech. Finally, students pair up and share the information they have just heard from the speech with each other for one minute. As mentioned above, the most effective way to retain information is to teach others. By having students pair up and exchange information, the teacher is leveraging the stronger student’s ability to teach the lower-level student English.

1.ALT reads aloud the script using present progressive.
2.Students listen and work map the short story. (Director’s comment, word map included in faxed copy of nomination)
3.Students exchange information with their partners for one minute.
4.ALT read aloud the script again.
5.JTE asks a couple of questions to check their comprehension.
6.Speech is handed out for students to read the script and check their answers.
7.Students write a reflection of what they thought about the speech in English.
8.Alternatively, students may formulate three questions to verbally ask the ALT regarding the content of the speech.

2.Journal Writing

Each student has a notebook designated for the journal sentence of the day. Within seven minutes they need to write out five or more sentences to get an ‘A’. It’s a concentrated time in writing practice.

Here are sample sentences using the grammar points:

• What makes you happy?
• Which better Hokkaido or Tokyo?
• I come to school because…

Afterwards, these journals are handed to the ALT who will write encouraging comments to students or ask questions about their work.

3.Speaking Exercises

Before using any of these methods, the JTE would time the students to see how quickly they can finish reading a designated passage. Then, one or two of the following would be used to help further their speaking ability:

a. Shadowing Method – students would read aloud from the textbooks for a couple of minutes to familiarize themselves with the passage. Next, they pair up and use “shadowing”. One partner would start reading the sentence and the other partner would anticipate what the next sentence is.

b. Quick Memorization Method – The JTE would give students about five seconds to silently memorize the first sentence in each passage. Then, the JTE will ask them to look up from their books and say the sentence. Next, the second sentence is memorized. Again, they ask asked to look up and say the sentence. This method is used until the whole passage is finished.

c. Asking ALT Questions Method – The ALT would constitute a short speech about his or herself (e.g. self-introduction, travel plans, winter vacation etc). Then, students pair up and formulate three questions to ask the ALT regarding his/her passage. Each pair lines up in front of the ALT to ask their questions and express their ideas about the passage.

Whole School Approach

Mr. Kasai has the ALT publish an English newsletter each month for the whole school. Topics include Canadian or Japanese culture, grammar points for each grade, student’s essays, pictures, etc. On Tuesdays, English radio is also broadcasted to the whole school. Again, topics range from culture, interviews and idioms to English songs.

For the above reasons, I would like Mr. Kasai to receive recognition for the dedication and hard work he has done to actively improve the Japanese education system.

Honorary Mention – Mr. Haruaki Fukuda

Mr. Jonathan Yuan wrote:

I’d read the horror stories long before I came to Japan. Newly- recruited ALTs like me, fresh out of college and ready to spread the English language on the JET Program, were finding out one by one that they’d be doing little more that reading the textbook aloud before being relegated to the back of the classroom as the JTEs, instead, led their students’ English lessons. Even worse was that in the opinion of many of these ALTs, most of these so-called “Japanese teachers of English” could use some English lessons themselves. And as a result of their English classes being conducted primarily in Japanese, the students of these JTEs, even after years of English instruction in junior high and high school, could still barely string together the most basic of English sentences. Spreading the English language, the ALTs were discovering, would be harder than they could ever have imagined because of ineptitude at the very root of English education in their schools – the JTEs themselves.

It was with this nervous apprehension that I started my first day of work at Oritate Junior High School in Sendai. Fukuda-sensei certainly looked like the typical JTE of ALT lore, dressed to the nines in a suit that out the rest of the casually-dressed staff – myself included – to shame. But as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, the English that came out was anything but typical. Instead of the awkward, hesitant quasi-English that I had been told to brace myself for, Fukuda-sensei spoke fluently and fluidly, his command of the English language well beyond not only that of the other JTEs at my school, but of all the JTEs I have since met. When I inquired about his excellent English, all he could tell me was that he, too, was a product of the Sendai school system that he was now teaching in, and that he also began his English studies in his first year of junior high. But things had changed since he was a student, he told me, and students today had the added benefit of ALTs like me to teach them proper pronunciation and foster an interest in English. With his incredible teaching skills, though, Fukuda-sensei didn’t need anyone’s help to capture the English-learning interest of his students.

The strengths of Fukuda-sensei’s English-teaching technique are three-fold. First, and perhaps most importantly, all of his classes are conducted entirely in English. From the greeting to the closing, everything is carried out in English to completely immerse the students in an English-language environment. At first I was worried that this would leave the weaker students scratching their heads before giving up completely, but the stronger students were always willing to help them fill in the gray areas of their understanding, and eventually, the weaker students themselves were able to catch on without any help at all. This constant exposure to the language has helped most of his students eliminate the feat that once paralyzed them when spoken to in English, and a good number of them can now respond back in English with no trouble at all.

Second, Fukuda-sensei is a master at creating original material to supplement the textbook. It never ceases to amaze me that for nearly every unit in the textbook, he is able to come up with a separate, completely original story that manages to include the target vocabulary and grammar patterns from the textbook, all of which are reinforced with unique class activities that he also designs himself. As if creating these original stories and activities wasn’t enough, Fukuda-sensei also manages to personally illustrate a series of detailed pictures and/or craft a number of props to bring each story and activity to life. Needless to say, the students are always energized whenever he tells them that they “won’t be using the textbook today”.

Third, unlike most English classes across Japan, where the rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar points is emphasized above all, Fukuda-sensei’s classes usually focus on a main speaking activity. His heavy emphasis on verbal communication is evidenced in nearly all of the original course material he designs, which almost always feature a mystery role-playing element that requires the students to talk to each other in English – often as detectives or fellow townspeople – and listen for key ideas. The excitement the students get out of playing their roles is an effective counter to the fear that many Japanese students have when asked to speak English, and nearly all of Fukuda-sensei’s students eventually become stronger listeners and speakers that the students under the tutelage of the other JTEs.

While Fukuda-sensei’s approach to English teaching works wonders on its own, what marvels me more is that he always manages to make my participation a vital part of every lesson. Unlike the “human tape recorder” duties mentioned by countless ALTs, my job in the classroom always includes face-to-face interaction with my students, ranging from brief pep talks to full-on participation in their role-playing activities as one of their fellow detectives or townspeople. And despite his extensive preparation for each class, Fukuda-sensei is always ready to change plans at a moment’s notice if, say, the class falls on a holiday that I would like to share in a special lesson, or if I happen to have a guest at school from back home that he enthusiastically welcomes into his classes to talk about America. Some JTEs fail to remember that another part of our jobs as ALTs is cultural exchange, but Fukuda-sensei often puts this at the top of his list, as he recognizes not only the importance of learning English, but also about the cultures of the people who speak it.

As if his talents as an English teacher weren’t enough, Fukuda-sensei is also the coach of three sports teams – basketball, ekiden, and ski – at Oritate Junior High School, and on the occasion when I have stayed past my working hours, he has always been one of the last teacher to call it a night. I mentioned earlier that he is one of the best teachers of any subject that I have ever met, but I take that back. Fukuda-sensei is the most dedicated and the most talented teacher I have ever met, period.