My name is Samantha Kawakami. Everyone calls me Sam. When most Japanese people hear Sam, they always think it is a boy’s name… Well, if the original name is Samuel or Samson, then Sam is a boy’s nickname. But Sam can also be a girl’s nickname, short for Samantha.
I am originally from America, from Michigan, but Japan is my home now. I have lived in Japan for over twelve years, if you combine my time… 1 year as an exchange student studying Japanese, 3 years in Izumo working for AEON, 6 years in Tokyo working for English language teaching publishers, and now 2+ years back in Izumo.
Over the years, I have had a variety of experiences teaching English and working in ELT publishing. Through these experiences I have learned a lot and the way that I teach English has evolved. Actually, my teaching is constantly evolving. I am constantly analyzing my classes and my students. What worked well? What didn’t work well? Did the students understand? Were they motivated to try and speak English? Did the students use as much (or more) English as I hoped? Did the students use a variety of English? What did the students think about the activity? Is it something I should do again or not? How could the activity be even better next time? By thinking about these things and working for what is best for the students, I think that my lessons get better all the time!
Here is some of the thinking that goes behind my lessons:
- (Most) children love stories.
I have hundreds of picture books, which often get used in classes when the topic/language is appropriate.
I work on phonics right from the beginning so students can read themselves about topics they are interested in.
- Children like to play games.
I use flashcards to play games to practice language.
We play lots and lots of games, but they are all geared to children using target language and language to negotiate the playing of the games.
- Songs and chants help students understand the rhythm of English and remember more easily.
If students do not want to “sing” a song, there are other ways to use it…
- Children learn quickly! But they forget even more quickly!
Constant review is important for children to get a strong foundation and build confidence in English.
- Language is “active” and “passive”.
Passive language is language they can understand, but not generate on their own. Active language is language they can understand and use.
When not being used often, active language becomes passive. Review is important in order to re-activate passive language before it is completely forgotten.
- Children are very interested in new technology.
I try to incorporate a bit of technology (video, iPad apps…) when it is productive to the class.
One of the most important things is that English should be fun! Learning a new language should be exciting!