On Friday, February 19, 2016, I visited Kojo High School, which is located in Aiko-Ishida on the Odakyu Line. (This is actually next door to my hometown of Isehara, so very convenient!) It was a little different from a regular teaching lesson, however, because this would be after regular classes had finished, from 4.20 to 5.20. Indeed, this was an invitation from the Kojo ESS [English Speaking Society]. So, I knew it would be something special!
There were 16 students in total, with 10 girls and 6 boys. I could tell from the beginning that the students were all enthusiastic about English. They told me that they met as ESS three times a week! I was so impressed! I encouraged students to ask me questions at any time, and sure enough, students reacted to what I said and asked questions quite freely.
After a general get-to-know-you thing, in which I explained about where I came from (Ireland) and such, we got down to the very serious business of English ‘tongue-twisters’. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers! She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore, and a few others which I created myself. Firstly, I got them to try and repeat what I said, all the time focusing on pronunciation. Then, I gave out little printed sheets which they could consult and try to practice there and then. It was so much fun! The important aspect, of course, is really making sure that you can actually imitate the correct sound. This means making your mouth form the correct shape. It can also mean, for ‘th’, as in ‘the’, sticking your tongue out! At least momentarily! So, I trained the students to stick their tongues out at the teacher!
Then, we studied how to make successful, and natural, conversation in English by talking about one topic and asking follow-up questions in order to get more information. We also practiced giving reactions, so that their English would sound more native. We had a lot of fun with the choral responses: 'Really?' and, everyone's favourite, 'Wow!' After rigorous practicing of the steps needed for a successful conversation: (a) initial question (b) response (c) reaction (d) follow-up question (e) reaction, plus (f) whatever you want (!), in the final stage, the students could all stand up and walk around, talking to each other, and enjoying communicating in English.
The students were fantastic! They were attentive from the start, and active throughout, using the language we learnt with obvious enthusiasm. It was great to teach them, and very difficult to get them to end the activity! Some of them were actually very high-level English speakers, and a few of them were making jokes in English and indulging in all sorts of banter, in English, with their colleagues. I went round the various pairs of students during the final activity and enjoyed guiding many towards successful mini-conversations. The Kojo ESS students were so friendly and kind. Indeed, I didn’t realise quite how kind they were until a few days later when they sent me a beautiful gift: a large presentation card with a photo of us all in the middle and signed by every student who attended. It took my breath away! Thank you, Kojo ESS !! Enjoy the photos!
And thank you to Furukawa-sensei and the other teacher who attended. Thanks for inviting me, for taking the photos and for being so kind. I hope to return to Kojo ESS!!