In February 2006, I led a model lesson at one of the many elementary schools that I served at in Kawaguchi City, Saitama a city that borders on Tokyo’s Kita Ward. The aim of this model lesson was to show the other native English teachers that were being dispatched to elementary schools the best practice in terms of utilizing the class’s Japanese homeroom teacher, getting the students involved by facilitating a positive experience with learning English through games, listening and singing.
A decade has passed and while this model lesson took place during the dark ages of English training at elementary schools in Japan, much of what was or wasn’t getting done remains today. The elementary school visits for a native English-speaking teacher can be a mixed bag in terms of outcomes and support. Today’s teachers are more tech savvy and have done a great job of putting lesson plans, activities, etc. regarding elementary school visits online. However, this still doesn’t solve the language barrier that many native English-speaking teachers have due to a lack of Japanese ability combined with the teacher’s inexperience and the absence of a set of goals and objectives to accomplish at the elementary visits.
English education was formally introduced in Japan for 5th and 6th graders in 2011 and is still in its early stages. In 2020, the formal visits to elementary schools with be required to spend 70 hours of English language instruction a year, doubling current requirements. To that end, this model lesson serves as the bridge between “just winging it” to actually being prepared and hopefully will provide a positive experience with learning English through games, listening and singing in the classroom.