Lessons Learned – New Horizon 2 Unit 7 – Anything you can do, I can do better.

Anything you can do, I can do better.

20min – 50min

A team oriented acting game.

About an hour before class one of my 2nd year teachers informed me that this class had English twice that day. She wanted a game to play for the entire 50 minute class. OK. No problem. That worked around the grammar point on page 76 of New Horizon 2. Oh. I sat and thought for about 10 minutes and all I could think of was Annie Oakley.

Andrew, get your pen.

Purpose: A listening exercise using good, better and best.

Secondary Purpose: To add a little levity to the class.

I have only done this activity once and about 90% of the students in that class responded very well. Boys in particular really like this game because they can show off but even some of girls had a good time. However, there was a small cadre of students, 3 or 4, who refused to cooperate. After the class the JTE and I found a solution to this problem if we used the game again the future. Overall this game was awesome. The students were laughing and having fun. Nearly all of them let their “English is hard” shield down. I would definitely do this game again with a few modifications. This is also very similar to the game, “Prove it!” which you can play with the 1st year students using New Horizon 1.

Prep: There is not much needed to prep for this activity depending on how complicated you want to make it. The main preparation is creating a list of actions that are A) easily understood by Japanese students and B) relatively amusing. For “A” asking your students to imitate Barack Obama is going to result in a lot of blank stares and nervous fidgeting. Asking your students to imitate Spiderman will get you further. As far as “B” is concerned the humor will manifest itself if you pick things that are fun, but if you ask them to imitate something that isn’t fun like taking a test or drinking tea, you’ll get more boring versions of those two actions. I have attached my list of actions.

DOC: Anything you can do I can do better

Also bring a deck of cards.


Execution: To start the class, I told each of the students we would be playing an amazing game, but that it was really important that everyone plays. Once they understood ( I had the Japanese teacher explain it too) I started by giving them the vocabulary for the game. On the board I wrote: Act, Make sound like, and Imitate. Imitate was the only word that they weren’t already familiar with but it is important to review to make sure everyone understands. Probably the most important part of the whole activity is the ALT (you!) doing something in front of the class to help loosen them up. I imitated Anpanman, made a noise like a seagull and acted silly to demonstrate the requirements of the activity. Demonstrate at least one of these with the JTE if possible.

Have the room break up in to roughly even teams, 5 to 6 students each is ideal. I had them play rock paper scissors to see who goes first but you can choose any method for determining a turn order. Have one student from each of the first two teams come up and give them some sort of action. After they each perform the action independently I had the class vote to on, “Who did it better?” Which ever team’s player did the action “better” got to draw a card and that was their points for that round. Eventually you can get into good-better-best and change the way you call students up each round, as long as each student is from a different team.

let your kids really ham it up

I had a brilliant idea after playing this game, of course, so I’m including it here for your future benefit. Instead of having a winner and loser for each round, I could have used the cards and rewarded them both for doing something way outside of their comfort zone. Each student who does an “action” gets to draw a card and earn points for their team.

After going about 4 rounds total we wrapped the game up with about 5 minutes left in class. Long enough for the JTE to say something or to have a quick review and have them move the desks back. At the end of the class have the teacher give out a stamp, extra credit point or even your own stickers, anything really, to every student who made an effort to do the activity. This rewards everyone, even those who didn’t do “it” better.

A final thought: Another key to making this activity work is having way more “actions” than you will need for the class. I had several instances where students passed on the original action because it was too embarrassing for them or they weren’t sure what to do. Be mindful of the fact that some students do better at the front of the class and others are completely petrified. For the more nervous students I had tasks that didn’t involve speaking as well. Regardless there were still two students who just refused on principal to participate. I did find that even some of my badly behaved students stayed engaged in this activity but even so, a few bad apples made a couple moments of this class super awkward.

Lessons Learned: New Horizon 1 Unit 10 – “I can ______”

Here’s a really simple, no-prep activity for New Horizons 1, grammar point “can and cannot.” This is part writing, mostly speaking, and lot’s of listening in an interactive setting. I have done this activity five times with my seventh grade students, and it was a lot fun. Time : 25-35 minutes

Purpose: to practice the grammar point “can” through speaking, writing, and listening

Secondary purpose: to help students be creative and think outside the box

Prep: Prepare a list of things you “can do.” If you can, have students use a page of their English notebooks, otherwise a small piece of scratch paper for each student is necessary as well. You can also use this attached worksheet, which has multiple activities for can and can’t.

PPTX: can and can’t

Execution: You can do this activity before teaching the material on pages 94-95 as an introduction, or afterwards as a review. I used it as an introduction. I started by demonstrating a couple things I can and can’t do, really stressing the new words can and cannot/can’t. Things included clasping hands together behind my back, reverse Namaste (making your hands touch in prayer behind your back), curling my tongue, trying to touch my nose to my elbow (can’t, obviously) and others. Any cool or weird physical ability you have works great, even knuckle cracking or whistling. Once the kids understand the meaning of can and can’t, write them on the board with the definition if necessary. Have all the students stand up, while you write “I can _____________.” on the board. Explain that you will make a statement. If they too can do it, they remain standing, if not they sit down. You can draw little figures sitting and standing next to the words can and can’t. They don’t have to sit down permanently, so if they sit and the next statement is something they can do, they stand back up. You can also do the same thing with hand-raising if you want. I thought that all the restless boys would appreciate a little action, but I’ve realized that they simply do the opposite of whatever you’d like them to do, so they just stopped standing after a bit. Fickle little monkeys… Do the first round with just you speaking. Mix in some easy things with some more challenging ones to keep them going up and down. Good actions include:

  • Swim
  • Roll or curl my tongue like a hot-dog bun (this one’s genetic)
  • Wiggle my ears
  • Whistle
  • Cross my eyes
  • Use chopsticks
  • Make origami
  • Touch my tongue to my nose (I can actually do this one)
  • Ski or snowboard

The physical ones are fun because it’s a kick to watch your students try them. Whenever you’re ready for it to be over, just say something you know they can’t do: drive a car, ride a horse, play an instrument, speak a foreign language, drink sake, etc. The next step requires scrap paper or notebooks. Have students write their own achievement, “I can __________” but explain that this time they’re playing against each other. If they are the only one that can, they are a winner. Offer a prize as an incentive, near of the end of the year they definitely need some external motivation. There is no limit to the amount of winners, but they have to write something special, not just “play tennis,” “speak Japanese” if they want to win. Give them 5 minutes to do this, and help students with spelling and inspiration. If it is a specific action they have to demonstrate, have them write “I can do this” instead of trying to explain it in English.

Impress your students with this, or scare them…

Once time’s up, have them all stand (or stay seated if using only their hands) and start at one end of the room. Each student must read their sentence and perform the action if necessary. Help them repeat it louder if students can’t hear. Go through all the students, calling “Next” after each is determined winner or not. Keep the game on pace so it doesn’t drag. When a student is a winner, write their action on the board. You will always get bad students who don’t write anything, so just make them say “speak Japanese, read kanji, walk” or some such blanket statement. If you know what they do for club activities you can use that, but “I can do nothing” is not an acceptable answer. When all the students have gone, review the winning statements and continue on to the writing portion of my attached worksheet, or whatever textbook work you need to get done. Hopefully, connecting an action to a word will make this activity a memorable experience for your students.

A final thought: The “five” minute writing portion of this activity was not very successful in most of my classes, and usually ended up taking fifteen minutes of individually coaxing students or trying to get them to leave their neighbors alone and focus. I’m not sure how much easier it could have been. I wrote multiple examples on the board and all they needed to do was write two words at most: I can swim, whistle, draw, do this. I don’t attribute this to the activity being tough or their lack of ability. They write much longer, whole sentences on a daily basis. I attribute it to my school’s lack of discipline and my lack of authority. Be prepared if you have a naughty or difficult class to extend this activity or simply cut the writing portion out. The JTE for this class is the opposite of strict, so the students know they can get away with disrespecting me and refusing to follow my instructions. If I spoke better Japanese, I might be able to command more authority with them, but the boys in general could not care less about obeying a foreign woman. If you don’t have these problems at your schools, you should be fine, but even so, I was able to make this activity work. If your students are genki, it will be a blast. If you have problem classes like me, simply skip the writing and play a few rounds with only you making the statements. It’s still fun that way, and you can perhaps include a speaking component where they must answer each with “Yes, I can” or “No, I can’t.”

New Horizon 1 Speaking +1- Hot Phone!

Do you have to create a speaking activity for a basic phone conversation? Out of ideas? Tired of memorization and fill-in the blanks? Here’s a fun idea to spruce up your classes’ phone conversations. I used this activity seven times, and it was wonderful each time. Students had fun, and the fifty minutes just flew by. Plus it involves almost no preparation on your part. It is possible to adapt this activity to New Horizon 2 Speaking +2 and New Horizon 3 Speaking +1 and +4 as well.

45 to 50 minutes

Purpose: To get your kids speaking, to learn the grammar point “Hello. This is …” and to get them to have fun so they forget that speaking is scary.

My "phones"

My “phones”

Prep: Two “phones” labeled “A” and “B.” You can use two toy cell phones or do what I did, make your own cut outs from cardboard (preferably red, which also happens to be the color of the boxes the printing paper comes in). Music: choose an upbeat song to play on the CD player or use your phone/tablet/laptop

Execution: Start the lesson as usual with your JTE, covering the new vocabulary with flashcards, and practicing pronunciation. Then demonstrate the dialogue with the JTE (use your prop phones!). I made a couple “ringing” noises before the first “Hello?” It works well later as a cue for the students. Also act out the gestures of picking up and hanging up the phone. Go over the dialogue, checking for understanding. It’s pretty straight forward, but the JTE can translate for them if necessary.

Have the students repeat the dialogue after you. Split the class in half and have half play Sakura, half play Kevin. Switch and repeat. Now have the students practice in pairs. During this time, write on the board:

A:  Hello?

B:  Hello, ___________? This is _________.

A:  Oh! Hi, __________.

Now have the students look at the Step 1 box on page 58. Identify who is in the first picture, and use the sentences on the board to have students fill in the blanks with the correct name. Do this for all three pictures, then have the class take part B while you take part A. They have to use your name and their class number: “This is class 1-1.” Use your fake phone for added comedy. Switch the roles, and make a ringing sound to cue the students.

Ask for a volunteer student, or choose one at random. This is a nice chance to let your good kids shine, or to effectively discipline your trouble students. Have them take part B first, unless you are confident with their name. Give them the other fake phone to use. Go through the dialogue, and then switch parts. If you have some stickers on you, feel free to reward them. The student who just performed can choose anyone to give the phone to. Do this a couple more times with different students.

Now it’s time for the students to do the dialogue on their own. I combined this activity with the game “Hot Potato” to make it a bit more exciting. Using mostly gestures, you can explain to the students the rules of “Hot Potato” which I renamed “Atsui Denwa” (hot phone) for this exercise. It is important to note that each phone should be clearly labeled A or B.

Starting the phones at different ends of the room, students must pass the phone along while you play some music. When the music stops, whoever is holding the phones must stand and recite all the dialogue on pages 58 and 59, using their own names. The person with the phone labeled A starts the dialogue, the same as what’s on the blackboard. It will be a little noisy from the commotion, so use your ringing sound to let the students know to settle down during the dialogue.

Rules for Hot Phone:
-They must pass the phone with both hands on it (no tossing or throwing, be sure to demonstrate what not to do).

-They must say “Atsui denwa!” or “Hot phone!” before handing off the phone. This helps slow things down a bit and makes it clear who is holding the phone when the music stops, but the kids usually get excited and forget to say it. So don’t worry if that happens, as long as the phone is moving.

– They can pass to anyone in front, back or to the side of them (or to the teachers) but they have to stay seated.

– If a student who has already had the phone ends up with it again, they can choose to give it to any student who hasn’t yet done the dialogue.

Using the iPhone or iPad for the music is nice because they can’t predict when it will stop quite as easily as a CD player. I used The Beatles “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” for this. All my students know this because they play it constantly in the grocery stores here.

Play for as long as you like, the more students who get to speak the better. If you have extra time at the end of class, have the students try to go through the dialogue with you from memory. For a laugh, you can pretend to be Batman and ask the students to come to your Halloween party. Make up whatever you like. Step 3 on page 59 has different options for the conversation, so you can demonstrate alternate conversations with the JTE using these. “I’m sorry, I’m busy. Maybe next time” etc.

Final thoughts: This was a lot of fun for me and the students. Really try to get them to act it out, with lots of emotion for “Great!” “It’s my birthday party!” etc. so they don’t sound depressed the whole time. They will really enjoy seeing you be a ham, and the more fun it is for them, the better the activity will go. You can adapt this concept for any of the phone conversations in New Horizons, there is one for year 2 and another in year 3. Of course, you can change the “hot phone” into any item you want and use this for any speaking activity. The components I really like are the randomness of calling on students and the upbeat energy level. Let me know if you find this useful!

Lessons Learned – BLOCK!


30 to 50 minutes

This game is a very simplified version of the game Scattergories that I have been able to use effectively in just about every class I have taught from review to introducing grammar. If you have played Scattergories than you can probably skip down to the execution part. If not, here is the basic premise. In teams, students create a list of something using complete sentences, then they read the sentences aloud. If another team has the same sentence or close to it, that is a BLOCK! NO POINTS! If no one else has the same sentence, then that team earns points.

Purpose: Multi-task approach to review or introduce a particular grammar point.

Secondary Purpose: Encourage students who don’t typically participate in class to do so in a team in environment.

This is my go to activity if I a teacher gives me a last minute heads up. This game works great and you can scale it up or down depending on how skilled your students are. I have used it about 20 times now in all three levels of Japanese junior high school, with poor classes and great classes, and have generated good results in all those classes. If this game is executed effectively it can make any class exciting.

Prep: This game can have varying degrees of prep depending on how elaborate of a setup you would like to use. Since I use this as my go to game when a teacher gives me a last minute notice, I execute this with almost no prep at all. Preparation for this game should be centered around what the grammar point is. For Unit 6 of New Horizon 2 I found an ISPY picture to put on the board and pass out to the students but for the 3rd year students all I needed was a chalkboard. Depending on how elaborate you want to be I would gather these materials as a good starting point and then add as you see fit for your classes and your text books.

  • Japanese to English Dictionaries – Enough for 2 per team, usually a student will go get them from the library if you ask nicely.
  • Each student will need: Notebook paper, black pen, and red pen.
  • A deck of playing cards with the jokers removed.

Execution: Start off by reviewing whatever the grammar point is for the day. I will use two examples for this post. The first is introducing the grammar of New Horizon 2 Unit 6, “There is…” and “There are…” The second example is from New Horizon 3 Unit 6 as a review of the entire unit.

kumamonExample 1: To start the class, I drew a big tree on the board and then added a picture of Kumamon. The Japanese teacher and I had several short conversations about the location of Kumamon in reference to the  tree.

Next the JTE explained the grammar in Japanese as well as defined several prepositions that will be important for the exercise: on, near, by, far from, next to, under, in(side), and over

Now the students formed 6 teams of 5 to 6 students and one student from each team can come to the front of the classroom to get a Japanese to English dictionary. I had the students completely clear their desks except for a red pen, a black pen, and their notebook. Then I presented on a large TV monitor the ISPY picture and gave several examples of sentences using a There is or There are construction. For each group I had also printed out an A4 size of the same picture and 1 or 2 examples on the back side of it. The teachers at that school later decided to laminate the pictures.ISPY

To the class I explain that they have to work as a team to write as many original sentences as they can using only the picture and the Japanese to English dictionary. I give them 5 minutes to do this, if they are having a lot of trouble you can tack on two to three extra minutes. Once you set them off on the sentence writing, walk around to ensure that they all working as a team and they all understand what they are supposed to do.


After the 5 minutes is up I have the students put away their black pens. It is important that they do this because they should not be able to add sentences as the game goes on. To demonstrate the game play, the teacher pretends to be one of the students at a group and I sit down with another group. The teacher stands up and reads an original sentence based on the picture. “There are 3 buttons near the…” I then stand up and say I have the same sentence. BLOCK! NO POINTS!!

It usually takes about one round for the students to get the hang of this but after round one they are quite keen to see if they can keep another team from scoring points. I make sure that each student of the group has a chance to read. You can adjust the rules to your liking but since they are working as a team I let them read from anyone’s notebook from their group. Also, make sure they are crossing off sentences that have been blocked by other groups so that there are no repeats.

The point system is entirely arbitrary but to keep things close I make each new round worth more points than the previous round or use a deck of cards to randomize point values so that no group can really get too far in front of the others. To maintain the suspense and fun of the game, the teams should be relatively close the entire game. Once you have the game going you can play till about 2 minutes before the bell rings and then determine the winner ensuring that all teams have said an equal amount of sentences to the class. I usually give out extra stamps on their stamp sheets but stickers, fake money and other prizes are good for the winners.

Example 2: For New Horizon 3 Unit 6 review I started out by reviewing each of the sentence constructions on the board:

  • This is a book I bought in the United States.
  • Becky is the student who comes from Canada.
  • This is a movie that (which) makes people happy.

Similar to the above execution I have them form teams, clear their desks, and come get Japanese to English dictionaries. The major difference here is the subject matter for the sentences. I gave them a general category. For one class I chose J-POP and for the other I chose K-POP. They had use any of the three grammar points and their subjects were limited to artists, songs, lyrics, and albums from either J-POP or K-POP.

kawaii, neh?!

The rest of the process is the same except a small change with respect to how you, as a teacher, judge the game. I was very strict when it came to blocking sentences in the early part of the game but relaxed the rules a little bit towards the end. With more complex sentences you will have to make some judgement calls but try to remain as fair possible. For rounds 1 and 2 the subject and the verb (Arashi is the group I like best) must be exact on the other team’s paper to create a block. For rounds 3 to the end, I only required that the subject (artists, songs, lyrics, and albums) be the same to cause a block.

Also with more complex sentences there will be situations where a team will take forever to pick the sentence they want to read. I give them a few seconds and if they aren’t ready I start a five second count down. Sometimes the class will join in! At the end of the five seconds, if they haven’t chosen a sentence, they forfeit their turn. However, it’s ok to be lenient with this because it might be a pronunciation issue or something along those lines. Take a moment to walk over to the student and help them with the sentence before you move on to the next group.

A final thought: The possibilities for this game are endless. Even with elementary school students you could play using something so simple as name a food in English or animals. As long as you can make a consistent sentence this game will work. The flexibility of this game however does not generate the excitement. The ALT does. When using this game, you have to treat it like a game show. Make noises, bring a buzzer, gasp, use countdowns. Watch some Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right and replicate some of things they do in your class with your voice and mannerisms. The more into the game you are the harder it will be for the bad kids to make trouble for you since their team mates will want to play.

Lessons Learned – New Horizon 3 Writing +3 – Sketch Comedy

Sketch Comedy

3 class periods

Writing + activities in the New Horizon books usually involve speaking by having the student read their finished writing sample in front of the class. Inevitably you will hear 15 to 35 versions of the same three to four sentences lifted straight from the book with just one or two things changed. However, Writing +3 gives you a chance to really do something fun with your third year students and they wont be able to simply regurgitate mostly prepared sentences. In my limited experience this maybe one of the best activities already in the book. The scope of this lesson is to take what the book has and expand on it in class rather than just using the book.

Purpose: To explore English well beyond the confines of the textbook using humor.

I did this with four different classes and the results were phenomenal. Because of the comedy element the students were way less concerned about being right and more concerned about saying what they wanted to say. In their search for laughs they had me helping them with very difficult sentences and really stretching the limits of the English ability. Some of the sketches were legitimately funny as well. Also, common problems like mumbling or speaking softly, were overcome by many of the students who suffer from those things. I also feel that this exercise would work at any time with more advanced students. If you don’t use New Horizon, you should still be able to execute this with everything in this post.

Prep: Like most things I do with my classes I try to find things that require as little prep as possible so I can focus on getting the highest impact rather than some elaborate card game or flash card system that looks cool but no one can understand. The prep for this activity will come down to you as a person being able to demonstrate your own comedic timing and improvisation skills. If you have never done improv or comedy acting before, practice at home before you try in front of the class. There are thousands of youtube and vimeo videos you can sort through that will give you some ideas about how to engage in comedy.

Handout PPTX: Sketch Comedy

Other prep would be to find a good example of sketch comedy that the students can watch. You should also write out some short comedic premises that you can use for demonstrative purposes in class. You can use the attached file for already finished ideas but that takes all the fun out of it, try and write your own. For the video I would recommend this short sketch from Japanese comedian, Shimura Ken.

Execution: Generally speaking, your twelve to fourteen year old students will likely have a very different idea of comedy from you. Not only is there an age gap but there is also a culture gap. Sometimes my mind is befuddled by what Japanese people find funny. Moreover it is unlikely that any of these students have written comedy in Japanese and probably don’t know where to start.Sketch comedy clip shot

This is where you come in. First off I showed each class the Shimura Ken sketch to give them an example of very well done comedy based a simple idea. The teacher insisted that we go through the sketch in the text book but I would try and skip it if you can. To bridge the unfunny sketch in the text book to actual comedy, I acted out the sketch on my own playing both parts and used a radio as my game console. Practice this at home if you know are going to do it so you can get your timing down. Also I would cover facial expressions and reaction noises like, “Uh…,” if you have time. I had them repeat “uh” about 10 times with different meanings associated with it. Also see my post about Emotional Sakura.

To me the most important part of this exercise wasn’t the vocabulary or the sentence construction but explaining to the kids how to generate a simple sketch. For each of the six ideas I gave them, I acted out an example with willing (and some unwilling) student participants. The results were often hilarious even if the comedy wasn’t intentional.

The introduction and the idea explanation took most of the first class. The students will need at least one whole class period to write their own and rehearse in their groups. During the writing period I would sit down and help brainstorm with groups that were having trouble thinking of an idea. Even if you are quick on your feet with ideas I would keep several canned situations written down for groups that have a lot of trouble. I also corrected grammar and offered suggestions to help improve the timing or the idea if it was a little weak.

The third class period will be performances. I offered a reward for groups that could make me laugh and several of them succeeded.

A final thought: Most of my students are pretty good but I was blown away by how well they did with this activity. If I had to chalk it up to just one element, it would be the fact that they were given true freedom to write and use English. While I had to check some stuff for being inappropriate and it wasn’t always perfect grammar they used English well beyond their normal day to day abilities. Try to make them understand, there are no mistakes for this exercise, and that when you correct something it has nothing to do with their idea. Help them with expressions but don’t rob them of the freedom creation, even if it is a little off.

Lessons Learned – Musical chairs with sentences

Musical Sentences

30 to 50 minutes

I think most people have played some form of musical chairs at company events or family get togethers and I struggled for a long time trying to adapt musical chairs to the ESL classroom. Not only does musical chairs not involve any speaking, but it usually requires a big empty space with only chairs. Basically the opposite of a Japanese class room. Well I may have found the solution. It’s a combination of karuta, kaiten-zushi and musical chairs that seems to be very effective and students really enjoy it.

The key to making this activity ESL appropriate is to make sure the target sentence can be broken up into three sections that are totally interchangeable. The first time I did it the target grammar point was using “be+ ~ing” Example: “He is watching.” Later I did it with a second year class and it was equally successful with a “There are + subject + place” lesson.

Purpose: To work on specific sentence constructions.

Secondary Purpose: Force them to see unnatural sentence constructions that are still grammatically correct but cannot be used. (Example: There are clocks studying in this class).

This lesson was very successful at targeting a simple grammar point as both an introduction and a review. The students seem to genuinely enjoy anything that isn’t copying off the board or reading from the text book. Mostly I found that by the end of the activity nearly all the students had made at least two sentences and could generate a third verbally on command. I couldn’t check every student, but most seemed to grasp the concept easily. If I try with much more difficult sentences, I will post an update.

Prep: This activity does require a short amount of prep work, about 30 minutes in total. For whatever grammar point you want to cover you will have to make sentence cards and then cut them out. If you are really dedicated you can laminate the cards as well but this will add to your prep time. I have attached two of my sets for downloading. If you are teaching New Horizon 1 Unit 9 or New Horizon 2 Unit 6 these will work for you. Otherwise you can just download them for the template to save some time.EX: be+ ~ing cards

PPTX: “be + ~ing” New Horizon 1 Unit 9
PPTX: Musical Chairs New Horizon 2 Unit 6

Execution: I will use the NH1U9 class as my example execution, but for each class it will vary depending on the grammar point and what is needed to make sure the students understand how to form the target sentences. For the first year students, the JTE started the class by explaining the “be+ ~ing” grammar on the chalk board with Japanese side by side with English. Then we played a gesture game where the students guess what “~ing” I was doing. Finally, we introduced a mnemonic device to aid with words like “running,” “swimming,” “making,” and “using.”

On the board I place an ING Truck, which brings the extra N-M-P or T for words like, running, swimming and getting. On the opposite side of the board I placed an ING Gun, which shoots the “e” out of a word when using “~ing” like making, using and taking. These come into play later during the game.

It is super important you have the students completely clear their desks or you will have a pen case and notebook disaster on your hands when the game really gets going. While they are clearing their desks, pass out the sentence cards. I try to make sure they alternate, but it doesn’t really matter because the cards are going to move later in the activity. Once each student has a card, I draw three boxes on the board and place a part of 1 sentence in each box to explain that three cards make a set.

Before explaining the musical part, or the kaiten-zushi, I give the students one minute to move around the class to make a sentence using the card on their desk. They must combine cards with other students to make a complete sentence. Once a group of three students have their sentence, they come up to either the JTE or me and read the sentence aloud. If the sentence is correct, they go back to their seats. This warm up version of the activity will also gauge the student’s understanding of the sentence structure and the game.

After all the students are seated back at their desks, explain the music and the kaiten-zushi. Ask the students to place the cards on the center of their desk. Then have them all put their hands over their heads and stand up. While they are standing, explain the music element. When the music stops, they stop and try to grab a card. Karuta is a good game to use as a comparison in a Japanese class room. After explaining the music, explain the walking route. Disqualify any students who insist on running around the route. The desks are too close together to allow that, however if you have a big open space, who cares!? Kaiten-zushi is something that most Japanese kids will be familiar with but here is a diagram if you have never been to a kaiten-zushi restaurant.Kaiten-zushi ESL class diagram

One final element specifically for NH1Unit9 “be+ ~ing”: the ING Gun and the ING Truck are posted on the blackboard. If they have a word that requires an extra letter or dropping the “e,” they have to come to board and stand under the correct sign. The teachers should each stand near one to help facilitate this process.

The hard part is over. Start the music. I have the JTE bring in their favorite CD or play something fun and upbeat. While students are walking around, pull some cards off the desk. When the music stops, there will be less cards than there are students. If a student doesn’t get a card, they are out. Ask the students who didn’t get a card to go back to their seat and sit. As you are pulling cards try to make sure you get complete sentences off the desks. However if you end up leaving incomplete sentences on the desks, let the students who have duplicate cards play rock, paper, scissors to determine who gets to keep playing. For the students who acquired cards, check their sentence; if it’s ok, have them go back and stand at their desk.

For the more complex sentences like (New Horizon 2/3) there will likely be some sentence constructions that don’t make sense (There are clocks studying in this class). Don’t worry about that. You can allow them all to keep playing, but remove the cards from the game or you can allow nonsense sentences because they are kinda funny.

I was able to get through 3 rounds (not including the initial practice round without the music) in about 30 minutes. If you need to stretch the activity out, just take less cards in between rounds off the desks.

A final thought: To really make this exercise a good learning experience, the students have to read the sentences in order when they come up to have them checked. I used the popular “say no” command in Japanese which indicates that they are supposed to speak in unison. There is no need to punish a wrong sentence though, simply tell them to try again and find an appropriate mix of the three cards. One class got it right away, the other class took a little longer to get the hang of it, but I was also using it as an introduction to the grammar. If you are using it as a review, you might want to put a time limit on how long they have to make a sentence after the music stops. If they can’t make one in the allotted time then they are out. Even without the time limit it never took longer than 2 or 3 minutes to get all the students in to their sentences.

Lessons Learned – New Horizon 3 – Speaking +1/+2 – Would you like to party?

Would you like to party?

15 to 20 min

An individual activity that gets the class up, moving, and speaking English.

The New Horizon books have a dedicated speaking section at the end of each unit called Speaking+. The short model conversations are generally dry and a little awkward although they do adequately explain the grammar point. This activity is designed as a warm up or a review to go over “Would you like…?” grammar and engage in a speaking exercise. The target sentence for this activity is:

“Would you like to come to my party on (day of the week)?”
“Yes, I’d love to.” or “I’m sorry, I can’t I have to (activity).”

Many of the students at Japanese schools can translate sentences without any difficulty but forming their own sentences and speaking them is a whole different ball game. If you are just looking for lots of ideas or this one doesn’t suit your needs, JHS Englipedia project has a healthy collection of activities for this grammar point and similar ones.

Purpose: Use “Would you…?” grammar to generate their own sentences without a written prompt.

Secondary Purpose: Get the students speaking!!

I have done this activity with 5 different classes, my wife has done it 3 classes, and we found it to be successful in all of them. I did have to modify the plan a little bit with one class that typically under performs. The larger the class the better with this activity. The success of this activity hinges on large portions of the class being forced to use a negative response thus giving more chances for the students to practice the speaking parts. I also made sure to fill out my own sheet with the class so that I could participate and ensure they were using English.

Prep: One of the best parts about this activity is that requires ZERO prep work. Print out the sheet and make some copies. If you have really nice JTE’s they will usually copy it for you. Don’t forget to hole punch.

PDF:Would you like to party activity
PPTX:Would you like to party activity

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Execution: After handing out the worksheet (one for each student) I ask the students to put a line through two days. I do this by drawing a large version of the worksheet on the board and putting a line through the blank space on Wednesday and Friday (or whatever days you want “free”). Next I have them fill in one day with the word “PARTY!!!” Then have the students mark off the remaining 4 days of the week with any activity. I try to give funny examples on the board but I encourage them to generate their own. The most common ones I saw were; “sleeping,” “playing a sport” and “playing games.” You don’t need to review activities just make some suggestions and then set them lose on their paper. I gave them about 3 to 5 minutes to fill out their calendar. Also if your class is very low level allow them to write the activities in Japanese or katakana but stress that they must use English during the speaking portion.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 7.20.05 PMWalk down the rows to ensure that everyone understood the directions and that they have their work sheet properly filled out. I then modeled the conversation with the Japanese teacher in the classroom. It is important that  both teachers have visible calendars so the class can see the logic flow of the exercise. Once you have performed both dialogue options as a model the remaining time in the activity (5 to 10 min) is spent by seeing which student can get the most people to come to their party. Ask the students to stand up and move about the room trying to find compatible calendars by using the grammar point. Offer a reward for the winner or top three students.

As a more in depth alternative have them leave 4 days free and only fill up 3 days with activities (one day for a party and two for other activities). Once a student has agreed to attend another student’s party they are now booked on one of their free days and must respond in the negative if another student asks about that same day. “Sorry, I can’t I have to go NAME’s party.”

For your lower level classes use a work sheet that has the target sentence on it. For higher level classes, try and force them to do it without the written prompt and using only the calendar. If you want the exercise to take a little a longer you can also have them decide what kind of party they are having. Give them 5 minutes to fill in their calendar but not much more or you will lose the class.

If done right, voila! The whole class will be up and out of their seats and speaking English! Try and make it a point to circulate the classroom and engage them with the model conversation. Also watch out for groups of students that just come together to chat. Go bust that up by English-ing at them until they move on. 🙂

A final thought: I genuinely thought this activity would take a lot longer than it actually did. When I first brought the idea up to the teacher I said it would take 30 minutes. I was way off. If you have a bright class and they get the idea right away you can really trim this activity down to 10 minutes and use it as a warm up. I think this format is a great shell for just about any of the Speaking+ activities in the New Horizon textbooks. Typically the teachers use Speaking+ as a chance for memorization practice and then reciting the dialogue in front of the class. While that is fine as an activity it doesn’t give the students a chance to generate sentences on the fly. Now, here is a dog in a party hat because, dog in a party hat.