Teaching English Conversation classes in Japan can be challenging because discussions don’t spark very naturally. Japanese people are very social and friendly in their personal affairs, but in the classroom they do not speak until asked to speak by the teacher. This cultural behaviour can make an English Conversation class slow and boring. In this article, I will show you how the TESOL certification course I completed with OnTESOL helped my lessons become more engaging.
Integrating Other Skills When Teaching English Conversation in Japan
When you go to a restaurant with a friend and start talking about events that happened this week, it is likely that you first acquired that information from an article, social media post or video. One thing I learned in the OnTESOL course is that the Communicative Approach requires teachers to create scenarios for students to apply the language point the acquired during the lesson. With this in mind, I started by asking my students to bring a newspaper article that they found interesting to present it to the class. I set the chairs as if we were sitting on a restaurant and asked students to share the story with their peers. Everyone else in the class, including me, is required to take notes and ask questions. As I sat in the table, I became one of them rather than just a teacher and this erased the stigma of having an authority figure tell students when to speak. It was still a class presentation, but the conversation was much more fluent and spontaneous.
As students became more comfortable with the process, I became more flexible with the requirements and allowed students to talk about music, movies and events that happened the previous week. This encourages students to watch at least one movie in English or read one newspaper in order to keep up with their reading and listening skills.
As I learned about their tastes, I started to bring the material to class. Playing a video in the classroom can be much more powerful for sparking conversations because the students react to the emotions that occur in the moment rather than referring to their distant memory. Furthermore, delivering the class around one major topic rather than having students present a different topic is more effective for sparking debates in the English conversation class.