I’ve been teaching English in Japan for three years with the JET Programme, and I love every minute of it! Teaching abroad comes with challenges, so I will use this blog to review my experience with the JET Programme as well as share some TEFL activities that have worked well with my students and give you tips to work better with your Japanese co-teacher. Enjoy!
Using the Communicative Approach in Japan
The Japanese education system is largely focused on lower order thinking skills such as memorization and comprehension, so introducing higher order thinking activities can be a refreshing challenge. Some examples include designing posters to introduce aspects of Japanese culture, categorizing new vocabulary words, and comparing the effectiveness of one English phrase over another for the given context.
Some students love learning English and are eager to participate, while others not so much. It’s hard to pay attention to someone lecturing in a foreign language! The Communicative Approach helps shake things up and get students involved throughout the lesson with friendly competition, small-group or pair activities, and bits of Western pop-culture. The TEFL certificate course I completed with OnTESOL gave me the skills and confidence I needed to teach with the JET Programme!
Co-Teaching in the The JET Programme
Through most JET Programme placements, Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) teach lessons alongside Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs). This can be either a blessing or a curse depending on who your JTEs are and what sort of synergy you have in the classroom. It comes down to this: communicate, communicate, communicate. Before your lesson, ask them what topic they want to cover, what grammar points or vocabulary to review, or what students are currently studying in the textbook. Offer your help with the lesson planning and give specific examples of what you’d like to prepare. During the lesson, you can check in with your JTE at any time. Questions like “Do you think the students understand what to do now?” “Have the students encountered this term before?” or “Shall we move on to the next activity now, or in five minutes?” can really help the lesson run smoothly.
After the lesson, ask your JTE how they feel it went, whether they think it was a good level for students, and what would be a good next step. Whether or not you take their advice, this feedback time is important for improving relationships with your coworkers and showing them that you care about their opinions. You can maintain a positive relationship with your coworkers through humility, good humour, and a positive outlook. In this community-based culture, healthy working relationships are more valuable than gold!