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Hoppin' Japanese Popcorn

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Do you teach English as a foreign language to high school students in Japan? I do... and boy is it tough to get those kids talking, especially in my high school. One of the main barriers I have run up against is a strange shyness mixed with an almost genetic-seeming desire to not stand out. This mixture, when baked, provides long minutes of expectant, silent, looks from you and averted eyes from the students. You have to get them popppin. It is not easy, before you read further, you better examine your dedication and desire to do your job. First, you have to commit to entering each class fully-loaded with energy. Your kids will feel it and respond... if you are consistant. Next, keep them moving... as much as is realistic, but not as little as your companion teachers think they should. They need to interact with those around them, and with the world around them. Put them into the situations you create, with props, maybe even costumes. If you pull them out and make them stand out yourself.. there is a greater chance that the shyness will dissipate. Next step is to be sure and give individual attention. Each time they do group work, work through the whole practice with at least one group, two is better. Your kids WILL respond to your smile and love for them. Finally; believe in them. Fight any doubts that 'more experienced' teachers have in the kids. We know the truth; not all Japanese kids get into high-level high schools, but that does not mean that those who don't are stupid and unable to rise to challenges. Believe in them and expect them to do their part. Be yourself and let them know if they have not done what they need to. Believe in them, and they will believe you when you tell them they can do it.

Jared N. Garrett
Senior: Linguistics & TESOL
Brigham Young University
English Instructor
Tokai University Yamagata High School

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