Tuswadi , Aichi, Japan | Sat, 10/25/2008 1:02 PM | Opinion
Teaching English in primary schools is not an easy task. It needs careful steps and appropriate techniques so that students enjoy the lessons and learn the language well. One of the characteristics of children is that they are fond of being noisy during lessons; to anticipate this, teaching English in a team may be preferred.
In one of the Japanese primary schools where the writer has monitored classes once a week, namely Shinden Primary School-Kariya City, the English teaching is conducted by a team of teachers. This program has been practiced for years with financial support from the government.
The main instructor is the classroom teacher, while the volunteers who conduct the lessons with each student group are assistant English teachers, mostly foreigners from Russia, Indonesia, Germany, Brazil, China, the Philippines and Myanmar. They are international students and English teachers living near the school.
The classroom teacher’s main job is making the lesson plan and preparing the materials and teaching aids to be presented, along with the instructions to the students and teaching team on the required language learning tasks. Because it is a primary school English lesson, most of the activities comprise playing games that encourage students to actively practice speaking English by using short expressions or sentences, with oral examples or routines set up by the team teachers for each step.
The class students are divided into groups of 3-4 pupils each. Each student group is led by one teacher. Then based on the instructions given by the classroom teacher, they do the language activities based on the lesson plan.
For several reasons, this program is both successful and effective.
Firstly, it is very helpful for the classroom teacher in managing the class. She just gives instructions on what to do and watches the class learning English. She also can observe the effectiveness of her lesson plan and listen to the good English of each team teacher.
Secondly, each student gets sufficient attention from their group teacher so that they can learn effectively. Next, the students tend to learn good pronunciation from the team teachers because most of them are good speakers of English.
Could this creative way of teaching English be done in Indonesian elementary school English classes? Of course, it could be done here too. Elementary school English teachers could work together with students from the English department of a nearby university.
Those who have already done the Practice Teaching Program at school or (PPL), are a good resource to help to carry out effective English teaching in a team. Or in the beginning, teachers can ask for the assistance of the English teachers from local high schools.
Of course some funding support is needed to help pay the transportation fees of the team teachers. Shinden Primary School in Japan gives 2000 yen per meeting for each team teacher to cover their bus fares.
The steps are as follows; firstly, the school manages the timetable of the English lesson. It should be done in the afternoon after one o’clock p.m. In Shinden Primary School, English lessons take place from 14.30 to 15.30. At this time most of the foreign students who act as team teachers are free, so that they can come to the school.
Secondly, just as the Japanese primary English teacher does, the classroom teacher can make the lesson plan and materials for the target students, including the required teaching aids. It should be kept in mind that the main skills taught to primary students are listening and speaking. Thus, the activity is mostly oral communication. Then, the teacher explains the language activities to the team teachers before the lesson begins. Finally, on the day and at the time designated the lesson is held, involving the whole team.
If this teaching technique is well-prepared and conducted regularly, at least the classroom teacher will learn better English teaching techniques from what she has observed during the lessons, so that later her ability to teach students herself will be improved. If there is a discussion forum with the team teachers after the lesson, she will receive feedback and advice on how to improve the effectiveness of the lesson.
Furthermore, collaborating with the students of a university English department and English teachers at a high school will be a good start towards ensuring continuity in learning English so that in the future the students of junior high schools will not have to repeat the use of the same English materials that will have been learned and mastered in elementary school.
The writer is a high school English teacher at Sigaluh Banjarnegara 1 and a fellow at the Monbukagakusho Teacher Training Program at Aichi University of Education in Japan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org