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English at Junior High School

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 5 months ago

English at Junior High School

Selina Humphrey


In English Classes at Junior High you will experience an extensive range of content, style, students’ attitude and enthusiasm, and English ability. Despite junior high school spanning only 3 years – the difference between a first grader’s English and that of a student in the third grade is incredible, and it is this range and these differences that create an unpredictable yet enjoyable working environment.


Typical lessons at Junior High School


At Junior High School, students will study a range of subjects including, Japanese, Maths, Science, English, Social Studies (including History and Geography), Art, Home Economics, Technology, and P.E. As the ALT, you will primarily be involved with English classes, however you may be asked to join the students for other classes, such as PE, cooking or Japanese Calligraphy. Knowing about the students’ other classes is also a great way to engage them in and out of the classroom.

In Japan, lessons are typically 45/50 minutes long, depending on the schedule for that day. Unlike in some countries, Japanese students will remain in the same classroom for all their lessons, with a 10 min break between each class. A small, seemingly irrelevant point, but in fact, it is an important factor when you remember that by 4th period the students have probably been sitting in the same seat for most of the morning and are somewhat restless. Starting with a coordinated and constructive warm-up can boost and energise even the most lethargic of classes. Another method may be to get out of the classroom altogether, arranging a different room for that period, studying in the library, computer room or even outside are just some of the ways to avoid a stagnant atmosphere developing.


English Lessons at Junior High School


English Classes at Junior High School are often expected to be a little different from the rest of the students’ schedule. The implementation of games, activities and the presence of an ALT set English classes apart from other studies, and as a result most students will look forward to studying English.

With rare exceptions, all the classes you will teach at junior high will be team-taught together with your Japanese Teacher of English (JTE). At junior high, the students have 3 to 4 lessons of English per week, depending on whether or not they opt for English for their elective courses. Although all schools will differ, you will most likely to be scheduled to teach each class at least once in a week.

The English classes will progressively work through the textbook designated to that grade. Depending on your JTE and your team teaching plans, lessons may or may not take on some form of predictable pattern. This can be both beneficial and detrimental to your English lessons with the students. As an advantage, the students know what to expect, and may feel more comfortable in a predictive learning environment, where they know what is expected of them and when. On the other hand, they may become bored with this systematic routine approach. It is up to you and your JTE to select what fits the needs of your students, whether they need continuity or a stimulating interlude and when to apply it.


Expectations of the ALT in the lesson


As the assistant to your JTE, your responsibilities within class will be to support the Japanese teacher and to provide students with the “real thing” in terms of English. Your role may fit a range of requirements, from reading textbook passages, to explaining and introducing new activities, to assisting students on a one-to-one basis. Overall your main role is to ‘assist’ both students and teachers and to bring new ideas into the classroom.


Student and Teacher attitudes in the lesson


The culture of the Japanese classroom is very different to that of our home countries. In spite of recent changes, Japanese culture in the past has not encouraged individualism. This often has the effect of no student being able to answer a question without the approval of the rest of the class. You may also find that when asked a question the students and teachers seem able to suffer long periods of time in an awkward silence – something we are not used to in our home countries. However, once the students become used to you, you will find they become gradually more willing to independently give you their own answer or opinion.

Another issue is that many Japanese lessons, English or otherwise, are heavily teacher-centred, where by the teacher gives out information and students take it at face value and learn it. There is a shift moving towards a more student-centred approach, but change is slow.

Despite this there are many ways to initiate student involvement in lessons and to encourage them to answer independently. These differ for all students and all classes, but there are some basic factors that succeed across the board:

  • Ensuring a comfortable learning environment will help students overcome initial fears of making mistakes. Give positive reinforcement and verbal encouragement, both to the class and at an individual level.
  • Maintain a fast paced lesson, try not to go for too long without student involvement. In this way you can be sure to keep the students attention, and not dwell too long on one particular thing.
  • Allow mistakes. Explain that through making a mistake, the correct answer can be reached easier. Also, avoid correcting students in class on every mistake, in doing this you risk reducing that student’s confidence in their ability to speak English.


The following is a typical day at junior high school.

8.00 Students come to school by bike and on foot They must be in their homeroom by 8:15
8.35-8.35 Short home room Students have all their classroom based lessons in their homeroom, where they also eat lunch
8.40-9.25 First period
9.35-10.20 Second period
10.30-11.15 Third period
11.25-12.10 Fourth period
12.10-13.00 Lunchtime Students and teachers all eat the same school lunch. The town's school lunch centre cooks and delivers lunch for the school. Wearing aprons and masks students serve and eat lunch with their teacher in their homeroom. Students are not allowed to bring food or drink to school
13.00–13.15 Break time Students use this time to have club or student council meetings, talk with teachers or relax
13.15-14.00 Fifth Period
14.10–15.55 Sixth Period
14.55-15.10 Cleaning time (Soji) Having cleaned their classrooms since nursery school, students are used to this job. Each student is assigned an area which they must clean (of course, everyone isn't too enthusiastic about this but many students take a pride in keeping their classroom clean)
15.10-15.20 Short homeroom
15.20 After school activities Students are involved in Student Council, clubs, and after school study. Japanese students spend a lot of time at school (compared to British children that is). Almost all students belong to a club. Practices often go on into the evening


Of course, times in the above table are approximate. The timetable varies depending on the day of the week and school events.

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