The beautiful weather in San Diego was the perfect venue for our year 5 Follow Up Training. 10 ATs (assistant teachers), 3 trainers, 1 advisor and 2 Japan Foundation representatives, 1 from Japan and 1 from Los Angeles, gathered for 3 intensive days of training from November 17th – 19th at a hotel in the heart of downtown. We were near the Gaslamp Quarter and within walking distance of the convention center, where this year’s ACTFL Conference was held.
The training outcomes for the first two days were focused on two separate but related topics. On the third day, 1 AT (assistant teacher) from the year before, and 1 LT (lead teacher) also from the year before, came to lead several one hour sessions covering topics of interest to the current ATs.
Prior to attending this training, the 10 ATs were paired with another AT teaching at the same level, for the most part. The pairs were asked to decide on a structure or function they will be teaching with their LT (lead teacher) after the training is over and they return to their site.
On day one, Yo Azama sensei, our main trainer, did an all day session on the creation of standards-based lesson plans and how to implement the grammatical structure they decided upon through the creation of a context for using that structure. The purpose of using a context is to get away from direct grammar-based instruction. He taught the ATs to create input activities, moving from simple to more complex, using the 3 modes of communication through communicative activities.
The following morning, the pair of ATs were required to teach a lesson for 15 minutes of the structure they decided upon for the training, demonstrating what they learned from Azama-sensei’s instruction. The ATs and Azama-sensei created a rubric to determine how well they taught their lesson. After each demonstration lesson, the pair received feedback from everyone and shared how they thought they did and what they could have done differently. Each lesson was recorded and uploaded to Google drive, where everyone attending the training had access.
After the demonstration lessons on day two, Leslie Roberts, with the help of Mari Maruyama, led a session on Classroom Management and Classroom Control. We compared differences between behaviors in a classroom in Japan versus behaviors in a classroom in the US. The ATs shared behaviors they were surprised by after being in their classrooms in the US.
We discussed the importance of teaching the correct behaviors in the Japanese classroom and practicing those behaviors with the students. It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach these cultural behaviors in class so that when the students go to Japan, they would not be embarrassed. It is important for students to know why they must observe certain rules, such as taking off your hat (respect), not eating or drinking in class (not appropriate), not chewing gum (not appropriate and difficult to pronounce Japanese with gum in ones mouth), not walking in front of the teacher while he/she is talking (rude), not throwing things (inappropriate, rude), etc. We were unable to cover every aspect of classroom management, but raised the awareness of stressing Japanese cultural behaviors, which will help in managing the behavior of the class.
The group shared and practiced techniques for getting the attention of the students, how to get students to switch from speaking English to Japanese, and how to address discipline problems. We also discussed the importance of setting boundaries for students, but the value of letting students know you care about them and letting them know when they have done a good job.
Many classroom control issues arise when transitioning from one activity to the next. We stressed pacing and giving clear directions along with modeling the activity. The pairs of ATs were assigned to demonstrate one of the activities they created in Azama-sensei’s session and teach it to the group. Among the group, we had ‘students’ who were discipline problems and the ATs teaching the activity had to discipline those students using strategies we covered in the session. Each activity was recorded and feedback regarding the teaching of the activity as well as how they handled the discipline issues was given to each pair. The pairs shared how they thought they did and what they could have done differently.
The morning of the last day of training, the ATs were asked to reflect on the training and list 3 points they learned, list 1 point the ATs will have difficulty implementing and 1 point the ATs still did not understand. The purpose of this activity was to clarify and answer any questions the ATs may have about any aspect of the training before returning to their assigned sites.
Hitomi Kameyama, a year 4 Assistant Teacher, with the help of Shunji Iwasaki, another 4th year AT, came to conduct sessions on topics such as “Idea Share and Materials Swap,” “Sharing Strategies That Worked: I Need Help With…,” “Moving Toward Independent Living,” “Ideas for AT’s Summer Project.” Tomoe Nakamura, a year 4 LT (lead teacher) conducted a session with her AT, Hitomi Kameyama on “What Can You Do To Help Promote Your Program.”
The training ended with Mari Maruyama sharing Japan resources, reviewing policy and having the ATs complete an evaluation.
Every year, we schedule the Follow Up Training in the same city as ACTFL in order for the ATs to be able to attend the National Conference that year after the training. Next year’s Follow Up Training will be held at Boston, where next year’s ACTFL will be held. Come join us!