8 Questions and Classroom English

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Name of Teacher:Max Pensack
Class/Grade/Language Level: Adaptable
Textbook and specific lesson: Warm Up
Goal: Build basic vocabulary and grammar, and gain confidence in speaking and answering questions in English.
Preparation: ~1.5 hours, once. Materials can be used again in each class throughout the year.
Class time: 10 minutes.

In my experience, JTE’s often have a fairly rigid conception of the curriculum, and adhere to this curriculum to the detriment of basic, spoken English skills. The following warm-up is a wonderful antidote to this trend, and it can easily be adjusted to work with any elementary grade (see guidelines, below). If you have the opportunity to employ this starting with 1st graders, it has a tremendous effect on easing the transition into JHS. We do this warm up every class, with every elementary school grade.

I. Materials:

1. Large poster, featuring the 8 questions below. To be displayed in the front of the class.

2. Laminated A2 sheets, each with a different weather condition (i.e. Snowy, Sunny, Rainy, Windy, Cloudy)

3. Large calendar, clearly showing days of the week and dates (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc…). We use a magnetic board, so we can shuffle the dates around each month to correspond to the proper days of the week.

4. Large poster with numbers 1-10, each number a different color. To be used for the color and number reviews in 1st and 2nd grade.

5. Clock. Use the one in class, or make one out of cardboard and magnets to be displayed on the chalk-board.

6. Laminated A2 sheets, each with one of the four seasons (i.e. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter).

7. Large “How are you?” poster, featuring hand gestures and emotional states. (We use: Great, Pretty Good, OK, Not So Good, Terrible, Terrific, Hot, Cold, Hungry, Thirsty, Tired, Sleepy, and Happy.)

8. Large “Classroom English” poster, featuring gestures and basic actions. (We use: Look, Listen, Sit Down, Stand Up, Next, Close Your Eyes, Open Your Eyes, Louder, Be Quiet, Jump, Skip, Touch Your Head, Turn Around, Look at the Board, Shake Hands, Shake Your Hands, Stretch Your Arms, and Look at Your Partner.)

9. Rhythm machine (optional)

II. The 8 Questions:

1. How is the weather today?

2. What day is it today?

3. What is the date today?

4. What time is it?

5. What season is it?

6. What’s your name?

7. How old are you?

8. How are you?

+Classroom English

III. How to use the Questions:

The final goal is to have your 5th and 6th grade students doing this warm-up on their own, with almost no help from the ALT. (This also allows you some free time to speak with the homeroom teacher, and fill him/her in on your plan for the day!) The age guidelines below are aimed to get you there. Depending on your students, adjust your warm-up as you wish. These are merely guidelines.

1st and 2nd Grade: Questions 1 and 2. Colors and Numbers, Classroom English
3rd Grade: Questions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, Classroom English
4th Grade: Questions 1-8, Classroom English
5th Grade: Questions 1-8, Classroom English
6th Grade: Questions 1-8, Classroom English

For grades 1 and 2, I lead the entire warm-up. I ask the question, they repeat the question together, and everyone answers together. Whenever possible use gestures, and remind them to use gestures as well… After I ask the original question, there is a foll0w-up: Here I show a card (or point to a part of the poster), and ask if it is the original word. The students answer no, and tell me what it is. See the example with question #1 below.

ALT: “Ok, 8 Questions! Number 1: How is the weather today?”
Students: “How is the weather today? It’s sunny!” (Gesture)
(ALT shows the rainy card)
ALT: “Is it sunny?”
Students: “No, it is rainy.” (Gesture)
(ALT cycles through the other cards, until he/she returns to the sunny card.)
ALT: “Is it sunny?”
Students: “Yes, it is Sunny!”

With question #2, colors, and numbers, I try to incorporate our “Days of the Week Song,” “Rainbow Song,” and a “Find the Number Game” as a review.

Classroom English is to be done standing, as a chant with rhythm. Use a rhythm machine, and run through the words, performing the gestures. At first this is simply a listen and repeat exercise, but it pays off in later years.

Starting in grade 3, I have a class leader come to the front and ask the questions. If they can do it without my help, that is best, but they usually need some prompting. If they are used to these questions, by the time they reach grade 4, they should be able to ask the questions themselves. This provides the grammar backbone for the 8 questions. At the beginning of grade 3, teach the students that a normal sentence is formed by saying “It is ~” and a question is formed by switching the two words to create “Is it ~?”

Also, 3rd graders will answer question #8 for the first time. This is to be done like Classroom English, standing, gesturing, and chanting with a rhythm machine.

In grade 4, I move the students away from answering together on the follow-up questions. For question #5 this would look like:

ALT: “Number 5, seasons!”
Class Leader: “What season is it?”
Students: “What season is it? It’s autumn.”
(Class Leader shows the winter card, and addresses the first student)
Class Leader: “Akane, is it autumn?”
Akane: “No, it is winter.”
(Class Leader shows the spring card, and addresses the second student)
Class Leader: “Rui, is it autumn?”
Rui: “No, it is spring.”
(Leader cycles through summer, and returns to the autumn card.)

4th Graders can also replace “it is” with “it’s.” At this point, question #8 and Classroom English are to be done along with the ALT, not in the listen and repeat style of previous years.

In fifth and sixth grade the class leader runs the warm-up. The ALT should only jump in to help with pronunciation, help the class momentum, or correct grammar.

IV. Follow-Up: The role of the JTE has been purposefully open-ended in this lesson plan. Depending on your JTE’s English language ability, they usually are most helpful in teaching the students new materials as it is first introduced. They can also serve the role of the ALT in the above dialogues, often providing a great example to kids too nervous to speak English. Do your best to create harmony and work together!

If you plan on incorporating this warm-up in every class, as we have done, it is best to start at the beginning of the school year. Draw up a good outline and have a little chat with your JTE’s, and you should be ready to introduce essential materials and a multi-year focus into your elementary school curriculum. In my opinion, this is the most important part of my students’ elementary school English education. I consider anything else the students learn to be a bonus!

Feel free to contact me with any questions: mpensack@gmail.com