Cambridge YLE Exams

Just got back from a day of training towards becoming a Cambridge Young Learners of English interview examiner. Surprisingly, it was both interesting and fun. I met some good people, learned a lot, and got quite excited about the exams and the Council of Europe Framework of Reference for foreign languages.

Jim George (Luna International) is in charge of running the YLE tests in Japan. He conducts training for examiners and provides information and advice for people wanting to take or offer the tests. He’s also a great guy.

The Grammar Lab, by Kenna Bourke (OUP)

The Grammar Lab, by Kenna Bourke, published by Oxford University Press, is a grammar practice book aimed at children aged 9-12, with interesting content and exercises, appealing characters, and stunning illustrations and presentation.

It consists of three books written completely in English, covering basic grammar points: how to use nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.

I have been using this series with Japanese junior and senior high school students. The grammar points are not new to them, but the books provide extensive practice and lots of examples of how to use language naturally. The fact that students already understand the content makes it easier for them to deal with the slightly difficult vocabulary and instructions.

I use The Grammar Lab as a homework supplement to regular classes, and find that with approximately 45 sections (37 units and 9 revision sections), one book is good for a year of classes. The production values on this series really are superb, and I really enjoy the illustrations and storylines/jokes. They do a great job of bringing grammar to life and making the drills interesting.

My only complaint with the series is with the Teacher’s Books (I bought the first one), which are only 40 pages long, 30 of which consist of answers to the questions in the Student’s Book, and the other 10 which consist mainly of introductions to the characters featured. This is really not worth 1,400 yen nor does it deserve to be called a teacher’s book. I was expecting a lot more in terms of supplementary activities, ideas for using the text, and advice, and was very disappointed with this.

The Student Books are currently available on Amazon Japan for just over 2,000 yen. This is slightly expensive for a homework/supplementary book, but for keen students who need extra practice at using junior high school grammar in practical ways, they are very helpful, and provide an easy way to incorporate grammar practice/drills into conversation classes.

9 Sep 2009, 6:51pm
business EFL eikaiwa kids


Variable fees: a crazy idea?

I had a wild thought last night as I headed home last night at 23:30 and thought I would throw it out there for consideration…

Has anyone tried/thought about charging variable fees based on how ‘good’ students are? (I’m thinking about kids here).

For example, you would have a standard monthly fee of, say, 8000 yen.
If a student participates actively in class, does all homework, and gets into English, after a month or two they would change to a lower monthly fee, say 6000 or 7000 yen. This is like an academic scholarship, and is dependent on their good behaviour continuing.
On the other hand, if a student does not participate actively, is disruptive, doesn’t do homework, then they move to a higher monthly rate (to compensate for the extra difficulty of teaching them), ie 9000 or 10000 yen. Their parents would be contacted a month before the change and warned. If the student’s behaviour improves, they would move back to the standard rate or even the scholarship rate if they become a model student.
I came up with this as I pondered what I will be doing once I ‘retire’ (won’t happen for a while), and continue teaching for pleasure rather than out of necessity. I suspect a system like the above might encourage parents to become more involved with their children’s English studies, as well as encourage less serious students to quit. I find that the pareto rule applies to our students, where a small minority of the students cause all the problems.
Obviously I would like to make a difference to all our students’ lives, and ‘rescue’ the less socially/academically able, but a lot of the time it’s not really feasible to make a difference with an hour a week when parents are not helping at their end with encouragement/interest.
Now, I am not going to implement this myself at the moment (we’re trying to grow at the moment!), but if we were at full capacity or oversubscribed I may consider it. What does everyone else think?
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