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Annual Review

I’ve been doing an annual review of the year, as well as looking ahead to 2011, and it’s been incredibly useful.

I’ve managed to do both much more, and much less, than I thought. Here is the 30-second report card:

  • (A+) presentations and general exposure a big win: I presented a LOT this year, and really enjoyed meeting people at conferences all over Japan. Hoping to continue that next year
  • (A) Cambridge English a solid satisfactory: we grew about 50% and greatly improved our programs
  • (B) university work went well: my classes need work but are improving
  • (B-) I completed all my MA assignments for the year, albeit at the bare minimum level
  • (C) I did not write nearly enough, and didn’t manage to finish a couple of really interesting projects
  • (D) my work/life balance is still completely out of whack, although I did manage to start watching my diet/exercising

How was your year? More importantly, what can it tell you about how to approach 2011?

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A Christmas ‘Treat’

Merry Christmas! Here is a link from my distant past that you may or may not enjoy (warning: it’s fairly catchy):

http://web.archive.org/web/20051119202358/http://www.human.gr.jp/matu/eigo/uta1/

Created by the very talented Mr. Matsumoto, who also taught me almost everything I know about teaching English in elementary schools.

Tragically my recording career begins and ends with this track.

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Story Street

I had a chance to check out Story Street (from Longman) this week. As you may know, I am a huge fan of reading and we use a huge range of readers in our kids classes, but I never had the chance to look at it properly before (I had glanced through it in a bookshop once, but didn’t really like the illustrations).

I was pleasantly surprised. I tried levels 1, 3, 6, and 10 and they were well-received by students. In fact, our students rated them higher than the Follifoot Farm readers (my personal favorite for making the jump from phonics to reading). Of course, FF is a series designed to provide decoding practice, so it is perhaps unfair to compare it to a full on kids reader series, but still, I was taken aback.

The stories are fun, the characters and situations develop as the levels progress, and the steps between levels are handled well. In fact, I liked the series so much that we’ll be introducing it to our classes as supplementary reading material.

There are a few things I don’t like:

-there are not enough books at each level, which means that we couldn’t use it as our main reading resource
-there are no word counts available, either on the books nor from the publisher
-the list of books for each level on the back of the books is wrong, as certain titles are out of print (this will be a problem when sharp-eyed kids notice that they haven’t read ‘all the books’)

None of these are huge problems, but they do mean that Story Street comes across as a little less polished than, say, the Oxford Reading Tree. Still, I’m looking forward to having our students explore the Street in the new year. I’ll report back after we’ve used it for a while.

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Best practice in teaching (are we doing enough?)

A great TED talk, courtesy of Marcos Benevides’ blog.

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Power Seminar in Nagoya

I went to the latest Power Seminar in Nagoya last Sunday. It was a really long day (10-19:30) and studying for so long with short breaks really took its toll, but I really enjoyed the day and got a lot out of it. There were four presenters, each presenting for 90-120 minutes on their area of expertise.

Kim Horne, on Creating a Culture of Character in the Classroom;
Kaj Schwermer, on Teaching Children with Games and Activities;
Jeffrey Scott, on Dramaturgy and the Art of Classroom Management;
and Peter Warner, on The Four Stages of the English Alphabetic Code.

Overall, it was a great and well-organised event, and well worth the time and money.