21 Mar 2020, 3:53pm
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Fluency Course Evolution III

Things are getting real

We sent out our first shipment of materials yesterday, to one of our test schools 🙂

A huge milestone. Getting ready to do that resulted in even more changes to the course, so it now looks something like this:

Fluency Course 1

(paid components)
Texts 1a
Texts 1b
Activities 1a
Activities 1b
Workbook 1
Question Cards 1

(free components)
Record sheets (student)
Answer keys (teacher)
Answer keys (student)
Quizlet sets

There are basically 3 main strands to the course, allowing teachers and schools to pick and choose which components they want to use. Of course, using all the components will reinforce things and provide students with effective input and practice, but the option to use only one or two of the strands is also there.

The texts. Each of the text books contains 60 texts with comprehension questions, so they could be used to supplement an existing course.

The activities. These are vocab tests (based on the texts and the Quizlet sets) and dialogues. They mainly supplement the texts.

The workbook and question cards. These provide speaking and writing practice using 240 questions. They could be used to easily provide more speaking practice in an existing class.

At this rate it looks like we’ll be able to provide (discounted) samples by the end of the year and start selling for April 2021. Exciting stuff!

7 Mar 2020, 2:40pm
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Fluency Course Evolution II

This thing is evolving fast!

Getting ready for the new academic year, hopefully starting in April.

In the process of printing and editing the Fluency Course, we have happily stumbled onto a new iteration. The course is now fully modular.

We pulled everything out of the textbooks except the texts, so now we have a series of components that teachers can pick and choose from. The full course involves using all of them, of course, but it is now possible to use only the texts, for instance, or only the verbs/question cards/etc.

Right now the components look like this:

FLUENCY COURSE LEVEL 1

  • Texts 1a -60 texts with comprehension questions divided into 24 units. Text length starts at 45 words at the start of the course and increases to 80 words by the end. Every fourth unit has a single, triple length text instead of the usual three texts per unit.
  • Texts 2b -60 texts with comprehension questions divided into 24 units. Text length starts at 80 words at the start of the course and increases to 100 words by the end. Every fourth unit has a single, triple length text instead of the usual three texts per unit.
  • Workbook 1 -writing practice of 240 questions and answers that match the conversation question cards.
  • Verb practice 1 -48 verbs for oral practice with a written exercise.
  • Vocabulary practice 1 -48 vocab quizzes based on the Quizlet and text vocab.
  • Conversation question cards 1 -240 questions on index cards with model answers. For students to practice in pairs.
  • Reference sheets 1 -vocabulary and questions with Japanese translations for each unit.
  • Quizlet data sets -48, one for each unit of the text, including vocabulary and questions.

Levels 2 and 3 are also evolving in similar ways.

I think the most interesting components for most teachers will be the texts. This volume of texts at similar levels is difficult to find in existing commercial textbooks, particularly in ones aimed at Japanese students.

A close second will be the conversation question cards and accompanying workbook, and maybe the verb practice.

We will end up selling some of these, most likely the texts and workbooks, and giving away many of the others as digital downloads for teachers to print. It all seems to be coming together 🙂

Fluency Course Evolution

Kaizen, kaizen, kaizen

Another month, another evolution in the Fluency Course. We’ve been playing with professional printing and design, and in the course of that have figured out that we probably need to change some of the components of the Fluency Course.

We started out with monthly texts for the students, which worked well but were time-consuming to print and somewhat fiddly.

Then we moved to 4-month texts, which worked well as the content for years 1 and 2 levels up every four months.

However, once we take printing costs and possible end uses into account, it seems to make sense to split each year of the course into two 24-unit volumes.

Not only will this reduce the cost of printing considerably, it will also allow some schools to use a single volume with their students, working at a slower pace or maybe splitting each unit over two weeks.

They could also use 1A with first years and 1B with second years, for instance, or any other combination they like.

After this change, the components of the Fluency Course are as follows:

Fluency Course Level 1

Printed materials:

Text 1A -24 units, approximately 220 pages
Text 1B -24 units, approximately 220 pages
Workbook 1 -48 units, approximately 110 pages

Free downloads/printables:

Teacher manual
Quizlet files (48 units)
Audio files* (120 texts)
Student record sheets (12 monthly)
Student reference sheets (12 monthly)
Conversation cards (240 index cards -one set needed per 2 students)

*audio files not yet available

We should have some prototypes of the professionally printed materials by the end of this month. Exciting stuff!

The Fluency Course 1 Video

Component Introduction

I promised to make a video introducing the Fluency Course materials for people considering helping us trial it.

So, er, here it is. Please forgive the shakiness, I was holding the camera in one hand and manipulating the materials with the other 🙂

Here is the full list of materials:

  • Question Cards: 20 per month, you need one set for each two students in the class
  • Reference Sheet: one per student per month
  • Workbook: one per student
  • Textbook: one per student
  • Record Sheet: one per student per four months
  • Verb answer sheets: one for every one or two students
The Fluency Course Year One introduction

I hope you found that useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

The Junior High School Fluency Course

Need test partners from April 2020

After five years of writing, testing, and editing, we finally finished writing the final volume of the Fluency Course last November. You can read more about the course in the previous post.

It’s been a wonderful experience working with my writing partner Dan E. and testing the materials with students at Cambridge English.

Now we are ready to take the next step.

The next step is to test the materials. We need to find out if they will work as well for other people as they do for us. We also need to find all the mistakes that inevitably lurk within the 100,000 words of content in the course 🙂

Another question is whether the materials work if students are not doing extensive reading alongside them. I suspect they will, but would feel better having actual data.

So we are looking for a few schools that would be willing to test the materials with their students from next April. It might be a bit difficult to jump into the later stages of the course, so we are only hoping to test the year one content (matches JHS first year textbooks and school curricula).

The materials

The Fluency Course consists of a number of components. It is designed to be modular, so schools/teachers can choose which elements to use with their students. The various elements are somewhat independent from each other.

  • the Fluency Coursebook contains vocabulary quizzes, reading/listening/speed reading texts, verb drills, verb quizzes, and dialogues (there may be audio files for each text, but these are not ready at time of writing)
  • the Speaking Cards contain questions and model answers for speaking practice
  • the Fluency Workbook contains question and answer writing practice
  • the Record Sheets allow students to write their scores and times and keep track of their progress
  • the monthly Reference Sheets show all vocabulary and questions for that month along with Japanese translations
  • the Quizlet data sets contain vocabulary and questions that match each week of the course so that students can preview before class

The Fluency Course has 48 units, organized four to a month. The first volume of the first-year course (1a) is the easiest. The second volume (1b) is slightly harder and the third (1c) harder still. At Cambridge English we only have 44 classes a year, so we just skip the units that fall on days the school is shut.

Test partners

We would expect test partners to:

  • have a number of (first year) junior high school students
  • have weekly 60m+ classes
  • test the materials and give us feedback
  • pay a nominal fee per student to cover the cost of materials
  • understand that materials are in development and thus not ‘pretty’

The course could also work with second and third-year junior high school students as supplementary material, but is designed to go with the first-year JHS curriculum.

If you successfully test the first year and wish to continue using the materials you will also have access to the second and third year courses.

If you are interested in helping us test the Fluency Course, please get in touch (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter or comment below -my handle on all is the same as the name of this blog) and we can discuss whether the materials might be a good fit for you. We are only looking for a few schools, and are hoping to have different types of school in terms of size and curriculum.

If all goes well the Fluency Course should be available to purchase normally in a year or two 🙂

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