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Academy curriculum junior high school language courses textbooks

Textbook 1b and 2b

One Step Closer

Just got the prototypes back from the printer. A few small typos, but good enough for now!

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Academy curriculum junior high school language courses textbooks

Fluency Course Evolution IV

A huge hurdle, removed

The fluency course is chugging along, slowly getting closer to being a product we can sell.

I’m hoping to be able to offer preorders for next March/April soon in the new year. Stay tuned for more information.

We’ve had one enormous breakthrough, thanks in part to the pandemic. When we first created our course we put the questions on index cards. This had the advantage of being tactile, of allowing students to shuffle the question order, and of allowing students to share one set between them (so they have different questions to ask and answer).

One set of question cards (July, for JHS1 students)

This was fine for us, as we could print our own sets and they would last for a few years.

However, printing them for other people turned out to be almost impossible. I wasn’t able to find a commercial solution to printing 240 unique index cards for a reasonable amount of money. Printing them myself would have been hugely time-consuming just to sell them at cost (for the blank index cards and ink cost).

Fortunately(?), the pandemic meant that we didn’t really want students sharing our class sets of cards, so we stopped using them. Eventually we found a solution that a) solved the printing problem, b) solved the sharing problem, and c) actually turned out to be an improvement!

Instead of using the sets (we needed one set for every two students in the class) we created an A3 handout with the questions and answers on one side, space on the back to personalise answers, and a QR code link to a video. The video runs through the questions and answers and allows students to practice outside of class if they want/need to.

Question sheet for August (the back has the questions printed with space for students to write their own answers)

We’ve been using the question sheets for three months now (we added the QR code/video after the first month) and they’ve been working very well. In a way I like them better than the index cards, and they will make it much easier for people with larger classes to use our materials (instead of buying/printing/storing hundreds of sets of cards they just need to print one A3 sheet per student per month).

In the next update I should be able to show you our professionally printed textbooks. I can’t believe we are almost there. We started creating these materials in 2016!

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Academy curriculum JHS junior high school language courses materials publishing textbooks

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!

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Academy curriculum junior high school language courses publications publishing textbooks

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!

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Academy curriculum JHS junior high school language courses materials

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 🙂