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Published by Compass, Jazz English is a speaking textbook for lower-intermediate students. It works very well with junior high school students that have been studying for a while and are ready to take things to the next level in terms of speaking, as well as with high school and I imagine lower level university students. I have only used the first textbook, so this review does not address Jazz English 2, nor the companion workbook (which I am going to try soon).
The textbook consists of ten main units and three supplementary ones, with all units following the same pattern: new vocabulary, conversation prompt questions, a dialogue, a short reading section, a crossword to practice the vocabulary, a short reading task, exercises to support speaking, and a final speaking activity.
The focus of the book is for students to develop more autonomy while speaking, and to try to have longer and more complex conversations. It does this very well, at least in my experience, with students that have a solid base of vocabulary and English exposure, and who are motivated to improve their conversational skills. Our ‘advanced’ classes, consisting of junior high and high school students that have been studying for four or more years took to it very well.
This has been a real find for us this year, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for classes similar to the one described above. The course requires a lot of student input, so this book would not work well with unmotivated or reluctant learners.
Anybody else using Jazz English?
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I just finished teaching a home run lesson (strange thing to say, as I am from the UK and don’t even understand how to play baseball) and am now compelled to write about it.
From this semester I have started teaching a class in a computer lab (you can read about the disastrous second lesson here). Today was a very different experience.
We had another tough class last week, where I gave the students too much work to do in too short a time. This week I wanted to give them a break, and put together something a bit lighter.
You can see the full lesson plan on my teaching blog.
This class has been weird for me. Partly it’s because of the physical properties of the computer lab, where students are much further away and more inaccessible than I am used to. Partly it’s the dynamics of the class, where I communicate with the students via blog, notebook comments, and email. And partly it’s because I have never taught this particular course before, so I’m making it up as I go along.
Today we explored a theme that I am very interested in having students think about. Part language identity poll and part wake-up call, the class examines Japanese speakers of English and asks the students to consider where they would fall on a scale ranging from non-English user to native-like speaker.
It seems I got the timing right this week, as the students all finished on time, but what really blew me away were the comments. I’m going to post a few below. The brackets show comments that were in Japanese originally. Translations are mine and may be inaccurate
Today’s work was good. I think about why we learn English again. I want to train my English skill, especially listening and speaking skill.
(I noticed that my English is really poor. I want to be able to understand spoken English at the very least. I’ll need English once I start working, so I want to get better at it while I am still a student)
Today,my motivation rised. I want to become well to speak English like them.In the future, I would like to interview without an interpreter.
It is good for me to see Japanese-speaker in the various phases.I think I am in no English, especially listening, so I will study English everyday and improve my English skill.
(I was completely shocked. I think I will study English more. Thank you)
It was nice to know a few Japanese who has different English skills. I noticed be able to speak English fluently is pretty hard.
Most students said similar things, which made me incredibly happy. My goal for this class was to get students thinking about why they might be studying English, and motivate them to push a little harder.
Now, this lesson is by no means perfect, and I’m already thinking about how to update and improve it, but I wanted to share it as it went down so well.
Has anyone done anything similar?
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I am a big fan of David Lisgo‘s work, especially the Switchit card game.
Recently he has made a new set of card games based on verbs. Unlike Switchit, which is similar to UNO, these are more like a combination of Go Fish and Happy Families or Rummy.
Play is simple: players are dealt a number of cards and they try to collect sets of four by asking other players: if the other player has the cards, they hand them over; if not, the asking player takes a card from the middle (like Go Fish). Play continues until all the cards are gone or the time is up.
One caveat is that the game if played in full can take a long time: I have found setting a time limit or removing cards or sets from the deck helps speed things up.
Our students enjoyed the new game and I liked it very much as well. Students are talking a lot more, using full sentences, and getting a lot of practice with verb forms. These cards are a great addition to a teacher’s toolbox.
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AGO is a card game, similar to UNO or Switchit, that practices simple question and answer patterns. It is ideal for upper elementary or junior high school and above. Students play to get rid of all their cards: the first person to do so is the winner. The game mechanics are easy, and almost all students already know them from playing UNO.
There are eventually going to be three levels: aqua, green, and orange (hence AGO, but I suspect that the pun with eigo was also a factor in naming this product). The first level, aqua, contains very easy questions like ‘do you like…?’ and ‘what season is it now?’. There is some scope for personalization.
The green level just came out at the end of last month, and includes more complex questions, more scope for students to make their own questions, and more ‘game cards’ (‘pick up’, ‘jump’, and so on).
The orange level is due to be released next year.
The production values are pretty good and the cards look and feel great. Well worth the 900 yen, especially if you teach junior high school and up.