The Japanese government has decided to make English a formal subject for elementary school students starting in the 2020 school year. To prepare teachers for this change, a workshop called Teaching Elementary School English was held at Tennoji Campus on August 28 (Sunday) with about 150 elementary and junior high school teachers in attendance.
Presenters included Yuko Naoyama, a research officer at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s National Institute for Educational Policy Research, a government office that promotes adoption of foreign language activities at elementary schools, and Haruyo Yoshida, Vice President of OKU.
Ms. Naoyama gave a broad overview of revisions to the curriculum guidelines: “At present, foreign language activities in elementary schools are designed to build a foundation for communication skills. In 2020, however, they will be designed to build two fundamental skills; listening and speaking.” She asked elementary school teachers to “devise ways to interact with students using English and communication-focused activities where students share their feelings” and teachers in leadership positions to “avoid leaving actual teaching to external staff and help struggling teachers. by working with other schools as part of a team”.
She also shared practical lesson suggestions such as “relationships between sounds and letters”, “remembering conversational phrases by chanting*1 to a rhythm”, “teaching letters as a foundation for reading”, “teaching how to write letters”, “utilizing Phonics*2digital learning materials”, and “evaluation”.
In her closing address, Vice President Yoshida said, “OKU has partnered with the board of education to start a program for elementary school teachers to obtain a Class 2 license for teaching junior high school English in 3 years. The program will launch in November. Now that English is about to become a formal subject, it is time for us to work on English education together.”
Feedback from participants included: “The workshop was great because it showed me exactly how we should teach English in elementary schools, which will help me get myself prepared” “I think that most elementary school teachers struggle with English. I hope they will hold more workshops that those teachers could feel comfortable attending.” “I understand more clearly what skills I will need, what my role will be, and what challenges I will face.” “This reminded me that we cannot make kids hate English.”
*1 Chants: Pronouncing English while following a set rhythm.
*2 Phonics: Method of learning English by remembering letters and pronunciation together.