Jul 1, 2010

English lessons at The Japanese School- How different are they? [Primary]

Thanks to the Embassy of Japan, we, JETs are given a chance to visit the primary schools which the Japanese study in Singapore- both the Changi and Clementi campus of "The Japanese School".

Today was my first classroom observation of the Japanese School. :) As some of you may have known, I used to teach primary schools as well, hence classroom observations are not uncommon to me.

Together with a CLAIR representative and another JET participant, we first met the principal of the Changi campus, and then visited about 13 classes of Primary 2 classes and 1 class of Primary 1 students. The kawaii Primary 1 students had mistaken us as parents of their classmates, who came to observe the class. :D

For English lessons, the classes are split by ability, from E1 to E13. E1 is the best class, usually made up of native speakers, or those who have stayed in Singapore for 5 years or more; while E13 is the class for students who have just joined the school, usually students who have just arrived from Japan.

Going by their language ability, their English lessons are tailored. Different standards set for different classes, and of course different forms of engagement techniques are used. Classes are also kept small, with less than 10 students per class. This allows students to learn at their own pace, together with the peers of similar ability. There is also more individual attention from the teacher, as the class size is kept small.

Interestingly, out of the 13 classes, only 1 class was using powerpoint slides to teach during the 1 to 2 periods. (This is however not representative, since we only observe a few minutes for each class.) For Singapore schools, slides are prepared beforehand by the department and hence teachers will use these slides as a basis to teach. Teaching with powerpoint slides is very common in Singapore primary schools.

Students will attend 2 kinds of English lessons, one with the Japanese teacher and one with the English native speaking teacher. With the Japanese teacher, she will explain grammar structures etc in Japanese. This was observed in the Primary 1 class, whereby most of the class is carried out in Japanese. The children were learning alphabets "T" and "U" then. Perhaps in more advanced classes, the Japanese teacher will cover more in English.

Mmm.. personally I have forgotten how I learnt the alphabets. Afterall, for us, we learnt the alphabet song during our kindergarten days. That's eons ago...

An interesting thing to note though, the alphabet song they used was different, from what I remembered:

Our All-Familiar Alphabet Song

The Phonetic Alphabet Song

(unable to find the exact one on YouTube, here's the closest that I found.)

After classroom observation, we also had a chance to speak with a few teachers who have taught in Japan before. :) A very great session for us to find out more about the teaching situation in Japan.

Thanks, Embassy of Japan for such a wonderful arrangement!