Thursday, July 01, 2004

Ideas and suggestions for the English Club

The following is a kind of write up that I did before I met with the leadership of the English club, just to get my head together more than anything else and to brainstorm some ideas.

Yeah, the TOEIC... I have a love/hate relationship with that thing. On the one hand, it is important for our students to get some kind of certification for skills that they have worked so long and hard to acquire. The TOEIC test is well regarded in the Japanese and Korean business world, and according to other people's stories, it will become more well regarded at least in the near future.

On the other hand I hate it because lots of time is spent in exercises like we have had in the past, answering some questions from the TOEIC test that are just way over our students' heads. They will never be able to profit as much in two hours from that kind of study as they would with the same time working on materials that matched their levels. If the TOEIC test is supposed to me a measure of a person's ability to communicate in English, then anything we do to help the students improve their language ability should help them with the test.

The membership's English skills are important, and I think we should encourage them to work together with the common goal of raising thier TOEIC test scores AS WELL AS other skills. We should also encourage them to do English outside of the English Club. This time just isn't enough. If they spend a few minutes every day, if they commit themselves to a program of developing their English skills, they will improve greatly in the 4 years that they are here, and some of them can graduate from here with well over a 400 on the TOEIC test.

Therefore, I think we should work on some activities that will help them grow as people and as language learners, but I don't want to and cannot force anyone into anything. Here are some ideas:
1. spend less time on fun, game-like activities, and spend it on working together to improve levels
a. sempai helping kohai to develop along a chosen path
b. language learning strategies, setting up individual goals and strategies
2. create English Club matierials, learning matierials, hints for English learners, books in English on topics such as Yokkaichi, Mie, Yokkaichi University, Gero Onsen, Ise, life in Japan 50 years ago, recipes, travel guides, whatever. Put them on the internet, publish them, sell them for money for the club.

There is a difference in levels among the members. I think that is natural and may be something the members could work out. Put themselves in groups, with the members of the highest level group teaching the lower level people. Teaching is a great way to learn, because they not only have to be able to do it, but tell someone else what they need to do. That would take some of the pressure of you to do all the work.

The club will take a club trip at some point, I would suggest that we come up with some project that they could put together and have a product to show at the end. A play about their lives as students. Art work about how they feel when they think of graduating. A visitors guide in English to the place that they are going, with pictures and interviews of the people that live in the area. Make two or three groups, send them out with notebooks and a digital camera, and have them go to town. Have them put the thing together in English, and then publish it for sale to the town or on the internet. Then I can stay at the hotel and read a book while they are out doing their work.

These suggestions were met with mixed reactions, but on the whole they seemed to be relatively attractive. Now it goes on to the membership.

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