We have finished the first half of second term. Mid-Terms have been checked and returned, and all-in-all, I'd say things are going well. Already, in the new curriculum, I've had to change a few of the readings, but I'm now able to look ahead and anticipate a little better which articles or readings will be troublesome and quickly replace them before we get there.
Overall, the scores on the mid-terms were very good. There still seems to be a wide divide, though, between the different levels of students. Some students, however, have surprised me with how much they prepared for this exam. Very few students, in my opinion, performed below their ability.
I'll have to reassess the vocabulary sections on the exams. Too easy. I think it's a mistake NOT to reword the meanings. I'm not entirely sure that, in matching words and meanings, the students are REALLY being tested as to whether they KNOW the word, or whether they have merely learned to look for a specifically shaped or spelled keyword in the definition, thus allowing them to match a word and a meaning without really understanding either one. I'll have to address this in future tests.
So, what's going on?
First, I bought a couple new books and received a sample book from Oxford with their latest catalog so we have three new books in our library.
Curious George Rides a Bike
I had this book when I was a child. I enjoyed it then, and it's still enjoyable today!
Curious George Goes Camping
A strong case can be made that these aren't age-appropriate for junior high students, but the students requested more Curious George, so I obliged.
Rainforests (Thank you, OUP-Japan!)
This is perhaps too high a level, both in language and maturity for junior high, but we also share the NELP library with the Life Science Course students, and I think THEY'LL be interested.
Next, we have some pictures from our classes:
It's sometimes difficult to get 'normal' pictures of my third grade class because they're always doing something funny. This isn't even the funniest picture from third grade this week, but I swore I wouldn't post the others.
I'm happy to report that the third grade class now has eight students.
One of our students came back to Seishin after more than a year in Europe, and we are all really glad she's back.
The first graders just finished their mid-term projects.
The students had to research a person, place, thing or event from history, write an essay and make a presentation about it.
This student did a superb presentation about King Tut: specifically, theories about the death of King Tut and the possibility of a conspiracy! Very cool.
The students all did a lot of research.
We had presentations on: the history of cell phones, King Tut, Agatha Christie, the domestication of dogs, Adolf Hitler, Florence Nightingale and the differences between European and Asian dragons!
Here, students are doing research for their essays and presentations about dragons and Agatha Christie..
A rare picture of me, taken by my third graders.
Note to the second graders: you notice how the picture does not focus exclusively on my balding head? :)
The first graders are continuing work on the newsletter, including their column about my different neckties.
They are also doing research for a column on festivals.
And another column on recipes.
And here is more artwork for the column on interesting books in the library.
Finally, here is a picture of a student during reading class.
Which actually brings me to my next point. Recently, our school was visited by teachers from cram schools, who wanted to see what was going on, etc. A couple of teachers who passed by the NELP room were a little puzzled because the class looked very different from what they had seen in the past: apparently, not much was going on, and it looked quite casual.
I think this deserves an explanation: it was reading day. On reading day, students are expected to independently get books, read books, and talk about their books. It's a little difficult, as you can imagine, to keep students on that task for 45 minutes.
When the idea of devoting my valuable class time to in-class reading was first suggested to me by one of the advisers to the NELP program, a professor at Seishin University, I was quick to dismiss it. I felt that reading was something students could do outside of class and I saw no reason to give up my teaching time to something that was better done outside of class on the student's clock. However, my adviser asked me to give it a try, and I'm not sorry that I did. Reading has increased exponentially. Although it may look like not a lot is going on, there's more to reading time than meets the eye. The students have been doing very well at recommending books to one another, encouraging one another in their reading, and in helping one another with improving the quality of their book reports, and by extension, the reading experience. I highly recommend in-class reading. I have discovered that, contrary to my initial dismissal, it is not a waste of time at all.