Covered

Hello again,

Sorry to keep you waiting for almost a week. I have spent the past 3 days at work marking exam papers. It was exhausting. Each day my brain just could not take in any information. Then last night, I went the other way and I got all hyper. My brain was racing! Anyway, I’ve calmed down a bit now.

I posted on our Facebook page that I had received the final image for the book’s cover and promotions. Now, I finally ave time to post it here. So please have a look and let me know what you think.

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It was drawn by the talented Chevi. I asked for a group of students cheering on as a crowd, in the iconic Japanese school uniform even though my school doesn’t have a uniform, with the school mascot, the triangle headed guy. She delivered!

Over the next few days, between more marking, lesson planning, book formatting, work training and extra jobs, I’m going to play about with the lettering and get the text for the cover sorted. I’ll post some samples here and I’d like you to tell me which one looks best. So please stick around, visit regularly and help us out with our huge, life changing project.

Cheers, me dears!

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Scatter-gories

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Afternoon all,

Now that I have (nearly) all the reviews safe on my USB, and laptop, and the other teacher’s USB and laptop, I’ve started to think about putting them together into one file to make the book. It’s the dreaded formatting stage. It’s presented a number of quandaries.

For example, movies, music and the like can be easily grouped together. What of the traditional subjects like fireworks, kimono and mochi? Yes, I can put these all in a ‘traditional Japan’ section, but some may seem out of place.

Then there are the people. Should I have a separate section for people or should I put their articles next to the products they made, such as a director with his movies in the movie section?

It’ll keep me thinking and maybe I won’t have a solution until I finish the book completely. However, if anyone reading has a suggestion, please leave a comment.

See you again soon

Marking Hell :)

Hello,

As you can see….

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I have a huge pile of marking…. And this is just the beginning. So forgive me if updates are sparse this week. I should be able to update at Mukaiyama as this is my other school’s tests and they can’t leave the building. However I will be more worn out!

The cover image is almost done and we are waiting for email responses from Studio Ghibli and Miss Alodia about using their images.

Speak again soon,

Matt.

Interveiwed

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Good evening folks,

It’s very late and I’ve had a tiring day. Only two lessons and a bit of organizing with the students files, turned into a marathon session of helping as students came to me for their saved files and for access to the computer room. Also, at lunchtime I helped a student with pronunciation for a speech contest. She surprised me because when we talk she makes quite a few mistakes, but she obviously practiced hard. I also recorded myself reading the speech so that she could listen to my pronunciation. However, we had some trouble transferring the file to iPod. So many ways to do it but not many ways that do not reveal private information, like emails. We got that done in the end though.

The exciting thing today was that I was interviewed by a student about the project. It’s for a broadcasting club competition. He has to read a report about one minute and 30 seconds long and he chose this project as the subject. Therein lies the problem, as I am very passionate about the subject and I gave him a lot of information. He will have difficulty making it short enough.

However, I was really happy to do this. Not only is it a chance to talk about the project, but it will also advertise the project to other schools. Another thing is that just by the fact that he wanted to interview me, it shows that he is excited and interested in the project too. That’s what’s really important to me because one of the main reasons I did this project was to make students more interested. We talked for a long time, with a teacher translating the hard parts. Below is a transcript of the interview

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1. What made you start this project?

My main reason is I wanted to do something exciting for the students. Lessons can be very boring and although the project is mainly writing, I think the goal and the end result is very exciting for all of us. But I think it might be too exciting. I think a lot of students don’t believe this s going to happen. Not until I show them a copy of the book. If I could have proved it before I think a lot more students would have tried even harder. The sad thing is we may only do this project the once, this year. Other reasons though, reviews seemed like a logical next step since everyone ad been learning how to express their opinions. Also, I was looking at what skills I can offer as a teacher that others can’t. It occurred to me that I’m a writer and I knw how to publish books. So I started thinking of ways I could use this for school. Also, I may be dreaming but I see no reason why this book cantbea big success and f it is we can help a lot of people by donating profits to disaster victims

2. What do you think when you read sentences students wrote?

Honestly, this sounds cliche, but I was really surprised. I knew students were capable, otherwise I wouldn’t have done the project, but so many students wrote long reports on their first draft. I really expected I would have to force more information out of everyone. So I was very happy. On another level, what the students write is very concise. Reading their work mad eve realise that a lot of what native English speakers write and say is unnecessary, but I think language learners choose their words very carefully. I hope the readers realise this. For example, a student said that her favorite groups music videos were very original. If I read this from a native speaker I would assume it was just a tag word to gain my interest, they didn’t really mean it because everyone says that so get viewers interested, but I believe that she really meant the meaning of the word: that the groups music videos are unlike any others. I hope this book will not only show Japanese schools what students can really do with English but help native speakers reexamine how they use the language too.

3. What would you write if you were a student?

Well, I’m going to be writing an introduction to the book, talking about ways I experienced Japanese culture and ways it has already influenced people around the world, but if I was writing a review for the book, I think I would write about my favorite Japanese group:Scandal. No one has written about them and they are my favorite.

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I don’t understand the lyrics so their music is probably all for girls, but I really like the songs. But more importantly I really admire the people. In a music industry with too many idol groups who just sing and dance, these four girls learned how to play instruments, write their songs, perform and they sing and dance. Theyve come straight from high school to a major record label and are really living their dream. I really think they should be supported for that and so that real music bands, especially girl bands, don’t disappear completely from the music charts.

4. What do you want students to think about by practicing this project?

I think this project works on so many levels. If they think small, it’s Simply another writing exercise to practice their English and expand their vocabulary,but i hope its a bit more interesting than that because they can write about something they love and I think that’s a big motivation to use language. Plus, they have the goal of their book being published and perhaps helping many people in need too. But I hope many students think more deeply about the need for this book. People all over the world are interested in Japan and that’s kind of huge. As far as I know, we are the only people to do a book like this, its the first of its kind and although it won’t be as in depth as many guides, because of the language problem, I think it will be a great starting point for people who want to know more and it will show the world what aspects of Japan’s culture are important to real Japanese young people today. So this book will help a lot of people interested in Japan. But I want them to think about the power of their words. Students often learn English and it seems boring with no real use, often the way English is taught is boring. But with these words that students have learned, studied and written down, they will spark people’s interest all over the world, they will be a gateway to people’s deeper knowledge and learning of Japan, maybe even the start of their lives in Japan. Not only that but if our book does make money then these boring English words you wrote will earn money that will help earthquake and tsunami victims improve their lives following the disaster. English will help people recover and get back to normal lives. And if this project goes on to be really successful, it may be one of the first changes in how English is taught in the future. So I really want students to look beyond their piece of paper and see the impact their English learning can have on the world if used in a certain way. Maybe then students will like English more.

5. What kind of people do you think of as potential readers of the book? (What kind of people do you want to read this book?)

As I have already said, this book cannot be the most in depth guide to Japanese culture available because it is written by language learners while others are written by native speakers with expert knowledge of their subjects and years of experience and research available to them. We are just a few people in a classroom. That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything but it is what it is. We can’t compete. So we play a different game. Our book will be interesting and easy to read because the language may be simple. So younger people can read it. It will also be a small, cheap “gateway book”. Maybe someone with a casual interest in Japan buys it because it is aches, they read students reviews and they gain more of an interest in Japan. So they buy more books, learn the language and eventually go to Japan to study or teach or live… Its completely possible. There may also be people who are searching for what really is popular in Japan now and they don’t trust other guide books because they are inevitably written with a foreigners perspective. Our book is different. Hey can get the real up to date opinions of current Japanese high school students.

However, I think the most important audience for this book is other teachers, students and people within Japan. It will show people that language learning doesn’t have to be boring, language learning can be creative. It will give other teachers ideas of what to do in the classroom and perhaps make great collaborations on projects even bigger than this. We are only three teachers and five classes of students, but we made this book and I’ve talked about the effect this book could have. Imagine what we could do if many schools worked together? I also hope it will inspire students. Not only show them that English isn’t boring, but show how they can make an impact with their learning and skills and show them how any skill can make a big change if you just think about how to use it. Japan’s English education has been struggling for many years. One of the things holding it back is the attitude of many language learners and the inherent shyness of Japanese people. If this project can open even a few minds it will be successful. It doesn’t have to be about English either. Please anybody, go forward and use your maths skills on a great life changing project, go and use your science, your French, your computer programming, your drawing skills, your basketball skills, anything at all and just know you can use them to do whatever you want.

Typing

Good evening,

It’s late evening as I write this. It’s also been a busy day, but the students are far into their final stage of the review book project.

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The weather was a tiny it cooler this morning so I decided to ride my bike all the way to work. It’s fun and good exercise, plus I get to enjoy the great views, but it often has me hot and tired by the time I get to the top of the mountain. I thought I would have time to recover, but I was wrong. As it turned out, I had three lessons in a row first thing with marking that needed to be done before those classes. This is the disadvantage of not knowing my schedule from day to day. So I taught the three lessons and then I still didn’t get much of a break after that!

But enough about me. You’re here to read about the project. I’m pleased to report that the students of 4 of the 5 classes had their final lesson today. They were in the computer room typing up their final draft of their reviews. Some of those students are quick! Then, some of them are really slow too. That’s ok. Nearly everyone finished.

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A few finished after school, but in the lessons there was a mad rush to save files as the bell chime creeped closer. We had a problem, because we had bought a few USB devices to save students data, but students were finishing too close together. So we ended up having the students save on their desktops. The problem with that was it was only temporary. If the students shut down the computers, then the file saved would disappear. We risked it anyway, and after the end of my three lesson run – while craving a cold drink and a comfy chair – I went from computer to computer with my USB drive saving each file in turn. I had to do this because the IT teacher wasn’t there today and only he knew how to access the network computer and save all the files together. So it was tedious, but the work got done.

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As it turned out there was only one student who ignored our numerous instructions to leave the computers on, and he did delete two other students work, but we fixed the problem later.

In general everybody has done really well, but there are just a handful who are still writing their first draft. It’s a shame, but normal at any school. Tomorrow I have one more lesson and then the students will be finished. Other than some promo material and the prizes for our Indiegogo fundraisers, their bit is done!

See you again soon

Interview

Hello,

It’s really stormy tonight…. So this is a quick update in case my Internet signals can’t make it through the nasty weather. Some snippets ahead:

1. Students are in the final stages of writing: the last review drafts are being chased up and the students will start to word process their final reviews later this week.

2. I’m still considering about contacting Miss Alodia to use pictures of her in our book. I want to, because she is the queen of cosplay (a very Japanese thing) and I’d like to write an introduction to the book which explains this and includes others, like Danny Choo who I already got on board. However, the thing I have realized is that Shopro the company behind Doraemon (a very popular character here in Japan) and his marketing said we can only use his images in the introduction and if he is featured alone….

3. I’m being interviewed about this project by one of the students for the broadcasting club. This interview will hopefully be translated into Japanese and it will be entered into a competition. So not only do I get to better express some of my reasons and motivations for this project but it will reach a wider audience and help advertise the book.

That’s all for now folks and folkettes! I’ll be back in a couple of days with news of the first finished reviews! I hope…. !

Doraemon

Hello again,

I’ve just received word from the Doraemon department of Shopro company in Japan that we can use original images of Doraemon in our book! the downside is that we cannot use him with the reviews. He must be in the introduction and he cannot appear with other characters. Also, we cannot say anything bad about him in the book. So it looks like we will be recommending Doraemon! We were going to anyway, I think. Everybody loves that blue earless cat robot from the future.

Also, regarding pictures, I’ve received a few drawings from students. Some of which may be included in the book.

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Later, folks!

Drafted

Morning fellas and ladies,

We had a fun weekend with the culture festival, and two days off school to rest and recover….

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… But now it’s back to work!

Almost all of the first drafts have been handed in now…. I think. I still have to check some.. So there is another big pile of marking on my desk. It’s a common sight. Some of those will be second drafts but I don’t know which until I get that feeling of deja vu and check my class lists. Ah, iPads are so useful too. I use an app called Teacherkit. It’s great for keeping track of students. It’s free too.

Anyway, must get on. I’ll maybe update again, after the marking.

Tooddle-pip

Cultured

Howdy-doodly-doo!

We are like in the middle of the schools culture festival. That means that everyone is very busy. However we’re having lots of fun. All the classes have designed a particular event to raise money, play games or just have some fun. I joined the English club today at the other school. I had a display of English comic books, English movies, TV dramas, English food and English books. I think people enjoyed it, but there weren’t many visitors. I think all of the Japanese public are afraid of English. Tomorrow I have the event again and I am at Mukaiyama high school. I have the whole day in the media room to show videos, the first grade skit project as well, so it’s going to be so fun. The screen in that room is huge and the sound system is fantastic. So basically it’s like having my own cinema. Wonderful!

Some attention has been taken away from the project for a little while. However, last week the second grade students had some class time in which to finish writing the first draft reviews. As I said, some of them I’ve marked and returned them. I made a few corrections but they were really much better than I expected. Whereas some reviews were too short, I asked questions and when I felt an important point had been missed too. So I encourage them to write more and most of the students responded quickly with a longer review.

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That said, still about half of the students have not handed in the first draft. They have until Thursday – that’s the deadline. It was good to see the students working in class. I didn’t get a chance to see them working over summer. So this was my first time. They work really well and personalities of each class are different, but generally they help each other and chat about the subjects.

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Now, the students aren’t thinking about the reviews. All of the school is focused on the culture festival. It’s one of the few chances for the high school students to really have fun. They create shops or events in the school and many of them dress in costumes. You always find boys in schoolgirl uniforms and maid costumes. They like to do funny performances. Quite often there will be a group who will perform an AKB song. That’s the local idol group. The girls group.

It’s a good time and I’m tired from today. So, I must sleep before returning to the chaos.

Bye-bye

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Fundraising ends!

The EndDecember 1st, 2012
Our big fund raiser is coming to an end... Here's when. Thank you for all the support! We all really appreciate it.

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