“Hello, my name is Jansen, and I’ll be your new ALT!”
Teaching at two senior high schools for almost four years, I’ve greeted my share of new students. With April just around the corner, it’ll once again be time for the self-introduction, or jikoshokai, lesson. While some ALTs may bemoan the idea of introducing themselves to hundreds of new students (again), it’s also an opportunity to set the mood and expectations for students who are new to your classroom.
This is how my jikoshokai has changed throughout my time in Japan:
When I first came to Japan in 2015, my self-introduction lesson was all about me. My jikoshokai was a PowerPoint presentation featuring many pictures of my hometown, a map of Canada, the various cuisines, as well as the different cultures that reside in my country. While interesting to the students, it became extremely repetitive. I remember having to repeat the same lesson 24 times in one week. At my visit school alone, I had to introduce myself 12 times in one day. Even I was sick of talking about myself.
After this experience, I reflected upon my “lesson.” Repeating the same presentation was tiresome. I also realized that my lesson had very little student interaction. Having identified these problems, I began thinking of ways not to wear myself out and to encourage more speaking from my students.
Six months later the new school year started. I remembered how my first round of self-introductions went and made an effort to correct my mistakes. Luckily, this time I only had to present jikoshokai for the new first year students. I used the same PowerPoint from before, but made changes to include more interactivity. To save myself from exhaustion, I included more questions to ask the students. I also gave them time to ask me any questions. For this lesson, the student to teacher speaking ratio was around 30:70.
Again, I felt that I did not have the students talking enough. I realized my biggest mistake was focusing too heavily on teacher-student interaction; rather than student-student interaction. I also noticed there was a nervousness in the air. It was a new school year, and many of the students did not know each other very well. These were the newest obstacles to overcome for the next wave of students.
A year later, I scrapped the PowerPoint presentation altogether. I changed the focus from a class about me to an opportunity for the students to introduce themselves to each other. At the beginning of the lesson, my JTE and I would demonstrate our own self-introductions. Following this, I provided them with a worksheet to fill out information about themselves and their classmates. The worksheet contained questions about their hobbies, favourite foods, and where they live. I thought this was simple enough and hoped it would have them engaging in more conversation. This time around, the students were up and talking to each other. At first, I thought this was great; however, as I walked around and listened to their conversations I noticed they all had practically the same answers: “My hobby is listening to music.” “My favourite food is sushi.” “I live in Japan.” Subsequently, once they asked all their questions and recorded them, the conversation would come to a halt.
Once more, I looked back at the lesson. Compared to the previous year, I felt there was an improvement with the student-teacher speaking ratio – it was now about 50:50. However, the new problem was that I spoon-fed them the questions and I did not provide them with enough examples to help bring flavor into their interactions. I assumed that they would be able to carry on a conversation without a teacher’s help. Yet another stumble on my part. While it is important to trust students and their abilities, I had failed to guide them in discovering the knowledge needed to maintain a conversation. Furthermore, although a good resource, providing them with a worksheet hindered their ability to have a spontaneous conversation. The worksheets had the students stopping the conversation and writing their partner’s answers. Equipped with this knowledge, I created new objectives for going into my third year of teaching.
It took over three years of trial-and-error to be where I am today. Each year I learned something new and I used that knowledge to improve on my lessons. Through this journey, I have discovered that students are not the only ones learning. Teachers are learning too. Learning from my failures has been a humbling experience. I used to think that failure is the opposite of success, I was wrong. It is a part of it. Accepting failures, constantly learning, being open to uncertainty, and striving for self-improvement are the marks of a great teacher.
JIKOSHOKAI LESSON PLAN
The goal of this lesson plan is to ease students into a new learning environment with knowledge they already have. I created this lesson plan with simplicity in mind and an emphasis on interacting with everyone in the classroom.
Here are tips and a sample lesson plan when you design your first jikoshokai lesson:
- Encourage speaking. This will help set the expectation of speaking in English in class.
- Everyone should interact with each other.
- Teach the students that mistakes are always going to happen but their message will still get across.
- Praise them for their effort and encourage them to praise each other.
- Write down the key examples on the chalkboard.
|ALT & JTE demonstrate a short, easy jikoshokai. Focus on simple sentences.||My name is…|
I am from…
My hobby is…
My favourite food is…
My favourite subject is…
|My name is…
I am from…
My hobby is…
My favourite food is…
My favourite subject is… By using very simple sentences, it helps to get them thinking in English.
|Ask simple questions about yourself and your JTE.||What is my (his/her) name?|
Where am I (is he/she) from?
What is my (his/her) hobby?
What is my (his/her) favourite food?
What is my (his/her) favourite subject?
|This is a quick exercise to see if they were listening and to encourage them to speak.|
|Write different categories on the board. Ask students to provide examples.||Countries |
Cities in Japan.
|By asking for student input, it provides ideas for students when they begin introducing themselves to each other.|
|Demonstrate with your JTE how to ask follow up questions.||Who is your favourite musician?|
What is your favourite movie?
Which school did you come from?
What are you doing this weekend?
|Having these follow up questions will help keep the conversation going and opens up the students to share more information about themselves. Encourage students come up with their own questions.|
|Encourage politeness.||It was nice to meet you!|
It was a pleasure to meet you!
I also like (hobby/food)!
I hope we can be friends.
I like your (something they see).
|Establishing these habits will help the students show appreciation for each other and build confidence.|
(Set a timer for 10 – 15 minutes)
|The students will use what was learned and introduce themselves to 5 classmates, the JTE and ALT.||This will be the perfect opportunity for the students to get comfortable with each other. It is also a great time to get to know your students.|
|Ask volunteers to introduce themselves in front of the class.||You might hear crickets, but sometimes there are students brave enough to speak.|
Remember, students will be feeling nervous about being in a new school environment. They will most likely be unfamiliar with their classmates. The first (jikoshokai) lesson should be as relaxing as possible. Walk your students through the different steps and provide solid examples while offering chances to be creative if they want to flex their English muscles.
No lesson is perfect and there is always room for improvement. I hope my experience and knowledge will help you on your journey in front of the classroom.
Jansen is a fourth year senior high school JET. When he’s not teaching you can find him exploring the streets of Tokyo.