School · school events · Teaching

Life Of An ALT: Open School/Parents Day in Japan

Who am I to judge? For I am neither Jesus nor Judy.

Miss Rory.

Ahh “Open School.”
Two words that send shivers down the spines of Japanese teachers and ALTs alike.

Open School is the one magical day per term where the parents can come and observe classes. Vom.

At my Junior High School I am T2 in most of my classes, so I’m just there to look pretty and beam my big gaijin smile at the mums and dads.

But I lead all classes at my Elementary School – so hello, pressure?
I was somewhat overwhelmed that I was going to be observed all day, however parents were only to come in for one class – the last period at the end of the day.

Thankfully, my open school class was scheduled with my tantou (as explained in my daily routine post, “tantou” = the teacher who is responsible for me at school), who suggested we rehearse beforehand.
She’s one of my favourite people in Japan, and I was eager for us both to do well so I took some time out of my schedule to meet with her, get comfortable with the digital materials and rehearse our banter. We were like a multinational Mel and Sue.

While all our classes are especially fun (I have no idea where she gets her energy from, she’s the type of person who runs at eleven every single day) we decided to make a special effort to make things as interactive as possible – using a mix of the digital materials, and our own stuff.

By the time Open School rolled around for us – we were on We Can 1 Unit 8: “What do you like?” using food as a grammar point.

Food is the great connector (Japanese people in my experience are especially big foodies) so I was glad it was a topic that could especially pique the students’ interests. (The previous unit was directions, and frankly I was knackered after that.)

To get them prepared for the vocabulary, I gave my tantou my stash of food flashcards which she went over a few times with her homeroom prior to our lesson.
Her students are especially eager and genki, so they picked it up fairly quickly.

Our Open School lesson ran a bit like this:

✍ Greeting
I greet all my classes the same way every time: I pretend to be a sergeant major and shout “OK EVERYONE STAAAAAAND…UP!”
(The boys especially love trying to beat their pals on who can stand up first.)

I then flex my muscles and shout “Oooh, I have the power!” Gets a laugh every time.
(My physics teacher Mr Obee* used to do this and it’s always stuck with me.)

ME: Let’s begin, so good morning/afternoon everyone!
STUDENTS: Good morning/good afternoon Miss Carla and Miss _________.
ME: How are you?
STUDENTS: I’m ___________________.
ME: Oh good, how are you Miss _____________?
TANTOU: Oh I’m great, thank you. How are you?
ME: I’m fine, thank you very much! *sergeant major voice* Ok everyone, you can siiiiiiiiit…DOWN!

Small talk.
I’d prepared a short presentation about my favourite foods from the UK. A lot of them tend to recognise fish and chips** but I also included sausage and mash. For desserts, I showed sticky toffee pudding and a jam roly poly.
I also featured some of my favourite Japanese foods (takoyaki, ramen, gyoza and matcha ice cream) and had a little vote on the best. It worked pretty well and got them hyped up.

Japanese desserts are great but MAN what I would give for a bowl of jam roly poly with custard…
Picture credit.

✍ Vocabulary
Although they were pretty familiar with the vocab by this point, we drilled it again a few times – especially to get their pronunciation down. Plus it helped to show the parents what they’d been learning.

✍ Keyword Game.
Man, the Keyword Game is the world’s easiest game to prepare and for some reason my kids LOVE it. Basically, we put all the flashcards on the blackboard (Japanese blackboards are magnetic, so I attach magnets to all my flashcards so they can be visable at all times), choose one of them as a keyword.
The students make pairs and put one eraser between them on the desk. They put their hands on their heads and when they hear the keyword, the first one to grab the eraser wins a point.
I always demonstrate the first round, then ask someone to come to the front. (I always camp this up, calling the student Mr/Miss _______ and making sure everyone listens to their new teacher.)
Eager to impress mum and dad, we had a bunch of volunteers so had about five rounds – keep it an odd number so there’s always a winner.

✍ Listening activity.
We used MEXT’s digital materials from We Can 1 to demostrate to the parents how we use these, and how the students complete their workbooks.

✍ MRI Quiz.
As a fun cool-down, I presented a shorterned version of this MRI quiz from ALTopedia. It’s actually an activity I’d used for my third graders, and it had KILLED. But thought it was a fun, easy activity – and would get any bairns who were starting to lose interest back in focus.

✍ Chant
We ended with a chant/song that came with the MEXT digital materials. Some of the songs can be a little strange, but the one in this unit isn’t too bad. They were quite familiar with it, so I played it twice at normal speed, then got them all to stand up and sing it faster. We emphasised to use nice big voices, gestures and big smiles.

Wrap up
I wrap up the class the same every lesson – I get the kids to stand up (sergeant major act again – “STAAAAAND….UP!”), and I compliment them with what they have specifically done well in the class. So I told them their pronunciation was good, and thanked them for volunteering with activities.
ME: That’s all for today, so for now I’ll say *dramatic pause* GOODBYE EVERYONEEEEE!
THEM: Goodbye Miss Carla, and Miss Haruna!
ME: See youuuuuuuu! *Big wave*
THEM: See youuuuuuuu!! *Big wave back*

And that’s it. I then left while my teacher had a thirty minute meeting with the parents to discuss the students and they gave feedback on the lesson.

Usually in my classes, I’ll try and make sure there’s a free discussion section with plenty of time for the students to practice amongst themselves, with me and the homeroom teacher observing and helping. This is usually in the form of an interview or survey game.

However we’d discussed how this would be logistically difficult with parents taking up space in an already crowded classroom, plus they tend to take around 15-20 minutes out of a 50 minute lesson by the time we have demonstrated the target language and how to complete the worksheets.
So on this occasion we decided to omit this and focus on quick, dynamic activities.

In short although I wasn’t there for the discussion with my tantou, it seemed to go down well with the students – they all wrote me thank you letters at the end of term, and a lot of them referenced the games and activities we specifically did in Open School.

It was definitely a stressful planning period and day – but still, ever a new learning experience!

~ Carla

*Mr Obee now has a Science Youtube channel and it’s the most wholesome content on the internet. There was even a merch drop.

**I’m actually not a huuuuge fan of fish and chips – it’s a little too heavy for me and I’m more of a chips and scraps kinda girl. But it’s an easily recognisable British food to many Japanese people. Plus I always make the connection explaining the batter is crispy and similar to tempura which they all know – comparing your life to theirs always keeps them interested.

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