Specialty Discussion Notebooks

Brian Elliott Smith, School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan

Terms them ‘sermon” notebooks which means ‘specialty’ in Japan. Started with lesson plan idea with simple rules for helping teach English. Students chose the topic, keep newspaper articles, things found on web etc. All they were supposed to do was come to class and talk about notebooks to class but students misinterpreted it as having to present a speech to the class and got very stressed!  So then just asked them to present in small groups.  Wanted to use notebooks to encourage self-expression, tap into intrinsic motivation and go beyond the textbook. Range of topics was impressive and enabled students to pick up specialist language.

Surveyed students to see if they liked the exercise as lecturer was concerned that it wasn’t really working. Although they understood objectives the surprise was that they didn’t think that hearing about others notebooks was good for listening skills and they did not update notebook gradually, they crammed night before! Reason why it didn’t really work was because the class was multicultural and students had problems understanding students from other cultures.

Students generally liked idea of the notebook but got fed up within same topic every week. Problems came from lack of motivation because students are overworked in their degree programme which is very demanding. A lot of the students are working part time and are not necessarily in Japan to learn English so they have other demands on them. Students felt activity was very time consuming.

Will do the activity again but will give students more freedom to change topics, will change pace so less intensive and will consider peer evaluation. Need more research on the dynamics of the multi-cultural classroom in Japan.

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