The Language Teacher
03 - 2000
Who Would Be the Best Teacher?
Kumamoto YMCA Language School
Key Words: Integrated Four Skills
Learner English Level: Low-intermediate
Learner Maturity Level: High school to adult
Preparation Time: minimal (photocopy teacher profiles)
Activity Time: 30 to 45 minutes
The interest in education-related issues demonstrated recently by many of my learners, as well as the Hadley & Hadley (1996) study on Japanese university students' perceptions of a good teacher, led me to develop an exercise entitled "Who Would Be the Best Teacher?" The aforementioned study caused me to think deeply about my own teaching, as well as what my students really value in pedagogical approaches. It was in an attempt to discover more about the latter that I formulated this integrated-skills task, targeted mainly at low-intermediate learners of English.
My initial inspiration for this activity was a useful exercise designed for ESL students in the United States (Rooks, 1990). Rooks asks students to work in pairs or groups to choose from five profiled teachers who would be most suited to fill a fictitious job as a science teacher at an American elementary school. Since an exercise that suits my students' own cultural context is usually much more interesting and relevant to them, I decided to develop my own adaptation of the Rooks exercise that would attempt to fit the current Japanese socio-cultural context.
1. If necessary, I review with students the following target language that can be used to express opinions:
2. Students work in pairs and ask each other who their favorite teacher was in junior high school and why. This is to pique the interest of the students for the main activity.
1. I explain to the students initially that they are to imagine that they are on a panel that is going to hire a junior high school science teacher for one of the best schools in their city or town. First, students are divided into pairs. Every student is given one sheet of paper, each of which has a written profile of a teacher (please see appendix). As an option, each student in the working pairs may be given the paper to take home and read before the following class. This way, the students can look up difficult vocabulary in the paper prior to doing the main activity in class. Whether the students are given this homework or not, I tell them that they should not show the written text of their teacher profile to their partners, but that they may show the picture of the teacher to their partners if they wish.
2. Students then use a Teacher Analysis Sheet to ask their partners about their teacher profile. Students take down the information in point form on that sheet, being careful not to repeat word for word what their partners have said:
- Teacher's name:
- Principal's impressions of the teacher:
- Students' impressions of the teacher:
- The teacher's philosophy of education: (Hint--Ask your partner about the last sentence in his/her teacher profile)
- The impressions you and your partner have of the teacher:
- The rating you and your partner give the teacher: (10/10 is perfect)
They should summarize this information in their own words and check for understanding with their partners.
3. Finally, I have students discuss their own impressions of their partners' profiled teacher with their partners by synthesizing all of the information that they have heard and by forming their own opinions. (As some students may have had little practice synthesizing or summarizing information, it is best that the teacher familiarize such students with these procedures before attempting this activity with them.) During this part of the activity, I circulate among the pairs of students to make sure that they are using the target language for expressing opinions. Students should then try to agree with their partners on an overall rating (out of ten) for each teacher, which they write on their Teacher Analysis Sheets. At the end of the activity, the students call out these ratings to the teacher, who writes them on the board. The class decides who the winning candidate is, based on the total scores of the ratings from all of the pairs of students.
I have found the following questions to be useful in stimulating further pair, small group, or whole class discussion:
1. What were the most important factors for you in deciding who the best teacher in this activity was (i.e.: the teacher's picture, etc.)?
2. Would a Western junior high school have similar or different criteria from a school in Japan for hiring a teacher? (Students may also ask the native-English-speaking teacher this question).
Acknowledgments: The chart-like format for presenting the target language in the first pre-teaching activity was suggested by Miki Tsukamoto. Fred Anderson gave many valuable suggestions during the writing and re-writing of this activity. The illustrations of the teacher profiles were drawn by my wife, Akiko Bradley.
Hadley, G. & Yoshioka Hadley, H. (1996). The culture of learning and the good teacher in Japan: An analysis of student views. The Language Teacher, 20(9), 53-55.
Rooks, G. (1990). Can't Stop Talking. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
Appendix: Teacher Profiles
Teacher Profile #1
Hiroshi Kobayashi, age 40, is married with two children. His daughter, age 15, and his son, age 13, are both junior high school students. He has been a junior high school science teacher for 15 years. The school principal where Mr. Kobayashi works says, "Mr. Kobayashi's students always get into the best high schools, but I kind of feel that he is quite strict with the students. They are so tired from all of the homework he gives them that some of them fall asleep in the middle of his classes." A few students say that the real reason they sleep during his classes is that he is a boring teacher who never lets the students ask questions or work on experiments in groups or pairs. On the other hand, he is appreciated by many students for volunteering enthusiastically at the school's Science Club. Mr. Kobayashi really believes that a teacher must be tough in the classroom and that most teachers today are too easy on the students.
Teacher Profile #2
Junko Morishita, age 40, is married with three children, aged 14, 12, and 10. She has worked at the same Junior high school for 23 years. Her students love her because she makes them study hard, but at the same time, she is very kind to them. She also allows them to ask her many questions and do work in pairs and groups. One problem that she has, though, is that she is late coming to school at least two times every month. The principal of the school where Junko works says, "I really think that Junko is a very good teacher who cares for her students, but she wastes too much time allowing the students to work in groups-she should lecture to them more!" The principal is also worried that Junko's students aren't doing as well on the high school entrance examinations as the students of some of the other science teachers. Junko herself, though, feels that while what the students learn is important, the students really need a caring teacher like her.
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