Reader's Forum: Considerations for activity and task selection in Japanese elementary school English communication lessons

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Richard J. Sampson



Early in 2008 the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) revised its course of study, with the introduction of a period of Foreign Language Activities (FLA) in the 5th and 6th grades of elementary school (MEXT, 2008). Although the widespread implementation of FLA will gradually be effected through 2011, predating this, research suggests that around 94 percent of elementary schools had already been undertaking ‘English’ activities as part of ‘International Understanding’ (IU) studies (Benesse, 2007). Despite these figures, there has, to date, been a relative lack of concrete direction from MEXT, leading to a diversity of programs developed by individual district boards of education or schools, with a variety of conceptions of IU by Japanese homeroom teachers and assistant language teachers (Watanabe, 2006b). It is amidst this environment that the current paper will review the proposed purposes of English classes at the elementary school level, and, drawing upon this background, provide an outline of a range of concepts teachers should bear in mind when selecting activities or tasks for these lessons.