How Do I Make the Student Pronounce the “TH” Sound?

It’s a question that many teachers ask themselves and each other; how can I make the students pronounce the “TH” sound so frequently found in English? Luckily, the answer is quite simple, but the road to that answer is long and riddled with difficulties.

One of the difficulties comes from the size of the average Japanese person’s tongue. It is a well-known fact that Japanese have longer intestines than any other race on the planet, lending to specialization towards their diet of rice, fish and miso soup. Because of the longer intestines, the tongue is shorter for obvious reasons. With short tongues, they develop a condition where they infrequently move outwards from the back of the throat, leading to mispronunciation of sounds that make great use of the tongue, primarily the “TH” sound.

Tongue Image

Tongue Image

To teach the “TH” sound, it is as simple as convincing the student to stick their tongue out. Stick your tongue out when looking at the student and speak, making liberal use of words that begin with “S”. As the teeth come down, they naturally create a “TH” sound. Each time the student successfully makes a “TH” sound, reward them with a smile and say “ooo, nice”. If they make an “S” sound, you should shake your head in disappointment and reinforce this with “oh, not good at all”.
Very few people outside of the medical field own calipers, but it is possible to maneuver the tongue out of the mouth with fingers, chopsticks, or pens used as chopsticks. Make certain to wash or use alcohol rub on anything before placing it into your mouth or the student’s.

What Do I Do If a CD Is Scratched and I Need To Perform a Listening Activity?

We are teaching the best lesson of our lives, engaging the student and filling their brain full of English, when suddenly a listening activity occurs. Since CDs are rarely replaced, years of usage take their toll and result in CDs so scratched that they will barely play. Needing to apologize over the condition of the CDs not only reflects poorly on the teacher, but also on the school.

For more experienced teachers, there is always safety in using cassette tapes. Cassette tapes can never become scratched, and have the ever-important reliability that CDs simply cannot provide. Many teachers will decorate the tapes to create a more personal atmosphere for the student, and allow the student to cue them for the activity.

this is a CDFor those who do not have extra cassette tapes, another possibility is to record yourself narrating the listening activities. This is beneficial for three reasons; one, you own all of the rights. Two, you won’t be surprised by the content. Three, it delights the students, and they are more likely to believe that you are a professional narrator.

If your school has new CDs, keep them in pristine condition by never placing them in direct sunlight, lightly washing the backs with a solution of detergent and water by means of a soft towel, and never putting them directly on top of paper.

School Update: 2012-10-31

Last week we had the misfortune of having a student with a colostomy bag enter our English school, and despite my best efforts, we were unable to succeed in dissuading him from learning English. Older students often have difficulty in the high intensity English learning environment, and that difficulty would only be compounded by the possibility of an accident occurring with the student’s bag.
This situation has weighed so heavily on all of the teachers at the school that it feels as though morale is dropping with no signs of bottoming out, but as professionals we will do our best to continue giving quality lessons no matter which obstacles are placed in our paths.
Even after years of teaching, there are situations that surprise all but the most worldly of English teachers, and this situation is no different. It is important to assess aspects of every situation and react with careful forethought, and so if placed in a situation such as this one, confirm with the student that there will be no leaks or chances of bursting, and position yourself near the door if you suspect the student of lying to boost your opinion of them. On the days which you teach the student, wear some slightly older clothing that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty.
With luck, there will never be any mishaps due to medical situations, but it is always important to treat each situation with caution.

How Do I Build Student Willpower?

Learning English is often a matter of willpower, with the weak-willed failing quickly and the strong-willed eventually failing much later.
To build willpower in the classroom, the teacher must take on the role of leader by establishing themselves as the “alpha” unit. Loud noises, whether in quick succession or all at once is a great way to gain the attention of the student, assert yourself as the “alpha”, and build their willpower.

Applying this in the classroom is simple; mix the loud noises into your lesson plan. This can be done a variety of ways, such as turning the radio up to full volume before playing a practice CD, dropping books on and around the student, or simply yelling on occasion. You will literally see an immediate response from the student in terms of their attentiveness.

The castle of willpower

Some students respond negatively towards loud noises and exhibit a range of responses ranging from simple cowering to full on confrontation. In these situations it is important that the student not be allowed to view you from eye level or above, and so it is important that you keep them in their seat. Standing in front of them and pinning their hands to the side of the chair while asking “are you here to learn or are you here to quit?” is very effective at garnering a positive response from the student and getting them ready to learn English.

How Do I Teach the Difference Between Jail and Prison?


A guest at a prison or jail (likely a jail)

Most students have not been through the legal system and have yet to experience the difference between jail and prison firsthand. The differences are many, but can be summarized rather easily. Although not exclusive, jails are for light-skinned people and prisons are for dark-skinned people, but there are of course many other differences.

To teach the difference between jail and prison, write the words on the board. Have the student brainstorm different aspects of each (food, lodgings, activities, television time, yard size), and write those items on the board as well. For each aspect, act out the differences while the student takes notes. For example, for jail food you could make a disappointed face at the flavor followed by a look of resolved gladness that your dessert will not be taken, whereas prison food would be a slightly less disappointed face at the flavor and a confused face at the consistency and texture of the soups. Repeat for each aspect.

After the student has taken sufficient notes, start a roleplay. You take on the role of a reporter and the student a sheriff, and the sheriff has to explain the differences between the facilities in his/her jurisdiction. When the student has completed the roleplay, switch roles.

Please leave any inquiries concerning differences in the message area below.