How Do I Teach Words of Latin Or Greek Origin?

Some students familiar with English gain their abilities through the workplace, bringing a wide range of vocabulary to the classroom. These words can be specialized to the point of being unusable, and corrections should be made to allow the student to accurately communicate with people outside of their industry.

About 12 years ago, we had a doctor who specialized in endoscopic medicine, and performed biopsies on cancerous tissue on a weekly basis. He was dismayed that when talking to native English speakers, he was unable to be understood. This was corrected by moving away from the Latin and Greek that his words were based off of, and converting them into English.

For the sake of clarity, endoscopic became “inside looking”, and biopsy became “living medical examination or inspection”. Many more people began to understand what he was talking about, and therefore held a higher opinion of him.

How Do I Stop Students From Saying “Cock” All of the Time?

Due to Katakana pronunciation, when Japanese ESL students are learning English, they often revert to saying “cook”(コック) as “cock”. The atmosphere of the classroom can quickly go sour when explaining the differences between the two words.

It goes without saying that this kind of mistake is very serious, and must be avoided. Additionally, explaining the error in detail is also something that should be avoided. However, students rarely see the problem with this mispronunciation, as they learn that “cock” means “rooster”, which is a common misconception. A safer, more gentle way to alert the student of their error must be employed.

To break the student of this dangerous habit, you first must ascertain whether they are familiar with the difference between the two. To do so, purchase a chef’s hat, and create a miniature chef’s hat. The miniature hat can be made of construction paper, but it is a good idea to sew one so that you will be able to use it in future classes. Place the chef’s hat on your head, and the miniature on your finger. For younger students, you can draw a smiley face on your finger. Have the student address you as “Mr. Cook”, and whenever the pronunciation is correct, respond to the student with “Yes, my name is Mr. Cook”. Any incorrect pronunciation will be greeted by your finger with the small chef’s hat, who you should slowly raise from below the edge of the table. In whatever voice you feel suitable, have your finger, which represents “Mr. Cock” greet the student.

For a roleplay activity, have the student want to get in contact with Mr. Cook. If Mr. Cook is unavailable, then the student will ask for Mr. Cock. You will play the role of a secretary whose hearing isn’t very good. During the roleplay, intentionally mix up the names and have the student very clearly enunciate whether they would like “cook” of “cock”. Upon successful completion of the activity, the student will no longer say anything embarrassing.

How Do I Stop Students From Using Phones In Class?

In this age of technology, we encounter a lot of students who would rather focus on their gadgets than classwork. So how do we keep the student’s attention in the classroom when faced with iPods, smart phones, and Nintendos?

There is no silver bullet, but several options available to the teacher.

  1. Continue teaching as though nothing is out of the ordinary.
    This tactic is perhaps the most effective when it comes to moving through the material, but when you require interaction from the student, they are often lost. Therefore, when the student becomes interested in their gadgets, move to a book and read aloud to them.
  2. Remove the offending device.
    When the student is too engrossed in an “emergency” phone call, it is effective to let them know that you are in a classroom environment and distractions and counterproductive by gently but firmly taking hold of their phone and hanging up/turning it off. The phone or gadget may then be placed in your shirt or pants pocket.
    If the student can politely explain why they need their phone by speaking for more than a minute, they may have it back. If not, they may have it back after the class.
  3. Fight fire with fire.
    If the student is more interested than a single gadget than an entire language, demonstrate how incorrect they are by pulling out a gadget of your own. If the student wants to check an E-mail, use that time to turn on your Nintendo or Tetris and play until the student is finished.

No matter the age, many students are prone to undesirable behavior when parting with their devices. Do not let any degree of complaints or physical actions grant them the gadget, otherwise their negative behavior will manifest in future classes. It is very important that they effectively use English to convince you to give them the device back.

How Do I Teach Participal Adjectives?

Participial Adjectives confuse even the best English speakers, so it’s understandable that they are nearly incomprehensible for Japanese learners of English. As a teacher, I still have difficulty understanding the difference between the usage of “bored” and “boring”. A handy trick to remember is that adjectives ending with -ed often represent a feeling.

Additionally, when teaching the -ing forms it is best to avoid the verb meanings, as they confuse the student. A school that I once worked at had a teacher attempt to teach “boring” by using an auger on a piece of wood, which resulted in the student – a carpenter by trade – to associated “boring” with “exciting”.

When teaching the participal adjectives, teach them in pairs. The teacher performs an action that is represented by -ing, and the student explains their emotion in terms of the matching -ed form. For example, the teacher crawls under the desk while they have the student pretend to watch television. Maneuver your head between their legs and the table, and look up at them. The student should exclaim “I am surprised! This situation is surprising!”. Switch and repeat the exercise. For exciting/excited, have the student hold a balloon and dance while you clap. Avoid teaching pleasuring/pleasured.

Let the student know that not all adjectives follow this pattern. There are pairs such as scary/scared, comfortable/comforted, and delightful/delighted that should be learned separately.

How Do I Explain the Difference Between Hotcakes and Pancakes?

As Japan becomes more Westernized, their traditional Dora-yaki snack has transformed into pancakes and hotcakes.

Dora-yaki has been a popular treat for children in Japan for over a thousand years. Made of sweet red bean paste and held together by two miniature pancakes; it still is popular today. However, it is quickly losing out to the recent newcomers; hotcakes and pancakes.

dorayakiAs hotcakes and pancakes arrived together on a wave of Western culture known as the “Post-McDonald’s Great Influx” back in the late 1970s, their terms have been interchangeable in Japanese society. Students are often surprised to learn the myriad of differences that hotcakes and pancakes hold.

Hotcakes are served with margarine, and have syrup spread on them with a knife. They are generally smaller than pancakes, and make great snacks for long train rides. Pancakes, on the other hand, are always served with butter, and can use either real maple syrup, or ordinary maple syrup. Due to batter ingredients, pancakes are between 50% and 75% fluffier than hotcakes. Hotcakes may never contain chocolate chips.

Of course, this isn’t a complete list, but it covers the most important points. As this topic is one that lends itself well to oration, you may have the student write down the information as you say it. When they have copied down everything that you have mentioned, they may add to the list. Quiz them to confirm comprehension.

It is hard to bring hotcakes and pancakes into the classroom, so why not bring the classroom to the hotcakes and pancakes? Invite your student to share a hotcake breakfast with you at your home, and you can teach them in an interactive, and relaxing environment.