This is a warm-up routine that one of my 1nensei OTEs and I do every lesson. It aims to keep the most basic and pertinent knowledge in the students’ heads at the beginning of every lesson so that they’ll be primed for the lesson, and also to help them learn it off by heart. It’s fairly basic, but pretty comprehensive.
We start by asking the whole class four questions
- What day is it today?
- What’s the date today?
- How’s the weather today?
- What time is it now?
We then move on to our ever-growing list of simple English phrases, words, simple sentences that the students will often use both in the classroom and in general conversation. When we perform this routine, we have hand gestures to go along with each stage. This helps to keep the students interested, as I end up deliberately over-acting each movement to ensure they associate it with the English. It works, as often when sprung with a question from this routine, they’ll quickly act out the gestures up to the answer they need, then reply. After a couple of months, the majority of the class skips this step entirely, and is able to reply without needing to perform the gestures.
My OTE and I use a variety gestures, (e.g. pointing around yourself for personal pronouns, stacking your hands on top of each other for exponential numbers etc.)
We start with personal pronouns:
- I, my, me, mine
- You, your, you, yours
- He, his, him, his
- She, hers, her, hers
- It, its, it
- We, our, us, ours
- You, your, you, yours
- They, them, their, theirs
We then count exponentially, starting with ‘Thousand’, then ‘Million’, ‘Billion’, and ‘Trillion’. Alternatively, to show the difference between English and Japanese exponential counting terms, you could start at ‘One’, then ‘Ten’, then ‘Hundred’, and so forth.
The next topic we cover is “Meals”, so ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, and ‘Dinner’, which is followed by day greetings ‘Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night’ (I keep trying to get my OTE to include ‘Good Day’, but alas it hasn’t happened yet).
We next practice the names of the seasons, doing it once with the American names and once with the English (Fall/Autumn), before covering the days of the week. We then do directions (North, South, East, West) twice, before ‘Right’/’Left’/’Straight’.
The last set we perform is slightly more involved. We practice a short conversation consisting of ‘Do you have any ~?’ and the follow-up ‘How many ~ do you have?’. Either the OTE or I will choose an object to use and the other chooses a number. Occasionally a student with call out an object or number. If it’s suitable, we will use that instead.
We then practice the conversation:
‘Do you have any ~s?’
‘No, I don’t. I don’t have any ~s.’ / ‘Yes I do.’
‘How many ~s do you have?’
‘I have X ~s.’
Towards the end of the year, we began to change parts of this to slightly more complicated work. One such example was changing the personal pronouns to simple verb conjugation (Do I, Do you, Does he, does she et. al). Another was changing the final step from ‘How many ~’ to a set of three questions, e.g. ‘Are you [Adjective]?’, ‘Can you [verb]?’, and their replies ‘Yes, I am. / No, I’m not.’, ‘Yes, I can. / No, I can’t.’.
This has been pretty effective in my opinion. Most of my 1nen are quite comfortable in reciting this if called upon at random, and when doing worksheets or activities that use this basic language, they’re often able to complete it quicker.
The brilliance of it is the adaptability. You could do focus on a specific section of vocabulary or grammar that needs improvement in the class; do a rolling set of these as a warm-up; or do as we did and use the entire thing as a class warm-up.
One key point is to mix up the order you perform the routine in. If you continue to do everything in the same order, it can have two results.
The first is the students aren't learning, they're memorising. Changing the order up every time means they'll have to start memorising.
The second is their repetition will blend together, and phrases will begin to sound like single words (e.g. "I'm fine thank you and you" rather than "I'm fine, thank you. And you?")
Additionally, never underestimate your ability to overact. If your 1nen are anything like mine, they will crack a serious case of the giggles when you go through this routine with them. They start to emulate your silly actions, and unknowingly are teaching themselves English by unconscious association. Or something.