Backstory: the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April. Japanese teachers still go to school during the school holidays and work regular office hours, but the pace slows down a little. In March 2012 our supervisor asked the ALTs in our city to use this down time to create a listening curriculum. We were given very little guidance and this caused some friction at first, but we didn’t let it hold us back.
At my main school, Naoetsu Junior High School, I worked with one other ALT: let’s call him CS. CS and I decided to treat the task like a challenge and try to design a listening curriculum from scratch. We wanted to create a template that would be easy for others to edit – so that we could collaborate on the task and speed up the process – but also visually pleasing and easy for students to understand. Working with CS was one of the most creative opportunities in Japan and showed me how much I enjoy bouncing ideas off other people and working on things together.
The two of us put together a presentation booklet (pictured) to distribute to our JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English) to help persuade them to get on board with the project. Though a number of ALTs weren’t able to use it in their own schools, our colleagues embraced it at Naoetsu JHS and encouraged us to put it to good use in all of our lessons. When developing the worksheets it was clear to us that one of the aims had to be accurate note-taking. Most students just didn’t know the best way to listen out for key words and so we had to begin the curriculum with practice on how to take good short-hand notes.
We used manga images we felt the students would be familiar with and standardised them across the whole listening curriculum. We created five different templates and put them on our Google Drive database to share with the Joetsu City ALTs. When we started we only had a handful of listening exercises for each year group, but after presenting it to our group and getting help from everyone, we were left with around 70 different exercises across all three year groups. It was a lot of work but thanks to the team effort it all came together.