Jelly and Bean Decodeable Readers 

Basically the term 'decodeable reader' applies to books written with words that are phonetically regular allowing young children to make the first step into reading independentally. Actually that wasn't a very good explanation but hopefully you get the idea!?
There are various commercial reading programs available but the one name that kept coming up was Jelly and Bean from the UK. The series is closely linked to the Rose Review that looked at ways of improving literacy standars in UK schools.
So far so good...only problem is that they're not available in Japan, so have to be ordered from the UK. So after much mulling over the prospect of ordering a series of books that I'd never seen I took the plunge. As most of our students don't really read much in English anyway I went for the first two series of books. One concentrates on introducing the letters of the alphabet and their sounds while the second focuses on CVC patterns.
The books arrived within a few days of the order...all well and good but next was how to use them with my students.
After a couple of false starts I've finally managed to get some results. As our students are exposed to so little written (and spoken!)English outside the classroom the trick is to take it really slow. I also ordered the photocopiable worksheets which provide something like five A4 sheets per book. To me it seemed excessive but what I'm finding is that the students really enjoy completing the worksheets, and their retention of the sounds and reading is greatly improved.
Last week after the various disruptions of the summer holidays I had most of the students in my classes actually reading. At first I thought it was that they'd just memorised the sentences by sight, so I used the whiteboard to create a few jumbled and they still read them. SUCCESS!
It's still early days but so far I'm very impressed with the approach and if I can get the children to read English in their early elementary years it will hopefully open the doors to a deeped intrest in using English.
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Card Games 

I've been on the lookout for a really simple game that can be used with kindergarten and early grade students. You know, something that grabs their attention and gets them focused on the lesson in hand.
I wasn't too concerned with it's English educational value as the kind of game I had in mind would be over in less than five minutes-but of course we would use English to play the game.
Well I took a trip to a local store that I stumbled upon a few months ago, tsumikinomori in Waseda. The owner is crazy about wooden toys and has created a large space where childen can play, for a small fee, with the widest range of wooden toys I've ever seen available. They also sell many of the toys and games.
You can probably guess what's coming next...yes, I found what I think is a great little game that really captures the childrens attention, drawing them into the lesson. It's called 'Regenbogen Schlange' and those those who don't read German it has an English title of Serpentina. It's made by amigo-spiele and so far has proved an instant hit with students aged 3 to 8 years old. Basicaly the game consists of 52 coloured cards that are laid face down in the center of the table, the students take turns to turn a card over and try to make a snake by matching colours. A bit like donimoes. The great thing is that the group has to work as a team to complete a snake, so they also learn to share!!
By the way if you're in the Waseda area and have young kids please drop by tsumikinomori, I've recommended it to a few parents and they've all reported how much they and their children enjoyed playing with the toys.
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Candle Night 

June 22nd is Candle Night, an initiative organised by a NPO here in Japan. Basically it's a time to light up a candle, switch the lights off and think about our lives.

For a full explanation of the aims head on over to their website There are English and Japanese pages.

Join them, and us, this June 22nd.

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New Blog 

Well we've had the software since last August but have only just found the time, and inclination, to update the blog format.

So here is the new blog...well not much has changed but we're assured by the good folks at SPHP BLOG that this version is more secure and user friendly.

Now..we just have to remember to update more often!
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St. George's Day 

I had an idea for our ever popular twice monthly Saturday classes today. Why don't we celebrate St.George's Day? It's a typical English story and should capture the children's imagination nicely, what with a knight in shining armour and a dragon to boot.
Well...from experience it was always a very low key day in the UK and finding material proved to be harder to souce than for other celebration days. Seems that since I've been in Japan it's also become something of a controversial subject as the site below demonstates.

Finally found a great resource for bringing St.George's story to our student's from a site called SparkleBox, which deserves a very special mention for it's resources and outstanding support. Thank you.

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