I had a class today for the first time I attempted to teach the student how to take the TOEIC test. For anyone who doesn’t know the TOEIC test is this international standardized English test. Mostly used by businesses who want to measure their employees English ability. The TOEIC test gives you a score from 0-990. If you want to work in an international company or some kind of international sales generally you’ll need to have around 800 points for your score. It has a listening section and a reading section. In total there’s about 200 questions. I knew I had this class coming up so yesterday I prepared for the the class for about two hours. I researched various techniques and methods of teaching the TOEIC test two different students and found a lot of online resources that I could use later on as well. The first thing I learned and in hindsight is quite obvious is that I need to test my students score. I need to know what level is at. So I decided to give him a homework assignment where he can go online and take a full-length TOEIC test to see what his score is now. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of full-length TOEIC test online for free. There’s a lot of shorter test but not many full-length test. I did find one full length free sample TOEIC test and I gave the student the website address and he is probably doing it right now. If you want to check it out yourself click the link above.
The thing about teaching TOEIC test is that I have to decide which to start with, the listening test or the reading grammar test. I’m leaning toward starting with the listening test because I think that it might be easiest and fastest way to improve the students score. Once we improve their score I think that a student might have a little more motivation to study harder or least continue studying. Reading and grammar and vocabulary generally take much more time to improve. So I plan on taking a slow approach with a student in this regard. I think I’m going to be relying a lot on various homework assignments as well. Thing for the listening test I’m going to have him purchase some kind of TOEIC CD or TOEIC listening practice online and put it into his music player and whenever he’s on the train or on his commute to work that he will listen to it. I also am going to get him to rent some DVDs from a local video store so that he can watch them and read the subtitles when he’s tired that way he still studying but he doesn’t have to exert so much effort. Later on when we get a little more into the reading sections I’m definitely going to have him start reading some various English books or newspapers and maybe some magazines as well. In some of the local bookstores they sell time magazine or Newsweek. I think that might be good. But it certainly will be difficult in the beginning and he’s going to have to learn a lot of new vocabulary words as well.
The good thing is that he seems very motivated. Is asking him why he wanted to take the TOEIC test he said that the is two reasons. One reason was that he wanted to get a promotion to a position that was based in America. It’s a Japanese company but an American branch so obviously he’s going to need to be able to communicate in English. Another reason is that his company has a standard policy that if any of their employees is able to get 800 points on the TOEIC test they will be rewarded with $10,000. That is a lot of money to do well on the test. I think the company is really pushing a new globalization strategy and they feel that their employees English skills are lacking. But it certainly did the trick and I can tell you that my student is very motivated. A little money can do a lot for your motivation. Later on I’m going to review some of the TOEIC textbooks and resources that I use with this student so that some of the teachers out there reading this can save a little time and money for when they are in need of similar resources and materials.
One more thing. I have created a website for my school. It’s really nothing special but it’s not to bad either. In Japan, English schools are called “Eikawa” or in Japanese 英会話. The name of my school in English is Fukuyama Goodwin Eikaiwa, in Japanese it looks like this, 福山英会話 Goodwin. If you have time check it out and give me a shout out. If you are ever in Hiroshima or Fukuyama drop by and say hello.
For our first post let’s talk about the differences between teaching English here in Japan and most people’s idea of teaching English back home. Most people back home probably think that it’s a very formal and structured classroom where we are going over various grammatical patterns over and over, we are probably teaching them the alphabet and how to read and write. But for the most part this is not what we do. It depends on the situation that you find yourself in but if you are working at an Eikaiwa which is an English conversation school you most likely will be simply talking with your students most of the time. You are in effect offering them an opportunity to practice English that they already know with a live foreigner. Some schools will give you a textbook for the more beginner classes but the textbook is very simple and it was created for teachers who have little or no experience at all teach English. The sex books lessons generally will choose one subject or theme such as likes and dislikes give an example conversation where that subject is being used provide some kind of vocabulary practice and then provide some practice so that you can write out the sentences you just learned in this situation with it would be, “I like apples” or “I dislike oranges”. Then after that you will probably see some kind of exercises that the students can do with each other or with the teacher that practices are gives the students a chance to use what they just learned in a conversational setting. So that exercise might go something like this, the students will have a piece of paper and it will say go around the classroom and find someone who hates apples. Do this by asking people “do you hate apples?”, If you find someone that does hate apples right there name in the box. Then the next one would be fine someone who likes vegetables, you go around the class asking everyone “do you like vegetables?”. We start off simple and then once they have the hang of that particular sentence structure you start adding more to the questions or add follow-up questions. So this time you go around asking “what is your favorite fruit?”, Then when someone answers “my favorite fruit are apples” the student must ask a follow-up question like “how often do you eat apples?”. This is a very simple example and there are many different types of exercises but this is the general idea.
Introduce the subject or theme of the lesson
read the example conversation with the students or have them read the conversation
ask comprehension questions about the conversation
explain the key words or key sentences in the lesson on the whiteboard
have the students to the practice questions
have the students do the exercises where they take everything they learned and use them in a conversational way
There are many reasons that lessons in Japan are like this. One of them is that most Japanese already have a relatively good grass of English. And when I say this I don’t mean that they can communicate necessarily well but they’ve already studied grammar patterns 4,7,8 sometimes 10 years. They can read English very well and they can write English relatively well but it is in conversations and having a conversation where they are at a loss. There are many reasons for this and we will go over them in a later post.
Another reason that we have the style classes is because most students are studying English as a hobby and not for business or for school. Even the school students who come to our schools to study English are most likely studying conversational English and they will go to another type of school to study grammatical patterns and vocabulary that they will need for a college entrance exam. These types of schools are called “Jukus” and roughly translate to cram schools in English.
So with the English conversation schools the companies and schools are mostly looking for young energetic college graduates who will come in and stay for a year or two and teach other schools. There are not looking for certified English teachers or older people who might not be so energetic. They also do not necessarily want you to stay in the job for that long because many foreigners who do burnout and they are not able to give the students the right “experience”. Other strange occurrences are that in Japan at lease and I think for other parts of Asia as well the schools prefer your stereotypical foreigner which means American, blonde hair, blue eyes and of course white. This doesn’t mean that they will not hire other country people or that they will not hire other races or ethnicities but there certainly an unspoken secret that they prefer the stereo typical white person. We will certainly go over stereotypes that we have found in Japan in the later post but for now just understand that they exist and most people out here do not understand that they are stereotypes and that these stereotypes can be harmful. So that’s your basic set up for an English conversation school in the next couple post for going to go over some different types of schools that you might find yourself working for and how they differ from an English conversation school.