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Wow, four posts in one day!  Maybe I will get this blog up to date! *GASP*

It’s probably just because I feel the need to take a break from Square-Enix Members. SEM is to my time as black holes are to matter. ^o^

Anyway, the week leading up to Halloween, we (myself and the other ALT) did a lesson using the video to “Thriller.”  I made a handout of the dialogue and the lyrics, but took out some of the words (that is, made them blank lines).  I also put the translations to difficult words in a text box to the side, since I also wanted to impress upon them that studying song lyrics is a great way to learn foreign languages.  I introduced the lesson by saying that watching scary movies around Halloween is popular in the States.  We played the video twice: the first time so they could just enjoy it, the second time so they could try to catch the missing words, stopping after each blank to get the answer.  I had left out a mix of easy and difficult words, the easiest being “the” (yet there was still one class that managed not to get that one, sigh) and the hardest being “neighborhood.” The first class we did the lesson in, we only gave the students points for answering, but the second time we gave them points and candy.  The promise of candy magically boosted their English comprehension ability to 100%! Well, my co-ALT told me that on the day I went to the Blind School (see previous post), not even candy could make those two classes participate. Classes 3 and 5 of first year…*exasperated sigh*.

Anyway…it was funny to see teachers’ and students’ reactions to the video.  Most classes thought the video was funny rather than scary, though there were some classes (okay, just the girls…-_-;) that were visibly frightened. One teacher really likes Michael Jackson, so she energetically explained to the students how the “Thriller” video was so important in music history.  Another teacher said he thought that it was a good idea, and that he wonders how Americans can understand American songs.  I told him, “no, sometimes Americans can’t understand the lyrics either, that’s why there are so many lyrics websites.” ^o^

Overall, I think it was a very good lesson.  The students got to see a fun, practical use of English.  It was the first time I’d seen them get excited by being flustered.  Pretty much all the classes laughed at the lyric “unless you change that _____ on the dial” and said “too fast! too fast! One more time!”  Usually, when they don’t understand something, most of these students just shut down and decide not to do anything for the rest of class. *facepalm*

That’s all I have to say about the “Thriller” lesson, but writing the above paragraph made me think of something.  For the longest, Americans had (and many still do) the belief that Asians were smarter than just about everyone else.  As social scientists studied to debunk the racist myth, the conclusion they came to was “Asians are high achievers not because they’re naturally smarter, but because they try harder.”  But now, I have to wonder, who were the study subjects?  Did they only study students in top schools?  Because the greater majority of my students (this is not a high academic level school I’m at) give the lie to “Asians try harder.”  As I wrote above, most of them will completely shut down when they get to something they don’t understand.  They’ll come to a word they don’t know in one question, and rather than skipping it and going on to the next question, they’ll just stop.  Even when we say, “if you don’t have a dictionary, please use the classroom dictionaries,” many will sit there doing nothing until they are personally told to go get a dictionary.  Even worse: a few weeks ago a student got completely chewed out.  All this time, he hadn’t been doing his schoolwork.  His excuse was: “I never got the textbook.”  We’re at the end of the second term! Seriously?!?!

Sure, most of this is unabashed laziness, and the no-textbook kid is probably an extreme example of lunkheadedness.  But what is trying harder if not the opposite of laziness?

The only other thing I wonder in regard to this is, how many of Japan’s schools are more like my school rather than top schools?  If there’s actually only a few schools that are like mine, (which I would say is like the average Michigan school), then certainly using my students to argue against “Asians try harder” is not valid.  But if it represents, in truth, the average, then I really have to wonder where the “Asians try harder” thing came from.  Could it be that the Asians we see try harder, while the ones that stay calmly out of the international eye are just your average human being?

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