The Good

Yesterday I went to the School for the Blind and Weak Sighted again instead of my main school. The last time I’d gone there, a teacher suddenly ended up with an extra class and asked me to come up with a quick activity on the spot. I had my laptop, so I suggested listening to some songs in English and asking the students to see how much of it they could understand.  The class was with adults, and I didn’t have any music in English that older Japanese people would probably recognize (sorry, Beatles) so it wasn’t a big hit.  The teacher said though, that the younger students would probably like it, so I should do something with music for them.

So, this time, I prepared a Lyric Matching game, since I’d be working with high school first and second years rather than adults.  The way the lesson works is, you pick about 10 songs, and pick one line or so that appears at some point in one minute of that song to put on the handout.  The easiest thing to do is to just use the first minute of a song, but if you’re playing the songs from iTunes, if you go into a song’s info panel and click “options” you can set a start and end time so you can use any point within a song and have that section play automatically when you click the song.  Anyway, the students have to listen and mark which lyrics played in what order.  So if, for example, I played “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Jingle Bells,” and the theme song of Captain Planet, in that order (for the sake of this example ^o^;), the handout with answers might look something like this:

2 Jingle all the way

3 He’s our hero! Gonna take pollution down to zero

1 By the dawn’s early light

I picked songs that were from easy to slightly difficult to understand, no older than from the 90’s, and with no inappropriate language. My (somewhat schizophrenic?) selection was:

  • “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
  • “Spirit dreams inside” by L’arc~en~ciel (Japanese band, but the whole song’s in English)
  • “Larger than Life” by the Backstreet Boys
  • “Simple and Clean” by Hikaru Utada (since she’s bilingual, I hope the students will be inspired by her)
  • “Try Again” by Aaliyah
  • “Umbrella” by Rihanna
  • “My Love” by Justin Timberlake
  • “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” as done by Dead Can Dance
  • “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amor)” by Jay-Z (This is a track from the charity album Hope for Haiti Now. I wanted to bring up how music can be used for something other than entertainment, but alas, I did not have enough time to mention it.)

I printed out the handout using 24-point so the weak-sighted students could see it.  I also sent a copy of the file in advance to the school so the teacher I’d be working with could make a Braille version for the blind students.  For those students, rather than mark numbers, I just had them say what lyric on the page had just played in the song.

The first class I did it with took a while to get the hang of it.  The nature of this activity requires either memorization skills or the ability to continually scan text. I admit, I was banking on them being able to memorize quickly.  I hadn’t realized how persistent the tendency to rely on one’s vision could be, even with extremely limited eyesight! So, in that class, only the student who was completely blind was able to read the lyrics, store them all away in his mind, and answer correctly. The other students were taking too much time physically looking at the sheet, as they needed to use various magnifying devices, either moving them across the page, or moving the page across the device.  I made it easier by telling them what half of the page the correct lyric would appear on, but it was still too time-consuming to look at the sheet. We only got through four songs, because I kept playing them over and over, when ideally, you only play each one once.  In this class, I think the students liked the music, but the frustration of not being able to do the activity might’ve left them feeling deflated.

So, before the next class, I changed the order I played the songs in, so that we could just look at the lyrics five at a time: first the songs whose lyrics were on the top half of the handout, then the second half’s songs. I think this helped, though it’s hard to gauge how much having less to memorize influenced the outcome given that the weak-sighted students in this class all had better vision than those in the previous class. In any case, this class really enjoyed it!  Even the boy who usually was very vocal and silly about not speaking in English (shouting「無理だよ!」”it’s pointless [for me to try]!” with an impish grin) was into it.  We got through seven of the ten songs, and when the bell rang, that boy asked the teacher if we could continue on into sixth period by getting permission from the next teacher. At first, I was happy that he liked the lesson that much, but then I thought, hm, maybe he just dreads the next subject so anything would be better! ^O^ Nah, I think he and the other students really did like it.

More Good

At my main school, we had finals three weeks ago, so the students have been in Let’s Really Blow Off Oral Communication Class! Mode.  So, we haven’t bothered doing anything hardcore with them.  The lesson with “Thriller” went well, so I wanted to use music videos again.  I chose Hikaru Utada’s “You Make Me Want To Be A Man” and Ciara’s “Like a Boy” since they’re thematically similar, among other reasons. Today I happened to remember that this Sunday is White Day, so that helped to justify it. ^o^ Some classes didn’t care, but some were into it.  It was funny to see some of the girls trying to do Ciara’s dance moves.  Even the most apathetic of homerooms couldn’t help but be impressed when Ciara leans over backwards on her ankles midway through the video.

I had been a bit worried about the constant imitation crotch-grab Ciara and the dancers do, but it turned out that a perfectly harmless lyric and a hint I gave unwittingly inspired lewdness in some boys.  My co-ALT was standing at the back, near a group of boys, when the following happened:

Well, first, I should briefly explain, for those that didn’t read the post about the lesson with “Thriller,” that what I do for these lessons is type the song lyrics out, but leave blanks so that the students have to hear the song and fill them in.  Anyway, one of the lines was “Take out the ______ (just like him).” This gave all the classes difficulty; not a single one got it without hints.  I gave the usual hint: “Here, she’s talking about things men do.  Traditionally, in the States, this is something men do, something that has to do with cleaning.  You all do it when you clean the school.” That’s usually not enough, so I give the further hint: “It’s ‘take out the ____’, so, 何々を出す。” Well, today I made the mistake of adding to that, “what is it that men take out?” The aforementioned group of boys apparently made a particular gesture and laughed gleefully.


I really walked into that one.

Oh, and FYI the answer was “trash.” Taking out the trash is apparently not a part of specifically male gender identity in Japan.

The Frightening

Every year, English Course puts on a play in English for Culture Festival in May.  They’ve done stuff like The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.  Last year, they did High School Musical (the horror!). This year, given what a terribly original and driven group of first year English Course students we have (*sarcasm*), they chose…High School Musical 2. Oh sweet Universe help us!

That’s bad enough, but there’s something I’m actually a bit torn over.  Only one kid auditioned for the part of the leading male Troy.  The two girls with the highest English language ability in the class both auditioned for the part of Troy’s love interest Gabriella.  One of those girls is the real-life sort-of girlfriend of the boy who will play Troy. From the first half of the audition, I picked the other girl: her dancing was much better, and while she didn’t sing particularly well, her audition was believable.  The other girl sang louder, but the whole time she had a self-satisfied “I’ve got this in the bag!” look on her face, which of course, made it look like “X-chan singing Gabriella’s song” rather than “Gabriella singing out her teen angst.” But during the second part of the audition, the girl who really is the boy’s girlfriend delivered her lines much better.  There was no chemistry between the boy and all the girls except her, but there was also awkwardness precisely because they’re a sort-of couple.  It was, after all, the scene where Troy gives Gabriella a necklace with a “T” (“‘T’ for ‘Troy’?” “I..well…yeah.” Gaaaah, the inanity is already imprinted in my mind! x_X) and puts it on her. These kids are much shyer around the opposite sex than American students would be, so I’m worried about them being too shy to do a good job even though they’re the best students in the class.

Ultimately, I ended up voting for the real-life girlfriend, but really, both of those girls should be in the play.  I don’t yet know who ended up playing what role since the class also got to vote on it. We’ll see how the real life drama unfolds within the fake one.