Miki Summer Camp 2009

If you keep an eye upon the Hyogo AJET mailing list around May or June (so consider this fair and early warning), you may notice calls for assistance from ALTs for various English summer camps being held over the break. Answering Miki Senior High School’s call, Emma and I, along with Eric Lord and Shellian Forrester, joined the home-ground ALTs Michael Anziliero and Amy Louie and 40 MIC (i.e. advanced English course) students for three days of controlled chaos at Ureshinodai Lifelong Education Center, Yashiro. (Ureshinodai? That’s the “other Yashiro”—not the Full Metal Jacket Yashiro you’re thinking of.) The MIC Summer Camp provided yet another glimpse into what magic can transpire when the minds of Japanese high school students are temporarily permitted to run around in the exercise yard for a bit—but then you will see that for yourself at your own school’s bunkasai next year.

Each ALT was assigned a group of 6 to 8 students, with whom we were to share meals, advice and moral support as they prepared for their singing and drama contests. On the first night, our groups interviewed us and prepared posters based on the results, which they presented to the rest of the class. I was not offended in the slightest that mine depicted me as Dracula in a polo shirt.

We were also assigned lessons to deliver to the groups on a rotational basis. Shellian was in charge of “Describing Someone,” Eric led his kids on a Treasure Hunt; Amy’s lessons yielded some delicious chocolate. Emma occupied the director’s chair for Drama lessons, and Michael hosted a Quiz which, seeing as I am currently in the middle of compiling my Semester Two teaching programme, he should consider stolen. For some reason it fell to me to ruin run the Music lessons and help prepare the students for their choral competition—despite my inability to hold a tune to save my life, as anyone unfortunate enough to have attended karaoke sessions with me can attest. In any case, all of the groups performed admirably in the chorus contest on the morning of the final day, no thanks to me. And Eric, I agree: your girls were gypped by the Japanese judge! (And I can’t get “Country Road” out of my head.)

The highlight of the camp, as I think all who participated would agree, was the drama contest. AFAIK the brief was to (i) take a well-known fairytale and (ii) modify it slightly; (iii) write the script in Japanese, then (iv) translate it into English; (v) make the costumes and (vi) learn the lines. The kids managed steps (i) to (v) with aplomb; but, damn it, we ALTs on the judging panel (a.k.a the nosebleed section) were there to be entertained—and the occasional well-timed stumble into fits of uncontrollable (and infectious) giggling because of unremembered lines was precisely what we had paid to see. Meccya kawaii! I also learned an important cultural lesson that evening: hormonal, painfully-shy yet too-cool-for-school teenage boys . . . REALLY LOVE DRESSING UP AS WOMEN! Needless to say, the vibe of the camp lifted several atmospheres in the wake of this event.

There is always a danger when working with students of this caliber at summer camps, ESS seminars and the like: you can lose sight of the fact that your own students might not have the same level of English competence. Nothing is more disappointing, from an ALT’s perspective, than bringing home a great idea that worked really well with high-level students, only to see it fall flat on its face in your own classroom because it is too difficult. Still, I envy Michael and Amy for the privilege of being able to work with the MIC students on a regular basis, and I’ve been inspired enough at least to consider running a drama contest in my own classes. Rampant transvestism aside, what’s the worst that can happen?


By way of a P.S., here’s a little game that went down a treat with my music lesson students. All you need is a deck of playing cards placed in the middle of the table, and a category: let’s say, “musical instruments.” Going around the table, each player announces their instrument (e.g. “Guitar,” “Trumpet,” “Piano,” etc.), and everybody else repeats it. Have all players repeat together each player’s words in sequence, so that everyone remembers everyone else’s word.

Players then take turns drawing cards from the deck, laying the cards face-up in front of them on the table. If two cards match (e.g. 1=1, A=A, etc.), those players must race to say each other’s words first. The winning player takes the loser’s pile of drawn cards: these become “point cards” and are placed face-down in a separate pile from the winner’s drawn cards. A drawn card remains in play until it is a player’s turn to draw again, in which case the new card is placed face-up on top of his or her pile of drawn cards. Losing players relinquish only their piles of drawn cards; they get to keep any point cards they have won.

The game continues until there are no more cards left in the deck, at which point players add their point cards to any drawn cards they still have on the table. The player with the highest total number of cards is the winner.

The ideal number of players for this game is around 8 to 10. If you have less, you might try matching suits instead of numbers to get more “duels” happening. This game is a winner, but don’t thank me: thank the team behind the wonderful ESL Teacher Talk podcast (http://www.eslteachertalk.com/).

Similar Posts