Hello everyone. Welcome back! The new school year is finally in full swing, the cherry blossoms are coming to an end and it’s time to start making plans for Golden Week. As you have probably noticed I don’t have my own kindergarten class this year and I won’t be coming in every day, but I will be able to watch over all the classes equally and finally do some of the things a principal should. I will have classes with K1, K2 and K3 every Monday and Wednesday and will be following their daily progress closely. I can also assure you that the whole staff will be working together as one big team to make this another great year. If you ever do need to talk to me about the curriculum, about your children or about any of the events feel free to ask me any time.
I know that at this time of the year a lot of you are probably wondering what you can do at home to help your children with their English and I’ve put together a few suggestions that might help you out. Whatever you do, though, remember that they are still children and pushing them too hard is not always the best option.
In general I recommend that you speak Japanese, or your native language, to your child at home, and make sure that the child grows up with a good command of his or her own native language. At the same time, I also understand your concerns and wishes to help your child improve his or her English as rapidly as possible. For this reason, I would make the following suggestions as to how you can work with your child at home in various aspects of English, including Reading, Writing, Listening skills, Oral skills, and Comprehension skills.
This is the easiest part of English to practice at home, and one that I feel would be very beneficial for your child. Before practicing, make sure that the materials you use are age appropriate, and if you have any questions or doubts about the materials, feel free to ask me.
K1: * Practice tracing various lines and patterns, making sure that your child holds the pencil or crayon correctly
K3: * Review all the K2 exercises
- Practice copying longer sentences
- Practice copying short books
- Practice changing one or two words in a sentence to make original sentences
- Encourage writing short letters to classmates (without worrying about the spelling) and the teachers
- Encourage writing letters to Santa Claus for Christmas, or similar events.
When practicing at home please be sure of the following:
- Make sure you watch your child at work, encourage him, and correct any mistakes (such as holding the pencil wrong, or writing from right to left instead of from left to right)
- Do not just give your child an exercise to do and then leave him there by himself.
- Encourage your child frequently and set up a system of rewards for work well done.
- Set up a fixed time for these exercises so that they become routine.
- Hang up your child’s work (on walls or refrigerators) to show how much you appreciate it.
Again, if you need materials to start with, feel free to ask me.
This can be more challenging to parents whose native language is not English. Please note that the goal of most of the following exercises is not perfect pronunciation, but at the same time a lot of exposure to ‘katakana’ will also be detrimental to your child’s progress. Be careful, therefore, whenever correcting your child’s pronunciation at home:
K1: * Practice reading the individual letters of the alphabet
- Show pictures of letters and let your child tell you what they are.
- Have your child match lower case and uppercase letters
- Say a letter and let your child point to the right letter
- Ask your child to read letters in magazines that you are reading (for example brand and product names)
- Ask your child if he can identify letters on street signs or on the train whenever you are going somewhere together.
- Ask your child to read letters on food and other products when you go shopping together
- Ask your child if he can sound out certain letters once all of them are recognized.
K2: * Review all the exercises recommended to K1
- Ask your child to identify certain words (such as exit, or stop) whenever you see them together outside.
- Ask your child to read simple three letter flashcards
- Work on exercises that match pictures to words
- Let your child read books along with CD’s, and encourage your child to read out loud with the CD.
- Ask your child to point to the words that he is reading.
K3: * Review the exercises for K2
- Read more and more books with CDs.
- Have your child read their favorite books to you or other relatives.
- Take your child to the library and let them choose books that they are able to read.
- Make a list of ‘scavenger hunt’ words that you and your child will take with you when you go somewhere (make sure that they are words that might be found in advertisements, billboards, or street signs), and then cross them off when your child finds a word on the train or in a store. Give a small reward if all the words (or even most of them) have been found. This will make your child become more aware of the English used every day in Japan, and will make them look around to find it.
When practicing reading:
- Again, it is very important that you practice with materials that are easy for your child. You do not want to discourage them by moving too fast, or making it too difficult. The children need to understand that reading is fun and that they can do it without too much effort.
- Always be there when your child is reading to encourage them and praise them a lot.
- Set up times for reading that are devoted to your child.
- Turn off the TV, computer, and other distractions.
- Make your child the star whenever he reads to you or a relative. Reading should be a chance for him to show off and get a real feeling of accomplishment.
- Do not get discouraged yourself if your child’s progress is slow. Let him work at his own pace.
- Read to your child before he goes to sleep (Japanese books are good).
- Read many books or magazines yourself to show that reading is enjoyable.
This is a difficult area to see progress in, because unless you are a native speaker of English, and regularly speak to your child in English, your child will not respond very well if you suddenly speak to him or her in English. Also, as your child gets older, they will understand more about who to speak to in English and who to speak to in Japan, and will become self-conscious about speaking to you in a foreign language. Therefore, the best way to practice comprehension skills is to use the media provided:
All students can use the following materials at home, but it will be up to the parents to decide whether or not the materials are age appropriate, and how much time you can allow your child to use them. Please note that games are a very good form of studying, but that too much time in front of the TV or computer can be bad for your child’s eyes. Therefore, please make use of these materials in moderation:
Videos / DVDs: Videos such as Dora and Blues Clues are good for the children’s comprehension skills because they ask questions during the show and give children time to respond. When watching these videos：
- Watch them together with your child and yell out the answers to get your child excited.
- Once your child is excited, pretend like you don’t know the answers and praise your child for being so smart when they do.
Computer software and games: There are now many interactive games available that help the children to practice vocabulary and simple comprehension skills by asking questions and prompting the child to push the correct answers.
- Watch your child as he plays and provide a lot of encouragement
- Play against your child and provide some competition
- Do not force your child to play if they don’t want to.
Speaking: This is the hardest thing to practice if you are not a native speaker, and I would recommend that you do not practice this at home. The children will be provided with enough opportunities to speak in the classroom.
- Do not pressure your child to repeat what they did in school at home.
- Do not ask your child to translate Japanese to English or vice-versa.
Personally, I feel you can leave the speaking up to us. I promise we’ll make sure that your child gets a chance to speak as much and as often as possible
OK, enough lecturing. I hope you have a great spring and are able to take some time off during Golden Week.
See you in school,