From July 2004 to July 2007, I worked as an Assistant English Teacher (ALT) at two elementary schools and a junior high in rural Okayama, Japan. During my time there, I created a bi-weekly elementary curriculum using props and roleplaying to teach practical English contextually. I debuted the first class with homemade "product" cards, play cash register drawers filled with "The America Money", and a neon green plastic basket to hold it all.
It proved enormously popular. Participation in class shot up to near 100% and English spilled out of the classroom into non-academic life. Now when I played UNO with students, they invited me with "Sensei, let's play UNO!" When I told a student to wear his hat home, he replied "I don't like boushi." (Japanese for "hat"). My favorite English memory is that of a 3rd grade boy, imploring me to let him carry my prop basket to his class with excited cries of "May I help you? May I help you?"
As my last teaching year drew to a close, I was curious if my students envisioned English as a part of their lives in the future. So I asked all of them to answer the question: "Do you think you will use English in the future and why?" Of the nearly 300 replies I received, these are my favorite 100.
-Christiana Aretta, July 2010