The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan encourages more active learning in the foreign language classroom, and Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) will often rely on their Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to prepare engaging and exciting classroom activities to bring their students to life.
So you’re an ALT. It’s time to plan an interesting and communicative lesson for your students. Where do you begin?
If it’s your first time teaching or you need some inspiration, check out this article on Tofugu. There are some useful tips for new ALTs, and even seasoned ALTs may benefit from giving the article a thorough read.
What is Team-Teaching?
English classes are “team-taught” by Japanese teachers and ALTs. Team-teaching is not unique to English teaching in Japan. The approach is used in other countries in a variety of subjects and levels of education. Team-teaching benefits students by exposing them to multiple viewpoints and combines the different strengths of multiple teachers.
While it might seem obvious, the key to effective team-teaching is working as a team. Due to time and communication constraints, this basic element is often overlooked. ALTs and JTEs should establish a rapport in order to facilitate smooth lesson planning and team-teaching. ALTs who teach several classes a day at several schools, may find establishing this rapport to be very challenging to say the least; however, even a simple greeting, smile, handshake/bow can “break the ice,” and over the course of the year, the work relationship with JTEs can be strengthened.
Another key point is communication. Again, this can be challenging due to language and time constraints. In addition, ALTs who travel to different schools, may not even see the teacher until minutes before the class. Phone calls, emails, faxes, and even Post-it notes can help bridge the gap. If there’s a language barrier (or even if there isn’t), this lesson planning form might help.
Team-teaching can take many forms. There is no one right way to team-teach. Every teacher has different teaching styles, so naturally, team-teaching styles will differ from team to team as well as based on what is being taught. Teaching simultaneously, alternating taking the lead and assisting, or splitting the class in two are just some of the possibilities. What’s important is that ALTs and JTEs mutually find the approach that works for both the team-teachers and the students.
If the current approach no longer works, open communication is strongly recommended. Without communication, nothing will improve and the quality of instruction will suffer.
With openness and flexibility, team-teaching can be a great way to learn and grow as a teacher as co-teachers share with and learn from each other. While it can be challenging, it can also be rewarding for both teachers and the students.
Check out these great resources!
Kagoshima SDC Idea Share Handbooks
These handbooks are full of learning activity ideas from past and present Kagoshima ALTs and JTEs as submitted at recent stagings of the annual Skills Development Conference.
Lanternfish is a website of jobs, worksheets and flashcards for the ESL and TEFL Teacher. The website is maintained by a group of ESL Teachers in Asia and North America. The group aims to bring quality, printable resources to teachers.
This website from the British Council offers teacher development resources for increased TEFL knowledge, as well as teaching resources with concrete lesson ideas like LearnEnglish Kids and LearnEnglish Teens.