Monthly Archives: November 2016

Adaptation for the English Classroom

One of the hardest things is to find a textbook for your students that fits. You usually just can’t go down to the local book store and easily find what you:re looking for, nor do you have the budget to buy a pile of books which look good on-line. I have been very happy at my school with the textbook I use for teaching children, Oxford’s Let’s Go English course. But the tricky part was the upper level adult students who needed a book that catered to their maintenance level needs.


This is where the idea of adapting an existing English printed book for English lessons began. I found a hefty book produce by eHow titled How to Do Just About Everything, with 1,001 instructions on how to do a lot of different things. This book is very thick and my students have been lugging their copies around to lessons for a while.


The point was that I took many of the instructions and made a worksheet that could be placed in a binder. On the sheet were vocabulary from that chosen text, questions, a task for the students and a space for a homework assignment. Using this format I made at least 100 lessons, far out-stripping any normal textbook for English learners which would usually have no more than 20 to 50 lessons )if you were really lucky!.

After 6 years of using this method I started to run out of options. That and the books material was getting out of date. Advice on syncing a Palm device or other technology based things has come a long way since 2004 and the book is now out of print anyway. So I turned to looking for a replacement and have found the Reader’s Digest How to Do Just About Anything )!. I don:t even care if there is a conflict of copywriter here, just happy they have produced a good book. This book is out of print too, but was printed in 2012 and is much more up to date. It also has a lot of pictures and diagrams, something the other text did not and I spent many an hour searching for the things needed to make the worksheets. With a little tweaking I have already pumped out 5 lessons for my students to use.


If you are a language teacher I would recommend trying to adapt advice type books for making lessons. They offer variety in vocabulary, are real native English, and give the students a lot of practice explaining in steps which makes them more functional in a communication sense. Give ’em a try!

Keep writing.


Mystery Solved

A little while ago I posted about a worm My family and I found while walking in the mountains. Now it can be positively identified at a Harigane-mushi (Chordodes formosanus), roughly translated as an iron wire worm. The English name is a horse hairworm. It is a parasite that lives in the stomach of preying mantis insects! My student, a knowledgeable man when it comes to insects, found one in an insect he had kept in a tank to study as an elementary student. The worm we saw was out of its host because it had probably died in the fall and was now heading to water to start the cycle all over again. One of the oddest things I have ever seen!


Hime-Ringo: Picking and slow cooking Japanese Princess-Apples

Japan is a great place for apples. I should know, I myself come from New York, where the apples are some of the best in the States. I bought two apple trees last year and this year got two large apples off my Jyona Gold tree and about 30 Princess-Apples off the other.


This small apple is bigger than what we in North America call a crab apple and is much closer in color and consistency to a normal type of apple. These have been on the tree for a long time, at least 3 months or more, but I waited to right up before the weather is set to turn because they are usually pretty tart.


I picked and washed them. Then I peeled a couple and left their chopped quarters drizzled in honey in the fridge for a couple hours. They were sweeter, but with a bite to them.


Next, at the suggestion of my wife, I peeled all of the rest and placed them in a slow cooker with a cup of red wine and about 4 tbs of honey and a cup of sugar. Then I cooked them for 4 hours.

They might look like beets at this stage, but on yogurt there is nothing better. Bona petit!

Keep writing.

Apples to Apples for the ESL Classroom

I was introduced to Apples to Apples a couple of years ago at my good friends the Mahar’s house. They had a regular version of the game and we played it with some college students who were staying at their home. It was a fun game and I knew at that time it would be great for an English class activity/game.

The next year we went back to the States to visit my folks as is the usual and I was hoping to get a copy of the game. Luckily my parents had a Jr. Version of the game. The box said 6+ which is great because, if you aren’t aware already, games over 8+ are often too difficult for even adult Japanese English learners to play. The variety of nouns (items or people/characters) is just too great or complicated. The other trouble is many pop-culture references just don’t work here.


If you want to use Apples to Apples in the ESL classroom here are some tips:

  1. Get the youngest version possible (you might be able to find a used version on Amazon)
  2. Weed out adjectives (the green cards) and especially noun/verbs (the red cards) that will be unknown to the group of students you will play the game with.
  3. If you are teaching to a big group give sets of cards to a table of students or pairs to create groups who will give the cards or judge the winners.
  4. Make sure to take time explaining the rules-and explain and write the adjectives on the white board so students understand exactly what they are doing (which should be what you would do for any game as a teacher!)


Apples to Apples also has a version that uses picture. This is a good alternative for smaller groups, you can even mix them in the decks to give your students a variety of answer choices. Either way the game is a great one for making students laugh and helping them learn new words. I’ve been in tears playing this game with Jr. High School students here in my school. Why not get yourself a set and try it today?!

Keep writing.

Identify this worm and I will…….

Fall is raging towards winter here and my family took a walk up a closed mountain road scouting out fishing spots for next year. Yes, I did find several trout in the streams and am excited for next season, but we also ran across something rather odd on the road.


I saw what looked like a white root on the road and noticed it was moving! I started taking pictures of it and told my daughter not to touch it-she will touch almost any insect if not told otherwise.


It measured about 25cm and was very slender. It obviously was supposed to mimic a root, but it had no eye and only a brownish “head” that moved forward. It was using snake like locomotion and when we came back about 30 minutes later it was crossing in the other direction, determined to go someplace.


I have not idea what it is, first time I have ever seen anything like in here in Japan. Any ideas? Any Entomologists out there?

Keep writing!