March 13 Daichi Tanabe: "Acquiring English in Japan is a lifetime journey: Ways to keep students motivated"

posted Apr 20, 2016, 7:41 PM by Hamamatsu JALT   [ updated Jul 30, 2016, 1:36 AM ]

Daichi Tanabe calls himself a typical hardworking high school teacher who teaches 17 hours a week (this writer wonders how typical he is). According to him, what motivates students are tests, university entrance exams, movies, pop music, and study abroad. He introduced his classes and some of what he does in them.

He surveyed his 1st & 2nd year students.

Do you like to study English? 70%

Do you like using English?   70%

Do you want to use it? 80%

Do you think you will be able to use it fluently? 42%

Is there a great need for English 66%

Do you want to English speaking countries? 69%

Do you have any opportunities to use English outside of class?

         19% (some) 4% (yes)

Do you enjoy English class?  79%

Do you study English besides homework?    9% and 23%

Tanabe considers these results to be modestly all right. From this writer’s perspective, these are rather good percentages. Many other classes would have less favourable views about studying and learning English.


Physical letter writing, not e-mail — his students were happy to write a letter to his friend and receive a physical letter.

Songs — he introduces songs and sings songs in class — one song per month

English Name Project — He gave everyone an opportunity to choose an English name. That is, they chose their own name. This improved their motivation to seem English and use it. Students liked calling each other by their English names.

Video Chat Project — 

In just a few seconds, students realised the value of listening and speaking English because they had an opportunity to communicate for real with someone of similar age. Classmates helped in negotiating meaning so that the speaker could communicate her meaning.

A cultural question: a student wanted to know why a guy was wearing a cap at home, but didn’t have the ability to do that. Frustration turned into motivation.  Students understood that their textbooks do not give them the language for communication.

Murder Mystery Activity (C-B. approach, groups)

Excellent group activity and the level can be set up or down. You can modify the language in order to emphasise specify grammar.

All in all, the many activities that he has done in class have a lot to do with his small class size, but other teachers could certainly try them, adjusting the level and content for the particular needs of their students.