Friday, September 30, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 30th

True or False: Engelbert Humperdinck is the singer's real name.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Quentin Tarantino

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - girls group 1

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So today was the last day of my optional (elective) English class with my 9th graders at Taisha JH for this term. Even tho there are three terms in a Japanese school year, they only switch electives once, so I get two classes per school year. This was my first class of this school year.

We have a lot of fun in this class, as it's the class where we don't have a textbook to follow or any set goals - just use English and have fun.

These are the kids I tend to get to know a bit better than some of their 9th grade classmates. And I had great kids in this class. You might recognize Asuka and Mai, my two speech contest students, in the front of this picture. I'll post the rest of the names soon.

This isn't an honors class, but the kids tend to be more interested in English and willing to speak and use English a bit more than they do in regular class. Since I get to design and plan all the lessons, we tend to have a lot of fun, but I hope they learn a little along the way as well.

In October I'll get a new class that will stay with me until graduation next March. I hope they're as good as this class was.

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - group 2

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I had a great class this term. Lots of students who were interested in English and willing to try whatever wacky game or project I could think up.

I gave them a little surprise party today with some drinks and snacks. The girls descended like a hungry pack of vultures, leaving almost no food for the boys who hung back, since they were the minority in this class (in a school where there are more boys than girls overall). They don't often get outside food and drink at school, so they all had a fun time eating and drinking and finishing up their term project, which was a book with 7 pages all about them, but written in English. I let them keep the books, so I hope they hold on to it, and show it to their parents and maybe in a few years find it in a drawer and remember what it was like to be a 9th grader.

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - group 3

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 5
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Not sure why I picked this stairway. I told them to do the famous pose from Titanic, but those pictures didn't turn out as good as the ones where I just let them be themselves, peace symbols and all.

We also took photos with one girl on each of the stairs - sort of a Beatles pose - but these group shots still were the best.

My 9th grade girls kick your 9th grade girls' asses!


Sentaku Eigo 2005 class

Sentaku Eigo 2005 class - 9
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are the boys. I had 32 students this time around, but only 9 boys. Last year, it was the reverse, with about 8 girls in a class of 30.

The boys at this age tend to be more soft-spoken and a little less genki than the girls in terms of participating in class, but I think they had fun in class and all of them were keenly interested in the Wallace and Gromit animated short I showed in class today while they finished up their term projects.

I'll post names when I have access to my roster, cuz I don't want to get any wrong.

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 29th

Who gave the famous "Top Gun" speech in the 1994 film Sleep With Me?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Don's Plum

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 28th

Which 2001 film starring Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio was never released in the United States?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Mamas and the Papas' California Dreamin'

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 27th

What '60s hit was prominently featured in the film Chungking Express?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Marvin Gaye's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Monday, September 26, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 26th

What was the first video ever shown on VH-1?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 24th & 25th

Which talk show host made an auspicious acting debut in the Steven Spielberg film The Color Purple?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
La Belle Aurore

Friday, September 23, 2005

Updates and more pics coming

Lafcadio Hearn Speech Contest - Matsue - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I thought I should post a few random pics just to let you know that I'm trying to update this blog and add some new pics and posts. It's been a busy month now that school is back underway, but I should have some time this weekend to get the trivia up-to-date and post some more pics.

This pic is from the Lafcadio Hearn Speech Contest, which was held in Matsue on Sept. 17th. I had two 9th grade girls from my JH competing, and the girl on the left (Asuka) did really well and won a prize. Mai also did really well, but she speaks English with a heavy accent that no amount of coaching on my part can remove. She had to say phrases like "religious life" and "very large white butterfly" in her speech and try as we might, they never did get natural sounding.
But we had fun practicing and I have two more speech contests coming up in November.

More soon, so check back next week...


skirt comparrison

skirt comparrison
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I took this photo at a recent school assembly at my Junior High school. I think it illustrates the various skirt lengths worn by the female students.

The girl on the far right has the longest skirt and is a 7th grader - all the girls in the 7th grade wear their skirts below the knee.

The girl in the middle is a ninth grader. How can you tell? Her skirt is way above her knee and only 9th grade girls are "allowed" to wear their skirts this short. If a girl in the 8th grade or 7th grade tried to wear her skirt this short, she would get beat up according to some 9th grade girls I asked about this whole various skirt length thing.

The girl on the far left is also a 9th grader, but she's wearing her skirt at a more modest height, which is acceptable but clues the observer into the fact that she is not so much in the "popular" crowd. I guess when you're all wearing the same clothes and thus can't differentiate yourself with your fashion choices, the popular girls will still find a way to separate themsleves from the rest of the crowd.

Japan is an odd country, but a fascinating one....

Trivia - Friday, Sept 23rd

What was the name of Rick's Paris cafe in Casablanca?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. It did not include a laugh track. (Also, the show was mostly in Black and White and featured on camera interviews with the cast in character - great episode)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 22nd

What was unique about the episode of M*A*S*H called "The Interview"?

A. It did not include a laugh track
B. Alan Alda did not appear in the episode
C. It was an hour long
D. It appeared outside the show's regular season

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Julian Schnabel

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 21st

Which modern artist made the transition from painting and sculpting to film in 1996 with the movie Basquiat?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The phrase indicates the moment when a TV show loses its edge; the expression comes from an episode of Happy Days when the Fonz attempts a waterski jump over a shark.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 20th

Where did the expression "jump the shark" come from?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. J.K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter books in case you've been living in a cave)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 19th

Which author has sold millions of books, but was actually on welfare for about a year while writing her first book?

A. Toni Morrison
B. Jhumpa Lahiri
C. J.K. Rowling
D. Anne Rice

**I really like Jhumpa Lahiri's books - I highly recommend them!**

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Red, white and black only

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 17th & 18th

What colors do the members of The White Stripes always wear?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Tenacious D

Friday, September 16, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 16th

Which acoustic metal/comedy duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass refers to itself as "the greatest band on the earth"?

**BONUS Points if you can tell me where they got the name for the band**

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Joe Strummer

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 15th

Which lead singer of the activist punk band The Clash was actually the son of a diplomat?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
My Fair Lady

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 14th

Rex Harrison won a Tony, then later an Oscar for playing the same role in the Broadway and film productions of ________________.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Oona O'Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 13th

Charlie Chaplin's fourth marriage was to a woman thirty-nine years his junior; they had eight children together. Who was she, and who was her father?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Toronto, Canada

Monday, September 12, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 12th

Where is the largest North American film festival held every autumn?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
B.B. King

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 10th & 11th

Which music legend is nicknamed "The Ambassador of the Blues"?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
She was a model for such products as Breck and Clairol.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 9th

What was Martha Stewart's first career?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
D. John Forsythe

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 8th

Who was the voice of Charlie in the TV series Charlie's Angels?

A. Tom Selleck
B. Bruce Boxleitner
C. Michael Landon
D. John Forsythe

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Manoel de Oliveira

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, Sept 7th

Which Portuguese director wrote and directed his latest film, Un film parle, at the astonshing age of ninety-five?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, Sept 6th

Which 1997 Natalie Merchant album was recorded in a series of "workshop" sessions with more than thirty different artists collaborating in the final product?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A Thermos

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trivia - Monday, Sept 5th

What item is Steve Martin "picking out" via song for Bernadette Peters in the 1979 film The Jerk?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
James Brolin & Morgan Fairchild

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, Sept. 3rd & 4th

In the film Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Pee-Wee's adventures are made into a film within the film. Who are the stars of it?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control - hunt it down and rent it!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

learning my kids' names

Chugoku region JH brass band competition - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

OK - so I started my 2nd year of teaching here on Thursday when school resumed at my basr Jr. High.

Notice I didn't say "classes" resumed becuase there weren't any the first two days - the students are all busy preparing for Sports Day, which is next Friday, the 9th. (Which happens to be my parent's wedding anniversary - Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!)

I don't think there will be many classes all next week either, as Sports Day takes precedent over education apparently. I'll discuss Sports Day more when I have pics of the event and give you the low down on what goes on.

It's funny that right now there is a lot of moaning about the amount of time Japanese kids spend in school, as their performance on international tests in math and science has suffered in the past few years and Japan is no longer in the top 5 nations in each category.
In 1999, they shortened the school week to five days, so no more Saturday school. Which means the number of hours given to any one subject, like English for instance, was cut back. For example, my JH kids are required to attend 4 hours of English instruction per week - so that means 4 one-hour classes a week with one day of no English. Some schools only require 3 hours per week.

The ironic thing about all this to anyone that has worked at a Japanese Junior High is twofold:
1) the students are at school ALL THE TIME! I see more of my students than some of their parents do I'm sure. They come in at the weekend anyway to participate in club activities and school functions - my kendo kids, for instance, practiced EVERY DAY during SUMMER VACATION. That includes Sundays. But the kids are not in classes, so it's technically not the same.
2) My school, like almost all in Japan, takes time out from education to do activities with the students for whole days or even multiple days. We had one day where the kids just drew all day - a field trip to some scenic spot, draw, eat a picnic, draw some more, go home (or more accurately - go to club activity). We have a day where all the classes in the school sing for all the other classes. We have a cultural festival, various ceremonies in the gym that take up half or whole days, and the aforementioned Sports Day, which is eating up like 7 days of classes. I could go on, but I think you get the point - the Japanese whine about test scores, but don't bat an eye about letting the kids get out of classes for other activities.

Now, I'm not saying that the kids shouldn't have their fun - I'm all for field trips and cultural actvities. But in America, these would be prepared for by the students who elected to participate and those preparations would take place AFTER school. But it seems that it's more OK to eliminate classes than it is to eliminate judo practice or baseball practice or chorus practice. Different ways of doing things, I know, but that doesn't mean that the Japanese way is the most efficient way.

But, I digress...

I meant to post here about learning my kids' names. I have lots of spare time right now, since there are no classes to teach, so I decided I would try and study Japanese and attempt to learn my students' names in my down time. This week I'm getting a "face" book of all my JH students - with their picture and name. I'll have to have help translating - but it's a start.
I've taken so many pictures of my kids and I started to label them on my laptop with their names so I can start putting a name with the face.
You should see the way my kids light up if instead of saying "Hello" as we pass in the halls, I say "Hello, Yuki" and use their individual first name.

But its a daunting process as my kids tend to have very similar sounding names or simply the same name - which is no differnt than the many Johns, Matts, James, Brittanys, Jennifers, etc I would have in an American school. But it's harder somehow.
Partly because they rarely use their first names in school, except with their close friends. But wanting to instill a Western practice I've been determined to have them address me as Jason and me in turn address them by their first name.

Anyway - this brings me to the picture above. If it wasn't hard enough all ready, my JH has a number of twins and even a set of triplets, the three sisters pictured above. They are 8th graders, which means I'll be seeing them for the rest of my time here, even if I stay a third year. So not only do I have to learn their names - Shiho, Saki & Risa - i have to learn to tell them apart. :)
My band teacher tells them apart because they each play a different instrument. Now if I can just them to carry their instrument around with them to English class... :)

L to R - front row:
Ayaka Y., Nahoko M., Shiho T., Saki T.
back row:
Kanaka, Risa T., Yuki O., Hiromi F.

More pics soon.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Trivia - Friday, Sept 2nd

Which 1997 Errol Morris documentary featured interviews with a lion tamer and a topiary gardener, among others?

The answer to today's question is one of my absolute favorite films of the past ten years. Morris is a gifted documentarian and holds a place among my all-time favourtie directors alongside Spielberg, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Fincher, Miyazaki & Scorcese.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
"TV Funhouse"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, Sept 1st

What is the name of the Robert Smigel series of cartoon shorts, which air regularly on Saturday Night Live?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Tracey Ullman Show