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PRIMARY ADVICE / Start the new year strong by setting goals for yourself and your students

By Helene J. Uchida / Special to The Japan NewsHappy New Year! Although this column always answers questions from readers, I would like to break from tradition for this first 2017 issue and focus on goals to help teachers approach the new year on a positive note.

I hope that wonderful relationships, activities, experiences and delightful surprises will unfold for you and your students this year. As we all know, positive classroom results don’t just “happen,” they spring from good preparation and organization. With this in mind, I encourage you to think about your goals for yourself as a professional and for your students as the recipients of your efforts.

Please sit down and take the time to envision what you want for yourself and your students. Some of these visions will be separate and some of them will intertwine. The following is a list of topics for you to consider.

Teacher goal checklist

*Accomplishment: What do you want to accomplish in the upcoming school year, and what steps will you take to ensure success? Do your students understand what your goals are? They deserve to know, because they are key players in the classroom.

*Outside stimuli from experts: What seminars, events or presentations will you attend to expand your skills, know-how and networking? Inspiration and suggestions from the outside can help you invigorate your lessons.

*Mentoring: Do you have a mentor to discuss issues with? If not, are you looking for one? Do you have a colleague you are enthusiastic about encouraging and helping as others have mentored or helped you? Teachers understand the challenges of teaching and are the best support system available to all of us.

*Materials and textbooks: Are you satisfied with the texts and materials you are using? Your students are the best judges. If they are stimulated and making progress, then stay with the materials. If they are not, then you need to invest time in looking for alternatives.

*Evaluation: What system are you using to evaluate your students and how are you using the results to foster a sense of accomplishment and progress? Students really appreciate clarity in knowing what is expected from them.

*Easy-to-understand lessons: Are you and your lessons easy to understand? Students rate this quality No. 1 on their “appreciation of teachers” lists.

Elementary school students’ goals, depending on their grade level, should include being able to:

*Read and write capital and small letters with correct strokes

*Master simple greetings with a friendly smile, eye contact and confidence

*Name the basic nouns students encounter in daily life, such as colors, animals, fruit, vegetables, family, school supplies, sports, vehicles, school subjects, toys and the weather

*Give a short self-introduction with confidence and a smile

*Look up words in a dictionary

*Ask and answer simple questions

*Think in simple English

*Understand basic phonics, especially initial letter sounds and long and short vowels

*Read short sentences

*Exhibit self-confidence with what limited English the child has mastered

*Have a basic understanding of Western holidays

*Act with good Western manners using polite phrases, such as Thank you; You’re welcome; Yes, please; No, thank you; Here you are; May I … ?

*Sing simple English songs

*Take risks without the fear of making mistakes

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Readers are encouraged to send questions to Helene J. Uchida on any themes related to teaching English — particularly those at the primary school level — to jn-edu@yomiuri.com with “Primary Advice” in the subject line. Questions to Uchida are also accepted via postcard at “Primary Advice,” The Japan News, 1-7-1 Otemachi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo 100-8055. Questions should preferably be written in English, accompanied by your name, occupation and the area in which you live.

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Uchida is the director of Little America, a Fukuoka-based company for training teachers of English.Speech

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