Teaching in Japan, how to get students to think, part one

I teach in Japan.  I teach English in Japan.

To most people, this may bring up images of a person lecturing about when to use a pronoun versus a noun, the diagramming of sentences, the difference between who and whom, lie and lay, and other such god awful boring things people do not use in the real world.

That is not what I teach.  Certainly, yes, the students have to know that in the sense that I make them use grammar properly as a tool for communication.  However, the emphasis is on tool and use.

English is a tool, and that is how it should be.  Learning is structured around that.

Photo by Vidalia11

As one example, students learn to write paragraphs to organize their thoughts.  When doing so, of course, grammar is important.  However, we also need to judge the logic and cohesiveness of their paragraphs because this demonstrates their ability to think and communicate.  We should be looking for topic sentences, checking that the sentences in the paragraph connect with each other, and that the whole paragraph is about one (and only one) topic, of course, as defined in the topic sentence.

Can high school students learn this?  In another language?  Yes.  They can, and they do.

Learning to build paragraphs is a basic building block of organizing an essay, which leads to other ways of communication.

Paragraphs are only one example of many ways to use English.  The learn not only to use English, but paragraphs are also a good way to teach students to organize their thoughts.  This is a skill that may benefit them far longer learning a foreign language.