Hello world!

I’m back! That is to say, I’ve successfully moved my website (Winjeel.Com) from American to Swiss servers with the new host company, HelloSpace.Me. That means privacy and data security are more assured. The Swiss government has far more respect for people’s digital rights than the US government currently does. Anyway, the moving process is done, and it feels good to be back online.

Person holding coffee cup. CC0 PicJumbo.com, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-ceramic-teacup-in-front-of-a-macbook-pro-210658/

Person holding coffee cup. CC0 PicJumbo.com, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-ceramic-teacup-in-front-of-a-macbook-pro-210658/

How to write a Christmas Card

This is actually really simple. Just mix together some phrases. The phrases are fixed phrases, and so using a computer translation system will ruin the card.

Key phrases:

  • To Yuki, I/We wish you and yours  (for person + family)
  • Dear Yuki, Wishing you
  • a (very) Merry Christmas
  • Happy/Wonderful/Fantastic New Year
  • Happy/Wonderful/Fantastic 2018
  • Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
  • Wishing you all the best these holidays
  • Peace, joy, and love to you and your family.
  • May your Christmas season be filled with joy
  • Sending you happy tidings this holiday season.
  • May this New Year be filled with joy!
  • God bless you this holiday season — Merry Christmas!

For more, see: https://holidappy.com/greeting-cards/Christmas-Card-Messages-What-to-Write-in-a-Christmas-Card.

DO: Use phrases nicely put together, and maybe add a personal message if you like. Messages in cards are usually short and simple. However, each message should be unique. Example:

Dear Yukihiro,

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and a wonderful 2018.

Many happy returns,

Hiroyuki & family

Another example:

To Masahiro,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and fantastic New Year. We hope all will go well for your trip to Vietnam this Spring.

Very best,

Hiromasa & Yuki

IMPORTANT NOTICE about Winjeel.Com

Currently, Winjeel.Com is hosted on servers in the United States, but it will move to HelloSpace.Me servers in Switzerland this week. There may be a few days where Winjeel.Com will not work. Sorry about the interruption. I hope to have everything operating as normal as quickly as possible.

The move from the US to Switzerland is because of two reasons, one is economic. Two, the worsening of digital freedoms in the United States is seen as a threat in the coming years. Winjeel.Com will be hosted in Switzerland because of the strong data protection, privacy laws, and commitment to Net Neutrality.

Notice about WordEngine

Lexxica will conduct server maintenance on December 19th starting at 12:30 pm and lasting until about 4 pm. Two security updates will be implemented as well as improvements to the WordEngine mobile flashcards application. Improvements to the app include faster task delivery speed and more recognizable transitions between the word tasks.

2017年12月19日(月) 午後12時半から午後4時の間メンテナンス作業を実施させていただきます。

Frank Lloyd Wright

Discussion questions for Reading in the Real World Intro.

  1. Summarise what you understand of the article.
  2. Is it important for buildings to use local materials? Why?
  3. Should all buildings be designed and built for the local environment?
  4. Do you agree with Wright’s ideas? Why?
  5. Are architects important for society? Why?
  6. What are some examples of well designed and badly designed buildings in Nagoya?
  7. How important is building design in our day to day lives?
  8. How do you feel about “form follows function”? Would you like to visit the Guggenheim Museum? Why?
  9. How do you feel about the design of Motoyama subway station? Or some other station?
  10. (Make your own questions)

Homework for Quarter 4


HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you all had a great holiday.

WordEngine needs to be updated before it can work on iOS11. Please wait before upgrading to iOS11 or do your study on a real computer. WordEngine is a 32bit application, but iOS11 will now only run 64bit applications. If you have upgraded to iOS11, you will need to study WordEngine on a computer by signing into WordEngine.jp.

Communication Skills

  • Review Conversation Gambits units: units 1, 3, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31, 46, 47, 50, 56, 57, 58.
  • Review pronunciation, and prepare for the Phonological Skills Check.
  • Review English First Hand 2: units 1-11 (including grammar & pronunciation).
  • Review Reading in the Real World Intro, units 7, 8 9, 10, 11 (Sons or Daughters?).
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 4,000 words a week, and have ER reports each Thursday.
  • Have fun 🙂


  • Review English Grammar In Use units: 42, 69, 72, 85, 98, 99, 109, 110.
  • Review How to Write a News Story.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • Do extensive reading, about 3,500 words a week, and have ER reports ready for each Thursday.
  • Work on your portfolio/magazine, and final report.
  • Have fun 🙂

Oral Communication

  • Prepare Orbits unit 22 vocabulary, article, and article discussion. The topic is about suicide and may be sensitive to some people, however, it is important in society. Recently, there was a young American vlogger who raised the issue (very insensitively) about suicide in Japan, and caused a lot of social media discussion. IF you don’t want to, or cannot talk about this, please find your own article relating to animal welfare, and teach your conversation partner about this topic.
  • Review pronunciation, conversation strategies, and vocabulary from Orbits units 16-22.
  • Do WordEngine (a little each day).
  • World Plaza is open daily, from 11am to 6pm, please go often.
  • The final exam will focus on these points:
    • Vocabulary (units 16-23)
    • Pronunciation (an activity or two from Orbits)
    • Conversation (your own original written dialogue). Demonstrate structure, topic related vocabulary, conversation strategies, and knowledge of article topics discussed between Orbits units 16 to 23.
  • Have fun 🙂

Quarter 3 Final Reports

All remaining work from my students is due on Monday, 13th November, 2pm. I will be at my office from about 9 to 10am, and in the World Plaza from about 12pm to 2pm. Late submissions cannot be accepted without a doctor’s certificate.

What is due:

  • Communication Skills: Nothing
  • Literacy class: Task 9 revised (for your 5%)
  • Oral Communication classes: Final reports

Word Engine data for quarter three will be downloaded on Monday morning.

OC: During Speaking Tests

For my Oral Communication classes: Do not waste time, but use it wisely.  During the speaking tests work and be productive. DO NOT USE JAPANESE during this time. You can do any of the following:

Prepare for your own speaking tests

  • Review articles units 13-18
  • Review article vocabulary for units 13-18
  • Review extra information from poster presentations and your own research for units 13-18
  • Review pronunciation of vocabulary for articles in units 13-18
  • Review conversation strategies in units 0-18
  • Help a friend prepare for their own speaking test

Work on your final reports

  • Review the sample report at Oral Communication.
  • Review your speaking test videos
  • Counts words per minute for fluency
  • Review your use of conversation strategies
  • Review your mannerisms and gestures
  • Review your changes in Word Engine since July

Review the story in Orbits, units 1-18.

Do Word Engine study

Do extensive reading

5 Things about stress-free classroom management

I was asked by one of my student-teachers a few years ago about classroom management. Actually, I don’t remember her exact wording, but it might have been something like, “how do you discipline the naughty students?”, or “how do you control the bad kids?” or something like that. The question baffled me at first, for two reasons. 1. I don’t have ‘naughty or bad students’. 2. I don’t need to ‘discipline’ students, so I didn’t know how to do these things, nor how to answer that question. Of course, I then wondered why I couldn’t answer the question, and why I don’t have classroom problems. I just don’t have those issues.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what the real question is; a few weeks to figure out a rough answer; and a few months to understand the details. The answer is a lot more detailed than what a blog post can offer, but really, it’s a mindset on the teacher’s side, a philosophy, so below is probably customisable, adaptable, and interpretable for you personally. Use what suits you best, and put on hold the other things that doesn’t sit well for you, at least for now. However, read this, and incrementally start to employ these winning strategies for a stress free relationship with your classes.

1. Realise we are all merely humans.

What this really means is that your class, your lessons, your subject are not the most important things in life. The basic needs of any human is food, water, shelter, human contact, social needs. Everything else is just artificial 21st century add-ons that primitive humans survived without. There are people starving, struggling to survive under slavery, people living in horrid, unimaginable conditions all over the world right now. The people you have in front of you are usually fortunate, but you don’t know what is really happening in their own lives. Instead being out in the world enjoying life, they’ve put themselves in a position in front of you. They’ve given their minds and bodies to you, and they trust that you’re not going to waste their time, or make their lives a misery.

You, the teacher, might have been lucky to grow up in a privileged middle-class upbringing, in a relatively safe, stable family and country. Not everyone has enjoyed such a nice start on life. Some of our students might need to do things that an ordinary child should never have to do (like help care for a terminally ill and dying close relative, or do all the domestic chores), or see things that no child should see (think of the worst and most tragic events or scenarios). Consequently, I like to make my classroom as much of an escape and refuge as possible.

Art museum in Europe. CC Adrianna Calvo 2014, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-art-museum-europe-21264/

Art museum in Europe. CC Adrianna Calvo 2014, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-art-museum-europe-21264/

In philosophy, they talk of what the purpose of art is. Really, why do we spent sometimes hundreds of hours trying to make a vase and decorate it; a thing that its primary purpose is to transport and store liquids. Instead of using it for its primary purpose, we  just put it on display, just to look at; just to enjoy its prettiness. Why? Just so we can escape the horrors of everyday living. Life is hard and terrible. I don’t want to make life even more hard and terrible for my students. Consequently, I try to make the classroom experience fulfilling, joyful, light, deep, meaningful, engaging, whatever positive adjective that adds value to your students. Make your class a distraction from reality, let them forget for a while the sheer horror of living daily life.

A book that was really important for me was Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. That turned my world upside down and straightened me out. Still today, I thank the two adult students I had who really pushed this book onto me. Also, listen to The Philosophy Bites and the Philosopher’s Zone podcasts. The range of topics there are deeply fulfilling for your own psyche and outlook on life.

2. Don’t judge; no grudges. Ever!

When I get a new class, ALL students enter the room with no reputation, no historical baggage, and all with a fresh start. They look at you with wide eyes, and they are hoping that this year will be a good year, finally, hopefully. I don’t want to ruin that. All students have the chance to impress me, or sabotage their own efforts. Those who seem “lively” I give them friendly reminders that they need to listen, or get back to work.

A teacher and student laughing. Creative Commons licensed image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/9609016298/sizes/l/

A teacher and student laughing. Creative Commons licensed image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofed/9609016298/sizes/l/

For any students who cause problems for me, I politely, and always with the same manner of respect I would display to my neighbour, a stranger on the subway, my boss, that kind of respect, I ask them to stop it, and help their partner do the task at hand. Reminding them of their social responsibilities is powerful. Some students have attention deficit disorder, some don’t know the correct manner of behaving in the situation now, some have Asperger’s, some simply have a hearing deficit and got bored, there are a myriad of reasons why they cannot behave in the cookie-cutter manner some teachers might expect or hope for. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s not their fault they have turned out the way they are. So if during a teacher-centered moment they cause an interruption quickly finish your spiel, then get the class engaged on some autonomous or pair-work activity. Now it’s your chance to engage with that ‘disruptive’ student. This part is really, really, super important: In your nicest, most sincere, unjudgemental, manner you can, simply ask the student who disrupted, “Are you ok?”, “Do you understand what to do?” “Can I help you in any way?”

Why is that super important? It shows many things including, 1. You’re not like the old grammar-school teachers who will discipline him / her. 2. You’re open to understanding them. 3. You’re giving them an opportunity to get help, and opportunity to succeed in your class. 4. They haven’t sabotaged their own potential in your class. 5. You don’t hold grudges, and this behaviour today got your attention, but in a good way. 6. They know you’re willing to help. 7. You respect all people. Everyone wants both dignity and respect; these are fundamental to our social existence, and you have no intention to battle them, to work with them instead. Really, this makes a huge difference.

3. Offer help

I try to keep my teacher-centered moments as brief as possible, and give students their time to engage with the content autonomously. This gives them the chance to explore things at their own speed, to the depth they need, and some self control. This time is important for me to walk around and see what’s up with different students. I can offer them help if need be, I can see who’s struggling, and gives me talk time with them, too. The ‘problem students’, I try to make my best buddies. I ask them, “how are you doing?”, “Do you need help?”, “Do you understand what to do?”, “Are you ok today? You seem a little sleepy / distracted.” among others. Sometimes they will ask for help, and this is important, so that you can start to learn what problems they face. May be you explain things too quick, or you leave out some essential details that only students who can see the big picture get, or they just need to hear it once more. Take the time to patiently help the student will make you one of their favourite teachers. Even if they don’t ask for help, just offering it makes you a star.

Photo CC from ZeLIG School, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

Photo CC from ZeLIG School, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

4. Use proximity

Patrol around the room, and stand near potential trouble spots. During student work time I always walk around to see who’s getting it right, who needs help, or a nudge in the right direction. Also, for students who seem distracted, I stop and stand near them. I don’t necessarily look at them, but they know I’m right there, and now’s not the time to mess around, because I’m right there. I usually don’t need to say anything, and so this avoids confrontations. Even during my brief teacher-centered moments, I might move and stand right by a potential offender, and so noting their behaviour, and continue my explanation. The class will notice their behaviour, and so everyone knows that you know, just you choose to get on with the task. So the potential problem student usually shuts down that behaviour themselves.

5. Know their names

Knowing the name of the most helpful and ‘lively’ students will make everyone’s lives easier. Sometimes all you have to do is say their names in a manner that is respectful, but stern (somehow it always sounds comical to my class). During explanations I will say, “Thank you, now this part is important, you need this”, then explain and demonstrate.

Coffee Talk. CC Anna Levinzon 2008, https://flic.kr/p/4wAz5r

Coffee Talk. CC Anna Levinzon 2008, https://flic.kr/p/4wAz5r

Bonus. Build your own reputation

Students will talk, and your former students will tell the newer ones about you. It will take a few years to cultivate a reputation so students can know what to expect from you. They will say things like, “Andrew’s cool, we had a Secret Santa party with a game of charades”, or “He failed a girl in his Oral Communication class, but she didn’t really try anyway”, or “He once gave us two weeks to design our own topic, learn about it, and then present it. He did nothing but stand there watching us, but he said that he really liked the work we did”. These stories included fun things, warnings, and cool personal opportunities. There will be more stories about me out there in the student population, and I hope at least 90% of them are good or work in my favour.

How to teach pronunciation: 5 steps

I have been teaching pronunciation to students for about 17 years or more. I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t, especially for East Asian students, and Japanese in particular. Here are five easy steps to teach pronunciation.

Follow a routine

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re going to teach English, in English, you must follow a routine that your students can quickly pick up and understand easily. The routine could be a standardised lesson plan, of your own design; but it should be a routine for teaching pronunciation, another routine for teaching vocabulary, and another for teaching grammar, and so on. This way, students can understand what is happening now, what is happening next, and they can see how each step of the lesson is integrated, because they’ve become accustomed to your routines. This makes it easier for students to focus, follow, and participate positively.

The 5 Steps

Your routine for a pronunciation segment of your class would be:

  1. Introduce
  2. Demonstrate
  3. Main activity
  4. Wrap up
  5. Segue to the next activity

Step 1: Introduce

Socrates said that every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end. That is, all successful narratives follow this, and it is a structure that humans can easily understand. A simple introduction could be to list some key words on the board (pictured), and elicit some features about them. The key words should be the first few moves of the main activity you will do.

  1. Do a listen and repeat drill of the words, and always, always give students time to…
  2. Rehearse the words with their partner.
Teaching two-syllable pronunciation. The blue is the list of examples, the black is the information elicited from students, and green is the explanation of the parts of the input students get.

Teaching two-syllable pronunciation. The blue is the list of examples, the black is the information elicited from students, and green is the explanation of the parts of the input students get.

Features of the input phase, as can be seen in the image, there are:

  • The first few moves included
  • Information about the pronunciation is elicited from students
  • Extra information so that students can work autonomously (with their smartphones) is included.
  • Examples and anti-examples are included. Anti-examples show what an answer would be unacceptable in the activity.

Step 2: Demonstrate

This is especially important for language learners. All students understand things better when they can see it being done; also they can understand your verbal instructions better. Simply walk through the first three moves of the activity eliciting from the students each move/step (see picture below). If it’s a pair work activity, choose a capable student to partner with you. My preferred option is to elicit the first, second, and third moves from the class, just to get them started on an activity.

Always, always, after giving a set of instructions, always, always say:

  1. “Check with your partner, what did I say?” (give half a minute for them to talk & confirm things with each other)
  2. “Do you understand?”
Example of a pronunciation activity that students would work together on.

Example of a pronunciation activity that students would work together on.

Step 3: Main activity

After eliciting the first few moves, I say, “Now continue with your partner”, and most students usually know what to do with no problems.

I prefer to use paper-based pair work activities. This way, they can see their progress, and you can see where they are going wrong. Also, working with a partner helps students have more confidence in their answers, and the social situation lightens the classroom anyway. Walk around and check to see how they are doing.

Most pronunciation activities can be repeated or reviewed in the next lesson. Simply by having students remind each other what the main point is, and “test each other”. For instance, demonstrate with a dichotomous choice question, giving yes-no, same-different, i-i:, æ-ə type of responses. For instance, “Does it have two syllables that are big-small? ‘really’ – yes, ‘zero’ – yes, ‘again’ –  no; great, now ‘test’ your partner”. This would be your demonstration, and so students can now understand what to do, and can review with each other.

Step 4: Wrap up

Simply follow these steps:

  1. elicit the answers from students / or “test” them if it’s a review
  2. Have them listen and repeat your pronunciation
  3. Give them a minute to review the pronunciation in pairs

Step 5: Segue

Some how make a link between this activity and the next. Or else say, “Next, as usual, is grammar…”. Having a segue creates a cognitive link, and a flow in the lesson. Without segues, lessons seem stop-start, or fragmented. Create some flow or continuity, so things seem smooth.

Key points

At the appropriate times, always ask these questions:

  • Do you understand?
  • Check with your partner, “what did I say?” / Summarise what I said with your partner
  • Practice together
  • Any questions?

The example above came from my own book, however, the procedure still holds well if you use a great book called Pronunciation Games by Mark Hancock.