Interview of Conrad Matsumoto

Teaching in Japan – I interviewed Conrad Matsumoto about how he started his English school in Japan,

about teaching in Japan, and living in Japan. Enjoy!

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Interview of Sennah Kishiya

How Sennah Kishiya became fluent in English while living in Japan.

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Meeting People

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Starting a Side Hustle in Japan

Like most of you, I teach English in Japan. I teach at a couple of universities and I run my own small English school, Kevin`s English Schools.

In order to make ends meet, I decided to start a side hustle and I am very happy that I did so. I now own a couple of guest houses and we host on Airbnb. Even through typhoons, earthquakes and a pandemic, we quietly make money. You can too if you have an extra room in your home or perhaps are lucky enough to have use of an extra property.

You may think that you do not have any chance of doing this, that no one would want to stay at your place. However, Japan is committed to getting to 60 millions tourists, and in non-pandemic years, the number of visitors has been increasing year on year. Even areas that are not traditionally tourist places are getting visitors.

I encourage you to at least think about a side hustle, you may find that you can retire earlier than you though, plus with such an unstable work environment for teachers, wouldn`t a side hustle give you piece of mind?

Check out my free course on Udemy if you might be interested.

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

How to be a Successful Airbnb Host Level 2

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5 Minute Activities

5 Minute Activities

My Neighbour’s Cat: In turns, learners repeat the sentence, substituting the adjective as they go e.g. ‘My neighbour’s cat is an angry cat. My neighbour’s cat is a brave cat. My neighbour’s cat is a crazy cat.’ This can be played as a whole class or in small groups. It can also be extended into a memory activity where each new speaker has to list the adjectives that came before e.g. my neighbour’s cat is an angry, brave, crazy cat.

Word Association: Learners take it in turns to say a word based on what comes to mind from the previous word. For example: ‘beach’, ‘sand’, ‘glass’, ‘clear’, ‘window,’ ‘door’, ‘home,’ ‘family’ etc.

Word Disassociation: Learners have to say a word that has NO relationship with the previous word. For example: ‘cat’, ‘office’, ‘strawberry’, ‘angry’. If other learners can see a connection they can dispute the word and earn bonus points.,

Ace/Queen/King/Jack: Ace/queen/king/jack each represent a category (e.g. animals) A pack of cards is turned over one by one onto the table. If the card is numbered learners say the appropriate number. If it is an ace/queen/king/jack learners must shout a word from the appropriate category.

Variations: 1) Flashcards are placed around the room related to the categories. If an ace/king/queen/jack card is drawn learners run and touch a flashcard from that category around the room.

2) Each of the four cards relates to one vocabulary word and learners must touch one of the four vocabulary cards around the room.

3) Each card represents a different category.

Win Lose Banana: *Requires at least 3+ learners. You will need: 1 ‘win’ card’, 1 ‘lose’ card, 1 ‘banana’ card and additional ‘lose’ cards depending on the number of learners. Cards are dealt out and whoever has the ‘win’ card says ‘I win.’ Learners have to convince the ‘winner’ they hold the banana card. If the ‘winner’ chooses someone who holds a ‘lose’ card they receive a point. If the winner correctly chooses the learner holding the ‘banana’ card the winner receives one point.

What’s my Line: Learners pass an object around (plastic fruit, pencil, ball etc), stating what the object could be and gesturing as necessary. For example, ‘It’s a hat,’ ‘It’s a monocle,’ ‘It’s a UFO.’

Variations; The sentence could be adapted depending on the level. For example: ‘It could be a OOO’, ‘This looks like a OOO’, ‘If I were stuck on a desert island I would use this as a OOO’

Ghostwriter: The aim is to not be the person who ‘finishes’ the word. The teacher writes a letter on the whiteboard. In turn, learners add one more letter. For example, ‘G’; NG, NGE, NGES, ANGES, HANGES, CHANGES etc. At any point learners can be challenged by another as to the word they are trying to create. If they cannot specify a word they lose. The person who adds the final letter to the word loses.

Riddles: In pairs or individually learners try to solve a riddle. For example: A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and left on Friday. How is this possible?

Shiritori (last letter->first letter/Top & Tail): Learners must say a word beginning with last letter of the previous word. For example: egg gate elephant try yesterday etc. To make it more challenging learners must give words within a certain category. This can be played as a whole class as well as in small groups.

Animal 20 Questions: Teacher distributes a sticker/post it with an animal name to each learner (learners should not look at the sticker) Learners must ask questions to one another to determine the identity of their animal.

Two-Ball Ball Throw: Learners stand in a circle and throw two balls around the circle. Each ball is assigned a different category (e.g. ‘fruit’ and ‘countries’) Learners must say a piece of vocabulary from that category as they throw the ball. Learners cannot hold more than one ball at once.

Tongue Twister Dictation: In pairs, one learner says a tongue twister, the other learner writes it down. Alternatively, learners in pairs make up tongue twisters and dictate them to other pairs.

Whose team/vegetable/ object is better?: Learners are assigned something (from the same category) e.g., strawberry and banana. According to a time limit learners should argue as to why their object/team etc is the best.

Eliciting the right answer: The aim is to elicit a designated response from another learner. Teacher gives learners a set of responses. E.g. No, I haven’t / I’m not sure / I have no idea / No I can’t / I can, but not well. Learners nominate a response (out loud) and then ask a question to another learner. If the nominated response reflects the truth the learner responds with that. Learners can challenge each other if they suspect an untruthful response If correct, they win a point. For example: A; ‘No I can’t. Hiroto, can you speak Spanish?’ B; No, I can’t.

Weekend Sentence Shuffle: Distribute a few strips of paper to each learner. Learners write one sentence about their weekend on each piece of paper. The strips are gathered together and shuffled. Then in pairs/individually/as a group learners guess who wrote each sentence.

Line Dice Game: Numbered alphamats are lined up on the floor. Learners take it in turns to throw the dice. Each number on the dice corresponds with a question word/ particular tense. For example, 1/6 = past simple question; 2/5 = past continuous question; 3 /4 = How often…? question. Learners must ask a question and move to the corresponding numbered mat. Alternatively this can be played on the board or learners make a simple board in their notebooks.

10 Piece Story: Distribute ten pieces of paper to each learner. Each learner must write a noun on each piece of paper. Papers are then collected, shuffled and redistributed. Learners must use the ten words they are given to make a story. Alternatively learners write 4 nouns, 3 verbs and 3 adjectives and make a story with their new words.

What Are You Going To Bring To My Picnic?: First the teacher decides a rule (without telling learners). This rule could be related to phonemes/phonics, for example words containing /i:/ sound, or relating to the actual word e.g. relating to green objects. Learners have to work out the rule by making suggestions about what to bring. Based on the teacher’s response they try to figure out the rule. For example: (Teacher’s rule = words containing /i:/ sound) Learner A; I’m going to bring tea. Teacher; You can come. Learner B; I’m going to bring meat. Teacher; You can come. Learner C; I’m going to bring bread. Teacher; Sorry you can’t come.

Sophia McMillan Mar 2021

Kevin R Burns

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

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Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes

Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes

From time to time in any teaching situation you will come across mixed-ability classes. People learn at different rates and develop different skills, so in any class you will have some people who are better at speaking, some better at listening, others at acquiring and understanding form and structure etc. Consider yourself and your peers, do you feel particularly less confident when discussing grammar compared to devising games for learners, alternatively you may feel adept at organising lessons and activities but just cannot get to grips with teaching pronunciation? This does not imply that any teacher is better than another it means we acquire skills and information differently. This situation is the same for learners, which can be frustrating them and the teacher.

With young learners of English the effects of mixed ability classes may be more pronounced as they may have started learning at different ages, some may receive more parental support and exposure to English than others, some may have better state school English support and materials, and of course young learners are developing at very different rates. More importantly with young learners is the effect of motivation. A learner’s aptitude may be affected by how they perceive the lessons.

Very young learner mixed-ability classes are relatively easy to manage as these learners require much more repetition of language and skills, so there is no harm in going over language several times (albeit through different activities). It is important with very young learners to develop and maintain a rhythm of learning. Early learning is made efficient because teachers establish routines and vary the pace of activities very early on. If learners anticipate what the teacher wants their success will be greater. This is why we establish a syllabus with infant learners early on. On a micro-scale we can do the same thing in the language classroom. Start with a physical activity (a song) then move to a sedentary one (a card game) then to a skills-based activity (shape drawing or TPR) then back to a physical activity and so on. While the contents of the activities will vary from lesson to lesson the routine and rhythm are established early on, the learner’s attention and motivation is determined by how enjoyable and accessible those activities are.

Higher Elementary to JHS learners however are more difficult, as the differences in their abilities and attitudes are more pronounced. Essentially all these learners are able to acquire language at the same rate however the rate of acquisition is affected by development of the part of the brain that controls rational processes. While our brains reach 90% of its full size by the age of 6 it is not fully developed until the age of 20. The parts of our brain which affect memory and therefore learning are the last to be fully

developed. These are the hippocampus which helps retain factual information, language structures and so on, and the amygdala, which is in charge of emotional memories. While adults are able to make rational decisions and choices those of teens are affected by hormones and emotions, therefore we have to ensure that classroom activities are emotionally engaging and non-‘threatening’ (reduced pressure). Teens are also driven by the hippocampus to seek immediate gratification and results so learning activities should have clear, meaningful and accessible goals.

Mixed ability teen classes are usually the result of either intrinsic motivation, some are not emotionally connecting with the subject or hormonal development which will affect how teens react to structures and words. Interestingly as oestrogens are more prevalent in teenage girls, they are better at retaining language forms and structures. Another feature of mixed ability classes is the sleepy or distracted teenager. Typically, teenagers need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night to have an alert brain and retain information from the previous day, however they rarely get this much sleep.

So mixed ability teenage classes are not really mixed ability at all, rather they are classes where the learners are developing at different rates.

Ideas for Activities

* Wake up them up! As with younger learners, teens benefit from some physical activity at the start of the lesson to help them focus better and feel more at ease. Stretching, movement or a simple relay activity, will activate them. Using music at the stage will also help them release stress and make any movement activities more effective.

* Use ‘familiar’ songs (Beatles etc.) as gap fills and encourage learners to ‘sing’ the missing words.

* Kinaesthetic learning is very effective for teens but is often avoided. TPR or physical associations with language help with memorising language.

* Categorise words and phrases – put the language on to pieces of paper – physically manipulating words will help learners focus better.

* Comprehension tasks for reading and listening activities should be done as team quizzes rather than as book centred activities. Make reading ‘physical’ by issuing a comprehension task (e.g. true / false) to pairs. Place the ‘text’ around various parts of the classroom so learners have to move to answer the questions.

* Reduce stress – allow choice in classroom activities. When assigning homework make sure learners have a choice of topics of activities. When checking comprehension of something instead of asking learners to complete 8 questions ask them to choose the questions they want to answer.

* Instead of awarding points for team games try cheering together as a reward – this will acknowledge a team’s strengths without focussing on the other team’s weaknesses.

* Make sure learners know their strengths – praise learners by displaying their work around the classroom.

* Use an inductive approach to learning. Allow learners to discover patterns for themselves (for example, if teaching word categories give all the words to learners and see if they can recognise patterns so they can remember them more easily).

* Have matching activities where learners find a partner to complete a structure or phrase. This will develop the use of intuition and help memorisation.

Sophia McMillan Oct 2020

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

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How to Format an Essay for University

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An Alternative to Teaching Side Hustle – Airbnb

Airbnb: How to be a Successful Host
What have I learned from 6 years of hosting on Airbnb? Faqs Airbnb – Why did I decide to host? You can still earn money on Airbnb. In fact, I would say that it is a better time to start now, than when I did, about 6 years ago now. Airbnb is more established and it is much more famous. Airbnb is huge! As a vehicle for passive income, or for retirement or if you want to be hands on and have your own guest house business, I recommend it.

OK, but how much does it cost to start an Airbnb? Do I need to buy a place or can I rent one?

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

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Tired of Teaching English in Japan?

We all get tired of teaching sometimes. Burnout is a real phenomenon and it has been discussed before at this website. But what if it is time to move on to another endeavour?

Or what if you want to do a side hustle and make some more money, but do not wish to work many more hours. Join me and learn from my challenges of starting two successful guest houses near Hakone, Japan and having a good passive income while working very few hours per week (once it is all set up).

I have found that many people are willing to tell you that something is impossible. Usually that just means that it is a challenge and it isn`t for them. But it may be for you!

I am Hakone

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

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An Alternative to Teaching in Japan – Be a Travel Writer

by Kevin Burns

Take the class at Udemy

By the end of this introductory course on how to become a travel writer, you will know the basics. This will allow you to get started on the road to your dream job. You will learn to be a better writer, how to get work, avoid mistakes, what to write, how to edit, how to submit pitches, take good photos, which writers to learn from, and the truth about what being a travel writer really means. We will look at paid work and getting paid by travel perks. We will not look specifically at writing for a hobby, but you can apply your learning to your hobby if that is what travel writing is for you. My name is Kevin Burns, and I will be your teacher.

I have been a travel writer for many years now. Most of my articles are about Japan, where I have lived now for over 30 years. My articles have appeared in The Vancouver Sun, the Mainichi Weekly, Japan Today, News on Japan and my own travel and teaching websites: I am and How to teach English in Japan.

How to get Started?

What are the Steps to Becoming a Travel Writer?

– What are your goals?

– What are your markets?

– Start local and start small

– Build up your clips, contacts, and confidence

– Improve your writing and your knowledge

– Stay open to opportunities

– Do not forget your goals (1)

– Enter contests! That`s how Rory MacLean got started, and it lead to great things.

Rory MacLean explains:

“The best way to establish yourself when you`re starting out is to win a prize. I`m not being flippant. There are dozens of travel writing competitions run by newspapers and magazines. Researching and writing a travel article forces you to focus. Winning a competition opens the door to agents and publishers. I won the Independent newspapers`s first travel writing competition. That enabled me to apply with an idea for a book on Eastern Europe. Then Gorbachev was kind enough to knock down the Berlin Wall, making the subject matter of my book highly topical.” (2)

Steve Gillick, a travel writer from Toronto, feels that 20 different travel writers will reply in 20 different ways about how to be a travel writer. Gillick is self-taught and started by writing for a tour operator newsletter. He went on to create other newsletters for different associations. Then he wrote about travel scams for many years. After that he was invited to write for one trade newsletter, then others. So his travel writing career kept progressing as he kept at it. Now, he is a Senior Travel Writer for Canadian World Traveller Magazine and he has a monthly column in Travel Market Report. He speaks at travel industry events on various topics from customer service to special interest travel. Presently, he specializes in articles relating to Japan.

Read some of Steve Gillicks writing at Gillicks World:

Could you follow in Gillicks footsteps? Are there some local newsletters that you could write for and gain some experience? Could you create a newsletter for an association that does not have one? This is about building up clips, gaining experience and confidence and filling out your resume.

How to Become a Travel Writer

You Need to Read & Write!

If you want to become a better writer, READ! And WRITE! Read good writers! And write as much and as often as you can. You can write about a local park, museum, or other attraction in your area. Start a blog and write as often as you can. Some people start

Vlogs and you will see that writer Patrick Johnson feels these are the way to go if you want to make a living as a travel writer- to write and film your own travel Vlog.

Create your own Blog or Website

Blogs are great, and some people actually make a living just from their blog. As for SEO (Sight Engine Optimization), a website gets read more, so in spite of the cost, I recommend having a website as opposed to a blog. If you use WordPress, and I recommend WordPress, you can start out with a free blog and you can change it to a website with a domain name like .com or .org later. I have many blogs and a couple of websites on WordPress.

Solo Build it, is also good for making a website, but it is much more expensive. Yet it gives you a lot of tools for getting your articles read, as it helps you to master SEO by teaching you the tricks. However, you may just want to hire someone to help you with SEO at some point. Or you can learn it yourself without spending a lot of money. The advantage of SBI is that it is an all in one package. The community there is very good too, and people are always willing to help you at the forums. (Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation nor profit from any of the books or apps that I recommend or mention.)

When you write, be sure to have someone proofread your articles. Or if that is not always possible, at least go back and proofread them yourself a few days afterwards., to catch your mistakes. I am always amazed at the basic mistakes that I have made when I write. Have a dictionary and thesaurus on hand. You can find them on the internet if you don`t have physical copies. Every word must be correct. Your grammar too, must be correct. Note that Spellcheck does not check every word. Programs like Grammarly might be a plus for some of you, especially if you are not a native English speaker and wish to write some of your articles in English. But do not rely on it solely.

Certainly, a Journalism degree or diploma is a big help! So take courses! Creative writing courses would help too. Study as much as you can. Read about how to write, but also, simply read good writers, and start writing yourself, in a journal or start your own blog. Don`t quit your current job! You can study online or take night school classes.

What and Who to Read?

Rory MacLean, Bill Bryson, William Gray, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, David Sedaris, Melinda Joe, Dave Barry, Steve Gillick, Robert Hass, Patrick Johnson, Stanley Stewart, Simon Calder, Joan D. Bailey, Kira Salak, Jane Dunford, Jonathan Gold and Tim Cahill are all great writers. Read some of them and try to learn what you can from how they write. How do they manage to evoke the feeling and atmosphere of a place? Travel anthologies are worth reading too!

Who are your favorite travel writers? What do you like about them? What makes them unique and interesting writers? Can you apply that to your own writing?

Read Travel Literature:

One of my favourite writers is Paul Theroux. Theroux is a master of dialogue. His book about train travel, “The Great Railway Bazaar,” is fantastic. Theroux writes interesting travel literature. Peter Jenkins~s “A Walk across America,” is a great read. “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes throws in a little romance with a windo into Italy and it has since been made into a movie. Peter Mayle`s “A Year in Provence,” will make you want to take the next plane there and study French to boot! James A. Michener was amazing. Check out his book “Hawaii” from your local library, to get an idea of how much detail and how descriptive you can be.

Joan Bailey is a freelance writer whose work focuses on food, farming and farmers markets as well as travel. You can read more about her and read her writing at:

She says:

“Read everything.—Read travel articles and essays, of course, but also read poetry, novels, news articles, and more. All of it will inform your writing and make you better. Poetry may seem a bit out there, but it`s had a profound impact on my ability to produce vivid writing in a few words. If you don`t like reading, you should not be a writer.” –Joan D. Bailey

Learn more How to Become a Travel Writer

Kevin`s English Schools

I am Hakone

Kevin`s Instructor Page at Udemy

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