Teaching Tips for New JETs

Student entrance of my junior high school

Exactly one year ago, I arrived in Japan to begin my tenure with the JET Programme as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Namerikawa, Japan.

My plan was to stay a year, save some money, see another side of the world and then come back to start my life in Chicago.  Things moved so fast, and I decided in February to stay one more year.  I am happy that I made that decision.  I feel much more confident in my role as an ALT and look forward to promoting internationalization and the English language.  My students are much more comfortable speaking to me, and I hope to get to know many more of them better this year.

I am helping with Toyama orientation this year and will be presenting with another ALT about lesson-planning strategies.  For our presentation, I created a brief handout with lesson planning tips, which I copied below.  Good luck to all the new JETs arriving in their towns this week!

  • Prepare.  During your down time in August, become familiar with New Horizon books 1-3 (Junior High School) and Eigo Noto (Elementary School).  Try to think of fun games and worksheets beforehand.  It will save you a lot of time during the year if you at least have a general knowledge of what specific words/grammar you will be teaching.
  • Always be ready. Think of a good “ice-breaker” game to always use as a fallback. The game can be as simple as playing music and passing around a ball.  When the music stops, ask the student holding the ball a question. Thanks to Jenson for this idea.
  • Introduce yourself x 1,000,000.  Get your self-introduction materials (pictures, video, posters) ready in August.  If you teach at multiple elementary schools, always have your self-introduction materials ready throughout the year.  You will be using them very often.
  • Talk to other JETs.  Other JETs often have great ideas for lessons, and because your textbook will most likely be the same, you can use their same idea or something similar.  Also, be sure to read the Toyama Team Teaching handbook, which is written by ALTs.
  • Scour the Internet.  Check online for great ESL games and free teaching materials.  Some good sites are:




  • Multimedia planning.  If you want to use PowerPoint or any other type of multimedia, which we highly encourage, plan ahead and make sure it works beforehand. This will save you from wasting time in class in case of a technology malfunction.  Your school’s computer coordinator should be helpful when it comes to testing things out.
  • Learn from your students.  Observe and talk to your students.  What are they into? What are their hobbies?  What games do they like?  Try to incorporate these interests into lesson plans.  Even the most boring grammar lesson can be fun if it is followed by a fun game that includes pop culture references.
  • Revise, revise, revise.  Learn to change lesson plans immediately if you find out something doesn’t work out as planned. Don’t get discouraged.  This happens to everyone.  The more you teach, the more you will be able to think ahead about what works and what doesn’t.

2 Comments on “Teaching Tips for New JETs”

  1. Sheila,
    I am impressed with your suggestions. You are a wonderful ALT/Journalist.
    Northwestern would be proud of your accomplishments.


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