Sunday, 11 December 2011

Turning the class into an RPG (Part 2)

So, the time has come. Last week our brave heroes set out to kit themselves out in the best gear, sharpened their axes, restrung their bows and filled their inventories with maester's potions and foods. Today is the day they put their strategies to the test as they face off against the other groups in a one on one battle to the death!

Well, maybe not that dramatic, but still, there was a lot of tensions in the class today as groups were paired up for their tabletop style RPG battle against other groups. Below describes how I went about teaching this lesson.

1. Show them the battle video

This serves two purposes, one is to refresh their memories of the battle system, the other is for them to mine it for vocabulary and phrases to use themselves when they do their own battles. Students are thus told to take notes as they watch the video and then compare their notes with their group members afterwards. Once they have done this, I had students come up to the whiteboard to write down anything that they heard as me and my colleague played. The board then acts as a cheat sheet for when students do their own battles, allowing them to refer to it when they can't think of what to say.



2. Write questions to ask your opponents


The rules of the battle state that once a character has been reduced to zero armor, they must answer a question. If the group answers the question correctly, they do not lose a life and can continue. However, if they answer a question incorrectly, they lose a life. Once a group has lost three lives, they have lost. At this point then, I had students think of questions to put to their opponents. I created 10 sample questions for each group to show what kind of questions were considered suitable and as a model. Below are a few of my sample questions.

Question 1

What is the capital of Scotland?

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Florence
  • Dublin


Question 2

What is the largest continent in the world?

  • Asia
  • North America
  • Europe
  • Africa


Question 3

What is the highest mountain on earth?

  • Mt. Fuji
  • Mt. McKinley
  • Mt. Everest
  • Mt. Ararat


Question 4

If a woman gives birth to triplets, how many babies does she have?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Students thought up similar question based on their major, the presentation they had given a few weeks before, and other general knowledge subjects such as capital cities and animals etc.


3. Battle Time!

Following this, the groups were paired up and put to battle. They were instructed that they were to speak to the other group in English only. If they spoke Japanese to their opponents, their turn was over. I did however allow some Japanese during within-group strategic speech. Below are some pictures of the battles.

4. Improvements

One thing that could be improved with this activity is moving the question making activity out of the classroom time and getting students to do this for homework. The reason is that some groups didn't make a lot of questions and actually ran out of questions to ask their opponents. This led to them trying to make up questions on the spot which made the battle drag on and become uninteresting. 

So, for the final class which has not done this activity yet, I have told them that if they run out of questions during the battle stage, they will have to forfeit the game. This class has also been instructed to make five questions each (20~25 per group) at home before they come to class next week (the battle lesson for this class). I'm hoping this should keep the action high and as a result, games possibly finishing quicker. If this happens, I would like to run the battles in a tournament style where we can see which group is the strongest! Of course, they will be the strongest based on their character development, strategy and general knowledge! 


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Turning the class into an RPG (Part 1)

I had to teach a shopping lesson this week, and, not having a great time with it was last year, I decided to make things a little bit more interesting. My idea was to play a kind of tabletop RPG with the students, where they would kit out a character with armour, weapons, food and potions and then pit them against each other the following week.

Discucssing the idea with my colleague, he seemed really interested too, so we started sketching out simple rules such as how much damage each weapon would do, how much defense each piece of item would give etc. After rehearsing it a few times ourselves, we finally came up with a system that seemed fair and would allow students to customise their characters so that groups wouldn't all buy exactly the same stuff.

1. Watch the presentation

Here is the presentation that I showed the students at the start of the "shopping class".

Rpg shopping lesson
View more presentations from James York
Not all of the rules are included on purpose: so that the students have to ask. Another point is that in the above presentation my colleague (and my) face appear. In the actual presentation, these are videos explaining how to use the different weapons.
Another thing which is not explained is: "How do we win?"
Well, once a characters armour has been reduced to 0, that group have to answer a question. If they get it correct, they don't lose a life, but if they get it wrong, they lose one of their three lives: ♡♥♥. This continues until they lose all three of their lives. As for the questions they have to answer... they will be decided by each group individually and should have something to do with their classes major.
2. Decide as a group which weapon you want to buy
After watching the presentation I handed out a "shop" worksheet to each group in the class and told them to keep their items a secret (so that students would have to ask what each shop is selling and how much items cost). I also handed each group their character worksheet that appears in the above presentation.
At this point, I was asked a number of questions. Some of the most common ones are:
  1. Can I use a potion and attack in one go? (NO!)
  2. Do I have to buy armour for all body parts? (YES!)
  3. If I don't have an anti-freeze potion, what happens? (You have to roll a six on the dice to become unfrozen)
3. Do the shopping activity
Students complete the shopping activity which has been explained to them through the presentation.
4. Introduce your character
Groups take it in turn to introduce their characters name and the weapon (s)he will use. Nothing else. The rest is a secret for next weeks BATTLE activity. 
って言う事で、I'll be back soon with a review of the battle lesson.

Stay tuned!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Creating Rage Comics with EFL Students

In reply to a number of requests, this post outlines our methodology behind getting our students to create and upload rage comics to reddit.

First Lesson

The first lesson is a general introduction to the vocabulary for emotions in English. At the end of the lesson, students are introduced to popular Internet memes known as rage faces and are asked to guess what emotion they are portraying.

Below are the slides we used as part of the lesson.

This is the accompanying worksheet:


Second Lesson

In this lesson we went over the phenomenon of "trolling" and helped the students register on reddit, create their comics with and then upload their completed comics to reddit.

Below are the slides we used as part of the lesson:


Hints, Tips and Considerations

  • Because students were all submitting their comics from the same room (hence the same IP address) I had an issue with submitting comics where reddit would say, "you are doing that too much, try again in 10 minutes." Which meant that students could only submit their comics once every 10 minutes. A massive delay! To remedy this problem, you should input all students usernames on your subreddit as approved submitters. The link is here:
  • Students should be advised that the content on reddit (especially rage comics) often contain inappropriate material or themes for school settings. We therefore recommend carrying out such lessons with mature students. In our particular context, all students were 18+.
  • Adding flair after students names helps the reddit community know who is or is not a student.
  • Because anyone can post anything on reddit, we recommend monitoring the comments that students receive on their comics, looking out for anything inappropriate or insulting. (We found that the community reported such comments in a lot of cases, too.)
  • As a follow up lesson, we recommend having students reply to any comments they received, comparing their upvote scores, commenting on new comics and participating in English with the community you have created (= interacting with other English speakers).


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Student Feedback 2

The next installment of feedback from students.


During the lesson, I introduced students to a number of emotion-related words through the use of rage faces.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Emotions Class 1

Students loved drawing their favourite emoticons. It was great fun trying to decide what emotion each character was showing.

They loved the 'Crater Face' YouTube video too. I don't think they will forget the word bittersweet now!

Student Feedback

This term students were asked to do some 'quick writing' at home which are similar to Murphey's Action Logs.

Students basically have five minutes to write about (reflect on) what they did during the lesson. They are told to write any new words or grammar they encountered too.

The things that students write are also very helpful to me as it shows what worked/didn't work in the class.

Here are a few good examples from last week.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Using Reddit in a university EFL classroom

Hello all!

This is basically a guide for my students, but let me give you a brief introduction to what it is I am teaching here.

What is reddit?

Some of you may be familiar with the website: and the plethora of comics that appear in the f7u12 or classicrage subreddits...? Maybe not. A lot of these comics are completely inane and pointless, but there is of course the odd gem that makes me laugh. The r/classicrage comics usually strike a chord with me somewhere in my own experiences making me chuckle.

Here is one particularly relevant to students:


Anyway, I thought it might be fun to get my students to create their own comics and share them on reddit. I even created my own subreddit for students to present their work(s of art)!

The good thing about presenting student work on a subreddit is due to the way that reddit as a site works. Posts are voted up or down by users. If you like a post you "upvote" it, if you dislike a post you "downvote" it. With this mechanic in place, students can effectively vote on the comics they think are the best. They also have the ability to post comments, which gives them the opportunity to interact socially with each other in English outside of the classroom (that's the theory at least!)

So, on with the main part of this post: explaining how to register on reddit.

Registering with reddit

Picture 1

The first thing you need to do is press the "register" (登録) button.


Picture 2

Insert a username. Make it your student number. Also, make your password something that you will remember. If you need to, have your password the same as your username.

You don't need to put your mail address in, but if you forget your password, you won't be able to use this website again :(


Picture 3

Search for tduenglish.

Picture 4

Press on the tduenglish link (or press this).

Picture 5

Click the +frontpage button to register to the tduenglish news feed.


You are now registered to use reddit.

Picture 6

If you want to leave a comment (for the caption competition), press the comment (コメント) button and then put in your comment.

That's it!

If you have any problems, email me.

My next post will look at how to make rage comics as well as introducing some of the famous(?) characters.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Implementing Tasks and Projects in Japanese Primary Schools

Good morning! I have just uploaded some slides for a presentation that I gave this weekend at the JALT Ibaraki chpater meeting. It contains a culmination of all the work and research that I did when I worked at the primary school level and while creating the presentation it made me realise that I actually use a lot of the same principals at the university level. Anyway, this is quite a long one with bonus lesson plans for the space project at the end. I hope you enjoy it.


Monday, 3 October 2011

First Group Battle

Today my students had their first experience of battling each other. We did a textbook review battle which meant that:
Students had to choose a page from their textbooks that we had studied before and make five questions on the that page. They then asked their questions to another group. If that group couldn't answer the question, they would lose a life (each team starting with 5 lives).
At the end of a round (once both teams had asked each other their 5 questions), the team with the most lives remaining were declared the winners are were rewarded with 15XP. Losers got 5XP, and if the round was a draw both teams got 10XP.

I will put up the full rules of this game at my project website here: http:///

Here are some pictures of the students in the midst of battle:

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Interactive Forum

I just uploaded the slides from my presentation yesterday at the ETJ Tokyo EXPO.
My goals with the presentation were to make more people aware of this contest so that it may be emulated elsewhere in Japan. It takes a communicative approarch to the traditional speech contest which has many benefits to second language acquisition.

I also wanted to discuss what possible improvements could be made to the tournament and gather ideas regarding whether there might be an alternative to this tournament, such as a task-based groupwork tournament which may promote cooperation among participants.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Multiplayer Classroom

Long time no post. (sorry)

I had a nice long summer but am back to work now. Over the summer I started following news on the current(?) hype fuelled 'gamification'.

As part of my reaserch on this phenomenon, I found an interesting book by Lee Sheldon who seemed to have applied RPG-like game mechanics to his classroom. I was intruiged and decided to see if I could do something similar in my own context.

What I have come up with so far is a new way to evaluate my students over the course of this semester based much more on autonomous learning and the amount of effort they put into each lesson. There is also a large focus on teamwork and working as a group. Although the majority of detail regarding this whole project resides in Evernote notes, I am slowly piecing it together online as a reference to my students, but also to any that may be interested.

Here is a link to the presentation I gave my students at the start of this semester.

And here is a link to the wikispaces page outlining the project in more detail (work in progress).


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Ghost town (well, actually classroom).

Where are the students?

Oh, there they are, in the corridor. But why?

Today we practiced going directions. How? By going outside the classroom and physically directing our partners to various locations around the university.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


I will be teaching prepositions next week, and, with a little inspiration from the Krypton Factor and The Language Teacher I will be using Lego!

I will give a full report on the activity soon.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Course: Using Moodle


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Just learning about Moodle!

Friday, 1 April 2011

How to register students with Attendance (for iPhone)

This post is to help my students register themselves onto their courses.

I plan on doing a demo in class referring to this post.

  • First of all, tap on the  Add/View button. You will be able to see this screen:


  • Select the course you are on and you will then be able to add yourself. Tap on the Add button:


  • On the next screen add your first name (1), last name (2) and email address (3). After that, tap "Add" (4) and your name will disappear. Finally, tap the button at the top with your course details on (5).


  • You will be able to see your name on the list of students:


  • Now, tap on your name and you can add a photo. Tap on the button that says "Get / Take Picture:


  • You will have to take a photo with the iPhone camera, so tap "Take Picture with Camera":


  • You will need to get a friend to take a picture of you by lining up your face and tapping the camera button at the bottom of the screen:


  • Once you have taken a photo, you will need to save it by tapping "Use":


  • You have nearly finished. Finally, tap "Student Detail", then your course name (same button) at the top of the page and return to the main menu:

  • You are finished!

Thanks for registering!! 

I look forward to teaching you this year. If you have any questions, please send me an email. (My email address is available here)

Mr. York.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

March 12th - Brsibane. My Birthday and the Japanese Earthquake

It's my birthday today. But I'm not really in the celebrating mood. The Japan earthquake is on all the news channels and it has caused chaos. In fact, we woke up this morning and turned the news straight on to see how the country was fairing. Not too good was the report.

After about an hour of watching the news, we turned the TV off and I turned to Chigu saying, "Haven't you got something you want to say to me," to which she replied: "What? Oh, sorry baby. Happy birthday.

That pretty much sums up the mood.

We rang Chigu's mum last night after Alex informed us hat there had been an earthquake in Japan. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have even known. It took us a while to get through to Chigu's mum on the phone because according to the news, the mobile phone networks pretty much crashed under the load as people tried to ring loved ones. Her mum was in a very highly stressed mood, and seemed terrified. After a little bit of calming down, we found out that everyone in the family was ok, but the TV at Chigu's house had fallen over, scaring the dog Chan-chan, now unwilling to leave her mum's side.

I turned my data roaming on and checked in with my friends on twitter, everyone seeming safe. A former colleague who lives near me in Moriya says that he lost a few plates in the quake, and another informs me that he had a bottle of wine break in his house. Considering that we live near these guys, I'm a little concerned that my TV has fallen down, pulling the PS3 and xbox with it. We can't find out now though, however, Chigu's dad may head down tomorrow to check our place out for us.

I feel kind of bitter-sweet about being in Australia during the earthquake. Bitter because I wish I could have been there to help out, like calming Chigu's mum down. And sweet because at least my mum and dad don't have to worry about me.

In other (much lighter) news...

We went to the koala sanctuary with Alex today.

Chigu had a great time. Although, the first koala she tried to cuddle didn't wanna play. The zoo keeper said that the koala was being a naughty boy, so she went to get another, more cheerful one. This one was much better behaved and we managed to get a great shot.
After Chigu cuddled her koala, we also got to feed some kangaroo and emu that were held in a fairly free roaming area. I was surprised by two things. The kick drum sound that emus make and the fact that kangaroos use their tails as a kind of third leg when they are walking slowly.
In the evening me and Chigu headed into town on our own looking for a nice restaurant to eat at for my birthday. After looking around town for a while we still hadn't found anything  and were beginning to lose faith that there would be somewhere nice. Then we headed to a very posh looking area right on the harbor. It was posh. We couldn't afford the prices, but we didn't give up. After browsing the swanky restaurants for a few minutes, we found one that looked about right. It had pasta that Chigu wanted, and the rest of the menu seemed ok, so we went in.
Chigu ordered king prawn pasta and I had a steak! Oh yes! I really needed some proper food and of course meat! I learnt something quite interesting too. In England we call a meal that combines seafood and steak — 'surf and turf', but in Australia they call it 'reef and beef'. 
I also got my birthday present off Chigu: a ticket to the Cirque Du Soleil in May. I've always wanted to go, and was soooooooooo pleased!! What a great birthday.

Also, that meal was our first non-cheese and crisp sandwich meal for quite some time. It was bloody delicious!!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

March 10th - Hot Air Ballooning in Cairns

This is the second time I am writing this blog post. I somehow managed not to save the previous version. I hope I can remember what I wrote.flavour

Ok, so today we went hot air ballooning. It was a very early start. Very. This is what time we woke up this morning:
3:30 am!

The bus driver came to pick us up at 4:05. He was a very cheerful German fellow called Gunta who had an accent that reminded me of Herr Lipp from the league of gentleman (he looked nothing like him though, thank god!).

The road on the way was quite winding ad it went up through the mountains. It reminded me a lot of Iroha Zaka in Nikko. As we got closer, we stopped for a quick toilet break and then we went onto the balloon site, which we were told was going to fly today. There was a lot of rain yesterday and  flood warnings on the TV, so we were a bit concerned. But, like I said, the weather seemed clear enough to allow us to fly.

Gunta seemed to know where the site was (of the 60 or so spots available), and so the driver took us into a field down a long dirt track. It was pitch black in the field with only the car headlights showing us where the track was. As there had been a lot of rain in the night, sections of the track were flooded, and with no way to tell how deep the large puddles were, the diver questioned Gunta as to whether we really were on the right track. Gunta reassured the driver telling him this was definitely the site he was told, and so we continued cautiously along the precarious path. My camera decided to run out of batteries, so I couldn't get any photos, but let me tell you, every puddle we went through, I thought we were gonna get stuck.

After traveling down the path for a few minutes we soon saw a massive orange globe glowing in front of us. It was the balloon, and it was huge! As soon as we arrived, Gunta jumped out the car and grabbed a rope, trying to tame the massive beast as it was blown around by the wind. Absolutely manic, and in my opinion the whole 'getting to the balloon' experience was almost better than the flight itself.
We took it in turn to get on the balloon, and of the 20 or so people that actually got in the carriage, it dawned on me that I was the only white guy, and only person that understood English there (remember what I said about the large amount of japanese tourists earlier?). Very strange indeed.

After a lot of flame and extreme noise, the balloon was finally ready to go, and so the pilot (a south African named Johan) told us to hold on as the balloon lifted gracefully off the ground. I managed to get a few pictures out of my camera, but the majority of shots were taken from my iPhone. We were lucky to see a few wile kangaroo jumping around in the bushes and at one point, the pilot told us that there was a good photo opportunity coming up where the balloon was reflected in a marsh below:
We came down with only a few bounces off the ground, and finally stopped. At this point, the pilot looked over to the SUV with trailer that came to collect the balloon, but it had gotten bogged down in the field that we were in (a very wet cattle field), and so he asked if a few of us in the carriage would help him grab a few ropes and tame the deflating balloon. I of course volunteered, but none of the other people in the carriage knew what he was saying, so I let the others know what was going on, and if any of them would help. A young lad said he would, and so we jumped out of the balloon and started to make our way around to the back, when the SUV that was stuck suddenly got free and the help crew arrived. It appeared that we had just jumped into the wet field and messed our shoes up for nothing. I felt pretty bad for asking the young Japanese lad to jump into the field with me, but I was just following orders...

It didn't really matter that my feet had gotten wet though, because soon after the crew arrived, hey had us all helping out to load the balloon into a massive blue bag anyway. I got pretty muddy as I tried my best to help out. Then, I found a frog amongst the wet grass and, as you might expect, proceeded in introducing him to Chigu. Hehe. She wasn't keen on meeting the frog though, and I got a telling off. :(

Once we had packed up the balloon we were off for breakfast. It was pretty good. A buffet stye affair At a farmers ranch not too far from where we landed. I had two slices of beans on toast, some salad, rice, potato salad, and some bacon! It was delicious. We were also served champagne, which I had two glasses of. The breakfast counter was also catered to the Japanese tourists with Japanese rice and miso soup on the menu.
After we finished breakfast we headed back to Cairns, where me and Chigu proceeded to sleep until lunchtime. Upon awaking, we had our traditional cheese and crisps sandwich lunch set and then headed out to the local shopping centre to do some shopping of the window variety :(.

In the evening Chigu decided that she didn't want to eat sandwiches anymore, so we splashed out on some pasta salad (reduced of course), a luxury cob and a pear each! Woop Woop! At this rate  We'll be going to restaurants next!!
After bought them, we bummed into the teacher I used to work with again! We had a long chat and got a few photos too. When we get back to japan, I'm going to email her and set up a date for us all to meet up and have a meal.
We ate our gorgeous meal by the sea, and them went for a walk about, finally heading to Mövenpick for our only real treat of the day: a delicious ice cream! Today we had pistachio nut flavour, which was awesome! Upon finishing our ice cream, we asked the two shop staff to have their picture taken with Turkey Ranger, to which of course they obliged. He's becoming quite the popular fellow!