active comments given on the sample chapters.
The critical comments include, length and difficulty of the text, and the debate over accessibility and learning content. Since most of the teachers who gave these comments were not English teachers, they thought that the short version of the chapters were still too difficult for the students, and most would give up on reading. We need to note here that the issue was not on the context of the material, but the English language. Regarding English ability, many teachers mentioned that there were wide gaps between students. Still, there were comments that the simplified versions could be accessible as a material to learn English; the contents will be modified, hence too superficial and shallow. Still, reflecting these voices, the page by page version of the textbook was made, which many thought were more appropriate for Japanese High School students.
I would like to introduce the three class trials done in Japanese High Schools. First was the trial at Meikei High School. Mr. Steve Bird, and Ms. Yvette Flower is here with us, so if you have any specific questions, you might want to approach them later at reception. Meikei High School is a mixed private school, and students from age 13 to 18 studies together. The class was on the 2nd year Extended English Class (EEC) students. Their English ability is very high, and most have experienced living over seas. The page-by-page chapter on heart transplant was used as the material. This was the English discussion class, lasting for 45 minutes, with 4 to 6 students per class. Please note that this is a very small class in Japan, where one class is usually about 40 students.
The heart transplant chapter was chosen from various reasons. The first reason was the link between their previous classes. This topic related to one of their previous teaching materials on media report, which talked about medical issues. The text was also the adequate volume, for the students to read and discuss in the 45 minutes class. The students were given 10 minutes at the beginning of the class, to write their opinion on the topic. This approach may be useful for ordinary English classes; the students can write down their ideas and opinions first in Japanese, then discussions using English may become more accessible. My impression was that the lively and amazingly broad interest and ideas shown by students was very much dependent on the individual student’s ability. This not only refers to the language ability, but also the ability to start and develop discussion. Japanese high school students tend to be shy to speak up during a class, even using Japanese. It is also dependent on the teacher’s guidance, and how to lead and guide the students through their opinion and deepen the discussion.
Next let me introduce the class trials from Kasumigaoka High School. Kasumigaoka High School is located in Fukuoka city in Kyushu, which is the Southern island of Japan. This school is registered as SELHi. The school has an English major class with 40 students in each grade. The majority are female students. We observed two classes, one from the first grade and one from the second grade. The first class we observed was the 2nd grade’s English conversation class, which discussed the topic of assisted reproduction. The reason why they chose the topic was firstly because of the students’ interest. Since the majority is female, the teacher thought that the students could relate to the topic as their own problem. Also, recently in Japan, there was a media report that a Japanese actress used a surrogate mother, and an extensive TV program was broadcasted. The program started by asking the actress and her husband, how they made the decision, how they met the surrogate mother, and until the birth of a twin brother. They had taken time to first read about surrogacy and assisted reproduction, and then write some reports to prepare for the discussion class. One class period in this school is 50 minutes, which might have given students more time. Students responded quickly to many of the questions made by the teacher, which in my view was the result of an accumulation of the different aspects to learn a language.
The second class we observed was the 1st grade’s environmental education class, taught by an ethics teacher. He used the topic on sustainable development. He specifically wanted to introduce the ethical aspects behind environmental conservation, and sustainable development. This class was taught in a traditional lecture form, where the teacher, with occasional questions and answers, did most of the talking. The students’ reaction varied, but many seemed to have