The first lesson of the 6th grade textbook tries to review a lot of things while sprinkling in a few new things. In 5th grade, the kids practice numbers up to 20. This lesson takes that to 100. In 5th grade, the book introduces ‘I like’ and ‘I want’ with corresponding negation and questions. This lesson adds ‘I have’ to the mix. And, the 5th graders get a review of the upper case letters that everyone must learn to use a computer. This lesson adds in lower case. It’s the first lesson of the textbook, but it packs a punch. So, I stretch it out a full four weeks.
Lesson 1A, Numbers 1~100
- Warm Up: 10 Steps, 20 Steps
- 1 to 100 Challenge
- ‘How Many’ Quiz Game
Lesson 1B, Alphabet
- ABC Song (with Missing Letters)
- ABC Missing Game
- ABC Double Karuta
Lesson 3C, I have ‘A’.
- p2~p3 Let’s Play (How Many Animals)
- 3 Hint Quiz (Alphabet Version)
4C Do you have ‘A’?
- ‘Do you have A?’ Board Game
Lesson 1A: Numbers 1~100
The text book jumps right into big numbers without much explanation or any real mechanism for review. So I take it upon myself to introduce the numbers up to 100 as their own vocabulary set and devote an entire class to them. This is the first lesson of their last year in elementary school so the kids are often strangely nervous and serious for this one.
Warm Up: 10 Steps, 20 Steps
This song appears in the 5th grade textbook and is a review. I have us stand up and stretch and run through both the 10 Steps and 20 Steps songs as a review. Making them stand up and move takes the edge off that first class. You guys are 6th graders, but we’ll still play a bit! (Hear the melody here.)
1 to 100 Challenge
Now, to up the numbers they’re confident with from 20 to 100. To make it easier for them to remember, I point out the pattern. For all the ‘tens’ after twenty, the pronunciation matches the ‘teen’ version of the word with the ‘n’ chopped off. Example: Thirteen. Chop off the ‘N’ sound at the end? Thirty. The spelling is different, but the sound is the same. This is consistent from 13/30 to 19/90. I point this out, practice pronouncing each variation, and then drill the words ‘One Hundred’. Drawing this parallel is helpful for the numbers 13/30 and 15/50. Introducing this number set with a pattern of pronunciation gives them a sort of logic to fall back on if they blank on a word later on.
What’s this? (13) Thirteen. Yes! It’s thirteen. What’s this? Thirteen? No. Cut the N! Thirteen… Cut! Thirty!
After introducing the pattern, we start the ‘1 to 100 Challenge’. This is actually a remarkably efficient team building activity. I didn’t intend for it to be that way but every year the kids just get so into it. The idea behind the 100 Challenge is that the kids must work as a class to count to 100. The first kid in the first row says ‘One’, kid next to them says, ‘Two’, and you zig zag left to right, front to back, repeating kids, until finally you get to 100. If a kid screws up and says the wrong number, refuses to answer, or says it in Japanese, that kid has to stand up and the kid after them in line has to start over from ‘One’. I have them stand up when they screw up for a little bit of good ol’ public shaming.
Next is today’s challenge! The goal is 100. One player, one number. One two three four…. Get to 100, you’re finished! Good job. But, one miss…. One two three four… seven? Oh, no! One more time, from the start. One two three four five.
Running this activity requires a certain force of personality and the ability to read the crowd. Help the kids who are shy or special needs. Be strict and call out the class clowns in a comical way so as to emphasize that this is a doable task. I usually go out of my way to call out a kid in the first twenty who screws up something small. It often goes ‘One two three four…huh?’ And the kid that goes ‘Nandake’ or ‘Eeeehhh??’ first is the kid I make an example of. After they legitimately screw up a few times, get more lenient. Encourage kids to help each other and give ‘Hints’.
The class always erupts in cheers when they get to 100 as a group. Never fails.
‘How Many’ Quiz Game
In the spirit of review, I try to make this last game a little more fun than just diving straight into the book. Using simple English and an occasional Japanese loan-word I ask various trivia questions about numbers of things. The way to make this a quick and useful review game is to put an answer pool up on the board. I make a big show of putting up a good twenty slips of paper with numbers as low as two and as high as several hundred up on the board. I have them get into their lunch groups and work as a team. I write their group numbers on the board so I can tally points. Then, I dive right into the game.
Today’s game is the ‘How Many’ Quiz Game. One group is one team. One quiz gets one point. Quiz Number One: How many pandas in Ueno?
There are famously two pandas in Ueno Zoo, a mated pair that has no babies. As I ask the question I gesture emphatically to the pool of numbers on the board. If they don’t take the hint right away, rhetorically suggest a few numbers.
How many pandas in Ueno? Five? Three? Two hundred pandas? How many?
Sometimes kids hear the word panda and think it’s the textbook quiz. Nope. Sorry. I update my question list each year to keep it accurate and customized, but here’s the gist.
How many pandas in Ueno Zoo? (2 )
How many prefectures/todofuken in Japan? (47)
How many ABCs? (26)
How many pro-baseball teams in Japan? (12)
How many countries in the world? (196 more or less)
How many members in Arashi? (5)
How many Pokemon? (721)
How many J1 soccer teams? (18)
How many Harry Potter books in England/America? (7)
How many Olympics in Japan? (4, Tokyo 1964, Sapporo 1972, Nagano 1998, Tokyo 2020)
How many pages in Hi! Friends 2? (56)
How many days in a year? (365)
How many days in April? (30)
How many elementary schools in this city? (It says on the city website/wiki page)
How many shops in the local mall? (Our Lalaport has 275)
How many members in e-Girls? (20)
How many MLB teams? (30)
How many albums for Sekai no Owari? (3)
How many kids in this school? (Usually says in the copy room or in a chart by the principal’s desk.)
The answers to these questions change occasionally. Bands change members and release new albums. Your local mall will be different from mine. Each year the enrollment at any given school changes. But, it’s a pretty easy base of questions to build off of and add to.
Lesson 1B, Alphabet
The inclusion of the alphabet in this lesson is a bit of a non sequitur. There isn’t any spelling in elementary school English before or after this unit. Phonics, handwriting, and reading are also absent. They just threw the alphabet in there as a sort of review of the capital letters they learned in typing class and a preview for the lower case letters they formally learn in junior high. FYI kids! This is how the upper and lower case letters look! Thought you should know!
But, they are used for the grammar pattern. So, you have to go over them. This entire second lesson of the year is a run through of the alphabet in upper and lower case.
ABC Song (with Missing Letters)
This lesson requires a little bit of prep work. In order to set up the following two games, I prepare a special set of alphabet flash cards. These cards have the upper case block print letters from the book printed on the front, and the lower case letters printed on the back. For the purpose of the song, I put all the letters in order up on the chalkboard with a million magnets and have the kids sing along as I do.
A note: The vast majority of the students in your classes will have already learned the traditional alphabet song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and will be able to sing it on demand without any review from you. HOWEVER, and this is important, they sing a slightly different version. For the sake of ESL clarity, all the kids in Japan seem to have learned a variation where in ‘LMNOP’ are not smooshed together and sung in rapid succession. They sing all the letters at the same pace and the melodic phrase ends in N, with the next melodic phrase starting with O. You can see what I mean on YouTube.
Sing the song once normally, and then tell the kids you’re gonna level things up. Tell the kids to stand up. Remove three letters at random from the chalkboard and replace them with X. This time, you say, clap instead of saying these letters. On the third pass, I ask them what letters they’d like to remove and draw a foot in their place. This time, stomp instead of saying those letters. The fourth pass, three more letters, replaced with a poof representing jumping. Last, three final letters replaced with a spiral symbol representing turning or twirling around in place. By the fourth pass it’s a fun dance-like challenge not to accidentally say the letters removed from the chalkboard and do the actions at pace. Lots of laughing for this one.
ABC Missing Game
After the singing, tell the kids to sit back down. It’s story time. I reveal that the back of the cards has the lower case version of each letter. Most letters, I say, are the same. Big X, small x. Big S, small s. Only the size changes. Some upper and lower case letters are more like parents and children, they resemble each other, but not perfectly. Cover up part of the upper case B and you can see the baby ‘b’ in it. Same with Hh, Rr, Ll, Ee, It’s family resemblance. Also, b and d face each other in the alphabet. They’re friends. Lower case p and q also are friends who face each other. It sound silly, but these are letters the kids struggle with. Having a method to logic out which way the b and d go really helps them later on. Also, the letter ‘q’ kinda looks like a number 9 and the number 9 is pronounced ‘Q’ in Japanese.
Then, I tell them it’s heads down. Cover your eyes. Make sure no one’s peeking! Mess up all the letter cards on the board. Turn some around to show the lower case version, leave some upper case. Change the order. Remove about three or four cards. I sing the ABC song while I do this, usually, to let them know I’m working and when I finish the song it’s heads up. I slip the cards I took off the board into a folder and say…
I have 3 cards. What cards?
The kids have to figure out which cards are missing from the board via process of elimination. Because they aren’t in order and some are lower case, some are upper case, it is actually kind of challenging for them. I usually do three rounds of this, increasing the number of cards I pull off the board each round, flipping some cards to lower and some to upper case, and changing the order the whole time.
ABC Double Karuta
Karuta, or the slap game, is a game every kid knows. Typically in an English class, the game goes like this: Kids move their desks into their groups, teacher hands out a set of cards with pictures on them, the kids spread out the cards on the table, the teacher says an English word aloud, and kids race each other to try and grab the corresponding picture card before anyone else. One card is one point. The kid with the most cards wins.
But this is DOUBLE Karuta! This time there’s a set of cards for both the upper and lower case letters. Each round, you, the teacher, say a single letter and the kids have the chance to get two cards and thus two points each round. Going through all 26 letters takes some time. I pull the alphabet cards used in the previous two activities off the board one by one as I say them so the kids can verify the letter called each round.
Lesson 3C, I have ‘A’.
p2~p3 Let’s Play (How Many Animals)
Review numbers by quizzing the class over the zoo illustration on pages 2 and 3 of the textbook. This is a simple, direct warm up. The expression ‘how many’ was used in the first lesson of the year in addition to the previous year’s textbook so it you shouldn’t need to drill or refresh anyone’s memory on pretty much anything here.
These days I skip right over the animal names in different languages on the right side of the zoo illustration because they’re really not useful unless your students are very dodgy on animal names.
3 Hint Quiz (Alphabet Version)
This is the meat of the lesson and it all ties together. The vocab set here relates to the large illustration of a town on pages 4 and 5 of the textbook. This isn’t a pre-selected vocab set for the book series. I picked out a few simple words from the illustration on my own. You can remix as you see fit.
The idea here is to get the kids to start focusing on the words as a collection of letters. Rather than just popping the flash cards straight onto the chalkboard, I slowly reveal the words one letter at a time, spelling them out loud as I slowly pull the card from a folder.
C O F F E E. What’s this? It’s coffee!
I run through all ten words like this. Usually a few particularly skilled kids will have figured out the theme and the vocab before you can even get the last few letters out.
Once all the flashcards are up on the board, it’s time to quiz. I take out a small, playing card sized deck version of all of the cards on the board, shuffle them and make a show of picking one out. Now it’s time for the three hints!
I have! (I have!)
Hint number one: I have one O.
I have! (I have!)
Hint number two: I have two Es.
I have! (I have):
Hint number three: I have one C. What’s this?
Do a few rounds yourself, then break them into groups. Groups play rock paper scissors to determine who gets the deck first. They shuffle, pick a card, and start giving out hints. Kids in their group raise their hand if they have an idea which word it might be from the hints. If they get it right they win that card and it becomes their turn to quiz the group. I print at least two, sometimes three copies of each word card for each group. With a larger stack of cards not only does the game go longer, but the kids can’t guess the words as readily by process of elimination.
I don’t bother going into much detail about the word have as it should be mostly intuitive. The grammar pattern from the 5th grade ‘I like’ and ‘I want’ lessons are the same here. If you want to get fancy, add in a few ‘I don’t have’ hints to spice it up a bit.
Lesson 4C, Do you have ‘A’?
The game at the end of this lesson is one of my white whales in the Hi! Friends series. The idea behind the page four and five illustration is really deceptively simple. The book wants you to pick out a word and have your friends ask which letters are in that word so that they can guess which word you’ve picked. Does it have an A? No? Well it can’t be restaurant so it must be bus. Did you pick the word bus? Great. I win.
But explaining that in simple English or by demonstration without any visual aids is nearly impossible. They had a similar game to this in Eigo Note, the predecessor to Hi! Friends, and I tried so hard to make it work as is. Never got it right. So, I broke it down. In order to complete the activity you must pick a word, so all of the words became a deck of cards. You must ask which letters are in that word, so add in a deck of letter cards. You must reply whether any given letter is or is not in the chosen word. Thus, a game board with yes and no printed on it to visualize which letters are or are not present in the word. And, a spot to place the card you won when you’ve guessed the word properly. Behold! The ‘Do you have A?’ board game.
‘Do you have A?’ Board Game
When kids can see you work this game out with a teacher on the chalkboard it becomes obvious. Player Number One gets the stack of picture cards. They choose one card. I usually have the home room teacher play as player one.
Player number one, one picture card, please.
Player number two gets the stack of ABC cards. I play as player number two and make a show of shuffling through the ABC cards (one card) to find a ‘good’ letter, and then prompt the kids to ask the question (one question) along with me. After I ask whether that letter is in the chosen word, I place it on either the yes or the no side of the game board stuck up on the chalkboard with a magnet. Then, I make a wild guess (one chance) based on that one detail.
Player number two: One card, one question, one chance.
One card. Hm… A? No. Q? No. Ah! E. Do you have an E? (Do you have an E?) Yes? Ok! It’s… restaurant? No? Oh, no. Player number two is finished. Player number three, let’s go.
I spin around and become the next player, passing the cards off to myself. Again, one card, one question, one chance. Pick a letter card, ask whether that letter is in the word, and make a guess at which word it might be. Get the word right, and win the card.
After the demo, the kids break off into groups and get to play. I walk around and police their usage as it goes. A good class will catch on quick. Again, the word have is just swapped into the previously learned grammar for like and want so it shouldn’t need much explanation or focus.