Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #013


What do ALTs do during the school festival?


Answered by: Emily

The school festival, or “bunkasai,” is one of the most exciting events of the year at Japanese middle and high schools. It’s a time for everyone, students and teachers, to let their hair down a bit and have fun with the school community. In the weeks before the festival, students work on a project with their homeroom class. Some classes turn their classroom into a maze or a haunted house, and others put together a food stand to sell snacks on the day of the festival. In addition, there are usually performances by students (and teachers!), and some schools award prizes to the best performances or projects.

There are many different ways that you can be involved with your school festival. The simplest and most common way to participate is to visit your students’ classrooms and interact with them over the course of the weekend. Run through their mazes, buy yakisoba from their food stands, and squirt their targets with water guns! The students work really hard on their class projects in the week leading up to the festival, so they’re always glad to see the ALT enjoying their project. (If you know any Japanese, this is also a good time to pull it out – they’ll be thrilled.)

At some schools, students also work on projects for the festival with their extracurricular clubs, so you may be asked to help out with a project for your English club. Below, Shayna Josi, a first year SHS ALT, describes her experience working with English club students at her school festival:

“I’m from South Africa, so for my school’s festival, my English club celebrated Heritage Day, a holiday where South Africans celebrate their cultures. Bracelets made from beads in the colour of the South African flag have become popular in recent years, and are often sold around Heritage Day. At our event, guests made bracelets in the colours of the South African flag, the students made posters with information on South Africa, and we served rooibos tea.”

If you aren’t asked to participate but you’d like to help out somehow, talk to your supervisor or your school’s English club advisor – you can probably start something up on your own. In the past, ALTs have even taken part in special performances with other teachers on the day of the festival. There are plenty of ways to get involved, so ask around!

Textbooks: What are you reading?

Hello Everyone,

Today on the Ibaraki JET space, we have an article by Randy Guevara, a third-year ALT working in Hokota. This article describes some of the textbooks used by different levels of high schools in Ibaraki. It’s a good resource if you want to get an idea about what the students do when you’re not there, or if you’ve been asked to help out with textbook lessons. Take a look below!

Have an interview, blog post, or lesson idea you’d like to share? Email the Ibaraki JET PAs at


Textbooks: What are you reading?

An Article By: Randy Guevara

Each ALT probably has a different experience how much the course readings are integrated into team teaching. Some ALTS might not know the name, or even seen a textbook where others are instructed to build activities from a specific passage each lesson.

Creating original lessons versus covering textbook material during TT is an important topic and often raised at the annual ALT Skill Development Conference. After reading responses from the SDC Report from recent years, it can be concluded our Japanese team teachers desire a balance of both.

To highlight the two main reasons expressed by our team teachers why using the course material is important when team teaching is first, the students are familiar with the English expressions/vocabulary from the textbook. Second, they believe ALTs bring new and different ideas, games, activities to the material that can be more exciting for the students to study.

Regardless of how much the textbook is used at your school, it is good to know our JTES need to use them to fulfill their job requirements and sometimes that means it will overlap with your team teaching experience. Below is a list of required reading materials for some high schools.

General disclaimer: The textbooks mentioned range from low-high level high schools. There are other high school texts, as well as elementary and junior high school readings that are not listed. Please feel free to contribute and add materials!


Reading English

This is a read and answer workbook. The book is distributed strictly for homework on the weekends and students are to complete one page each week.

Focus Finder

This is referred to as the “training” or “drill” book. The readings contain grammar questions and the students are given a 20 question test each week. This book is used with 1st grade students.

Database 4500

This is a vocabulary book. It contains translations from English to Japanese.

The students are given one test each week. 1st grade students: 20 questions; 2nd grade students: 30 questions.

Vision Quest I, II, & III

This series of textbooks are to help students learn “expression”. The textbook contains grammar and English expressions with explanations. It is used with both 1st and 2nd grade students.

Element: English Communication I & II

This series of textbooks are for reading, listening and comprehension. The textbook contains different passages and followed with comprehension questions. It is used with all grades (1st -3rd).

Eiken Booklets

Some students take the Eiken written test outside of school. If they pass the written test, students might ask English teachers or the ALT to help with speaking practice. The Eiken books at school are to help students with the speaking section of the test. Depending on the level, the books contain practice tests – reading and comprehension questions with a variety of pictures to describe.


Grove Communications I, II, & III

The textbook contains different passages followed with comprehension questions. It is used with all grades (1st -3rd).

My Passport – English Conversation

This textbook is for students to understand communication. The textbook contains scenarios with a dialogue for students to study.

Step – Oral Communication 1

This textbook is also for students to understand communication. Similar to “My Passport”

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New Guides Available: Advice from Ibaraki JETs

Hello, New JETs!

We’re sure many of you are anxiously awaiting more information from the Board of Education about your city, town, and schools. Placements are taking a little longer than anticipated, but in the meantime, the Ibaraki JET community has some advice to help prepare for your new life in Japan! We, the Ibaraki JET PAs, polled current Ibaraki JETs about things like packing suggestions, unwritten social rules, and what it was like to arrive in a foreign country in the middle of the summer. We’ve compiled the results into four General Advice Guides for you to look at while you wait for placement info.  We hope these guides will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive in Japan, and help you get to know us a little better as well. Check out the links below!

General Advice – On PackingOn Arrival – Unwritten Rules

These guides are also available in the guides section of our blog. Enjoy!


Real Talk: Interview with Two JTES

Hello Everyone,

Today on the Ibaraki JET space, we have an interview with two JTEs! This interview was conducted by Randy Guevara, a third-year ALT working in Hokota. It’s a great way to get an inside look at the life of a JTE, especially for new ALTs wondering about the ins and outs of JETlife. Take a look below!

Have an interview, blog post, or lesson idea you’d like to share? Email the Ibaraki JET PAs at


There are a lot of benefits teaching multiple high schools. You work with several teachers and students that widen your network in Japan. Meeting with a number people also adds variety to the week! Day to day interactions can range from speaking in a mix of English and Japanese while farming with students, to leading an interesting discussion with the English club about cultural differences between Japan and Hawaii.

Teaching at multiple schools can also present some challenges though. Maintaiing an open line of communication with several JTEs is tough. ALTS aren’t available to sit down with teachers to efficiently plan lessons. Although email and smartphone apps like Line help, a lot of the time face to face meetings are required.

Recently, I sat down with two of my coworkers. Both are high school teachers. One teaches high level while the other low. I asked them questions and documented their responses.

The first interview is with a teacher, let’s name her Suzuki-sensei.

She works for a lower level high school.

1.    What do you look forward to when team teaching?

“Students don’t get many chances to speak in English with a foreigner. Team teaching is an opportunity for the students to talk in English and ALTS bring new atmosphere to the class.”

2..    What is your least favourite part about team teaching?

“I`m sorry, I don’t know.”

I offered sample responses and she thought about it, but still declined to comment. I didn’t push for an answer. It’s important to respect boundaries and Japanese culture is not always the most direct. I felt her unease, so we moved on.

3.    When team teaching, what is important to you?

“Building good relationships with the ALT is important because then I can talk about [lesson] plans.”

4.    Describe a normal work day.

“I come to school at 8:00AM and leave at 8:30PM.

In the morning, I stand outside [in front of the school] and greet students. I check their uniform and make sure it is proper. After, I attend the morning meeting we have every day. I teach 3-4 classes a day. I teach all grades (1st, 2nd and 3rd). Planning lessons for each grade is different so it changes how long it takes to plan to each lesson. When I am not team teaching, I prepare a worksheet for each of my classes. That takes a lot of time and I hardly have any spare time. I clean in the afternoon and then I go outside. I check to make sure the students have their I.D and check their motor bike. I check their helmet and make sure the lights work. After, I go to my club activity. After my club activity, I go back to my desk and work.”

5.  What do you want me to tell other ALTs in Ibaraki?

I am an English teacher, but I am not very good at English. I would like ALTS to help me and other teachers teach students.

The second  interview is with a teacher who I will also name Suzuki-sensei. He works for a higher level high school.

1.    What do you look forward to when team teaching?

“Team teaching is an opportunity for students to listen to real english. When we team teach, it makes it easier for me to create a good atmosphere for group work. Without team teaching, we never do group work, sometimes we have students work in pairs but never in groups. It’s a good chance for them to share ideas.”

2.    What is your least favorite part about team teaching?

“We have a curriculum we need to do and team teaching interrupts the yearly plan. This is especially important before exams and tests. Sometimes, we are already behind the plan because of medical checks, snow storms and team teaching can disturb the schedule.”

3.    Describe a normal work day for you.

“I arrive to school at 8:00AM and I prepare the announcements for my short homeroom at 8:35. I am always thinking how I can use this time efficiently. I don’t like giving students papers now, instead I give them papers after school. We also have a morning meeting twice a week. Sometimes I prepare announcements for the meeting too. I teach from 3-5 classes per day, all 2nd grade. We have a curriculum and we share making lesson plans between the English teachers. I make 3 lessons, then another teacher makes 3 lessons and we share the plans. It takes me 90 minutes to prepare for each class. I seldom go to my club activity during the week because I go on the weekends, but during the week I stay late every day making plans preparing for tomorrow’s lesson.”

4.  What do you want me to tell other ALTs in Ibaraki?

“University entrance exams are very important. It is our school goal. I want ALTS to know about the exams. They should know what skills and grammar are on the entrance exams. I want ALTS to study how long the test takes and what students need to know to pass the exam.”

Whether you are an ES, JHS, HS ALT or even a CIR, I hope you find these interviews helpful. If you’re a new arrival, this could good insight as to what your future coworkers are thinking about. I certainly enjoyed taking a moment and it’s always nice bridging the gap.

Randy is a third-year ALT working at a high school in Hokota.  He enjoys traveling, riding his bike, and relaxing at the beach.

Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #011


Does our school provide the “Statement of Earnings” (Japanese Gensen choshu hyo) or does it come in the mail?


Answered by: Cassi

Usually your school will give you a copy sometime in January. If you need one and it hasn’t been provided to you yet (especially if you are leaving), ask your supervisor. They should be able to get a copy for you.

Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #010


My students ask me to “hang out” after school. What should I do?


Answered by: Emily

As an ALT, it can sometimes be difficult to negotiate the boundary between “teacher” and “friend” with students.Some of the best ALTs are also the most approachable and friendly, and it’s not uncommon for some students, especially those in English club, to get to know you fairly well. Continue reading →

Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #009


What should ALTs do with the English Club?


Answered by: Emily

Schools have English clubs for many different purposes. Depending on the objectives of the students and JTE, English clubs can focus on activities ranging from games, to English discussion practice, to preparation for things like speech contests, Interactive Forum,and the Rose Cup for debate. Continue reading →

Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #008


Sometimes my classes are taught in 80-90% Japanese. When this happens, the lesson plans and worksheets for the students are also in Japanese. Is there a policy that team teaching lessons should be in English?


Answered by: Emily

According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, as of 2013 all high-school English lessons are supposed to be conducted in English. However, at certain levels of schools, it may be difficult to conduct lessons entirely in English. Continue reading →

Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #007


Do you have any tips or suggestions how to make friends for JETs who don’t have any other ALTS nearby?

Answered by: Cassi

Making friends in a completely new environment can be daunting, especially if you’re a new graduate – leaving institutionalised learning tends to be the first time you have to consciously think about how to find friends. I’ve always found the best friends come from people who share your interests, so one of the best ways to find a buddy is to join some kind of club or group in your local area. Continue reading →