Also known as, “What am I supposed to put on my bulletin board?”
I’m not going to talk about Japan-specific Valentine’s Day much here, but you can read about it here with nice pictures! As a summary, girls give guys chocolates on Valentine’s Day, and guys give back to girls a month later on White Day (March 14).
Anyway, whew, that took a long time to put together! The mail section was already there, as were the Happy Birthday and comics sections. I’d been praying about Valentine’s Day and what I was going to do about it, because I had no ideas but I felt like it was important to talk about American culture and make it fun for everyone. The day continued to draw nearer, and I continued to not know what to do…and then the night of Jan 30th, the day before I was going to go to the middle school, I suddenly got all these ideas, and wrote and wrote and wrote until I had quite a few sticky notes (at least 10 I think) filled up with ideas O_O I was so surprised, because whereas I’d had no ideas before and didn’t even particularly like Valentine’s Day, suddenly I had a ton of ideas on how to make Valentine’s Day the most fun bulletin board topic ever. I’m still a beginner at this and I’m not saying it’s perfect, but the students seemed to like it, and so I know I’ll be able to get better!
My goal was to have fewer things on the board, but make them eye-catching and bigger; and to make those “bigger” things things that I can easily take and replace with something else from month to month. I read somewhere that the board should be kept “fresh and creative” or something and change a lot, but I wanted to make at least the left-hand side to be as little work-intensive as possible so that I can focus on the parts of the board that will change. Once a month is not a long time, especially if you change schools. I only work on the bulletin board on Mondays and Thursdays. That means that I have 8-10 days each month and the board changes again O_O The students see it much more frequently than I do, though, and that’s what keeps me going!^^
That big black board on the left used to be a calendar, where the days of the week were taped along the top and all the dates (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc) were magnetic and could be rearranged each month. I found this to be a huge pain after doing it a few times, and since students never look back there anyway during the “What day/date is it” time at the beginning of each class, I just turned it around and made it into a “Word(s) of the Month” section^^
The Happy Birthday section wasn’t being used, either, and I don’t know if the students even care when each others’ birthdays are (…I wouldn’t care, unless they were my friends), so I changed it into the “celebrity birthdays” section. I did it in pairs–the first two are American celebs, the 2nd pair are Japanese, 3rd pair Korean, 4th pair anime. In that order, this month’s birthdays were Rihanna, Harry Styles, the vocalist of Ikimonogatari, Osamu Mukai, Choi Sooyoung (Shōjo Jidai), Cho Kyuhyun (Super Junior), Nico Robin, and Bartholomew Kuma (both One Piece). The One Direction fans were freaking out to see Harry’s picture up, haha, and another students asked me, “Will you have One Piece birthdays up next month, too?” I guess I did a good job >:D
As for comics, I really didn’t know what to do, seeing as comics can be pretty hard to understand. I received some Snoopy calendars for Christmas that I use to practice English with my coworkers, but I’ve since concluded that most of the time, there’s no way that most of my students would understand those. I spent a good deal of time searching around for comics that were simple enough for my students to enjoy, but all I could come up with were these adorable Pusheen comics. Well, they’ve got a cat and they’re cute, so why not? This months’ was one about marshmallows.
The “mail” section…I LOVE the way Emily (my predecessor) made it, and I didn’t want to get rid of it, but I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t want to be nagging students to write to me when I was pretty sure most students wouldn’t. Maybe that’s pessimistic, and maybe I’ll think of a way to encourage letter-writing later, but for now I decided to give out free stuff instead (hehehe…trick students into doing English for fun!!!!). I found two worksheets online, one that was a Valentine’s word search and a Sudoku challenge using the letters of the word “LOVEBIRDS” instead of numbers, and I copied them onto opposite sides of a single page. It was an experiment, so I didn’t print enough for everyone, but made 40 copies per classroom (there are about 90 different students who have English class in each classroom routinely), and then went back and counted. Students did indeed take the worksheets^^ I saw that one guy completed the Sudoku challenge, and I was impressed haha, so I’m thinking of giving out stickers or something as a reward later even though I don’t need to. The teacher I work with also got one of the students in trouble because she was working on the worksheet in class instead of paying attention, hahaha. I guess that as a teacher I shouldn’t celebrate that, but I was pretty happy^^
On the far right-hand corner, there’s a pink free-write page (“Anything is OK!”)–I taped two pieces of paper together and put it in an unobtrusive spot, to see if students would really write on it or not. I put a little note in the corner with my name, and then left it there to see if anyone would draw on it. Later, I saw lots of students crowded around it writing stuff. Today, one of my students hinted that Emily let them draw on the blackboard. Emily had told me about that, but I like the “permanence” of the paper as opposed to the blackboard, where you can just mess around and then erase stuff. Who knows, maybe it’d be the same. I’m also not sure how one of my teachers would feel about seeing the blackboard full of randomness every day…but I’ll think about it.
I also have a section devoted to Sweethearts candies (I’m thinking of always having some sort of “real America” section like that), and made some myself out of construction paper. I can get all the supplies I need (and also do lamination) from the school office. It’s really great! This would have taken sooo long if I’d had to go buy my own paper, and Emily’s making stuff beforehand really helped a lot.
Misc–Finally, I posted a list of the top 10 English names of 2012 (girls and boys) with katakana for pronunciation beside it, a list of 5 words with “love” in them, and a survey of what American men/women wished to give and then to receive for Valentine’s Day (translated into Japanese). The survey is too tiny, so I’ll probably ditch that sort of thing later. Oh, and I also made the paper chain for decoration, but that was one of the easier parts.
I didn’t really come up with any of these ideas “myself”–I think they’re almost all modifications of ideas I’ve seen on various JET/EFL websites, forums, etc. They just came together all at once.
Other than the bulletin board, I’ve been giving Valentine’s Day ppt presentations talking about Valentine’s Day in Japan vs. in the US. I think some of the girls really liked the presentation, and I’m pretty sure they liked the picture of roses when it came up, too. For the slide about White Day, I said, “I’ve heard that guys in Japan give 3 times as much as they receive on Valentine’s Day. Is that true??” and all the guys gave answers that were collectively a big “HECK NO” haha. It was the same at the elementary school. I guess that starts once you become a shakaijin? haha.
I didn’t get any chocolate from students, but there was a fair amount of Valentines gift-giving in the teachers’ room and I ate well today^^ I wasn’t expecting anything crazy for Valentine’s Day, but it was a really nice day that I think everyone enjoyed. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!
Song of the Day: Anberlin, “A Whisper and a Clamor”. This may seem like the least Valentine’s-y song I could pick, but I woke up with this song going through my head this morning and felt really peaceful^^