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Creatures of the Deep


Last year we did a lesson in the middle school classes about deep sea exploration and animals of the deep. It was really interesting to learn that James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, explored the Mariana Trench in a cigar-shaped submarine. It was also fascinating to learn how deep sea creatures could survive in the deep sea, under such high pressure in water with little oxygen. We found out that flapjack octopus, drawn as the character Pearl in the movie Finding Nemo, couldn't have swum with Nemo and Dory because they live at very different depths. After that lesson, I really wanted to see the adorable flapjack octopus for real.

 This Golden Week I finally got my wish when we visited the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium. Suruga Bay reaches depths of 2,500 meters and is the home of many deep sea creatures. It is very difficult to keep them alive in an aquarium at sea level, so while I was finally able to see a flapjack octopus, I wasn’t able to take a photo of it. However, I could take photos of lots of other interesting animals.

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 This aquarium impressed upon me how little we know about the sea and how essential it is to protect it. I bought a stuffed flapjack octopus to take back to BIG BOW English Lab to show to the students and start a conversation about sea conservation.


Putting my mother and father to work!


My mother and father are visiting from Florida until after Golden Week. This is their fourth visit to Japan, but the first time they have seen BIG BOW English Lab, as their last visit was in 2004.

Today my husband had to go with my son to the University of Tokyo to help him buy books for the new school year, so I asked my parents to help me in the BIG BOW office. They checked homework and attendance, and greeted the students.

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They also listened to the first graders read original storybooks.

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The last class of the day is the returnee middle school class, so the students will have a chance to interview them. What fun!


Van Gogh and Gauguin BIG BOW Museum Excursion

March 5th was the annual BIG BOW English Lab museum excursion. This year I was really wondering if we were going to have a museum trip or not because there weren’t any interesting exhibits. I was so relieved to see in January that the Aichi Arts Center would be putting on an exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin’s paintings, one that would also focus on their friendship.


I knew an exhibit about such popular painters would be well-attended, but we were shocked on Sunday to see so many people lined up before it even opened! However, thanks to the professional staff at the Aichi Arts Center, everything was well-organized and our group could easily move around the exhibit and see the paintings as many times as we wanted.


Before we entered the museum, we had a quick review of how Van Gogh and Gauguin’s lives intertwined. Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands and came to Paris to paint, where he met Gauguin. They moved to the south of France to paint, which pleased Van Gogh because he dreamed of starting an artists’ colony. However, the two friends quarreled often. One of their last quarrels led to Van Gogh cutting off his ear and Gauguin leaving. (There was speculation by art historians that Gauguin had cut his ear off with a sword, but most say now that did not happen.) Even though Van Gogh and Gauguin never saw each other again, they exchanged letters.


A few years after Van Gogh died, Gauguin moved to Tahiti. One of his last paintings was displayed in the exhibit – a painting of sunflowers, representing Van Gogh, with a scene of Tahiti outside the window, the place where Gauguin lived at the time.


Everyone had a great time and we all learned a lot about these two great artists! I hope another great exhibit comes to Nagoya next year.

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An Interview with Annamaria Pinter

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A few years ago, I started my distance Master's program at Aston University. When I took a module on Teaching Young Learners, one of the recommended textbooks was Annamaria Pinter's Teaching Young Language Learners. This book is a very helpful resource for anyone who teaches languages to children.

So, I was very honored to have the chance to interview her when she came to Nagoya to give a plenary speech at the JALT International Conference. She spoke about why there is a lack of research on young learners in EFL, how teachers in Japan can modify teaching ideas from Europe, and how returnee students can be a valuable asset in the classroom. It was truly the chance of a lifetime to be able to ask this leader in TEYL anything I wanted!

Click here to access a PDF of the interview, as published in the latest issue of  JALT's TLT: http://jalt-publications.org/node/5744/articles/5743-interview-annamaria-pinter  


LIXON Library Webinars – Signing up


Lesley PRez

Thanks to everyone who came to my presentation at ETJ EXPO last Sunday, Creating a Successful Extensive Reading Library. I will be giving this same presentation via webinar on February 2, Thursday from 8 p.m. – 8:45 p.m. and then again on February 4, Saturday from 2 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

 You can sign up for the webinar at the following link: http://lixon.wiziq.com/course/179479-creating-a-successful-extensive-reading-er-library


The webinar will be recorded, so you can watch it later if you are unable to attend.


Webinars can be viewed on:


  1. a desktop or laptop computer using a Chrome browser
  2. a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet (i.e. an iPad), but you’ll need to download the free WIZ IQ app from Google Play or Apple Music.


If you are a new to LIXON Education and have never used WizIQ before, please follow the steps below.


  1. Click the "Enroll Now" button on the course page

step 1



  1. Click on the "Sign Up" link

Step 2

  1. Enter your details to create a new user and then click the "Create My Account" button

Step 3




  1. Click on the "Enroll Now" button again

Step 4


If you have used WizIQ before, please follow the steps below.



  1. Click on the "Enroll Now" button

Step 1-1



  1. Sign in using your WizIQ username and password

Step 2-1

  1. Click the "Enroll Now" button again

Step 3-1

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you at the webinar!



Creating a Successful Extensive Reading Library



About 17 years ago, I attended an ETJ certificate workshop by Rob Waring on something I had never heard about before: extensive reading (ER). As a lifelong avid reader, I was very interested in hearing that learners of English could make a lot of progress simply by reading books right at their level; books that were on topics that interested them and that they chose for themselves. To me, this sounded like a more enjoyable way to study than doing grammar exercises out of a textbook and so I set about creating an ER library for my adult students in my eikaiwa school. At the beginning, my library only had fourteen graded readers!

 It sounded so easy! All I had to do was set some books on a shelf and let the students choose! The reality was somewhat different and I discovered by trial and error how to choose appropriate books and the best way motivate my students to read them. I wrote about my experience in an ETJ Journal article entitled, The Little Library that Could.

 At that time my school had been teaching children to read using phonics, but the students never had any opportunity to practice their skills outside of the classroom. I shifted my energies toward creating an ER library for children, which was a bit trickier because not only did I have to provide audio support for students still learning to read, I also had to convince their parents of the value of reading books at home.

 The library at BIG BOW English Lab has come a long way, with over a thousand books available for students. I’ve learned to become a better “book whisperer” and help students choose books that suit their interests and reading level. In the spring, we created a library management system where students could easily check out many books using a bar code scanner. This system is so easy to use and has breathed new life into our library program. It was so successful that we’ve decided to make it available to other schools and teachers through a subscription service.

 Come hear how to set up a successful ER library at your school at the Chubu ETJ EXPO this Sunday, January 29th in Room 511 at 11:15, Creating a Successful Extensive Reading Library.


JALT 2016 International Conference


The JALT 2016 International conference was held in Nagoya at the end of November. It was wonderful to have the conference just a short subway ride from my house. I've been going to the JALT international conference every year for over a decade, but this time, there were many "firsts" for me. First of all, after knowing her for years on Facebook, I finally got to meet Dorothy Zemach in person. She is the owner of Wayzgoose Press and publisher of my book, 50 Ways to Teach Young Learners. She was there to make a plenary speech about the state of ELT publishing and I thought her speech was very honest, balanced, and fair.

50 ways book cover

Another first for me was the opportunity to interview someone I have wanted to meet for years, Annamaria Pinter. She is the author of Teaching Young Language Learners and is one of the most famous researchers in the TEYL field. Not only did I get to meet her, I got to interview her for the TLT. The interview should be published sometime in 2017.


Finally, I gave my first academic presentation at JALT. Usually my presentations are about practical classroom activities, but this one was about my research on returnee students in Japan. I was happy to have a small crowd at my early morning Sunday slot.

Thanks to all the volunteers who worked so hard to put on the conference!



Jukebox Paradise



As Mr. Ito blogged earlier, we are very excited about the upcoming English musical, Jukebox Paradise. In order to help students who want to watch the musical, I created these worksheets to familiarize them with the characters, historical events, and themes present in the musical. They are Word Documents, so please feel free to download them and customize them to suit your class. The activities include internet research, listening, reading comprehension, and discussion.


Mr. Ito and I already have our tickets. Hope to see you there!

Jukebox Paradise Student Worksheet (2)

Jukebox Paradise _ Teacher's Guide and Answer Key


LIXON Education in Tokyo!


For over a decade, I traveled all over Japan giving teacher training presentations and often heard from teachers and school owners about how difficult it was for them or their teachers to find the time to attend teacher training seminars. Sometimes they also expressed an interest in learning more about a subject than what could be crammed into a typical one hour session. More recently, teachers with small extensive reading libraries shared frustration with managing them and how books went missing every year. Listening to these concerns led us to create a new company, LIXON Education.



LIXON Education had a table at the Tokyo ETJ EXPO last weekend.

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I also gave a presentation on some of the CLIL lessons that I teach at BIG BOW English Lab.

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I presented a lesson on how to make a mummy. . .



A multisensory lesson on the sense of smell. . .



And a lesson about famous people in history. I’ll be giving a four session webinar certificate course on CLIL lessons that work with elementary students in Japan from November 17thhttp://lixon.wiziq.com/course/168803-clil-lessons-that-work-for-early-elementary-students-in-japan


Also, Kate Cory-Wright, a British teacher in Ecuador who has given over 500 teacher training presentations in 24 different countries, will be giving a free webinar on November 10th, Thursday, from 8:00 p.m. – 9:10 p.m. (Japan time), “Motivate your students with HOT thinking skills” - Every week in class we ask our learners hundreds of questions. But how many of the questions really make the learners think about what they are learning? In this session, Kate Cory-Wright will focus on the higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and show how we can adapt some fun and practical activities for elementary students, so that learners gain more from our questions. http://lixon.wiziq.com/course/170377-motivate-your-students-with-hot-thinking-skills



We’re very excited about the launch of LIXON Education and have plans in the future to offer library management services and teacher training solutions for English schools.