I had the greatest pleasure of being invited again by Mari Nakamura, the owner of English Square in Kanazawa, to hold a picture book event for her students.
We held the event on Sunday 5th March and were happy to have warm and sunny weather that day. The last time I was in Kanazawa was in December and there were high winds, rain and some snow, all in one day at that time.
It is so easy to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo now, with the direct shinkansen from Tokyo station. The scenery from the shinkansen window of mountains and the Japan Sea is also quite spectacular.
So, we held two sessions. The first group were parents and children of the younger age group and the second group were the slightly older students, from third grade upwards, and some parents. We had a great turn-out of nearly seventy children and parents in total.
I based my sessions on the two books that Mari Nakamura and I wrote and had published by mpi Phonics last year, Can We Be Friends? and A Trip to Grandma's House. After reading the books and singing the songs connected to the stories, I introduced some creative activities where children could use their English and imagination.
As one of the themes in Can We Be Friends? is animals and another theme is talking about what you can and can't do, we had a lot of fun with puppets.
In a Trip to Grandma's House, the bear family are helped by a group of shapes - circles, triangles, rectangles and squares - to get to their grandma's house. So it was really interesting to see the amazing ideas that the children came up with to create other objects from shapes to help the bears overcome various obstacles.
I was very impressed with Mari's students. Many students volunteered to come to the front to perform the dialogues that they had made in pairs with the puppets and all of the students worked really well in groups making interesting objects from shapes. It was fascinating how different the creative ideas were. For example, given the task of thinking of a way to get the bears quickly to England to meet the Queen, one group made a rocket, one group made a ship, one group made a submarine and two groups made airplanes, but both airplanes were designed completely differently.
I could see how these children have had plenty of training in using imagination and English at English Square with one of the most respected teachers and teacher trainer in Japan, Mari Nakamura.