Disrespectful things: If the ALT asks the students a question, the homeroom teacher should not answer it. Please do not translate what the ALT says. But it's OK to make the children guess. I want to make them think! Don't tell the children, "I can't understand English at all," or "I don't like English." A message like this discourages them. In the presence of the children, calling the ALT "A-san" tells them that the ALT is not a real teacher. Please say "A-sensei." (When you're speaking English, you can call Peter either "Peter" or "Peter-sensei.")
Philosophy: If children have an interest in the lesson, they can do it well. They can really communicate in English. But if the words and grammar are too difficult, students can't remember the lesson or do the activities, and even if they can, they quickly forget it. (If students can only say a phrase or do the activity by repeating after the teacher, then they can't really use the English taught in the lesson.) Students will get discouraged and they won't have any interest in learning English.
Memorizing difficult words: If a word isn't important or isn't interesting to students, it's useless. For example, months, days of the month (first, second, third, fourth, thirty-first, etc.; if the students don't know all the regular numbers well, learning "eleventh" etc. will be confusing), numbers over 100 (over ten for first grade, over twenty for second or third grade), names of the Zodiac, etc.
About grammar: In one day, it's good to teach only one or two new forms; more than three (more than two for first and second grades) is too difficult. Until the students understand simple English well, please avoid very complicated grammar. For example:
Hello. May I help you? What do you want?
B. I want an apple.
A. OK. Here you are.
B. Thank you. Good-bye.
If "May I help you?," "What do you want?," "I want ____," and "Here you are" are all new forms, it's too difficult. Students will confuse them and won't be able to learn any of them. If the teacher has to whisper the answers in the children's ears, the lesson has failed. Also, how to use "a," "an," "the," or nothing is very complicated, so it's better not to use them (unless the students' level is very high). Instead, first teach "I want ___" and "What do you want?" using a different activity. Then, the next time, teach "May I help you" and "Here you are" and play the shopping game. Or do a simpler version of the dialog:
May I help you?
B. Apple, please.
A. Here you are.
B. Thank you. See you.
A. See you.
Before the lesson it's important to do a little bit of practice of the key phrases or difficult words. However, it's not important that ALL students be able to use them well. The point of the activity is to give kids the chance to practice using the English many times. The goal is for them to be able to use it well by the END of the activity.
The best thing is to teach related
sentence forms in consecutive classes. For example, teach "I want _____" when you're teaching "I
like ___," "I eat ____," "I play ____," "I have
_____," etc. That way, by changing
only the verb, students can say many sentences. Then teach, "You like ____," and "You play,"
then "He likes _____," "She plays _____," then "Keiko eats
_____." Next, "Do you like ____?" "Do you play _____?"
"Do you eat _____?" etc. Finally, "What do you like?," "What do you play?,"
"What do you eat?," "What do you have?," etc. Small mistakes aren't important. I think it's better not to correct, e.g.,
"Keiko haves cat," or "Do Keiko play tennis?" For students who aren't studying English
every day, the correct forms are too complicated, and perfect grammar isn't
necessary for communication. If
children are worried about perfect grammar and mistakes, they won't want to try
to speak English. If they don't speak
English, they can't get better at it.
A little more: Activities using single words only aren't appropriate above the second grade. Also, avoid games in which only a few kids participate at a time, while all the rest sit around with nothing to do. Kids will be bored, and they'll have fewer chances to use the English du jour.