English teachers face unique challenge amid pandemic
NHK -- Jul 26
Many schools across Japan resumed classes in mid-June after a months-long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are scrambling to get their programs back on track with new educational methods that are both safe and effective.

It is a particular challenge for English language teachers, whose subject requires students to do something that could raise the risk of infection: speaking out loud.

"Please wear your face shields," says Kawano Mitsushi, an English teacher at Tateishi Junior High School in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward. It is one of the ways he is trying to limit the risk of infection in his classroom. His students are not allowed to sit face-to-face or work in groups. And when they want to speak up or talk to someone, they have to put on a face shield.

Kawano thought the shields, which are made by parents and distributed throughout the school, would enable students to speak in the classroom without wearing face masks. He says masks muffle sound and cover the mouth, which makes it difficult for him to evaluate pronunciation. But almost all of his students have opted to wear the shields along with their masks. Kawano says only one student feels safe enough in the classroom to swap a mask for a shield.

Some public schools have turned to digital tools to minimize the risk of infection. In an English class at Higashi Junior High School in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture, students are allowed to leave the classroom to work on their pronunciation, using iPads to record their voices. This allows them to speak up without worrying about transmission in a way they could not around their classmates.

Sato is also using videos to further reduce the risk of infection by limiting the amount of time he speaks in front of the class. He and his colleagues started producing video lessons in mid-May, while the school was closed. They decided to continue making the videos after the school was reopened, as it offered a way to minimize the risk of infection while also providing a way for students to review at home. The school now has its own YouTube channel with more than 60 videos.

News source: NHK
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