What’s the perfect ALT-to-JTE teaching ratio?

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The actualities of an assistant language teacher and their job description can sometimes get a bit foggy. Our title, ALT, suggests that we should be assisting. However, many of us, whether it be in  elementary or junior high school, have to take full responsibility and lead for the entire duration of the class.

Even though we have grown accustomed to this style, there should be more cooperation between the ALT and Japanese teacher of English (JTE) in the classroom. The JTEs should lead the class, while the ALTs are there for assistance with things that are difficult for the JTE to do, such as pronunciation, reading, grading other tasks best handled by a native speaker. As we all know, however, this is not usually the case — especially when it comes to elementary school. So, what things should the JTE be leading during the class and how much time should the ALT be leading?

In our last article on bonding with other teachers, we discussed the changes that will be made come the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. When these are implemented, Japanese teachers will have to take more responsibility. An ideal English lesson in the classroom should have a 1-to-1 teaching ratio between the JTE and ALT. However, depending on the English level of the students and the JTEs involved as well as the particular lesson being taught, this ratio may vary. At the very least, ALTs should always try to use proper English. The JTEs, on the hand, do not necessarily have to use the proper constructions, but certainly should use easy-to-understand English.

As an ALT, we have become used to teaching in a familiar way of leading the class ourselves with minimal help from the teacher. Moving to another style can seem foreign. In this article, we’ll discuss how much time during the part of a typical lesson that should be split between ALTs and JTEs.

Greetings

All classes start with a greeting. During your greeting, it would be best to split this up about 40 percent JTE to 60 percent ALT since the students already know what is coming, and there is no real need for explanations. As an ALT, you might want to think of fun ways to incorporate the JTE and get the students warmed up and speaking. With younger students, you might want to greet the JTE first and then have the students do it so they know what question is coming and how they should answer it.

Introduce material

Photo by Bill Cooney

After you greet the class, next comes the introduction of the day’s lesson. This should be lead by the JTE. For more difficult grammar, he or she will probably have to explain it in Japanese, as it will be difficult for students to understand the small differences between similar grammar points. The ALT will most likely be there if the JTE needs them to demonstrate a few examples in English or to distinguish between two similar sounding words. This part should be a 2-to-1 ratio.

Drilling and practice

For these repetitions, the ratio is ideally 1-to-1. During this time, the ALT should take the lead and pronounce the vocabulary or target sentences half of the time while the JTE repeats with the students the other half.

Games and activities

This can be split with the ALT leading about 70 percent of the time. It’s best for the students to listen to the native speaker’s English as much as possible. Now, some of these games or activities may be a little hard to explain, but the ALT should still use proper English here. You can use very simple language, but the ALTs should nevertheless still use it absolutely correctly.

What about the JTE? The JTE can judge the reaction of students and if they look confused, then they can pick up the important parts of your explanation. The JTE doesn’t really need to use correct English here, just enough so that students understand what to do.

The perfect ratio?

The ratios in this article are not absolute, you can always alter them based on the school, students’ English levels or the overall attitude toward English of some of your JTEs. This short overview should, however, provide a quick guide as to how much time the JTE and yourself should each devote to leading the class as a team.

Do you prefer planning it all or taking time to work with the JTE? Let us know in the comments below!

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RCS (Real Communication Solutions) provides assistant language teachers to public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as English cram schools, daycare centers, kindergartens and other businesses.

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