Kung-Fu Panda Kids Party

The release of ‘Kung-Fu Panda 2’ into cinema’s this Summer meant I wanted to seize the chance to do another Kung-Fu Panda lesson following my previous efforts in 2009 and 2010. However, this time it was different as I proposed the idea of doing an actual school event rather than just doing it in selected lessons. Luckily the owner of Hibarigaoka school was wanting to do some kind of kids event and so my dream ending up becoming reality on Sunday 31st July. Apart from the idea and being consulted on activities, crafts and games I took a back seat this time and no that doesn’t mean I was lazy! My friend and colleague Lai-Keun took on the mantle of organising it and produced a wealth of stuff such as masks, board games, cut-outs, extra flashcards, craft activities and so on.

Basically it was a teaching partnership for two classes of 13 each with the first group being the 3-6 year olds and the other group the 6-12 year olds. There were a few cry-babies in the first group but overall I think both group lessons went very well. Whilst there was some drilling of the character animals (as well as station games) and a few language points the main priority was to create more of a party atmosphere with a lot of fun games and activities which Lai-Keun came up with including:

‘Make a Lantern’ – the young kids basically coloured in the lantern and a few folds later it was done. Add a handle using double sided sticky tape and its finished.


‘Make a Pencil Topper’ – the older kids group basically just cut and folded along the lines of a character topper and used the adhesive tape on it (if they didn’t cut that bit off by mistake which a few did!). Stick a pencil through the hole and its job done.

‘Pin the ears on Po’ – students wear a blindfold and try to stick the ears on the panda.


‘Ninja star throwing’ – students have a star each and take turns to throw it into a box. The first team to get them all in wins.

‘Feed Po’ – two teams of students race to feed the panda M&M’s one at a time using a plastic spoon.


‘Magnetic jigsaw’ – two teams race to complete and put together a magnetic jigsaw piece by piece whilst wearing a puppet on their hands which is passed between team members


‘Pass the parcel’ – self explanatory and who would have thought that every student ended up with a prize?! What chance of the ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ music never stopping on the same student!!

‘Punch & Kick the balloon’ – the teacher throws the balloon to the student telling them to either punch or kick it. Simple but good fun.

‘Hit the pinata’ –  the grand finale of each class where students basically use a plastic baseball bat to smack the sh*t out of a tiger pinata until it breaks and releases a load of candy for them to grab and fight over!


The lessons lasted 90 minutes each including a snack and drinks break halfway through and each student left with a goody bag and a smiling face. From a personal point of view I hope that some of them go and see the new film when it finally comes out in Japan on August 19th. Overall, it was a tiring days work (well, half a day anyway!) but great fun and nice to do something different with the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ format I’ve been covering in recent years. I can’t thank Lai-Keun enough for her efforts as well as those of the owner and receptionist (Junko and Yasuko) who all contributed far more than I did to make the party run smoothly. I also now have a wealth of additional materials to use in future lessons should I wish or for when/if ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ is made.


Kung Fu Panda Special Lesson (2010 Edition)

To celebrate the end of a hard years work for my kids I treated them to non-textbook special lessons in the last week of March which marks the end of the school year in Japan. This was basically the follow up to last years Kung Fu Panda special lesson and involved the manipulation of their standard text to fit in with the animal characters (from the Kung Fu Panda film) flashcards that I made and laminated and the making of a Po (the title character) mask before the culmination of some games played whilst wearing it. To be honest, I was quite disappointed with these lessons as I hadn’t anticipated so many students being absent as they were on school holiday. My efforts had been geared towards doing this themed lesson with the majority of kids in attendance.
Anyway, despite my somewhat wasted efforts (cutting out many rough templates of the Panda mask using old cereal boxes the night before each day) the lessons were still enjoyed a by a fair number of kids (I teach a lot of kids groups which were all mostly depleted that week) and gave them a break from the normal course syllabus.

Top Trump Lessons

No this entry isn’t about letting rip in class but using top trump cards as a tool for learning. After making some James Bond actor profile flashcards a few months ago (featuring their age, hair and eye colour and height) for a comparatives and superlatives lesson I got the idea that trump cards might work in lessons. Subsequently, I went on ebay and bought five sets of cheap top trumps (three lots of ‘Star Wars’ and two of ‘The Simpsons’ if you must know!) which I got sent to Japan. Given that the Simpsons aren’t well-known here I have only used the ‘Star Wars’ ones. I teach a couple of young private students (separate lessons) who are both young ‘Star Wars’ fans so I have used the top trumps cards with them as a warm-down fun activity to make sure they leave the room on a high rather than having just been told what their homework is which is not an ideal way to finish a lesson given the negative connotations often associated with the dreaded ‘h’ word. Some of the items such as ‘dark side’ and ‘force factor’ have to be ignored but the likes of brains, jedi powers, battle skills and of course height can be used to practice the target language review (.i.e. Chewbacca is taller than Darth VaderHan Solo is more skillful than Luke SkywalkerObi-Wan Kenobi is more powerful than Princess Leia and so on). I only wish I could now find a way to incorporate ‘The Simpsons’ ones into a lesson but maybe some of the items up for comparison are not so suitable. By this I am referring to personal hygiene, shamelessness, huggability and prone to mayhem. Then again, maybe eliciting something like ‘Homer Simpson is more prone to mayhem than Chief Wiggum’ isn’t so bad after all!

Kung Fu Panda Special Lesson

Kung Fu Panda was the surprise hit of last year for me as I originally thought it was some horrible cutesy cr*p aimed at the Japanese market. I saw it on the plane last summer when I went to Malaysia and again when I went to Laos via Bangkok as I was so tired that I fell asleep with 20 minutes left the first time I watched it.
While at home at Christmas I bought a cheap Kung Fu Panda annual in the sales which inspired me to use some of the material inside it as part of my special Kung Fu Panda lesson recently. Having photocopied many pictures of Po (the star of the film), and a maze, wordsearch and ‘cut out’ mask I went about constructing a special fun-packed animal lesson loosely based around some of the units in the kids books. I never do craft work in kids lessons as I have always been of the opinion that in regular lessons it is bit of a cop-out when they are there to learn, practice and produce English via a wide variety of activities and games. However, I guess there’s a time and place for craft work and as a couple of my groups were ahead of pacing I decided to allow them to make a panda poster one week (using the target language of the recent units) and then a mask the following one which was worn while playing the ‘fishing for animals’ magnet game (see pictures to get the idea!)
On top of that I also incorporated some of my personal items into the lesson such as any random animal photos I have (i.e. me holding a crocodile, me and Gromit the dog, swimming with fish, riding an elephant, Jaws, an Okinawan buffalo, my ‘Pringles’ duck impression and so on), my frog ‘croaking’ guiro-type thing, my Aussie magnets, coasters and cork hat.
Special ‘Fu Juice’ was on the menu in one of the lessons which was basically just a bottle of green tea with a new label on it. The kids were fooled up until they tasted it! I also shared out some cheap animal biscuits which had the written English word on them which was a chance to re-enforce their phonics and not just me trying to buy popularity!! Overall, the students seemed to enjoy these special themed lessons and I will now keep an eye out to see how I can shoehorn other such film related things into my lessons.

A Spook-tacular Halloween

The force was strong with my students last week as Halloweeen provided a good excuse to incorporate some Star Wars stuff into the special themed lessons. Having brought my lightsaber back from Britain in September I wanted to show it to the kids (and the adults too) as a treat although the younger ones didn’t have much idea what it actually was. Still, even those with no interest in the movie franchise seemed to enjoy having a quick play with it. Anyway, long before it was introduced the kids entered the lesson to the X-Files theme (of course unknown to them but thats not the point) to spook them out a bit before the haunting tune of ‘Tubular Bells’ kicked in and then I introduced my specially made Halloween flashcards and a load of fun games followed culminating in the revealing of my Darth Vader mask and Luke Skywalker lightsaber. I can’t say I have ever really done anything for Halloween and am still ignorant of its actual meaning but I have to say that I did enjoy doing something different with my lessons which is always good for both students and teacher in terms of keeping us interested, motivated and entertained.
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Everybody Needs Good Neighbours!

One of the units in the intermediate level course i teach talks about neighbours and involves a load of questions about how students’ get on with them. The perfect opportunity for me to use the ‘Neighbours’ TV theme to manipulate the target language and do a gap-fill listening exercise. I have to say that I did feel a little embarassed sitting there while it played a couple of times but no more embarassing than visiting the TV show’s outdoor filming location in Melbourne three times or going to the ‘Meet the Neighbours Night’ or the many other Australian soap related things i have done which can be seen in a photo slideshow here.
I did the listening with two groups with one faring slightly better than the other but given that yours truly didn’t know some of the lyrics from 20 years of watching it I have to say that they shouldn’t be too worried about not catching certain words! Always nice to bring something different to the classroom and I was quite surprised how well it did actually link in to the lesson objective.
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The Simpsons In Japan: A Lesson In Stereotypes

At the start of the year I was googling to find out the name of a Simpsons episode when I came across a lesson plan involving the dysfunctional family. Eight months later and I finally got round to doing a special lesson based around The Simpsons 30 minutes over Tokyo episode (season 10 episode 23). Despite being hugely successful around the world The Simpsons have never made it big in Japan and are known as nothing more than CC family at best after they advertised CC Lemon many years ago. Very few of my students had heard of them so they had to be introduced on the board via a fairly bad picture which I had. Before that I had done a very quick warmer on why people want to come to Japan, what places they want to visit and what tourists most want to do here. After that was an introduction to the word stereotype before they chatted in small groups about their impressions of various countries and their native inhabitants. As someone who finds stereotyping and generalising funny this part was very amusing to listen to as was the next part which was about how non-Japanese viewed Japan and Japanese in terms of customs, sport, technology, food, personality, character, homes, cities, countryside, education and work. Lots of typical short answers there about shy people, crowded cities, small homes, advanced technology and hard work.
It was then time to play about 13 minutes of the episode (via my laptop) in three parts with a series of questions to go with each part designed to stimulate discussion such as why Homer always walks through the sliding paper doors, the seizures eminating from a cartoon, why an american family would go to ‘America Town’, Japanese quiz shows, things that Bart and Homer learned and how true the stereotypes were.
Additional resources being used in the classroom is always a welcome idea and can break up the monotony of the book a bit and I was very happy to try something different. I tried the lesson with two upper-intermediate level groups and i think they found it difficult to follow what was said especially the voice of Marge Simpson. After all, as much as they may be able to listen to English, they almost certainly had never listened to cartoon voices. Overall though it was a nice break from the book for both the students and myself and interesting to use additional resources to try and stimulate their learning.