Introduce Yourself: 4 Steps for Preparing a Self-Introduction That Will Keep Your Students’ Attention
If only our self-introduction was this iconic...
By now, you’ve made it through training, you’ve met your co-workers, and you’ve navigated your first few days at school. Congratulations! But now the real work begins: teaching. And, as a general rule, during your first lesson, you'll be asked to introduce yourself to your classes. It can seem daunting, but with a little prep work, you can put together a quick and informative presentation that will charm your students.
In this article, we'll give you a few tips for making an easy self-introduction that you can use at elementary and junior high schools. Let’s begin with…
We just want to know where the popcorn's at.
The Beginning: What do your students want to know?
While it can seem as though self-introductions are challenging because you don’t have enough to say, it’s often the exact opposite that becomes a problem. In fact, the real challenge is in giving them both information about yourself and the context with which to frame it.
After all, most of the children you'll be teaching have no direct experience of the world outside Japan. Many have no experience outside Tochigi Prefecture. And even then, most of them are not old enough to have a solid grasp of life outside their bubbles of family, school, and town.
(In other words, telling a bunch of Japanese fifth graders that you love 18th century artwork by the Dutch masters is pointless. Fifth graders don’t have anywhere near the knowledge or experience to relate to such information. On the other hand, telling them that you love One Piece, they understand that. They’ve all seen the program and they love it.)
With that in mind, the information children (and teachers) generally want to know about their new ALTs can be broken down into two broad categories: information about you and information about where you’re from.
But this brings us back to - what do students want to know about you? What do they want to know about your hometown? Let’s move on to…
First Google result for "Japanese Culture."
Brainstorming: Small Differences and Large
Our keyword for brainstorming this presentation is “relatable.” Children, especially elementary school aged and younger have two frames of reference - their immediate family, friends, and school life, and Japan (and the world) in broad strokes. We want to tell things about ourselves that they can push into one of these two frames.
Let’s do a quick brainstorming exercise: draw a circle on a sheet of paper. In the middle of this, write “me”. Around this, add four big branches. Label these Bio, Likes, Dislikes, and Experiences. On the bio branch list basic facts about yourself that you are comfortable sharing. These might be your age, marital status, favorite food, etc.
For the Likes and Dislikes branches, think about the things you liked when you were in elementary or junior high school. Are they still around and will the children be familiar with them? (Pokemon - yes, Thundercats - not so much.) But also think about things that are present in Japan. Add sub-branches like “favorite Japanese food” or “most disliked Japanese food” and fill in the tertiary branches accordingly.
And for the Experiences branch, list out experiences that your students might also have had. Think “first trip to Tokyo Disney” or “first time eating sesame ice cream.” It is also a good idea to list experiences that you have had that they may be looking forward to - traveling to other countries, holding a koala, meeting a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.
On a separate piece of paper, make the same circle for your country or hometown. List of categories for Flora, Fauna, and so on. Think about unique and interesting plants, animals, and places - the kinds of things that get shown on t.v. programs about your country. If you’re Australian this is koalas and Ayer’s Rock. If you’re English, this is foxes and Big Ben, and so on.
Once you have several ideas written down on the appropriate branches, start looking at which ones are most relatable to your students. Also consider which pieces of information can be easily tailored to differences in ages and grade levels. But before you choose any, let’s talk about…
No, pan-der. P-A-N...you know what? It's fine. We're just gonna go with it.
Relating to your audience is paramount. Kids want to know all about you, but kids also have the attention span of, well, kids. We like to use two avenues of attack in our presentations: cultural differences and shocking facts.
Cultural differences come in two flavors: big, shocking revelations that were previously unknown to you or your audience, and small, everyday differences that you can either confirm or explain to the students. (As an example of the latter - Japanese kids are taught that Americans all wear shoes indoors, all the time. Explaining when and why this is only partly true can be an interesting part of your presentation. By contrast, and to show the former - many Americans grow up owning horses or multiple dogs and cats, or other interesting pets. Many Japanese students might have only a single animal as a pet, if any at all.)
Kids have a fair bit of factual knowledge about their country. They know that Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan. They know how tall Tokyo Tower is. Compare these landmarks to places in your own country. It doesn't really matter if it's the closest one to where you're from or whether you even have any direct experience of it - it's far more important that it helps the students build a lasting impression of you. If they know you, or feel that they do, they will be far more comfortable learning from you.
Because you're presentation all has to go together. Like a puzzle. Yeah.
Putting It All Together
By now you've got several sections to assemble: there are things about yourself, your experiences, and how they all relate to your country. Look for logical through-lines that you can use to make your presentation flow. For example: start by telling the students your name and asking them to guess where’re you from. Introduce your country with a large, famous landmark. Ask the students what the most appropriate feature of Japan is. Move on to a famous food from your country. Segue into your favorite food, then your favorite Japanese food, then ask the students what their favorite foods are, and so on and so forth.
Once you’ve got your outline or script set, start looking for photos or realia that help show exactly what it is you’re talking about. If you have your own photos that you’re willing to share, that’s even better. Prepare a slideshow or prints and make sure you have your notes ready and you should have a great presentation.
Just remember, kids are unpredictable. You never know what’s going to set them off on a tangent or how hard it’s going to be to bring them back in line. In our experience, it’s better to go with the flow rather than rigidly adhere to your plan. At the same time, they’re already pre-disposed to like you. They’re going to be curious about you and they’re going to be interested in anything you have to say as long as you say it with a smile.