Hello. I am Mrs Melissa Hilaire, known to students as Hilaire-sensei or simply Sensei. I am a Canadian second language teacher with 9 years of experience including teaching French to Canadian English speakers and English to Japanese speakers. Living and teaching in Japan for 5 years has given me valuable firsthand experience in both Japanese language and culture. I am very excited to share my passion for Japan and second language with the students of SJB!

Our approach to language teaching at SJB is that it should be natural and meaningful to the children in a warm structured lesson where predictable routine and body language drive the learning. This is how we all learnt our first language, even as babies, by observing first and then feeling safe enough to try it ourselves.   

We have a 30-40 minute lesson once a week, which is full of language opportunities like dance, song, craft, reading, writing, cooking, decoding script, origami, video, and conversation. Using a multi-faceted approach to language learning not only accommodates all learners in the classroom, but allows students to experience a range of different aspects of Japanese culture.

We have a dedicated Japanese classroom which is furnished in an open plan traditional style, so the children get to switch into Japanese mode. Upon entry the children gather for routine opening lesson activities, choosing to sit in Japanese seiza style if they wish. Throughout the lesson they may use lap desks, sit at the low tables on zabuton cushions, and take part in kinaesthetic movement and dance activities as a group. From Year 1 to Year 6, the children use a blank workbook which is kept for 2-3 years. Beautiful bookwork is highly encouraged and respectful behaviour is always expected.

What if my child is new to the school, won’t they be behind?

The material presented is designed in a spiral curriculum. Each stage introduces, explores and expands on topics, grammar and skills in new ways. There are also traditional and seasonal lessons we repeat each year at the time they occur in Japan. The curriculum is designed to meet students where they are at and provide meaningful opportunities for growth. A student starting at any level will be able to participate in the scaffolded lessons and any background knowledge they may need to be successful will be provided by Hilaire-sensei.

What can you do at home?

You don’t need to speak Japanese in order to support your child. You can show an interest the stories they will share, rent a Japanese DVD, try some Japanese food, try pronouncing what your child can say and let them see you be patient with yourself making mistakes. You can encourage them to sing songs they know and find new songs to learn on YouTube. Japanese books are also available through the State Library and provide great exposure to Japanese language and culture even if the words can’t be read. Keeping a positive and open mind about Japanese as well as other cultures will help your child value this great opportunity which is not widely offered in Primary school.

How will learning Japanese benefit my child?

Learning a new language has many benefits that reach beyond the Japanese classroom. An example I like to use is a child who regularly plays soccer, learning rugby as a new sport. Learning rugby will not cause your child to forget how to play soccer. In fact, using and working their muscles in a different way will actually help them become a stronger soccer player! The same goes for learning a new language. The skills your child will acquire and strengthen in Japanese class transfer back to their classroom subjects and even further into their understanding of the world.

Here are a few websites to explore

Exploring Japanese Phrases: How do you say...?

Let's cook Japanese food!

Stage 1 and 2 Song: Let’s Start! / Hajimaru yo! (YouTube)

Stage 2 and 3 Song: Hiragana Song (YouTube)

Stage 2 and 3 Challenge: Japanese Hiragana Matching Game






Diocese of Broken Bay (www.dbb.org.au)

21a Dulkara Road, Woy Woy
NSW, Australia 2256
Phone 02 4341 0884

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