The Eiken Foundation of Japan is the country’s leading testing organization evaluating English proficiency. The non-profit has made recent forays into elementary curriculum development including external training in international locations, prompted especially by the advent of standard English instruction in elementary schools a few years ago. A.C.E. serves as the North American Liaison Office for the Eiken Foundation, administering the Los Angeles office and testing site. A.C.E. Central Office serves marketing and business development functions as the test gains wider acceptance for U.S. university admission. The rolls of Eiken Recognizing Institutions, or “ERIs,” grows each month. A.C.E. continues to expand the portfolio of services offered Eiken with a second annual group of elementary school teachers selected nationwide for pedagogy, language, curriculum, and cultural training at the A.C.E. Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University this summer.
For everyday English in an everyday home, teachers stayed with American host families. Just hours after getting off the plane, they were meeting the “moms” and “dads” that would take care of them for two weeks. With palpable excitement they were whisked away in cars on the brightest of Seattle days.
Training in lesson plans and vocabulary appropriate for their students began two days later. Rigorous curriculum, coupled with micro-teaching demonstrations capping the two weeks, was paired with language-development excursions. Introducing unfamiliar English into a familiar environment, the trainees played an afternoon of kickball at the Boys and Girls club in the Ballard neighborhood. Two teams of equal parts trainees and kids on summer vacation made their huddle and broke on the count of three before several innings of running the bases and tagging each other out.
The Seattle Mariners ran the bases a few days later, and everyone leapt to their feet during an exciting six-run fourth inning and eventual victory over Toronto Blue Jays. The teachers ordered American ballpark favorites from concessions and analyzed the plays in English with the Americans (and Canadians, in a sea of blue caps above) around them. The day also included classroom supply shopping at the tony educational store Curious Kidstuff and more basic Dollar Tree, both full of English language resources to decorate the classroom walls: displays with interchangeable days of the week and weather, books of math story problems in English, and other materials that can be all but impossible to find out of country.
A day trip to Mr. Rainier included history lessons about the area’s designation as a National Park in 1899, visits to an early cabin from that era, study of the natural minerals that finds their way up from the bedrock, and view after view of waterfalls, rivers, and the gorgeous peak itself. With an hour and half to go hiking, the teachers went up and down among the wildflowers in bloom for these few short weeks.
On-the-spot English at the Queen Anne Farmer’s Market had the teachers asking the vendors about most popular items and place where they secured their ingredients. More competitive was a scavenger hunt in the city’s Fremont neighborhood, with questions to ask the locals and landmarks to find, racing to be the first to finish.
Proud in front of their peers with A.C.E. certificates, the teachers presented a tongue-in-cheek enactment of situations appropriate to use idioms “pardon my French” and “zip your lips,” learned during classroom and tutoring time. This thank you to the staff of A.C.E. and Eiken at the final ceremony is just the beginning of a journey taking elementary students to new levels of English learning this fall. A parallel session for middle school teachers was produced at the same time, and in these two Group Programs A.C.E. proudly continues to serve this fellow non-profit in making the world your community.