A homestay can and should be a wonderful experience that gives lifelong memories. As more and more high school and university students are going on homestays, we wanted to bring together some materials that will help you help your students prepare themselves emotionally as well as linguistically for their homestay experience.
First of all, we were really fortunate to have the cooperation of two homestay programs in the United States. One program brings students from a university in Japan to the States for a summer school term, which includes a two-week homestay. The other program is through a local community college that matches up international students and exchange students with host families. Thus, we were able to film both long- and short-term homestay experiences and provide a DVD-based page in the textbook and include a DVD with every copy of the student textbook.
One great benefit that this DVD gives students is that it shows real homestayers in real situations with their host families. Watching the homestayers as they go about their homestay or as they comment on it will be invaluable as you help your students get ready for their own homestay. Seeing is believing, and once students believe that they can have a successful homestay we are sure that they can make that into reality.
When we edited the video we used slow, easy-to-understand narration with overheard dialog from the filmed interaction. The video page also has two interviews with homestayers, host family members, helpers and administrators. The interview topics are related to the unit theme, and provide students with the opportunity to listen to authentic language. While the narration was carefully scripted and controlled, the interviews are “live” and students will be impressed with the various ways that Americans speak English. We are really grateful to all the homestayers, host families, helpers and administrators who made it possible for us to observe and film the homestayers as they had their experiences.
Structured language practice
In terms of preparing students linguistically, we decided to use the same structured approach that we used in our 2007 book, Adventures Abroad (AA). Thus, we introduced AA and explained how the structure allows students to hear and practice target language before they use it in more open situations.
For example, students first practice pronouncing a word or phrase (in Pronunciation Practice). We find this important, as students must feel comfortable in saying a word before they can use it with confidence or learn it. Next they will hear that word or phrase in the listening section, and will then have a chance to hear and speak that same language “chunk” in the context of a statement / response situation (in Language to Learn). Next, they can use the word or phrase in the context of a complete conversation (in Conversation Practice).
After all this structured practice, the students can go to more open speaking practice (Dialog Plus) or to another activity of the teacher’s making. This flow works well to give students confidence in using language before they have to use it on their own.
While structured language practice is important in giving the students sufficient scaffolding, the content is also very important. Homestay Adventures takes students from choosing a homestay program (Unit 1, I Have a Dream) to cooking for a host family (Unit 7, Cooking Is Easy) to saying goodbye to the host family (Unit 12, I’ll Miss You!). It was our hope that even if a student was not planning on going on a homestay that they could gain motivation from seeing the possibility of going on a homestay as attractive.
We took some pains to give teachers the chance to impress upon their students how important it is to act with consideration toward the host family. While we didn’t want to show anything too negative, we did ask several interviewees to give advice to homestayers. Do’s and don’ts are always useful. In one of the final interviews, we asked a host mother, Gwynne, if it was hard to say goodbye. Gwynne answered quickly and honestly, “Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not so hard!” You can use Gwynne’s answer to impress upon your students that if they do not make sure to try to make a good impression or be considerate of their host family that the family may not remember them as fondly as they otherwise would.
At JALT we really enjoyed showing Homestay Adventures to our audience, especially the video sections. One of our audience members asked to see Unit 12’s video, and as we all watched the tearful goodbyes it was clear that the homestay experience had been a wonderful experience for the homestayers and their host families. We hope that we can help you give your students the best chance possible to have a great homestay.
Dale and Kevin