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ESL Cafe: Lesson Plans for teaching English in Japan

Do you teach English in Japan?

If you are like me, you are always on the lookout for good lesson plans. Check out the lesson plans provided by our readers or share your own.

Need some lesson plans? Check out


(ESL Cafe Photo of Kyoto pagoda by Paul Canosa)

Movies for English Teachers

Image by Michelle Dennis

Read the movies reviews of great movies for English teachers, and please add your own reviews at the form below. Have you watched a good movie that will inspire teachers or tell us more about Japan? Share your favorite movies below!

ESL Cafe Movie -- The Bucket List

Starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who play two terminally ill cancer patients.

It was an inspiring film asking the question what would you do if you knew you didn`t have much time left? Which really should be the question we all ask ourselves. Life really is so short. Do it now! The two main characters have cancer and may not have much time to live, so together they attempt to live out their dreams. What the film reveals though, is that all of us, should do our best to do the same.

Read more about this inspiring film.

ESL Cafe Recommends: The Bucket List Website

Develop your own bucket list, to include travel, health, relationships, starting your own business, share ideas, actually come up with a plan to make your bucket list a reality.

Welcome to our ESL Cafe!

Make yourself at home, grab an ESL Cafe coffee or hot chocolate and let`s chat at our forum!

If you ever get down about teaching, feel burnt out or in a rut,watching a movie about some of the great teachers is a good idea.

Some teachers don`t even think of themselves as teachers perhaps. Yet they are teachers. Take Patch Adams for example. His job title is doctor, but he is one of the great teachers I feel.

ESL Cafe: "Patch Adams"

"We are seeing people when they are most vulnerable."

--Patch Adams

So are English teachers in Japan! We are seeing Japanese when they are most vulnerable. The English classroom can be a terrifying place for Japanese.

Photo by Margarit Ralev of

Patch Adams, the famous doctor of the Gesundtheit Clinic had the right idea when he endeavoured to treat patients like people, with humour, and with compassion.

The character Patch Adams, played by Robin Williams, argues in the movie that humour not only betters our mood, it increases our immune function and makes us more positive in outlook.

All teachers can learn from Adam`s example. We too can teach with humour. Your students will learn more, and they will feel better while doing it.

Adams, after much struggle, a nervous breakdown, struggling through medical school in his late 30s, set up a free hospital while still studying to be a doctor. He called it the Gesundheit Institute.

I recommend this movie to teachers because Patch was and is all about being compassionate to people, and doing his best to bring joy to their lives in his job as a doctor--and before that, as a medical student. We too have great power to do this as teachers if we put our minds to it.

Our classes can be more than simply English classes. The can be places of compassion where students can take a break from a harsh world. They can learn to be more compassionate themselves by your example, and hopefully, make our world a little bit more compassionate in the process.

ESL Cafe: "Dead Poets Society"

"Seize the day!"--one of the memorable quotes from the movie

Another movie that stars Robin Williams. I guess you could say I like the guy!

How often do you seize the day as a teacher? Once a month? Once a week? Everyday? Never?

A local soccer coach just dropped dead the other day in our area. He was 47 years old and everyone thought in great shape.


Today could be your last day on the planet. What would you like to do with it?

Each class we have the chance to make an impact: to inspire our students. (Another way of saying inspire is--in spirit). We can be examples of passion--passionate about our work, we can be passionate about love, life,--all things.

The Robin Williams character in "Dead Poets Society," did his best to inspire his students. He encouraged them to spread their wings and soar.

Will you be just another English teacher?


Someone your students will remember?

Will you help your students to explore?

or just teach grammar?

I feel, one of my roles is to allow students to feel safe enough to explore in the class we happen to call: "English Speaking, or "English Speaking and Listening," or "English Writing."

For me, I don`t just teach English. I hope to be a good example to my students, and to open their minds to exploration. Hopefully to help them discover who they are.

Yes I have lofty goals. But it sure makes teaching English a heck of a lot more fun!

I guess what I am alluding to is:

What kind of teacher do you want to be?

I have never wanted to be the traditional--disciplinarian type of teacher.

For me, "Dead Poets Society," is a motivating movie. Unfortunately my students have never stood on their desks, stating:

"Captain, my captain."


ESL Cafe: "To Sir with Love"

Poitier plays a novice teacher assigned to a rough school in London. He gradually wins the respect of his students.

Boy this sounds familiar. Have you ever taught junior high school students???

In this movie, Sidney Poitier faced racism, violence, and other obstacles with his students. You may face racism in Japan.Ooops, did I say may?

Some of your students hate studying English. Though most probably wish they could speak it.

A few of your students don`t like people from other countries. The word "gaijin," means outside person. You can glean the Japanese attitude to people from this word. Even if you are like myself, speak Japanese, understand Japan to a great extent, write about Japan, even after twenty years of living here, I am still a "gaijin."

Japan`s thinking about non-Japanese is quite different from the Canadian experience (where I`m from). The us and them mentality,and some have suggested the "island mentality," is strong in Japan.

But like Poitier in "To Sir with Love," you have an opportunity to show your students that "gaijin," are kind and decent people.

Recently one of my male students at the university where I teach said to me:

"After my last teacher at this university, I didn`t like foreigners,but now I do."

I felt I had made a difference.

ESL Cafe - Tokyo Sonata

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

"...Recently rented Tokyo Sonata, a great movie about Tokyo angst. Highly recommended." --Wayne Bergstein

It is the story of an ordinary Tokyo family that disintegrates. Shows some truths about contemporary Japanese society.


"This film portrays a very ordinary family in modern Japan. I started from a point where lies, suspicion and a complete breakdown of communication already have established themselves within the family. Without a doubt, this is “modern” and this is also “Japan.” However, I would like to show a glimmer of hope in the end. Can I do that? Even if I could do so, would that be something that saves a conventional family?" Visit the Official Website

What will you do after teaching English in Japan?

If you don`t intend to stay and teach in Japan, you might wish to consider teaching in North America afterwards. As well, you may want to recommend a safe and pleasant city like Edmonton to your students who wish to do a homestay with a Canadian family.

ESL Edmonton Alberta

ESL Edmonton - there are several different options to learn English or to find an ESL job in Edmonton, Alberta. Whatever your case, let's explore the options.

Learn more about teaching opportunities or studying opportunities for your students in the city of champions,Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at ESL Edmonton.

To Daves ESL, Dave Johnson`s list of good English schools in Japan

From ESL Cafe to How to teach English in Japan (home)

To advice on teaching junior high students

Good Movies for EFL/ESL Teachers

Do you know some good movies for EFL/ESL teachers?

Share them! What is the title? Can you tell
us a little about the movie--a brief synopsis.

Who does it star? Anything else?

What Other Visitors Have Said

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Departures a great movie for English Teachers in Japan! Not rated yet
"Departures" and "Tokyo Sonata". Both excellent. "Departures" I saw twice and both times was bawling for most of the second half. I do not hesitate to …

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