First Place: Nanaho Takino “Things to Learn from Peanuts”
Second Place: Aimi Mori “Early Childhood Education will Improve English Education in Japan”
Commentary to Ms Takino:
Did Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame offer a better way of living in this rapidly paced modern age through his comic strips? Ms. Takino has written an outstanding essay, in which she lays out a convincing argument to suggest exactly that. The thesis statement of her cogent essay is that the global popularity of Peanuts is based on Schultz’s underlying philosophy rather than the amusing and endearing nature of the animations themselves. In the body, Ms. Takino provides a detailed and well-developed analysis of this philosophy, citing key examples as spoken by the child characters in the comic strip to support her case. Through the children, advice is given to adults to affirm life and identity, take it easy and relax, and not be overly serious about life with all of its problems, frustrations and stress. Ms. Takino goes on to provide persuasive support for the notion that adults should pay attention to deadlines and appointments, but not be obsessed with and controlled by the clock. Along the same lines, live more of your life in the present rather than thinking about the future with all of its uncertainties. Her third point is likewise examined well; that is to say, while sociability and loneliness are important concerns (especially in countries like the United States), adults need to learn to value solitude and privacy more. The conclusion reiterates her arguments very well, and provides an ending that stresses the need to live our lives more fully, and if possible, in our own way.
Commentary to Ms Mori:
Ms. Mori’s essay is written very well on the idea that taking appropriate pedagogical measures in early childhood will improve the level of English language education in Japan. She establishes her opinion firmly and clearly in the thesis statement and effectively provides three persuasive arguments analyzed in sufficient detail to support her assertion: first, preschool age children have much more time than they will have in future years to learn a second language; second, the best age to learn another language is from four to eight and is necessary to ensure enough time before reaching the critical age of nine to fifteen to learn the accompanying culture; and lastly, learning a second language early will result in more accurate pronunciation later. Some concern has been expressed that if English education is started early, students will be retarded in their learning of Japanese. Ms. Mori’s research and cited studies convincingly dispel this notion. She also uses her research sources to advocate the use of songs and videos as the most effective way to teach English to preschool children. The conclusion clearly summarizes her main points and supporting arguments.
General Commentary to All Participants:
I thank all of the contestants for their commitment and diligence in writing essays that were consistently interesting, well-organized and enjoyable to read. It was not an easy task to choose the best essays from the wide variety of well-written papers submitted. Although only two contestants were awarded the top prizes, I believe everyone who participated in the contest benefited from the experience. All of you were successful in that you wrote very good English essays on topics that you were interested in and cared about passionately. To be selected as a contestant in this competition, it is readily apparent that you invested the extra time and effort to use your English writing skills to produce outstanding essays that separated your work from that of the many other students in all of your classes. I believe it is to your advantage for having done so. In the future, I hope you will continue to search for new opportunities that allow you to enhance your writing and critical thinking skills. Just remember that writing is no different than learning many other skills. It requires practice, perseverance and patience. The more you write, the greater your chances for improvement in written accuracy, fluency, style and creativity.
- Appropriate Topic
- Persuasive Essay
- Format Includes:
- Introduction with thesis statement
- Each paragraph contains a topic sentence
- Body organized with strong arguments and sufficient supporting details
- Quality of sentence construction
- Vocabulary used correctly for specific topics
- Transition between ideas
- Logical organization with a well-defined thematic focus
- Individual writing style
First Place: Ishiwari “The Important Things in Our Lives”
Second Place: Sawai “Child Labor in Developing Countries”
Honorable Mention: Otsuka “Elderly Care in Denmark”
The three main criteria used to evaluate this year’s presentations were content, language and delivery. Presenters who attained high marks in the content category were those who chose topics of adequate complexity and conveyed their ideas in a structured, coherent and focused manner. Design and format of visual aids were also included in the evaluation of content. Language use was judged based on the accuracy and range of grammar and vocabulary employed, as well as on the appropriateness of intonation and pronunciation. The ability of a presenter to respond precisely and confidently to questions posed after the presentation was also factored in to the evaluation of language use. Finally, assessment of presentation delivery took into account voice volume, fluency, use of hand gestures, body language and eye contact, as well as rhetorical devices used to establish and maintain rapport with the audience.
In general, the above presenters were selected as the winners because, in addition to scoring high in the fields of content, language and delivery, they appeared confident and well prepared. Preparation does not necessarily entail memorising a script, but rather is the result of thoroughly engaging with a topic, internalising one’s position, and offering a novel perspective that the audience can connect with. It is nevertheless important to know the material well enough to be able to speak without long pauses or without over-reliance on a prepared script. Successful speakers organised their speech so that important points and supporting ideas were presented in a coherent fashion, making it easy for their audience to follow. These presenters also used eye contact, body language and tone of voice to actively engage their listeners. As each presenter had their own combination of strengths and weaknesses, all would do well to consider the aspects of presentation planning and delivery outlined above and to focus on identifying and improving their own areas of weakness in the future.