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Chapter Reports - January 2012


AKITA: SeptemberTypography and document design for classroom materialsby Cameron Romney. This presentation was focused on handouts language teachers use in the classroom. Romney presented research concluding that poorly designed handouts do not necessarily de-motivate or obstruct the learning of students, but well-designed handouts can add a sense of focus to an activity or assignment, as well as assist in comprehension thus advancing learning. The presentation was divided into three sections: typography, page layout, and graphics. In an interactive style, Romney posed discussion questions about the level of understanding of these facets of materials design. He presented some best practices for each that included ideas like using common typefaces, e.g., Times New Roman, to increasing white space to making sure usage of graphics aligns with instructional purpose. Comments by those in attendance suggested the presentation was educational and valuable.

                                                                                               Reported by Wayne Malcolm


AKITA: October―The learning environment at AIU for EAP students and foreign students studying Japanese byIbuki Aiba, Reika Maruyama, and Megumi Kimoto. The presenters were Japanese language teaching and English language teaching graduate students at Akita International University. The question they asked in their study was “Is AIU really intercultural?” They did a survey of both Japanese and international students attending the university and discussed the preliminary results as a warm-up for what they will present at JALT National. What seemed to be the most interesting aspect of their study was one of the variables they isolated which was the Globality Score of the students, i.e., they put a weight on whether the students had lived overseas or not and for how long. The Akita-JALT Annual General Meeting was held after the presentation.

                                                                           Reported by Stephen Shucart


GUNMA: October―Toward a deeper understanding of culturebyRenée Sawazaki.

Sawazaki introduced her unique model for teaching cultural understanding, the culture tree, and demonstrated how this model can serve as a guide for student deduction of cultural traits when analyzing stories. Theculture tree model came about in part due to perceived insufficiencies in the iceberg and onion models of cultural understanding. All three models illustrate both hidden and visible parts of culture. However, only Sawazaki's model highlights the link between these aspects: the trunk of the tree. Sawazaki originally developed this model for a university course on cross-cultural understanding and later incorporated the teaching of this model along with the use of folktales in her EFL classes. Using this model as a lens allows her students to more fully explore the connections between the beliefs and actions of the cultures they study.

Reported by John Larson


GIFU: September―Think-aloud protocols by Robert Croker. This workshop explored think-aloud protocols and how they could be applied to the classroom by both students and teachers. Croker began with an overview of think-aloud principles. Verbal reports, or think-aloud protocols (TAPs), are an effective way to get inside your students' minds and see the learning process from their point of view. The presenter had used TAPs in several contexts including exploring how a student selects a graded reader from a shelf of books, how a student looks at and sees the class handouts, or how a student actually finds the answers to a reading test. Using TAPs presents some problems. Students often find it unnatural and there is therefore a need for careful planning. The presenter offered six principles: minimize the time between the tasks and reporting, think carefully, provide a chance for practice, give simple directions, sit behind or at the side of the respondent, and get the students to self-talk. The speaker then turned to TAPs and the teacher. The forum looked at several ELT books and whilst thinking aloud discussed the merits and demerits of each book. The next task gave the opportunity to plan lessons, which gave a perspective into the insights of different teachers. Knowing the answers to questions such as these can help materials writers create better textbooks, and reading teachers to give better guidance to students.

Reported by Brent Simmonds


GIFU: October―Classroom rapport, rules, and teacher language by Ben Backwell.

In this hands-on presentation, the forum was given the chance to explore ways of building rapport with students and set the rules while understanding expectations that will lead to successful classes. Backwell began the presentation by demonstrating a mingle activity which put the audience into pairs for the evening’s activities. Various ways of starting a lesson were explored. The presenter demonstrated several ways to build rapport including: setting goals, building a strong society in the classroom, eliciting rules and fun. Two questions need to be answered in the classroom: “Who is here?” and “What are we going to do together?” Backwell gave several examples of rapport building activities but concluded that some activities needed to be adapted to different levels. The latterpart of the presentationfocused on keeping rapport and sticking to the rules. He had used a self-evaluation sheet and found the students were honest in their evaluations.

Reported by Brent Simmonds


HIMEJI:JulyTeaching children how to read and write: Methods, materials and adviceby Wendy Tada.Teaching children how to read in a second language is one of the most empowering things a teacher can do. Tada outlined some of the facts and techniques used to teach literacy as well as providing useful advice for confronting the challenges of different learners and educational settings. Tada also talked about the stages of reading development, teaching methods, and materials, and introduced the stages of writing development. Tada also covered the important topics of phonics, sight words, graded readers, and Eiken. Tada made recommendations for what is needed to be incorporated into a reading program for children whether it is in school or at home. She also highlighted some of the problems for children learning to read English in Japan. This was supported by her previous experience in curriculum development at an international preschool and kindergarten as well as some interesting findings from current research into early childhood literacy development. Tada also brought books and textbooks that can be used to teach reading skills as well as a range of handouts.

Reported by Wendy Tada


HIMEJI: OctoberEthical ELT andPopular songs, active neurons, and high frequency vocabulary by Maggie Lieb. The first part of Lieb’s presentation encouraged everyone to think about the ethics of ELT, specifically in relation to the attitudes our students develop as a result of our teachings. In order to develop tolerance and cultural understanding, she encouraged teachers to focus on the similarities between different cultures instead of focusing on the negative aspects. The second part of the presentation looked at how research has proven that songs can be advantageous and provided a website for checking the frequency of words in materials. Towards the end of the presentation she briefly introduced some of the songs she has been using in a course at Meiji University and then asked participants to complete a listening task.

        Reported by Wendy Tada


IBARAKI: OctoberFlow and anchoring in T.E.Y.L classesby John Wiltshier, Tasks and projects in elementary schools by James York, andMoving music to center stage by Deborah Grow. Wiltshier introduced lesson flow and anchoring and their importance to improve classroom management. Participants drew lesson flow diagrams to help analyze their own classes. Wiltshier also showed how to identify positive and negative anchors that currently exist in classrooms. He talked about the development of a task-based lesson framework suitable for young learners and then showed how focus on form can be successfully introduced in elementary schools through collaborative learning tasks. York provided practical advice and ideas for teachers regarding the successful introduction of TBL methodologies into young learner EFL contexts. Grow addressed the power of music and rhythm and how they can improve language skills. Participants explored the influence of music and rhythm on memory and language, and the multi-sensory aspect of music, as well as the multi-layered lessons that music brings to our students.

Reported by Takayuki Nakanishi


IWATE: June―Three small out-of-the-box ideas about learningbyTim Murphey. Murphey made the following three points about learning: 1) information is overrated; questions create curiosity 2) success is overrated; challenge is what we crave, and 3) teaching/telling is overrated; experience drives learning. He also explained recent findings from brain sciences and education. We enjoyed working in a collaboratively energizing atmosphere and received many practical ideas we can use in our classes!

  Reported by Harumi Ogawa       


IWATE: JulyBuilding a course in Extensive Reading for non-English majorsbyKen Schmidt.Schmidt described his university-level, elective EFL course focusing on extensive reading with graded readers.Key components of the course (independent reading program, initial class reader, and in-class activities) were presented. He shared all the creative materials he made for the course, and we all got a lot out of his presentation.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

IWATE: September1) Typography and document design for classroom materials 2) Japanese copyright law and authentic materials: What teachers need to know byCameron Romney. Romney’s presentationencouraged the audience topay more attention to how materials are createdand how they lookas well astheir potential effects on the learners. Examples of how appearance can affect understanding are brought through considering students’ preference for serif fonts, decorative vs. informative clip art, and professional-looking layout. They areimportant factors that many people underestimate. The quizzes he gave on copyright laws were also fun and informative!

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

IWATE: OctoberUniversity accreditation in Japan: Problems and possibilities for EFL reform byBern Mulvey. Mulvey discussed the accreditation policy updated in 2004. Focusing on the current problems, e.g., the unrealistic expectations both of faculty and students, poorly defined outcomes and measurement tools, the resulting faculty development monster, etc., he also addressed the potentially very positive impact on EFL education and educators in Japan. It was an enlightening presentation.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa


KITAKYUSHU: OctoberPechakucha night by Various. Charles Ashley reviewed the history of error correction and reported on his experience with a workbook to correct common errors, concluding that his students’ level was too low for them to recognize the errors and that teachers must be aware of the Been Here Too Long syndrome, in which they no longer recognize some errors. Ai Murphy talked about the brain theory behind anger management and how it leads to better learning for our students and children. Paul Collett outlined three student approaches to learning, e.g., mastery, performance, and performance avoidance, and detailed their implications for the classroom. He emphasized the need to teach students goal-setting through modeling and scaffolding. Matthew Jenkins introduced three quick activities that can be adapted for students of all ages—the Janken Bon Voyage Mixer, the Vocabunator, and Hot Potatoes quizzes. Margaret Orleans explained how she tries to create an English atmosphere in her classrooms with bulletin boards, computer games, and displays of student work. Robert Murphy unveiled his formula for creating champion students that is a mix of emotion, curiosity, empowerment through choice, and adequate sleep.

Reported by Margaret Orleans


KITAKYUSHU: NovemberUsing effective search strategies to access available English language resources for research in JapanbyJames Hicks. As a student of library science working on his second distance degree, Hicks is well-placed to advise regarding the improving access to research materials for English speakers in Japan. He introduced four sources of materials: academic libraries, subscription databases, personal research budgets, and free online resources.  Herecommended considering the research community that will be using the journals that you subscribe to with your research budget and balancing the content. Japanese academic libraries are well-resourced by international standards and tend to contain about 25-30% English materials. He walked us through filtering information to get the most from online public access catalogs (OPAC) by using links to publishers’ webpages for better indexing. Hicks also pointed out that the English language pages of government websites are not translations of the originals, but actually separate and considerably skimpier versions, so it is more useful to translate the original with free tools such as Google Chrome. You can sometimes access institutional subscription databases and print out what you need if you are physically present in the library. You can also carry out more fruitful searches by ignoring the results list and going instead to the list on the left, which provides more helpful links and search terms.

Reported by Dave Pite


KYOTO: October—Practice Makes Perfectpractice event for the national conference byVarious. For this event, local members had a chance to do a dry-run of their presentations for the national conference in November. Each 30-minute session concluded with a 10-minute feedback session during which listening members offered valuable advice concerning content, delivery, and use of visuals.1) EFL service learning internships for growth and confidence byStephen Dalton. The presenter introduced a unique program in which the traditional study abroad experience is enhanced by the addition of two powerful components: service learning and self-reflection. Dalton argues that this program provides learners with meaningful learning experiences on three levels: an improvement in English language ability, a gain in knowledge of the host country, and finally, a valuable opportunity to learn about oneself.2) An interdisciplinary approach to English training byItoko Fujita. In this presentation, the speaker made a case for graduate level interdisciplinary courses, arguing that offering courses such as these help learners hone skills in presenting research to non-specialist audiences. She discussed two core assignments: daily assignments and class presentations. 3) Research in Japan: Conducting a literature review by Paul Evans. The presenter began with a discussion about the difficulties Japan-based non-university teachers face when attempting to find resources for academic papers. He followed with a summary of possible solutions. 

                       Reported by Gretchen Clark


KYOTO: October―Annual general meeting followed by a joint event with the GALE SIG: Teaching gender and language in the classroomby Various. 1) The masculine structure of desire: Power and English acquisition in a pre-departure EAP programbyTodd Squires. In a presentation about how male EFL learners construct their own identities, the presenter discussed Lacan’s notions of the Ego and its conception from the dynamic relationship between the Subject and the Other. He then used this notion as a backdrop for a discussion about the masculine structure of desire. Finally, Squires discussed how close examination of three male university students’ responses in an interview about reasons for studying abroad revealed evidence of their Egos at work. 2) Gender literacy and the critique of film by Gerry Yokota. The presenter discussed how she uses film in her university level gender studies classes. She provided specific lesson plans and activities she uses to encourage critical thinking about the manifestations of gender. Some of these included the following: movie review cloze activities, small group discussion of relevant gender-related issues, and student presentations. During the Q & A session, members discussed the importance of teacher scaffolding when using authentic materials such as film.

                                                                   Reported by Gretchen Clark


NAGOYA: September―Pechakucha presentations: Professional teaching portfolios by Suzanne Bonn; Rated X: Explicit teaching of language learning strategies byPaul Crane; A new way to write for high school students byMaki Fujii; Promoting interest and fluency in English through journals byWendy Gough; Views on world Englishes byRobert Gee; Quia books, quia web, & IXL math byScott Peterson, and Let’s do the combo—Raise the motivation of students byRich Porter. Bonn stressed that good portfolios should be final aspects reflecting your profession as a teacher. Crane’s explicit teaching of language learning strategies (LLS) could help learners become more effective users of the target language. His survey on students’ awareness of LLS functioned as a catalyst for deeper exploitation of LLS. Fujii teaches writing five paragraph argumentative essays, which leads to mini-debates. Goughsays writing journals promotes students’ critical thinking and self-reflection, providing teachers useful information for individualizing instruction. Gee discussed the World Englishes Survey 2011, letting us listen to various natives’ and non-natives’ English comments. Using the free site of Quia Books, Quia Web, IXL Math, Peterson chooses activities and creates quizzes and tests. Porter introduced cloze tests using interrelated movie clips and songs from the free website, VLC.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


NAGOYA: October―Group work in EFL classrooms byToru Tatsumi. Tatsumi introduced the British ITV program, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, familiar to Japanese audiences because of the host Mino Monta. He explained how to play the game, IQ Sapli-What am I? His games are taken from PowerPoint Games and Educational Games. Tatsumi’s students hold quiz shows with original questions, music, and sound effects. For Group Work Reporting, one of three group members goes out of the room, listens to a story in English, returns to the group, and reports it. The rest take a note of the story and reproduce it. Each student plays the reporter’s role as well. Reading the story, students learn what they couldn’t understand and how they should have expressed it. Through this game, four skills are combined together. Regarding reporting an article from a British newspaper at college, the class is divided into three and each group has a pair of reporters, reporting a different topic respectively. The three reporting pairs report their story three times to each audience group. For junior and senior students, Tatsumi recommends making use of textbooks from other companies instead of newspaper articles.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


OKAYAMA: October―Ethical ELT andPopular songs, active neurons, and high frequency vocabularyby Maggie Lieb. Lieb began her presentation with a quick examination of what constitutes ethics. From the broad subject of ethics, a framework of five approaches to ethical standards was identified. These were the utilitarian, rights, fairness or justice, common good, and virtue approaches. Narrowing the scope of examination a little further, Lieb examined what it means to work ethically. She then related the qualities of ethical work directly to the profession of ELT illuminating the qualities by presenting examples of both ethical and unethical ELT, from a variety of contexts. Finally, Lieb presented some concrete points of reflection to help teachers adopt an ethical approach to ELT. Lieb’s second presentation demonstrated the value of using popular songs in the classroom. To support this thesis, she drew upon two areas of study: neuroscience and vocabulary acquisition. Lieb explained how the brain is affected by the production of music and how there is some neurological association between music and language. Then, she demonstrated the relationship between the high-frequency vocabulary of Japanese students and the vocabulary of many popular songs. Lieb then led the attendees through some music activities that she employs in her classes.

Reported by Jason Lowes


SHINSHU: October—Bokura no gakko (our schools)byVarious. Six speakers introduced what was being done or could be done at local schools concerning TEFL. Tonya Kneff offered communicative activities and strategies which demonstrated why English is fun. David Callighan showed how clips from YouTube could be used to open up the classroom to the world. David Ockert shared an early report on his research on motivation of junior high students to learn English in Japan. Mary Aruga and Mona Linn introduced the Cabinet Office of Japan’s Ship for World Youth Program, and Mark Brierly concluded with an explanation of Extensive Reading and Shinshu University’s ER program.

                                                 Reported by Mary Aruga


TOKYO: OctoberProcessing instruction and its effects on approaches to teaching grammarby Alessandro Benati. The speaker tracked the impact that processing instruction has made since its conception and explained processing instruction, both its main theoretical underpinnings as well as the guidelines for developing structured input practices. He also covered empirical research examples. The audience asked a wide range of questions, which Benati answered by touching on both theory and the practical application of processing instruction.

 Reported by Akie Nyui-Kozuka & Tom Edwards 

YOKOHAMA: OctoberUsing conflict resolution techniques for language learning by Chris Stillwell. Stillwell began with a teaching anecdote of how he got started using conflict-resolution content in the language classroom while learning the techniques as part of his MA at Teachers College and teaching an ESL class to adult learners in New York. He shared an activity he had experienced there, inviting attendees to brainstorm and share their word associations with conflict. They next experienced a conflict for themselves in the form of a role play where each party had different background information that led to increased tension. As participants reflected on the experience, they considered a useful way to view conflict – in terms of a mismatch between the intent behind a speaker's message and the impact it has on the listener. Attendees also practiced a variation on Julian Edge’s Understander activity in which help line operators use active listening techniques to help callers reflect and arrive at solutions for themselves. Throughout the four hours attendees saw practical application of how to implement conflict resolution within their classroom while engaging in such academic skills as paraphrasing, question formation, brainstorming, and pair/group work.

Reported by Paul Nehls


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