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Chapter Reports - May 2012

 

GIFU: January—Serious fun: Creativity in the classroomby Chris Stillwell. Stillwell presented an informative and insightful presentation explaining how creativity in the classroom can help students discover language talents they never knew they had. After giving a brief background into brain science, the presenter asked us to discuss ways of fostering creativity in the classroom. Creativity involves crossing the boundaries of domain and the presenter outlined four concepts. The teacher should grab the student’s attention, explore ways to stimulate sensory perception, use vision to trump other senses, and make them (the students) into powerful and natural explorers. We were given the opportunity to do some writing tasks in our second language followed by a discussion on the merits of error correction. Finally the presenter examined storytelling and provided examples of how images can be used including humorous video clips which he had used to develop student interest, motivation, and fluency. We left the meeting full of great ideas to motivate our teaching in 2012.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

GUNMA: January—My Share! byVarious. Turn down the volume: Making listening in to speaking by Lori Ann Desrosiers. Desrosiers demonstrated various methods which she uses to add enticing, communicative activities to listening-heavy textbooks. Perhaps the most enjoyable was one in which a video was played with the audio muted while students attempted to substitute their own dialog in real-time. Communicative book reports by Renee Sawazaki.Sawazaki showed how written book reports can be made into interactive materials that promote communication. Using pictorial summaries as visual aids, students explained the plot of their book to classmates. In addition, Sawazaki also showed the progress of the new self-access center at her school. Teaching writing in an EFL context: Where to start? by Atsushi Iida.Iida gave a whirlwind tour of teaching writing as a method of communication in Japan. Beginning at the beginning, he showed participants the activities he uses on his first day of class. These activities reflected his strong beliefs that writing is a form of communication and that students must first and foremost develop their own voice when writing.International kindergarten education for areas lacking international elementary schools by Daniel Potocki.Potocki led members through the trials and tribulations of managing an international kindergarten in Japan. Individual topics ranged from the pros and cons of government certification to the difference between discipline and punishment. For our professor-heavy audience, this was a rare view into his exotic, Lilliputian world.

Reported by John Larson

HAMAMATSU: January—Using video materials to facilitate students’ creative thinking and improve their English skillsby Bogdan Pavliy. In this era of multimedia, it is now possible to incorporate video into the classroom. Pavliy demonstrated the problems of dwindling student motivation and learner anxiety. Following audience reflection and brainstorming, Pavliy showed that these problems can be addressed by using materials that are both entertaining to students and stimulate students’ imaginations. After explaining the theoretical basis of using video in class as an exercise in task-based language teaching while generating intrigue and improving motivation, he used examples from his teaching. Pavliy demonstrated ways of using videos (easily downloaded from youtube) to grab students’ attention and then have students engage in prediction tasks and reflect on the accuracy of their predictions. Everyone left the meeting with some great ideas on how to motivate students and tap students’ creative potential using video materials.

Reported by Adam Jenkins

HAMAMATSU: February—Improvisational psychodrama (即興心理劇)by Peter Ross- Sponsored by West-Tokyo Chapter. The title for Ross’ presentation guarantees intrigue. In his extremely audience-centred workshop, Ross demonstrated how simple stimuli such as pictures can be used to elicit stories that students develop into their very own improvisational psychodrama. First, students are presented with a stimulus and a brainstorming session is held in which several story ideas are produced. Following this, students choose one of the story lines and elaborate on the content creating a framework for the drama. Next, it’s action! The drama is played out by students who take turns in the various roles. Ross also illustrated how the activity can lead to a deeper glimpse into the psyche when having multiple people play the honne (本音) andtatemae (建前) aspects for each character in the drama.

Reported by Adam Jenkins

HIMEJI: January—Building a positive learning environment byJason White. A strong turnout attended the first Himeji JALT Chapter presentation of 2012, White is an ASE (Assistant Supervisor of English) on the Sister Cities program at Himeji High School. After defining learning and environment, he highlighted the nature of classroom environments as the sum of emotions, perceptions, and attitudes of the students, teachers, administrators, and the greater community. White contrasted his experience teaching in the US with Japan requiring teachers to rotate among schools and a discussion on the merits and drawbacks of this followed. Characteristics of a positive learning environment included not only feeling respected, supported, appreciated, and valued, but also having a comfortable environment with motivational and emotional support. The success factors of effort, desire, and positive affect in integrative and instrumental motivation toward language were outlined with examples from the audience. Anxiety was addressed before acknowledging the roles of teachers, students, and parents in creating a more positive learning environment. In closing, participants were provided with strategies and examples using literature, humor, and journal writing in making a positive connection with a range of students through their interests.

Reported by Greg Rouault

IBARAKI: February—Learners’ lives as curriculum: Using student-created texts in the language classroomby Yasue Kawamorita and Tom Edwards and Fluency? Fluency. Fluency! Practical and theoretical approaches to fluency development by Peter Parise and Anne Takata. Kawamorita and Edwards introduced us to the material development model called Learners’ Lives as Curriculum (LLC). One of the core features of LLC is the use of texts generated by learners based on their interests, experiences, and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. According to the presenters, LLC allows communities of learners to develop more readily as they create and share stories of their lives. Also, learners strive for more realistic goals because texts are close to their current knowledge and skills. The presentation ended with a group work in which we simulated the process of choosing a topic, creating individual texts, and developing a curriculum to achieve specific linguistic goals. Parise and Takata addressed the relevance of fluency development in the language classroom. They introduced us to an activity called 4/3/2. In this activity, learners stand in two rows face-to-face, one row being the speakers, the other the listeners whose sole responsibility is to listen attentively and affirmatively. The speakers are asked to talk about a familiar topic first in four minutes, then in three minutes, and finally in two minutes, changing their partners each time (the actual time length can be modified). Under the increasing time pressure, learners improve their fluency while learning to speak more concisely and correctly. The presenters supported their argument with a classroom survey conducted by Takata. The results indicated that most students, including extremely reticent ones, felt an increased sense of enjoyment and ease of speaking after taking part in this activity.   

Reported by Naomi Takagi

IWATE: February―Text-to-lesson: Online resources for vocabulary and lesson-making by Christine Winskowski. Winskowski presented on the following points: 1) Why is vocabulary so important?, 2) What should teachers know about vocabulary?, 3) What online tools can help us effectively develop vocabulary materials?, and finally, 4) How can we apply what we know and develop a lesson module from a text? During the presentation, some online tools such as The Compleat Lexical Tutor and LessonWriter were introduced and demonstrated. The participants got many practical ideas about how to quickly identify useful vocabulary in a text, and how to show students common sentence contexts for vocabulary and vocabulary collocations. It was particularly useful for people who want to create their own materials to learn how to develop a reading text into a lesson with customized exercises.  

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

 

KITAKYUSHU: February―Developing resources for self-directed learning by Paul Collett, Kristen Sullivan, andMalcolm Swanson. The trend in faculty development is towards accountability, more awareness of student needs, and building courses accordingly, with bridging of levels becoming an important issue. With this in mind, Collett, Sullivan and Swanson are teaching their students how to learn in tandem with EFL course material. They feel that students tend to be reliant on instructors to ensure that they are making an effort to learn so it is important to get goals straight from the beginning of the course and then reflect on them again half-way through and at the end (“goaling”). Course objectives presented very explicitly via “can-do statements” start self-directed learning cycles, keeping their well-understood goals firmly in mind, facilitated with “Study Progress Journals.” Students need to understand self-assessment, to know that something may not have succeeded not because they are stupid but because they need to reevaluate their methodology. This results in what is called English Improvement Goals and Objectives (E.I.G.O.). As an illustration of preparation for this type of class, we individually examined some sample textbook units for useful learning/teaching points, wrote them out as can-do statements and then pooled our results on the whiteboard for discussion.

Reported by Dave Pite

KITAKYUSHU: March—Equipping teachers to incorporate drama byCovenant Players Drama Company. Our chapter was treated to another session with the Covenant Players. Introducing themselves as actors rather than teachers, they explained their purpose as being to encourage speaking to break down barriers of hesitation from inhibitions, a major requirement for successful language practice. With their repertoire of over 3,000 plays, bare stage style, they often work on a thematic basis including teaching culture with teaching language. They start with getting ideas from the students as to setting and mood to get them involved right from the beginning. Invite them to imagine they’re in a large auditorium instead of a classroom and add the accoutrements such as lights, curtains, stage, seats, aisle, mic, etc., pulling out the vocabulary and reinforcing it and grammar with repetitions. Spelling each other off seamlessly in speaking, demonstrating, and whiteboard writing, they walked us through games and skits for stress and intonation awareness. Reminiscent of theater sports and other improv organizations, they got everyone involved in real educational entertainment.

Reported by Dave Pite

KOBE: January—ER in the classroom and beyond: Practical applications from research by Greg Rouault and John Eidswick. The presenters started by taking a look at Extensive Reading (ER) theory. By comparing Day and Bamford’s principles for extensive reading with the principles for reading circles by Furr, they pointed out the clashes which lead to a dilemma facing teachers. Following from this, they argued that while pure ER encompasses all principles, there are modified and light versions of ER. This was followed by a deeper look at reading circles before a presentation of their own research, which compared how students reacted to different discussion roles. The presenters also shared some results of their research into the effects of peer evaluation, comparing the effects of numeric evaluations with comment-based evaluations. After a consideration of what interest actually is, the presenters looked at what makes texts interesting for students e.g., how gender makes a difference, with women favouring mystery, romance, and true-crime, while men are interested in sports, science, and adventure. To wrap up, participants shared ideas on how teachers can harness interest to increase and support motivation, considering possible research projects.

Reported by David Heywood

NAGASAKI: January—Peer and teacher feedback on student conversation and writing: What, how and when? by Richard Hodson andJoel Hensley. This was a two-part presentation divided into writing feedback and conversation feedback. In the first presentation, Hodson and Hensley covered their ongoing research into the effect of feedback order on student writing. Reporting on their initial findings from a small-scale exploratory study, they discussed perceived similarities and differences in learners’ final essays depending on the order in which feedback was given: global revisions first and then local corrections, or vice versa. In the second presentation, Hensley reported on his development of a combined conversational storytelling and learner noticing through self-transcription course in which student pairs were trained and instructed to self-transcribe their own recorded conversations. Though only reporting on his initial implementation of such a course, Hensley indicated that, while the effects of self-transcription may be hard to measure in learners’ performance, the conversational storytelling appeared to be having a positive effect on learners’ fluency.

Reported by Karen Masatsugu

 

NAGASAKI: February—Preparing students for speech contestsbyJustin Hunt. Hunt covered the steps he takes to prepare high school students for speech contests, beginning with the issues raised when selecting students to take part, and ending with practical considerations on the day of the contest itself. Topics covered included speech topic selection, the varying views of teachers on the relative priorities of pronunciation and confidence when choosing student participants, and the importance of obtaining feedback from contest judges. Hunt outlined a typical six-week preparation schedule, and shared tips for memorization training and “disaster recovery,” centering on the creation and use of annotated speech texts called “speech sheets” in practice. Later stages in the preparation include the addition of important speech elements such as voice inflection, and also gestures which, Hunt explained, meet with widely differing evaluations from judges. The talk was illustrated with a number of video extracts of actual student speeches.

Reported by Richard Hodson

NAGOYA: January—Using authentic video for language learning byChris Stillwell. Stillwell asked us these questions: “How do you use video in class and for your own language learning?” and “What are benefits and risks/problems of using video?” Video is naturally interesting. It features spoken English and authentic speech. Stillwell makes his students analyze sentences in videos, discuss their accomplishments as well as the content of the video. The exposure to a variety of voices gives real life language experience and makes the learners cultural participants. The video should not be complicated. Difficult vocabulary or ambiguous situations in the story will make learners confused. Pre-, while-, and post-watching activities are necessary. To take the pictures from the screen, talk about what is happening, and retell the story will help learners get motivated. As for pre-viewing activities, the pre-view discussion on the content, playing the characters’ roles, unscrambling the conversations and the awareness of the pronunciation gaps between the spoken and the written version of the transcript will help learners gain a better understanding. Especially, in conversations, accents, abbreviations, and liaisons will make the story difficult to understand and therefore, the features of grammar should be explained.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

NAGOYA: February―Motivating students through vocabulary building, reading aloud, and home study byRyoichi Matsumoto. Matsumoto’s vocabulary-building system consists of “Papaya Juice,” Word Checking in Pairs, and 25 Words Test. Seeing the list of 25 new words with Japanese meanings, students pronounce English one by one in turn to the rhythm of music, the others repeating after that. If a student can’t pronounce one, he/she says “Papaya juice.” The others say, “Oishii-ne!” (Delicious!). Next, they exchange the word lists and, seeing only Japanese, pronounce English words in turn, putting a tick in the list box. In four-time repeated tests of 25 new words, students can start the limited words’ course, challenging 25 words finally. Getting full marks at the last stage, they shout, “Bingo!” In the sain-kai (autograph session), students, walking around in the classroom, find anyone else to do a dialogue practice, getting the partner’s autograph. Home study focuses on writing. Matsumoto gives each group of four a “Mighty (Mainichi-Teishutsu=Mai-Tei) Notebook,” an exchange three-sentence diary, in which model words and sentences and text substitution and grammar should be used. Every diary is sent to other group members and returned to the original person with their comments.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

NARA: January—The annual Tenri University and Nara JALT joint seminar: Reconsidering of the standards of teaching by Various. Kazuya Nakakono recounted his first year as a junior high school teacher and talked to us about how hard it had been. He also raised a question whether traditional teaching practice carried out at junior high schools is justifiable by introducing some of his teaching activities. Yasuhiro Sakata emphasized the importance of pronunciation practice in order to enhance students’ confidence in their Englishand maintained that speaking activities which help automatize students’ skills gained through pronunciation practice should be implemented. Takashi Yamamoto,Misa Naruse,and Motoyasu Saito shared their trial-and-error experience of making up a unified syllabus to establish common ground among teachers and to have a clear goal between teacher and student.Matthew Apple got the audience engaged in his lively workshop and proved that teaching materials, methods, and devices should be eclectic for learners’ learning purposes. Jyuichi Suzuki recommended amending traditional teaching procedures in more effective ways by having the audience self-evaluate 20 teaching procedures commonly used in the class. The seminar was rounded off with a snack party with many friendly locals.

Reported by Motoko Teraoka

OKAYAMA: January—Reflections on elementary school English by Aya Morisawa and Eri Mizuno and Student use of electronic dictionaries during oral communication activities by Jason Williams. Morisawa and Mizuno examined elementary school English education from three perspectives: that of the teacher, that specified by MEXT, and that experienced by the student. Homeroom teachers in Japanese elementary schools are now expected to teach English as an assessable subject. By comparing previous MEXT guidelines with those of the New Course of Study set out by MEXT, Morisawa and Mizuno showed how there has been a move from understanding foreign culture to using foreign language. Following some lively demonstrations of classroom activities commonly used at elementary school, Morisawa and Mizuno highlighted some positive and negative points related to elementary school English education. Williams outlined the rationale behind his research and explained that most of his students have electronic dictionaries and that they frequently use these dictionaries during oral communication classes. Williams set out to explore why students are willing to interrupt the flow of a conversation to refer to a dictionary rather than using communicative strategies or use the transactive memory of their interlocutors to fill in knowledge gaps. Through several surveys, Williams determined that students were using their electronic dictionaries as a crutch. Williams’ research was interesting, and it points the way to some intriguing subsequent studies.

Reported by Jason Lowes

OKAYAMA: February—What, exactly, do junior and senior high school textbooks teach?by Mutsumi Kawasaki. The speaker began by discussing the content of typical MEXT approved English textbooks for junior and senior high schools and common teaching methods employed in using such texts. Kawasaki described her classroom experiences and students’ negative reactions concerning the textbooks. She then provided a sample unit from a text she uses, and in small groups, participants discussed strengths and weaknesses for each section of the unit. Groups then openly discussed ways to improve the text and ideas on creating supplemental activities to enhance acquisition while increasing learner motivation. Kawasaki's goal is to make dry texts more communicative by introducing engaging teacher-created supplemental activities. Incorporating crosswords in the English language classroombyDavid Townsend. Townsend first dispelled the notion that crossword puzzles in the classroom constitute busy work or time filler at the end of a lesson. He demonstrated crosswords can be a communicative tool utilizing analytical and critical thinking skills while reinforcing vocabulary retention. By using puzzles he designed, he showed how different topics (jobs, geography) and grammar/vocabulary targets (personality adjectives) can be practiced in a fun and motivating manner. Examples of class activities included paired cloze exercises and small group clue making where students construct the puzzle. The speaker provided participants with a useful list of free online puzzle making resources and functions each site provides.

Reported by Richard Lemmer

OMIYA: January—Studying abroad or at home by Jun Harada and Teaching compliments and responding to compliments in high school by Kimiko Koseki. Harada discussed what some of the best ways when learning a language are. He covered some case studies and success stories, while comparing spending money and going abroad with staying in Japan and learning English here. He based those issues on the evidence he had found when chaperoning 43 high school students on a 17-day home-stay program in Seattle. Harada also covered some options in duplicating a study abroad experience without leaving the classroom. Koseki first covered theory of pragmatics and the lack of its usage in language classrooms, especially in high schools in Japan. She cited Thomas and Nelson in explaining how errors in manner might be interpreted as rudeness despite non-proficiency of the language. Koseki reported on lessons in compliments in a second-year high school English conversation course. Her presentation also included demonstration of some classroom activities and discussion on how to raise Japanese students’ pragmatic awareness in this still racially and culturally homogeneous nation.

Reported by Ivan Botev

OMIYA: February—Teaching critical thinking by John Finucane and From phonics to literacy by Brad Semans. Finucane’s workshop was about the importance of teaching critical thinking skills to students. He discussed what skills are needed and what kinds of language are required for critical thinking and debate. The attendees learned some simple classroom exercises for introducing debate. Activities created specifically to teach critical thinking skills were also performed. Semans argued that methodologies for teaching EFL reading have much advanced over the past 20 years in Japan but that there is still an expansive gap between texts and programs aimed at teaching phonics, word recognition, etc., and those aimed at reading for specific information, summarizing a passage and so forth. A presentation, discussion, and trial of a style developed to remedy this followed.

Reported by Ivan Botev

 

OMIYA: March—My share by Various. Fuyuhiko Sekido kicked the event off with hisUsing Japanese lyrics in the language classroom. He spoke about cross-gender performance in Japanese culture and how he uses that in the classroom. He also entertained the audience with AKB48’s music videos and song lyrics. Matt Shannon andEmory Premaux presented Daiso classroom where the two exhibited how useful 100 yen-shop items could be when teaching English and demonstrated their Build a Town lesson using those unconventional stationary items. Then Alexander Procter spoke about hisEffective task based learning through jigsaw activities using the jigsaw method, developed by Elliot Aronson, that promotes learner autonomy and interaction. John Finucane in hisHow to create an effective cloze listening activity gave some practical advice on creating an effective music cloze activity based on ‘Trash’ by Suede. Larry Cisar informed us of his Making ebooks for your students and demonstrated how to prepare material and put it into the right form using only FREE software. Alana Schramm concluded with an exposition on Using sounds and smells to teach vocabulary, an activity that not only teaches vocabulary in an active way but also helps retention while motivating students.

Reported by Ivan Botev

 

OSAKA: JanuaryWinter potpourri: Four presentationsby Stuart McLean,Gábor Pintér,Greg Sholdt, and Laura Markslag. Osaka JALT once again enriched the Kansai English teaching community with an entertaining and informative mini-conference in downtown Osaka. Maclean, a JALT Research Grant recipient, sharedflashcard vocabularylearning sites such as Word Engine and iKnow.com, Moodle Reader, xreader.com, and xreading.com. He demonstrated the use of student assessment cards to motivate and monitor in-class activities. Pintérof Kobe University presented Limitations of Computer Assisted Pronunciation Training Systemsin which he discussed nuancedragon.com, ning.com, talkclub.in, and gmail video chat, among other resources. Sholdt, also of Kobe University and a JALT2011 Featured Speaker, explained the rationale and offered an opportunity for teachers to get involved with a quantitative research study on writing fluency in their classrooms. Sholdt’s report of his presentation can be found here: <osakajalt.org/blog/2012/2/2/collaborative-research-as-an-approach-to-professional-develo.html>. Finally, Laura Markslag, an Osaka JALT officer and a lecturer at Osaka Gakuin University, discussed the online exchange program she conducted between her students and university students in Dubai as a means of motivating her all too often lethargic students through culture and authentic English.Slides and other details from this talk can be found here: <pinlab.info/talks/​20120129-jalt/>.For more details,see <jalt.org/osaka-chapter/winter-potpourri>.

Reported by Chris Johnston with Bob Sanderson

OSAKA: FebruaryFilm showing: The grandpa from BrazilbyNanako Kurihara a film director and producer. Osaka JALT and SIETAR Kansai co-hosted a screening of Nanako Kurihara’s award-winning documentary film The Grandpa from Brazil followed by a Q&A session. A graduate of Waseda University, Kurihara is no stranger to promoting social awareness through film. This, her second documentary, centers on ninety-two-year-old Mr. Kenichi Konno, one of many Japanese nationals who immigrated to Brazil in 1931 during the Japanese Great Depression. In response to growing poverty and overpopulation, the Japanese government encouraged such immigration with false promises of prosperity. Knowing first-hand the hardship of assimilating into a foreign culture, Mr. Konno devoted his life to overseeing the welfare of second generation Brazilian-Japanese returning to Japan. The film reveals what little support is available for these Brazilian-Japanese immigrants and their children, who essentially sink-or-swim amidst numerous cross-cultural, educational, and economic challenges. The film asks such pertinent questions as, “What shapes cultural and national identity?,” “How can Japan promote acculturation over assimilation?,” and “How can the national government and local governments better meet the needs of such immigrants?” In short, this documentary offers insight into Japanese society and will continue to be used as a pedagogical tool in many Japanese and foreign universities. For more about Konno, see this 2008 article: <japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20081022f2.html>, and you can visit Ms. Kurihara’s website here: <nanakokurihara.com>.

Reported by Pahnee Fukui

SENDAI: January—Materials writers’ miscellany (two presentations):Elements of visual design for language learners andAuthentic materials & copyright by Cameron Romney(co-sponsored with the Materials Writers SIG). Most teachers give students handouts of some sort in the classroom. While lots of thought and energy goes into the creation of content, often the visual elements of the document are ignored. Romney led our members in an engaging presentation on tactics we should consider when creating items for language teaching. Visual design elements such as typeset selection, organization, font size, and graphics are commonplace in our respective practices, and we learnt of the impact their selection has on the language learner. Romney’s second presentation focused on authentic materials, i.e., those created for purposes other than language teaching, which are protected by copyright. If teachers use them in the classroom are they violating the copyright? How can teachers legally use them? We looked at the copyright laws in Japan as they pertain to teachers, students, and classrooms. While many of us are aware to some degree of the laws in our home countries, Romney brought to light the status of such activities here in Japan.

Reported by Cory Koby

SENDAI: February—Grammar insights: From Swan to Thornbury to you byMatt Wilson. Michael Swan and Scott Thornbury's ideas concerning the development of grammar and its roles in the classroom were explored through the use of video segments from each of these renowned language teachers. After viewing the key section of video, workshop participants had the chance to discuss the concepts presented and provide their own insight into what role grammar instruction takes in their classroom. How much grammar, if any, should be taught explicitly by the language teacher? What tactics can be employed to empower the language learner to intake grammar rules and patterns in a comprehensible way? Wilson led our very lively group in a discussion that kept us engaged for the entire three hours, and could well have lasted a good deal longer.

Reported by Cory Koby

SHINSHU: January—An afternoon with ABAX by Various. In An introduction to task-based language teaching, Marco Benevides recommended task-based teaching to address the deficiencies of the communicative approach. A task should be authentic, and its main goal should not be linguistic. Assessment should be based not on grammar but on successful completion of the task. If lack of language skills prohibits successful completion of the task, teachers could address it through feedback. Finally, tasks should be themed, thus ensuring authentic recycling. Michael Stout, in Narrow reading 2.0, explained how he combines Narrow Reading (NR) and Web 2.0 in his classes. He referred to NR as being a “bridge to Extensive Reading” and cited Krashen’s definition of it as being reading works in a single genre, on a single topic or by a single author. Stout explained how he combines various tools such as Twitter, Quizlet, and MindMeister and the textbook Whodunit (ABAX) with NR. Alistair Graham Marr addressed aspects to be considered in Teaching the strategies of speaking. According to Marr, demanding native-like acquisition is demoralizing; our goal should be communicative competence (grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic). Various strategies were introduced to train (as opposed to teach) students to acquire this. Strategies are to be employed with higher level students using more of them than lower. Hugh Graham Marr discussed features to pay attention to inTeaching listening to lower level learners. These included: how scripted listening material should be, language structure, vocabulary, speed, and phonology. Marr recommended adjusting language structure to meet the learners’ needs while keeping speed and phonology intact so that they could acquire listening competence.

                                                            Reported by Mary Aruga

 

SHINSHU: February—Portfolios in the classroomby John Gunning. Based on his own experience using portfolios with his university classes, Gunning guided us through the theory and practice of using portfolios. He started by reviewing the literature in the field. Knowledge is constructed, not transferred (Constructivism). Knowledge is temporary, developmental, non-objective, and socially mediated. Portfolios give students the opportunity to take a hand in constructing their own knowledge. Gunning talked about the differences between showcase (summative) portfolios and process (formative) portfolios. We studied making a timeline for student work through a course and how portfolios can be assessed. Of particular interest was how he negotiated assessment standards with students, then later had students do peer assessments using post-it notes. Using real student-made portfolios, we went through the process of assessment with a carefully designed portfolio assessment rubric, which assesses portfolios on a five-point scale under the categories, overall portfolio presentation, navigation, contents, and artifacts. Gunning asserted that because portfolios increase students’ autonomy and motivation, they are suitable for use in any teaching situation, with any age and any type of learner.

Reported by Fred Carruth

 

SHIZUOKA: August—Extensive reading and reading circles by Andy Kean. Best of JALT 2010 presenter Kean gave an informative presentation about extensive reading and reading circles. At the beginning of the presentation, he encouraged the audience to think back to their experiences as beginning readers of both first and second languages. Kean explained how reading skills develop. In order to be a successful reader, one needs to understand 95% of the words. However, to acquire vocabulary it is necessary to have between 10 and 30 meetings of a word. One solution is to utilize extensive reading which is reading a lot of easy texts (i.e., graded readers) for general understanding and enjoyment. Kean thoroughly explained the 10 characteristics of an extensive reading program. In the second part of the presentation, thanks to the generous support of Cengage, Longman, and Oxford graded readers were introduced. Kean suggested online resources such as Moodle Reader and the Extensive Reading Foundation website. In the final part, Kean explained how reading circles could be integrated into existing classes. Each member of the audience left with lots of ideas and a few complimentary graded readers.

Reported by Adam Murray

 

SHIZUOKA: November—Autonomy mastery & purpose by Tim Murphey. To begin the presentation, Murphey asked a series of thought-provoking questions for the armchair anthropologists in the audience. After a lively discussion, Murphey then compared Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with Daniel Pink’s evolutionary model of motivation (Survival, Carrots & Sticks, Meaningfulness/Purpose) which is described in Pink’s best-seller Drive. Next, intrinsic motivation and the four essentials of autonomy and their importance in education were addressed. A model of classroom group dynamics called Present Communities of Imagination (PCOIz) was introduced. This model incorporates cultural/social capital, imagined communities, imagined social capital, and experiential capital. A central concept of PCOIz is time-frame influences (pasts, presents, futures) on students. Murphey described some examples of these activities for each of the time-frame influences e.g., language learning histories, newsletters, and possible selves to name a few. The best classroom activities are those that make students the subject matter and that can increase their sense of agency and motivation.

Reported by Adam Murray

 

SHIZUOKA: December—ELT & the science of happiness: Positive psychology in the language classroomby Marc Helgesen. Using a rather tasty metaphor, Helgesen described how happiness can be divided into three sections: set point, circumstances, and intentional activity. He stressed the importance of focusing attention on intentional activity rather than aspects which are essentially beyond control. Next, he explained that all teaching includes educational psychology and the benefits of addressing happiness in English language teaching. Helgesen concluded the first part of the presentation by demonstrating how the topic of happiness can be integrated into traditional classroom activities such as dictation and shadowing. In the second part of the presentation, he talked about the science of happiness. Helgesen talked about the PERMA model described in Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish. The PERMA model has five components: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Helgesen also referred to a study that showed the lasting benefits of doing good 3 things (increased levels of happiness and fewer symptoms of depression). To wrap up the presentation, he showed how teachers can incorporate all of the five components by giving some practical techniques and activities. Participants left with smiles on their faces.

Reported by Adam Murray

TOKYO: JanuaryGo online with the upper-intermediate class: Build skills and confidence with blogs by Christopher Shore. Shore provided an overview of different blogging platforms, including WordPress and Blogger, and then described how creating a class blog rewards teachers and students with tangible results. He explained that some students were initially reticent to have their work posted online, but as time passed, they became more open to sharing their work with a wider audience and looked forward to the comments that came in from people around the globe. An example of a class-created blog can be found at <tokyophotoreview.blogspot.com/>.

Reported by Tom Edwards

 

TOKYO: FebruaryMobile audio recording and the web for language teachers by Scott Lockman. Lockman shared his experiences using mobile audio recording with students. He emphasized that recording students need not be expensive and that most cell phones now allow teachers to record students—or students to record themselves. Lockman shared his use of Audioboo <Audioboo.fm> as a means to upload and share classroom recordings. He also mentioned the work of Shirley Terrell, who has developed numerous audio activities for the language classroom. Her work can be found at <livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=103234>.

Reported by Tom Edwards

 

YOKOHAMA: January—Content-based learning: Possible panacea to perpetual passivity?by Mike Guest. The presentation focused on the benefits of content-based learning (CBL), especially with children from elementary school to post-secondary education. Guest first discussed the reasons why most Japanese learners of English do not progress past a false beginner stage, such as the all receptive and teacher-centred nature of the current instructional methods that are regularly employed. Then the presenter spoke about CBL while focusing on some of its positives (e.g., enhancing and activating latently understood grammatical and lexical features learned in other classes) and negatives (e.g., the soapbox potential where teachers use content to preach their beliefs). After that, reasons why CBL works with young children, and students in high school and in post-secondary education were discussed, including reinforcing content learned in Japanese, engaging in motivational purpose-driven communication that moves the learners from the receptive to the productive realms, and making connections between grammar forms and meaningful context. Lastly, Guest gave a modest proposal for university English, stating that an ESP English education specialist should be hired who can provide guidance to English teachers and coordinate content with regular teachers and professors in the faculty.

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

 

YOKOHAMA: February—Pragmatics and communicative competence

by Megumi Kawate-Mierzejewska. Kawate-Mierzejewska’s examples of different real world situations and contexts, and the ways different cultures use language in each of these mini-case studies were enjoyed by the crowd in Yokohama this February. The presentation was supported by an international group of attendees that could offer different points of view for the situations that were presented. She often drew on feedback from the crowd to help illustrate her points as she explained pragmatics taking a closer look at speech acts, including J.L. Austin’s three acts enacted with each speech act (locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary). Then she discussed implicature, both conventional and conversational, and the difficulties involved in trying to teach these to students learning a foreign language. After that, Kawate-Mierzejewska turned the presentation to pragmatic failure, in particular, pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic failure, illustrating each with clear examples. The conversation then focused on sociopragmatic competence and how people often use a variety of speech strategies to cope with different social variables. Kawate-Mierzejewska ended the afternoon by offering a few tips on how to teach pragmatics.

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

 

 

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