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Chapter Reports - July 2012

 

AKITA: March—Old English for today bySusumu Hiyama. This presentation was in two sections of discussion followed by a workshop. Hiyama specializes in English philology, i.e., the literary history of the English language. He first treated participants to a discussion of the three main periods in the history of the English language (Old English, Middle English, and Modern English), which gave the audience a base so they could engage Old English readings. He then led the group in sounding-out the fundamental Old English alphabet. Finally, everyone read passages from the Old English text Beowulf. It was noted during the concluding discussion that learning to read Old English might assist with improving English language pronunciation. This was an educational and interactive session.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

 

AKITA:April—Interwoven stories told by high school JTEs and ALTs by Takaaki Hiratsuka. Japan has used team teaching by JTEs and ALTs in daily English lessons through the JET programme for more than two decades. The issue of teachers’ as well as students’ perceptions of their participation in this programme has begun to attract attention. This presentation shared stories from a four-month research project that took place at two Akita high schools. The presentation started with a survey of the literature then moved on to a video of actual team teaching in a Japanese high school. The research project is part of a PhD dissertation that the presenter is conducting at the University of Auckland. Local Akita JET ALTs and JTEs were present at the meeting, so a quite informative discussion took place during the Q&A session.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

 

GIFU: February—Team building and communicationby Mhairi Anne Robson. Transferring her extensive experience of working with HIV/AIDS victims in South Africa, Robson treated us to several activities which led to thought-provoking discussions on teamwork and communication. The evening began with some creative warm-up activities which could transfer to almost any classroom. These included mimes and acting, which emphasized the importance of gestures in communication. She outlined four categories of communication, verbal and non-verbal, visual, and written. We then discussed the importance of communication in the workplace and the lack of communication which has led to several problems in our working environment. There are four key elements in effective communication, be clear, be concise, be respectful and be encouraging which would improve our working relationships. In our concluding discussion we decided that in our workplaces, the opposite is sometimes the case, indirect can be direct, concise can be lengthy, and that cultural problems and differences can lead to conflict. We sometimes forget to make allowances, rephrase positively, and read the situation effectively. Robson concluding remarks eloquently summarized the workshop. “You can’t always control what people say to you but you can control what you say to the rest of the world.”

Reported by Brent Simmonds

 

GIFU:AprilFluency in the Reading classroom by Bjorn Fursting.Firstly, Fursting asked us, what reading do you do in your classroom?  Some of us had done specialist reading classes whilst others used reading as a part of regular classes. Fursting then explained his own situation and shared some of his experiences with us both as a teacher and student. He had witnessed situations where learners were resistant to reading even in their native language.In the next part of the presentation we discussed, in small groups, our beliefs about reading.Some concluded that students should be challenged to read slightly above their level, others felt students should be comfortable with reading and consequently a lower level was required. The presenter outlined ten principles to be used in the reading classroom but most importantly he stressed that students should enjoy reading and gain pleasure from the choice of book. The students should understand about 98% of the book and have confidence to skip unknown words. A discussion took place about how to improve reading levels including combining reading and watching movies. There were many issues involved in establishing a reading syllabus including funding and which books to choose. The grading of books varied between publishers but a good rule of thumb was that if you struggle with 5 or more words on a page you should choose another book. In the concluding session assessment methods were outlined including book reports and online assessment. The presentation was both interactive and informative.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

 

GUNMA: April—Teaching in a Japanese junior high schoolby Kaitlin Kirby and Chiharu Takebayashi. Over the past 25 years team teaching has become an essential part of the English classroom in Japanese junior high schools. Combining their different abilities and strengths can allow ALTs and JTEs to teach more effectively. However, this synergy is not easily come by, and like any other relationship team teaching partners must work to maintain it. Kirby and Takebayashi make it look easy. Their easy rapport with one another showed Gunma JALT attendees how team teaching should be done. Kirby and Takebayashi discussed the contrasting roles and perspectives of ALTs and JTEs. Through their presentation and subsequent discussion they explained how they approach some of the challenges of compulsory English education in Japan. Kirby and Takebayashi have worked together for two years at Takasaki Sano Junior High School where they strive to give their students authentic communication experiences. Prior to teaching English in Japan, Takebayashi lived abroad where she taught Japanese as a foreign language. Her experiences there give her a unique perspective on the language-learning classroom. Originally from Seattle, Kirby came to Japan in 2010 via the JET Programme. She has a MA in Teaching from Seattle Pacific University.

Reported by John Larson

 

HIMEJI: April —Fun phonics activities (MPI) andHow to introduce phonics to elementary schools and elementary school teachers by Rumiko Kido and Buzz Green. Kido from MPI Publishers presented phonics-related materials, and gave us some new ideas including the phonics alphabet chant, sound-recognition activities such as playing a song and phonics bingo using phonemes, the "driving game" where students turned an imaginary steering wheel when they heard certain sounds, and more. She explained how consistent use of phonics in elementary school and with young learners creates a much more successful environment for English learners. Their ability to read and consequently their confidence in English, is increased. Green spoke about how she teaches phonics in her elementary and kindergarten classes. She uses lots of homemade materials, such as flash cards and small cards suitable for a variety of activities such as matching and clapping games, and makes interestingly shaped phonics letter-sliders where changing the first letter of three-letter words makes many new words. She recommended that the materials handed out to the groups to use for activities match the main alphabet print used in teaching the students the alphabet, to eliminate confusion. Green teaches kindergarten and elementary school children. By concentrating on phonics she builds a good foundation for English. Some of Green's methods differed a little from Kido's, but the end goal was the same! Have fun and learn English. There's no doubt about it, using phonics to teach young English learners in Japan, or anywhere, is a winner!

Reported by Cecy Wales

 

HOKKAIDO: April—Helping students overcome fear of failurebyRob Olsen.

Olsen identified the fear of being ostracised as stronger than the fear of failure. He highlighted two unhelpful paradigms often encountered in Japan: that failure is bad, and that English is difficult. His main point was that we need to create learning environments where failure is seen as a welcome and natural part of the learning process and is accepted by the group. His presentation went on to introduce ways to achieve this. For example, he showed us simple but powerful images with analogies that he uses in class to illustrate his point that failure is part of a journey in progress. He also suggested ways to reduce the intimidation students feel from direct contact with the teacher and even ways to help them relax. He made an interesting case for an accumulative reward program whereby students are given regular and positive feedback not only for success but also for taking risks much like the model of computer game scoring, where players keep returning to increase their score. He encouraged teaching “escape phrases” that students can use when they need more time to think or simply have no opinion. His point here was that not knowing is ok. Finally we joined in a circular vocabulary game where mistakes provided opportunities for us to help each other as a team.

Reported by Haidee Thomson

 

KITAKYUSHU: April—Task repetition and fluency development in the Japan classes: How much is enough?by Craig Lambert. From common notions of second language fluency to the basis for high-stakes decisions about it (recommendations for jobs or Ph.Ds.), Lambert walked us through some of the history of the various theories and methodologies that have been developed to define and propagate the teaching of conversation and discussed pros and cons of popular ways to teach it, from the structural approach in the 1950s to the communicative approach popular since the ‘80s.  He pointed out how language which is acceptable and understandable among family or friends is not good enough for the workplace or school, and that students need to know this. In order to focus communicative language teaching to promote second language development there are many advantages to task-based learning, such as the focus on actual communication, meaningful outcomes, and connections to future needs—although it requires an egalitarian value system often found to be at odds with Asian classroom values.  Finally, Lambert showed us a Fluency Module to facilitate the putting into practice of these previously presented ideas for teaching fluency.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KYOTO: January—Kyoto JALT workshop day:1) Reading the room:  Reacting to challenges when implementing an extensive reading program by Justus Wallen. After a brief introduction about core elements of a lower secondary level ER program, members role played a typical lesson and identified potential problems concerning program management, student behavior, and materials. In small groups, participants brainstormed possible solutions. Finally, Wallen described actual improvements made to the program. 2) Five fun vocabulary activities byRobert Sheridan and Laura Markslag.  Use of word cards for deliberate vocabulary study is fast and effective (Nation, 2008). In this presentation, Sheridan and Markslag introduced how to make word cards, four activities for independent group work, and two assessment techniques.  Members discussed how to adapt these ideas in their own classrooms at the end. 3) Energizing activities for the communication classroom by Richard Silve.In this upbeat, hands-on workshop, members tried out several speaking activities. All required little preparation or props.  For example, one used photo picture cards, another made use of political cartoons, and some built on textbook vocabulary exercises. All encouraged creativity and pushed learners to practice fluency.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

 

KYOTO: March—Continuing education panel discussionby Thomas Amundrud, moderator,(PhD candidate, Linguistics, Macquarie University);Ted Bonnah (PhD candidate, Global Studies, Doshisha University); Glen Cochrane (MA Ed. candidate, Distance Education, Athabasca University); JP DuQuette (EdD candidate, TESOL, Temple University);Daniel Mills (EdD candidate, Instructional Technology, University of Wyoming); Julian Pigott (PhD candidate, Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick);James Rogers (MA, Linguistics; PhD candidate, Linguistics, University of Southern Queensland).  This highly informative afternoon of frank discussion about continuing education brought together seven local panelists. At the beginning, panelists were given five minutes to introduce their programs, touching upon three themes: 1) Why they selected their particular program, 2)  How they hoped to benefit by completing the program, and 3)  Positive and negative aspects of the program. After a short break, during a Q&A session, members could ask more pointed questions regarding the programs represented. A discussion concerning continuing education and its relationship to job advancement ended the day.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

 

KYOTO:April—Learner development SIG joint event: 1)Strategies in use:  Young learners and the willingness to communicatebyAnn Mayeda.  Nurturing the learner’s need to communicate was a concurring theme in her presentation. Bringing teacher awareness to learner strategies in the classroom plays a critical role to communicative success. Mayeda discussed ways how to make the shift from a teacher-centered classroom to a learner-centered environment that allows students to take risks and communicate in any way possible. 2) Vocabulary learning strategies empowermentbyPhilip Shigeo Brown. The workshop was designed to encourage participants to think about how they teach vocabulary and what kind of strategies their students use to learn vocabulary. Following Rubin, Chamot, Harris and Anderson’s four stage approach for strategies based instruction and Nation’s four fundamental learning strategies, Brown used learning journals to promote learners’ understanding of vocabulary and experimentation with the strategies with the ultimate goal of learner autonomy.  3) Promoting reflection in professional developmentbyAkiko Takagi.  Reflection plays an important role in professional development for teachers. Takagi had several activities where participants explored how reflection is used in their teaching environment.

Reported by Ann Flanagan

 

NAGOYA: March―Part I: Using picture cards/application, design, Part II: Correction of homework byPeter Warner. Warner says “Language is active, spoken communication,” and showed how to teach basic questions and answers, countable and uncountable names, adjectives and their opposites, and some prepositional phrases, using picture cards for effective and enjoyable lessons in Part I. These games stimulate students’ own thinking, leading to authentic conversation. In Part II, Warner handed thirty-one reduced-size worksheets used in his daily lessons, explaining how to design, apply, and correct homework. They aim at reviewing, reminding, and reducing the loss of memory. If their understanding is 80%, its loss for a week will be 20 %. You can move along with the material. If less 40%, they can’t progress. The solution is flexible homework with worksheets. Constant mutual evaluation and correction through homework are useful, and making mistakes can be enjoyable and fun. Helping them correct their homework, Warner uses the beginning ten minutes as transition time for readjusting them from Japanese. Make them guess and give them a chance to correct their answers. On 30% mistakes you should go back. Build their confidence. If they enjoy doing homework, they will learn.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NAGOYA: April―World Englishes, ELF and related paradigms byJames F. D’Angelo. World Englishes is not anti-native speaker, but anti-native speaker-ism. Outer Circle varieties of English developed in colonial settings. After independence, English was conveniently neutral and equidistant from all groups, and served as a link language among the many racial/ethnic/linguistic groups. While successfully shifting the locus of norms from the Inner Circle, WEs focuses too much on features and is inadequate to describe English used internationally, resulting in the emergence of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and new EIL.To maintain effective communication in many varieties, we should develop pragmatic communication strategies, looking at how repair and accommodation are handled in EIL speech. Sharifan’s meta-cultural competence is a core element of proficiency in English for international communication. Another recent concept, the ‘L2 Self,’ is a re-conceptualization of integrative motivation. D’Angelo recommends making students aware of the reality of global English use, helping develop an educated vocabulary rather than Eikaiwa,exposure to English varieties, and looking for positive influences of the L1. New paradigms teach us: be proud of your multilingual repertoire. That will give students confidence to go on and truly become English knowing global jinzai.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

OSAKA: April—Two presentations:1) Here we are now, motivate us; and2) Negotiated syllabuses: Do you want to?byAndy Boon.Osaka JALT was pleased to sponsor Andy Boon, a Featured Speaker at JALT2011, for two talks with us on April 7 in Namba. Here's a recap of the event from the speaker himself: 1) In the first presentation, we discussed questions such as what motivation is and why some students may not be motivated to study English. I then provided an overview of Maslow's "Hierarchy of needs" and Dornyei's "Motivational teaching practice" and how they relate to English language teaching in our context (see Dornyei, Z. (2001) Motivational strategies in the language classroom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for further details). The audience then got to try out a number of activities to use in the classroom and discuss the motivational rationale behind each one. If you missed the presentation, check out the January 2012 edition of Modern English Teacher which has a full write-up of "Here we are, now motivate us." 2) In the second presentation, we looked at the role of negotiation in syllabus design. I described three contexts in which I have used a negotiated syllabus; business English classes, extension center classes, and university classes. Although university syllabuses have to be written before teachers actually meet the students of the class, I explored ways to negotiate projects, homework, groupings, methodology, and material. If you missed this presentation, check out my chapter in Paul Nation and John McAlister`s (2011) Case studies in language curriculum, Routledge.

Reported by Andy Boon

 

OSAKA: April—Back to school 2012by Various.  There were over two dozen presentations and poster sessions, and proceeds of over ¥60,000 again donated to Save the Children Japan for Tohoku disaster relief. This third-annual spring mini-conference shared ideas on a wide range of topics to help everyone start the new school year on a positive note. Thanks to OGU and the diversity of presenters who came from the ranks of business, and Jr. andSr. high schools as well as universities. (And a special shout out to OGU student and key grip Ryouta Maruyama, a volunteer par excellence!) The event began with The place of literature in the ELTcurriculum by plenary speaker Donna Tatsuki, and was followed with Bilingual educationby Steve McCarty,TOEIC reading classesby Junko Omotedani, and Grading efficiencybySean Gay.The morning session finished with Peeling the cultural onionby Christopher MicekReview activitiesbyJennifer Voss, and Cubing: Six sides to an activitybyMichael Sullivan.Among the poster sessions were Skype lessons for Tohoku childrenbyJason Bartashius,Model UNby Lori Zenuck-Nishide,and SIG for school owners?by Matthew Reynolds.After lunchpresentations includedOGU's iChat lounge activities (see video at http://tinyurl.com/cdbooc6)by Stella Maxwell,Frontloadingbychapter member Alison Kitzman,Classroom assessment practicesbyFergus O'Dwyer,Speed-readingbyStuart McLean,10 lessons w/o handoutsbyArthur Lauritsen,and Role-playbyJason White, who came all the way from Himeji.Summaries of all presentations can be viewed at<bts.osakajalt.org/home/archive/2012>. This successful event was appreciated by those who attended as a forum to share teaching ideas and research results as we started the new school year.

Reported by Ray Franklin

 

SENDAI: March—1) Issues in the design of extensive readers for the iPhonebyRussell Willis. Willis kicked off our ER event with a comprehensive explanation of the history and development of the Oxford Bookworm Library app for iPod, iPad, and iPhone. With a very rich background in software for educational purposes development, Willis’ current work with Eigotown.com right here in Japan is being rolled out worldwide by Oxford University Press. We were fortunate to get an inside look at the creation and evolution of this emerging technology, and had the opportunity to offer input that will affect the future direction of the project. 2)Building a course in extensive reading for non-English majors byKen Schmidt. With over 15 years experience with ER, our chapter president and ER Foundation executive board member Schmidt described his university-level, elective EFL course focusing on extensive reading with graded readers. Because this is the only English course many of these non-English majors take in a given year, speaking, listening, and writing—in addition to reading—are brought into play, with in-class emphases on interactive book- and vocabulary-related activities, and reading speed. Key components of the course (independent reading program, initial class reader, in-class activities) were presented. Student response to the course (in terms of performance and questionnaire results) and action research possibilities were also discussed.

Reported by Cory Koby

 

SENDAI: April—1) My share: My best communication activityby Marc Helgesen,Ken Schmidt,Masa Tsuneyasu,Jim Dochterman,Maggye Foster,Mark Neufield,and Jim Smiley. Seven members of our JALT community joined efforts for an action-packed My Share event. Helgesen opened the event with a great school-year starting activity called Your Name. Schmidt followed with Find the Writer. Tsuneyasu then offered a brief overview of MI (Multiple Intelligence) theory in her How to activate different kinds of intelligences. Dochterman then demonstrated two very lively activities-The interview andThe party.Foster then gave us some great insight into her psychological approach to An evaluation system as a way to generate participation in classes. Neufield followed with a fluency building activity that had us out of our seats and actively speaking and listening. Smiley concluded the segment with lessons from nothing that included a variety of basic but useful activities as well as a mixed review of the Cambridge publication Lessons From Nothing. 2)Twenty-four/ seven (24/7) presentations orchestrated by Marc Helgesen. Our meeting culminated in a pioneering effort by Helgesen in which meeting participants were encouraged to prepare a 24-second presentation of an activity, followed by a seven word summary. Several members made spontaneous presentations, and great fun was enjoyed by all!

Reported by Cory Koby

 

SHINSHU: March—Are we getting it right?by Various. Mari Nakamura began our look at the education system in Japan with Enriching the lives of children in Japan – Is it possible?Nakamura introduced the results of a survey done on the parents of students at her English school in regard to their children’s lifestyles, learning environments, and EFL education. The results gave Nakamura the impression that education is being “outsourced” to extra-curricular activities and that parents, while ignoring emotional and social development, feel pressured to send their children to English cram schools to ensure their “success.” To address these problems, Nakamura suggested working on parental education, generating discussion, and having more community activities. Atsuko Katanaga, in The cultural differences in teaching – My personal perspective, introduced varying educational approaches through the way pi is taught in different countries. She felt that, even though Japan placed ninth in mathematics on the latest PISA, the meaning of math problems is not as much emphasized as in, for example, Scotland. Katanaga posited that Japanese students are encouraged to “look, write and think”, while in other countries it is “listen, think, and talk” and suggested that the Japanese education system could benefit from looking at the teaching styles in other countries. In How are my students getting it right for themselves?, Akiko Seino explained her terakoya style of teaching: how she creates classes in which children of mixed levels can learn individualized content at their own optimal pace. She discussed the benefits of meeting the challenges of such a system and offered numerous practical ways, including Oral Reading and Show and Share, to address them.

                                                         Reported by Mary Aruga

 

SHINSHU: May—The 23rd annual Suwako charity walk by Various. Despite the torrential rains forecast for the day of this community outreach event, approximately sixty people turned out to enjoy an eight-kilometer walk halfway around Lake Suwa to learn about the environment from Shinshu University professors and graduate students. A forum followed with a presentation by Chika Yoshida on bivalves which included a quiz contest. A sing-along led by Musi-san and Eddie Reynolds concluded the forum. Participants could further get to know each other on the boat ride back to the starting point.

                                                         Reported by Mary Aruga

 

 

SHIZUOKA:February—Some thoughts on ELT material development by Marcos Benevides. Benevides, who has published several textbooks, talked about his experience in writing ELT materials. The presentation was organized into three main sections: approaches to teaching, developing materials, and choosing a publisher. He started his discussion by saying “All teachers are material developers,” and that’s how he started to get involved in material writing. First, an introspective approach was introduced. He gave us examples of how he enjoyed his hobbies as a child, through which he learned English. He suggested that all teachers should become more aware of their own learning style, and use it to inform their own teaching. Next, he talked about the relationship between textbooks and teachers: Instead of the textbook providing language exercises and the teacher making this material interesting for students, the textbook should provide the interesting content and the teacher should then use this content to target language forms. Some examples of this approach were given, such as narrow reading and task-based learning. Finally, different kinds of ELT publishers were discussed, with some advantages and disadvantages for each kind.

Reported by Masahiko Goshi

 

 

SHIZUOKA:April—Using questionnaires and student reflections to better understand your classroom by Robert Croker. This event, co-hosted with SHARP-DO, was a rare pleasure, and “rare” is not an adjective I use very often. Croker sees writing questionnaires and student reflections as two ends of a continuum. He first spoke about the basics: using both open and closed questions; making a variety of questions (two-choice lists, rank order, counting and bands, Likert scales, etc.); the timing of questionnaires; and appropriate topics (background information, behavioral, emotional and cognitive processes). His information was clear, his prints well-organized, and—this is the rare part—he organized the time so well that we didn’t feel rushed when creating our own questions with partners. He also showed us some wonderful examples of how he and various other teachers have “shared back” the information they had garnered from students: class newsletters, posters, etc. He used the phrases “learning community” and “space to communicate” to emphasize that questionnaires and reflections can and should be an important two-way street, a way to communicate and reflect back to your students and to work together to make your class the best it can be.

Reported by Jennifer Hansen

 

YOKOHAMA: April—Older students as both teachers and students andEnglish rakugo by Tadashi Ishida andTatsuya Sudo. Ishida explained his program which, in English, teaches people from other countries about Japanese culture. Through a series of workshops and sightseeing tours, the students can experience such things as the Japanese tea ceremony, wearing a kimono, playing the shamisen, staying at a ryokan, origami, calligraphy, and a trip to Ueno to visit its many museums and shrines. The applications for English teaching include writing guidebooks in English, creating and performing dialogues about the experience, and using cameras and voice recorders for listening practice. Sudo gave a brief explanation about the history of rakugo in Japan, with special attention given to three influential rakugo performers – Kairakutei Black who was a British performer, Tatekawa Danshi who created the school of rakugo that Sudo joined, and Katsura Shijaku who was the father of English rakugo. The applications for English teaching that English rakugo provides are self conversation, which is especially useful when there are no native English speakers to practice with, reading aloud, the development of presentation skills, an introduction to the Japanese students' own culture through English, and an incentive to study English. During the second half of the presentation, Sudo donned a kimono and performed three rakugo stories in English, a ghost story and two comedies. Before the performance, Sudo explained some basic rules about rakugo including the use of props and hand gestures.

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

 

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