Chapter Reports - November 2010


Fukuoka: May— Collaborative professional development through peer observation
by Christopher Stillwell . The presenter introduced the topic of peer observation and shared important ground rules for setting up observations and techniques for guiding post-observation conferences in such a way as to maximize the benefit for all parties involved. Also touched on was the prickly issue of giving peers feedback on their work. Participants acted out teacher conferences and showed how a third party conference observer can promote a deeper level of reflection. The benefits of this kind of observation were discussed including the possibility of gathering peers’ feedback on new material being tried, getting a second pair of eyes to find out more about classroom behavior, and having a partner from whom to learn a new style of teaching. The ideas presented would be beneficial to communities of teachers who want to improve their teaching through peer observation.

Reported by Aaron Gibson


Fukuoka: June— Elementary school English activities: Are we there yet? by Ann Mayeda . The presenter introduced the new guidelines for MEXT’s course of studyfor elementary school English activities and looked at the reasons for some common misunderstandings concerning this policy. The focus was on how schools are implementing or changing current programs based on their interpretation of the teaching guidelines. During discussion the audience was asked to share how activities are currently conducted at their schools and discuss how they would fit under the guidelinesusingactivities that promote a “foundation for communication.” The presentation was useful for teachers wishing to better understand the roles of HRTs, ALTs, JTEs, or NTs within the new elementary English schema.

Reported by Aaron Gibson


Gifu: March— Bilingual cognition and A practical guide to bilingualism by Chisae Kasai and Robert Gee .Gifu enjoyed a fascinating two-part presentation about bilingualism in Japan. Kasai had investigated the cultural effect of language learning; she concludes that “in a broad way, if a Japanese person goes to England and learns English, their thinking changes.”The presenter demonstrated through an interactive activity how monolingual English, monolingual Japanese, and bilingual students reacted differently when showing preferences for shapes and materials. She then outlined future research plans which included brain scans and tests to evaluate young children’s language development. After a short break, Gee gave a practical guide to bilingualism drawing on his own experiences in Japan. Gee not only focused on the positive aspects but examined some of the negative effects of bilingualism.Gee stated: “Having options can mean increasing complications such as finding appropriate schooling or balancing dual citizenship. Every society has its own problems. The way to do it, I think isn’t to run away, I think you have to work at creating your own culture.”

Reported by Brent Simmonds


Gifu: July— Materials production and evaluation for young learners: Six principles by Catherine Littlehale Oti . How can we help young learners learn? What should we be doing with kids? What kind of materials should be presented and how do we present them? Oti described the six principles of material production and evaluation. She gave a description of each principle in her framework. Materials should have content that is relevant, support learners’ development, consider different learning styles, care for the affective needs of the learners, help learners develop learning-to-learn skills, and create autonomous learners. The forum discussed these elements. The desire fora student-centred approach was central to the conclusions drawn. The problem of dealing with “the powers that be” was raised. Young learner specialists and those in non-normativeteaching situations both felt they benefited from this rewarding and enjoyable presentation.

Reported by Brent Simmonds


Gunma: July— Adaptation of CEFR to the English curriculum in Japanese higher education by Noriko Nagai . This presentation was enlightening for many of us who had limited knowledge of the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). In general, CEFR is a way to assess communicative language proficiency in terms of five communicative activities using “can do” statements. Nagai explained that CEFR has a role to play when designing curricula and courses because the designers must be concrete about what learners need to learn, how they learn, the goals, and the expected outcomes. She described the process of designing English curricula through her experience at Ibaraki University, the first step of which was to identify the problems in the current program. Along the way, she and her team made adaptations to CEFR to suit the environment, with the result that the whole program has clear objectives, coherent structure in the curriculum and classes, and a unified evaluation system.

Reported by Lori Ann Desrosiers


Gunma : August Theory and practice of L2 teaching by various .The workshop featured David Newby from Graz U. in Austria. Newby introduced the European Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL). This teacher training tool helps future language teachers assess and reflect on their progress using 195 distinct can-do statements. Newby co-created EPOSTL as an extension of independent learning principles set forth by the Common European Framework of Reference for language (CEFR) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP). Newby’s second presentation addressed some perceived problems with integrating grammar education into communicative classrooms. Newby criticized recent trends in communicative teaching which either treat grammar as an afterthought, or disregard explicit grammar education completely. Newby’s proposed solution is to focus student attention on language functions, which he terms notions . By focusing on notions , students can concentrate on using necessary grammatical forms to express their own ideas. Five chapter members also gave presentations this year. David Gann’s presentation, Critically minded podcast: theory and application , began by clarifying what is and what is not critical thinking. Gann then played an excerpt showing how podcasts can be used to teach students critical thinking terminology. Fergus O’Dwyer spoke about Can-do statements in language education in Japan . O’Dwyer showed that using can-do statements in self-assessment, students can identify learning targets and monitor their progress. While the CEFR and ELP contain can-do statements, O’Dwyer warned against using these statements without first adapting them to a student’s individual language learning situation. Wayne Pennington’s presentation, An extensive reading program using the Moodle reader module , posited extensive reading infeasible as a class component, as insufficient class time makes it “supplemental reading” rather than extensive reading. This year Pennington has started two classes dedicated exclusively to extensive reading. Thanks to the Moodle reader module’s automatic record keeping, Pennington is able to concentrate on orienting his students to the goals of the program. Atsushi Iida and Asuka Iijima gave a presentation entitled Use of haiku in Japanese classrooms:Ttheory to practice . Iijima presented some benefits of using literature translated from the student’s L1 to the target language. She found students were able to use cultural references as comprehension aides. Iida then showed how haiku had been a useful part of his ESL classes. The short form of haiku necessitates brevity from the writer, which in turn lends itself to numerous different interpretations from the reader.

Reported by John Larson


Ibaraki: May— Creativity and p lay by various . Creative m anagement and l earning by Tim Murphey , Composing h aiku for c ommunicative p urposes by Atsushi Iida, and Play p roduction in the ESL/EFL c lass by Samuel Nfor . Murphey introduced several innovative ways to promote learning and aid class management including speed, song, dictation, and conversational routines. Iida demonstrated how EFL writing instructors can use haiku for developing communicative skills and to bring a greater sense of voice to students’ writing. Through a detailed examination of the use of raw script, rehearsals and performance, Nfor gave us insight into the elements of the dramatic process that support language acquisition.

Reported by Martin Pauly


Kitakyushu: September— My share: Internet resources by Malcolm Swanson , Jose Cruz and Greg Holloway . We had another great session of experienced teachers and expert computer users who are continually finding and testing what’s new and applicable to language teaching out there on the net—and who provided us with some succinct, accessible explanations. Swanson explained what sort of resources he has found appropriate to use online in real time in the classroom for the various subjects he teaches and cautioned against trying to sign in a whole class at once. Cruz uses the Internet outside of the classroom to find “real English” for reading and listening practice, because not everyone speaks like the voice actors on language CDs. Holloway accesses the web to download materials for younger students, as well to find support for his views when arguing with colleagues. It was an extremely useful and highly informative evening of introductions to leading-edge technology too numerous to list here; please see the meeting reports section of our website for fuller descriptions.

Reported by Dave Pite


Kyoto: July— Teaching gender-related issues in the classroom by Folake Abass and Robert Ó’Móchain . Abass addressed gender stereotypes and exploring ways to encourage students to develop the critical intelligence necessary to move beyond culturally inherited stereotypes. Describing research findings, Abass convincingly showed that students reacted insightfully to issues that were new to them regarding gender stereotyping found in advertising in Japan. Student output in grammar, and perhaps length, seemed above their expected level, suggesting that the activities had motivated them to aim high. Abass’ methodology helped avoid teacher influence on student perceptions of stereotypes. Ó’Móchain discussed representations of masculinities on Japanese television and how such observations can be reported in EFL classrooms to build gender-awareness. Ó’Móchain’s results indicated that students became involved in the issues, comparing current representations of masculinities with representations common in previous decades. This conversation, challenging as it is to mature adults, appeared to touch a chord among university level learners as evidenced by their writing. Discussion ranged from expectations in the 1950s to current masculinities such as grass-eating males or 草食男性(soushokudansei).

Reported by Will Baber


Nagasaki: June— Questionnaire development workshop by Keita Kikuchi .Kikuchi focused on the need for questionnaire designers to identify good constructs such as latent psychological variables and to write questions that can provide measures of such constructs. Participants were asked to examine a list of constructs and questions Kikuchi had used in the course of his research on the causes of learner demotivation. A stimulating discussion ensued on overlaps between some of the constructs and on what the questions really measured. After participants had critiqued his constructs and questions, Kikuchi asked them to come up with their own constructs for a hypothetical survey on the causes of learner demotivation in communicative English classes in Japan. Such constructs were then discussed at length.

Reported by Sergio Mazzarelli


Nagasaki: July— Testing the new TOEIC speaking and writing test and W riting fluency: What is it, and is it necessary? by Terry Fellner . In the first of two presentations, Fellner gave background information about the goals, claims, structure, and content of the TOEIC speaking and writing test, before sharing his own experience of taking the test. His results, and the feedback received, led him to suggest that the largely American business schema used in the test may lead to difficulties in accurately assessing the performance of, and the provision of useful feedback for, Japanese test-takers. In his second presentation, Fellner introduced the topical concept of writing fluency, arguing that it as yet lacks a clear definition and is therefore difficult to determine, and that measures of writing fluency need to take into account not just the amount of writing, but also lexical frequency. Post-presentation discussion focused on the role of the TOEIC test, and particularly on writing fluency, with participants questioning not only the extent of practical, real-world writing tasks that require fluency, but also the value of the concept itself.

Reported by Richard Hodson


Nagoya: July― Materials production and evaluation: Six principles by Catherine Littlehale Oki . Oki showed how to evaluate a course book through discussion according to its physical characteristics, layout and what comes with the book, theoretical characteristics, what ideas about language learning or learning in general the book seems to reflect, productive characteristics, and how its linguistic content, activities, and physical designs are created. Oki stressed the importance of balancing the people who make decisions on education, materials, and theory. Giving six principles on materials and some desirable material components, she asked participants to discuss and rate the importance of each of the principles: Materials should (1) have content relevant to learners; (2) support learners’ language development; (3) consider different learning styles; (4) care for the affective (psychological) needs of learners; (5) help learners to develop learning-to-learn skills; and (6) help create autonomous learners. Lastly, Oki gave two recommendations: get feedback from students, by including a line for them to write comments freely, and use your own materials, making sure the activity involves the skill you are aiming to practice and trying it out on one class before making a lot of copies.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


Niigata: July— Teaching haiku for communicative purposes in a Japanese EFL college writing classroom by Atsushi Iida . Sharing his own classroom teaching experience, Iida demonstrated how and why he uses haiku in his EFL writing classes. To begin, he discussed student perceptions of writing, and how many of them list writing as a lower priority in their English studies for various reasons. Through writing a haiku, Iida spoke about how students can find their voice to speak more freely without being as concerned about the restrictions of grammar as they are in other forms of writing. Iida then went through three stages of building a haiku as he teaches them in his own classrooms: the “collecting information” stage, the “generating ideas” or free writing stage, and finally the “producing haiku” stage. Through the process, we must keep the syllable structure of the haiku at 5-7-5, using a seasonal reference, and a cutting word ( kireji ). Lastly, Iida stressed that haiku is an excellent way for students to practice writing without having to worry about being right or wrong, as well as being reader-centered with multiple interpretations.

Reported by Kevin M. Maher


Oita: May— Developing personalized portfolio rubrics for the EFL classroom by Steve Quasha . The presenter demonstrated how he uses portfolio assessment as a core part of his communicative English courses, and as a creative alternative to the traditional paper test. Quasha related assessment to student motivation, citing Nunan’s humanistic approach to language education. He argued that intrinsic motivation is vital for language students, but that this is largely dependent on the assessment style and it should be “meaningful and self-initiating.” Quasha advocated a move away from the hurdle of traditional testing towards the portfolio, outlining the numerous benefits of the portfolio in terms of promoting critical thinking, encouraging reflection and accountability, providing opportunities for peer review and stimulating greater interest and effort from students for whom language learning may not necessarily be a priority. The presenter encouraged participants to brainstorm their own ideas for grading rubrics and he introduced a number of ideas including the use of pictures and song lyrics. The workshop was well attended and the participants were rewarded with a highly stimulating and practical workshop.

Reported by Steven Pattison


Okayama: June— Practical business English for lower level learners by Grant Trew . The biggest challenges faced by lower level learners concern lack of vocabulary, confidence, and motivation. While these apply to all learners, those in business generally want specialized skill sets, but actually need general ones. Trew demonstrated how the Business Venture series helps overcome these obstacles. Business classes should focus on commonalities shared by workers in a variety of positions. Phone language, introductions, and socializing/entertainment are examples of relevant topics. In addition to the language, cultural differences need to be understood by business learners. Trew recommends keeping the focus and aims of lessons simple and clear. A good deal of vocabulary support, the use of graphics, and easily understood instructions help learners to gain confidence and maintain motivation. Scaffolding activities with achievable goals, use of familiar names and places, and repeated practice of models all help language acquisition while sustaining learner interest. The speaker listed a number of factors that can work against these practices. These include specific company goals that are unrealistic, short term courses, and the inability of learners to attend all lessons due to work commitments.

Reported by Richard Lemmer


Okayama: July— Teaching a p rocess a pproach to p aragraph w riting by Peter Neff . This participatory presentation began with a brief discussion on the role of academic writing and how attendees teach it to Japanese learners. Neff then explained methods used in the three stages of process writing: invention strategies, brainstorming methods, and post-brainstorming. These concrete skills can be acquired in writing classes. Differences between academic writing in Japanese and English were elicited and discussed. The speaker stressed the importance of learners’ understanding and use of a traditional paragraph structure emphasizing topic sentences with a limiting idea to guide paragraph development. Neff provides his students with a checklist to be used before submitting work. Feedback is approached in two streams: local (spelling, grammar, word choice, etc.) and global (unity, cohesion, clarity, etc.). Limiting feedback is essential as it may become counterproductive. Peer review, part of Neff’s PhD. research, is also utilized at later stages of the course. This is done in either English or Japanese in order to provide for greater autonomy, a better sense of audience, and social support. Students overwhelmingly preferred reviews communicated via computer as more helpful than other methods.

Reported by Richard Lemmer


Omiya: August— Teaching English to young learners: strengthening teachers to strengthen students by v arious . This four-hour event featuring three speakers drew out a lot of new faces. Junko Machida , from ESTEEM started with a presentation on implementing a thematic teaching approach based on global education. Through a mock lesson, the speaker demonstrated how she introduces global issues to elementary school students and helps them learn the English language at the same time. The second presenter, Rumiko Kido , gave a presentation on teaching phonics to children. After briefly sharing her rationale for using phonics with young learners, the audience was treated to a wide variety of phonics activities. The presentation was well received by the audience. The final presenter was Aleda Krause of the JALT Teaching Children SIG. Her presentation, From listening to speaking , explored the need for the development of aural skills and confidence before expecting students to produce language. The audience took part in a demonstration of a 5-step process created by Krause to take students from listening to speaking. To foster an understanding of the pedagogy from a students’ point of view, the demonstrations took place in German!

Reported by Brad Semans


Osaka: July— Teaching in English: challenges for high school by v arious . This event was hosted by Kansai University of International Studies (KUIS), and featured keynote speaker Yasuyuki Mizohata and featured speaker Atushi Iida . In addition, fourteen other presenters shared their experience with teaching English in English. Topics included motivation, learner centered classrooms, developing autonomy, the role of the teacher, and technology in the language classroom. Of particular interest was the success KUIS has had in implementing English-only instruction, and the requirement that students use English not only on campus, but off campus as well. Moreover, a small fair trade booth featuring Thai-made cloth was popular, and drew attention to economic disparities in Southeast Asia.

Reported by Douglas Meyer


Sendai: July— Creative use of silence by Joseph Shaules . For many teachers, silence in a classroom can be terrifying. It might mean your class is not well organized and managed. However, Shaules proved that it does not have to be true. He described how we should interpret and use silence to achieve better language classes and help the students improve their language skills. By sharing a concept called mindscaping or managing silence, and Caleb Gattegno’s concept of ogdens and the role of silence in language planning, Shaules clearly explained to us that it is critical for language teachers to focus not only on what students are doing but also on what is going on inside of them while they are silent. For example, they might need silence to process the input that teachers gave them. The workshop consisted of a lecture on the topic and some practical classroom techniques using sound and silence. Participants were satisfied with the useful and practical knowledge they gained at this workshop.

Reported by Soichi Ota


Sendai: August— The first days of school: Being effective in the classroom by Sendai JALT . This meeting was planned after the popularity of our meeting in August 2009 in which we watched a documentary about a teacher and his class in the U.S. and then discussed our teaching principles and practices. This year, we chose a video of Harry Wong’s international bestseller, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher , and another video of an American teacher who follows Wong’s principles. We watched a few sections from the videos and after watching each section, we discussed Wong’s ideas and strategies. In the latter half of the session, we also had a very active group discussion on our own ideas and strategies for the first day classes. All participants eagerly shared tricks, lesson plans, and activities for creating better lessons for the first day and the classes following.

Reported by Soichi Ota


Shinshu: September— Invisible writing by Peter Ross , Older students as both teachers and learners by Tadashi Ishida , and The JALT Pan Sig Conference by Andy Boon and Eric Skier . Ross showed that by inserting a piece of writing paper, a piece of carbon copy paper, and another piece of writing paper into a clear plastic pocket, students could write on top of the plastic pocket with a pencil and not be able to see what they were writing. This invisible writing was designed to shift the focus from students’ fear of mistakes and other obstacles to more fluent writing which reflects their “inner voice and imagery” and set them on the path to process writing. Ishida talked about PEACE (People’s Educational And Cultural Exchange) in Taito-ku, Tokyo, through which mature students both learn and teach by involving tourists and foreign residents in cultural activities such as wearing kimonos, playing the shamisen, and carrying o-mikoshis. Boon and Skier, who chaired the seventh and eighth JALT PanSig conferences, provided background and procedural information for the 10th conference, Discovering Paths to Fluency , which will be held 21-22 May 2011 in Matsumoto.

Reported by Mary Aruga and Mark Brierley


Shizuoka: August— Motivation and demotivation by Keita Kikuchi . About a dozen people came to hear Kikuchi talk about his ongoing research on motivation and demotivation. He started the presentation by going over some existing motivation frameworks, such as self-efficacy , attribution , and goal orientation theories, as well as Dörnyei’s list of motivational strategies for teachers to use in the classroom. Then Kikuchi outlined some demotivating factors, such as peer pressure, test pressure, and self-esteem issues. In the second half of the talk he showed us the questionnaire he used with hundreds of high school students, and we deconstructed the questionnaire items in groups and came up with other possible items. This was an interesting and useful workshop, creating good discussion and personal reflections about psychological factors which affect our students and their studies.

Reported by Christopher Madden


Tokyo―July: Surely you gest: Gestures, communicative competence SLA by Nicholas O. Jungheim and Human Rights in India by T. Ravi Kumar . Jungheimintroduced a line of research concerning gesture acquisition along with a framework for evaluating language learners’ non-verbal behaviors. Utilizing video examples of gestures used in real communication, he showed how they are integrated with speech and are more than simple signs. This presentation offered an opportunity for participants to think more deeply about gesture and its role in second language acquisition and language teaching.Human rights activist Ravi Kumar, founder of the Association of Relief Volunteers (ARV), spoke about the ARV mission in Dalit villages in India. Ravi’s visit was coordinated by current and former JETs who are members of NPO Longitude. Ravi spoke about his efforts to improve access to state-run schools, the availability of after-school English classes, and the increasing ability of Dalits to qualify for higher-level education. A lively discussion about the villagers’ and volunteers’ conceptions of and perspectives on human rights rounded out the evening.

Reported by Akie Nyui and Jim McKinley

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