Chapter Reports - September 2010


AKITA: MayUnderstanding students’ non-verbal behavior: What does that silence mean, anyway?by Peter Ross. There can be many reasons why students in a language learning classroom remain silent when asked a question. Ross’ presentation and workshop showed the participants how to decode and interpret the silence in the room. By analyzing the physical behaviors of students teachers can determine what they are thinking and adjust accordingly. After an explanation of the topic and brainstorming session, Ross led the participants through a challenging exercise analyzing physical behaviors in order to determine what their fellow group members were thinking. According to Ross, everyone has “tell” signs that will give another person clues as to what someone is “really” thinking. After that Ross showed video of a study he conducted on this subject. After the video, participants asked questions ranging from behaviorist psychology to cultural revelations on human relationships. Participants found this presentation engaging and fun.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

AKITA: June—Exploring learnerbeliefs through metaphorbyJoe Sykes. This was a presentation/workshop that was divided into two parts. During the first part, Sykes presented background material on the use of metaphors as a tool to elicit a deeper response from students when asked to describe their learner beliefs. The use of metaphors can tap into the student’s subconscious feelings and bring them to the surface. The second half of the presentation was a workshop in which the audience was divided into groups of three and then they generated specific metaphors based on pictures. A discussion of the results succeeded in facilitating a higher level of reflection.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

AKITA: July—Extensive reading and ICT contents: Guidinguniversity students to be better English readersbyNatsumi Onaka. Onaka started with an introduction to the problems in Japanese high school English education and then went on to detail her voluntary Reading Marathon program at Iwate University International Center. Extensive Reading methodology for the program was then elucidated. The remainder of the talk focused on the interactive MSUERT project to deliver pre- and post- reading tests over mobile devices, and how the Reading Marathon program is being integrated with it. A lively discussion took place at the end of the presentation.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

GUNMA: June—Using literature circles in a content-based course by David Williams. In this practical workshop, Williams explained adapting fiction-based literature circles to non-fiction environments. He started with an overview of what literature circles are and then discussed the journey leading up to his current practice. In Content-Based Literature Circles (CBLC) the teacher is a facilitator while students work in a group, each with a particular role: group leader; summarizer; word master or culture connector. Students receive a reading and over the next few weeks discuss the reading from the perspective of their role. The group leader poses discussion questions, the word master chooses important words, the culture connector points out cultural similarities and differences, and the summarizer wraps up the topic. After each round, students make a poster session. In a 15-week semester, three rounds can be accomplished. According to his survey, students’ preference for jobs ranked culture connector highest followed by group leader. Williams discussed the benefits and pitfalls of CBLC, and welcomed comments by participants who were clearly working out how they could apply CBLC to their own teaching situations.

Reported by Lori Ann Desrosiers

HAMAMATSU: April—Types, tokens, and patterns: Beginning corpus linguisticsby Matt Smith. In this presentation, Smith showed how easily a computer corpus can help us see patterns in language. Some dictionaries now show the most common patterns that a given word takes on in discourse, based on corpus data, such as the word “decide: V wh-; V to V” with V indicating a verb. So the word “decide” often appears before interrogatives, such as in “decide whether …” or before to-infinitives, such as “decide to call …” This information can help both teachers and students see the patterns of how words are used to express meaning. Matt gave the audience a number of examples of concordances with which we could identify patterns and their implications. He suggested three main sources: The Bank of English, British National Corpus (BNC), and Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) as large, reliable computer sites that can be accessed. The presentation was well prepared, well informed, and to the point.

Reported by Dan Frost

IWATE: May—Understanding students’ non-verbal behavior: What does that silence mean, anyway?by Peter Ross. Ross explained that the feedback teachers give to students in ESL and EFL classrooms has been researched in various ways. Far less attention has been paid, however, to both the feedback that students in such classes give to teachers moment to moment, and how teachers respond to such feedback in planning the next steps in their lesson “online”, i.e. in real time (Gaies, 1983). Participants had the opportunity to observe videotaped samples of classroom interaction. We then brainstormed categories for classifying various types of feedback that commonly occur in the classroom. We also practiced applying the analysis in the context of the observed lessons as the basis for selecting the next step in the teaching sequence.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

IWATE: June—The Japanese way of thinking as expressed in the two opposing TEFL ideas: “Kyooyoo-shugi” vs “Jitsuyoo-shugi”by Takashi Yoshida. Yoshida discussed Japanese ways of thinking by explaining what underlies two TEFL ideas: teaching English as a skills subject or Jitsuyoo-shugi teaching, as opposed to teaching English as a content subject, or Kyooyoo-shugi teaching. He first introduced cultural and linguistic problems that seem to work more or less negatively in learning English in Japan. Next he focused on the sociopolitical and mental environments in terms of the two styles. The sociopolitical environment touches on language policies of the world and where Japanese TEFL policy stands in relation to them. The mental environment deals with various types of motivations observed in learning English in Japan. Finally, admitting that the TEFL pendulum has swung too close to Jitsuyoo-shugi pole since the introduction of the New Course of Study authorized by the Ministry of Education, he proposed “reading skills” and justified this decision in a search for compatibility between these two opposing TEFL ideas.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

KITAKYUSHU: JuneImproving reading speed and comprehensionbyKen Gibson. Seeing a student’s TOEIC scores improve dramatically with non-stop reading led Gibson to further research, which convinced him of its validity as a way to ensure greater retention of material. Reading too slowly results in not getting enough information to engage the whole mind productively. Speeding up results in more understanding because more information is immediately available to build better images to effectively process input. A physical challenge, reading speed needs to be addressed before comprehension. Skip the painstaking and disruptive process of looking up all new vocabulary—a lot can be understood through context if the input is fast enough to engage the whole mind. Fifteen to twenty contacts with a word are enough to get it from short-term to long-term memory, which is the best place for it. Introduced first at a company and then at a university, Gibson’s program starts with testing reading speed and comprehension. This leads to explaining and discussing their relationship and introduction of strategies for improving both simultaneously, as well as techniques for imaging, predicting, and dealing with unknown vocabulary. As an immediate indicator of marked improvement, cloze testing is very motivational, as well as useful for course grading.

Reported by Dave Pite

KITAKYUSHU: JulyDictionary use panelbyMark Gibson, Eiki Hattori, Go Yoshizawa and David Latz. Instructors at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of English language education in the Kitakyushu area shared their successes, failures, and insights on using dictionaries in their classes. Frustrated at the lack of appropriate elementary level bilingual dictionaries, Gibson made his own and his students know that every new word they learn is in it. This is very useful in the development of a unique curriculum in his private school. Hattori and his colleagues have JHS students create their own dictionaries to prepare for vocabulary tests. New words and phrases are included with phonetic signs, accent markings, and Japanese definitions. Yoshizawa showed three different kinds of electronic dictionaries used in his high school and explained some of their merits, such as the “jump” feature to explain the meaning of an unknown word used in the definition of another; and the word quiz as an ice-breaker to start a class. Electronic dictionaries are also very useful for rephrasing English sentences. Latz gives his university classes 15 weekly vocabulary quizzes which mimic the TOEIC Bridge Test in requiring more than one usage of a word, preparing them well for that test.

Reported by Dave Pite

KYOTO: March—Troubleshooting/My share. (1) Thoughts on teaching large classes: Four tips and four activities by Julian Pigott. Pigott encouraged teachers to be positive role models for students and educate rather than teach; to be organized by making use of clear explanation, established routine, and grading rubrics; to make an effort to get to know students on a personal level; and to aim for a balance between fun and serious content. Finally, the presenter introduced four successful activities he uses. (2) Mobile phones for language learning byPaul Evans. Evans spoke briefly about how Japanese students use cell phones for personal use. He then showed his webpage which was filled with numerous links to online resources, literature reviews, and samples of what other educators are doing with mobile phones in their classrooms. (3)Effective groupwork methodology—4 role rotation groupsby Ted Bonnah. Bonnah outlined his groupwork-based classroom management style. Learners within a group take on one of four roles in rotation: leader, speaker, writer, and helper. Groups discuss a topic and report to the whole class. (4) Wringing the text by Carl Nommensen. Nommensen introduced two lively whole-class activities he uses to expand on content in textbook reading exercises.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

KYOTO: April—Back to basics in ELT by David Barker.According to Barker, the pendulum may be swinging back towards the middle of the SLA spectrum as more and more teachers are recognizing the importance of seemingly “outdated” teaching styles. In line with A Critical Look at the Communicative Approach (Swan, 1985), Barker argued for a return to the basics, lamenting that Communicative Language Teaching, while formidable because of its focus on fluency, is lacking in that it does not give learners any sort of language to work with. He argued for an inclusion of L1 in all L2 pursuits, explicit teaching of grammar, focused deliberate learning, and error correction by the teacher. In addition, Barker commented on several overlooked truths of successful language learning, including language learning is time consuming, requires hard work and commitment, and is mostly influenced by what the learner does outside the classroom. The issues raised stimulated lively discussion during the Q&A session that followed.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

NAGOYA:May―The communicative classroom: What can be taught?by Alastair Graham-Marr. Graham-Marr’s purpose is to correct a few misconceptions on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). Grammar should be taught reactively and communicatively and is acquired at the syntactic and semantic interface. Writing can be taught communicatively. Input is believed to be critical but output leads to fluency and accuracy, and classes should match the students, not the curriculum. As a textbook publisher, Graham-Marr has analyzed his books. His textbooks have homework and other self-study hints. Communicative competence includes grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse, and strategic competence. Involvement strategies are often culturally specific. Some questions on privacy are rude in some countries, where conventions are different. Raising awareness of degrees of obtrusiveness is important. What make listening difficult are weak vowels, disappearing sounds, and syllables. Listening for the gist and getting the basic ideas lead to better understanding. His textbooks include vocabulary notebooks that are written according to his concept of effective teaching with spotlights on speaking, listening, practice, memory, activities, homework, and language production.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

NAGOYA: June—Designing and implementing discipline-specific projects to motivate non-English undergraduatesbyPaul Moritoshi. Moritoshi explained the pros and cons of using EFL projects and the need for a framework for project design and implementation. A framework ensures that the project is well-conceived and clarifies things for students. Linking English with students’ major studies and future vocation can enhance their interest and motivation. Its seven steps are (1) decide the target content, (2) link it to wider context, (3) write a comprehensive project brief for students and explain it to them, (4) provide a model to students, (5) pre-teach/review the target content, (6) provide tutorial support for the duration of the project, and (7) student presentation of their projects. Lastly, Moritoshi let us make our own projects. He suggests that the objective should be for graduates to use English in the workplace and that the project can address this need in a creative, interactive, communicative, and enjoyable way.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

NIIGATA: AprilStatistics for Language Teachersby David Coulson. Sharing his extensive research experience, Coulson demonstrated some of the most fundamental statistics tests most commonly used in language teaching research. Several of the main items discussed were standard deviation, t-tests, ANOVA, and testing outliers in data sets. In regards to outliers, Coulson explained a test of outliers called the Smirnov Grubbs method which allows us to know whether divergent values are actually outliers or not. In addition to the above statistics, Coulson also discussed understanding correlations between two sets of numbers, for example, the complex relationship between reading scores on TOEIC and the degree of development of word recognition skill in learners. Ultimately, it was an informative session on how to apply statistics in our own personal research.

Reported by Kevin M. Maher

OKAYAMA: May—Self-access language learning as classroom-based instruction byGarold Murray. Murray’s main purpose was to describe a university course focusing on self-access, so he started by discussing general principles of self-access language learning. He once believed the operative word in self-access was access but now believes the operative term is self. Learners benefit best from self-access learning if they can first reach an understanding of themselves as people and as learners. This understanding results in greater autonomy and motivation to seek out individual ways to learn. The classroom—especially one dedicated to self-access learning—then becomes an environment allowing learners to “take charge” of their learning. Murray showed several steps he takes in class, such as developing personal learning plans from questionnaires, giving mini-lessons that help students learn how to learn, and collecting daily learning logs and portfolios. Throughout his presentation he asked participants to describe or imagine their own classroom utilization of self-access ideas, from individual research projects to entire courses. To conclude, he emphasized that teachers must face the fact that language learning is primarily dependent on learners. A self-access learning classroom should help students help themselves.

Reported by Scott Gardner

OMIYA: June—My share activities for young learners.For the second year in a row, Omiya JALT and Saitama ETJ held a joint session. Three presenters introduced activities suited to young learners. From Omiya JALT, Ivan Botev presented a communication activity from Saitama City’s conversation program, John Finucane shared techniques for helping young learners make the most of their adjective resources, and Calvin Ogata shared his techniques for using music in the classroom. From ETJ Saitama, Graham Finch shared his use of sign language in the classroom, Sanae Kawamoto presented several activities to help students speak out, and finally Shaun Leyland discussed thoughts on how to deal with students’ mistakes.

Reported by Brad Semans

OSAKA: JuneTech day. The Osaka chapter’s Tech Day was held on the beautiful campus of Hannan University, whichwas not only kind enough to lend their facility but also use of their computer systems, allowing attendees to practice techniques or access sites referenced in real time. This year there were 34 presenters: Troy Guze, Zane Ritchie, Jean-Paul DuQuette, Frank Cheang, Bill White, Michael Herke, Brian Teaman, Nathaniel Carney, Michael Wilkins, John C. Larson, Josh Wilson, Mark Donnellan, David Telega, Matthew Sanders, Jake Tobiyama, Joshua Cohen, Craig Gamble, Justin Harris, Greg Rouault, Myles Grogan, Jessica Draper, Daniel Parry, Paul Evans, J. Paul Marlowe, Andrew Sowter, Cameron Romney, Michael I. Salovaara, Brian Wojtowicz, Douglas Meyer, Neal Chambers, Richard Miller, Steven Silsbee, andMatt Azizi. Topics included ideas and resources for applying new technologies such Apple’s iPad and iPhone for uses ranging from grade books to stopwatches. Web-based resources and support were alsodiscussed, including help with navigating confusing web-based interfaces and applicationsfor use with a USB in the classroom. Finally, there was a presentation about the ever-important topic of publishing.

Reported By Bryan Gerard

SENDAI: April—My share: classroom management.This meeting was a sequel to the successful meeting on the same topic last year. Matt Wilson led an active group discussion based on his own experiences. His ideas covered many aspects of classroom management, from very basic manners for teachers to follow such as remembering the students’ names to how to manage challenging children in the class. Gerald Muirhead shared a list of do’s and don’ts in classroom management. His list included some ideas for creating a better learning environment and also tips to develop a strong rapport with students. Tomomi O’Flahertytalked about her belief that having freedom of choice in classes is helpful. She gained this belief from her own English learning experience at university. She described her own use of this freedom of choice strategy in her lessons and how it improves her students’ attitude and performance. Charles Adamson shared his unique strategy using different spots in a classroom as “stages” to give physical clues for the students to know what kinds of activities they are supposed to do. One example would be if the teacher explains something, he always stands on the same spot so the students eventually learn what the spot means.

Reported by Soichi Ota

SENDAI: May—ELT publishing and youbySteve King andJohn Wiltshire.Many English teachers in Japan are interested in publishing books but have no idea how to do it. King from Pearson Longman discussed the history of English textbooks and current trends in ELT publishing. His presentation predicted the increased popularity of modern technology devices like iPad and Kindle and their potential influence over the publishing business. Wiltshire shared his experience as an author of textbooks. His presentation discussed the failure he had at the beginning of his career in publishing and a detailed explanation of how authors like him write and publish their books. His publishing experience ranged from self-publishing to work with Japanese and international companies. Following the presentations, a panel discussion was held. Through the discussion the audience could acquire further knowledge of publishing and gain some useful tips for getting their own work published.

Reported by Soichi Ota

SENDAI: June—Voice training for teachers: Exercises, applications, and tipsby Claudine Marais. Most teachers know very little about their most valuable teaching tool: their voice. Marais, coming from a drama background, helped enlighten us as we examined the human voice from an anatomical perspective, and then practiced body awareness techniques that helped highlight the interrelatedness of the voice with the rest of the body. This information was balanced out with practical exercises involving articulation and voice projection, something teachers could immediately take with them to their classroom situations. Participants left the workshop with a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the human voice as well as numerous oral strategies which can be used in most teaching environments.

Reported by Matthew Wilson

SHINSHU: May—The 21st Suwako charity walk. At our annual community outreach event, over one hundred participants walked halfway around Lake Suwa, accompanied by Shinshu University researchers who provided hands-on explanations of the lake’s ecosystem. The walk was followed by a forum which included a talk on the lake’s food chain by graduate student Tomohiro Izawa and a bilingual quiz on the lake’s environment. Music was provided by the Matsumoto Jammers. This event provided a chance for teachers to mingle with students and people from all walks of life, as well as to acquire more knowledge about the environment which may be used in the classroom.

Reported by Mary Aruga

SHIZUOKA: April—My share. This meeting featured presenters from the University of Shizuoka. Jonathan deHaan talked about how a strategic interaction program is run at his university. He gave an overview of Di Pietro’s Strategic Interaction Sequence, and then showed how his students prepare for upcoming role-plays by brainstorming acceptable outcomes and possible strategies for reaching them. Students also try to anticipate what might be said and think of appropriate responses. In addition, they think of useful words and phrases to accomplish the various speech functions required. DeHaan also showed how a class website was not only used to manage the videos and transcripts, but also to make a learning resource. Chris Madden showed a series of activities such as Katakana de Asobou, which he uses at the outset of his communication classes to help reduce speaker anxiety and to improve fluency and listening skills. Madden also talked about his ongoing research into the communication equation, which explains that perfect pronunciation is not necessary, but that spoken variations within certain parameters are often understandable. Kent Rhoads talked about an activity called The Fishbowl Technique for utilizing peer feedback in speaking activities, in which 2 students listen while 2 students talk. Included in this technique is a flexible rubric for pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar points, and other categories, which can be adapted for each teaching situation.

Reported by Adam Murray

SHIZUOKA: June—Getting back to basics in ELT byDavid Barker. About 15 people came to hear David Barker ( give a passionate and provocative presentation about the “elephant in the room” regarding the Japanese approach to English education: too little time spent learning English. He also recommended that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater with respect to some of the pedagogically useful elements of previously popular teaching methods. Barker’s new book, An A - Z of Common English Errors for Japanese Learners (English Edition), was published just two days before the talk, and he spent some time illustrating how students can come to understand their grammatical and pragmatic errors through reading his latest book, or some of his other work. The discussion went about 30 minutes overtime but nobody seemed to mind, as most of us stayed to further share ideas with the speaker.

Reported by Christopher Madden

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