Chapter Reports - May 2010


Hokkaido: January—A teacher training course for teachers of young childrenby

MaryVirgil-Uchida. Virgil-Uchida got off to a dynamic start by demonstrating a variety of activities and games that she uses in her classes. Since she presented these in a fishbowl style, attendees had the option of participating in, or simply observing, a variety of activities based on using the classic Mr. Potato Head toy to review body parts and simple sentences. Several non-competitive (and non-dangerous) games using pom-poms to review colors and numbers were also demonstrated. To finish off the first hour, participants brainstormed ways to adapt a song to use in a lesson. Simple melodies that would appeal to children worked the best. Virgil-Uchida has several years of experience in teaching the practical half of a two-semester university course in TEFL for students who hope to teach children. In the second hour she spoke about how she set up the course in a way that maximized the time available to teach many of the techniques that a teacher of children needs to know. She also discussed textbooks and possible evaluation procedures. Attendees left with a practical handout that had many more ideas for games and activities than we were able to cover in the presentation.

Reported by Wilma Luth

Iwate: DecemberUsing TVcommercials as language teaching toolsbyPhilip McCasland. McCasland presented a variety of pedagogical uses for TV commercialsand then demonstrated how they can be incorporated into discussion, critical thinking, role play, and writing activities. The technology required is basic: a computer, MP4 player and TV monitor. It was enlightening to discuss the creative use of these readilyaccessible materials with the presenterand otherparticipants. Attendees found it interesting to discover the potential of using TV commercials as a way to introduce different intercultural perspectives in the classroom.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

Kitakyushu: FebruaryCALL in the classroom: Possibilities and outcomesbyMalcolm Swanson andPaul Collett. Collett and Swanson gave us an inspirational couple of hours regarding Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) inside and outside the classroom, integrating students’ lives ever more closely with using English in functional and fun ways. Social networking with Facebook and micro-blogging on Twitter, along with all their followers and competitors, are big, and everyone is using them already anyway—but there can be hassles and dangers, so why not use their concepts and the services subsequently developed and design your own system to exploit this opportunity for authentic communicative language practice? These two experts walked us through the basics of various networking set-ups—pointing out further potential with more sophisticated management, which for a small monthly fee can all be done for you. Keeping up with current events on a personal and global level is attractive to most people, however it can be de-motivating if students find themselves unable to keep up with the responses and are unwilling to have their mistakes floating around in cyberspace forever—excellent reasons to set up a closed network for your classroom. The good news is that Swanson and Collett are willing to help you do that.

Reported by Dave Pite

Kitakyushu: MarchUsing manga translation for deeper understanding in the language classroom by Robert S. Murphy. TRIDENT (Triangular Denary System for Translation Disparity) is a triangular grid devised by Robert Murphy as a tool for making such dimensions of language as uniqueness vs. universality and figurativeness vs. literalness more tangible for students. Within minutes we had grasped the use of the grid and were able to assign words from a text to each of the nodes. Recent brain research from Harvard has shown that emotional connection is as effective as repetition in moving learned material into long-term memory and Murphy argued that manga provide that kind of emotional connection for students. If you accept Lange and Piaget’s premise that we are all cultural beings and that language is the quintessential expression of culture, it makes sense to incorporate occasional translation exercises into TEFL lessons. In the Kitakyushu dialect cartoon with which we experimented, the pictures made the context very clear. Using the TRIDENT grid, we could physically measure the distance between the colloquial language of the manga and the flat and flavorless English phrases students meet in their textbooks. Working out a range of translations for various nodes on the grid has led Murphy’s students to ask important questions and feel at home with English.

Reported by Margaret Orleans

Kyoto: JanuaryKyoto JALT’s Apple Day: Using iPods /iPhones in the ELT classroombyMatthew Walsh, Craig Hagerman, Takeshi Matsuyama Hoyos,Gretchen Clark,andJustin Harris. Kyoto chapter began the Year of the Tiger with an “Apple Day,” first inviting two presenters to explain techniquesthat can be used in ELT classrooms. Walsh and Hagerman started with a session on using iPods and iPhones. Some of the techniques were aimed at beginnersand others meant for veterans. Whilst the world of technology is steadily moving forward, this presentation provided a great opportunity to review the basics that many people feel too embarrassedto ask anyone about anymore, or to find out aboutmore advanced things that most people haven’t yet heard about. Threeworkshops followed, withMatsuyama Hoyosshowing participants how to use “Keynote,”Clark giving attendees a lesson in using “Garageband,” and Harrisshowing examples of iMovie/iPhoto/iDVD projects. This Apple Day contributed to buildingand reinforcingthe tech bridge betweenlanguage teachers and the IT world.

Reported by Wakana Takai-MacLean

Kyoto:March—Privilege”: Aphotography project of English teachers in JapanbyGary McLeod.Kyoto JALT hosted McLeod, a digital artist and English teacher.Members were treated to a showing of his latest project, Privilege, a year-long photographic montage andinterview project showcasing 97 native-speaking English teachers living in Japan. The presenter began with a 30-minute snapshot of the project, reading snippets of the participants’ interviews while flipping through digitally mastered photo collages of a selection of images. During the second half of the presentation, the presenter fielded questions from members. The final hour of the event was devoted to group discussion about several themes highlighted in the presentation. Native English speaking members discussed their role in Japan and how this may differ depending on work conditions. Our Japanese members provided valuable insight about their experience with native English speaking ALTs. The day concluded with a lively discussion on the future of English education and how both native English speakersand Japanese teachers of English can collaborate to improve EFL classrooms.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

Nagoya: January—Stirring the senses: Reflective portfolios andonline assessmentsbySuzanne Bonn Miyake.Aportfolio is a purposeful collection of work that demonstrates to students and others their efforts, progress, and achievements in given areas. Portfolios are also an effective tool for promoting learner autonomy, helping students to see gaps in their learning, identify learning strategies, set goals, and see language development over time. Bonn Miyake explained that she spends about 45 minutes per class onportfoliosduring the last five weeks of a course. Portfolios typically have a cover art page and a table of contents, followed by the student’s general introduction. Next are the projects, along with the reasons they were chosen and an explanation of what the student has learned by doing each project. Students may also include ideas on how they can improve next time and other connections to the future. This is followed by a self-reflection section and peer and teacher feedback. Lastly, Bonn Miyake introducedsomeonline activities and time-saving tools for teachers: QUIA, RubiStar (a free tool to help teachers make rubrics), Gerry’s Vocabulary Teacher, and Gradekeeper.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Nagoya: February―International activities for EFL by Jon Dujmovich.In 2007-2008, at Kitahama Toubu Middle School in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka,Dujmovich introduced “The World in My Neighborhood”—aproject aimed at increasing student communication skills, developing intercultural sensitivity, and building a connection to the multicultural diversity within the community. In the first semester,students learned about the world via a world trivia game, geography lessons, population studies, and classroom visits by  Japanese and non-Japaneseguestswho sharedtheir overseas experiences. Reading “Around the World in 80 Days” as a summer assignment, students gave presentations in September on their own imaginary tripsaround the world. In the second semester, students visited the regional immigration bureau, city hall’s foreign resident registration desk, and so on. In the Ocha-ken (stuffed dogs) project, 50 Ocha-ken served as simulated homestay friends to foster friendship and international correspondence. In the third semester, through the Oh-DICE (Observe, Describe, Interpret, Compare and Evaluate) method and using a variation of Donna Stringer’s “I am” activity, students discovered that everyone is “multicultural” in a sense. As a finale to the course, students were given a card imbedded with Canadian wildflower seeds as a reminder of the class and their unique learning experience.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Niigata: OctoberCommunity and curriculum: Bringing them together by Karen Masatagu. Masatagu spoke of the Kwassui Child Support and Resource Center with a special focus on experiencing multiculturalism and supporting foreign families. Bimonthly, families with a foreign member meet at the center and Kwassui students studying in the child-related, health-related, and multicultural fields gain experience working with children from diverse backgrounds. Activities are integrated into the curriculum of the Department of Child Development and Education. Parents and children find a place of support which is often lacking for foreign community members who have children. As Japan becomes a more multicultural society, the center benefits the students in giving them exposure to different cultures and practical skills in childcare, while the parents and children benefit from a support system which can address their special needs. In addition, Kwassui has an International Library Storyland which encourages the development of bilingual fluency and provides some support for local Japanese elementary school teachers. The meeting complemented the newly-formed Support Network for Niigata International Families.

Reported bySusan Sullivan

Niigata: JanuaryRapport in the classroom by Paul NadasdyandThe best of JALT National ConferencebyTetsuo Kimura,Chris Murphy,Mohammed Ahmed, and Howard Brown. Nadasdy presented research he has conducted on the effects of rapport on final test results. Though the results presently seem inconclusive, quantitative research in the field suggest that rapport is an important element in fostering positive attitudes towards language learning, and this can affect motivation positively which can theoretically result in positive quantitative results. Drawing on Dornyei and Murphey, and Brown, Nadasdy explored the influence of teaching styles and student-student and student-teacher interaction. Many elements inspire a student to study and attempt to use English, or not. Nadasdy distributed surveys used to examine rapport in his classes. From these survey results, personalized communication was seen as being the element which most inspired students to study English, followed by consideration of cross-cultural issues, and then by a variety of activities being used in the classroom. In theory, groups with a low dynamic will produce lower scores compared with groups with a high dynamic. Presenting on the best of JALT2009, Kimura recapped “Testing and Evaluation Using Call”; Ahmed summarised Lantolf’s JALT plenary; Murphy reviewed the JALT workshop on World Englishes, while Brown reminded members of the Niigata NEAR conference being held on 29 May.

Reported bySusan Sullivan

Okayama: JanuaryTask-based learning in a themed contextby Marcos Benevides. The presenter began by discussing elements that comprise open and closed classroom tasks. Benevides explained that closed tasks have one predetermined solution, are focused on a single language feature,and have a classroom context. In contrast, open tasks contain more than one possible solution, have no specific language target,and simulate real world conditions. Open tasks motivate students more because they fit a learner-centered philosophy and emphasize natural learning over form, making them more interesting. The theme of the task determines the task type, its authenticity, sequencing of difficulty, skills and text type. Benevides illustrated this with selections from his book, Widgets. He showed how traditional syllabus design does not reflect real life learning.Narrow reading, combining intensive and extensive reading, using one or two themes per semester, encourages deeper learning. Benevides dismisses old paradigms in favor of a task-based communicative approach focused on real life situations. When teaching communicatively, instructors can better sequence the levels of difficulty for students and assess learning outcomes more accurately. Whodunit, a free downloadable book co-authoredby Benevides, provides examples of open task-based activities dependent on learner choices, some of which are instructor-guided at lower levels.

Reported by Richard Lemmer

Okayama: FebruaryWriting a graded readerby Rob Waring. The speaker introduced the rationale for Extensive Reading by illustrating the differences between receptive and productive skills,and language and communication focus within the skill areas. Waring then provided an in-depth look at the development of a graded reader series by analyzing the production stages which include determining the target audience, needs analysis and language levels. Participants briefly discussed the necessary steps and their sequence.Waring then provided a thorough explanation ofhow vocabulary lists are prepared. Frequency, usefulness, range, teacher intuition, lexical sets and background knowledge all play a role in this process. The latter part of the presentation dealt with the actual writing process. As an experienced author and editor of graded readers,Waring shared his expertise on what elements are necessary for a submission to be accepted by a publisher.These include a strong concept, high stakes, great characters and settings, a real conflict,and a satisfying and believable payoff. The presentation was of particular benefit to those who use graded readers in their syllabus as well as to potential authors.

 Reported by Richard Lemmer

Omiya: January—Eureka! Finding a direction forward with research planningby Andy Boon. Omiya JALT opened the new year with an interactive workshop. Presenter Boonintroduced the audience to Cooperative Development (Edge, 1992) and led the audience in what was for most their first CD experience.Through this non-evaluative framework,participants sought out their eureka moments; the epiphany of finding one’s next step in developing a research project through peer reflection, exploration,and expansion of ideas. Though a new concept for many, the CD workshop proved instrumental in providing those present with new avenues to research development and the audience enjoyed the challenges of reflecting their partners’emerging thoughts in non-judgmental ways. The audience was also introduced to Instant Messenger Cooperative Development (Boon, 2005, 2007, 2009).

Reported by Brad Semans

Sendai: December Language learning stories. In this series of short presentations, eight speakers shared their foreign language learning experiences with the audience. Two Japanese speakers talked about their experiences learning English. Three native speakers of English also shared their Japanese learning experiences, while three others described their multi-language learning experiences. These lively personal stories were an interesting mixture of both “successful” and “unsuccessful” experiences. The speakers covered a range of topics, including how they learned foreign languages, what motivated them in their language learning, and their language learning environments. For example, Keiichiro Oikawa shared his English learning strategy using Haiku style English poems to learn new vocabulary, and Tim Phelan confided that his anger from being treated as a foreigner with no Japanese ability helped him by making him eager to learn Japanese. All the stories led to active discussions among the audience members and everybody at the meeting shared his or her own language learning experiences with an appreciation of how interesting language learning is.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Sendai: JanuaryHighlights from the 2009 JALT National Conference. In the first chapter meeting this year, four local members shared summaries, observations, and discussion based on gems from the JALT2009 National Conference in Shizuoka. (1)Marc Helgesen presented the main idea of Scott Thornbury’s plenary, titled “7 Ways to Look at Grammar.” (2)Ben Shearon shared a summary of a presentation regarding training for elementary school teachers who will implement an English curriculum starting in 2011. (3)John Wiltshier talked about a study based on the extensive reading program practiced at Toyota National College of Technology, presented by Momoya Fukuda at the National Conference. (4)Kumiko Ota shared content from a workshop where she learned how English teachers could use reading and storytelling to help children build their English proficiency.Following these four presentations, new chapter officers were officially introduced to the local members. A discussion and survey regarding future programs and guest speakers were conducted as well.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Shinshu: February—Mini conference: English activities for elementary schools.Eight sessions addressed issues facing elementary school home room teachers (HRTs) and assistant language teachers (ALTs) concerning MEXT’s Course of Studywhile offering a variety of practical advice and activities. In his keynote address, “What is the foundation of communication ability?” Tokio Watanabe explained how the Course of Study has changed over the years as well as present trends in EFL education in Japan. He proceeded to lay out elements which form the “foundation of communication ability” along with concrete suggestions for what HRTsshould try to accomplish. Especially emphasized was the acquisition of English rhythm and intonation. Other sessions included: “Using English outside the English classroom” by Tagami Tatsuto;“Putting together 45 minutes of English activities to make a fun lesson” by Motoyama Takamasa;“Which language to use in the classroom?” by Tonya Kneff;“The elementary English environment” by Amanda Carr;“Communicative teaching” by Mark Brierley;and “Communication is key: A look into a team-teaching relationship” by Erin King and Koya Shinobu. The conference ended with group discussions and feedback. Shinshu JALT plans to publish the proceedings.                                                                   

Reported by Mary Aruga

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