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Chapter Reports - May 2014

GIFU: January — Creating classroom questionnaires by Robert Croker. Most teachers at some point in their career have used questionnaires in the classroom. They are effective tools for facilitating dialogue between the teacher and the students about all aspects of their English education. In his introduction, Croker noted the four broad topics into which classroom questionnaires can give us insight: who our students are, what our students do, how our students feel and think, and what our students know.

Croker then succinctly explained the separate steps to be taken in creating good quality questionnaires. Altogether, seven essential steps were outlined, beginning with writing “I want to know” statements (research questions), and ending with piloting the questionnaire. The following steps including a number of checks and balances to ensure that students felt free to respond honestly and weren’t led in any pre-determined direction by the questions. Participants then wrote their own draft questionnaires to use in their particular teaching contexts. Overall, Croker’s presentation provided an excellent foundation from which educators could investigate students’ attributes, opinions, knowledge, and behavior.

Reported by Paul Wicking

 

GIFU: February — Pecha Kucha event. Gifu Jalters enjoyed an entertaining and rewarding evening of Pecha Kucha presentations. It was particularly motivating to see two presentations from Gifu Shotoku University students. The evening began with an informative presentation entitled Techniques for community building in writing classes by Wendy Gough. The presenter explored community building using journal writing and resources from Colorado State University which included writing forums giving students an opportunity to read and share their work.

The following presentation Volunteer work in English space by Clair Taylor, Naoki Akahane and Nami Sakata demonstrated how utilizing the experience of Taylor’s creation of a student friendly conversation lounge where student volunteers oversee the experience ensuring a great opportunity for students to practice not only English but also Chinese. The presenters had encountered several problems including lack of institutional support and time constraints, but could see positive benefits of the project and opportunities for evolving schemes. A similar scheme had been established at the partner elementary and junior high schools which included a children’s passport. 

Corazon Kato’s My story gave a fascinating insight into the problems encountered in other Asian countries. Her English teaching journey began in a refugee camp in her native Philippines, and then was followed by time in Cambodia where her lessons were accompanied by the sound of gunfire. Coming to Japan in 1996, she found JALT a source of friendship and inspiration which should also help as her journey enters a new and exciting phase in Tokyo. The next presentation, Class activities that help us, gave education department students, Seiya Kojima and Satoshi Hoshiai an opportunity to outline activities that they enjoyed. They particularly enjoyed short movie scenes, which utilized several activities. Teaching skills activities gave them an opportunity to practice skills needed for their future careers. Finally they discussed how their teacher ,Steve Quasha, watching proudly in the audience, had helped with their presentation skills.

The evening concluded with a refreshingly honest presentation, Kaizen in the classroom, by Steve Quasha. Reflection is a vital part of our career development, Quasha not only outlined several ideas relating to communication, vocabulary and listening but emphasized the need to try new ideas, try to remain positive and above all take the opportunity to recharge your batteries.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

 

GUNMA: January — Ready or not, here it comes! High school English curriculum changes 2013 by Cory Koby. We always hear how the MEXT Course of Study is not meeting the needs of students in our classrooms. So it was a refreshing change to hear Koby’s perspective. We were shown how the current curricular reforms at the high school level might be missing the mark because of the dichotomy created by the MEXT urging teachers to use more Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and the traditional Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) approach that he sees continuing in classrooms across Japan. While admitting that he saw hope in the Course of Study’s increased vocabulary list, Koby shared his dismay at their lack of substantive change. The presentation provided ample data to show that there are significant discrepancies between the three main parties in the EFL classroom - teachers (both Japanese Teachers of English and Native Teachers of English), Assistant Language Teachers and students themselves. Examples were given of why the policy, as it stands, is not garnering anticipated results. But ultimately, as Koby pointed out, the government can propose policies, but education policy is implemented at the classroom level. Until teachers buy into it, these policies will remain ineffective. 

Reported by Joël Laurier

 

HAMAMATSU: February — Job information: Academic work in Japan by Richard Miller. Miller gave a nonstop, comprehensive presentation about the requirements of a good academic curriculum vitae and what universities are requiring from candidates. While his presentation was mainly aimed at junior lecturers, there was valuable information for more seasoned educators.

According to Miller, approximately 68% of employers in Japan request a specific academic CV and the qualifications for work in the academic world in Japan (particularly for English) are becoming ever more rigorous. Therefore a carefully designed academic CV is essential. On many occasions he stressed the paramount importance of not only publishing, but also working to have a full, balanced CV. Miller also noted that a balanced CV attends to research, teaching and service. He suggested that we need to regularly consider how balanced we are, for example by using a score card style evaluation, such as is used in the business world. He emphasized personal branding and building an Internet presence by registering at Academia.edu and Linked In, so that if potential employers do an Internet search, candidates’ names will appear. He recommended we keep very detailed files not only of presentations and publications, but also of classes taught, including class size. The reason for such scrupulous attention to detail was to differentiate ourselves and thus gain some edge over less detail-oriented applicants. He stressed that we have to look very good on paper.

In conclusion, it was clear from Miller’s presentation that maintaining a proper academic CV involves considerably more effort than basic updating every year or two.

Reported by Gregg McNabb

 

HIROSHIMA: January — A pragmatic response: Filling the language classroom gap by Jim Ronald. Unfortunately, our scheduled speaker was unable to attend the meeting but ever-pragmatic Jim Ronald was able to fill the gap and give an impromptu, but very interesting and well-prepared presentation about pragmatics. He gave real life examples showing the importance of pragmatics and what happens when someone is lacking pragmatic knowledge, emphasising that this will usually be interpreted as rudeness rather than as a lack of linguistic knowledge. He also showed that teaching pragmatics can be done very easily and can have a powerful and immediate effect, and encouraged teachers to check that textbook activities reflect what real people would say in real situations.

Reported by Carla Wilson

 

HIROSHIMA: February — Global issues: Language awareness and international understanding by Kip Cates. In this workshop, Cates demonstrated several activities with a world languages theme.  The activities allowed participants to demonstrate their subject knowledge and also provided repeated exposure to certain sentence patterns. Activities included matching scripts to languages, matching descriptions to languages, and roleplaying short introductory dialogues in different languages. As well as increasing students’ interest in language in general, students’ English benefits through using English to read, write and talk about the languages, and also through providing the basic greetings, and confidence, to approach international students with whom subsequent conversation will probably be in English. 

Reported by Carla Wilson

 

KITAKYUSHU: January — Connecting neuroscience and ELT: What we learned in 2013 by Robert Murphy, Rick Eller, Zack Robertson, and Joe Simpson. After telling us about the recent neuro-linguistic conferences in Quito and Boston, Murphy introduced a list of 42 maxims that have been synthesized with colleagues <fab-efl.com> from hundreds of books and scientific articles in and around the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education, which he invited us to consider and connect for better EFL teaching in our classes. 

Simpson followed with extensions on numbers 20 and 21, discussing the various effects of sleep upon our brains, which is beneficial for learning in general, and some specific ways that it is good for language learning in particular.  Because, according to the first maxim, emotion drives learning, Eller begins his children’s classes with pictures, the wilder the better.  He explained how positive and negative experiences throughout a lifetime uniquely shape our emotions and how tapping into them can be fruitfully exploited.  Robertson noted that our thinking processes have evolved to anticipate things before they happen, as a survival mechanism, and that they filter out mundane or irrelevant stimuli and how that can be exploited for language teaching.

Our interest and imaginations piqued, Murphy then organized discussion in small groups of new collective insights and changes that might be affected in our teaching. 

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KITAKYUSHU: February — Todd Jay Leonard talked about the current state of the commercial EFL publishing industry in Japan and his twenty-five years of publishing experience with various publishing firms in Japan such as Kenkyusha, Kinseido, and Macmillan. Leonard’s discussion centered around four key areas: the publisher’s perspective, the editorial perspective, the salesperson’s perspective, and the author’s perspective. Prospective authors need to be aware of the current trends in publishing, know what market they are targeting, and remain flexible throughout the editing and publishing process. Leonard also stressed the importance of making contacts with the sales representatives at the publishing companies, as they are on the front lines interacting with the consumers and know what the current market is looking for. Commercial publishing has the potential to both a financially and personally rewarding experience if one maintains a positive yet practical attitude and has a willingness to both work hard and learn.

Reported by Zack Robertson

 

NAGOYA: January―Big ideas for little ones by Kathleen Kampa Vilina. Kampa Vilina suggests developing the C’s of 21st century skills through music/movement activities as a springboard to build English skills in young learners. These C’s are: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and connections. Kampa Vilina introduced Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. To develop 21st century skills, Kampa Vilina introduced numerous songs, movement activities, and games for young learners. To build creativity and letter recognition, for example, students can make letters using their fingers, arms, or together with a friend.  Students can use their imagination, express their own ideas, decide on the best idea, and find ways to improve it. To nurture critical thinking, students can experiment, such as discovering different ways to make sound, or generate ideas for organizing a group clock.  To build communication and collaboration, students can work on tasks with a partner or group, such as deciding what to cook. Trading games help students practice simple conversations.  Folk dance builds class spirit while learning movement through TPR commands. Students can be encouraged to make connections—to their own lives, to things from English class, or other classes. 

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NARA: February ― 2014 Annual joint Tenri University and Nara JALT seminar: Over the controversies on English education by Andrew Sowter and Ken Kanatani. Sowter, Climate Reality Leader of The Climate Reality Project, compared the survey results of his university students’ perspective on climate change before-and-after his lessons to stimulate students’ critical thinking. The post-lesson results revealed that their awareness of this important global issue was raised and their attitudes toward the issue became more serious. He emphasized that students need more opportunities to discuss, research, and analyze complex and controversial topics in class rather than train rote-memory skills. Kanatani discussed the 6/3/3 system against the common 4/4/4 system. Each figure indicates the number of English classes a week at junior high school; for example, six classes a week in the first year, three respectively in the second and third years. Another unconventional teaching approach of his was the five round system, in which students use the same textbook five times a year. The focus of these teaching and learning approaches is to review and explore what students have already learned, which, in his view, is lacking in the current English class. He also encouraged educational reforms at school level. 

Reported by Motoko Teraoka

 

OKAYAMA: February — An alternative to speech writing by Paul Delaney and Get your students hooked on television by Bob Lamitie. In the first presentation, Delaney explained how he taught a class of third year high school students in which they needed to give a speech with PowerPoint; however, during their final year, students were not interested in subjects that were unrelated to university entrance exams. To motivate the students, he designed a course that included studying the language of recipes, cooking dishes, taking pictures, eating, and finally giving PowerPoint presentations on preparing them. Delaney stressed that organizing well is key to success, e.g., breaking the cooking procedure into small steps and making sure everyone knows exactly what they need to do at each step. 

In the second presentation, as a part of college listening classes, Lamitie made students choose an American TV series to watch from the first episode. The students not only enjoyed watching the shows, but also picked up vocabulary and phrases that they would normally not be exposed to when using more traditional teaching material. On the downside, the students also began having some misconceptions about American culture, as they seemed to believe that the exaggerated portrayal of American life in the TV shows was real.

Reported by Magnus Kuwahara Magnusson

 

OKINAWA: January — Can you hear me now? Making oral communication easy for your students and win-win writing: Composition techniques to please students and teachers by David Kluge. In his presentation on oral communication (held at the Katsuyama community center, with cherry blossoms blooming on the mountainsides and the sounds of goats and roosters in the background), Kluge spoke about teaching speaking skills and led us in a workshop on innovative oral communication activities. In the first activity, attendees created a poster containing words and illustrations related to a topic. Then, in small groups, we made a mini-presentation about the information on our posters. In the second activity, Kluge handed out cards on which we wrote keywords in three topic areas: local, national, and international. After a minute or so, Kluge collected the cards and randomly distributed them to different groups. Within each group, everyone took turns making an impromptu three-minute speech about one of the topics on the cards, which was challenging for both native and non-native speakers! The following day, at Okinawa Christian University, Kluge led a workshop for an audience of students and teachers from seven different countries that explained how to teach writing for both fluency and accuracy. Kluge’s focus was on how to maximize student writing potential while minimizing the amount of grading work for the instructor. Fluency activities involved journal exchanges that would result in students writing at least 30 entries by the end of a typical semester. Kluge emphasized that such entries should not be graded by the instructor (only marked for completion) so that students would feel free to write without fear of making mistakes. To improve accuracy, Kluge demonstrated a “Composition by Color” technique, in which students write different parts of a composition (intro, body, conclusion) in different colors, which clarifies the writing process for students while simplifying the grading process for instructors. During both workshops, attendees acted as composition students in order to get a feel for how such lesson plans would work in class. After the workshops, the groups went out to dinner at local restaurants in Nago and Nishihara.

Reported by Meghan Kuckelman

 

OKINAWA: February — Dramatic steps to creative writing and Ten drama activities for communication by Aya Kawakami, Nanzan University in Nagoya. Kawakami demonstrated how to use dramatic techniques to encourage creative writing and spontaneous communication in the language classroom. Seven language teachers and nine students interested in language education attended Saturday’s workshop at Meio University. During the session, Kawakami led participants through a series of group activities designed to gradually increase novice students’ creative writing confidence. The activities ranged from word association to mini-performances and concluded with each “student” writing a poem or short story. Sunday’s workshop at Okinawa Christian College was attended by about 12 people. Kawakami kept participants on their toes the entire time, guiding them through 10 drama activities. The purpose of these activities was to help students learn to critically solve problems on their own and to develop communication skills beyond memorizing prepared dialogues and scripts.

Reported by Meghan Kuckelman

 

OSAKA: January – Winter potpourri micro-conference: Nine presentations on diverse topics, preceded by an open council session in memory and in celebration of the life of JALT President Kevin Cleary who had passed away suddenly earlier in the week, and followed by our annual Shinnenkai. 1) Implementing mobile assisted language learning in an EFL context by Laura Markslag. Markslag demonstrated how her students made one-take videos, paper slide videos, and “Road Movies” to integrate technology into curriculum and to engage and encourage language learners collaboratively. 2) Engaging classes and saving time with socrative.com by Josh Wilson. Wilson introduced ways of using socrative.com to make classes more engaging and interactive, and showed how to initiate activities and prompt the students with questions using smart phones or laptops. 3) Comparative efficacy research in EFL by Sean Gay. Gay presented his research comparing the efficacy of the PPP model with a task-based learning approach. 4) Mobile game apps for vocabulary study by Oliver Rose. Rose showed several mobile game applications he had designed including a flashcard site, text-to-speech audio and enjoyable input method requiring recognition as well as production. 5) Measuring the uniqueness of students in English language classes by David Mann. Mann showed an awareness of diversity and had to rethink his approach using needs analysis. 6) The implication of phoneme acquisition studies for teaching EFL by James Jensen. Jensen introduced an effective method for modifying the 2nd language learners’ initial phoneme structure. 7) Any stressed-out teachers out there? Let’s explore mindfulness by Gordon Ratzlaff. Ratzlaff demonstrated techniques for internal stress reduction. Through explanation, discussion, demonstration, practice, questions and answers, his presentation sought to make our lives more integrated, balanced, and satisfying by lending students a helping hand. 8) Colour, flow & culture: Board work in the Japanese EFL classroom by Chad Cottam. Cottam provided some insights into white board use as the cornerstone of an organized and efficient lesson with or without the adoption of technology. 9) The M-reader quiz program for extensive reading by Thomas Robb. Robb introduced the Moodle Reader site which features over 3600 quizzes on graded readers, and provides an easy way to check whether students have done their required outside reading. Further discussion at our Shinnenkai dinner party capped off the very interesting and meaningful day.

Reported by Emi Rowan

 

SENDAI: February — Why are Japanese entrance examinations different from all other language tests? by Melodie Cook, University of Niigata Prefecture. English Entrance Exams for Universities in Japan: Why do they exist and what is their purpose or value? (Some of the answers here were quite interesting and unexpected.) Who are the creators of these exams and what are the processes along the way to reach final completion for release of the exam? How can the exams be changed (or should they be)? Do the exams serve pedagogical purposes? Are there non-pedagogical purposes? What are the characteristics of good test design? Are good test design elements used when creating entrance exams (reliability and validity for example)? The above questions were explored, along with a look at data and responses gathered from questionnaires and interviews with language teachers in various settings and situations around Japan. While the data and responses were being explained, many heads in the audience were nodding in agreement. Commonly held perceptions were explored, myths were debunked, and new perspectives were gained. A few attendees mentioned that they were not sure whether to attend this meeting not (they weren’t particularly interested in discussing entrance exams), but after the meeting they mentioned that they had gained new insights and perspectives and were very glad that they did attend this meeting. Toward the end of the presentation, the following was discussed: How to create change; as well as some considerations and cautions for doing so (or not). A very interesting, informative and thought-provoking meeting. 

Reported by Daniel Ross

 

SHINSHU: January — Storytelling in the classroom by Brian Cullen and Sarah Mulvey.  Cullen and Mulvey first created an engaging environment with interesting stories through the use of the spoken word and song. They then explained that storytelling is the oldest and most natural form of teaching and that stories which are told well can be very engaging for students.  They described how storytelling can also recreate situations with a similar level of engagement as being in the real situation and that the characters can also be used as role-models for students.  They then provided an explanation on how different parts of the human brain engage in storytelling. When recalling the same story, the brain will be activated in a similar way as when it was heard, and active listeners predict the story while they listen. Their practical guide to implementing storytelling in the classroom was very useful and was put into practice by the audience, when they were divided into pairs to develop their own stories. Some groups then presented their stories to the audience. Many more of the presenters’ stories can be found at <standinginspirit.com/metaphors>.

Reported by Jonathon Loch

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