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Chapter Reports - September 2014

AKITA: May — Creativity in the EFL classroom: Creating and adapting original material to the needs and interests of different students by Chris Sato, Windsor English School. This presentation was divided in two parts: an introduction and then a workshop. The first part explained the challenges of running a one-teacher school with all types of students, from young children to adults. Several examples from the US TV show “Mad Men” were used to illustrate the advantages and pitfalls of creativity, then an example utilizing original material was presented. The second part drew on recent experiences of creating original materials, and adapting them to various classes. The audience was divided into groups and given a range of authentic stories taken from the Internet. Each group had to use their imagination to adapt the material to a learning experience for a specific class. The presentation ended with a lively Q & A session.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

AKITA: June — The complex stories behind autonomous learners by Joe Sykes, Akita International University. Recent research in the field of learner autonomy has shifted from the psychological view, which treats the learner in isolation, to the sociocultural view, in which the learner is an integral part of the sociocultural context. This presentation examined the stories of three language learners. Although each is different, all three stories featured high levels of learner autonomy. Using Grounded Theory methodology, the data was analyzed through four inter-related theoretical “lenses”: learner autonomy, motivation, identity, and sociocultural context. The interplay between these four factors was examined, leading to the conclusion that they are all agents in complex adaptive systems. The defining characteristics of complex adaptive systems are: dynamic, emergent, fractal, sensitive to initial conditions, and non-linear. A lively Q & A session completed the presentation.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

GIFU: May — Cooperative learning: It’s not about teaching, it’s about learning by Joel Laurier. The presenter began by giving a brief explanation of his own teaching background. After working in a full immersion school (K-12) for many years, he was shocked when he transitioned to a university career to discover the severe lack of social skills of many of the students. Laurier argued that the principles of Cooperative Learning (CL) not only motivate students and promote learning, but also foster the social communication skills that students will need in the workforce. Those four principles are: positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction. As Laurier continued to hammer the point home, “it’s not a game” and “it’s not group work” (as most people understand the term); the structured nature of CL and the allocation of clear responsibility give a focus and impetus to learning which may otherwise be absent from unstructured group work. The participants were given a handful of ideas for implementing CL in their own classes.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GIFU: June — Using Japanese cultural techniques in the foreign language classroom by Morten Hunke. Teachers of foreign languages can spend a lot of time trying to get their students to break out of their Japanese cultural comfort zone and expose them to the foreign culture. Hunke, however, presented a number of ideas for using Japanese cultural practices in effective ways to aid foreign language learning. In particular, haiku and tanka (poetry forms) and kamishibai (storytelling through pictures). Hunke, who teaches German, demonstrated that writing these poems in German and ‘playing’ with the language in this way has a number of benefits, including making use of vocabulary lists in textbooks, and introducing learners to syllable properties.

Kamishibai is a technique where the storyteller uses a series of pictures when telling a story. An effective way of doing this in the classroom is to have one person in the group create the story (draw the pictures and write the script), and then have other group members telling the story and supporting it with gestures, interjection, sound effects, etc.

Participants left Hunke’s presentation with an understanding of how foreign languages can be experienced, learned, and appreciated through Japanese poetry and storytelling techniques.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GUNMA: May — The socio-cultural benefits of low-level graded reader versions of non-western classic literature by Alastair Lamond. The first part of Lamond’s presentation focused on the mechanics of writing a graded reader. Lamond shared his approach to writing a graded reader version of Natsume Soseki’s Botchan. His goals in this project were to ensure historical accuracy, imagination, and connection with a modern audience. He took attendees through his experience step by step, from the text, to the fact pages, to the artwork, explaining his errors through inexperience and the tools that saved his project. Lamond then laid out the socio-cultural benefits of low-level graded reader versions of non-Western classic literature. In the currently-available graded reader versions of non-Western classic literature, the vast majority are 1,700 headwords or more, which is beyond most readers in Japan. He explained that he wrote his version of Botchan at the 600-headword level to illustrate how low-level versions of non-Western classics can have not only language benefits but also socio-cultural benefits for students. Lamond finished by offering guidance and help to any attendees who want to take on the difficult, but worthwhile, challenge of writing their own graded reader version of a non-Western classic.

Reported by John Larson

GUNMA: June — Enhancing EFL and content-based instruction through art in the classrooms by Stacey Vye. During this workshop-style presentation, participants explored the expression of art in their EFL and content-based classrooms with students of various ages and language levels. During the first part of the presentation, Vye discussed how art can be applied to teach concepts such as learner strategies and the L2 self-system theory, both concepts she uses with her university students. In her classes, Vye’s students made a map of their own learning system using the metaphor of a tree. The roots represent underpinnings such as their L1 language and culture, and branches represent their current L2 skills. Rain and sun can symbolize supporting mechanisms such as friends and cognitive strategies. Vye showed that using this artistic metaphor can give students insight into their own learning strategies. In the second half of the presentation, participants used provided art materials to explore how easily art can enhance what they are teaching. Vye’s presentation was bookended with a helpful list of questions educators should ask themselves before introducing art into their language classrooms.

Reported by John Larson

HAMAMATSU: May — How to build a mobile-friendly interactive website by Renaud Davies, Hiroshima Bunkyo Women’s University. Davies feels that the more engrossed students are in a task and content, the more likely second or foreign language acquisition is to occur. There are many tools available online to enhance the interaction of language learners with other learners, their teachers, their own community, and the global community. Having all these tools in one place where both students and educators can access them can expand the experience of learning and using another language. Davies led an interactive workshop whereby he guided members in creating their own website through the free Wix webpage. Wix has a series of features which teachers and students can access, implement, and adapt to create non-static homepages. The ensuing engagement with both the content and technology selected can result in increased learner autonomy, linguistic authenticity, and an intrinsic motivation to use  their language of instruction.

Reported by Susan Laura Sullivan

HAMAMATSU: June — English activities for intercultural awareness by Jon Dujmovich, Aichi University, Imagination Ink. Dujmovich has a long history of designing and implementing English activities and courses focusing on intercultural communications. On June 14 he introduced members to basic intercultural developmental concepts, especially focusing on Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. We then participated in a series of activities created to encourage students to question their role within three spheres of culture: inherited (universal and human nature), learned (specific to a group or category), and inherited and learned (specific to the individual, personality). At a lower level, Dujmovich demonstrated exercises that could be used with younger students to nurture curiosity and awareness of cultural diversity, such as taking note of the wide range of English that exists in their daily life. The interactive exercises members took part in were aimed at older students, and included listening exercises focusing on specific language which could then be used as a scaffold for more holistic activities, interviewing exercises to raise students’ awareness of the diversity in their everyday life, and empathy raising exercises. All activities were designed to broaden students’ cultural and intercultural awareness, and to complement various ages and stages of development. It was a lively, thoroughly engaging, and informative session, providing participants with practical and appealing resources for classroom use. 

Reported by Susan Laura Sullivan

HIROSHIMA: May — Integrating SRL practices in foreign language classroom by Paul Collett and Kristen Sullivan. Collett and Sullivan gave an overview of what self-regulated learning is, how it helps students, and how SRL is being used at Shimonoseki City University. They gave examples of how SRL practices can be integrated into lessons, such as rewriting essays and re-doing tests after getting feedback from the teacher or peers, as well as having students decide their own homework based on their needs and goals. They also discussed in detail some of the issues they have faced trying to integrate SRL into classes. These issues were mainly related to both the students’ and teachers’ lack of experience of this type of learning. They emphasized, however, that it is a learning process and that teachers wanting to use SRL should not expect students to understand it immediately, even with Japanese explanations, and that a lot of patience, support, and scaffolding is necessary. 

Reported by Carla Wilson

HIROSHIMA: June — Content-based instruction for learners of Japanese as a foreign language by Akiko Kobayashi and Revisiting content-based instruction by Akemi Morioka. Kobayashi and Morioka both discussed CBI in the context of Japanese as a foreign language. Kobayashi gave an overview of two courses at the University of Shimane where international students had teamed up with Japanese students to compare Korean and Japanese manufacturing. These courses included lectures from a marketing professor for the intermediate level Korean students of Japanese, and comparisons of the education systems in Japan, Russia, and Korea for the beginner level Korean and Russian students of Japanese, including presentations at a local elementary school.  Improving academic skills, recognizing cultural differences, overcoming difficulties due to lack of subject knowledge, and providing opportunities to use a lot of Japanese were some of the comments from students. Morioka discussed some of the theories underpinning CBI then went on to outline her study in 2006 at an American university which found that second year students taking a Japanese course rated a CBI course less highly than a hybrid (CBI/regular) course. It seemed that the courses differed from students’ expectations possibly due to their first year class being more structured and grammar-centered. They were also conscious of the fact that the content learning, some of which took place in English, would not be reflected in their grades. Assuming that CBI is found to bring more benefits than grammar-based instruction, possible remedies to students’ attitudes towards it are more L2 support, less use of L1 in class, and an earlier introduction to CBI. 

Reported by Carla Wilson

HOKKAIDO: May — Strong communicative language teaching: Using English to learn it by Martin Murphy, Otaru University of Commerce and Joel Rian, Hokkaido Information University. Murphy and Rian engaged a large crowd of participants using a combination of research analysis and case-study vignettes, eliciting audience experience and stimulating discussion along the way. According to Murphy and Rian, Strong Communicative Language Teaching provides insight into developing classroom speaking and listening activities that encourage free conversation and the genuine exchange of opinions. Classroom transcripts shared during the presentation showed an amazing level of creativity, even in the utterances of lower proficiency students. With surprisingly little instruction, English language learners of a wide range of proficiency levels were able to engage in extended, unscripted, and meaningful communication. Activities were designed to limit students’ use of the first language, encourage best use of the second language, force students to choose and defend an opinion, and keep the conversation going (no non-sequiturs). The presenters did also stress the importance of teacher discretion and materials development; topics must be chosen carefully, especially when adapting commercially available texts, so as to avoid locally inappropriate or non-effective prompts. Despite these limitations, the message was clear: Strong Communicative Language Teaching sheds light on the value of authentic communication and exchange of opinions in the Japanese EFL classroom. The presentation ended on a high note, anticipating research that would empirically validate the wealth of anecdotal findings Murphy and Rian shared with the audience.

Reported by Joseph Tomasine

HOKKAIDO: June — An introduction to Conversation Analysis: Making sense of talk by Tim Greer, Kobe University. Conversation Analysis refers to a major body of micro-sociological research that investigates interaction and language in use. Greer organized the event in three parts, beginning with historical and theoretical underpinnings, key terminology, and core concepts. This was followed by a shorter lecture on the implications of the approach and major findings of Conversation Analysis for the field of Second Language Acquisition. Finally, Greer led the participants in a data session, where attendees became researchers and tried their hand at “doing” Conversation Analysis. One discovery was that although Conversation Analysis utilizes a specialized vocabulary, the phenomena under the microscope are often “grossly apparent facts,” to quote Greer. This narrow focus combines with a radically emic orientation, allowing researchers to reappraise the relevance of expertise and the native/non-native speaker dichotomy in second language use. Furthermore, Conversation Analysis enables us to rediscover household Second Language Acquisition, concepts such as fluency, in ways that may empower second language users. During the data session, Greer emphasized the importance of community, shared respect, and the explicit resolve to patiently hear all voices present. Greer finished the event by urging interested participants to form working groups and do Conversation Analysis. Several in attendance expressed interest and there was talk of JALT Hokkaido being the starting point for such a group.

Reported by Joseph Tomasine

IBARAKI: May — Vocabulary and textbooks: What textbooks do, what they don’t, and what you can do by Dale Brown. When it comes to teaching vocabulary, our practice is often narrowly confined to introducing new words and their meanings. Brown’s previous research has shown that this is the case with most general English textbooks, too—they provide a disproportionate number of “form and meaning” exercises, disregarding the depth and variety that constitute our vocabulary knowledge.  In addition, Brown noted that they tend to do a poor job at recycling newly learned words, perhaps due to our nature to be drawn to the new. He argued against such a tendency, as it is like planting new seeds one after another, while forgetting to water and nurture them to ensure their proper growth. Thus, Brown called for the expansion and enhancement of textbook materials as well as our classroom practices. Referring to Nation’s framework of word knowledge as well as the common activity types of “recall,” “analysis,” and “creation,” he introduced specific activities that could enrich our vocabulary teaching. Brown’s presentation gave us an opportunity to reflect on our own classroom practice and engage in an active discussion of the subject matter. 

Reported by Naomi Takagi

KITAKYUSHU: May — Principles of vocabulary acquisition - How well do textbooks do? by Rob Waring. Foreign teacher frustration in junior and senior high schools at forced student memorization of outdated unused vocabulary (and syntax)—usually administered by colleagues entirely in Japanese, right from ‘sit down’ and ‘open your books’— was exemplified by Waring’s comment, “It’s insane.” This was a summary and response to questions regarding his presentation of extensive research done by himself and others into required and actual frequency of word meetings to effectively and enjoyably lodge them into students’ permanent memory.  Publications supporting this welcome catharsis are available at <robwaring.org/presentations/>, essential reading for EFL curriculum developers.

Illustrating that Japanese high school textbooks provide only one fiftieth of the words students need to enter a good university and debunking false pedagogical notions throughout, Waring walked us through the rationale for, and stages of a balanced curriculum of, vocabulary teaching and learning (as distinct concepts), pointing out how the (non-linear) cycle needs to acknowledge the forgetting curve and teach students how to deal with new words independently. Without criticizing course books for their limitations, he pointed out how they need to work with extensive additional (graded) reading to cover the otherwise impossible number of word meetings essential for adequate English exposure.

Reported by Dave Pite

KITAKYUSHU: June — English circles and the ELF class by Michael Philips. Philips reviewed his pechakucha presentation, English Circles (November 2013) to continue a discussion which includes World English in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

English Circles are the different conceptual layers—or varieties—of English as a Lingua-Franca (ELF), with non-native English speaking countries represented by outer circles and native English-speaking countries at the core. The split between teaching for native-speaker proficiency and the reality of non-native speaker experiences was clarified by a TED clip, which pointed out that, while there are two billion people in the world presently fervently studying English, actual perfection in the language is unattainable. There is an expanding circle of non-native speakers escaping allegiance to the core and regional variants are getting increased identity. These English as an International Language (EIL) learners need intelligibility more than native speaker similitude and, as Widdowson (1994) says, English is the property of those who speak it.

Globish is the name applied to the emerging language code evolving into a simplified lingua franca; whether it is a descriptive or prescriptive term seems to depend upon the success of those enterprises trying to market it. All this begs the question of which Standard English should define Globish, and opened a very lively discussion to finish the presentation.

Reported by Dave Pite

NAGASAKI: April — Extensive reading and task-based learning by Brendan Van Deusen, Nagasaki International University. Van Deusen covered the three types of ER commonly identified in the field: pure reading for enjoyment, integrated reading with variable choice, and class reading. He then reviewed aspects of task-based learning within an ER context and covered the results of his in-class activities using both techniques. He planned a series of 5 tasks for The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne: discussion circles, island life challenges, letter writing from an island, a scenic picture from the book, and an expansion on the story including making a tourist brochure for the island. Van Deusen reported on the level of success he had with each task in the series.

Reported by Thom W Rawson

NAGASAKI: May — Teaching phonics to English language learners by Cecilia “Sash” Salzer, Darby Elementary School. After extensively covering the background rationale for phoneme based language learning, including a look at cognitive learning and development, Salzer moved through comparisons of child and adult learning styles. We were given a comparison of the Japanese Mora-based monotonic language containing five vowel sounds vs. English, which is time-stressed, has 19 unique vowel sounds, and is non-tonal. Salzer then covered the order in which English phonemes can be taught and also touched on advanced phonics including graphemes.

Reported by Thom W Rawson

NAGASAKI: June — Using picture books and storytelling to teach all age groups by Patricia Daly Oe. Oe delivered an excellent workshop on using picture books in the classroom. With 27+ years of experience as a teacher and storyteller in Japan, she covered storytelling for students from children to adult. She also showcased some of the many supporting activity ideas surrounding story time in the classroom. Due to a somewhat limited set of English storybooks for children in her early days as a teacher, Oe was motivated to develop her own materials, some of which have since been published including one of the shared gems, Lily and the Moon (ELF Publishing). Some of the activities included paper crafts, painting, drawing, and singing, all connected around the theme of one story showing that literature in the form of storytelling can be the basis for deeper learning and motivation.

Reported by Thom W Rawson

OKAYAMA: June — Fostering collaboration among teachers, administrators, and institutions by Eri Fukuda and Effectiveness of cooperative learning in the reading classroom / Learner attitudes to teacher behavior by Kyoko Sunami-Burden. Fukuda described a university Global Citizenship Program that integrated students, faculty, and administrators from seven different faculties. After eliciting ideas from participants about what “collaboration” is in a university setting, she outlined what this particular program achieved, pointing out that short- and long-term strategies needed to be considered all along the way. From these results she generalized on how patience and compromise from individual teachers as well as from administrations can create collaborative programs that benefit students best.

Sunami-Burden gave two short papers. First, university students in a cooperative reading course were surveyed at the end of every class to measure satisfaction with their progress, especially how well they cooperated with partners to understand. Results showed that in cooperative learning the attitudes of both motivated and unmotivated students tended to “rub off” on partners. The second study measured how teacher behaviors—motivating or demotivating—influenced students’ ultimate attitudes toward a class and subject (EFL). Results indicated that teachers motivate best when they act as “socializing agents,” creating atmospheres of enjoyment and accomplishment.

Reported by Scott Gardner

OKINAWA: June — Pronunciation basics by Tim Kelly. Kelly presented a workshop to about 12 attendees covering the basics of teaching pronunciation to Japanese students. In addition, Tokuyu Uza presented A focus on functional language, in which he discussed how to direct students toward functional language use that meets their particular needs. Finally, Rika Kojima, a representative from Cengage publishing, hosted a “book look” to help teachers plan which books are the best fit for their classes. Okinawa JALT also held officer elections at the meeting. The new officers are as follows: President: George MacLean; Membership Chair: Tim Kelly; Program Chair: Norman Fewell; Publicity Chair: Fernando Kohatsu; Treasurer: Tokuyu Uza.

Reported by Meghan Kuckelman

OSAKA: April — Creating interactive e-books using iBooks Author by Tamara Swenson, Eiko Kato, Brian Teaman, and David Bramley, at the Apple Store, Shinsaibashi. The presenters gave a bilingual overview of how and why teachers at Osaka Jogakuin University have created thirteen (and counting) eBooks for their students using iBooks Author software. The investment of time and effort in creating these eBooks is considerable (roughly 150 hours per eBook, if well-organized ahead of time), but the potential payoffs include being able to tailor the texts to the university’s liking, students being able to carry multiple textbooks on their iPads (which all OJU students have been issued since 2012), students being able to easily create their own personalized electronic study materials, and being able to use the materials more interactively and creatively than with regular textbooks. Advice to would-be creators of eBooks included preparing well and organizing all content ahead of time, starting simple (such as by trying a student magazine project), and looking at examples at the iBook Store.

Reported by Bob Sanderson

OSAKA: June — Encompassing the fear of English via Emotivation by Dr. Liliana Landolfi, University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, Italy. Dr. Landolfi gave us an inspirational talk on how fears of English can block language acquisition, and how visualizations can help learning blocks to be unblocked. The computational analysis, run on the bilingual data that the EFL P.Æ.C.E. Corpus (Landolfi, 2012a) contains, identifies the word FEAR, as the second most frequent word used in the whole corpus by EFL learners to describe their language learning reality.  The data also show many learners feel EFL learning is far from being feasibly approachable. She proposed the use of visualizations: mind products which may be used as cognitive tools, to overcome blocks, empower learners, and reshape reality healthily. Students report on the efficacy of visualizations describing a clear change in their Emotivational state. Her presentation showed us the importance of an internal motivational force: Emotivation (Landolfi, 2012b) in EFL learning, and the effectiveness of visualizations to lead students to successful learning paths.

Reported by Junko Omotedani

SENDAI: May — Creating a culture of character in the classroom by Kim Horne. Horne returned to Sendai with her energy, passion, and spirit to expand on her very popular session last May. In the first session of the day Horne presented a list of virtues <virtuesproject.com/virtuesdef.html>. She explained how virtues are key players in character education. We started by selecting three virtues that we thought described ourselves: two in which we felt strong and one which we still wanted to work on. These three virtues were to inform our interactions for the day. Horne showed how through story books we could wind virtues into our classrooms, having us playing games that involved helping one another rather than trying to win. She provided an environment of empathy and understanding, just right for a good old-fashioned square dance, which started off the afternoon session with a bang. As the afternoon session progressed we worked in groups, problem solving on different aspects of our jobs as teachers. The topics were diverse, reflecting the community of teachers here. They ranged from classroom management issues to issues of authority in the institution, from fun classroom games to our secret bag of tricks, from learner motivation to teacher burnout. Keeping our three virtues in mind Horne encouraged to take these discussions beyond the day and take them back into our teaching lives. Horne had promised, “Sunday May 25th  will be a day full of creativity, enthusiasm, friendliness, helpfulness, kindness, joyfulness, purposefulness, thankfulness, understanding, and fun.” It certainly was and I am sure I am not the only one still busy working on improving in my not-so-strong virtue. Thank you, Kim!

Reported by Joanne Sato

YOKOHAMA: May — Raising gender awareness in the EFL community in Japan: A closer examination of gender in the classroom and in the workplace by Diane Nagatomo, Reiko Yoshihara, and Kristie Collins.  With the aim to correct the misguided perception that gender issues belong exclusively within the realm of “women,” the panel of GALE members presented gender-based topics about teaching professionals’ lives, beliefs, methodologies, and practices. Nagatomo presented the results of her recent research on racialized and gendered identities of foreign female university EFL teachers in Japan with an insight into current issues and previous studies on teacher identities. Yoshihara followed with the results of her study on feminist EFL teachers’ teaching beliefs and practices in Japanese university classrooms, introducing their pedagogical attempts to raise gender awareness among students. Collins then shared her experiences about teaching “Media & Gender” and “Introduction to Gender Studies” courses to university students, including a number of informative activities and music/video clips from various media resources. Her presentation concluded with each member of the audience writing their own gender “haiku” and sharing it with other participants.

Reported by Sanae Oda-Sheehan

YOKOHAMA: June — We have to learn before we can help: Examining the best (and worst) practices in volunteer travel by Daniela Papi, cofounder of PEPY. Volunteer travel is becoming increasingly more popular amongst students. Their reasons for wanting to go vary from gaining overseas experience to wanting to help others. Papi’s presentation focused on the possible problems that often occur during volunteer travel and ways to prevent disaster. The key is education—preparing students before they leave by researching the volunteer organizations, the country and culture they will be travelling to, and the problems that are often created by ill-planned volunteer excursions. Shifting the students’ perspective from “helping” people to “learning from” people was emphasized.  Using her extensive experience while living in Cambodia, Papi presented different points of view that we as educators should bring to the attention of our students who are interested in volunteer tourism.   

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

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