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Chapter Reports - January 2015

AKITA: September—Using TED talks to facilitate large group discussions by Carlos Budding and Cherie Brown, Akita International University. The purpose of the presentation/workshop was to show participants a method for helping students increase motivation and focus their English ability, as well as develop lifelong skills. The presenters demonstrated the steps they use to connect TED videos to classroom curriculum. The presentation started with a series of questions to activate the schema of the participants. Following a description of the classroom curriculum, the presenters showed their state-of-the-art use of TED videos in their classrooms. They give their students a set of rubrics, so even when they get stuck, they can refer to these strategies to help make pertinent statements. The workshop participants experienced authentic discussion activities and the session concluded with a lively question and answer session.

Reported by Mamoru “Bobby” Takahashi

GIFU: September—Mind and body: Active learning and teaching strategies by Marco Brazil. A large audience of Gifu JALT members was treated to a not only energetic but also informative presentation/workshop. The presenter expressed his belief that “learning is a constant process of discovery.” Furthermore, children learn through doing, which stimulates the brain. Moreover they enjoy active learning which they find engaging and fun, in turn making them eager to learn. In contrast extended periods of sitting can increase fatigue and reduce concentration. He demonstrated several interesting classroom-tested games and activities which have engaged his students. Throughout the presentation, the presenter referred to different pedagogical practices, such as jazz chants, to substantiate the thesis of the workshop. 

  During the post-presentation discussion at the local izakaya, it was generally agreed that although the presentation was directed at teaching children, there were several techniques that could be used or extended for use in higher level classrooms.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

GIFU: October—Dictation and internet media: Activities integrating old and new by Mark Rebuck. Rebuck began his presentation by noting that many of us have far from fond memories of dictation at school. However, when done well in the EFL classroom, dictation can help develop all four language skills in an integrated way, unite the class, engage students, and quickly and efficiently provide the teacher feedback as to student progress. Dictation can be slotted into existing lessons to complement a whole range of activities.

  Some of the activities presented include sentence dictation (which can introduce the grammar point for the lesson), board-race dictation (where two students compete to write down the dictation on the whiteboard, with other students writing at their desks), catch the discrepancy (when pairs each have a written passage with a handful of discrepancies that they read to each other), and detective dictation (when the teacher inserts some nonsense words into a serious dictation).

  Rebuck made use of a variety of media as the source of dictation activities, including TV commercials, movie trailers, public awareness broadcasts, and self-help videos. Participants left the presentation with a selection of practical, engaging dictation activities to use in class.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GUNMA: September—Vocabulary improvement techniques: Implementing self-regulated learning in junior high school by Miyuki Akamatsu and Sachiko Maruoka. One of the great difficulties we have as language teachers is our limited information regarding our students’ individual language learning methods. In this presentation Akamatsu and Maruoka dealt with student use of meta-cognitive strategies in self-regulated vocabulary learning, concentrating on the use of these strategies in increasing language learning motivation. To start, Gunma JALT attendees worked in pairs to discuss the situations of their students in regard to vocabulary study. Akamatsu and Maruoka then presented the methods and results of their survey of junior high school students on their cognitive learning strategies, self-efficacy, and their motivational strategies towards learning English. The correlations between learning strategies and motivation produced some interesting results. Not only did the introduction of meta-cognitive strategies increase student motivation, student anxiety also decreased. Accordingly, Akamatsu and Maruoka recommended introducing learners to meta-cognitive language learning strategies, even young learners such as junior high school students. In the discussion that followed their presentation, Gunma JALT attendees commented on their own situations and offered ideas as to how future research might be implemented.

Reported by John Larson

GUNMA: October—Text reconstruction exercises for language-based critical thinking instruction by David Gann. The main focus of this workshop was the use of multi-media-based text-reconstruction exercises that Gann has been producing since 2010. He has presented and published across Japan on their implementation and on the language learning theory that supports their use. Until now however, these exercises have been best described as “Under Construction,” being piloted and repeatedly redrafted over the last two-and-a-half years. They are now ready for public viewing and widespread use by any interested language teachers. Gunma JALT was proud and delighted to bear witness to their unveiling. Attendees gained a hit-the-ground-running knowledge of how to teach basic critical thinking skills through a course design that is fun and engaging while fostering autonomy through a student-centered flipped classroom style.

Reported by John Larson

HAMAMATSU: September—Discussion and debate on English education in Japan A by Kensaku Yoshida and Dan Frost. On September 20, Professor Kensaku Yoshida and Dan Frost discussed the question of how much English can be used to teach English in Japanese primary and secondary schools to a packed room of JTEs, ALTs, and other interested parties. Yoshida argued that it is possible to use English only in beginning level classes, from primary through the first year or so of junior high, but that as language becomes more abstract, the scaffolding of Japanese becomes necessary for learners. Frost countered that even if that were true, the textbooks used in primary and first year junior high are heavily dependent on Japanese from the beginning. Moreover first year junior high textbooks start teaching grammatical terms in Japanese, showing that there is a set policy to teach English by using Japanese, rather than English. Yoshida further argued for the sensible use of Japanese language in the classroom, especially when explanations risk taking over the objective of a task, and for developing English as a Lingua Franca so that students are expressing English in their own way rather than adhering to a native speaker ideal. Frost said Yoshida’s view sounded reasonable, but that having an open-ended policy of using Japanese whenever it seemed necessary might inhibit the full use of English, leaving learners ultimately dependent on L1 in the end. Yoshida was on the Central Education Committee responsible for creating the Course of Study 2009. Its aims, in theory, have been implemented in Japanese high schools as of 2013.

Reported by Dan Frost and Sue Sullivan

HIROSHIMA: September—Everything you wanted to know about the Japanese university entrance exam by Melodie Cook. Cook discussed her research into perceptions of the university entrance exam held by non-Japanese teachers working in Japanese universities. She contrasted perceptions that the exam should be a valid and reliable language test that tests English ability with the perception that in reality its purpose is to provide revenue, increase or maintain the status of the university, and, in the case of universities in the top and middle tiers, to select the most intelligent students. Non-Japanese teachers who want to change the exam often meet with resistance from their Japanese colleagues. Cook suggested this is partly because the Japanese teachers see no reason to change the exam as to test language ability is not an aim. She also used Japanese business management style to explain that the need for consensus and the age- and experience-based hierarchy have a part to play in such resistance. She concluded that recruiting like-minded colleagues was paramount to implement change but also suggested that teachers be aware of the real purposes of the exam. 

Reported by Carla Wilson

HIROSHIMA: October—National conference sneak preview. Eleanor Carson (Teacher L1 use and EFL learner attitudes over time) talked about her research into Japanese students’ preferences for the use of Japanese in the classroom. Her research has shown an inverse correlation between proficiency and preference for the use of L1, and that preferences change over the duration of a semester. Jack Bower, Arthur Rutson-Griffiths, and Richard Sugg (Developing CEFR A2 Tests of Listening and Reading) discussed the development and implementation of tests benchmarked to CEFR A2 level for diagnostic and summative use with students of general English courses at Bunkyo English Communication Center (Hiroshima Bunkyo Women’s University). Eleanor Kane gave a poster presentation (Story-Telling for Intercultural Communication) outlining a project with American college students where Japanese students presented well-known folk tales via a video link to American students. The American students adapted the stories into plays for use in US elementary schools and performed the plays via video link back to the Japanese students. Yukari Rutson-Griffiths (Towards a More Colorful Self-AccessIBLE Center) gave a poster presentation explaining her attempts to make a learning center more accessible to students by providing a welcoming environment and many small-scale opportunities to use English. Finally, Joe Lauer (Podcasts to Help Low-Level Learners of English) talked about podcasts for English learners and in particular Hiroshima University’s podcast for low level learners that allows students to shadow what is said, as well as providing Japanese support. 

Reported by Carla Wilson

HOKKAIDO: July—Creating creative classes by Rob Olson, Tomakomai Komazawa University. Olson led a workshop on how to introduce, encourage, and sustain creativity in English language classrooms. The workshop began with a brief overview of the concepts behind creative lessons, followed by an extensive and interactive tutorial focused on implementation. A strong takeaway from the conceptual overview was the notion that creative classes may utilize materials that are simple, humorous or otherwise novel, in order to realize learning structures or classroom management functions that are in fact quite complex. During the tutorial phase of the workshop, Olson introduced the concept of CDEF; creative materials should be Cheap, Durable/Duplicable, Easy (to make), and Fast. Olson gave several examples of how CDEF materials can be created and used, including one game using paper cups purchasable at the 100 yen store that drew considerable laughter from the audience. At this point, he challenged attendees to consider the robust learning opportunities generated by such easily set up games. Olson’s point was well taken; teachable moments are rich and varied, regardless of the simplicity of the materials that generate them. There is much to be said for managing classrooms and teaching vocabulary using such pictures and games for they have the power to put learners at ease. Olson gave participants at this workshop both the concepts, and the basic tools to do just that.

Reported by Joseph Tomasine

IWATE: October—Content-focused language instruction by Brent A. Jones, Konan University.   Over the past few years, content-based instruction has become an increasingly popular topic in language education, especially at the secondary and post-secondary level. On October 26, 2014, Iwate JALT welcomed Jones, director of Language Programs for both the Management Course and Study Abroad Course at Konan University, Hirao School of Management. Jones was gracious enough to give us a couple of hours of his time and explain how he has implemented content-based learning in his school. Jones is in a unique position, having started a new curriculum at Konan University and monitored its progress.

  Jones shared with us some of the challenges of getting a content-focused curriculum started, as well as its benefits. He stressed that the content itself takes priority over language, as students will be motivated to learn the English skills they need while they complete their projects. Jones also spoke of reading that students can explore to further change and develop their L2 language skills. We’d like to thank Jonesy again for coming to Iwate.

Reported by Jason Hill

KITAKYUSHU: September—What can younger learners teach us? by Zack Robertson. Robertson explained the cognitive development stages of young English language learners (YELLs) acquiring their first language, then the differences in language learning and acquisition processes between children and adults. He ran us through various physiological and neurological, psychological and cognitive, and sociolinguistic patterns that are emerging currently in the fields of SLA, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics, noting that individual variation resists compartmentalization, which may prejudice our teaching approaches. 

  While language development is better viewed as a continuum rather than defined through rigid age brackets, other considerations such as the critical period hypothesis and puberty (both influenced by possibility versus effort) and the reticular activating system’s effect on intrinsic, extrinsic, integrative, and instrumental motivation. While YELLs tend to look to their teachers to provide these and often fail to negotiate meaning, older learners tend to display a wider variety of learning strategies in their language acquisition and are simply better at finding ways to supplement formal study.

  Following this intensive input was a quiz, “Who is better at what?” We answered whether children or adults were likely to be more successful at specified language learning tasks. Robertson then had us review further by discussing in small groups where we see and how we might use the presented concepts in our teaching practice. 

Reported by Dave Pite

KITAKYUSHU: October—Making money online by Todd Beuckens. Beuckens loves teaching English as a foreign language, appears passionate about his hobby, entrepreneurship, and shared lots of information with us from his years of experience. He showed us the basics of starting an online business—from finding something lacking in the vast TEFL field (“How many here have had to work with a textbook they hated?”), to filling that niche, then getting the project operating, getting people to use it, and monetizing it. He credits his initial motivation for online publishing to a student who kept demanding more resources. His thriving online Elllo (English Listening Lesson Library Online) was completely free for three years, until it started attracting sponsors.

  Pointing out that starting a business was mostly about attending to all the details, Beuckens listed several useful outsourcing services, elicited from the audience (and rewarded with cookies) lists of salable digital items under the headings of Ads, Products, and Services and then got us into groups to create and record language exercises which he will soon upload to the free site <http://jaltkks.greatnow.com>. Attracting the biggest turnout at our chapter in years this presentation gave a good picture of the time, effort, and dedication required to make a useful website. 

Reported by Dave Pite

OKAYAMA: October — Focus on Canada by David Townsend and Cognitive load and the competent teacher by Jason Lowes. Townsend outlined a curriculum naming Canada as its content while actually encouraging university students to articulate their understanding of Japan, in preparation for studying abroad (Canada or anywhere). Townsend perceived a gap among culture-focused English textbooks, between those highlighting a target culture and those celebrating students’ own. His course meshes these aims together, helping students learn to talk about Japan in the context of other cultures, mainly by drawing comparisons understandable to all involved. Units in the course included comparative perceptions of family, diversity, symbolism, etc.

  Lowes defined cognitive load as the amount of non-automatic brainwork necessary to solve a problem. While much language learning research is interested in learners’ cognitive load, Lowes chose to address that of teachers, in hopes of helping them function more effectively with coursework and students. Some ways to reduce cognitive load and be more efficient include: reducing distractions (for example empty stomach, disruptive students); knowing students well, developing “scripts” for different and changing classroom circumstances, and gradually transferring more responsibility for learning to students. These can avert cognitive overload and make one more attentive as a teacher.

Reported by Scott Gardner

OKINAWA: September — JET/ALT workshop. Okinawa JALT held a JET/ALT Workshop at Okinawa Christian University on Saturday, September 27. We had about ten people attend on what was a beautiful, sunny summer day, including three Japanese teachers of English from local junior high and high schools. During the event, George MacLean spoke about his experiences as an ALT, and emphasized the potential of electronic whiteboards to better present teaching materials. Fernando Kohatsu made a very interesting presentation about controlling students’ use of definite and indefinite articles in Spanish. Justin Foster Sutherland presented a game that can be used to motivate students to answer questions in class and would be enjoyed by students of all ages. Finally, Tim Kelly spoke briefly about the importance of developing effective relations in team-teaching situations. Hopefully we will be able to attract ALTs and JETs to future meetings as summer draws to a close here on “Happy Island.” Our next event, The World of Part-Time Teaching, will be on Sunday October 19th.

 Reported by Meghan Kuckelman

TOKYO: September — Global Englishes by Dr. Galloway. Galloway, specialist in Global Englishes (GE) from the University of Edinburgh, presented on the growing importance of GE as a research paradigm that has important ramifications for English Language Teaching (ELT). Despite the increasing emphasis being placed on the pedagogical implications at the theoretical level, ELT remains largely unchanged. Proposals for change have also met severe criticism, and there is a lack of research at the practical level. 

  This presentation examined Global Englishes Language Teaching (GELT), which represents a move away from a focus on native English speaking norms, and a move toward an “English as a Lingua Franca” approach.  In this approach, native (NES) and non-native (NNES) English speakers are placed on equal footing; the aim is to emancipate the NNES from the norms of a minority group of English users.  However, an attachment to “standard” English, the prevalence of standardized language tests, and the continued recruitment of NESTs prevail as barriers. This presentation provided examples from the Japanese context that showcase how GE can be incorporated into the curriculum in different ways, although it is recognized that breaking away from the epistemic dependency of NE and the NES may not be such an easy task.

Reported by Sayaka Amano

TOKYO: September — Pragmatics for language teachers by Jerry Talandis Jr., Kimiko Koseki, and Donna Fujimoto. This general introduction to pragmatics was a three-part workshop covering both practice and research in the area of pragmatics and began with a useful and usable lay person’s definition, which was followed by activities enabling participants to understand the concepts. In order for teachers to focus on what type of pragmatics to teach, “Three Golden Rules” of conversational strategies for students were explained. The presenter also spoke about how pragmatics is treated in conversation textbooks and recommended useful resources.

  Part two argued teaching pragmatics is also important at the high school level. The tendency in many schools is to focus on grammatical accuracy, yet pragmatic failures may be much more problematic. Teachers and students should be made aware of the importance of pragmatics in communication because it is possible to offend others without even knowing it! The presenter shared lessons and materials based on speech acts such as compliments, refusals, apologies, and requests. 

  Finally, Conversation Analysis (CA) is perhaps the most effective methodological framework in research and this is a rigorous and highly detailed analysis of people’s interactions. This session began with a general introduction to CA and then explained the differences between CA, discourse analysis, and other methodologies.

Reported by Sayaka Amano

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