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Chapter Reports - July 2015

AKITA: March — Running a 4-skills extensive reading class by Ben Shearon, Tohoku University. The purpose of this presentation/workshop was to illustrate an effective method for helping students to both increase their motivation and to focus their English ability. In addition, they learned how to develop lifelong skills by using ER. The workshop started with the question, “What is ER?” Since most participants had never used ER in their teaching, they were eager to learn how ER is applied in the classroom at Tohoku University. The presenter provided an overview of a 4-skills extensive reading class he spent six years developing at his university, and he accomplished this by demonstrating the step-by-step method he used to connect ER to his classroom curriculum. The workshop participants thus were able to learn authentic ER activities that could be applied to their own classes, and the session concluded with a lively question and answer session.

Reported by Mamoru “Bobby” Takahashi

AKITA: April — Activating extensive reading by Thomas Bieri, Nanzan University. Extensive reading has recently become a well-known technique for language study and many programs and individual instructors have been incorporating it into their language teaching practice. However, many educators may not have confidence that they fully understand what ER is or how they can take advantage of the benefits. The presentation began with a definition of ER and a general introduction to the principles of extensive reading, particularly as defined by Day and Bamford (1998, 2002). The presenter then demonstrated several classroom activities related to extensive reading and discussed several ways of managing and tracking student reading, most notably the MReader website run by Dr. Thomas Robb.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

GIFU: February — Characteristics and uses of teacher personal narratives (TPN) in the language classroom by Suzanne Bonn, PhD Candidate, Aston University. Bonn’s presentation on classroom TPNs via PowerPoint and interactive activities provided a glimpse into the process, methods and difficulties of mixed methods research. JALT members were asked to hypothesize on the whens, hows and whys of TPN use, drawing on their own teaching practices. Bonn warmed up the audience with the same questions her four case study participants (two males, two females, one each NNS- and NS-speaker teachers, respectively, various ages) were asked. For example, concerning narrative audience, teachers were asked where they thought TPNs were used in a lesson, “with whole class, intro, during an activity, upon completion, or end of class.” A lively discussion on the ideal position for TPNs ensued. Then, JALT members were given a chance to analyze and consider databases of results, such as why most of her participants told TPNs mostly to the whole class, whereas an older NNS-speaker, male, used more structural elements of narrative bits with smaller groups. Fascinating stuff! Teachers got hands-on practice with a Conversation Analysis worksheet. At the end, a few teachers asked Bonn about PhD programs.  

Reported by Leah Ann Sullivan

GIFU: March — Teaching the question of culture by Brett Hack, Aichi Prefectural University. It has often been observed that language is inseparable from culture. So, like it or not, all language teachers are engaged to some extent with teaching culture. As Hack pointed out, the question is not if you teach culture, but how you teach culture. However, very often people approach the teaching of culture by only addressing the tip of the iceberg (i.e. focusing on food, music, fashion, etc.) instead of the deeper values and worldviews that lie at the heart of cultures. Hack presented his strategy for teaching culture, which broadly consists of three stages. Firstly, focus on meaning; secondly, show the production of culture; and thirdly, highlight change or friction. Hack also explained the difference between a typological and a generative point of view of culture —arguing that we should really be teaching from a generative view, which conceptualizes culture as being made by people, rather than people being made by culture.Participants in the workshop deconstructed the hidden meanings in the Marlboro Man, compared a video of Swan Lake with Lady Gaga, and discussed how to teach elements of Japanese culture such as inemuri and the Yasukuni shrine.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GIFU: April — Re-writing classic foreign literature as graded readers by Alastair Lamond, englishbooks.jp. The overwhelming majority of graded readers for English language learners are either original stories or retellings of English-language classic literature. Lamond made the case for more stories from non-Western classic literature, and spoke about the decisions that have to be made in the process of creating a graded reader, using his retelling of Natsume Soseki’s Botchan as an example. He introduced several tools for managing vocabulary and maintaining ease-of-reading for the targeted level. Also, he revealed several of the issues that came up during the writing and editing process such as supplying appropriate and helpful illustrations, creating additional material to increase accessibility for the English language learner, and overall, ensuring faithfulness to the original and historical accuracy. The presentation was followed by a discussion of the feasibility of putting other non-Western works in graded reader form. In sum, it was an interesting peek at issues involved in ELT materials production and publishing, with lots of practical tips for anyone contemplating writing a graded reader.

Reported by Alan Thompson

GUNMA / SAITAMA: March — My Share collaboration: Starting the year off right. Saitama Chapter welcomed four presenters from Gunma in this first-half of the Saitama-Gunma Dual My Share. Kayvon Havaei-Ahary, Taylor Mignon, Barry Keith, and Raymond Hoogenboom all gave 20-minute presentations on the topic “Starting the Year Off Right.” Havaei-Ahary feels that in order to develop both English and thinking skills, Japanese English students should be tasked with asking questions, rather than just answering them. To that end, he presented attendees with three awareness-raising activities and nine task-based activities where question-making plays a major role. Mignon shared a bit of the surreal. He led attendees through two surrealist writing activities adapted from A Book of Surrealist Games. His activities produced uniquely humorous and thought-provoking conversation starters that are certain to inspire motivation and interest in students. Keith showed the success he has had using student profile sheets. Many small adaptations to this common tool have helped Keith overcome the problems of knowing and identifying with students. Hoogenboom gave attendees ideas on how to start student listening audio journals. His students use IC recorders or cell phones to record English summaries of radio shows they listen to each week. The wide variety of radio shows available for free on the internet gives students an ample supply of materials to choose from.

Reported by John Larson

GUNMA / SAITAMA: April — Gunma / Saitama My Share collaboration: Having a successful year. Gunma attendees enjoyed four presentations during the second-half of the Gunma-Saitama dual my share. Tyson Rode, Matt Shannon, and Florence Ito made the long trip from Saitama to join Gunma speakers Sylvain Bergeron, Renée Sawazaki, and John Larson. All speakers presented under the shared topic: Having a Successful Year. Rode started things off with an interactive lecture on L2 reading and literacy. If students can read, they can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. Among the helpful hints Rode shared was a long list of web-based reading resources such as starfall.com, raz-kids.com, ESLgamesplus.com, and readtheory.org. Gunma Chapter members Bergeron and Sawazaki followed with some practical EFL applications for peace and ethics education. According to UNESCO, time and money spent on ethical education is far outweighed by that used for numeracy and literacy training, despite being essential for developing healthy relationships both at home and cross-culturally. The free, online manual full of lesson plans and ideas can be found at ethicseducationforchildren.org. After a break, Shannon and Ito  — long-time team-teaching partners  — taught a demonstration class that highlighted active listening. Use of phrases such as “You said…” and “Tell me more…” allows students to make rebuttals, extensions, and more complex discussions. Some lucky participants also received magic staplers. Larson wrapped things up with a brief demonstration of his Recycled News activity and how he has polished and enriched it over 10 years of kaizen. After the meeting, attendees and presenters broke nan together at a local curry restaurant.

Reported by John Larson

IBARAKI: February — Listening and pronunciation: Keep an eye on the mother tongue by Maria Gabriela Schmidt, University of Tsukuba; 100 similarities between English and Japanese: How to make the best use by Takashi Shimaoka, University of Tsukuba. The main theme of the All-day Meeting was Pronunciation, with a sub-theme of making effective use of students’ first language, in this case Japanese. Explaining how our comprehensive linguistic cognitive mind is set by the sounds which we hear, even before we can speak, Schmidt emphasized the importance of listening comprehension in second language acquisition. Many interesting ways of using the knowledge of one’s native Japanese were presented to aid students in getting a handle on the intricacies of English pronunciation by Shimaoka. He also introduced his own Shimaoka Kana Transcription (SKT) method as an aid in this challenge.  

Reported by Martin Pauly

KITAKYUSHU: March — Assessment for learning: Dynamic assessment by Joseph John Simpson. Simpson discussed different models of assessment in the language classroom, comparing the traditional a priori assessment models that measure student performance in an isolated and decontextualized manner to an interactive model that allows the teacher to scaffold the student during the assessment session to grasp the upper limits of student capability. Simpson began by covering the different theoretical underpinnings for dynamic assessment and followed by presenting two actual assessment sessions, one traditional and the other dynamic in order to highlight the difference in student performance.

Reported by Zack Robertson

KITAKYUSHU: April — Gender differences and literacy by Michael Berg. Berg began his discussion by reviewing several ways men and women have been suggested to differ physically, psychologically, and cognitively in addition to touching on the extent to which these differences are a result of biological hardwiring, social programming, or a combination of these two factors. He then turned discussion to the various gender issues that can arise in modern day language classrooms and how teachers may better adapt their pedagogical practices to meet the various strengths and weaknesses of both sexes.

Reported by Zack Robertson

KITAKYUSHU: May — Card games and vocabulary building by Adam Stone. Stone introduced a card game that can be used to both introduce new vocabulary and strengthen the lexical recognition of already learned vocabulary. For the first part of the presentation, the audience was taught the rules of the game and were allowed to play the game using made-up words. Adam then introduced a simple computer program he has developed that can be used to quickly generate game cards from any set of L1/L2 vocabulary pairs. For the final part of the presentation, the audience tested themselves on their acquisition of the target vocabulary and added input regarding the deployment of the game and its practical uses in the language classroom.

Reported by Zack Robertson

KYOTO: March — Basic applied statistics for language education research by Dr. Matthew Apple, Ritsumeikan University. This workshop, oriented towards near-beginners, introduced a number of basic concepts in statistics and outlined a number of applications teachers can use in their classes and research. Apple first went over common terms in statistics, like standard deviation, t-scores, z-scores, and error, explaining how they are relevant to understanding common tests, like TOEIC, and some of the problems in their application. He then explored different concepts of reliability and validity, and explained some of the problems we in language teaching face in applying them to both our classes and our research. The workshop then talked about two common types of statistical analysis used in language teaching research, t-tests and correlation studies, and described the reasons and problems in using each. Following these discussions, Apple then used a file of ersatz student TOEIC test score data to walk the participants through some of the concepts presented earlier. He showed how to calculate basic statistical figures like mean, standard deviation, skew, kurtosis, t-test results, and p-values in Excel. He emphasized that TOEIC and TOEFL ITP are not accepted by many top-level journals since they do not report raw scores and have high error margins, though calculating statistics with data from these tests may be useful for analyzing trends within classes. He also provided principles for excluding outlying data, and suggestions for using any data or students excluded for other quantitative and qualitative investigation.

Reported by Thomas Amundrud

NAGOYA: March — Teaching the question of culture by Brett Hack, Aichi Prefectural University. Language education at Japanese universities shifted towards cultivating a global mindset. The presentation focused on culture: 1) Culture is a central aspect of language teaching;  2) Integrating the study of culture is beneficial for language learners. These are very controversial principles for language teachers. A target culture is just a tip of the iceberg, the view of tourists. Set images of it may carry the risk of reinforcing stereotypes. Culture is always in the background and the story people tell, of course, is changing. Hack’s strategy has 3 steps to discuss: a) focus of meaning and do critical analysis, b) show the examples of culture, and c) highlight changing traditions and multiculturalism. Through the demonstrations for beginners and advanced courses, we learned what we can do for our classes to promote a better understanding global culture. The presentation will help us to solve the question of culture.

Reported by Sumiko Shiraishi

NAGOYA: April — Re-writing classic foreign literature as graded readers by Alastair Lamond. To promote the enjoyment of reading non-Western classic literature for English learners, publishers re-write them for some levels of learners based on CEFR levels. According to Lamond, the 600-word-level is significant for all students. Some topics are not traditionally welcomed in foreign language textbooks, known as PARSNIP (Pork, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms, and Politics). Five factors are considered when creating graded readers: 1) strong concept, 2) high stakes 3) great characters and settings, 4) real conflict, and 5) a satisfying believable payoff. Placing illustrations in the books is also very effective to ensure comprehension. Lamond picked Botchan by Soseki Natsume to explain the planning process of re-writing. He visited Dogo-onsen, a famous spa in Matsuyama and sat on a tatami mat to read the story as Soseki did. He could imagine the background of the story easily. Practicing that practical way is quite interesting. Thanks to the publishers, graded readers bring about the socio-cultural benefits and ensure a connection with a modern audience.

Reported by Sumiko Shiraishi

NIIGATA: April — Numbers game: How accreditation, Kakenhi and the “Super Global” program are changing Japan’s universities by Bern Mulvey. It was a beautiful spring day in Niigata, yet indoors a good-sized audience, some people coming all the way from Nagano and Aizu-Wakamatsu, attended Bern’s power-packed presentation on the negatives and positives of university accreditation in Japan. Using bilingual PowerPoint slides, Bern began by sharing his own experiences with the accreditation process. After that, he defined accreditation, explained the process in Japan, and highlighted how changing demographics and trends in matriculation rates are related to it. Bern gave a thorough, fair, and balanced assessment of measurement issues, issues of quantity over quality, the FD Monster, the current economic climate in Japan, and concerns about the future, among other topics. While critical about many points, such as a lack of consensus on appropriate learning in faculty evaluation or the need for universities to apply for kakenhi (or else!), Bern reminded us that many of Monkasho’s goals are laudable, for example, calling on institutions to do self-examination, set goalposts, and foster improvements in English education and evaluation. Ending on a positive note, Bern offered many good recommendations to people wanting to get or stay employed at healthy  institutions, such as upgrading qualifications, publishing, and improving their Japanese language skills.

Reported by Melodie Cook

SAITAMA: See Gunma posting, March.

SAITAMA: See Gunma posting, April.

SENDAI: March — Exploring the creation of teaching materials by Greg Goodmacher, Sponsored by JALT Materials Writers SIG. The presentation abstract began, “Mass-produced textbooks usually do not match the specific needs of our classes and students. Too often, though, textbooks seem to control the lessons and academic content of our schools. The presenter believes that teachers, not textbooks, should lead classes….” With an opening like this, most every language educator’s attention would surely be drawn. And right in the middle of the yearly break, when many of us were busy attending to our personal lives, seventeen dedicated teachers came out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for this highly informative, relevant, and timely presentation specifically focused on the adaptation of existing teaching materials to better meet the needs of our learners and our teaching objectives. For a full three hours, the presenter had us engaged and actively participating in a variety of activities and exercises that allowed us to explore and experience the expansion, improvement, and evolution of teaching materials. Goodmacher’s casual presentation style and obvious familiarity with the topic made this event a great experience for all. The event was highly worthwhile, and it was evident that Goodmacher had still more to share, so we look forward to the opportunity to participate in a sequel to this event sometime soon. JALT Sendai would like to extend a special thanks to the JALT Material Writers SIG for sponsoring this event. This was a highly successful example of chapter and SIG collaboration that greatly benefitted JALT members, and served to strengthen our organization as a whole.

Reported by Cory J. Koby

SHINSHU — April: Can-do statements & assessment in a Japanese context by Morten Hunke and Yumiko Miyamoto. In our first session, Hunke discussed the implementation of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and Can-Do descriptors at universities, providing three case studies. Feeling a need for more evaluation of approaches, he introduced various means of support for educators who are using CEFR, including JALT’s Framework & Language Portfolio Special Interest Group (FLP SIG), JACET’s Japan Portfolio for Student Teachers of Languages (JPOSTL), JACTFL, as well as some CEFR-informed English and Japanese textbooks including Connections to Thinking in English. Hunke stressed that implementing the CEFR requires strong commitment and collaboration by all stake holders involved. Miyamoto followed with a discussion of Can-Do statements and assessment in a high school context. After providing an overview of the CEFR, Miyamoto explained how a Can-Do list was implemented at a high school in Nagano, where the more EFL context in Japan (as opposed to the more ESL context in the EU) had to be considered. She then reported the findings of research conducted there and discussed how a proficiency test for reading, listening, and writing, as well as student self-assessment questionnaires were used to validate the school-based Can-Do list.

Reported by Mary Aruga

TOTTORI: April — Workshop on extensive reading by Dr. Rob Waring. Waring provided insight into the over-representation of intensive reading as a method of learning in Japanese schools, highlighting tendencies in Asian education systems of focusing more on knowledge than use of language, with little assumption that material covered will be recycled in later lessons. Waring also called attention to the inherent risks of an exaggerated sense of student failure in the teaching causes learning paradigm. Participant discussion brought attention to the necessity of repeated exposure to chunks of language in order to make use of active vocabulary. Also explored were the benefits of extensive reading on fluency as well as improvements in vocabulary as measured on standardized tests. Waring presented a plethora of resources for incorporating extensive reading into a variety of teaching systems.

Reported by Tremain Xenos

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