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Chapter Reports - March 2011

 

Akita: November—2010 Balsamo Asian ScholarFour Corners Tour presentation: Teaching and learning English in Cambodian high schools: Challenges and prospectsby Soryong Om. People ranging from Akita citizens to AIU students and professors, and Akita-JALT members attended this special event presentation, which was held at Akita International University (AIU), and coordinated by Akita-JALT. The presenter was a featured speaker at the 2010 JALT National Conference in Nagoya. For this particular presentation he talked about the challenges within the Cambodian education system, specifically targeting high schools. Not only did he discuss challenges, but he also gave reasons for optimism. Om believes things will get better because they have gotten better. The education situation is better now than it was during various brutal dictatorships. Also, the government of Cambodia is trying to put as many resources as it can into improving the current education system. Om believes these are signs pointing toward a bright future. His depiction of Cambodian education history as well as general history was insightful and riveting. The entire presentation stimulatedthoughtful discussion ina healthy and extensive question and answer session.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

Akita: December—Theatre training for teachers: Actorstechniques keep language teachers inshape and ready for classbyClaudine Bennent. Bennent is a JET teacher from Sendai, a South African who graduated from the University of Capetown with a degree focused on the training of voice actors. This was a workshop designed to introduce participants to voice techniques and exercises used to train actors, but that have been adapted to the lifestyle and needs of teachers. We learned how to improve projection and articulation, develop a voice that students want to listen to, as well as protect our voices from long-term damage. This was a very physical workshop that included lying on the floor, humming, shouting, pushing the walls, and facial self-massage among its varied activities. Since a teacher’s voice is one of his or her primary tools, this workshop was quite useful, and a pleasant departure from the more academic presentations which are the norm.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

Gifu: October—Creating a culture of character in the classroombyKim Horne.The presenter outlined the rationale of teaching virtues in the classroom to young learners. Horne used a wide range of virtues including patience, honesty, respect, courage, punctuality, solidarity, and kindness (a full list is available at <www.virtues.com>) to enhance learning and to build character. Horne stated: “I believe that my classroom is not only about teaching English but also teaching values.” The forum explored how to improve and inspire student discipline, motivation, and independence. Over a year, Horne helped guide students to take responsibility for their learning and behavior through picture books, extension activities, songs, chants, and drama. Horne used the Dottie book series, and was able to incorporate a different virtue into each lesson, culminating in an exchange of toys with an Australian school.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

Gunma: November—From EFL teacher to peace activist byAnna Baltzer.A chance meeting with two young women in Lebanon desiring to practice their French proved pivotal in this EFL teacher’s life. As her network expanded, she learned of a different Palestinian story than what she had heard before. Disbelieving, she traveled to Palestine to discover a disturbing system of segregation essentially choking the mobility of the Palestinian people. Even Palestinian ambulances can be detained or refused passage at check points, sometimes resulting in needless death. Baltzer explained how Israel’s illegal colonization is continuing by handsomely paying its citizens to move into the West Bank Jewish-only settlements and how the Palestinians are being forced out. Contrary to the notion that Jews and Muslims will never get along, the people living in this area before the creation of Israel were all Palestinian people and were a very diverse group of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Many courageous Israelis are participating in co-operative endeavors and peaceful protests with Palestinians, and refusing to join the military, risking prison or disownment. According to Baltzer, silence is complicity and if we do only one thing, it should be to join the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (<BDSmovement.net>).

Reported by Lori Ann Desrosiers

Himeji: November―Blended learning: Using computers and the internet to learn English by Andrew Philpott. Although most of us would admit that computers make our life much easier, many teachers have not explored the true potential of blended learning. This presentation started with a quick outline of interesting facts and the definition of blending learning before introducing the audience to a range of sites that Philpott has used in his internet English course and communicative classes at Himeji Dokkyo University. It was the type of presentation that had something for everyone. He demonstrated how to use software linked to a textbook like Izone, start a blog, chat online using Chatzy, and practice for the TOEIC test using smart.fm. By the end of the presentation, we had a much better idea about how the internet can be added to our classes.

Reported by Wendy Tada

Kyoto: November—Evaluating a vocabulary programmeby Paul Nation. The presentation’s central theme was how teachers can help our students learn vocabulary, not how teachers should teach vocabulary. Nation argues for teacher awareness in four areas: planning, training, testing, and teaching. Within teacher planning, effective vocabulary programs involve a balance of four distinct strands: an equal treatment of meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, deliberate study, and fluency activities. Nation discussed practical activities and techniques teachers can utilize for practice within these four strands. In addition to a focus on planning, teachers should also help learners become familiar with vocabulary learning strategies. Testing is essential to shed light on each individual learner’s stage in vocabulary learning and to plan for future learning. Finally, while it is essential to concentrate on high frequency words, those not within this group should be tackled appropriately. Nation advised teachers to evaluate their language programs in order to identify areas that may be lacking and to make adjustments to their teaching plan.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

Kitakyushu: January—Memory and learning by Robert S. Murphy. Many of the ideas in this “Crash Course in the Brain” were credited to Brian Hudson at Harvard University, where Murphy does neurolinguistic research. His aim is to improve language teaching by helping students retain and use English more effectively. Contrary to popular metaphors portraying it as book or computer-like, memory in fact exists in gist form as neural links in a hierarchically organized brain. One hundred billion neurons making a quadrillion connections offer potential dynamic skills development, if properly tweaked by the teacher. It’s all about exciting neurons and building networks to bring students from their merely functional level upon entering the classroom to an optimal level and then continuing to generate interest and attention through emotional connections with personal, attractive topics. His PowerPoint slides offered clear illustrations, including how grammar-translation methodology does a great disservice to authentic English, rendering it simply a manifestation of Japanese. This is the kind of thinking behind Murphy’s EFL textbooks. He concluded by fielding some ideas for applying these principles to classroom practice, which included helping students to discover grammatical connections, set goals, and negotiate syllabuses.

Reported by Dave Pite

Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara: DecemberPecha kucha night by Mayumi Asaba, Ted Bonnah, John Campbell-Larsen, Steve Cornwell, James Crocker, Brent Jones, David Kolf, Mike Riffle, Greg Rouault, and Matthew Walsh. Chapters from all over Kansai enjoyed a very lively and interesting Pecha kucha-style year-end event at Konan University’s Nishinomiya campus in Hyogo on the evening of December 18. Pecha kucha is a simple presentation format where each presenter shows 20 images, for 20 seconds each. The images forward automatically and the presenter talks along to the images. During the two hour event, there were 10 very interesting presentations on a wide range of topics: The publishing processby Mayumi Asaba; JALT2010 Overview by Ted Bonnah; Reflections on language learning & teaching by John Campbell-Larsen; ’Tis the season by Steve Cornwell; Critical thinking by James Crocker; Experience economy by Brent Jones; Presentation strategies by David Kolf; What I took away from Nagoya by Mike Riffle; Speed data-ing by Greg Rouault; and Hato: Hands across the ocean by Matthew Walsh. The concise and efficient presentations were all stimulating and gave us plenty to think about and discuss at the bonenkai afterwards. All in all it was a very interesting and enjoyable evening and a great way to wind down the year.

Reported by Junko Omotedani

Nagasaki: November—Maintaining young learners’ motivationbyMarianne Nikolov. In November, Nagasaki welcomed Nikolov, the Four Corners Tour speaker. Her presentation began with an overview of types of motivation and factors affecting it, especially aptitude, attitude, and anxiety, and the changing roles of teachers, peers, and parents as motivators. Nikolov then turned to the nature of tasks, stressing the necessity of balancing the new and the familiar, with meaning-focused activities coming first and form-focused tasks being used as a follow-up in response to learner weaknesses. The presenter then tackled the crucial issue of assessment, arguing that feedback and evaluation must be immediate if it is to be effective, but that overt error correction is demotivating. She stressed that reading and writing should be introduced as soon as learners show an interest in it. Finally, she outlined approaches to using negotiation in class, and showed how young learners can be involved in decision-making about the extent of participation, sequencing, and evaluation. Nikolov ended with the message that motivated learners need motivated teachers, and discussion then focused on tasks for fast-finishing learners, the place of praise in the classroom, and the role of coursebooks and tests.

Reported by Richard Hodson

Nagoya: December—It’s Christmas! byLinda Donan.Donan gave suggestions and demonstrations of games, songs, stories, and other exercises for classes of all ages on the theme of Christmas and for Christmas parties with her interactive presentation. She asked participants to confirm the vocabulary of Christmas articles, telling how those articles have been used traditionally at Christmastime. Some Christmas books are good for senior high students to read, and they can also explain the pictures in them. Little kids enjoy books with flaps they can turn, which cover some special pictures under them. Donan tells three-year-olds the names of Christmas articles, asking them to find them hidden separately here and there all over the room. Sometimes, Donan says, “At Christmas, the last wins”, teaching the concept of Christmas. In college, students stage a Christmas drama, sometimes humorously. Singing for fun, learning grammatical points, and translating the words interest them. When the number of kids is large, she divides them into four groups with their parents and gives each group a different game. When one game finishes, Donan switches the groups. Santa comes in the room to give them presents. A festive mood with drinking and eating makes good memories for everyone.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Niigata: October—Vygotskian socio-cultural theory (SCT): Some useful concepts and applications for us as language teachers and researchersbyMohammed K. Ahmed. Without a doubt, Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) is a much-touted figure in the field of language acquisition. Ahmed presented on key topics of Vygotsky’s life, his influence, and his research. A widely influential theory of Vygotsky was that of socio-cultural theory (SCT), based on cognitive development. Ahmed discussed how far-reaching SCT was throughout many diverse fields, particularly in relation to its time era within Soviet Russia and to the western world. Several core concepts which Ahmed expanded upon were in regards to inner speech, zone of proximal development (ZPD), and dialectics. Through Ahmed’s presentation, we were more enlightened to Vygotsky and what he means to us as teachers and researchers.

Reported by Kevin Maher

Niigata: December—The best of JALT2010byHoward Brown, Carmen Hannah, and Mohammed Ahmed. Following the JALT National Conference, it has become a local Niigata tradition to present on the best of what we saw at the conference. Howard Brown shared a presentation he viewed, entitled Integrating thinking skills into the EFL classroom by Amos Paran. This was about topics of substance, local context, and intertextualization, the latter of which involved using an outside text to contrast the author’s written text on the topic in question. Carmen Hannah found Challenges in teaching English as a foreign language to young learners by Marianne Nikolov to be the most interesting of the conference. Her presentation involved the Critical Period Hypothesis, as well as discussing the advantages and disadvantages of children learning a foreign language early in life. It presented both sides of the argument, and was informative in regards to this topic. Carmen Hannah also spoke about the presentation by Om Soryong entitled Using humor: The spice of effective teaching─mostly because he also presented at JALT Niigata on a weekday, and it was a way to share with all what we might have missed. Lastly, Mohammed Ahmed shared a presentation that he viewed, entitled Five ways to integrate technology into language teaching by Nicky Hockly. This included such technology as YouTube videos, word clouds, podcasts, animated cartoon movies, and slideshows. Overall, it was an informative meeting, and a great way to show and share our support for the national JALT Conference to all members who might not have been able to attend themselves.

Reported by Kevin M. Maher

Oita: November—Teaching and learning English humor, in principle and practicebyRichard Hodson.Oita hosted English lecturer Hodson, who invited attendees to explore how to introduce humor into the classroom. In the presentation he told numerous jokes, which kept us laughing for two hours. Together we discussed the key pedagogical and cultural issues that need to be considered when introducing humorous materials in the EFL classroom. Hodson provided insights from humor theory, and from recent ELT research. In the second half of the presentation, he described the results from two recent research projects. In one of the research projects, students rated a series of thematically-linked newspaper cartoons, and wrote their own original captions. Many of the participants could not figure out which caption the students had written and which one was the original because the students had done such a great job. The presentation ended with a discussion on recommendations for Hodson to pursue in his future research on humor in the classroom.

Reported by Lindsay Mack

Okayama: NovemberUniversity accreditation: How it impacts you by Bern Mulvey. Drawing on his extensive experience with the external evaluation and accreditation procedures in America and Japan, Mulvey began by providing a historical perspective of accreditation of Japanese universities from 1947 to the present. Demographics, including the number of participating schools, students, funding, and economic conditions were discussed as the speaker entertained questions and comments throughout the presentation. Mandatory third-party assessments by one of four accrediting agencies began in 2004 after a three-year trial period. This process is to be repeated every seven years with three possible results: pass, probation, and fail. All results must be publicized. To date no school has failed.

Reported by Mutsumi Kawasaki

Okayama: December—Discourse analysis for language teachers by Ian Nakamura. This presentation applied conversation analysis (CA) to classroom practice. Typically, study of teacher talk in classrooms focuses on quantity, but this presentation focused on quality of teacher talk, particularly in one-to-one dialogues with students. Several brief exchanges from lessons and interviews were analyzed. The presenter started by identifying components of the dialogues according to CA definitions, and then pointing out why certain aspects of the dialogues are important in the interaction. Third turns were especially highlighted as important points in a dialogue. In the examples provided, third turns were typically made by teachers, following initial teacher questions and student responses to those questions. What teachers do with the conversation at the point of the third turn makes a big difference in the conversation’s development. The presenter emphasized that his deepening understanding of CA influences his interactions with students in his language classes, and he encouraged other teachers to pay more attention to how they interact with students, perhaps by occasionally recording classroom dialogue, and even by analyzing it in study groups. This way teachers can learn more about how they co-manage topic and meaning in conversation with language learners, and how teachers might better facilitate student expression.

Reported by Scott Gardner

Omiya: January—Interdependence and language input and output byAlastair Graham-Marr andMultiple Intelligence Theory by Masa Tsuneyasu.Omiya JALT started the year with two excellent presentations, the first of which covered a wide range of topics but focused mainly on the interdependence and importance of input and output in the language classroom. The presentation felt very interpersonal. Alastair was able to engage the audience despite the significant number of attendees. The presentation covered a lot of groundbreaking concepts that are second nature to the academia-oriented crowd; however, his presentation of these ideas remained accessible to all audience members. In the second half of our session, Tsuneyasu spoke on Multiple Intelligence Theory and led the group in several examples of activities founded on it. For many in the audience, this was their first exposure to the concept. Tsuneyasu skillfully introduced the theory to the audience and presented solid reasoning for using this heavily student-centered teaching technique.

Reported by Brad Semans

Shizuoka: December—Adapting under stress: Surviving and succeeding in learning EnglishbyJoseph Falout. Falout did his three-time A taste of JALT moniker proud as he spoke about his current research in motivation, demotivation, and remotivation. Focusing mostly on remotivation, he talked about how to give praise: don’t praise personality traits, praise efforts and strategies; make praise specific for best effect; don’t be disingenuous, students can easily sniff that out; and finally, praise what you want to see more of. He also discussed Dweck’s (2000, 2006) framework of “fixed” mindsets, in which people believe intelligence is innate, and “growth” mindsets, in which people believe intelligence can be developed. He encouraged us to surround ourselves with growth mindset thinkers, to discover how they think, live, work, and teach. In talking about how to help students survive and succeed in learning English, he mentioned that it might be helpful for teachers to keep a journal of constructive praise. Finally, he told us to help struggling students with efficacy training and “attribution re-training”, where failure is linked to a solvable cause, and to help more capable students set even higher goals. He stressed that we should not forget that every action, every word from a teacher sends a message to students, and with practice, those words and actions can help remotivate our students.

Reported by Jennifer Hansen

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