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Chapter Reports - January 2011

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Akita: September—Exploring and investigating non-judgmental stances by Hiratsuka Takaaki and Wayne Malcolm. This joint presentation covered a recent study into student-teacher interactions within the classroom, and how teachers make and implement decisions. The focus of the talk was on data collected by the two researchers, starting a comparison between “Action Research” with “Exploratory Practice.” Takaaki and Malcolm are using an exploratory practice design to guide the study. They reviewed the pertinent literature and presented their data collection methodology and data analysis. The talk ended with a lively question and answer session discussing the merits and demerits, as well as the implications of this particular qualitative study.
Reported by Stephen Shucart

Akita: October—ELT and the science of happiness: Positive psychology in the classroom by Marc Helgesen. Positive, motivated students who are engaged in what they are studying learn more. This workshop started with everyone receiving a homemade cookie, and the eating of it by sections became the metaphor for the entire talk. Helgesen asked the question: “How do we facilitate that positive attitude in the classroom?” This was an activity-based session that looked at the ways positive psychology could be combined with clear language learning goals for active, invested learning. This is more than mere “hippy-dippy,” “healie-feelie,” California-esque “positive self-talk.” Positive psychology is based on data gathered from scientific experiments. Starting from the set-point of personal affect and moving to the tipping point of positivity, Helgesen gave a hands-on (literally, as the workshop included back massage) demonstration of how to apply the “Science of Happiness” to EFL/ESL teaching methodology. Not only was the cookie delicious, but the entire audience was noticeably happier by the end of the presentation.
Reported by Stephen Shucart

Fukuoka: July—Communication spotlight: Rationalisations and developments by Alastair Graham-Marr. Over the past several years, the Communication Spotlight textbook series has grown quickly in the Japanese EFL market, representing a break from some of the more standard texts. In this presentation, the author shared his experiences in the process of developing this and other textbooks and presented a history of ABAX over the years. Also discussed was how the text and the author’s own teaching approach have changed through the development process. The discussion included questions to the audience about people’s major influences, both personal and academic, and how these influences affect our teaching.
Reported by Aaron Gibson

Gifu: September—Getting back to basics in English language teaching by David Barker. In this thought-provoking presentation, Barker discussed the need to re-examine Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) theories. He argued for a return to basics as CLT does not give learners any language to work with, so we shouldn’t “throw the baby out with the bath water.” He argued for an inclusion of L1 in all L2 activities, explicit teaching of grammar, focused deliberate learning, and error correction by the teacher. Barker commented that successful language learning requires hard work and commitment and is extremely time consuming. We also examined common mistakes made by Japanese learners and analyzed teaching methods to overcome them.
Reported by Brent Simmonds

Gunma: September—Designing a themed task-based syllabus by Marcos Benevides. To begin, Benevides reviewed Task Based Language Teaching (TBLT), concentrating on its focus on meaning over form. Many issues arise from this focus on meaning, such as when it becomes beneficial to introduce vocabulary, grammar points, and other forms which constitute traditional English syllabi. Benevides explained that traditional, prescriptive syllabi are inappropriate in a TBLT environment and are generally ineffective means for teaching language. He argued that telling students to use certain grammar patterns or vocabulary to achieve a goal is unnatural and ineffective. So how is a teacher to design a syllabus if not around vocabulary and language points? Benevides’ answer is a themed, task-based syllabus which is a set of related tasks that comprises an overarching theme. The primary example Benevides presented was his self-produced Widgets: A task-based course in practical English. Students are given the scenario that they have been hired by a company, Widgets Inc., which invents and manufactures products. As employees, students must work individually and in groups to perform various real-world tasks, from brainstorming ideas for products to conducting market research. It is these kinds of themed syllabi that can allow teachers to shift away from form-focused syllabi while retaining continuity and flow in their classrooms.
Reported by John Larson

Gunma: October—How to promote reflection in professional development by Akiko Takagi. Presentations customarily center on ideas and activities for students. Instead of focusing on student progress, Takagi reminded us of how important it is to reflect on our development as teachers. During the first half of her lecture, Takagi defined reflection and classified different types of reflection. She introduced several frameworks of reflection. Student observation includes activities such as student questionnaires and free writing exercises that can engage students more fully in the class. Self observation can be done through video or audio and is useful for evaluation of one’s own classroom behaviors. Peer observation can allow both the observed and the observer to discover how other teachers deal with common difficulties. In the second-half, Takagi led participants through three different reflection activities. In the first, participants were asked to draw a picture as a metaphor for the roles you and your students take in class. The second activity involved creating an idea map of different aspects teachers can reflect on. The last activity was to talk with a partner about a “critical incident” which was a significant class event.
Reported by John Larson

Hamamatsu: September—Getting published: Tips from an author’s perspective by Diane H. Nagatomo. In a presentation co-sponsored by the Material Writer’s SIG, Nagatomo introduced her experiences in publishing textbooks for the Japanese university market and facilitated discussion on ways first-timers can introduce their work to the market. Throughout her fully engaging presentation, Nagatomo spoke of her successes and failures while sharing some surprising anecdotes along the way. Among the topics covered were approaching publishers, differences among publishers, co-authoring, and understanding what Japanese students and teachers want from a textbook. The bottom line advice for a would-be author seemed to be to “never give up,” because you never know when or how opportunity will come calling.
Reported by Jon Dujmovich

Himeji: July—Common sense in vocabulary teaching by Rob Waring. Waring began by introducing two levels of knowledge with words: (a) the form/meaning relationship including spelling, pronunciation, and primary meanings, and (b) a deeper level of meaning with shades of nuance, register, collocation, and colligation. The key point was made that some 80% of formal instruction concentrates on form/meaning, leaving only 20% to focus on deeper vocabulary meaning along with phrases, expressions, lexical chunks, and sentence heads or patterns. Basic math showed the huge task for students looking to deepen their vocabulary where even only 20 collocations leave intermediate level learners (2,000 word families) facing some 40,000 combinations. In referring to research that suggests learners must encounter a word 20-30 times to really know it, Waring made the point that regular course books cannot possibly teach everything that learners need, or provide the repeated exposure necessary. Since most materials introduce content in the scope of covering some new language, but offer little recycling, this helps the forgetting curve. Together with the example of his own intentional vocabulary study with word cards, Waring then moved to outline extensive reading (and listening) as the missing pieces of the puzzle where learners can get a sense of the language and the incidental encounters needed.
Reported by Greg Rouault

Himeji: September—Language output, language input: Things that are true of all by Alastair Graham-Marr. Graham-Marr opened by introducing the notion that language is more than a set of knowledge content. Although humans can be said to be hardwired to learn language, it is nevertheless a skill set that needs practice. Practice in the form of output for fluency works toward building the neural networks necessary for automaticity. A brief examination of some of the weak points in the generalizability of past research findings on output and language acquisition was contrasted with some of Graham-Marr’s own research. The challenge of validating empirical studies of whether output leads to accuracy often depends on isolating grammar points. Drawing on research by Izumi showing output did not help students learn conditionals, Graham-Marr reported on his own test of the output hypothesis using dictation as the mechanism. The findings were ambiguous for fluency yet with gains in accuracy. The presentation then included reference to salience where learning will occur when something is needed. The difference between the syllable-timed Japanese language and stress-timed English shows how listening content in some textbooks creates problems where content doubles as both input and as an output production model.
Reported by Greg Rouault

Kitakyushu: October—Portfolios, assessments, and institutions: An interim report by Hugh Nicoll. Nicoll distributed copies of self-evaluation forms and explained how he uses portfolios in his reading classes at a small aspiring liberal arts college doggedly pursuing its perceived vocation as a teaching institution in the face of pressure to pursue grant money and the blurring line between “standards” and “standardization.” He offered various meanings of portfolios, pointing out that quasi-privatization and the politics of pedagogy and research have introduced problems for teachers looking for alternatives to TOEIC for language assessment. Growing out of the student autonomy movement, Common European Frame of Reference (CEFF) and European Language Portfolios (ELP) using dossiers, self-regulation, life-long learning, and can-do statements, are models for the Personal Assessment Checklist System (PACS) project. PACS is about rationales, goals and constraints, and data gathering for English and IT courses. It is also about building systems, where students answer questions with their cell-phones and self-assess their burgeoning language skills and confidence with Likert scales. There was some discussion of how other teachers used methods similar to portfolios for their classroom and coursework organization— with alternatives and improvements offered by Nicoll’s research.
Reported by Dave Pite

Kitakyushu: November—Teaching and learning English humour, in principle and practice by Richard Hodson. Humor is playing with language, and teaching it can usefully combine authentic input with creative output for a dynamic aspect to second language classes. Hodson has been researching and teaching humor for several years and shared with us some of its principles and how he uses it. Incongruity, superiority, and psychic release are the accepted reasons for funniness; pedagogical credibility is based on the linguistic and extra-linguistic knowledge required to teach and learn it. Some difficulties include recognizing and avoiding taboo topics (those too personal or culture-specific), varying student levels, jokes necessitating lengthy explanations (losing the attention of some and the interest of others), and spoiling the joke by discussing it too much. This is not a problem for Hodson, who concedes to being quite amusing in his classroom while encouraging his students to be funny as well by modifying jokes, rewriting the endings, and evaluating each other with Likert scales of happy faces. For us, the evening was an entertaining and interesting introduction to a potentially very useful methodology.
Reported by Dave Pite

Kyoto: September—Presenting naked with slides: How thinking like a designer can help by Garr Reynolds. The presenter began with an overview of presentation culture in Japan. The audience brainstormed features of good and bad presentations they had experienced. A whole group discussion about zen, its basic principles, and how these ideas are fundamental to any effective presentation, followed. Lessons to be conscious of when devising our own presentations include: making a commitment to clear, simple design, establishing clear boundaries to direct the flow of a presentation, and being aware of the audience and their needs. A Q&A session followed where the presenter and the audience discussed how these ideas could be applied in our own presentations as well as how they could be used in the classroom as part of an EFL course or segment on presentation skills.
Reported by Gretchen Clark

Kyoto: October—Practice makes perfect! Presentation practice session for JALT National and chapter officer elections by various. (1) Examining the carry-over effect by Daniel Mills. In this presentation, Mills outlined his upcoming study on how computer-mediated communication, such as instant messaging, may reduce anxiety and encourage more communication among EFL learners even in subsequent face-to-face chat sessions. (2) From boxed-in daughters to carnivore women by Jhana Bach. The presenter started off by giving the audience a quiz on gender stereotypes and introducing gendered terms such as “onnazaka,” “fukeikai,” and “make-inu.” She also engaged the audience in discussion by showing various images on the screen. Bach then continued by giving an overview of the materials she has been using in her Women’s Studies course. (3) Thinking outside the film by Kelly Butler. The presenter outlined her use of short film clips in her university classrooms and called for a group discussion on how video can enhance the EFL learning experience. Following each presentation, the audience provided feedback on topics such as slide use, presenter demeanor, content, and flow. The chapter annual business meeting and officer elections concluded the meeting.
Reported by Gretchen Clark and Michi Saki

Nagoya: September—Active learners by Jon Catanzariti. According to Catanzariti, active learners are ready to start the class before it begins, take every opportunity to speak English, are not afraid to make mistakes, ask for help when they don’t understand, never give up, trying again, respect and cooperate with everyone in class, ask lots of questions, learn from their mistakes, and do their homework carefully. Important factors are their interest in foreign languages, perseverance, initiative, their way of using the environment, and their outgoing personality. To create active learners, motivation is important. Give them as many opportunities to speak out as possible. Catanzariti recommends that his students learn effectively by writing many essays and using DVDs, music, and movies. He listens to students, lets them work by themselves and exchange their ideas, and makes them collaborate and learn techniques and strategies. He encourages students to make their own study schedules and lets them take responsibility for their own learning. He gives them a form of daily self-reflection, in which each day they give themselves a grade on their contribution to their own learning. It has made students change their behavior completely, making them pay attention to their learning and making a fantastic class of active learners.
Reported by Kayoko Kato

Nagoya: October—Speaking of speech: Basic presentation skills for beginners by Charles LeBeau. LeBeau says three simultaneous manageable messages are important for a successful presentation: physical message, visual message, and story message. As for physical message, a routine for posture is needed to focus on the presentation. To be positive and assertive, place feet shoulder-width apart, hold hands together and keep them about waist high and focus on the audience with eye contact. In speech, speak in abdominal vocalization 150 % louder with voice inflection than usual conversation voice. The main concept is to communicate to the audience. Speak slowly, clearly, step by step, without losing the audience. For visual message, make the background simple, use keywords, avoid sentences on the screen, and use a simple conclusion slide. In story message, LeBeau showed how to use the presentation structure. Giving a speech is like giving a tour. Introduction: give a greeting to catch the tour participants’ attention. Tell them what the tour is about and why it is interesting/important. In the body, explain each point, announcing transitions between them. In the conclusion, summarize the presentation and tell them what to remember.
Reported by Kayoko Kato

Nara: October—Harold Palmer in Japan: A lesson from history by Leigh McDowell and Yoko Yaku. Nara enjoyed a thought-provoking presentation about Harold E. Palmer (1877-1949), a reformist educator who influenced English language education in Japan. McDowell explained that Palmer’s methodology was initially inspired by the Berlitz Method, but with a more scientific approach. One of the central concepts in Palmer’s methodology was the binary distinction between language as speech and as a code. Speech is an expression of communication, whereas code is contained in the grammar, spelling rules, and phonology— and speech preceded code in his teaching. Another feature was that the learners’ L1 was used, if necessary, to confirm meaning vocabulary in the Palmer Method. Yaku focused on Palmer’s great contribution to English language education in Japan, where he established the Institute for Research in English Teaching (IRET) in 1923. Beginning with various teaching activities such as “imperative drill,” “action chains,” and “reader system,” reading comprehension, extensive reading, and writing were to follow. Yaku then explained the reason for the failure of the prevalence of Palmer’s methodology. The presentation was well received and the audience concluded that we could learn from the history of language teaching and apply it to the current situation of English language education in Japan.
Reported by Motoko Teraoka

Niigata: September—Designing a theme tasked-based syllabus by Marcos Benevides. Benevides, who also co-authored Widgets: A task-based course in practical English (Pearson, 2008), spoke about the advantages of task-based teaching. Authentic texts and creating relatively authentic L2 spaces for foreign language contexts was a theme. For example, if the task is to order a pizza, can the student order a pizza in their L2? Do they have the English required to do such a task? Benevides also spoke about Canada’s Language Proficiency Tests, and how proficiency was based upon self-assessed task-based items. In addition to proficiency measures, a task-based themed syllabus has many other advantages, such as exploring specific subject matter more thoroughly, and as a natural recycling of core vocabulary and language forms. Through Benevides’ presentation, we learned the value of task-based assignments, and a wide range of applications to apply them in our own classrooms.
Reported by Kevin M. Maher

Oita: September—Conversation analysis: Practical applications for the classroom by Donna Fujimoto. Fujimoto presented on the various ways in which conversational analysis (CA) can be used to enhance teachers’ proficiency through understanding more precisely the strategies students employ during interactions in the language classroom. Fujimoto provided the participants with a studied explanation of what CA is, its beginnings as a field with the work of Sacks, Schlegloff, and Jefferson, and how it has been applied since, including its use as an analytical tool in the assessment of student performance in oral interactions. The presenter emphasized the fact that CA does not have any “preformulated theories or concepts,” but rather allows the data to speak for itself. The audience was guided through the analyses of two group discussions between learners of English, focusing on repetition. In the course of these analyses Fujimoto was able to demonstrate the great level of analytical detail conversational analysts must go into, but also the richness of the findings uncovered. The presentation was very well received and participants were left with a clear sense of CA’s potential, and how it could be applied to an analysis of their own students.
Reported by Steven Pattison

Okayama: September—Language acquisition by cochlear implant infants deafened by meningitis by C. J. Creighton. The presenter outlined how he chose this topic, aided by his background in applied linguistics. He then explained how infants acquire audition and spoken language, the biomechanics of hearing, meningitis and hearing loss, and prosthetic hearing with cochlear implants. Meningitis sometimes destroys a victim’s hair cells rendering them deaf. Cochlear implants bypass the destroyed hair cells and stimulate existing auditory nerves. Benefit is measured through standardized sound perception and usage tests similar to the knowledge/usage dichotomy in EFL. Next he explained how he examined the patient records of children (n=41) deafened prior to acquiring their L1 and used their age-equivalent and standardized scores to measure their language development after cochlear implantation. Also, by considering a child’s age at test compared to their age equivalent score, he was able to determine the child’s language growth relative to their peers. The results showed the children benefited from their implants but lagged behind their peers. He suggested that meningitis has an effect on language outcomes with the implication that these children have special learning needs for their hearing therapy.
Reported by Paul Moritoshi

Okayama: October—Proofreading: Problems and practice by Ian Willey and Kimie Tanimoto. The presenters discussed problems proofreaders in Japan continually face when proofreading scientific manuscripts and abstracts for English language publications. Problems run the gamut, from proofreader understanding of the topic to the legitimacy of a Japanese variety of English, to the question of whether a proofreader’s work can qualify as partial authorship. Most of the presentation focused on a comparative study among three groups: English teachers in Japan with experience proofing English scientific manuscripts written by Japanese researchers; English educators in the U.S. with little experience proofing L2 manuscripts; and U.S. medical and health professionals. Members in each group were given the same abstracts and asked to make corrections they felt necessary to make the work publishable. The resulting corrections were categorized and analyzed. There were many patterns of difference, though not all were considered significant. Issues like use of anaphora and definite articles varied along group lines, indicating that being a native checker does not guarantee that one is native within a certain scientific register. The remainder of the presentation was spent with participants proofing and comparing sample abstracts provided by the presenters.
Reported by Scott Gardner

Omiya: October—Debate by Harry Harris and Stories about learning English by Tazuru Wada. In previous presentations, Harris enlightened participants as to the benefits of teaching debate with students, pointing to the intellectual, academic, linguistic and social growth that it encourages. This time his presentation focused on achieving these aims through debate with low-level students. After making the argument, Harris led the attendees in a demonstration of the technique, which was interesting for all. During the second half of this session, Wada presented findings from her project of having students give their stories about learning English, in English. The concept was one of self-reflection and applying coherence to the seemingly random memories students have of their language acquisition. After hearing this report, the audience was given a chance to do this with in their own second languages. As can be expected, the activity was very interesting.
Reported by Brad Semans

Omiya: November—Novemberfest by various. Brad Semans conducted a workshop on using mini-immersion, the inclusion of short, content-intensive segments of a conversation lesson for young students. The audience, made up mostly of post-secondary level teachers, was politely attentive while Semans instructed them on the advantages of using this technique. Omiya JALT was also lucky enough to have Soryong Om, a featured speaker at the JALT national conference. After a brief history of language education in Cambodia, Om discussed the various barriers to developing English as a second language. This presentation was eye-opening for those present, who could identify with some of the barriers to progress that were discussed. Issues related to class size (sometimes up to 100 students), restricted budgets (teachers with second jobs), and learning environments resonated with the audience. Om’s presentation was also positive since as a university instructor he sees the positive effects of promoting development and improvement of the language learning situation in Cambodia.
Reported by Brad Semans

Osaka: October—A moveable feast: Exploring the connection between teaching and learning with Chuck Sandy and Charles Adamson, co-sponsored by the TED and LD SIGs. The whole-day event offered the opportunity to look at teaching and learning from different aspects. It started with the keynote talks: Just because you’re teaching doesn’t mean everyone’s learning, by Chuck Sandy, and Just because everyone’s learning doesn’t mean you’re teaching, by Charles Adamson. In the afternoon, there were poster presentations: (1) Education outside of TESOL for the language teacher by Frank Cheang; (2) A journey in teacher development through literature with slumdog Bombay millionaire by Andrew Dowling; (3) Contrasting identities of returnee students: Facebook vs. interview by Patrick Kiernan; (4) The more you learn, the more you earn by Richard Miller; (5) Professional development: What’s on the menu? An account of a TD workshop by Greg Rouault; (6) Reflections on how our learning experiences inform our teaching by Bob Sanderson; and (7) Is “demotivation” the flip side of “motivation”? Investigating the relationship between teacher “demotivational” factors and student “demotivational” factors by Toshiko Sugano. The poster session was followed by a reflective workshop led by Deryn Verity and Steve Cornwell. Finally, we had a wrap-up discussion lead by Sandy and Adamson. The event, which was interactive and informative, reminded me of the basics of teaching and gave me, and I think all participants, a lot of insight.
Reported by Junko Omotedani

Tokyo: November—JALT2010 Balsamo Asian Scholar/ Four Corners Tour – Teaching and learning English in Cambodian high schools: Challenges and prospects by Soryong Om. The presenter, as an EFL teacher/teacher trainer, described the challenges that have continued to impede the progress of English teaching and learning in Cambodian high schools since its introduction to the curriculum in 1992. Om also discussed the chances of its success and the ongoing attempt to revitalize the ELT field in high schools in particular and in Cambodia as a whole. The question and answer session was well received by the participants.
Reported by Akie Nyui

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