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Chapter Reports - May 2011

 

FUKUOKA: January—An introduction to CALL: What is available? by Robert Chartrand. CALL has been used in one form or another for over fifty years; however, it has only become readily available to language learners andteachers since recent advancements in computer technology and the Internet. Robert Chartrand talked about his experiences using different courseware packages, including commercial software packages such as Dynamic English, Longman Interactive, WordEngine, EnglishCentral, as well as freely available innovative programs on the Internet. He discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using these learning tools and made specific recommendations for use in different classroom situations. Also discussed was how to use corpus linguistics for language learning and teaching as he introduced his own research analyzing modal auxiliaries with the British National Corpus.

Reported by Aaron Gibson

 

KITAKYUSHU: FebruaryActive participation through student responsebyBill Pellowe andPaul Shimizu. Shimizu and Pellowe demonstrated two types of tools for checking student understanding, which they described as low-tech and high-tech. The low-technology goes back at least 30 years, when teaching paddles were used by medical students to demonstrate their understanding of a lecture. Simple bits of plastic marked on both sides at each end with A, B, C, and D held by each student (beside their faces so the teacher can make eye contact) keep them on-task (because a wrong answer will be glaringly obvious) and committed to their right answer, reinforced by the display of the same answer by the rest of the class. Not only can teachers evaluate everyone’s understanding at a glance, but groups of students can autonomously negotiate a response, finally communicated to the teacher by a unanimous display of their common conclusion. Pellowe has also developed “student response systems for mobile devices,” cannily exploiting the ubiquitous cell-phone for homework, complete with shortcuts that avoid a lot of input and get the user connected immediately to various online quizzes and other classroom extensions. Teachers can make a quiz and give it a shortcut, and soon this will be extended to include peer feedback during student presentations.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KITAKYUSHU: MarchBehavior managementby Matthew Jenkins. After outlining behavior management theories from Skinner, Canter, Dreikurs, Glasser, and Gordon, Jenkins recommended Bill Rogers’ Classroom Behavior which practically applies elements of several theories. Jenkins highlighted what he considers the most common scenarios for bad behavior in Japan: rowdiness, inattentiveness, sleeping, and cell phone use and gave examples of how he has successfully dealt with them. Small groups then discussed their own experiences and role played a successful strategy. Jenkins strongly believes that motivating activities are preferable to behavior management techniques, and that it is important to listen to students and give them choices while teachers must be themselves in the classroom. He urged us to remember that we are dealing with bad behavior, not bad students. Sometimes the roots of bad behavior and their remedies lie outside the classroom, so it may be necessary to involve other school personnel. It is also important to be aware of Japanese culture, and that what constitutes a reward or punishment may differ from the culture of our home countries.

Reported by Margaret Orleans

 

KYOTO: January—The power of visual images in EFLby Sandra Healy. In this session the presenter commented on the potential of visual image use in the EFL classroom. She provided compelling evidence from the literature that detailed how images inspire, motivate, and help develop creativity, imagination, and critical thinking skills among students. Allowing learners to produce images themselves builds confidence among visually oriented learners. Perhaps most importantly, images encourage meaningful exchanges about content rather than simply an exercise in meaning negotiation. At the end of the presentation, Healy provided examples of how she has learners use images in her classroom: as visuals for self introductions, as illustrations for original stories in kamishibai format, or in collages inspired by characters from a movie shown in class.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

 

GIFU: February—Personal learning networks: The what, why, and how byDarren Elliot.Elliot presented an informative and insightful workshop on Personal Learning Networks (PLN). The presenter posits that PLNs can have a positive influence on teacher development and motivation. Elliot started with a brief background of PLN, mentioning the contributions made by Steven Downes and David Warlick’s network learning. With the proliferation of Internet access our collective knowledge has grown exponentially, as has the possibilities for personal learning. The drawback now is that our connectivity can metaphorically resemble taking a drink from a fire hose. Reflecting on this information overload, Elliot quoted Siemens (2005) who remarked that the “capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.” The presenter provided many useful, practical methods for teachers to develop their own PLN and thus their own capacity to learn by using such applications as Tweeter, Facebook, Ning, Yahoo groups, blogs, Google reader, Diigo, and Elluminate. Elliot concluded by referring to a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) course he is presently enrolled in that uses Elluminate. The take away from this presentation is that the busy, overworked teacher can ill afford not to develop their own PLN. Elliot’s own blog can be found at <livesofteachers.com>.

Reported by Mike Stockwell

 

GUNMA: January—Seminar for teachers of young learners of English (ぐんま児童英語指導講座)by Yoko Kamo. Gunma JALT member Kamo reported on a seminar organized by herself and her colleague Hitomi Iguma last November at Kyoai Gakuen College. The first of its kind in Gunma, the seminar was modeled after similar seminars held in Tokyo and Saitama. As all public elementary schools in Gunma will begin mandatory English activities next year, Kamo and Iguma sought to address an apparent lack of teacher training in the area of English for young learners. Three guest speakers were invited to the seminar. Tamotsu Fujita spoke on three points which he feels are necessary for Japanese teachers of English: vocabulary, the ability to paraphrase, and the ability to set activities in contexts relevant to young learners. Yoko Matsuka touched on essential points of teaching English to children causally, keeping jargon to a minimum. Kiyohiro Koizumi persuaded teachers to make their classrooms student-centered and warned against prematurely forcing students to produce target language.

Reported by John Larson

 

GUNMA: February—Graduate school student presentations, with surprise guest speaker byVarious. This month Gunma JALT heard three presentations by graduate school students at Gunma Prefectural Women’s University. Nao Irikawa set out to answer the question: what are the rules for turn-taking in a conversation? By examining turn-taking in various Japanese TV panel shows she found many similarities in turn-taking conventions that allow for orderly and polite discussions. Sayo Nakamura used a questionnaire to examine the ways the advent of cell phones changed the greetings used when answering a call. She found standard phone greetings have changed in two ways, both associated strongly with the caller-id function, ubiquitous in today’s mobiles. Ikumi Miyagawa showed how biases specific to particular newspapers are reflected in how they report on a story. In this presentation, Miyagawa compared two opposing articles on British involvement in Afghanistan. She noticed that different positions on certain topics lend themselves to certain techniques better than others. As a special surprise, Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen teacher Mari Tsukamoto presented the findings of her thesis English in Bangladesh: Road to Success. Tsukamoto showed the vital role played by English education in the country. The English Language Teaching Improvement Project there promotes not only communicative English teaching, but also makes Bangladeshi students aware of important issues in their daily lives.

Reported by John Larson

 

HAMAMATSU: FebruaryA lesson in Swahili: Being an elementary level studentby Vick L. Ssali. This presentation was designed to encourage participants to think about how beginner-level students feel when learning a foreign language in the classroom. The presentation was in the format of an elementary-level Swahili lesson, and the lesson was conducted almost entirely in Swahili. The presenter used repetition, visuals, choral work, group work, role-plays, and verbal feedback to teach simple Swahili words and phrases. After introducing a block of words through the methods mentioned above, the presenter then used the participants’ L1, English, to write the words and phrases on the blackboard and to answer questions from the participants before moving on to the next block of words. In discussions after the presentation, participants agreed that this style of teaching was effective. It encouraged participants to become active learners and process the meaning of the words and phrases on their own without the aid of a textbook. The participants also had the chance to learn the pronunciation of the words aurally. It was also very interactive, as participants were included in group work and role-plays. In addition, these role-plays gave participants the opportunity to use the language in real and practical situations. In conclusion, participants were introduced to several effective ways to teach beginner-level students, and to some of the challenges that those students may have during the lesson.

Reported by Kate Sakakiyama

 

HOKKAIDO: January—BANILAD: Portrait of Teachers Helping Teachers (THT) volunteer initiative in actions and words: Pedagogical challenges in a study abroad program in Laosby Will Kay and Tim Grose. Kay told us about the history of Teachers Helping Teachers, beginning with Bill Balsamo’s dedication to helping others. Kay joined the trip to the Philippines in 2008 and participated in the San Jose Del Monte Teaching Conference. The group also visited a mountain village on the island of Mindoro. The visit was hosted by the Bukid Foundation, a charity that works with the Mangyan, the indigenous people of the island. The THT group taught English lessons in the local school and enjoyed Mangyan hospitality. Grose and Kay organized a trip to Laos for their students in 2007. Because they didn’t organize the trip through a travel agent it was quite cheap, but that meant spending time planning activities, such as visiting Lao-American College, attending a lecture by the UN, and visiting free trade enterprises and a women’s cooperative. This was time well spent as the students learned a lot about the challenges facing one of their Asian neighbors. One way to improve the program would be to have a class dedicated to the trip to help prepare the students.

Reported by Wilma Luth

 

HOKKAIDO: February—Controversial issues in teaching and assessing writingby Christine Casanave. Casanave’s stated goal was to leave the participants with more questions than answers. All the decisions that teachers make in the classroom are based on belief systems which come from our mentors, conferences, and books. It’s important for teachers to keep building their knowledge base concerning current issues and controversies and develop a coherent set of beliefs on which to base their decision-making. Casanave introduced the controversies of improvement, assessment, and contrastive rhetoric by first explaining the issues involved in each one and then leading a discussion. Some of the issues that come up with the first controversy, “improvement” are: Can a low level speaker of English be a good writer? Are all the skills linked? Teachers tend to spend a lot of time focused on mechanics, but coherence, flow, logic, and style are also features of good writing. Asking students to add interesting details to their piece could help them improve it. Questions about assessment include, whether it is ethical, or even possible, to assess a student’s writing ability from one sample. Is portfolio assessment a fairer way to evaluate a student’s progress? The presenter’s goal was met and the participants left with much food for thought.

Reported by Wilma Luth

 

IBARAKI: October—My share byVarious. Simple sentences for young learners by Sanae Kawamoto and Hanna Schnack. The presenters demonstrated how to teach vocabulary and simple sentences in a communicative way to young learners.What can I do as a member? by Lawrence Cisar. An overview of NPO law and parliamentary procedure was presented. How this knowledge can aid members at the chapter and national level was explained. Japanese students’ perceptions of peer feedback by Tomoka Kaneko. The presenter explained her study which investigated the nature of interaction during peer-editing activities between university students not familiar with such activities.

Reported by Martin Pauly

 

NAGOYA: January—Teaching speaking in Japan: Views from the classroomby Tim Stewart. After introducing works on teaching speaking in TESOL, Stewart gave a dilemma-based story, Alligator River by Bill Perry, to each group for discussion. This story is used in a variety of settings for values clarification, cross-cultural training, and English language teaching. The members discussed the characters and their values and concerns in the story, ranking the characters from good to bad, and writing down their reasons for the rankings. Stewart makes his students draw the characters’ pictures as a comprehension check, and to express values through drawings. Stewart’s advice for teachers is: (1) Don’t focus on asking students to explore personal and cultural values, which differ from person to person as well as across cultures; (2) Help students see the world differently; (3) Share new ideas and insights based on your experience with these dilemma-based stories. Lastly, introducing his book Good Point! for beginner-level speaking, Stewart gave a workshop using this textbook, explaining how to introduce and teach the sections. According to Stewart, trends in teaching speaking are toward content with communicative learning tasks, courses requiring presentations and speaking skills, more focus on autonomous learning, and teaching English as an international language.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NAGOYA: February—Stories that don’t begin with “once upon a time”by Bob Jones. Jones says every person can be a storyteller in daily conversation and that we can train learners to become more fluent and effective conversational storytellers. Replacing ordinary adjectives with extreme ones such as “delighted” with “over the moon”, and “angry” with “furious”, a story can be made more lively and attractive. To train students to make stories, Jones shows just the beginning of a story and then asks them to continue the rest as they like through discussion between pairs. Eggins and Slade say stories are composed of an abstract, orientation (any special information the listener needs like when, where, who, what and so on), a remarkable event, your reaction and feelings about the event, and the coda, or the moral from the event. To avoid having students make stories that are disorganized and sloppy, give them three chances to tell the same story. They may lack fluency at first, but will soon be able to tell the story faster, and more in detail. Low level students can be encouraged by giving some words as hints. Giving brief comments can also encourage high level students to continue their stories.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NARA:February—Lexical bundles in English for academic purposes: On the other hand by Averil Coxhead. Coxhead defined lexical bundles (LBs) as “three or more words repeated without change,” for example, at the same time. Many of the benefits of learning these set phrases seem common sense to us (i.e. gains in fluency, more native-like and idiomatic expression, etc.). We were taken on a whirlwind tour of corpus linguistics, and introduced to some of the challenges of using LBs in the classroom. Coxhead highlighted structural features and the relatively low frequency of LBs as limitations for their use. For example, a learner reading around 15,000 words of academic text could expect to meet the most frequently occurring LB, on the basis of, no more than twice (Byrd & Coxhead, 2010). Coxhead pointed out that there are many things to do while learning, like learning lexical formulas such as frames with slots, collocations, academic formulas, and metaphors. Coxhead’s message was one of caution. We should always be wary of learning lists. We need to draw attention to lexical bundles in context, and revisit them later. Finally we can benefit our learners by being explicit about expectations for learning these bundles. On the other hand …

Byrd, P. & Coxhead, A. (2010). On the other hand: Lexical bundles in academic writing and in the teaching of EAP. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 5, 31-64.

Reported by Leigh McDowell

 

NIIGATA: JanuaryIntroducing students to multicultural perspectives by Greg GoodmacherandAsako Kajiura. The presenters, co-authors of Multicultural Perspectives: Raising Cultural Awareness and Language Skills (MacMillan, 2011), spoke about multicultural topics used within the EFL classroom. Through combining language and foreign cultural studies, students develop self-awareness, global awareness, and critical thinking skills. The presenters shared many examples of how individual perceptions can differ while viewing the same object, for example, with the famous old lady/young lady drawing. The iceberg example depicted how much culture exists for each individual, although most of it is beneath the surface, and not readily visible. Throughout the presentation, Goodmacher and Kajiura also presented additional cultural videos, and text reading strategies that could complement the textbook that they co-wrote.

Reported by Kevin M. Maher

 

NIIGATA: FebruaryThinking about pair work: Teacher preferences and student feedback by Kevin M. Maher. Through an activity-based workshop Maher dealt with the what, where, when, how, and why of pair work in EFL classrooms. He outlined existing research on the use of linguistic space and teacher talk, some of the benefits of pair work such as increasing student language opportunities, improving student motivation, the physical and emotional structure of pair work, and reasons for the avoidance of lockstep teaching. Next, he went on to discuss his own research conducted on 16 teachers and 102 college students. His results show that most language teachers do engage their students in pair/group activities in a variety of ways and that 75% of the students surveyed felt positively about working in pairs or groups. As the presentation was structured in such a way as to have the members working in pairs and groups, it was definitely a case of Maher practicing what he preaches!

Reported by Carmen Hannah

 

OKAYAMA: JanuaryStudent reading habits and perceptions: Before and after extensive readingbyRichard LemmerandFluency and collocationsbyDave Robinson. Lemmer reported on a pre and post questionnaire administered to university students on 15-week extensive reading courses. The results suggest that students showed significant changes in several areas. After the courses they stated that they spent more time reading a wider variety of genres, they perceived that their vocabulary size had increased and that their comprehension and reading speed had improved, and they used a number of different reading strategies to stop less frequently when reading. Although not conclusive, the study shows that many students made significant gains in reading skills and improved their reading habits. Robinsonreported on a study whichsuggests that learning collocations, or formulaic sequences, may help students to improve their fluency. Over a three-month period one adult learner was taught various awareness raising activities to increase her use of collocations. A comparison of two narratives produced by the student before and after the teaching period show significant gains across a number of fluency indicators. These include an increase in words produced and speech rate, as well as a decrease in pauses and repetitions. This suggests some evidence that the structured teaching of collocations can help students improve fluency.

Reported by Neil Cowie

 

OKAYAMA: February—The Fourth annual extensive reading in Japan seminarby Various. This special meeting was co-sponsored by the Okayama chapter, the ER SIG, and Okayama University. The event built upon previous seminars and charted new territory by featuring two plenary speakers, Atsuko Takase (Japanese) and Rob Waring (English), who each presented in their native language. One goal of the seminar was to attract Japanese junior and senior high school English teachers in order to expand ER practice in pre-tertiary classrooms. With this in mind, attendees could choose from 25 presentations of which 1/4 were in Japanese. There were also many presentations for university instructors. Presentation topics included the rationale for using ER, classroom ER activities, student perceptions of ER, motivation to read, reading speed, factors in creating a successful ER program, and creating an ER library. Participating associate members of JALT provided numerous graded readers which were given to the lucky winners of a lottery drawing.

Reported by Richard Lemmer

 

SHINSHU: February—MASH JALT Representables 2011: A weekend with Tim Murphey by Various. This one-day conference, co-sponsored by MASH Collaboration and Shinshu JALT, was held at Seisen Jogakuin College in Nagano City. The conference theme was Inviting student voices. Tim Murphey’s plenary concerned student participation in organizing and running their education and teacher selection of challenging activities that engage students, and Sue Fraser presented her doctoral dissertation in which she argued (and proved) that high school students benefit more from a Communicative Language Teaching methodology than a traditional exam-focused one. Other presentations of note concerned the language policy of the University of Niigata Prefecture’s self-access center and the Student Speaking Portfolios produced at J.F. Oberlin University. Most of the participants continued the lively discussion over dinner and beverages in beautiful Togakushi Village in the evening and on the chairlift between ski runs the following day. For more information about similar events in the future, please visit <www.mashcolloboration.com>.

Reported by Gregory C. Birch

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