Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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Nara Chapter

Sunday, August 23, 2015
Nanae Yukioka
Greg Crawford
B. J. Bulmer
Scott Crowe

The presenters introduced learning activities with mind, body, and heart activated for young learners. Yukioka introduced a mind-stimulated activity, "Docode a phone number" using Hi, Friends!, an English textbook designed for elementary school studetns by MEXT. This activity focuses more on creativity and communication than on language learning. Pupils uniquely code their telephone numbers after having looked at pictographs of ancient Egyptian numbers, show their partners their coded numbers, and ask them to decode the numbers in minimum English. Crawford and Bulmer's activities with songs and gestures energized and rejuvenated participants, and proved how powerful and effective songs are to learn language in a natural and fun way. They also advised us to pre-teach achievable songs for young learners at a slow pace before singing together. Crowe presented his highly original work on "emotional positioning." Commonly used English words, such as "go, come, away, here and there" come out in his original book and are introduced through story. The students need to use the language they have learned to help the protagonist to solve his problems. They are emotionally drawn into the imaginative world of the book.

Reported by Motoko Teraoka
Sunday, June 14, 2015
by Various

This event materialized with the cooperation of the THT-SIG (Teachers Helping Teachers) and drew a full house. Seven presenters talked about their projects carried out in Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, and Nepal where teaching materials and resources are limited. Their mission is to provide workshops, presentations, and lectures in those areas to further professional development for the local teachers. Some need less theory, more practical methods, and classroom activities that are geared toward students with mixed levels and in large-size classes; others need a more balanced approach between theory and practice. Those projects have to accommodate local needs and demands. What was most impressive to me is the perspective of all the presenters on helping and sharing. Their entirely voluntary activities are not only to provide something but to receive something else. One of the presenters said, "don't underestimate what you have done." Our experiences and knowledge as teachers may serve well for others through overseas volunteer opportunities.

Reported by Motoko Teraoka
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Cameron Romney
John Campbell-Larsen

Romney talked about how to create supplements, focusing on two parts: the content and the handout. In the content of supplements, A Cope: "analyze," "consult," "produce," and "evaluate" system comes into play. A ready-made supplement is analyzed through three factors: linguistic form, context, and function, and then other similar materials are looked into to find any differences. Producing your own supplement follows, and then after a trial evaluating and modifying. Actual handouts have to be easy to use. The layout (typeface, size, space, lines, shapes, and graphic) should enhance students' motivation and comprehension. Campbell-Larsen emphasized the importance of explicitly teaching spoken language features such as, marking, backchanneling, vague counters, and vague category markers to have students acquire fluency. Further, he introduced a template for an expanded turn: 1) opening discourse markers; 2) statement; 3) turn-initial discourse markers; 4) expansion; and 5) closing discourse markers. Template questions (double question, question + answer, alternative question, and embedded question) are also important to know how to promote a smooth and natural conversation. This MW SIG's (Materials and Writers) co-sponsored event was a great success and strengthened the bonds of the Kansai JALT.

Reported by Motoko Teraoka
Parisa Mehran
Mehrasa Alizadeh

Showing a world map and zooming in on the location of Iran, two fascinating presenters, Mehran and Alizadeh guided the Nara JALT audience with their knowledge and witty talk through the whole of Iran - pretty much everything from history, architecture, and food, to culture and language. Sialk Hills, the archeological hills located in Kashan city boasting their magnificence and sings of the oldest settlement; Wind Towers, a natural cooling system exhibiting the compatibility of architectural designs with Iran's hot-dry-and-humid climates; Faravahar, one of the most common symbols of the Zoroastrian religion representing "good thoughts,""good words," and "good deeds"; and the Seven edible 'S' foods of the Persian New Year - these were some of the things Mehran and Alizadeh introduced and explained to the audience. However without doubt, what most attracted to language teachers in the audience was the Persian alphabet. With a right-to-left horizontal writing system, it engaged us in writing our own names in Persian as beginners of the Indo-European language. Two friends of the speakers' also served patient teachers who constantly praised and encouraged us. The following Christmas party in a nearby restaurant warmly wrapped up Nara JALT's year of 2016 and made us look forward to another exciting year for the chapter.

Reported by Motoko Teraoka

Niigata Chapter

Saturday, October 15, 2016
by Martin Sedaghat

Martin's interactive lecture/workshop on Art in the Language Classroom was a well-attended, interesting, and fun presentation. After reassuring participants that we didn't have to be "good" at art, Martin started off the talk with a memory activity. Then, he proceeded to answer his main questions which were "What is 'art' in the language classroom?" "Why is visual communication important?" and "How can students benefit from making their own art?" Each question was followed by a numbers of reasons and hands-on activities, such as game cards, an "art gallery" activity, a sentence-drawing activity, feeling cards swap, and a guided visualization. The time went by quickly as Martin showed us how pictures can be used to increase not only students' language fluency, but also their accuracy. He also provided a useful book recommendation. All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon!

Reported by Melodie Cook
Sunday, May 8, 2016
Asako Kajiura
Greg Goodmacher

Although it was a lovely sunny Mother's Day, a sizeable group came out to hear Asako and Greg speak.

Asako's presentation focused on a problem that many teachers have these days: working in institutions which struggle to attract students, thus admit low-level students who have cognitive, developmental, or emotional disabilities. Such students also don't necessarily want to be in English classes and teaching them can be very challenging if teachers are unsupported by their institutions. Asako tackles this situation by teaching real world survival skills through English. Using graded readers as source material, she asks students to complete book reports in order to help them improve skills such as punctuality, reliability, and self discipline, as well as computer and organizational skills which will help them in their future places of work. She has found that students are generally positive about what she asks them to do because they can work at their own pace and receive individualized attention. She recommends that teachers working with such students ask their institutions for a teaching assistant if the numbers of students are high.

Greg offered principles that teachers can follow when choosing or adapting materials for their classes in order to ensure that students are learning language skills in addition to content, depending on the context. Greg asked attendees to brainstorm about different kinds of materials, including students' own imaginations, and how they can be mined for language activities. Using examples from courses he has taught, He then showed us how experiential learning can connect what goes on in classes with the real world. Another way of motivating students he showed us was to personalize discussion questions. Greg also advocates activities which stimulate critical thinking and that teachers use statistical sources that are up-to-date, such as those available through the Internet.

Reported by Melodie Cook
Saturday, April 9, 2016
by Lesley Ito

It was a gorgeous day outside, but many opted to stay indoors to hear Lesley Ito's talk. Lesley introduced her presentation by sharing with the group how she came to CLIL. She then defined it and explained how it is more common in Europe than in Asia. After that, she listed the advantages of using CLIL with young learners. This was followed by the elements of a good CLIL lesson; Lesley demonstrated that using examples from her own classes. One particular example she gave us was one in which she explained the process by which mummies are made by throwing her internal organs all about the room. She also showed us some very useful resources and even off-campus activities that students could do consolidate their learning. The talk ended with a short discussion on how teachers of other kinds of students could use CLIL in their own classes.

After the talk, we enjoyed ourselves at the sake museum, followed by a delicious dinner at a local izakaya.

Reported by Melodie Cook
Saturday, January 23, 2016
by Joseph Falout

Joe braved the cold and came all the way to Niigata to give his talk to a receptive audience. To start off, he asked participants to rearrange the seating in order to work more easily with a partner and feed back to the whole group. Joe asked us to talk about our past experiences as language users; that set the scene for Joe's focus on "academic emotional baggage" which students carry. Backgrounding the presentation with research in positive psychology, Joe explained that students' negative prior experiences with language learning may result in their being demotivated. He showed that students' past selves influence the choices they make along the long path to language learning. Especially, he looked at different types of errors that people make when allowing past experiences to influence their present judgment. Following this, Joe recommended a series of strategies that teachers can use to help students avoid the pitfalls of misapplying their past selves to present situations, such as cherishing good moments, reframing negative ones, and creating temporal self-continuity. He then offered several practical suggestions for ways teachers could do this. Following the talk a few of us went for dinner with Joe and introduced him to Niigata specialties, especially sake!

Reported by Melodie Cook
Sunday, October 18, 2015
by Atsushi Iida

Although it was a beautiful fall day, many came to hear Atsushi Iida speak on problems of traditional EFL pedagogy in Japan, the teaching of haiku, and implications and suggestions for doing so. He first gave background about the limitations of traditional grammar translation and audio-lingual teaching methods in Japan, with their focus on memorization of grammar and vocabulary. He then made the case for teaching haiku to help students transition from knowing about English to being able to use it. Sharing his own personal and contrasting experiences of being a "good" student in both Japan and the United States, Atsushi showed how traditional methods focus on linguistic knowledge at the expense of the learner as a human functioning in society. By teaching English through haiku, a familiar genre to Japanese students, teachers, he argued, can help students lower affective filters and take risks using the English they know. Atsushi then gave a quick definition of haiku and shared how each person interprets haiku differently; thus, haiku offers a chance for students to present their voices. Atsushi shared student-made and several of his own (sake-related) haiku with us and then we were encouraged to brainstorm ideas and write our own, which we shared with a partner in a pair review exercise which served to strengthen writer-reader interaction. Some members then volunteered to read their haiku to the whole group. Atsushi concluded by saying that haiku has value in that it promotes linguistic knowledge, genre-specific knowledge, and cultural knowledge. The high degree of participation attested to the presentation and workshop's usefulness and the group's high degree of interest in it.

Reported by Melodie Cook

Okayama Chapter

Saturday, January 9, 2016
by Chad Godfrey

Godfrey started off the year with a very informative and interesting presentation. Following a brief history and explanation of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), he proceeded to discuss the benefits of the approach as experienced at Saitama Medical University (SMU), which had introduced CLIL six years ago.

The workshop covered the basics of CLIL it’s pros and cons, and a brief review of the CLIL research carried out at SMU. Additionally, he shared several activities he has used with first-year Japanese students to help produce better language output. The second part of the workshop covered more “hands-on” planning. This included a planning a CLIL unit via a step-by-step lesson procedure. All in attendance felt that this was a engaging and valuable presentation.

Reported by Jason Lowes
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Peter Burden
Neil Cowie
Thomas Fast
John Rucynski
Ritsuko Uenaka
Rob Waring

The panelists (Peter Burden, Neil Cowie, Thomas Fast, John Rucynski, Ritsuko Uenaka, and Rob Waring) provided a roundtable discussion and spoke about the publishing process from the initial idea to create a textbook through to the final production phase. Many illustrative anecdotes from personal experience were shared to help the audience fully understand the pros and cons of various forms of publishing. Following the discussion, a lively Q&A section provided a chance to delve deeper into the subject. All in all, it was a very fruitful exchange.

Reported by Jason Lowes
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Luc Gougeon
Carlous Ochante

Gougeon and Ochante illustrated the challenges of setting up an ICT environment. They covered good Web 2.0 practices, the creation of a dedicated ICT space, the use of Google applications for language learning and class management. Furthermore, the speakers addressed the use of SNS to connect teachers with students and the new IT TA (teacher assistant) program which supports efforts to set up a rich ICT environment.

Reported by Jason Lowes
Saturday, July 11, 2015
by Charles Browne

Browne opened with an overview of his considerable background in Extensive Reading (ER), vocabulary acquisition and in technology and how this has led to the development of the New General Service List (NGSL) of important vocabulary words for students of English as a second language. He next outlined some of the problems with the current educational environment in Japan, primarily that students are not being presented with a sufficient number high frequency words which is leading to lower ability and lower confidence levels. Reading texts that students encounter are too difficult for them to be able to guess the meaning of new words from context. Browne highlighted the need to expose students to texts with which they have a 95% confidence level at minimum. Teachers need to teach important high frequency words and it is with this in mind that the NGSL has been developed. He continued by explaining the methodology of how the NGSL was created - the corpora from which it is based. Browne is keen to see the NGSL become easily accessible, so it is freely available and it has been incorporated in a variety of online learning tools. Browne also spoke about intensive and extensive reading in the Japanese HS environment. All too often overly the use of overly difficult texts has led to a vicious downwards circle. Intentional vocabulary study in conjunction with extensive reading is needed. He closed his presentation by providing an in depth review of online tools and how, with the advent of smartphones, students can be engaged more easily that ever.

Reported by Anton Potgieter

Shinshu Chapter

Saturday, April 23, 2016
Dr. Sue Fraser
Gregory Birch

SHINSHU: April – Teaching Presentation Skills: Process, Content, Performance, Evaluation. Presentations are a common activity in communicative English teaching in many contexts, ranging from simple in-class activities, to higher stakes speech contests and business presentations. How can teachers develop these skills in their learners in a systematic way? In an engaging and interactive presentation, speakers Gregory Birch and Dr. Sue Fraser shared their comprehensive approach to teaching presentation skills, first breaking content creation into six sub-components, including purpose, audience, and message. Together, they illustrated how these key concepts can be applied in both product and process approaches to teaching presentation skills through three examples: a self-introduction, a tourism-themed presentation for senior high school and college speech contests, and a formal product introduction for ESP learners. Fraser demonstrated the stages used to develop the first two presentation types, and Birch used examples of a local company/product introduction presentation, requiring learners to construct their speeches based on a model and analysis of its organization. Performance aspects of presentations, divided into voice, behavior, visuals, and ‘other,’ were then discussed, and a system for marking performance cues on a script was introduced. Finally, issues surrounding giving feedback, clarifying evaluation criteria, and the weighting of content and performance elements were considered. This included ideas for peer evaluation and active listening by assigning specific roles to different students in the audience (e.g. writing advice or asking questions). This in-depth and comprehensive treatment of presentation skills offered expert guidance for anyone involved in helping language learners to engage in public speaking.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Sunday, March 6, 2016
by Chiyuki Yanase

Yanase presented a “learning” (as opposed to “learner”) centered story-based approach for teachers of young learners. Before introducing the three basic segments of this approach (pre-story, core and follow-up activities), she discussed the reasons for using stories, factors involved in choosing them and different types of storytellers.

Yanase then had participants try a variety of pre-story activities including picture description, vocabulary games, prediction, word-mapping and story circles to arouse interest in the story. For the core segment, she recommended reading the story numerous times using various methods, starting with mainly the teacher reading and gradually progressing to more student involvement by asking them questions, having them complete sentences and doing shared reading, among other activities. For follow-up, Yanase introduced sequencing using picture cards, drawing pictures based on target vocabulary, post-story discussion, story cubes and acting out. All of these activities culminated in “Tell your story for a minute”, in which learners tell their own stories multiple times to multiple partners, improving with each time.

Participants came away with a myriad of practical, enjoyable ideas as well as a wealth of resources for learning through stories.

Reported by Mary Aruga


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