Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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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
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Joe Mecha
Ivan Brown

Developing Intercultural Communicative Competence! Speakers Joe Mecha and Ivan Brown presented important aspects of intercultural communicative competence (ICC), both in terms of underlying theory and application. Mecha spoke about the need to preserve the connection between language and culture in communicative language teaching. He presented a thematic unit on how North Americans prepare for college, which was designed from an intercultural perspective. The activities in the unit gave students intercultural experiences such as filling out a college application from the U.S., and encouraged students to compare and contrast their culture with that of target culture, in this case of Canada and the U.S. Student feedback suggests potential to gain from a greater emphasis on cultural content. In the second presentation, Ivan Brown explored theoretical work in the field of ICC, from definitions of terms and concepts, to models by ICC theorists such as Byram’s (1997) framework consisting of five savoirs, or ‘knowings.’ He engaged the audience through opportunities to co-construct difficult-to-define terms such as ‘culture,’ ‘language,’ and ‘critical language awareness,’ complementing participants’ definitions with ideas that appear in the literature. Brown drew attention to assumptions such as equating culture with socio-political entities, and the importance of cultural schema and scripts for participating in a given culture. He discussed the view of ‘culture’ as a verb or process rather than a noun, and the opportunity to learn about one’s own culture through experiencing differences. Through both presentations, participants were invited to consider the role of culture in FL education.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Saturday, November 7, 2015
by Andy Boon

Inspire or perspire? Getting students speaking and Exploring worlds outside: Students as researchers by Andy Boon. In Inspire or perspire? Getting students speaking, Boon introduced a number of strategies which not only can help break the silence in the Japanese classroom but also get students engaged in meaningful communication. Activities from Cengage Learning’s Inspire series which were tried out by participants included “kaitenzushi”, “zigzag”, agree/disagree game and others involving images from the textbook, research using smart phones and eye contact. Ideas for projects which develop communicative language skills were also explained.

Boon further developed his project work theme in Exploring worlds outside: Students as researchers. After explaining the rationale behind his semester-long university student projects, he described the process from completing a research proposal to delivering a poster presentation to classmates. Numerous concrete tips were provided for research, monitoring, collecting primary and secondary data and sharing research findings. Boon concluded by describing students’ reactions to the overall learning experience.

Reported by Mary Aruga
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Cameron Romney
John Campbell-Larsen

Speakers Cameron Romney and John Campbell-Larsen presented on materials and methods for teaching spoken language. Romney spoke about best practices for creating supplementary materials that increase opportunities for interaction. He presented his four-step framework for designing materials that connect seamlessly to the textbook. Through the example of the “directions unit,” Romney illustrated how to make materials that transform giving directions into a relevant and authentic undertaking, in part by simplifying tasks while increasing the complexity of speaking required. He gave advice for designing handouts, including the importance of legible and larger typeface for less proficient readers.

In the next presentation, John Campbell-Larsen explained and demonstrated overlooked features that are critical for conversational spoken language, including discourse markers, and reported speech. Without the awareness and ability to use these features, students’ fluency will be limited. In one stand-out example, Japanese adjective repetition (“samui.” “samui desu ne.”) was contrasted with the upgrading of adjectives in English (“It’s cold.” “Yeah, freezing.”). Campbell-Larsen presented a template for extending speech, transforming robotic exchanges such as interview-style Q&A from transactional to extended speech that approaches norms of spoken discourse. Campbell-Larsen concluded with video showing students’ progress towards fluency after instruction in using features of spoken conversation.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Thursday, March 1, 2012
by Mari Nakamura

Mari Nakamura defines her Eikaiwa (English Square, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref) as ‘not a juku’.
Summarised her questionnaire results (of parents of children attending her school) to the question regarding “Attitudes to learning” as ‘quite negative as a whole through high Scholl and Center Examinations, and that students don’t know what to do with the English they have learned’.
Audience member (Japanese male with experience living overseas) said he had a ‘complex’ against learning English as a child, which other Japanese audience members agreed with. Our later presenter Atsuko has never lived overseas but told us she needed English to get published and to present overseas. Asked if she thought people also have a complex about learning maths (and I think people generally do) she explained that maths is not tested/assessed later, and the audience realised that we are not generally required to ‘perform’ in it. It was noted that we rarely hear people exclaiming “Oh, I can’t do maths” as an admission of guilt when we do hear this viz. English all the time (in Japan). It was further suggested that maths quickly becomes abstract & concerned with how we think/do logical processing, and quickly moves away from simple calculation/arithmetic.
Mari suggested that children now know much more than she did as a school child, but that they are now also far more aware of their status in class, have more access to technology (iPads, internet) and that they are far more worried about their ‘mistakes’. Of the 25% who responded to her questionnaire, all were mums and most responded “massively” – two or three page replies (she suggested this was a ‘listen to me’ plea).
Mari quoted respondents wrt lifestyle of children as
• Too busy
• Not safe to play outside
• HS ss have too much free time
• Children spend a lot of time alone with cell phones & PCs
The country’s “Nittori” education policy was accused of being “Slow and low” instead of the advertised “Slow & deep”, with MEXT (Ministry of Education & Science) now veering back to the opposite “cramming” extreme – schools in Ishikawa-ken adopting a sixth period in elementary schools + after school activities being accused of taking away free time, which ‘bugs’ all mums. Appropriate that children of that age being so busy they are having to learn time management skills?
Nakamura quoted respondents as having zero/near zero expectations of public school education, that school was all about going, not doing. Also, children have ‘too many choices’ of extra-curricular activities and are in a “keeping up with the Jones’s” mindset (audience comment that kids in the UK have too much free time with nothing to do).
Nakamura claimed that an holistic view of education is missing, and that education is being outsourced. Eg
• For creative input – send kids to art class
• For patience – send them to calligraphy class
• For respectfulness – send them to martial arts class
• For physical development – send them to swimming class
Nakamura closed by telling us she was being asked to teach phonics – which MEXT guidelines specifically prohibit being taught in elementary schools with the much-derided Eigo Noto textbook. (If mum knows best why don’t they vote?)
This left me wondering what the actual function of English classes was perceived as. Nakamura suggested English was now a pursuit outside of school because parents had fears about their children’s future job prospects, a pressure being felt from as young as three years old...’earlier the better’.
Bilingualism as a goal, based on fear rather than nurturing, is a very bad place for us to start from.

Reported by Jim George
Sunday, January 29, 2012
by Marcos Benevides

Marcos Benevides, author of the award-winning book, Whodunit, spoke about Task-Based Learning and Teaching (TBLT) at Shinshu JALT’s An Afternoon with ABAX. He began by making a distinction between TBLT and tasks. Since essentially anything assigned to a student could be labeled a task, some may think that they are employing task-based learning and teaching. Consequently, it’s important to discern that TBLT is a specific approach, and that not all tasks qualify as TBLT.

In order to help clear up any confusion, Mr. Benevides explained that TBLT is a subset of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), and generally has more structure, such as sequencing, recycling, and assessment.

In an ELT blog , Mr. Benevides outlined TBLT in six points:
Tasks should be authentic. The main goal is not linguistic. In his example of ordering a pizza, he points out that the main goal is to get the pizza, not to use certain grammatical or vocabulary terms. As a result, the tasks should be chosen carefully. Tasks should be meaningful to their lives (and meaningful does not necessarily mean useful). Assessment must be based on the fact that the main goal is not linguistic (see #2). Using the previous pizza example, teachers determine whether or not the pizza would have come. If yes, then the student passed, and if not, then he/she failed. Mr. Benevides suggested three levels of assessment: a) An initial pass/fail; b) varying levels within the pass/fail spectrum (on a scale of 1-10, for example); and c) feedback, which is where linguistic comments can be made. He also mentioned that the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) may be useful to establish an assessment standard. Allow language to emerge. Students can take any path to get to the goal, and when they need help, they ask for it, resulting in more effective learning. Also, grammar and vocabulary are not pre-taught, but explained either as the students need it during the task, or post-task. The tasks should be contextualized or themed, which allows for recycling in an authentic way.
He also pointed out that while all of the above help describe TBLT, the most important points are numbers two and four.

After presenting an overview of TBLT, Mr. Benevides then described three types of tasks along the “Task Continua.” First he talked about closed versus open tasks. A closed task has one or more correct outcomes (e.g., spot the differences information gap), while an open task has no predetermined solutions (e.g., planning a trip).

Next, he explained focused versus unfocused tasks. Focused tasks target a specific language feature (e.g., a To-do list), while unfocused tasks have no set linguistic target.

Last, he discussed pedagogic tasks versus real world tasks. Pedagogic tasks depend on a classroom context (e.g., arrange a mixed-up paragraph), while real world tasks simulate conditions that are found in a real situation (e.g., job applications, in a restaurant). He pointed out, however, that this distinction is problematic considering that any classroom-based task will be skewed due to the fact that it’s done in a classroom.

There was a bit of discussion about how to implement TBLT into a system that places so much importance on passing tests. As one member of the audience pointed out, there is a focus on vocabulary and grammar in high school English classes, and often, defining terms and explaining complex grammar are done before an activity. Yet, Mr. Benevides explained that defining key vocabulary or targeting a specific grammar point or phrase prior to a task-based activity can lead to restrictions on student communication. Moreover, worrying about a test can also restrict the students. For more information, he referenced The Language Teacher’s special task-based learning issue from March 2009: Muller, T., Talandis Jr., J., & Inamori, M. (Eds.). (March 2009). The Language Teacher 33(3), .

Unfortunately Mr. Benevides didn’t have time to get into the importance of having themes, but before he ended his talk, he shared an activity whereby students have a list of common words that they must communicate to their partner without using the actual words, Japanese, or gestures. He stressed that using words the students know, such as restaurant, mouse, Canada, etc., is crucial; if students don’t understand the word themselves, they can’t explain what it is to someone else. The main point of this kind of task-based activity is that the students can find a way to communicate.

Inspired by Mr. Benevides’ talk, I recently tried a task-based activity similar to the one mentioned above in my first and second year high school English classes, which resulted in classes full of students communicating (mostly) in English. However, I didn’t just throw the students into the activity, but had them try it after I gave some examples. For lower-level classes, I also wrote some examples on the board. As one student commented, “This activity is a little difficult. I couldn’t think of questions early. I want to know some words.” I find I have to use a combination of approaches to address the various learning styles and abilities in my classes. That being said, however, even if one’s pedagogical approach isn’t wholly task-based, I think that incorporating TBLT can help students actually use English in a meaningful and interesting way. The evidence is in many of the students’ post-class comments: “Today’s communication challenge was difficult, but interesting.”; “I enjoyed this class! It’s fun for me to speak English.”; “Today’s class is the best fun in this year.”

Reported by Tonya Kneff

Tokyo Chapter

Friday, December 11, 2015
by Mick Short

Waseda University commissioned a book that specialized in the vocabulary most useful for the department of Political Science and Economics, called “Word-Scape”, it’s basically there to improve academic reading/TOEFL and has quite a large overlap with TOEIC vocabulary also.
So he was stuck with yet another book to somehow included on the course so He was thinking ‘how?’ The book we have already is too big to work through completely. Then it occurred to him- what a great candidate for being repurposed as an app. This way he could take some of the work out of the classroom by setting quizzes for the students to do at home. Fun quizzes can also take the hard work out of repeatedly going over the same vocabulary. Also, by the student getting a certificate from the app to send to him (percentage of accuracy on the quiz) he could accurately grade them for their vocabulary building with no laborious paper based testing. He made it so that it would be useful to him (the teacher;) as well as it being fun enough for students to enjoy working with it. So the first part of the talk was about the app, how it was used and some of the results of a study he was halfway through.

The second part of the talk got under the bonnet: what do you need to do to make an iPhone app? What steps do you take for personal app building and what steps for delivering through iTunes/AppStore.
We also went through a brief demo, made a small “Hello World” app and loaded it onto an iPhone so that you could see a thin slice of the whole process.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Friday, December 4, 2015
by Eric Hauser

Today, oral proficiency in a second language (L2), or L2 oracy, is often treated as equally, or perhaps even more, important than L2 literacy. Oral language tests are therefore often an important component of L2 educational programs. Such tests may involve the test-taker in performing a monologue, but they may also involve interaction between the test-taker and one or more others, such as another test-taker or a teacher. As shown by previous work on oral language tests (e.g., the various chapters in Young and He (1998)), disourse/conversation analytic research on this interaction can provide valuable information about the nature of this interaction and the validity of oral language tests.

In this talk, he looked at interactional data that he has only recently begun working with (e.g., Hauser, 2015). The data come from oral language tests given for a first-year required academic English class at a Japanese university. The curriculum for the class is genre-based, with one of the genres included in the curriculum being the genre of procedure. In order to draw on the students’ relative strength in mathematics, the procedure genre was taught in the class by having the students work with procedures for constructing geometric figures using a compass and straightedge. In order to assess the students on their mastery of the procedure genre in spoken English, the students were tested by having them use notes, prepared by the students in advance, to instruct the teacher on how to construct a geometric figure. Each test performance was videorecorded for the purpose of assessment. After the assessment was complete, the students were asked for consent to use the videorecordings for research.

He used multimodal conversation analysis to analyze the videorecorded interaction. Multimodal conversation analysis focused not only on talk (including, e.g., inbreaths and outbreaths, pauses, intonation, etc.), but also on gesture, gaze, body position, and so on. He analyzed the following: 1) the framing of the test performance, that is, how it is entered into and exited from; 2) the organization of the test interaction as a series of instruction/instructed action adjacency pairs; 3) the organization of student corrections of teacher errors in following the procedure; and 4) the teacher’s scaffolding of some test performances. This last item—the teacher’s scaffolding—was especially relevant for the concept of dynamic assessment (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006), a relatively new perspective on language testing that has developed within sociocultural theory.

Overall, he attempted to convince the audience of the value of looking carefully at the fine interactional details of oral language test performance.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Thursday, November 19, 2015
by Dr. Alice Chik

Language learning histories have brought to the fore the diversity in affordances, trajectories and contexts of learning, but most language learning histories take the form of written texts. In this talk, she presented an alternate way of knowing our learners: draw and tell. She used visual narratives created by young, teenage and adult learners to demonstrate the advantages and versatility of visual narratives for understanding our learners and their learning in formal and informal learning contexts.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Thursday, October 29, 2015
by Dr. Lesley Gourlay

The concept of 'open education¹ has entered the mainstream of higher education policy and practice in recent years in the UK and beyond, with the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and the prevalence of open access publishing. This lecture took a critical look at the origins, tensions and complexities inherent in the notion of 'open education', with reference to recent research and critique. It concluded with a discuss focused on the implications for educational policy and practice.

Reported by Sayaka Amano


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