Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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Shinshu Chapter

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
Friday, October 16, 2015
Asako Yamaguchi
Kentaro Sawa

With the rise of globalization, the number of companies looking to recruit foreign students increase every year, and about 60% of graduating foreign students want to work in Japan. However, in reality, only 28.2 % of foreign graduates were able to fulfill their dreams of finding full-time employment in Japan in 2010. Many universities in Japan incorporate career support for foreign students into programs tailored to Japanese students. It is time for them to offer career support specialized to the needs of foreign students.

Temple University, Japan Campus, founded in 1982, is the oldest and largest American university in Japan. They have been offering not only professional career support by the Career Development Office, but also a special course for foreign students who want to find employment in Japan after graduation. In this seminar, first, Kentaro Sawa (Manager of the TUJ Career Development Office)explained how Japanese “shuukatsu” (job-hunting) is carried out, and next, Asako Yamaguchi (Assistant Professor of Japanese) discussed how language teachers can help foreign students finding jobs in the framework of a language course. For the past 3 years, Temple University, Japan Campus has been offering the “Advanced Oral Japanese Course,” in which they support students acquiring basic business Japanese language by preparing them for resume writing as well as job interviews, and having them experience business communication through SWOT analyses and presentations. What they believe is important is that the career staff and the language teacher work together to help students get ready for job-hunting both academically and psychologically. In this presentation, they talked about the above issues and how they had been cooperating to accomplish our goals.

Reported by Sayaka Amano

Tottori Chapter

Sunday, October 2, 2016
by Hiroki Uchida

We were very happy to welcome back Hiroki Uchida to Tottori for a wonderful presentation on meaning-focused learning. Meaning-focused learning is one of the four strands of language learning, with the other three being meaning-focused input, language-focused learning, and fluency development. This type of practice is significant because it often involves situations that are meaningful and true to learners’ daily lives. Hiroki explained that while language learners can attain a foundation from language-focused learning, fluency and accuracy development can only come through meaning-focused learning.

After explaining the importance of meaning-focused learning, Hiroki went into the main segment of his presentation: activities. Hiroki came prepared with far more practical activities than we could cover in one presentation and chose what he thought were good examples, including Chorus reading, Japanese-to-English translations, Cloze Procedures, and Dictogloss. For each example, the presentations attendees were made to perform the activities themselves or in a group in order to grasp the process and potential difficulties that a learner would encounter. The only downside was that we could not spend more time experimenting with the great activities that were introduced.

A warm thanks and well done are extended to Hiroki for his informative and ultimately useful presentation. It is a sure thing that many members are eager to try his suggestions in their classes.

Reported by Raymond Levy
Sunday, June 26, 2016
by Paul Shimizu

Mr. Paul Shimizu presented on “how to get students to engage with each other and with the teacher in positive, challenging and motivating ways.” Mr. Shimizu addressed many of the problems foreign language teachers face in our language classrooms, particularly, the problem of unmotivated students who don’t feel particularly challenged. He discussed ways to mitigate such problems and turn them around into opportunities for effective language learning. Mr. Shimizu provided useful advice on how to motivate our foreign language students to more proactively engage with each other (and with the teacher) in the target language. He showed some listening, reading, writing and speaking activities that can be adapted to most any proficiency and/or age range. One exercise that he used was called a “Panic Square.” Here students have to put pictures into certain areas of the square, listening for instructions about what pictures go where from the instructor. Mr. Shimizu said it was a useful means for checking listening skills, and for encouraging students to speak without stopping. The “Panic Square” activity can also be modified into a bingo game that is both fun and motivational for students. Mr. Shimizu showed us ways to make learning fun, interesting, motivational, engaging, and still “academically focused” at the same time. He believes that language learning should be regarded as a pleasant, engaging and fun activity. After all one of our basic aims as teachers is to have students come into the class expecting a ‘good time’ and leaving knowing they did have a ‘good time’ (while still learning). Fourteen people attended this very engaging and motivating Tottori JALT presentation.

Reported by Christopher Hollis
Sunday, April 17, 2016
by Aleda Krause

We were very pleased to have Aleda Krause in Tottori. She talked about how to change the teaching methods in our classes, from very small changes to bigger changes. The idea is that these changes can drastically improve the learning that’s happening in the class. After she explained the theory, we had the opportunity to practice some activities in pairs, like an information gap activity, or in groups, including a vocabulary Uno-style “onion” game and a tic-tac-toe activity which could be used with a whole class. She advised us that new teaching methods don’t always work the first time so we should persevere, and try again. Each time we do an activity we will improve, making it easier to inspire the students.
The workshop was very successful and participants were very happy to experience firsthand some of the activities Aleda uses in her classes. She also generously shared her teaching materials with us at the end of the presentation, as well as giving some card games away as prizes. Thank you Aleda for making the trip to Tottori.

Reported by Nicolas Verhoeven
Sunday, February 21, 2016
by Kip Cates

Tottori Chapter, February 21, 2016.

Kip Cates has worked at Tottori University for 30 years so we were very pleased to invite him to do his first ever presentation for Tottori Chapter. The main message of his presentation was that “Language is a key that can open the door to a whole culture”.

The theme of Kip’s first workshop was world writing systems. He showed us how to recognize ten different writing systems and we then practiced some basic translation into English. We learned some very interesting things, for example, vowels are not absolutely necessary for understanding a sentence, and that the Japanese writing system is quite close to Egyptian hieroglyphics. By the end of the workshop, members were able to quickly recognize the different writing systems.

After a 10 minutes break, he gave a second workshop about languages in the world. Participants learned how to say basic greetings in various languages, and how to recognize a language by knowing its basic pronunciation.

As well as teaching us about languages, Kip demonstrated good teaching techniques and participants had a very enjoyable afternoon. Everyone was actively involved in the workshop, and even those who are multi-lingual still learned things we didn’t know about world languages.

Reported by Nicolas Verhoeven
Saturday, November 14, 2015
by Dr Jane Spiro, Head of Applied Linguistics and Principal Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University

Dr Jane Spiro, Head of Applied Linguistics and Principal Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and a featured speaker at the National JALT conference in Shizuoka, came to Tottori and did a presentation on “Assessing Creativity.” She discussed creative writing and shared several examples of her own students’ work. Then, she had us think in detail about the question of “Can creativity be assessed and can assessment be creative?” She showed examples of creative writing tasks that language teachers can give their students, then shared ways of assessing the writing so that the assessment is transparent, objective, and meaningful to learners. She demonstrated that assessment can be a creative opportunity (for both the learner and the teacher), and shared examples of what this means in practice. Her main principles for assessing creativity are: (1) Be clear on definitions (creativity should be “making something new and unique”), (2) Make sure to build the “making new” into the language task, (3) Be clear what the task goals are, (4) Assess based on achievement of task goals and have no hidden agenda. We learned the importance of giving students creative control over their own learning (examples include the “Hole-In-The-Wall” education project in India), allowing them opportunities to be creative in the classroom. Most importantly, we learned how to effectively and efficiently assess creative tasks in the language classroom that lead to both more motivated language students and more exciting and rewarding classes for all involved. 30 people attended this very creative and yet practical Tottori JALT presentation.

Reported by Christopher Hollis
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Simon Capper
Jim Ronald

The event consisted of two workshops, a mini-workshop, simultaneous poster sessions, and an information session, and welcomed 25 enthusiastic participants.

The event started with a workshop on Lateral Thinking by Simon Capper. He first explained what lateral thinking is and why we should use it in class. He then introduced some lateral thinking puzzles and demonstrated how to do the puzzles in class. After enjoying trying out the puzzles, the participants walked around freely, perusing the posters set up by John Herbert, Monika Szirmai, and Don Cherry. The poster sessions respectively concerned the teaching of the diversity of Englishes in the world in a Global Studies program, the use of corpus methods in language teaching, and the introduction and the display of sound color charts for in-class pronunciation practice.

After a break, the participants enjoyed a mini-workshop on the teaching of pronunciation with colored blocks by Don Cherry. This was followed by an information session where JALT SIGs, including Teaching Young Learners and Learner Development ,were introduced. The afternoon event concluded with a workshop on Content for Speaking Classes, by Jim Ronald. He talked about self-disclosure and language needs, and demonstrated how they could be incorporated into classroom activities to encourage active participation.

Reported by Wakako Takinami


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