Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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Tottori Chapter

Sunday, November 13, 2016
by
Naho Iwata
Noriko Nakada
Hitomi Taniguchi
Nicolas Verhoeven
Shirley Leane

On September 13, 2016 Tottori JALT held a “My Share” event at Tottori University. Naho Iwata (Aoya high school), Noriko Nakada and Hitomi Taniguchi (both from Tottori Higashi high school) talked about Using iPads in the Classroom. Nicolas Verhoeven of Tottori University of Environmental Studies talked about What is a ‘Good’ Teacher? And, Shirley Leane of Tottori University gave a workshop on Assessing Communication Skills in Large Classes.

Presentation 1: Naho Iwata, Hitomi Taniguchi and Noriko Nakada talked about the pressures that public school teachers are feeling recently to use ICT tools, such as the iPad, in the language classroom. Such tools are being encouraged in order to improve students' learning and scores. The speakers discussed what they learned through actually using the iPad in their own classrooms (the good, bad and the ugly) and shared several teaching ideas that displayed ways to effectively use the iPad as not only a teaching tool, but more importantly, as a learning tool. They introduced two main activities. The first was a show and tell introduction of the students’ favorite spots around school. The students videotaped their speeches using iPads and then compiled several videos into a seamless video presentation. The second was a jigsaw activity where the students became ‘experts’ about various endangered animal species through researching information on the iPads (in English or Japanese) and then did group discussions and presentations. In conclusion, the speakers believe that there are limitless possibilities for ICT tools to improve our students’ learning, motivation and confidence, but that such tools must be used properly if you want effective learning to actually occur.

Presentation 2: Nicolas Verhoeven actively discussed with the audience the question of What Makes a ‘Good’ Teacher? He reminded us that our own cultural backgrounds and personal experiences create “ideal images” of "the good teacher." Nico had us passionately discussing in no time our own ideas about what the teacher is supposed to do in the classroom, and shared with us his ideas on some bad habits (such as “flying with the fastest student”) that language teachers need to avoid. He emphasised that “inside a good teacher’s classroom there is a lot of LEARNING going on” and suggested the book Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener as a great reference for those who want to become great teachers.

Presentation 3: Shirley Leane discussed the difficulties of Assessing Communicative Skills in Large Classes. We talked about the reasons why teachers assess students, the large variety of tests that exist, and which of them might be useful in our classes. In no time Shirley had the audience in groups of four debating hot topics related to assessment and evaluation. She presented the audience with various difficult testing situations in classrooms where the teacher had to somehow find a way to accurately assess the students’ language abilities. She then asked us what we would do in that situation, whether we agreed with the suggested means of assessment, and if we had any suggestions for improvements. The presentation was thoroughly engaging and every participant got a chance to give their opinions and discuss various interesting aspects related to the difficulties language teachers face every day. The take away message was that assessment must meet the goals of the class. She recommended a free online reference called “Teaching and Learning Languages, A Guide” as a good resource for busy teachers.

Reported by Christopher Hollis
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
by
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
Sunday, July 5, 2015
by
Andrew Caldwell
Bettina Begole

Caldwell began by explaining how he modified Dictogloss, or Grammar Dictation as it is also known, for use in his junior high classes. He explained that his students work in pairs rather than groups, and he reads the text four times: In the first reading, the students listen only; second reading, student A takes notes; third reading, student B takes notes. After the fourth and final reading he asks the students to use their notes to reconstruct the text, and after this they compare their writing with other pairs. Caldwell pointed out that to have a positive effect, Dictogloss should be done on a regular basis.
Begole's presentation was titled Learning activities disguised as games and she began by emphasising the importance of students having fun while they are learning. Her workshop was about activities that can be used with students who cannot yet read or write and are thus not quite ready for four-skills lessons. First, she talked about different types of bingo that can be used in the classroom, for example, telling the time. She then divided us into groups, gave each group a different game and asked us to make our own rules and plan a way to use the game in our classes. Finally, each group explained their game to the other participants and Begole gave extra information explaining how she has used each game.

Reported by Shirley Leane
Sunday, April 12, 2015
by Dr Rob Waring

Dr Waring provided insight into the overrepresentation of intensive reading as a method of learning in Japanese schools, highlighting tendencies in Asian education systems of focusing more on knowledge than use of language, with little assumption that material covered will be recycled in later lessons. Waring also called attention to the inherent risks of exaggerated sense of student failure in the 'teaching causes learning' paradigm. Participant discussion brought attention to the necessity of repeated exposure to chunks of language in order to make use of active vocabulary. Also explored were the benefits of extensive reading on fluency as well as improvements in vocabulary as measured on standardised tests. Waring presented a plethora of resources for incorporating extensive reading into a variety of teaching systems.

Reported by Tremain Xenos

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