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.