Chapter Reports - March 2012


GUNMA: November—How to include critical thinking in the classroombyJennie Roloff Rothman. Complete the following sentences: When I hear JapanI think…,  Japanese people  believe…,  Japan is….  This is one of many of the stimulating exercises Roloff Rothman introduced to Gunma JALT this month. Her course, Understanding World Politics, currently offered at Kanda University of International Studies, aims to help students become both critical thinkers and global citizens. Roloff Rothman outlined her syllabus and demonstrated some of its key activities. Attendees took part in exercises relating to political ideology, international relations theory, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Through these activities, Roloff Rothman showed how the three objectives of improving English ability, developing critical thinking skills, and increasing international understanding are all interconnected. Last, she gave suggestions on how and why critical thinking can be incorporated into other learning materials for a range of ability levels.

 Reported by John Larson


IBARAKI: December—Culture circles by Suzanne Bonn, The influence of English vocabulary strategy on basic education in Chinaby Wei Li andResearch method statistical issues part 1: What if you have two groups to compare?by Takayuki Nakanishi. Bonn introduced her teaching method named “culture circles” which aims to enhance students’ understanding of a culture by engaging them in active reading. As in the traditional reading circle, each member of the culture circle plays a different role, but Bonn replaces two of its roles in order to better accomplish its purpose. Throughout the presentation, the participants were invited to practice the roles of the culture circle in small groups. Next, Li presented her research on effective ways of teaching English vocabulary to elementary students in China. From her survey, she found that her subjects were eager to increase their vocabularies and that they relied on their teachers and parents to improve their English skills. Based on these findings, Li proposed some strategies which involve teachers’ and parents’ cooperation to increase their vocabulary. As the first of its series, Nakanishi acquainted the participants with the basic knowledge of statistical analyses using Excel. Specifically addressing the usefulness of t-test for comparing two data sets, he explained the types of t-test and their respective uses as well as guidelines for setting the p value. He also pointed out some of the common mistakes in statistical analyses and emphasized the importance of choosing an appropriate method.

Reported by Naomi Takagi


IWATE: December—Promoting students’ foreign language communication ability and general studies: The IPU case studybyYoshiko Miyake. First, Miyake introduced her research on bilingual education in Puerto Rico, offering some comparison with Japan’s foreign language initiatives. Next, she addressed the new directions in foreign language teaching from MEXT, and how they are being applied at her institution. These include efforts to establish and expand a study abroad program and promotion of foreign language self-study. The reforms that were discussed are motivated by demographic, social, and economic change, but are emerging within conservative systems in the university. 

  Reported by Harumi Ogawa   


IWATE: December—University students’ perceptions on the teacher’s use of L1 in an English classroombyHarumi Ogawa. Ogawa discussed the action research she conducted to explore the effective use of the first language (L1) in an English classroom at a Japanese university. The results show that using L1 in a university English classroom is beneficial in maximising the students’ learning process, providing efficient class administration, and for affective purposes. The data also reveals that finding a balance between using L1 and L2 is a key to creating a successful learning environment. 

Reported by Harumi Ogawa


KITAKYUSHU: JanuaryAdapting board games for language practiceby Margaret Orleans. Following the advice of Guy Cook (1997) that students should be playing with their new language right from the start, Orleans gave us, and got us to think of, ideas of how to facilitate enjoyable repetition of useful vocabulary and grammatical structures, enhance awareness of lexical rules (and the extent to which they can be bent and broken), and ensure student investment through personalization of the target language. From her large collection of commercial board games, Orleans started with the popular Clue, eliciting opinions on its usefulness in the language classroom and how it might be adapted for specific teaching objectives. A principle recommendation was to have students devise their own materials as much as possible to encourage interest and ensure the level is appropriate. Other considerations are amount of exposure to language coupled with extent of encouragement of competition and argument to get the spoken language out. Following this, in pairs and threes we learned new games and devised possible adaptations to share and discuss with the total group, then received printouts of rules for several more. On the whiteboard, Orleans illustrated examples of how she had stimulated her students’ creative writing by exploiting various board game materials.

Reported by Dave Pite


KOBE, KYOTO, NARA, AND OSAKA: December—Pecha-Kucha nightby various presenters. Once again, the Kansai area JALT chapters joined together for a year-end event of 12 Pecha-Kucha presentations, at the Konan University’s Hirao School of Management (CUBE) in Nishinomiya. Pecha-Kucha is a simple presentation format where each presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds each, in a fast-paced speech lasting just 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Warren Decker kicked things off with his Hiking trip in Wakayama, followed by Mizuka Tsukamoto’s report on Bhutan. James Crocker was next with his JALT literary review proposal, and then Joanna Baranowska spoke about her Internship at Kyoto Machiya Tondaya. Harlan Kellem gave a comparison of Men’s street fashion vs. timeless fashion, and Steve Cornwell shared various cultural aspects of Teaching about Christmas. Ellen Head presented on Amnesty International’s write for rights, followed by Doug Meyer’s Job survey results and Laura Markslags report on her Dubai international exchangeonline with her Japanese students. Stuart McLean informed us of his JALT research grant project, followed by Deryn Verity’s Life in pictures, and  Sean Gay concluded with a talk on Bilingualism. Thanks to the main organizer Brent Jones for an enjoyable evening of interesting presentations in a stimulating format. One participant commented, “Pecha-Kucha was FUN!! That was my first time to go, but I plan to go to every single one held in the future!!” Another responded, “It was good, wasn’t it! I’ve also made it a habit to go, since there’s always an eclectic bunch and a wide range of topics, usually presented in creative ways. See you at the next one!”  

Reported by Ray Franklin


NAGASAKI: December—Setting up an extensive reading course andThe illusion of synonymsby Andrew Boon. This double-header consisted of, first, an interactive report on Boon’s implementation of an extensive reading course in a mixed-level university setting, and, second, a workshop introduction to corpus linguistics through the analysis of the synonyms bias and prejudice. In his first presentation, Boon discussed his original design for a book swap format ER course. He asserted that an ER course is appropriate for a mixed-level class. Using graded readers, students in the course would read and write a short report from a template for each book read as well as present oral reports on some of the books they had read. Boon reported that, overall, students’ response to the ER course was positive. In his second presentation, Boon introduced corpus linguistics and guided the audience through an analysis of the definitions and various contexts of the lexical items bias and prejudice via a series of small group discussions. Upon a more in-depth analysis, Boon demonstrated that the two synonyms turn out to be not quite as similar as one would initially assume.

Reported by Joel Hensley


NAGOYA: December―The opinionated teacher: What the students thinkby Mark Rebuck. Rebuck’s presentation deals with lessons containing some kind of controversial message. He looked at various reasons controversial issues (CI) are advocated in EFL: people often learn a second language more successfully when using it as a means of acquiring information; the communicative approach broadens the scope of possible topics; new technologies make it possible to bring issues into the classroom; and language has more leeway for topic selection than other subjects. Rebuck used short videos dealing with a CI, which were linked with, or slotted into, the content of existing lessons. One of the videos, for example, was made by residents opposed to the development of a satoyama in Nagoya. As well as the video, these controversial-issue slots(CI-slots) generateda language awareness task, as well as time for the teacher to disclose anopinion on the issue raised in the video. A survey found the CI-slots were positively evaluated by the students, partly because they dealt with issues familiar to their lives. Students generally also responded positively to the teacher’s disclosure, although Rebuck pointed out that response bias could have influenced the results.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


OKAYAMA: November—Expert teachers: What are they like and what do they do?by Keith Johnson. Johnson started by asking listeners to define not what a good language teacher is—a difficult question to answer—but what a good teacher does. Framing the question in the latter terms makes it easier to identify particular behaviors that make some teachers come to be considered as good. He then asked participants to choose not more answers, but more questions that we could ask about good teachers’ behavior and classroom outcomes. These multitudes of questions were meant to demonstrate the research Johnson is engaged in, which cuts through the psychology and theory and simply measures what good (not necessarily expert or experienced) teachers do in their classes, and what their students do as a result. He illustrated his point with videos of two teachers teaching the same lesson plan to a similar group of language students. While experience seemed to play a large role in the differential success of the two recorded lessons, Johnson reminded us that in some cases “10 years of experience may only be 1 year of experience repeated 10 times,” and that we must instead look, as his research does, beneath generalities and more closely at the classroom behaviors and environments that make teachers good.

Reported by Scott Gardner


OKAYAMA: December—Discourse frames and materials development byMike Guest. Guest’s claim is that students benefit most from being given the big picture of language learning. Once students understand a holistic “discourse frame” (the speaker’s own term) then they will be able to see how that affects features of language such as register and tone, or how they should begin and end a speech event. In turn, this focus on the macro level will allow learners to better understand discrete language forms. Mike illustrated his hypothesis with a number of scenarios from the field of nursing and from corpus linguistics. Participants discussed a number of different taken for granted linguistic items and tried to see them from a big picture. These included when we say “hello” or “my name is,” or when we use certain collocations or the can form. Mike finished his talk with a practical example of lesson materials using a discourse frame designed to help nursing students take a patient history. The presentation was a thoughtful and reflective look into seeing language as a system of communication that teachers need to be aware of when making materials and developing their own methods.  

 Reported by Neil Cowie


OSAKA: November—An evening with Marlen Harrison.Harrison gave a multi-faceted presentation to an enthusiastic audience in Namba. He started off by talking about a subject of interest to many in the audience: different approaches to earning a PhD. He compared his chosen path of returning to the United States for full-time study, with other options such as long-distance learning programs or studying locally. Harrison then turned to the main topic of the evening, his research into second language and identity. Harrison's doctoral dissertation was about language, identity, and sexuality in Japan. Harrison’s use of auto-ethnographic narratives meant his participants were not just passive subjects used to gather data from, but agents who played active roles in the analysis of that data. Harrison’s talk covered some fascinating findings as well as how that research has since influencedhim, both as a researcher and instructor. Harrison then went on to briefly present a project he recently completed with university students learning writing in Finland. The project not only examined learner investment and agency, but also sought to do so by empowering its participants, engaging those whom he studied as co-researchers and authors. Harrison and others are part of a relatively new direction in qualitative inquiry, which is a humanistic approach that seeks to recognize and support the agency of those whom we study by centralizing the importance of narrative in studying human behavior. The presentation made for an enlightening and enjoyable evening. More on his dissertation research can be found at <>. For more about his work on supporting investment and agency in learners, go to <>.

Reported by PB Judge


SHINSHU: December—Movement shape learning by Curtis Kelly and Working holiday experiences and personal growth by Cheryl Kirchoff. Kelly began his discussion of neuroplasticity with an overview of first and second language acquisition models, including those of Chomsky, Krashen, and Ahn. He then addressed the question of what was lacking in these models, i.e., the human factor, the plasticity of the brain, and a focus on the learner rather than the language. Kelly cited Brown and Murphy, Taub, and Merzenich in explaining how the parts of the brain dealing with cognition, movement and emotion are integrated in language acquisition and can be applied to “brain-friendly” teaching. He concluded by having participants try out various brain-based learning activities from his Active Skills for Communication series which provided opportunities for “deep processing.” Kirchoff discussed the experiences students from Nagano Prefectural College have had on “working holiday,” a program recommended by the school to address students’ inward focus and lack of communicative ability. Students returning from their year abroad report having more ease in using English and better interpersonal relationships, and are more responsible and mentally stronger.

Reported by Mary Aruga




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