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Chapter Reports - November 2011

 

AKITA: JulyBuilding a course in extensive reading for non-English majorsby Ken Schmidt. Schmidt (Tohoku Fukushi University, Sendai) described a university-level, elective EFL course that focuses on extensive reading with graded readers. This is the only English course many of these non-English majors take in a given year. It involves speaking, listening,and writing as well as reading. In-class emphasis is on interactive exercises, vocabulary-related activities,and reading speed. The key components of the course,1) an independent reading program,2)aninitial class reader, and3) in-class activities,were all presented in detail. Schmidt also showed how to integrate video into the course. Questions were answered throughout the informative presentation, and a good time was had by all.    

                                                                                    Reported by Stephen Shucart

 

GIFU: JuneAn introduction to the Montessori methodby Karen Ricks. Gifu JALT was given an insight into the Montessori teaching method in an absorbing presentation by Ricks (a Best of JALT winner in 2009). What makes you learn? Ricks suggested teachersshould sharetheirenthusiasm for teaching with young learners. The presenter outlined a brief history of Montessori. Dr. Montessori worked in slum areas in Italy where she saw individuals in need of stimulation,and developed several materials and methods that awakened the senses and focused on maximizing student potential.Ricks outlined the four aspects of good teaching: practical life, maths, language,and sensory materials. The presenter demonstrated several teaching methods,and the audience was given the opportunity to examine a diverse range of material thatcould be used in the classroom.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

GIFU: JulyOn the drawing board: thoughts on ELT materials developmentby Marcos Benevides. Benevides wrote a book because he hated textbooks,and stated that teachers are all material developers in the classroom. He then described textbooks as a tool andthe job of teachers as one of making materials come alive. The presenter outlined several projects that he was working on,including graded readers and game books. Benevides is a strong advocate of task-based learning although he emphasized that many methods can help in the classroom. The presenter outlined the problems with reading in Japan and questioned whether students have the experience of reading in Japanese. He suggested that one of the jobs of a teacher is to spark the student’s interest in reading. Benevides gave a brief but informative overview of his textbook publications, Widgets and Whodunit. He gave some good advice to prospective writers,which was to not be too conservative and remember that publishers are led by market research,and therefore,feedback from students and peers is essential.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

GUNMA: SeptemberUsing conflict resolution techniques for language learning by Chris Stillwell. Listening to Chris Stillwell, one gets the impression that he is an excellent moderator. With a calm demeanor and an easy smile, he is someone you can trust. Perhaps it isn't surprising then that Stillwell's presentation generated candid contributions from even the quietest of our attending members. In order to demonstrate the intersections between conflict resolution and language learning and teaching, Stillwell guided Gunma JALT members through three activities. The first activity required members to identify different parts of speech which could trigger conflict - some examples include the modal verbs had better and must. A double role-play activity had partners act out an argument using some of these trigger words,andthen role-playing the same argument without them. Last, partners practiced active listening while avoiding yes/no and why questions. In a little under three hours, Stillwell showed attendees that conflict resolution techniques make excellent content for language classes while at the same time helping teachers and students deftly diffuse conflict in the classroom.

                                                            Reported by John Larson

KITAKYUSHU: JulyFirst annual brain dayby various. In a day so packed with presentations and discussions that attendees had to take notes while eating (but were fueled with Turkish coffee and cookies),about fifty people explored the implications of brain research for the EFL classroom. Robert S. Murphy began by comparing neurons to the reproductive system, in that excitation has to happen for transfer (of information) to take place. Students’ emotions have to be engaged, as in the scene from Dirty Harry, and curiosity hasto be satisfied. Curtis Kelly followed up with an explanation of how to create a rewarding dopamine rush for students. Christopher Stillwell led an activity that simulated a cocktail party to help students realize how successful their listening can be even when they don’t understand 100% of the material. Marc Helgesen recapped the elements of happiness, which has more to do with people’s attitudes toward life than with the number of happy events in their lives, and showed how it enhances learning. Tim Murphey introduced the notion of mirror neurons, which are responsible for altruistic behavior, and screened a very moving appeal by his students to the Ministry of Education to improve the teaching of English. Hayato Mine and Suguru Goto explained a picture-based system of communicationthat is helpful for disabled children and those on the autism spectrum. Group discussions led by the presenters helped attendees consolidate what they had learned and think about applying it to their own teaching situations.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KITAKYUSHU: SeptemberThe significance of the implicit vs the explicit distinction for language pedagogyby Rod Ellis and A fluency first approach through extensive writing in the EFL context by Steven Herder. Ellisreminded us that the main goal of second language instruction is to develop implicit knowledge, because without it, communication is difficult. Implicit language learning occurs without intentionalityandwithout awareness. This is how children learn their first language,and their caregivers are providing all the input they need. Ellis encouraged us to consider the extent it is possible to facilitate the (essential) implicit understanding of a second or foreign language and its relationship with explicit instruction. He feels that confidence in communicating comes from building up implicit knowledge,and that the lack of access to it must be offset by appropriate exposure, with students discovering implicit rules for themselves. With a combination of presentation and discussion, Ellis guided us from awareness-raising through brainstorming to ways to facilitate this, which ran late and spilled over into a nearby café.Herder described his epiphany after many years of classroom teaching when he took an MA course having dutifully followed the Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) module for years. He realized that his students were simply “doing anything to get out of the classroom” and wanted to change that. Herder points out that “input can be controlled but output cannot be put in a can.” He proposes that successful language learning first focuses on fluency, then accuracy and complexity. The first activity in his classes (duplicated in this presentation) is ten minutes of free writing, with no dictionary, eraser, stopping,or talking, with follow-up activities such as counting adjectives, words in the past tense,or words using time and then putting them together in a scale. Results included some classes doubling their average word count over one year well above the expectations of their curriculum organisers. Herder then went on to describe a variety of innovative exercises which made a good personal introduction to his inspiring website <stevenherder.org>.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KYOTO: JulyProject based learning and teaching by various. 1) Classroom projects: Changing studentsworldviewby Oana Cusen. This presentation highlighted the learner, rather than the teacher, as the navigator of the learning experience. The colorful posters that were displayed during the presentation were impressive and showed how much the students were engaged in the project. 2)The 24/7 classroom byOliver Kinghorn. The presenter described two content-based courses and discussed how his students consolidated their out-of-class research on global topics in blog-like, digital portfolios. The blog content was also presented by the student-authors during class in small groups. 3) Introducing the project-based English program in the College of Sports and Health Science of Ritsumeikan University by Shuhei Kimura. The presenter introduced a two-year, four-project curriculum in which students do themed projects on topics ranging from basic interests to more academic fare. Each project consisted of research and group discussion, a presentation, a debate,and a panel discussion, culminating with a final academic paper. 4) Position! Place! Shape! story project by Heidi S. Durning. A component of a class of mixed-level design students, this project teamed short English stories with original artwork. Learners exercise their creativity and inspire each other while becoming comfortable working in English.

Reported by Gretchen Clark, Julia Harper,& Michi Saki

NAGOYA: JulyThoughts on ELT materials developmentbyMarcos Benevides. Benevides discussed how to publish course books using his textbook, Widgets.His approaches and methods are based on his own English-learning experienceswhen at the age of eleven, he emigrated from Brazil to Canada. The extensive reading programs at his school increased his vocabulary. Also, reading adventure stories and scientific fiction stimulated his passion for reading. Character sheets helped him understand the details of a story and develop his philosophy. Widgets features role-plays,such as a simulation of working for a company, developing a new invention, making market research, and advertising a new product after making the decision on the best invention as the management team, whichmotivatesstudents in a particular way. Benevides believes textbooks should be authenticand theme-based,feature predictable grammar points,and act as a bridge for extensive and intensive readings. Introducing various situations using video helps students understand the pragmatics of conversation. As for publishing, publishers are concerned about market research. There are four choices for publishing: a large international publisher, a foreign-owned local publisher, a Japanese ELT publisher,or self-publishing. There is also a final option, a print-on-demand service called Lu-lu which can assist in publishing your book and sellingit online at a reasonable price.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

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