Chapter Reports - September 2012


AKITA: May Brain rules, jewels, and tools byKim Thorne. This workshop focused on providing teachers with a comprehensive toolkit to use with young learners. Thorne employed a lively mix of songs and physical activities to illustrate her thesis of kids having short attention spans, so interactive and stimulating activities are vital to their learning. The key to understanding the context of the presentation was her
detailed, multisensory explanation of brain rules, teaching jewels,and instructionaltools. The new focus of Japanese education on elementary school aged English learners made this a very timely presentation.

                                                                            Reported by Stephen Shucart


AKITA: June Using social learning technology in the classroom: An introduction byRenaud Davies. The presenter is the Program Advisor for Akita JETs, and he explained some of the tech tools he uses in his classrooms and for training new JET ALTs. Using Prezi, a free, non-linear alternative to PowerPoint and Keynote, he demonstrated an array of online tools and presentation tools to help enhance classroom instruction. Some of the social-networking tools he covered were Glogster, Linoit, Wallwisher, Voicetread, and Speakpipe. The second half of the presentation was a hands-on demonstration of how to hack a Wii remote handset and IR laser pointer to make an interactive whiteboard. This presentation proved to be highly informative, even for the CALL specialists in the audience.

                                                                            Reported by Stephen Shucart


GIFU: May Empowering young readers with the brain in mindby Maria Nakumura. The presentation delved into the mind of the reader. Nakumura explained that we have been reading for a relatively short time, about 4000 years and our brains are simply not hotwired for reading. However once we learn we forget how difficult it was. Nakumura outlined five rules that empower young learners: anticipation, feeling, movement, repetition, and meaning. She had developed a three stage flexible program to assist children’s reading development using topic-based books. The first stage developed interests and oral language. Next came phonics and fluency and finally reading comprehension. Attendees took part in several fun activities that put us into the minds of the learner including drawing and reading to each other, which clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of Nakumura’s approach. Finally, we examined each rule in greater detail. Reading aloud to children can raise their anticipation and awareness, and expand vocabulary. Meaning and emotion are the keys; children are able to relate the story to their own experiences. Repetition can be an effective learning strategy and can be adapted to suit individual learners. Understanding the book through meaning-focused learning activities gives the students confidence and maintains their interest. Unfortunately the presentation ended but we were able to retire to the local izakaya for further discussion.

                                                                           Reported by Brent Simmonds


GUNMA: May Exploring and experiencing online materials for second language learning and teaching byRobert Habbick. Habbick swears he is not a guru, not a tech guy, not someone who can “hack into your iPad.” While this may be true, he certainly knows more about online language learning than the average person. In the first half of his presentation, Habbick introduced Gunma JALT members to a process called the digital audit: a comprehensive technological checklist necessary for a smooth experience in the digital classroom. He also urged caution with his three T's of technology―it can be treacherous, tricky, but also tanoshii. After a break, attendees logged in and were given the chance to try some online materials, courtesy of Cambridge University Press (CUP). Among CUP's many online offerings was Touchstone, an interactive online course in which students can interact with English using activities, games, and video role-playing. Let's Talk Online is a companion to the popular Let's Talk series, and attendees found it quite entertaining and engaging. Cambridge English Teacher and Cambridge English Placement Test are affordable ways for teachers and students alike to challenge themselves. And last, but certainly not least, English360 is a content-creation and delivery platform, which could perhaps be described as “Moodle made manageable.”

                                                                                 Reported by John Larson


GUNMA: June Grammar feedback in writing instruction: Beyond the yes/no debateby Paul Kei Matsuda. It is at once amazing and inspiring to learn that Matsuda once hated his English classes. Born, raised, and educated primarily in Japan, there was a point at which his acceptance to high school was in jeopardy because of his English scores. Now, as a professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University, Matsuda has become one of the most prominent names in the field of second language writing theory and written discourse. Matsuda made a modest proposal to attendees: stop evaluating student grammar. First, Matsuda challenged the efficacy of grammar instruction and corrective feedback. He put forth that it is impossible for teachers to predict what kind of feedback is going to lead to particular language development. By continuing to evaluate student writing based on language development, Matsuda argued, teachers end up penalizing students for what they themselves cannot teach reliably. Matsuda instead proposed assessment without evaluation― focus on formative rather than summative feedback as a way out of the grammar-feedback dilemma. In the question and answer session that followed, Matsuda gave attendees numerous ideas and examples of how he achieves this style of assessment in his own classes. Something tells me that very few of his students hate their English classes.

                                                                            Reported by John Larson


GUNMA: JulyEasy extensive reading in the arts and sciencesbyJoseph Poulshock.With negative attitudes towards extensive reading,ortadoku,from Japanese students today, Poulshock recommends a more subtle approach: Call it Big Easy Reading. By inviting students to participate in a Big Easy Reading program, theyare less likely to feel intimidated by the extensive nature of the reading program. Poulshock continues by explaining Krashen’s theory of language acquisition and input learning,emphasizing that understanding messages is what causes skill development. The most important question Poulshock poses for students is,“How much time are you willing to spend on English learning?” Excluding the importance of building friendships with other people and the cultural experience that come with study abroad programs, Poulshock supports Mason’s suggestion that extensive reading has that same language building potential as these English study abroad programs have. However, teacher direction and support is the key to success. Poulshock states that helping students define clear cut goals, understand how enjoyable and easy achieving these goals are, and giving students comprehensive feedback all contribute to successful second language acquisition. Therefore, for second language students who lack the means for study abroad programs, hope is not lost.

                                                                                    Reported by Daniel Potocki


HAMAMATSU: May The Shizuoka action research and professional development organization (Sharp-do) andBook buddies projects byMarcus Springer andChris Tebbe. First, Tebbe, as representative of JET teachers in Shizuoka prefecture, discussed his efforts to raise the level of professionalism of such teachers. Funded by an educational grant they had applied for, Tebbe and Springer (a trainer for JET teachers) have offered a series of training sessions for almost one hundred JET teachers in Shizuoka, focusing on action research as a way to improve teaching. Action research involves a wide variety of things, from video or audio recordings to interviews with learners, and is a way for teachers to evaluate what is happening in, and how to improve the learning occurring in their individual classrooms. After this first discussion, Springer talked about another grant-funded project which he and a colleague had initiated called Book Buddies. This project began as a way to help children from bilingual families cultivate their English abilities in the culture setting of Japan. It developed into a monthly English book reading session at a public library for a bilingual group and a monolingual group of children. Because of the grant money, participants were given a book at each session. The project proved very successful, and Springer plans to reapply for a future grant to continue it. Both presenters were well organized and passionate about their efforts to improve language education in Japan.

                                                                                 Reported by Dan Frost


HOKKAIDO: June Praising effectively for positive affectby Joseph Falout.

Joseph Falout gave a presentation based on research he and his colleagues have done into the importance of student motivation and how it is influenced. He noted that academic emotional baggage from past experiences has an influence on how students feel about their current learning ability, and this affects their motivation for studying English. He had found a positive correlation between motivation and achievement. Stating that while motivation fluctuates for most students, those with lower motivation levels were more likely to blame themselves for academic failures, while more highly motivated students were likely to blame their failures on external factors such as the teacher. Falout compared the concept of a fixed mindset that sees intelligence as a natural gift with a growth mindset which sees intelligence as something developed through passion and effort. The practical implication highlighted was that praise from teachers has the power to reinforce or change these mindsets and therefore influence motivation.

Falout postulated that, in order to encourage students to have growth mindsets full of hope for learning, we need to be careful to avoid labeling students as able/not able in our feedback. Therefore praise should show genuine interest in students’ learning through applauding effort, use of strategies, and wise choices, while being specific, genuine, believable, and not controlling.

                                                                             Reported by Haidee Thomson


IBARAKI: May Ibaraki 2-day mini-conference. Our chapter held a 2-day mini-conference at the National Center for Teachers' Development. The featured presenter, David Barker, gave two very thought-provoking presentations: What is English conversation, and how can it be taught on the first day, and What I learned in French class on the second. Atsushi Iida addressed some of the issues and challenges of teaching writing, while Dan Waldhoff updated his Using contemporary technology tools in the classroom. A highlight of the second day was Hidenori Kuwabara's Reasons behind learners’ silence and unwillingness in EFL classrooms. After several years of not having our mini-conference, we revived it last year. This year’s was our best-attended activity of the year so we plan to continue the overnight event.

                                                                            Reported by Martin Pauly


IWATE: May Workshop on teaching young learners: Brain rules, tools, and jewels byKim Horne. This was the most energizing presentation ever! Horne kept us curious and engaged for the whole time while sharing a little bit of brain science, lots of practical songs, and stories used in her classrooms. They were not just for fun, but also for teaching some important social skills and morals. My favourite story was about a Chinese boy who could not turn a seed into a beautiful flower although everybody else did, but he stayed honest and was chosen as the emperor. It almost brought tears to my eyes! The three doctrines we learned were: 1) exercise boosts brain power, 2) repeat to remember, and remember to repeat, and 3) brains crave curiosity. Although this presentation was about teaching young learners, we got a lot of ideas for teaching older learners as well.

                                                                            Reported by Harumi Ogawa


IWATE: June Using student mirroring science in the language classroomby Tim Murphey and Harumi Ogawa. Murphey set the stage by explaining what near peer role models (NRPM) are and their significance in language education. His talk extended from near peering to diverse peering with various viewpoints such as neuroscience, anthropology, and zoology. Ogawa talked about a pilot study she had conducted using interview videos of enthusiastic L2 speakers in her English classes, indicating directions for her future study in the areas of social learning and motivation. Murphey’s session included a lot of inspiring videos that provoked empathy and hope for positive inner change, in order to affect the world. It was special to listen to his original song with lyrics by Gandhi and Michael Jackson while he accompanied himself on guitar.

                                                                            Reported by Harumi Ogawa


KITAKYUSHU: May Task complexity and second language development: Tools to promote speaking byColin Thompson. Thompson spoke on current trends in task-based learning (TBL) and tools to promote speaking practice. He showed us several interactive speaking tasks and discussed advantages and disadvantages of using them to focus on communication and grammar. We learned how teachers could design such tasks for their own classroom use, emphasizing the importance of pre-teaching them, and vocabulary so that students can focus on performance. We all had fun with the activity he showed us using a short video segment from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. In pairs, one person turned their back to the video, while the other described what was happening. The person with their back to the video had to make quick notes as to what they understood was happening. Then together we watched the video and compared the notes to it. We all thought that it would be fun for most students (even adults) and challenging. This TBL activity can be used for any level of students by using level-appropriate material, such as still pictures for low-level students with timed viewing, or slower-paced (muted) animation. Tom and Jerry is good for advanced students with its fast paced action and non-speaking characters.

                                                                             Reported by Charles Ashley


KITAKYUSHU: June Issues relating to independently run English language schools byMark Gibson, Gareth Steele, andLawrence Chivers. Alternating between individual rotating presentations and discussion in small groups or collectively, these three school owners shared a lot of very useful information on starting up a new school or improving or expanding an existing business, and ways of attracting and keeping students in any size or scale of private language teaching. After outlining their range of discussion from starting up through keeping going, marketing, and management, they focused on the particulars of this line of business, starting with location, licensing, pricing, size, and curriculum. Marketing advice included flyers, web-pages, word of mouth, billboard advertising, and print media―very welcome for anyone interested in getting more students, whether on a large or small scale. Additionally, insights such as regarding potential competition as potential cooperation—where teachers can pass on students to a more appropriate class level elsewhere and expect the same in return—were shared. Useful direction about what one needs to succeed included tips on getting everything done whether you like it or not, as well as maintaining good communication with staff, students and parents, remembering that no complaints does not necessarily mean no problems, and on generally getting most of the fundamentals right most of the time. 

                                                                                      Reported by Dave Pite


NAGOYA: May Empowering young readers with the brain in mind byMari Nakamura. According to her five rules to empower young readers, Nakamura showed how to involve kids in reading activities: 1) anticipation drives up the brain power, 2) we feel therefore we learn, 3) the brain loves movement, 4) repetition enhances memory and recall, 5) the brain is a meaning seeker. First, as a prediction activity, she reads Little Cloud by Eric Carle, showing how to evoke children’s anticipation. Second, as a personalization activity, she lets her third graders draw a picture based on Little Cloud, give a presentation with their drawings, and make a class book using them. Third, Nakamura lets them watch their classmates’ mimes, guessing the scene. Fourth, repeated reading develops three important components in reading fluency, accuracy, automaticity and prosody (expressiveness or melodic features of the language). Fifth, use a song for meaningful reading by reading the lyrics aloud and miming. Her Story Spy worksheet for the fifth and sixth graders is useful for their Reading Race and Book Talk. For junior and senior high school students, Nakamura gives fifteen minutes for extensive reading before the lesson starts with an opportunity for Book Talk.

                                                                              Reported by Kayoko Kato


NAGOYA: JuneHearts of ELT and minds of ELLsby Najima Janjua. Janjua was surprised in her medical classes to discover thathighly-educated Japanese professionals had difficulty in understanding English instructions and answering questions in English, while her students from non-native English-speaking Asian countries had quite a different attitude toward English. To look behind the scenes, she set the stage for comparing high school textbooks, invaluable teaching language tools, namely, ELT’s hearts. Participants were shownsamples of textbooks collected from 10non-native English-speakingcountries:Afghanistan, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. The selectioncriteria were that the textbooks had to be 1) from a non-native English-speaking country, 2) high school textbooks, 3) approved by the respective government, and 4) used incompulsory English education. The textbookswere given with a sheet for participants to fill in each positive and negative side and their comments on each textbook. The main difference is that in Japanese textbooks almost all the instructions are in Japanese and thereforeanswers should be given in Japanese. Grammar is taught to be memorizedwithout producing the target language. Confidence comes from English production. Textbooks should produce away to let learners output and expose learners to English as much as possible.

                                                                           Reported by Kayoko Kato


NARA: May Invaluable techniques for teaching English to kids under the age of 10 byLisa Manhart, Catherine Littlehale Oki, Matthew Reynolds, andCatriona Takeuchi. Nara JALT once again enjoyed practical, applicable, and joyful language teaching techniques and activities for children under ten. Manhart presented her teaching practice with music, chants, and songs, which are used as a supplementary or key component. Some songs blended with phonics, and mime enhanced memory retention by repetition and kinesthetic activities. Oki introduced some projects done in her elementary school, and explained the procedures and the strategies for success in a limited lesson timeframe: a clear purpose, the use of realia (e.g., travel brochures), and parents’ cooperation. Reynolds enriched the audience with his research on extensive reading. His reading sheets, reusable laminated A4 sheets, are used for boosting readers’ confidence in English as well as for confirming their reading comprehension. Takeuchi demonstrated some of Lisgo’s latest materials, and also taught us the importance of bending the rules occasionally depending on learners’ levels in order to give them a sense of achievement. Friendly discussions ensued with cheese and laughter in a post-event party.

                                                                            Reported by Motoko Teraoka


NARA: JuneControversies over the current policy of English education by MEXT and the possible contributions of native and non-native English teachersby Hidetami Nakai. Nara JALT revisited one of the most pertinent issues in English language education in Japan. Nakai let the audience look back on his presentation, held for Nara JALT several years ago, about NESTs and NNESTs, and reiterated the importance of NEST-NNEST collaboration and cooperation to deal with the many issues facing ELT professionals in Japan. The polarized perspective on the English language (the only international language or linguistic imperialism) and that on English education (skills training or liberal arts) were then explored. One of his main concerns is how ELT can play an important role in enhancing the international understanding that MEXT pursues. The dominance of the English language has affected the opportunities for learners to learn other foreign languages. He reminded the audience of the fact that foreign language education tends to be interpreted as English education. Another feature of his talk was about the norm of plurilingualism and pluriculturalism, and he raised the question whether such a norm based on the EU-EC model can be introduced to Japan.

                                                                          Reported by Motoko Teraoka


OKAYAMA: April Global issues films in English language teaching byTom Fast.  Committed to promoting global awareness at his high school, which belongs to the UNESCO ASP Network, the presenter introduced over 10 films that he has used, or intends to use, in his content-based approach to language, peace, human rights, and environmental education. Participants enjoyed watching parts of several films before looking at some of the pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing activities the presenter had designed to engage students’ interest and facilitate better comprehension. Various activities including the use of combinations of sound on/off and visuals on/off were discussed. The authentic film material, which has been designed for entertainment rather than classroom use, was shown to be an important tool to help students develop an international understanding, to promote interest in the language used, and to have fun in the process.

                                                                                    Reported by Claire Uchida


OKAYAMA: May New ideas from new language educators bySachiko Iwamoto, Tsukasa Nakamura, Rikako Nakanishi, andMika Yunoki. Four recent graduates of the Okayama University Graduate School of Education discussed their research in improving English language education in Japan. Iwamoto showed her in-depth knowledge of English verbs while talking about difficulties Japanese English learners have mixing up passive and ergative verbs (e.g., “The window broke.” vs. “The window was broken.”). Nakamura demonstrated how he created an ELT-focused corpus for language teachers and researchers, using web-based concordance programs and online ELT journal articles. Nakanishi also discussed corpora—particularly the COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) online corpus—and how to use them to create vocabulary-building exercises for students. Finally, Yunoki demonstrated the importance of teaching high school learners how to summarize texts they read, using macro rules to glean what elements of a text are important in summarization.

                                                                                    Reported by Scott Gardner


OKAYAMA: June Project work: What is it and why, when, and how to use it byPaul Moritoshi. Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) has been gaining popularity recently, especially in post-secondary education in Japan, due to its holistic approach toward expanding and consolidating cognitive, social, and content knowledge skills. In his June workshop for the Okayama chapter, Moritoshi illustrated how to implement effective project work into EFL classes. Starting with when it is appropriate to use PBLL, he moved through topics including how to make PBLL work for the teacher and students, clarifying roles, and the limitations of PBLL. Moritoshi then presented what he calls the Project Brief, a comprehensive and detailed outline, or rubric, that guides students through their project work from start to final presentation. Using his outline from several of his classes as a guide, participants then designed, developed, and presented their own Project Brief for an imaginary project-based lesson. Moritoshi made it clear that designing, implementing, and facilitating PBLL is not a soft option but, based upon the growing body of empirical literature, a large majority of students do seem to enjoy and benefit from it. “Even though Project-Based Language Learning has its limitations,” Moritoshi said, “it does offer a wide range of beneficial educational outcomes.”

                                                                            Reported by Tony Brunelli



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