Chapter Reports - March 2013


AKITA: November — English debate in Japanese high school byCory Koby.  Debate is a Mind Sport! Reflecting on his two-time experience training and coaching teams from Sendai Shirayuri Gakuen Jr./Sr. High school in the All-Japan High School English Debate Tournament, the presenter explained the challenges and rewards of engaging Japanese high school students in English debate. Confidence building, communication skills development, leadership training, critical thinking, and time management were all highlighted as general benefits, and Koby also explored additional advantages specific to language learners who debate in L2. After the lively Q&A session he also gave a brief report on the last JALT convention in Hamamatsu.

Reported by Stephen Shucart


AKITA: December — The role of vocabulary in the language classroom byAdrian Paterson. Vocabulary is an essential, but also an often-neglected part of language teaching. Patersona student of Paul Nation, the foremost expert on vocabularybegan the presentation by introducing some of the basic principles and concepts, in particular, defining what vocabulary is, what it means to know a word, and how vocabulary is acquired, stored, and retrieved. In the second part of the presentation Paterson led a discussion on ways that teachers can help students to improve their vocabulary knowledge. He covered such terms as Token, Type, Lemma, Collocation, Metaphor, and Formulaic Language and emphasized that vocabulary knowledge is one of the few skills best acquired through rote memorization. Alas, he had but a short time to touch on the neurolinguistic theories of the Network Model and Emergence in Complex Adaptive Systems.

Reported by Stephen Shucart


GUNMA: November — Teaching English: It’s YOUR business byMiguel Gervais. The old adage, “Business and friendship don’t mix” is usually used as a warning against being emotionally involved with one’s coworkers, and it is often good advice. In the same way, most educators would suggest that, like friendship, the teacher-student relationship should also be unsullied by financial concerns. Long-time friend of Gunma JALT Miguel Gervias sees things differently. This November, he explained to Gunma JALT attendees how, eight years ago, he wrapped his various contracts into a profitable sole-proprietorship company, M.L.C.英会話. From an experiential point, Gervias carefully explained profits and proprietorships, brand-management and tax-breaks. And along the way he gave members some advice that, while aimed at business practices, also turned out to be essential to education: “Doing is what counts.” Perfection, whether in business or education, is not your goal. Gervais advised attendees to start with the knowledge and skill set they have and make continuous improvement their goal. “You don’t need to undercut.” Instead, he urged Gunma JALT members to focus on making the best classroom and classes that they could, something that demands a premium. In this way, Gervais showed that running a sound business is not only compatible with sound education; at M.L.C they are one and the same.

Reported by John Larson


HAMAMATSU: November — What is “English conversation” and how can it be taught? ByDavid Barker. Barker is a well-known educator, writer and publisher of materials under the BTB Press label. After being asked to define conversation, participants were then asked if conversation was communication. Barker feels many teachers have a pedagogical goal of communication, but students may not have the relevant conversational tools. Due to prior learning methods or lack of prior learning, Barker believes that students often approach conversation with a “call and response” gambit, and when the conversation deviates, their chances of being able to extrapolate are limited. Directed students can complete class exercises, and even more complex discussion of abstract topics, but are unable to hold a rudimentary conversation. By teaching how to expand upon the basics: “What’s your name?” “Where are you from” and “What do you do?” students develop the tools to enquire, answer and expand upon other topics as their skills increase. English proficiency involves understanding topics, seeking clarification, and answering accurately, fluently and appropriately.  In addition to an awareness of context/pragmatics, Barker feels the way for students to gain such proficiency is to reduce the language load, use basic language constructs, and extend the responses expected, the ways of responding (including being able to answer in real time) and uses of the language. 

Reported by Susan Sullivan


HIROSHIMA: November — The best ways to learn Japanese byMonika Szirmai, Warren Tang, Ed McNamara, andJoe Lauer. Four learners of Japanese as a second language shared the ways they studied and learned Japanese. It was obvious that all presenters enjoyed learning languages. Szirmai’s tips for improving speaking skills were to set goals for yourself (such as taking the JPLT or Kanji Kentei), interacting with Japanese in social situations, and watching Japanese TV programs. Tang advised that it’s important to be systematic with your learning (think of sports training) and to be accurate when using what you’ve learned. He also recommended socializing (especially drinking) with Japanese friends. McNamara, the youngest member of the group, got interested in Japanese as a child, but did not start learning it formally until university. When studying abroad in Shizuoka for one year, he immersed himself in Japanese culture and language. In college, he would sometimes study kanji all day while standing so he wouldn’t fall asleep. He has passed the JPLT Level 1 twice and the Kanji Kentei Level 6. Lauer’s reasons for studying Japanese are for survival and to have fun. He recommends meeting a Japanese friend every day for at least 15 minutes to improve your speaking skills. All the speakers referred helpful websites, books, and other materials for language learning. 

Reported by Naomi Fujishima


HOKKAIDO: November — JALT Hokkaido language teaching conference. Making it real: Inside the classroom and out. Our annual conference had over 20 presentations and 11 poster presentations, including a plenary by Professor Donna Tatsuki, who spoke of the readily available ‘real’ social situations within the classroom for ‘real’ language use, and then juxtaposed this with teachers bringing texts and film imitating ‘real’ social situations into the classroom, asking students to imagine or imitate these ‘real’ situations. However, rather than arguing one model as better, she talked of the contexts in which each approach is useful. For example, films and TV shows often use inflated, entertaining language, which may be good for expanding learners’ vocabulary, but fail them as a model for ‘real’ and appropriate interaction with others.

The conference was well-attended, and participants enjoyed great variety ranging from pragmatics to teaching vocabulary and lexical sequences, to CALL, extensive reading, evaluating curriculums and much more. The conference ended with a symposium discussing the social interactions and intentions involved with the phrase “Can you use chopsticks?” Panelists Donna Tatsuki, Mike Guest, David Barker, Ulrike Nennstiel and Sonoyo Ishikawa presented various viewpoints on the possible background to such interactions such as pragmatic failure, naivety, stereotypes and changing social identities. Barker suggested teaching students to assume that all foreigners can speak Japanese and use chopsticks until otherwise proven and to avoid certain conversation topics; Tatsuki advised teaching good conversation gambits and sensitivity to the social situation, while Guest recommended stimulating L1 pragmatic awareness and then helping learners apply this social sensitivity in the L2. Many participant questions were discussed and comments added, making the symposium interactive and lively. All in all, the Hokkaido conference was not only a stimulating event for teaching ideas, but also a great place to meet new people with similar interests and catch up with others. 

Reported by Haidee Thomson


IBARAKI: December Coaching in TPR storytelling’s core “circling” technique by Dominic Jones. Jones conducted a workshop in which he demonstrated the “circling” technique, a key component of the teaching method called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). According to Jones, “circling” begins with a selection of a personalized sentence structure (e.g., “Dominic went to Mito”) followed by a sequence of four questions that elicit (1) a “Yes” answer, (2) a choice between A or B, (3) a “No” answer, and (4) an answer to a “Wh” question. He emphasized that exposing students to certain grammatical structures repeatedly ensures their comprehension, which is crucial for engaging their attention as well as enhancing their motivation for language acquisition. Sign language in the language-teaching classroom by Mariko Miyao, Cecilia Ikeguchi, and Martin Pauly. In this joint presentation, the three presenters raised the participants’ awareness of sign language and deaf culture. Pauly first explained the history of sign language as well as his experience of working at a college whose student body includes a number of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Ikeguchi went over some grammatical rules that underlie American Sign Language and invited the participants to practice them using sample sentences. Miyao then introduced some websites that are helpful for learning sign language as well as a clip of a documentary called Deaf Jam that depicts friendship between a deaf and non-deaf teenager. CEFR? - Some hints, how to use as a creative design tool in classroom by Maria Gabriela Schmidt. Schmidt’s presentation focused on CEFR, or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which offers comprehensive criteria for measuring success in language acquisition. Learning that many of the participants were unfamiliar with CEFR, she spent a considerable time defining its concept and history, while addressing the participants’ questions along the way. Schmidt explained that CEFR could serve as useful guidelines for evaluating students’ language skills as well as designing course work that matches their levels of proficiency.   

Reported by Naomi Takagi


KITAKYUSHU: November — Pecha Kucha night by Various. Malcolm Swanson outlined his rationale for student presentations; while usually heavy on media and light on speaking practice, there are a plethora of online apps available for assistance. Ai Murphy connected Nutrition and Education—telling us how and why what we eat when affects our ability to study and learn.  Connecting “Neurons and Good Teaching,” Robert Murphy explained how cognition occurs due to our quadrillion-connections networks in a super dynamic context of top-down versus bottom-up learning driven by emotion. Michael Phillips weighed the pros and cons of first and second language usage in the EFL classroom, noting that neither indicates a lack of knowledge per se. Judith Rennels described the challenges of translating a teacher-centered into a learner-friendly environment via a Self-Access Learning Center—some aspects are popular while others have to be mandatory course requirements. Charles Ashley found that, in Japan, the 44 English phonemes are crunched into 21 katakana ones, intonation and rhythm notwithstanding, and questions whether katakana may be considered an acceptable accent.  Margaret Orleans pointed out that Japanese teachers tend to be uncomfortable with teaching English pronunciation, thereby hindering reading comprehension. She gave examples of how punctuation may be graphically illustrated to illuminate English for students.

Reported by Dave Pite


KYOTO: December — The Kyoto-hosted 2012 All-Kansai JALT Pecha-Kucha-style Holiday Party was a rousing success with members traveling from as far as Okayama to join in on the fun! Eight speakers deftly presented on eight topics using twenty slides on a twenty-second timer for each: (1) JALT 2013: Learning is a lifelong voyage bySteve Cornwell. This presentation was a quick synopsis of the ins and outs of JALT 2013 in Kobe.  The call for presentations opened on January 1st, 2013, so get your thinking caps on and come up with a proposal!  (2) Bringing experience to education: A study tour to Siem Reap, Cambodia by George Schaaff. Service learning trips to foreign countries serve as great vehicles for language learning and personal discovery.  The presenter spoke about his recent trip to Cambodia with his students.  (3) Printout basics in 6 minutes by David Lees. It was a very informative presentation on the do’s and don’ts of handout design for the language classroom.  (4) Culture teaching in EFL: Looking in or looking out? by John Rucynski. Instead of teaching about Western culture, why not teach your students about their own?  The presenter introduced his textbook Surprising Japan.  (5) 24 hours in Osaka by Sam Crofts. The presenter gave a quick rundown of the features of an in beta iPhone app, 24 Hours, that provides insider travel info for the visitor to Asia.  (6) The font by James Crocker andMargaret Bowden. The two presenters tag-teamed on a new endeavor—the introduction of a literary publication for aspiring creative writers in Japan.  Possible submission types include: poetry, essays, cartoons, novel chapters, etc.

Reported by Gretchen Clark 


NAGASAKI: November — Dyslexia and the classroom bySeigo Yamada andMark Tiedemann. In this presentation, Yamada and Tiedemann introduced dyslexia experientially, as students might in the classroom, as well as provided an overview of the disability itself. As part of Yamada’s PhD research and a joint research trip, the presenters introduced a dyslexia program that has been successful in the US. Using a series of group activities designed to elicit an emotional response akin to the frustration a student with dyslexia might feel in the classroom, Yamada and Tiedemann introduced the disability, its history, common factors associated with it, and specific types of dyslexia as well as their ramifications. The presenters concluded with a call for an interdisciplinary approach to dealing with the disability in the classroom in such a way as to reduce the anxiety students with dyslexia may feel.

Reported by Joel Hensley


NAGASAKI: December — About face: Validity, reliability, and Japanese entrance examinations & How to get published in JALT publications byMelodie Cook. In this two-part presentation, Cook first discussed a recent study conducted on foreign teachers’ perspectives on Japanese university entrance exams, followed by an introduction into the different JALT venues available to which one can apply for publication. Cook’s first presentation covered the enlightening results of her survey of 17 foreign instructors working in the Japanese university system and their experience with and perceptions of the creation of the entrance examination. After discussing factors such as validity and reliability and the problems which may arise related to them, Cook presented the somewhat surprising results of her survey. In her second presentation, Cook gave an overview of the conference proceedings, The Language Teacher, and the JALT Journal, which are available for publishing via JALT.

Reported by Joel Hensley


NAGOYA: November ― Developing a motivational classroom environment bySteven Paydon. To enhance classroom motivation, Paydon considers five levels: structure, trust, cohesion, performance, and personal growth. To achieve performance, we need to build structure on the foundation first. From the structure we can develop trust, and then cohesion. Cohesion will lead to our interpersonal relationships, which promote our performance and motivation, which will lead to our personal growth. Physical structure contains routine and grouping. Social structure contains classroom rules and aims. Shared personal information, experiences, and challenges in groups, and cooperation will develop trust. In simple exercises, frequent random pairing will never let students know who their next partner will be, therefore avoiding good or ill feelings toward classmates. This can work to encourage mutual acceptance well. Cohesion based on trust makes up all the bones of sharing the groups. The stronger the cohesion, the stronger the performance. Goal setting, reflection, and social and personal evaluation can lead to personal awards. Lastly, Paydon showed us how to make and shuffle pairs and groups and intensify our bonding by discussing our group identity and value. These activities aroused the participants’ frequent laughter and relaxation.   

Reported by Kayoko Kato


NAGOYA: December — Vocabulary: Meaning, form, pronunciation, and beyond by Brad Deacon. Deacon began his presentation with a Swahili greeting and a short water skiing lesson in French. Without knowing these languages, the eye-contact, gestures, facial expressions, and intonation can be helpful to understand. Speak slowly and clearly, using some effective demonstrations, and visual methods. Focus on students’ response. Don’t give them too many words at one time to remember. To know a word, students need to know its pronunciation, meaning, context, collocation, and the situation where the word is used. Students firstly need to know the classroom language and words of daily necessity. Let them act, using the words. Utilize their association, pictures, collocations, prefixes, and suffixes. To build his students’ confidence, he tells them King Arthur’s anecdote and makes them shadow and later summarize it. By making the participants’ groups of three describe each person’s fictitious character, Deacon told us how to teach adjectives and their collocations in the activity. Lastly Deacon showed the vocabulary areas with their examples. It is also important to know how many words students need in the examinations. Forgetting is natural, so students should be continually exposed to the words.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


OKAYAMA: November — A framework for selecting appropriate online vocabulary learning environments byRob Waring. Waring first examined common language learning activities and placed them in a four-quadrant table with the sections labeled: receptive language study, productive language study, receptive fluency practice, and productive fluency practice. Waring then identified the entire table as a Balanced Curriculum, stating that language learners should engage in activities from each area of this curriculum. Waring also presented a Cycle of Learning and demonstrated how cycles of perception and experimentation lead to learning, and how this cycle is also reflected in the Balanced Curriculum. Concomitant with learning is forgetting. Waring explained how traces of memory fade with limited or massed exposure, and (in contrast) how spaced repetition and distributed practice lead to long-term retention. This was exemplified through an examination of vocabulary retention rates in situations where only a course book is used versus if a course book is used in combination with one or two graded readers per week. Two problems were identified with language study in Japan: EFL learners do not get enough high frequency words, and input materials are too difficult. Waring’s solution is using graded readers. He then explored what online resources are available as well as metrics and tools for evaluating reading materials. Graded readers are a form of receptive practice. To meet productive practice needs, Waring also presented various vocabulary memorization resources. For links to online sources covered, please find the PowerPoint from this presentation at: <>.

Reported by Jason Lowes


OMIYA: November — Using English the ESA way byKatrina Harata andLearning management systems byJesse Elam. Harata introduced the ESA method proposed by Jeremy Harmer. She demonstrated three elements of the method: engage, study, and activate. She gave examples of how to implement the strategy, engaging the audience in hands on activities. Elam introduced Learning Management Systems that facilitate teachers maintaining contact with students outside the classroom. Elam focused on Engrade as an example of a system which enables students to submit homework electronically, monitor grades and contact classmates outside of class time. Student attitudes (largely positive) were surveyed and presented.

Reported by Cecilia Fujishima


SENDAI: November — Tohoku ELT Expo. Working in conjunction with ETJ, JALT Sendai co-hosted the largest ELT event of the year in Tohoku. We were very proud to have obtained official endorsements (Koen Meigi) from the Miyagi Board of Education, Sendai Board of Education, Tohoku Broadcasting Corporation, and Kaihoku Newspaperconfirming the significance of this annual event. A total of 28 presentations, workshops, and forums took place throughout the day covering a wide-range of topics that span the spectrum of language teaching, complimented by a host of commercial materials in the display area. With over 100 attendees and participants from all over the region and country, it was a very busy but highly rewarding day for our chapter.

Reported by Cory Koby


SENDAI: December — Best of JALT2012. This event provided a valuable insight into the JALT International Conference, Making a Difference, for those unable to make it to the conference. Joanne Sato started the event with a presentation by Mary Hillis, Making a difference through Literature from the JALT CUE/TED Forum. Sato re-presented the beautiful slides and talked through the story of what a dramatic positive change literature had on Mary’s students’ perceptions of reading. John Wiltshier revisited his featured speaker presentation, ‘Materials writing: Seven key factors’, revealing the complex reality of getting published and just how much work goes into writing and publishing materials. Marc Helgesen showed the immaculately timed Pecha Kucha by Scott Thornbury on an A-Z history of ELT methods, originally presented at the iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) evening event in Hamamatsu. It is difficult to describe the vast ground covered with such skill and humor in just six minutes and forty seconds. Marc helped us delve deeper into the PK by pausing the talk at strategic moments; the debate that filled the room indicated it may be time for a Sendai JALT event on some of the new methodologies shaking up the ELT world (especially with so many of our members currently enrolled in Master’s programs). After the daytime program we all thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the end of a great year for Sendai JALT at our annual end of year party.

Reported by Joanne Sato


YOKOHAMA: November — THT (Teachers Helping Teachers) SIG forumby Joe Tomei, Jenny Morgan, Carolyn Gibbons, Yuki Maehara, Patrick McCoy, Nozomi Takano andBill Mboutsiadis. The November presentation was a forum where participants from the four THT-SIG programs (Vietnam, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Bangladesh) presented their experiences, followed by presentations about other programs (BOLT, <> and VSSN <>) and closed with Bill Mboutsiadis presenting his research into the situation in Myanmar and the possibilities that are developing there.THT was the brainchild of the late Bill Balsamo, president of the Himeji JALT chapter, and developed through the personal contacts he had. After Bill passed away, a number of participants wanted to find a way to keep these programs going and the most logical place was to make THT a JALT Special Interest Group. However, SIG membership is not required to participate in these programs.One point that came out through the presentations was the fact that it was not simply the opportunity to present to teachers and teacher trainers outside of Japan, but the chance to work and get to know not only presenters from Japan but from other countries as well.If other chapters are interested in organizing this sort of presentation or would like to know more about the 2014 schedule, please contact Joe Tomei, THT SIG coordinator, at <>.

Reported by Joe Tomei


YOKOHAMA: December — YoJALT My Share Event by Matthew Shannon, John Finucane, Brad Semans, Brett Milliner, Dan Ferreira, Lima Kimura, Tanya Erdelyi, Malcolm Prentice, Kevin Trainor andPaul Nehls. The December YoJALT meeting was our annual My Share event. Various presenters from Yokohama JALT and neighbouring chapters gave 10 minute presentations on practical teaching ideas. Shannon shared Build-a-Town, a debate training exercise that promotes student autonomy; Finucane spoke about the usefulness of handheld whiteboards in classroom activities; Semans discussed various ways to grab and hold on to the attention of the students; Milliner talked about using comment sheets at the end of each lesson, explaining their usefulness in action research and helping students in becoming more aware of their class performance; Ferreira discussed different ways to give corrective feedback on free writing exercises; Kimura demonstrated how improvisational theatre games can be useful in an EFL classroom; Erdelyi showed a way to help beginner level English learners form follow-up questions using formulaic expressions and substitution; Prentice presented on introducing low level students to online news sources; Trainor demonstrated Grammar Auction, an activity that asks students to bid on sentences according to how correct the grammar seems to them; and Nehls shared a warm up exercise involving circumlocution.

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

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