Chapter Reports - July 2013

AKITA: April — Online tools for teaching and learning by Christine Winskowski. This presentation was a workshop conducted in the CALL Lab of the Honjo Campus of Akita Prefectural University. It consisted of a tour of the latest, and coolest online tools for teaching and learning—some of the tools were more for teachers, several of the tools were more for students, and, of course, some work well for both. The online sites included sites to easily construct online lessons, render text-to-speech, construct quizzes, construct rubrics, make graphic organizers, whiteboards, and mind mapping. The presenter guided everyone through the well-organized links and explained the purpose of each resource as well as providing ideas on how to incorporate them into creative lesson planning.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

GIFU: March — Keeping kids happy, active and engaged by Catherine Littlehale Oki. There were no kids present at the Gifu Chapter meeting in March, but all the grown-ups were certainly happy, active and engaged during Oki’s presentation. The first half was spent leading us through her English book series “Happy Valley”. Based on the VAK model, the series incorporates various activities that appeal to different learning styles, be they visual, auditory or kinesthetic. Oki also provided participants with a peek into her bag of tricks for making flashcards come alive in the classroom. Some of those flashcard activities included: “Stop” (kids say “stop” when they see the correct flashcard), “Take it, bring it” (kids have to go and fetch the correct card) and “Slow reveal” (flashcards are slowly revealed to the class, who shout out the card name).

The second half of the presentation contained a lot of advice and practical tips for teaching kids; revolving around puppets, painting and piñatas. We learned that kids love to do dialogues with puppets; painting can be done well with vegetables; and decapitating a horse piñata will likely bring complaints from parents. The meeting ended with a reading of “The Happy Day” picture book, which was an apt conclusion to the event.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GIFU: April — Here we are now, motivate us! by Andrew Boon. Boon opened his presentation with a photograph of a lot of students sleeping at their desks, which he explained is the unfortunate reality of many classrooms in Japan. As educators, he said we need to be concerned with motivating our students through integration and instrumentally; to see the intrinsic value of what they are doing; to have a high need for achievement; to be willing to take risks; to have self-efficacy; to be goal-oriented; and to work as a cohesive unit. In order to achieve all these, Boon presented some tried and trusted techniques for motivating students, such as: the chalkboard relay, kaiten sushi speaking, a grammar drilling speed race and a student fashion show. Participants were encouraged to keep trying new ideas and trialing different methods in their classes, to help students feel relaxed, safe and willing to take risks in their language learning.

Reported by Paul Wicking 

GUNMA: April — First ever Gunma/Omiya my share collaboration – Part 2. This spring Omiya and Gunma members teamed up to bring two months of great My Share action to our two chapters. April’s meeting was on Gunma’s home turf, Maebashi, where two Gunma members and three Omiya members gave short demonstrations of classroom activities, lesson plans, and etc. First, Michelle Williams (Gunma) spoke about VIPs—Visual Information Plans. Attendees learned how to help their students understand and master complex information. Next, Atsushi Iida (Gunma) discussed the use of haiku as a way of English language learning. Iida shared one of his writing activities in a first-year college English course, writing haiku as a reflection on an Extensive Reading (ER) book. After a quick snack break, Robert Rowland (Omiya) looked at strategies for creating visually attractive icon based assessment systems that are appealing to younger learners. Next, Masa Tsuneyasu (Omiya) demonstrated various warm-up activities that she uses in her classes. Her lively workshop introduced various activities aimed at stimulating students’ cognition and schemata. Last, Ivan Botev (Omiya) covered some of the ways other teachers and school staff can help incorporate an educational program built around collaborative lessons into the core curriculum.

Reported by John Larson

HOKKAIDO: March — Extensive reading:  Is it only for the university student or can young learners also join in? by Mary Virgil-Uchida, ABC House owner. Extensive reading for children was the topic of the March 16 JALT Hokkaido Chapter meeting, held at L-Plaza, downtown Sapporo. The meeting went from 7:00-8:30pm and covered practical advice for building an extensive reading (ER) program for a children’s school. Mary Virgil-Uchida, head teacher of ABC School, revealed her years of experience in helping young English learners develop reading and language skills. Initially, ER was only researched for university EFL programs, so Mary had to sift through some research for older learners that may no longer apply to younger learners. For example, Krashen recommends a good ER book should have 98% known words, but in Mary’s experience for children, they need much more exposure to new words, perhaps in the realm of 80-90% known words is better, particularly with picture books to give context. Also she pointed out that listening and speaking activities need to be integrated with the reading program. Students can listen to a CD with the book (such as in the Oxford Learning Tree series) to help figure out unknown words and achieve better pronunciation. Kids love to be recorded, so she has them read aloud books (not always do silent reading) and record them. Even if the recordings are never watched, the recording process excites children and helps them focus. Incentive charts, verb conjugation charts, chants, poems, strip stories, and syllable study are other suggested activities to try. It was an exciting event for all sixteen JALT guests and members, including this university ER veteran, who learned that the principles of extensive reading (read for fun, self-select books, high level of known words) are a key to helping both children and adults to make the jump from casual learning to serious accomplishments in their active English level.

Reported by Don Hinkelman

HOKKAIDO: April — What are the ten most effective vocabulary teaching activities? by Paul Nation, LALS, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Nation gave a special presentation to over 80 attendees on vocabulary teaching activities. We learned that the best vocabulary activities are certain to result in useful learning, do not require a lot of work from the teacher, provide balance in a well-designed program, are simple, efficient and used often. Ten such activities were introduced and participants were challenged to identify which of Nation’s four strands each activity fitted into (meaning focused input/meaning focused output/language focused learning/fluency development). Nation told a story about meeting someone who could read academic texts but struggled to speak, an example of what can happen when fluency development is neglected. He advocated teachers to provide fluency practice at every stage of learning. He describes fluency as making use of what you already know, therefore fluency activities use known words, at speed, with a focus on the message. Teachers were encouraged to discover their learners’ known vocabulary through tests such as the vocabulary size test to ensure that materials and activities were set at appropriate levels for fluency practice. For example graded readers should be below learners’ vocabulary level when used for speed reading. Vocabulary tests and graded readers are freely available from his website <>. Activities where reading, speaking and writing are all on the same topic are recommended for creating familiarity with topics and vocabulary which is important when doing fluency activities. Also in order to encourage speed in fluency activities, learners can graph how many words they read or write in the time limit, visualizing their progress and aiming to go faster next time. For those interested in learning more about Nation’s teaching methods check out his latest book What Should Every EFL Teacher Know?(Nation, 2013).

Reported by Haidee Thomson

KITAKYUSHU: March — Between a rock and a hard place: What are our students doing on Facebook and You Tube? by Neil Millington. To facilitate discussion on the current and potential use of social media in the language-learning classroom, Millington presented his research interspersed with opportunities to relate it to our own experience and situations.  The aim of his study was to achieve a better understanding of the ways students are using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites; focus groups were utilized rather than individual interviews to get a truer, more candid picture of individual use patterns that might be exploited for language instruction.

 After describing the history and growth of online communication, Millington suggested we consider the extent to which it should be encouraged as a supplementary educational tool during class time or included in teachers’ personal networks. Other discussion topics focused on ways in which computer mediated communication was changing the language learning process including some common types of autonomous usage and popular topics, as well as the variation in the amount of English used between students at different ability and confidence levels. A developing cultural awareness of wired participants, world-wide musical trends, favorite videos, various food cultures and other discussion topics further illuminated possibilities for use of this new phenomenon of daily life in language teaching and learning. 

Reported by Dave Pite

KITAKYUSHU: April — Testing Interactional Speaking by Alun Roger. Roger briefly touched on the history and evolution of this “small-talk” testing program; his immediate concern was training his audience in the step by step process of how to administer it—hoping for argument and disagreement from us to facilitate understanding.

First clarifying the distinction between transactional and interactional speaking, Roger stressed the emphasis is upon the latter—to develop and maintain social bonds rather than simply exchange information successfully. In this mode speakers tend to jump from topic to topic quickly and frequently (high topic turnover) with conversational listening (confirmation and engagement) overlapping the conversation.

In small groups, we simulated a “norming” session, critical to the test’s reliability, where we watched a couple of videos of paired student conversations, discussed how to rate them and then compared our results with the whole group. This “socialization period” develops inter-rater reliability and rater orientation. Step two is getting the students into the test room that has been set up to ensure they are accurately identified and scored. They talk together for eight to ten minutes, followed by quietly closing the test, and evaluation. 

Our attempts at cooperative, relative ratings gave us a good taste of the criteria involved in this essential type of assessment.

Reported by Dave Pite

KYOTO: March — My Share. 1. How to keep students engaged in extensive reading activities by James Rogers. In this presentation, Rogers made a case for use of authentic video in the EFL classroom. With speed being the main issue thwarting comprehension, the presenter introduced several ideas to help, such as use of subtitles and the VLC Player to slow down the tempo. 2. Writers’ workshop method in the reading classroom by Kevin Stein. In this interactive workshop, Stein discussed the subjective dimension of reading and addressed the problems learners may have in this area when reading in a foreign language. He guided members through several techniques to help students fill in the implicit parts of short stories, such as use of timelines and the creation of cause and effect statements. 3. Dr. Bloom meets Mr. Bean by Daniel J. Mills. In this presentation, Mills demonstrated a prediction task he uses with a Mr. Bean video to help students further develop higher order thinking skills as outlined by Bloom’s taxonomy. 4. Cubing: Six sides to a subject by Michael Sullivan. The presenter discussed ‘cubing’, a pedagogical method to organize classroom activities around a theme that encourages thinking at all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and also takes into account learners’ learning styles.

Reported by Gretchen Clark

NAGOYA: March ― Creative games for young learners by Bob Pensak. Pensak introduced seven games with music, some props and two feats of magic to capture students’ imagination and sense of wonder. Pensak introduced the idea that because movie soundtracks affect learner emotion games can have the same effect. Here is a list of the games: Look Closely for fifth graders, with music from the Pink Panther; Indy Jones with Rider March; Circus Time with Entry of the Gladiators; Mission Impossible with the Theme from Mission Impossible suitable for larger classes from elementary to junior high students; Disco Shuffle with Saturday Night Fever for elementary students and larger classes, Fist Full of Flash Cards with Enter the Dragon, and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ for fourth graders and up with the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. Pensak’s game tips included: keeping it super simple; demonstrating rather than explaining; underplaying competition whilst emphasizing fun; try all facets of a game before giving up; to leave learners wanting more. His final advice for us was to keep games to around five to ten minutes for younger students.

Reported by Kayoko Kato 

NAGOYA: April ― Strategies for generating student motivation by Andrew Boon. Motivation can be a decisive factor when undertaking a particular course of action. Motivation can be characterized by the desire to achieve an intended outcome and the reasons for action taken toward that achievement. An ideal class would be motivated through integrating learner preferences and desires to promote a deeper value of study. However, students should also be willing to take risks, be self-efficient and goal-oriented. Boon’s first idea for motivation is to break the ice by using pantomime. To nurture group cohesion, Boon sees games as useful since competition is fun. One example Boon gave is to write as many items of clothing as you can and then give a fashion show, in which each group decides on their emcee and models, and then presents their fashion tastes. Students stand in two lines facing each other. A member of one side asks a simple question related to clothes. Their partner on the other side answers the question. Students change partners by changing position in the line like conveyor belt sushi. Self-evaluation is conducted for the last ten minutes of each class by using a self-reflection assessment exercise. Boon found that student attitudes changed by the next class and student motivation can be consciously increased through the use of creative techniques. Boon’s final message was to try new experiments, and then observe, modify and reflect upon them. 

Reported by Kayoko Kato

NARA: April — Easy jazzy phonology for children by Mayuka Habbick. Habbick started off with ten words: Monkey, Apple, Banana, Elephant, Carrot, Corn, Cat, Peach, and Cucumber and she had us divide them into certain categories. The simplest classification would be: Animals (Monkey, Elephant, and Cat); Vegetables (Corn, Carrot, and Cucumber); and Fruits (Apple, Banana, and Peach). So is that the correct answer? Well, not really. Phonological awareness goes this way: One-syllable words (Corn, Cat, and Peach); two-syllable words (Monkey, Apple, and Carrot); and three-syllable words (Banana, Elephant, and Cucumber). Habbick then led us to the jazzy world of phonology with the basic principal: 2-3-1; 2-3-1; 2-3; 2-3; and 2-3-1. This is the common syllable formation for a chant. Each number represents the number of syllables. A set (2-3-1) means a word of two syllables + a word of three syllables + a word of one syllable (e.g., Carrot – Cucumber – Corn). With this rule, all attendees created their own chants with particular themes and chanted to jazzy music. A lively atmosphere prevailed and helped to rejuvenate us, even carrying over to the get-together after the event. 

Reported by Motoko Teraoka

OKAYAMA: January — Active participation through student response systems by Bill Pellowe. Pellowe presented two Student Response Systems to promote active attention by students: the Class Answer Paddle To Understand Responses system (CAPTUR), and the Mobile Audience Response System (MOARS). Each of the systems, in addition to facilitating student involvement, allows the teacher to evaluate student understanding.

The first system showcased was the decidedly low-tech CAPTUR system, which is a hand-held tool for presenting a response. Pellowe led the participants through a series of question forms demonstrating how the tool can effectively be employed to suit a wide variety of language targets or communicative functions. 

The second system presented (MOARS) is a more high-tech response system which was running on iPod touch devices although it can also be used with iPhones and other mobile devices. Pellowe demonstrated how MOARS can be used as an in-class tool to create quizzes and surveys to encourage participation. He also showed how it can be used to conduct more formal assessment. More information on these systems (as well as free downloads) is available at <> and <>.

Reported by Jason Lowes

OMIYA: April — First ever Gunma/Omiya my share collaboration – Part 2. This spring Omiya and Gunma members teamed up to bring two months of great My Share action to our two chapters. April’s meeting was on Gunma’s home turf, Maebashi, where two Gunma members and three Omiya members gave short demonstrations of classroom activities and lesson plans. First, Michelle Williams (Gunma) spoke about VIPs—Visual Information Plans. Attendees learned how to help their students understand and master complex information. Next, Atsushi Iida (Gunma) discussed the use of haiku as a way of English language learning. Iida shared one of his writing activities in a first-year college English course: writing haiku as a reflection on an Extensive Reading (ER) book. After a short break, Robert Rowland (Omiya) looked at strategies for creating visually attractive icon based assessment systems that are appealing to young learners. Next, Masa Tsuneyasu (Omiya) demonstrated various warm-up activities that she uses in her classes. Her lively workshop introduced various activities aimed at stimulating students’ cognitive engagement and developing schemata. Last, Ivan Botev (Omiya) covered some of the ways teachers and school staff can work together to incorporate an educational program built around collaborative lessons into a core curriculum.

Reported by John Larson

OSAKA: March — What 3/11 means for the future of volunteering by Yuko Nishiyama. On March 30, Osaka JALT and SIETAR-Kansai co-sponsored guest speaker Yuko Nishiyama, a local community activist, to give a presentation entitled, “What 3/11 means for the Future of Volunteering.” A Fukushima native, Nishiyama told the story of how the triple disaster has affected her family and community, how the radiation crisis spurred her to activism, and what local volunteers can do to address the hardships of those evacuated. 

Shortly after 3/11, Nishiyama left Fukushima city with her two-year-old daughter as radiation levels rose. Even today, ambient radiation there is higher than governmental limits allow for an adult x-ray technician working in a hospital. Children who remain, are particularly vulnerable to radiation’s effects, and are limited to less than half an hour of outdoor play per day. Eventually settling in Kyoto, Nishiyama found over 700 fellow evacuees, nearly all mothers and children without local friends or family. Fathers have remained behind to earn a living. Inspired by the community’s need for mutual support, Nishiyama founded Minna no Te, or “All hands together.” Today Minna no Te sponsors a variety of programs, including a caravan service that reunites friends and family separated by the evacuation. Recently, they have launched Minna no Café, a tea house/community center that provides flexible part-time employment for evacuee mothers still caring for young children.

Nishiyama closed her talk with a plea for educators to support the organization and help provide English classes for evacuated children residing in Kyoto. For more information, please go to <> (Japanese only).

Reported by Stephen Dalton

OSAKA: April — Back to school 2013 was our fourth annual spring mini-conference aimed at helping everyone start the new school year on a positive note. Held on Sunday, April 14, at Osaka Gakuin University (OGU), it was by all accounts a big success, with 38 presentations to over 80 attendees. ¥80,000 was raised and donated to Minna no Te, a non-governmental organization that supports Fukushima disaster victims.

The day started with a keynote speech by Minna no Te founder and Fukushima native Yuko Nishiyama and OGU Associate Professor Stephen Dalton, entitled Two Years since 3/11: Where are we now in the healing process? Subsequent concurrent sessions comprised topics from hands-on EFL classroom activities to the more research-oriented and esoteric, with computer skills presentations, social issues awareness sessions, and even an energizing line-dance session following our lunch break. Presenters included recent university graduates, teachers of kindergarten through university level, and several graduate students. OGU’s International Chat Lounge <> was open for much of the day for the participants to freely sample a variety of language learning games and activities that have been popular and effective with many OGU students. Poster presentations by the volunteer organizations Free the Children Japan, and Hato, as well as by the General Union and teachers and researchers alike, added another lively dimension to the day’s variety of activities. In addition to the many Kansai based participants, attendees came from as far as Kyushu, Shikoku, and even Gunma.

For a complete listing of presenters and presentations and a slide show of the day as well as archived info about our past years’ Back to School events, please see <>. And for more about Yuko Nishiyama and the Minna no Te organization, please see <>.

Reported by Ray Franklin and Bob Sanderson

SHINSHU: April—Language cloud online learning management system by John Martyn; Turn it around: The flipped classroom by Robert Habbick. Martyn began by describing various problems educators have had with using Learning Management Systems (LMS) until the present day, including their high cost and difficulties in hosting and management. He then proceeded to new trends in LMSs and how Language Cloud, an LMS now used at Sophia University, addresses these problems. First, it focuses on user experience; it is intuitive and products are improved based on the data collected. Second, its open application programming interface serves as a bridge between other applications, something which could not be done up to now. Third, it is mobile. Homework can be submitted on smart phones, for example. Finally, it is free of charge, with purchasable applications such as textbooks, tests or book chapters, making it easier for teachers to tailor content to students’ needs. This system is constantly using input to make it more intuitive and therefore easier to use.

Drawing from the ideas of Michael Wesch of Kansas State University and the Kahn Academy, Habbick discussed ways in which online technology could be used to create a flipped classroom, one in which the students, rather than the teachers, can control their own learning. Factors to be considered in using such technology include how digitally ready the students, teachers and administrators are. The quality of the LMS used would also affect the success of the flipped classroom; it must be easy to use and facilitate independent student learning. Habbick demonstrated how Let’s Talk Online, a companion to the Cambridge University Press Let’s Talk series could be used as a self-study tool. In addition, webinars and services such as Skype could enable students to learn on their own, freeing up more time for actual communication in the classroom. 

Reported by Mary Aruga

SHINSHU: May — The 24th Suwako charity walk. In this community outreach program, over 100 participants walked halfway around Lake Suwa while learning about the local environment and lake biosphere from Shinshu University professors and graduate students. After lunch, a forum was held featuring a presentation by Ryutaro Toda entitled Water fleas that live on wakasagi in Lake Suwa which included a discussion on the role of parasites. Special efforts were made to ensure enjoyment by all age groups. A bilingual quiz contest followed, concluding with a mini concert and sing-along led by Chiemi Miyasaka. Participants were then taken back to the starting point by boat, from which they could further observe the lake from an unusual vantage point. This event provided opportunities for people from all walks of life who are interested in learning and education to refresh themselves as well as to interact with and learn from each other.

Reported by Mary Aruga

TOKYO: March — Organizing intensive English camps: Plans, ideas, & activities by Jerry Halvorsen. This presentation demonstrated how intensive English camps can not only be a lot of fun, but educational, too. He explained, from the perspective of an intensive English camp organizer, that the purpose is to communicate in only or mostly English, and how this can lead to increased motivation on the part of the participants and a life-long interest in learning English. Topics covered included the following: why intensive English camps, activities, staff, follow up, selecting a venue, planning a menu, plan B, and budget. 

Reported by Shunsuke Kuwayama

TOKYO: April — Integrating technology in the classroom: Lessons from a university writing center by Gene Thompson. This presentation focused on how the freely available LMS ‘Language Cloud’ is being used in his program to mediate classes and integrate the department’s writing center into the learning environment. He began by briefly explaining the rationale for the adoption of Language Cloud, by considering Puentedura’s SAMR model for technology integration before outlining the different ways in which the LMS is being used to enhance the learning environment for students and teachers.

Reported by Shunsuke Kuwayama 

YOKOHAMA: April — Humor: Theory and implications for teaching by Ted Quock. Quock’s workshop explored the concept of intention vs. perception in humor. At first, the role of humor in the classroom was discussed, including the teaching of humor as an academic subject and both the intentional and incidental of humor in teaching. The focus then moved on to a definition of basic terms, beginning with humor itself. Topics and issues that arose were reaction to humor, humor density, target audience, and target of humor. Quock also introduced various humorous materials and situations. The audience was constantly involved in discussion of terminology and issues, and offered reactions to the materials introduced.

Reported by Tanya Erdelyi

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