Chapter Reports - November 2013

AKITA: July — Designing supplemental materials to study American culture through literature by Philip L. McCasland, Fukushima University. Creating engaging, authentic, quality classroom materials completely from scratch proves challenging for today’s busy teachers. However, adapting and supplementing materials from an already established textbook or classic piece of literature may be a more reasonable proposition. In this workshop the presenter began by providing several principles of materials design and asked the participants to describe what they consider appropriate materials for their teaching contexts. He then demonstrated the steps taken to develop these materials. Finally, the presenter asked the participants to brainstorm several possible designs that could be appropriate for their own classroom use. Some of the examples used included Akimoto and Hamada’s American Justice in Focus with John Grisham’s The Rain Maker, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The presentation finished with a Q&A session.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

GIFU: July — New ways of teaching listening by Andrew Blyth. Blyth opened his session by posing a problem. He claimed to have a 100% perfect idea in its purest form within his head. So what’s the problem? Getting that idea out from his own head and into our heads. The transmission of that idea would primarily entail him speaking and us listening. However, even in a room where most people are native English speakers, there are many obstacles that work to hinder effective listening. Blyth’s presentation touched on a number of those obstacles, along with suggestions on how learners can be trained to overcome them.

The main premise of the presentation was that often teachers do not actually ‘teach’ listening. Rather, they play an audio track and then ask comprehension questions in order to gauge the depth of understanding. In other words, they ‘test’ listening. But there are a range of teaching strategies that can be adopted to better promote listening skills. Pronunciation practice, in particular, can help train learners to recognize such things as elisions, syllable structure, and intonation patterns. Some ideas were also presented from the work of linguist David Nunan, which included: listening for the gist, listening for mood, and listening in order to summarize. The idea which most people seemed to like, though, was simply “talk to them.”  A live fluent English speaker in the classroom speaking to students is the best resource we have.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GUNMA: July — Why extensive reading: 7 reasons by Mark Brierly. Extensive Reading (ER) is supported by research. However, as with all methodologies, for ER to work effectively, students and teachers must believe in it. Julian Bamford and Richard Day gave us the “ten commandments” of ER. Kunihide Sakai reduced them to just three. To complement these, Brierly looked at how we can persuade teachers and students that reading is important from the following perspectives: fluency, comprehensible input, acquisition vs. learning, learner autonomy, classroom management, vocabulary and collocation, fictional narrative and the social brain.

Reported by John Larson

GUNMA: August — 24th summer workshop in Kusatsu featuring keynote lecturer Ema Ushioda. While Kanto sweated and sweltered, thirty-five language teachers retreated into the cool of the mountains. There, while relaxing in Japan’s premier onsen resort town, they attended lectures given by Ushioda, An associate professor in ELT and applied linguistics at the University of Warwick Centre for Applied Linguistics. Ushioda gave two connected presentations on language learning motivation and learner autonomy: 1) Motivation and global English: language learning and professional challenges, and 2) Motivating the person rather than the L2 learner. The workshop in Kusatsu is also a chance for a handful of attendees to showcase their recent academic achievements. Gunma JALT member Akiko Fujii presented her findings on prompted writing vs. free writing assignments. Mikio Iguchi from Tokiwa University spoke candidly on the cultural-ethnic identity of multicultural people. FLP SIG member Gabriela Schmidt talked about the trials and triumphs of teaching German as an L3 in Japan. Keita Kikuchi from Kanagawa University dovetailed nicely with Ushioda by presenting about de-motivators in EFL contexts. Attendees of this year’s workshop left refreshed and full of ideas to promote active L2 learning. If this sounds good to you, think about joining us next year.

Reported by John Larson

HOKKAIDO: May — Listening activities in the classroom: Exercises for beginner to EAP students by Joshua Brook Antle. Antle presented the advantages of extensive listening; where learners listen to large quantities of self-selected comprehensible input. He hypothesied that extensive listening would increase learners’ reading speed. However, when putting this hypothesis to the test, he discovered that despite students volunteering for the study, motivation to do extensive listening outside of class time was difficult to realise. Many students who were initially motivated ended up not listening to enough material. This made the expected positive effects of extensive listening difficult to measure while also highlighting the difficulty of motivating learners to do extensive listening. He then introduced many exercises that could be used in class to practise and improve listening skills. To give a few examples, there were sound perception exercises for beginners such as identifying word divisions, through to ordering for intermediate learners, where learners listen to a story and re-order jumbled sentences to reflect the aural input, and summarising for more advanced learners where they listen to a text and then summarise it in their own words. 

Reported by Haidee Thomson

HOKKAIDO: July — Exploring effective English teaching methods for Japanese high school students by Yasuhito Imai. In this presentation, Imai demonstrated one of the typical English lessons he teaches in Ritsumeikan Keisho Senior High School, using his original textbook and explaining the theoretical background for his teaching methods. He insisted on the importance of having a good balance of output and input activities in English classes. For high school students it is important to develop basic English abilities such as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, but classes should also have output activities, like discussion, debate and presentation to improve the speaking and writing skills. He mentioned that recently, the method of teaching English only in English has become highly valued in Japan, and MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) is also promoting this method in Japanese schools. However, to help students have a deeper understanding, using both English and Japanese languages should be ideal in Imai’s opinion. In the demonstration of the lesson, the participants played the role of students. In the lesson, participants repeatedly used the same passage through different tasks, such as shadowing, checking key words, translation from Japanese to English and summarization. Imai insisted that through many different tasks, students eventually learn vocabulary, expressions, and the grammar of a passage on a deeper level, so that they can improve their output abilities.

Reported by Naoko Tanaka

KITAKYUSHU: September — Doing data analysis: Some tools and techniques by Paul Collett and Trevor Holster. Collett gave us an introduction to the R statistical package.  With a huge user base of smart statisticians, R is also thousands of dollars cheaper than comparable programs; it’s free and easy to download (one click for Mac) and use, though commands have to be typed in like the original DOS programs.  All packages have help PDF files included and there are many tutorials, books and guides.  Input data is standard Excel format. Collett ran us through a survey of liability tests measuring different aspects of the scale of self-regulated learners, pointing out that the system saves all past entries, facilitating returning to a project at any stage, and then showed how to use the package for various types of data analysis, finishing up with a brief look at some substantive issues and critiques related to quantitative statistical analysis.  Holster’s presentation reviewed Rasch’s simple concept of “specific objectivity” (to gain a more objective picture of student performance, than raw scores can give us, by seeing how such things as rater bias and item difficulty affect those scores for a specific test/task) and then demonstrated Rasch analysis using data from a multiple-choice vocabulary test and from judged ratings of classroom presentations.

Reported by Dave Pite

KOBE: July — 12th annual conference on language teaching and learning at KUIS, with plenaries by Atsuko Takase and Hajime Narita. On July 20th, Kansai University of International Studies held its 12th Annual Summer Seminar, co-sponsored by the Osaka and Kobe chapters. This full-day event featured two plenary speakers and over 30 presentations and posters on language related topics. In the morning plenary, Improving students’ English skills through extensive reading and listening, Atsuko Takase (Kinki University) argued the need for extensive reading and listening in Japanese high schools, while Hajime Narita (Osaka University) picked our brains in the afternoon with his plenary English education appropriate for Japanese: Communication based on language differences and brain processing. Presenters from near and far (Qatar) presented on a large variety of language topics, from technology-assisted learning to thought-provoking brain research, from motivation to model United Nations. For a complete list of presentations and descriptions visit <tinyurl.com/orte7jw>.

Reported by Laura Markslag

KOBE: August — Breaking the silence: The Japanese American experience by Nikki Nojima Louis. Luck was in our favor this month as along with the co-sponsors, SIETAR Kansai (Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research) and the Osaka Chapter, we were able to get Nojima Louis to come to Osaka between performances (in Hiroshima and Aichi) of her oral history play, Breaking the Silence. This play was originally written and performed in 1986 in Seattle and across the U.S., but this year the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima invited the 8-member cast to come from America to perform for the first time in Japan. The play centers around a script presenting the voices of three generations of Japanese Americans, and was artfully combined with slides, music, song, traditional Japanese tanka poems, and taiko drums. 

For our session Nojima Louis gave us the background of the making of the play and shared some of the actual slides used in the performance. Everyone who attended took turns reading the script. Through our reading, we could gain an understanding of why Japanese Americans in the camps never wanted to talk about their experiences during World War II—they just wanted to keep it in the past. However, Nojima Louis, who was a child when she was in the concentration camp, has made it her mission to “break the silence.” Everyone left the session deeply touched and better informed about one slice of history.

Reported by Donna Fujimoto

NAGASAKI: June — Foreign language anxiety and EFL physical education by Luc Roberge, Nagasaki Junior College. Roberge presented his masters dissertation from his recently completed postgraduate program at the University of Birmingham. The topic was a very challenging one, dealing with aspects of psychology and personality types, and also anxiety associated with second language. A lively demonstration using a French language workshop for participants highlighted some of the deeper points of his research and his conclusions were insightful and forward-looking. In the second part of his lecture, Roberge covered his use of physical education and EFL in a classroom environment. Using the experience and training from his undergraduate degree in that area, he found that by mixing language learning with physical activities that the anxiety barriers were significantly reduced as students sought to complete these activities using English as a means rather than an ends. The results of his efforts proved very interesting and informative.

Reported by Thom W Rawson

NAGASAKI: July — Language learning motivation in Japan and teaching effective academic presentation skills to low-level English speakers by Terry Fellner, Saga University. In his presentation, Fellner gave us an insightful overview of some of the more interesting points in his research on Language Learning Motivation in Japan—the title of his soon-to-be-available publication on the material. Fellner took us through the fine points on individual motivation through discussions on existing research and current trends. Project-based learning using the target L2 showed the greatest increase in motivation while teachers are primarily viewed by students as one of the top 6 causes for “demotivation.” As an additional topic, Fellner covered an informative and useful self-designed course on building effective presentation skills using English for low-level non-native speakers. Taking the challenge of presenting in a second language and blending it with a simple recipe for clear dissemination of complex research materials, Fellner has helped both his students and faculty to be successful when presenting in English both here in Japan and at overseas international conferences. The benefits of this skill are far-reaching for both his students and his colleagues.

Reported by Thom W Rawson

NAGOYA: July — Who’s of our profession by Umida Ashurova. Ashurova discussed identity-based language learning from extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, considering who and where we are, what and how to teach. Firstly she asked us to discuss our past English-learning experiences in order to realize who we are and where we are. Japan’s English education has psychological, linguistic, institutional, curricular, pedagogical, interactive limits. The magic happens in the circle of your development, concern and influence by you and your students, colleagues, school, and profession. Ashurova showed two lists of the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis for language teachers; one is about the elements of good teaching practice and its strengths and weaknesses, the other about well-known methods and approaches and its opportunities and threats, explaining that the SWOT analysis is originally used for management purposes. Recently, it has been adapted for use in educational research as it encourages the investigation of learning or teaching from multiple angles unaffected by prior expectations. Strengths in this context are capabilities and resources that are advantages for the operation of the teaching professional. Weaknesses are the aspects that limit or reduce his/her potential. Opportunities are the external factors that ensure the optional functioning or elements that could negatively impact the professional. 

Reported by Kayoko Kato

OMIYA: May — Sign language & disability education by Martin Pauly and Supporting dyslexics in the classroom by Riichiro Saito. Omiya’s May presentations focused on special needs learning. Martin Pauly of Tsukuba University of Technology presented on international sign languages. He introduced variations between different sign languages, different applications of them and issues to be aware of within the deaf community and disability education. Pauly finished the presentation with an interactive and enjoyable sample lesson. In an animated presentation, Riichiro Saito from Ota Flex High School, Gunma shared his research into dyslexia. Saito has analyzed common spelling errors of students and placed this in the context of dyslexia. He provided practical techniques and strategies that teachers can use to support students.

Reported by Cecilia Fujishima

OSAKA: June — Engaging all—Instructional strategies that foster student success by Laura Markslag, Scott Badiuk, and Robert Sheridan. On Friday evening, June 28, our three Canadian presenters led thirty participants through a lively and interactive series of activities designed to promote a sense of community, keep everyone energized, and engage us in pedagogically sound instructional strategies. We started by viewing a segment of the Changing Education Paradigms talk by Sir Ken Robinson <tinyurl.com/pz5m9x9>, in which he argues that educators need to better cultivate creative, playful, and divergent-thinking students, foster collaborative learning, and focus more on the culture and habits of our institutions and learning environments. After several fun ice-breakers we did some collaborative small-group activities that were more “curriculum-based” and learning strategies oriented, such as a “placemat” activity in which we each quickly wrote a list of things we had done in the past week, and then each small group collectively wrote another list of the commonalities that everyone in their group had written on their individual lists. We also did a jig-saw activity adapted from an EFL textbook, and ended with a reflective feedback activity called “PMI” in which we each wrote one Plus, one Minus, and one Interesting/Intriguing aspect of the evening’s session which the presenters collected for their own later reflection. All in all it was a very engaging, thought-provoking, and energizing evening. A color handout with many more details and links can be found here: <tinyurl.com/p418v3s>.

Reported by Bob Sanderson

OSAKA: July — 12th annual conference on language teaching and learning at KUIS, with plenaries by Atsuko Takase and Hajime Narita. Refer to Kobe Chapter for details.

OSAKA: August — Breaking the silence: The Japanese American experience by Nikki Nojima Louis. Refer to Kobe Chapter for details.

SENDAI: July — Tech in the classroom: A primer by Daniel Beck, Tōyō Gakuen University. Beck brought a toolbox full of technology ideas and suggestions immediately applicable both inside and outside the classroom. As the title suggests, complete novices were able to discover a whole array of state-of-the-art applications and services that are both accessible and comprehensible. Intermediate and advanced learners were given numerous opportunities to share their ideas, and I suspect more than a few of us even learned a new trick or two. Both mobile and desktop applications were addressed on both Android and Mac platforms. This was a very well attended summer workshop, and many members commented afterward on the usefulness of this very professional and well organized presentation.

Reported by Cory Koby

SENDAI: August — TED talks: Learning opportunities by  Joanne Sato, Tuncer Baykas, Matt Wilson, Austin Lantz, Marc Helgesen, and Cory Koby. Following the success of last year’s favorite TED Talks session, six local members shared the most interesting and thought-provoking talks that have inspired them this year. Sato opened the session with Sir Ken Robinson’s most recent talk How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, in which Robinson eloquently encourages us to escape from standardized testing and celebrate the uniqueness of our students. Baykas followed with A brief history of plural word...s by John McWhorter which offered a quick explanation of the inconsistent ways modern English deals with plurals. Wilson then introduced Diana Laufenberg’s How to Learn? From Mistakes. This was a fantastic follow-up to our opening talk, as we heard that creativity and experiential learning are the most critical elements of effective learner development. We also heard about standardized testing, which is the norm in Japan and prevalent in America, stifles and inhibits successful education. Lantz, after introducing a highly motivating and thought-provoking talk last year, showed us How I harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba— in which we were reminded once again of the almost limitless potential that youth around the world possess. Helgesen closed the series of Talks with an RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) animated rendition of Daniel Pink’s revealing The Surprising Truth on What Motivates Us. No spoilers here, but absolutely worth watching for anyone involved in education. The talk will force you to rethink the fundamental motivators of reward and punishment and focus on three essential factors in achieving personal satisfaction— autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Koby concluded our session with an overview of how he is using TED Talks right now in his high school classes, which led to a very lively discussion by all present on the potential uses, benefits, and challenges of classroom application. 

The formal afternoon session was followed by our annual rooftop beer garden visit, which was yet another in a long series of outstanding JALT Sendai social events!

Reported by Cory Koby

YOKOHAMA: July — Self access centers: ELF tutorial service by Travis Cote and Brett Milliner, Self-access programs by Darrell Wilkinson, and Self-directed learning courses for language learning by Brian R. Morrison. The July presentation focused on how effectively self-access centers were being used in three universities. First, a tutoring system at Tamagawa University was discussed where Cote explained that both teachers and tutors work collaboratively to check how students could successfully continue with language learning. After this, Milliner discussed a future vision that included establishing an electronic reservation system for encouraging tutor training.

Next, Wilkinson discussed goals for conversation lounges and writing centers at Soka University. He explained about the different types of centers that are mostly operated by students, and made a presentation covering some of the challenges and their possible solutions, staff training, and also spelt out the disciplinary procedures clearly. Additionally, the presentation focused on incorporating all these aspects into the curriculum since, as he pointed out, many students continued to use the center even after their courses were finished. 

Finally, Morrison described the self-access center at Kanda University of International Studies, its curriculum advisors, course materials, and activities. He explained how courses were carefully designed in order to help students become more effective language learners, and focused on learner training and how to implement a learning plan. The audience was involved in the discussions and learned how significant autonomy was to these approaches. 

Reported by Miki Watanabe

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