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Chapter Reports - July 2010

 

Akita: MarchWhat language should be in our classrooms? by Takaaki Hiratsuka. Having completed a pilot study that involved local Akita high school students exploring the issue of L1 use in a L2-focused classroom, Hiratsuka presented his findings, and also addressed the topic of instruction by native English speaking teachers (NESTs) and non-native English speaking teachers (NNESTs). This was a highly interactive presentation where meeting participants were called on to engage one another in discussing topics derived from the above issues. Throughout his presentation Hiratsuka referred to the literature that drove his study. In the final stages of this presentation, participants watched video footage and listened to audio recordings of the high school students that participated in the pilot study. From his findings and analysis Hiratsuka believes there are times when L1 can be used in the L2 classroom, and that NESTs and NNESTs should collaborate in order to properly prepare students for the future. After the formal presentation Hiratsuka took questions ranging from how he collaborates with his colleagues to his opinion on recent MEXT action plans for language education in Japan. From start to finish this presentation was highly engaging. A good time was had by all.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

Akita: AprilIntensively extensive: My experience as an ESL learnerby Marcos Benevides. Through his experience as an English as a second language learner Benevides encouraged the audience to reflect on past experiences, and use them to shape classroom instruction. Remembering how enthusiastic his father was about reading, Benevides realized this caused him to be enthusiastic about reading, so he now shows great enthusiasm in his classroom when it comes to extensive reading assignments. Coupled with choosing interesting content that will engage students, Benevides employs a narrow-reading approach to extensive reading. He illustrated this by taking the audience through his adolescent experience with the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. The captivating content allowed Benevides, and his friends, to acquire an extensive vocabulary by intensively reading at a level higher than their own. That experience influences how he creates linguistically, and imaginatively, challenging textual material. This was evident as he spoke about his new murder mystery textbook, Whodunit, published by ABAX. It also reflects a belief in task-based learning, which he also talked about. The audience had many questions, which Benevides used to promote discussion. It was an extensively intensive experience.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

Gunma: JanuaryMotivating young adult learners to communicate byRoberto Rabbini.Without a doubt, many teachers of foreign languages are continuously searching for ways to motivate students to communicate. More than a presenter as such, Rabbini acted as a facilitator and moderator, prompting the participants to discuss ideas according to his presentation outline of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT): History and overview, Defining motivating activities, teachability index, and hands-on examples. CLT came about in the 1970’s and 80’s with an ideal that communication should involve real content and real meaning between learners while not completely dismissing attention to form. Participants discussed and shared with the whole group their beliefs and practices as well as their own experiences as language learners with respect to the balance of communicative and grammatical activities in language acquisition; the group agreed that a focus on form is important for communication and that the two are not mutually exclusive. Moving on to the next topic, participants individually rated the characteristics of a good learning task using Nunan’s (1989) questionnaire. Moving into groups, they compared their ratings and after much debate decided on the five most important characteristics when choosing or designing a motivating task.

Reported by Lori Ann Desrosiers

Hokkaido: March—1) In and beyond your classroom: A look at cost-effective and appropriate uses of software and technology by Glen Charles Rowell.Rowell presented on software for making materials and on programs that can be used interactively with students. He demonstrated some Flash games that he had made to review vocabulary from textbooks. Rowell explained the differences between Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and then introduced free, open source versions of these types of programs (GIMP and Inkscape respectively). Finally, he introduced a free program from Google called Sketchup which allows you to draw 3-D images. It was easy to see how teachers could use it with students to build something together using language such as adjectives for size, color, and comparisons. 2)An introduction to second life by B. Bricklin Zeff. Zeff showed us how to sign up, create an avatar, and get around the virtual world of the free 3-D life simulation program Second Life, in which people communicate by voice or text with others around the world in real time. In one area dedicated to English instruction students can practice English in a safe environment and participants actually chatted with a Brazilian student. The site allows many types of interactions in just about any imaginable environment, for example, at restaurants or shops. Some of the limitations of using such a site include specific equipment requirements and access from university computers.

Reported by Michael Mielke

Iwate: AprilIntensively extensive: How my experience as an ESL learner has contributed to my teaching and writingby Marcos Benevides.Benevides presented his personal story as a language learner and demonstrated the impact it has made on his classroom practice as well as on his material writing. According to Benevides, it is important to give students slightly challenging but engaging reading tasks. He also explained how he himself learned how to read English by playing Dungeons and Dragons, which required a lot of reading.

Reported by Harumi Ogawa

Kitakyushu: AprilImplementing different theories of second language acquisition into teaching by Matthew Jenkins. Jenkins agrees with Thornbury that second language acquisition research is useful for validating our classroom practices and as a starting point for developing new techniques—as well as a bulwark against imposters promoting questionable teaching methodologies. After distinguishing between second and foreign language acquisition, Jenkins introduced several of the better-known theories in these fields and invited us to discuss them in the context of actual classroom application. We brainstormed in groups to recall and consider a specific kind of lesson we had done or seen, and then tried to match it with a supporting theory from those he had told us about. Each group in turn reported their conclusions, followed by a general discussion of further possible practical exploitation and difficulties that might be encountered.

Reported by Dave Pite

Kitakyushu: MayDeveloping personalized portfolio rubrics for the EFL classroomby Steve Quasha. Discouraged by the old paradox of using written tests to examine verbal competence, Quasha has developed a system of personalized portfolio rubrics designed to tap into students’ intrinsic motivation via creativity and critical thinking. Students use these to identify strengths and weaknesses in order to take charge of their own learning. One example of the many rubrics he showed us was “List 15 useful expressions, phrases or idioms you learned from this class.” Peer assessment is part of this dynamic, a shift in motivation from writing only for the teacher. This adds continuity to the process, of benefit to teachers who usually see students interested only in grades. Quasha distributed examples of student process portfolios connecting new language learning with daily activities via imaginative tasks requiring investigation and reflection, and varied according to need and class objectives. Peer feedback is encouraged in both English and Japanese and helps lead to final assessment portfolios, a tangible and treasured end-product of an EFL course.

Reported by Dave Pite

Nagoya: March―Music and movement for toddlers byKenny King.King’s presentation focused on very simple songs and activities for two to five-year-olds in EFL classrooms. He recommends that every teacher of small kids have a variety of supplies on hand in order to enhance classes, from balloons and paper to toys and picture books. He also recommends using a sticker reward system with prizes to add meaning to games. King explained that with action games it is important for kids to pick words and move around quickly; with flash cards and dice they can learn action verbs, facial expressions, and the names of animals. King introduced different examples of games and toys on the market along with ideas for their use in the classroom, fun songs, crafts, and picture books that are easy to use, as well as games that you can make yourself.

 Reported by Kayoko Kato

Nagoya: April―A practical look at research on non-native speaker—non-native speaker negotiation in oral communication classes by Troy Miller. Miller borrowed a coding system from Sato and Lyster (2007) in order to list and define the types of feedback moves that were occurring in non-native speaker (NNS) dyads in his university oral communication classes. After filming and transcribing student conversations, Miller found that students speaking in NNS dyads tend to elicit more negotiation rather than reformulate or recast negotiation. Miller also observed that there are possible hindrances to negotiation such as a lack of awareness, hesitancy because of cultural reasons, lack of confidence, and dependence on dictionaries that often stops the flow of communication and causes the students to miss an opportunity to negotiate for meaning. Miller suggested an effective way of making students more aware of negotiation may be through the use of video and near-peer role modeling. By showing video clips of instances of successful negotiation from more advanced students, Miller thinks there are opportunities for students in his classes to look more closely at negotiation language and become more aware of how it is used in conversations.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Omiya: March—My Share.1) Kyoko Suzuki presented the results of her research into the process of taking Part 1 of the TOEIC test. 2) Asako Kato presented the findings of an in-depth survey of students and teachers in Saitama including student and teacher impressions, pedagogies, and teaching English in English. 3) Delano Cannegieter presented a project idea for having students write actual business letters. Improving student motivation through genuine language use was a key objective and result. 4) Matt Shannon followed with another presentation on writing, laying out a plan for sparking student interest in creative writing. 5) Cecilia Smith offered guidelines and reasoning for using historical films to introduce students to various features of language and critical thinking. 6) Brad Semans introduced the concept of giving short content-focused lessons, called mini-immersion, inside conversation lessons with young learners. Finally 7) Leander Hughes made TOIEC preparation more interesting with a grounded-to-real-life project for improving listening skills. Hughes’ project included transcription of interviews and mock test taking based on live interviews performed in class.

Reported by Brad Semans

Omiya: April—My Share.The first of two presenters was Jennifer Yphantides, who presented the findings of her action research into the presence of metacognitive reading strategies and the outcome of strategy instruction. The presentation included a detailed review of literature on metacognitive reading strategies, which interested the audience greatly. The presentation prompted dynamic discussion on teaching and assessing students’ abilities to use such strategies. The second presenter for the day was Manfred Delano Cannegleter, who presented practical methods for recycling energy in the classroom. Cannegleter’s presentation included many examples of how he has applied this to his own classes. The audience discussed the effectiveness of reusing student-made material in the classroom and enjoyed seeing the students’ work.

Reported by Brad Semans

Okayama: April—Being constructive with Moodleby Peter Ruthven-Stuart. This informative hands-on workshop began with an explanation of what Moodle is and reasons to use Moodle as a learning management system (LMS). Ruthven-Stuart displayed examples from different modules, such as Forum, Quizzes, and Wikis while stressing that the LMS was not created to merely transfer static lesson handouts and quizzes to an online environment. It is a tool best used when developing activities that incorporate the social constructivist approach to learning. After viewing materials from the presenter’s Moodle-based lessons, participants were able to enter a Moodle site as administrators. They created their own course and a Forum page to get a better idea of how to organize a constructivist activity and online group work for students. Unfortunately, there was not ample time to explore the many facets of Moodle, but all who were present can continue to log-in and use the site Ruthven-Stuart provided for some time after the workshop. The ability to do this extends the learning experience far beyond the two-hour format.

Reported by Richard Lemmer

Sendai: February—ELT and the science of happiness: Positive psychology in the language classroom byMarc Helgesen. Unlike our regular monthly meetings, this inspiring and easily applicable presentation and workshop was coupled with a one hour pre-session of watching the DVD of Tal-Ben Shahar’s seminar on positive psychology as a preview. Positive psychology is a recent trend in psychology. Briefly, positive psychology is based on the idea that your perception of your life decides how your life really is. On the DVD, Shahar suggests some ways to look at our lives to make them more positive and happy. In the workshop, Helgesen first summarized the concept of positive psychology and explained why and how he applies this relatively new category of psychology to his lessons. He then shared various classroom activities which he designed based on the science of happiness. These activities ranged from a good warm-up activity to an activity which could potentially be used as a core activity in a lesson. These activities not only require all four language skills but also can help students look at their lives more positively and lead happier lives.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Sendai: March—Pictures in the ESL classroom byCharles Adamson andKen Schmidt. Adamson and Schmidt shared their classroom activities using various kinds of photos to encourage students to speak English and communicate with each other. The presentations were full of activities which could be incorporated into lessons immediately. Adamson first introduced an activity in which a student was asked to talk about a topic the teacher suggested while his partner was only allowed to say a couple of fixed phrases (like “Then?”) to make the speaker keep speaking. He then introduced another activity in which students were asked to explain their ideas about pictures. Some pictures Adamson showed as examples came with many different questions about the pictures to stimulate the students’ imagination and help them speak English more fluently. According to Adamson, these activities have been very successful in helping his students to develop their speaking ability.Schmidt introduced his activity using photo news displays which we are often found in libraries and schools. He recycled photos he borrowed from the school library and explained how easily photo news could be obtained and used as a resource. His activities ranged from a simple “talk about a picture” activity to a more complicated activity in which a student describes a photo to a partner, who then draws the picture based on the partner’s description. As with Adamson’s activities, all of the activities Schmidt shared could easily be incorporated into lessons.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Tokyo:March—Talking emotion in a second language byGabriele Kasper. This seminar focused on looking at emotion talk in a second language through the lens of discursive psychology. Kasper first gave a brief history of precursors to discursive psychology and contrasted three strands within the field, and then focused on conversational analysis and its place in current theory. The main focus was the examination of a humorous account told by a Vietnamese immigrant in America; Kasper showed how we can examine the use of emotion in discourse and how it is important for participants in their personal lives. The last part of her talk was followed by an engaging question and answer session. The seminar was well received, with almost 70 attendees.

Reported by Felipe Franchini Jr.

Yokohama: AprilClassroom cohesionbySteve Paydon. Paydon began by offering examples of cohesion from various fields. The underlining principle that emerges is that cohesion provides students with a secure learning environment. In small groups, participants were then asked to consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory to understand the importance of cohesion. Groups were encouraged to work through a series of questions designed to illustrate how the benefits of cohesion, at various levels, could be conceptualized. The result was a clear understanding of the importance of cohesion in language learning classrooms. Part two consisted of interactive activities that could be practically implemented in most classrooms. Participants, in pairs, worked through a selection of information exchanging tasks, moving from sharing general opinions to more personal information, the goal being to develop progressively deeper bonds among group members. Overall, the workshop was interesting and participants left stating they had learnt something new that they could use in their classrooms.

Reported by Colin Skeates

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