Chapter Reports - March 2014

AKITA: November — Making the most of study abroad by Terri Lee Nagahashi, Akita Prefectural University. Nagahashi reported on an innovative faculty-led study abroad program.  The program was designed to support the curricula of the Faculty of Bioresource Sciences at Akita Prefectural University and took place in Oregon, USA during the summer of 2012. Nagahashi showed several interesting examples of student-made presentations. The results of the post-trip questionnaire suggests that this program produced multiple benefits including enhanced intercultural awareness, increased motivation for learning English, and improved research, writing and presentation skills. This presentation was not only an excellent tutorial for those who are interested in developing short-term study abroad programs, but also an excellent project example for those who are interested in Experience-based Learning in general. A lively question and answer session took place at the end of the presentation.

Reported by Stephen Shucart


GIFU: November — Teaching English to children with puppets by Juan Uribe. Uribe began his workshop by restating a well-known maxim: children learn best through play. Uribe himself has over 100 puppets, ranging from marionettes and sock puppets to finger puppets and shadow puppets. During the workshop we got to know Buddy the Frog, who helped Uribe demonstrate a variety of techniques for engaging students in language learning and practice.

In particular, the use of puppets was presented as a great way of breaking down the affective filter (which is of particular importance for Japanese learners). The learner may be shy, but the puppet on the end of their hand is not, which allows them to speak freely, as it’s not the learner who makes mistakes, but the puppet. Likewise, if the physical appearance of a foreign teacher may seem daunting, it could be easier for a learner to communicate with the cuddly creature sitting on the teacher’s arm.

Uribe explained different types of puppets, and then helped the participants to create their own puppets from bits and pieces bought from the 100 yen store. These puppets were then brought to life, as they interacted with each other. Overall, participants left with the conviction that puppets have the potential to be an effective classroom resource, for any age group.

Reported by Paul Wicking

GIFU: November — Who’s of our profession by Umida Ashurova. Above all, Ashurova conveyed her passion for teaching in a reflective presentation. She began with a wonderfully narrated story of her journey from her roots in Uzbekistan to Japan. During the presentation we were given the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our own teaching and how these can be influenced by the environment around us using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.

Ashurova focused on professional development in ELT, demonstrating the differences between what and why we teach, which she categorized as Teaching Knowledge on one hand and how we teach which can be outlined as Teaching Practice. She concluded that perhaps in the past too much attention had been paid to what we teach and therefore we need to tip the balance towards how we teach. We were able to discuss several ways to improve our classroom techniques and it was rewarding to share other teachers’ successes whilst at the same time being reassured that we were facing similar problems.

Reported by Brent Simmonds


GUNMA: November — Exposing English education in Gunma elementary and secondary schools by Anastasia Letcher, Terry Dassow, and Elizabeth Bender, and joined by Tomoko Nagaoka, Michiyo Imaizumi, and Hiroaki Kanai. In this last Gunma JALT meeting of 2013, three ALTs introduced one typical lesson plan from each of their respective classes. They then used this lesson plan to paint, in broad strokes, a picture of English education at their respective education levels: elementary, junior, and senior high. After a short break they were joined by three Gunma public school JTEs for a panel discussion. All answered and discussed attendees’ questions about English education in Gunma elementary and secondary schools. Some topics discussed were: curriculum coordination between ES, JHS and SHS English programs, the education ministry’s new JHS/SHS course of study and teaching English in English, Tokyo’s proposal to send 200 JTEs abroad for three months, education technology and textbooks, and student motivation.

Reported by John Larson


HAMAMATSU: December — My share. Jon Dujmovich, Bogdan Pavliy, Nami Takase, Dan Frost, Adam Jenkins, Susan Sullivan, John Wolfgang Roberts, Gregg McNabb and Atsuo Hirano all contributed to the annual Hamamatsu Chapter My Share. The event was informative and entertaining, and topics explored ranged from how best to scaffold the introduction of cultural concepts (Dujmovich), to utilizing Moodle networks in and out of the classroom (Jenkins), to establishing an English book club in an EFL situation (Takase), to the use of English as a communicative tool in real life situations (Hirano). In addition, McNabb explored textbooks with emphasis on reading skills and which included suitable reading material for the EFL learner, Pavliy provided some solutions to the eternal struggle of maintaining interest and authenticity of task in a mixed level classroom, Roberts described the work his students have undertaken in a creative writing workshop, Sullivan spread the word about The Font, a creative literary journal for language teachers, and Frost delighted us with renditions of songs used to great effect in the EFL classroom.

Reported by Susan Sullivan


HIROSHIMA: November — Content-focused language instruction by Brent Jones. Jones introduced the English programme at Konan Cube - Konan University’s Hirao School of Management, which developed a content-focused curriculum. Using examples from this programme, he gave a general overview and outlined some of the benefits of content-focused language instruction, as well as some of the pitfalls to be avoided. He demonstrated some of the techniques used in the classroom to give students the support necessary with this kind of language teaching, and also discussed the ways that teachers in the programme had been supported in conducting content-focused courses. Additionally, he noted the importance of backward planning—planning backwards from the goals for students at the end of the course, and forward assessment—assessing in a way that reflects as closely as possible how the skills or knowledge learned in the course would be used in future real life situations.

Reported by Carla Wilson


IBARAKI: December — This month, Ibaraki JALT attendees welcomed Mary Nobuoka from the Bilingualism SIG and exchanged their views on challenges and possibilities of bilingualism. Looking back on influences of child raising after 25 years by Martin Pauly. Pauly recounted his experience of raising his sons bilingually, which has not been without difficulties. For example, his attempts to create a play group and a Saturday school met with problems in raising money and hiring appropriate teachers. Also, one of his sons refused to speak in English to protest against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In spite of these difficulties, Pauly posited that language is the best gift one can give to one’s children. Raising bilingual children in Japan by Mary Nobuoka. Nobuoka presented some challenges and benefits of raising bilingual children through drawing on her first-hand experience of raising her son in Japan. Nobuoka admitted that this effort requires considerable time, money, and perseverance. However, when successful, it could foster a greater capacity to process information and understand people’s differences, thus providing children with a wealth of social, cognitive, and emotional benefits. Nobuoka also introduced some useful methods and approaches of bilingual child rearing as well as various online and community resources available for aspiring parents. Bilingual in Japan: German and Japanese—Reflecting theory and experience in language acquisition by Gabriela Schmidt. Schmidt, a native speaker of German married to a Japanese man, reflected on her experience of raising her son who is fluent in both German and Japanese. She presented in detail the ways in which her son has naturally developed this ability despite the fact that he was born and raised in Japan and has never received a formal education of the German language. Code-switching of bilingual teachers in EFL classrooms by Naomi Takagi. Takagi discussed why some bilingual EFL teachers in Japan are driven to use Japanese as their main classroom language even though they are fluent in English. Her interviews with EFL teachers revealed various reasons, ranging from their pedagogical training, administrative concerns, situational factors (e.g., time constraints and difficulty of the textbook), to their wish to connect with their students. 

Reported by Naomi Takagi 


KITAKYUSHU: October — Pecha-kucha night. We held our annual pecha-kucha night consisting of 5 short presentations (20 slides X 20 seconds) covering a wide range of topics in ELT. For the first presentation, Dave Pite outlined useful strategies that high school students can use in order to pass university written entrance exams. Next, Michael Phillips discussed the emergence of global English, or “globe-ish,” and its pedagogical ramifications in the fields of EFL/ESL. After that, Linda Joyce talked about the importance of remembering students’ names and covered several useful methods to quickly and efficiently remember large amounts of names. Our fourth speaker, Jason McDonald, demonstrated how podcasts can be utilized in tandem with reading material to help cover both listening and reading skills in the classroom. Finally, Robert Murphy introduced ten ways current testing and assessment could be improved to better motivate students and improve the language learning process. Each presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session where the topics were further explored and discussed.

Reported by Zack Robertson


NAGASAKI: November — Using intercultural theories for ALTs and JTEs to successfully understand each other by Robinson Fritz, Nagasaki University. Using examples from his experiences on the JET Programme and from his study and research in the past year, Fritz focused his talk on the relationships and communications between workers of two different cultures. He also highlighted that although there is a heavy focus on language learning in Japan, there is very little focus on learning about cultural differences—that language and culture really can’t be learned apart. There is too much of a focus on only linguistics and that little or no training is offered in the areas of intercultural communication. Fritz concluded with suggestions for solutions and how people may develop intercultural competency for the purposes of communication and better understanding. Rather than forcing one model of intercultural communication (Eastern vs. Western) in the multi-cultural environment, what is actually needed is a third model which is developed co-operatively by both sides.

Reported by Thom W. Rawson


NAGASAKI: December — Music and surveys in the classroom by Joe Tomei, Kumamoto Gakuen University. Tomei covered two topics during the December meeting in Nagasaki. His first talk was a comprehensive demonstration on using music in the classroom. Examples and variations on the usual cloze-based listening activities were both insightful and useful in giving students a multi-faceted look at any one piece of music though the eyes of multiple artists and styles. In the second part of Tomei’s presentation, the effective use of surveys as a means of engaging English learners in project-based learning was covered in detail. Using scaffolding techniques and guided practice, Tomei showed how surveys can build not only the needed English communicative practice students need for improvement, but also life-skills for the future development of younger minds including team organization and collaboration, project responsibility and role taking and much-needed presentation skills.

Reported by Thom W. Rawson 


NAGOYA: December ― Laughing matters in the classroom by Ted Quock. Quock explained how humor can be used as core material (teaching humor), supplementary material (to demonstrate target language points), or as a motivational tool (per Mehrabian’s concept of immediacy). In the first two cases, the fact that humor is subjective can help students understand that they can’t, and don’t have to, understand everything. Quock used materials from various media to demonstrate different kinds of humor, and how some kinds of humor (e.g., puns) are difficult for non-native speakers to understand but are therefore useful teaching materials. He pointed out how humor is often based on mistakes and misunderstandings, and how humorous mistakes by well-educated people, such as world leaders and even language professionals, can help students understand that mistake-free communication need not be an obsessive goal. Examples included the misconception that English “Mayday” is a synonym for “SOS” (rather than French “m’aidez”), mistranslations of dialogue from foreign movies into Japanese, and personal anecdotes about pronouncing English-derived acronyms in Japanese. Quock also stressed how humor can evoke not only positive reactions like laughter and smiles but also anger and sorrow, thus making it a ripe subject for academic study.

Reported by Kayoko Kato


OKAYAMA/TOTTORI: December — Unmotivated students? Make them curious! and Can improv activities work in Japanese classrooms? by Ken Wilson, sponsored by Oxford University Press. Wilson didn’t lecture about motivation; rather he demonstrated how to “motivate the unmotivated.” He quickly had everyone actively involved. He made us curious and had us moving around the room talking to many people. Wilson’s main points on motivation were that teachers need to: 1) be enthusiastic about their teaching, 2) make students curious to know more, and 3) move students around and involve more than their brains in activities. The effectiveness of his presentation was demonstrated by the fact that many people who had given up their only free day of the week felt they had an enjoyable afternoon.

Later, Wilson provided a long list of activities that involve students in spontaneously generating their own material for conversations. Some activities involve the entire class (such as pretending to be athletes at a sports event) while others need only pairs, albeit constantly shifting pairs (for example, partners exchanging information via “I want to...” and “I’m afraid you can’t because...” statements). Through these activities Wilson demonstrated how a teacher using a little guidance and spurring of imagination can get students to generate their own dialogue for fun as well as for language practice.

Reported by Shirley Leane and Scott Gardner


OSAKA: December — All-Kansai JALT bonenkai. ‘Twas the mid- of December and all through Kansai, / Language teachers had fun at the JALT bonenkai. / They came from Nara, Kobe, and Kyoto to Osaka city, / For a final JALT end-of-year festivity. / Held on Dec. 14th, from 6pm to 9:/ We talked, we drank, we had a good time! / It was pay as you go, to join us for free, / In a non-smoking area, no rsvp. / ‘Twas a quiz format this time, at the local Irish pub, / So we enjoyed some questions, with drinks, and Blarney Stone grub. / From 7-8pm: 25 queries, on Kansai/Japan, / How many can you answer below? —Give it a try, man*! / Some came with their own group, to challenge and thrive, / And some made a team of 3-4 when solo they arrived. / Some questions were tough, but mostly good fun, / With the 5 teams’ scores ranging from 16 to 21, / With prizes for everyone, we were all winners here, / But it’s more about bragging rights, and chatting over a beer. / It was a great chance to make- new friends and network, / And with a live rock band after, some could even twerk! / 20 teachers joined our fun, which as JALT-ers we did make, / As we said sayonara to the Year of the Snake. (*To try the 25 Kansai/Japan Pub Quiz questions yourself, visit: <>)

Reported (and quiz created) by Ray Franklin


SENDAI: November — 2013 Tohoku ELT expo. ETJ/JALT co-hosted this one-day mini-conference of 32 presentations at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen’s new campus in Miyagino. Nearly 100 enthusiastic educators, learners, publishers and presenters attended the event including special guests, keynote speaker Goodith White and ELT author Miles Craven. Presentations spanned a diverse range of topics that addressed EFL story-telling with young learners, critical thinking skills, curricular change in Japanese English education, coaching lacrosse in English, global-minded learning, teaching content, differentiated warm-up activities, and developing creativity with students and teachers, to name but a few. Free Costco muffins, cookies, and pretzels helped make the mini-conference a tasty alternative to the Rakuten Eagle victory parade also held that day in the city. 

Reported by James Dochtermann


SENDAI: December — Highlights from JALT2013 & Bonenkai. Sendai JALT members who attended 2013’s JALT Conference in Kobe reported on the presentations and other aspects of the event that were particularly special. From seasoned members who have attended many times, to newbies on their first venture, the JALT2013 event was considered enormously beneficial and fun. The final event of the year was followed by the end-of-year bonenkai party, which was graciously hosted by Cory Koby, incoming Sendai JALT president. Cory kept things flowing smoothly for the nice show of members and the evening concluding with an entertaining group rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas led by Marc Helgesen. 

Reported by James Dochtermann


SHINSHU: November — Developing output skills through interactive art boards by Trevor Joseph. Joseph has been teaching for 25 years, working mostly on the front line with young learners. We were privileged to host his first ever presentation for teachers, introducing his interactive teaching boards, which each comprise five foldable panels of young-learner height. On them were painted scenes of a market and a park, with several places to add magnetic objects, all based on vocabulary from Cambridge ESOL Young Learner exams. The presentation began with Joseph explaining his teaching philosophy, including his assertion that while there may be different learning styles, all young children learn kinesthetically. He told us the opportunity to present had allowed him to examine his motives for creating the interactive art boards. He also showed us video footage of art students creating the teaching boards, and young learners interacting with them in a wide variety of ways. The presentation showcased the beautiful work that had gone into the creation of the interactive boards and highlighted the value of kinesthetic learning for young learners, evidencing Joseph’s passion for teaching throughout.

Reported by Mark Brierley


TOTTORI: December — Unmotivated students? Make them curious! and Can improv activities work in Japanese classrooms? by Ken Wilson, sponsored by Oxford University Press. See Okayama Chapter for details.


YOKOHAMA: October — Negotiating the discipline: Writing for publication in TEFL/TESL by Theron Muller, University of Toyama. With lecture positions (both full-time and part-time) at universities increasingly requiring a steady stream of publications as part of the job description, Muller offered some timely advice on the practicalities of academic writing for publication. He emphasized the value of looking at publication from a more imaginative angle than only traditional research papers by detailing the benefits of working as an editor, proofreader or book reviewer for academic journals. Muller also gave insights into the submission procedure and the process of rejection and acceptance of research papers undertaken by journals in a variety of academic fields. In addition, he discussed the methods by which universities assess the quality of the journals in which academic papers appear. In the second part of the presentation, Muller examined the formatting of a research paper (intro, literature review, theoretical framework, methods, data and findings, pedagogical implications) and offered a Q & A session for attendees to ask specific questions relating to research for which they were currently seeking publication.

Reported by Doug Forrester

Website developed by