Chapter Reports - March 2010

 

Akita:DecemberThe 30-second ad in the classroom:Using TV commercials to liven things upbyPhillip McCasland. TV commercials provide a host of teaching possibilities for any language class.One 30-second ad brings authentic linguistic and cultural content that can be integrated into various communicative activities. McCasland led a workshop that illustrated the benefits, the selection framework, and the technology necessary for using commercials. With the popularity of YouTube allowing for easy access to a wide range of authentic material, McCasland had the participants complete several task-based activities. The material was not confined to commercialsfrom America, as he also showed how a McDonald’s commercial from Egypt, and one made for an Indian audience that focused on the choices brought about by cable TV, could provide cross-cultural comparisons.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

Gifu: November—The Gifu Chapter was able to get a taste of JALT2009 using the Pecha Kucha method. (1) Jon Catanzaritistarted the evening off with his “20 reasons for going to JALT” based on the Christmas classic The 12 Days of Christmas. This ranged from the availability of genuine Aussie meat pies to the wide range of presentations on offer. (2) Mark Kukelwas next up with his report on a context- versus text-based lesson presentation. (3) John Gunning followed with his ideas on how to develop sound editorial systems, and the trials and tribulations of being an editor. (4) Mike Stockwell was fourth in line with his comments on Teacher Reflectionand keeping not only students motivated, but also teachers. (5) Steve Quashafollowed, with a view on what JALT offered him—not only a place to pick up new ideas, but also to be a little more critical. (6) Brent Simmondsfinished off with his report on Culture Awareness within the classroom and what students expect of their teachers. Once the presentations were over there was an opportunity for participants to exchange views and questions with the speakers.

Reported by Alex Yardley

Gunma: OctoberMEXT’s attempt to create a coherent English education program from elementary school to university by Kensaku Yoshida.With the official introduction of English into the curriculum of elementary schools (ES) in 2011, junior high (JH) and senior high (SH) schools will have to adjust their curriculums. Yoshida outlined his examination of some of the problems associated with this introduction. Surveying 3,500 JH teachers in 2008, he found that less than 50% of JH teachers knew what changes had been made regarding the introduction of English in ES. Only 25% had ever observed English being taught in an ES, and only 15% had had the opportunity to meet with ES teachers to discuss curriculum. Yoshida pointed out that if JH teachers don’t know what students are learning in ES, they cannot properly adjust their own curriculum to the changes. He then went on to discuss the new course of study for ES and how it seeks to create a foundation for communication. The purpose of the new course of study is to facilitate the development of a positive attitude towards English that students will carry into their future education. To achieve this, it is important to give students the chance to have fun while communicating.

Reported by Harry Meyer

Gunma: November—Seigakuin radio podcast byDavid Gann andMehran Sabet. Gann and Sabetstarted the presentation with a simple explanation of what podcasting is and highlighted the lightening speed with which podcasting has taken off and will further grow. The key to this growth was the development of podcast receiving software which enabled users to download podcasts to mp3 players. Users could now listen anywhere, anytime, and as often that they liked. They asked us, as language teachers, to consider some exciting statistics, for example: (a) 57% of 105 educational podcasts were language-centered and (b) of the Top-25 most popular, 20 were language instruction podcasts. Then the speakers explained the development and integration into the syllabus of the Seigakuin Radio Podcast as they went online and navigated participants around the Seigradio homepagesowe could absorb firsthand the students’ experience. Finally, as a group, we made our own podcast with the help of the presenters. Using Garage Band software, we recorded some interviews, laid down the tracks, erased mistakes, and added some effects. We learned how we could make our podcast available to students by accessing the iTunes store and uploadingit with just a few clicks.

                                                            Reported by Lori Ann Desrosiers

Ibaraki: DecemberMy share. (1) Another NVC (nonviolent communication) both verbal and nonverbal by Jim D. Batten. Batten talked about smooth communication with others and explained that there are four steps to think about in NVC: needs, feelings, observations, and requests. (2) Classroom feedback systems by George MacLean. Maclean addressed the difficulties that teachers might experience in getting feedback from all students in their class. The presenter brought some hand-held computer-based equipment and explained a new method aimed at getting feedback from all students. He demonstrated how to collect the feedback with a stroke of the pen, and choose the question type, e.g., true-false or multiple choice. (3) Translations studies: An update by Jeroen Bode. Bode reported on the latest techniques of translation. (4) Moving music center stage for young ESL learners by Deborah Murao. Murao demonstrated the importance of music for young ESL learners by showing how to use music effectively in the classroom. (5) A model TEFL internship program for Japanese universities by Clay Bussinger. Bussinger reported on a program that is designed to give Japanese students an opportunity to experience TEFL in practical situations. Through sharing their time in Japan with Japanese students, foreign students also can have priceless experiences.    

Reported by Shiho Tomikura

Kitakyushu: January—Developing Japanese learners’ use of the English article system through task-based learning in an intermediate level university programbyNeil Millington andColin Thompson. Responding to the current MEXT objective of traditional teacher-centered classes giving way to a more communicative and interactive approach, the presenters constructed some task-based exercises to develop students’ oral communication strategies while focusing upon specific English challenges such as article usage. Their methodology was demonstrated by six volunteers describing and ordering photographs into a coherent story, which was then related by one group member, paying particular attention to article usage. We shared observations of the group’s interaction, and the extent to which Willis’s task stages of pre-task, task cycle and language focus had been followed. The presenters noted that a major problem of task-based learning is that so many points demand simultaneous attention that the tendency is to just let them go, and deal with them later, which perhaps leads to too much concentration on communication and not enough on awareness of language construction. The presentation concluded with an open discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using tasks in this particular learning context.

Reported by Dave Pite

Kyoto: SeptemberUsing drama activities with diverse levels of university studentsby Sandra Healy andAmanda Gillis-Furutaka.The presenters explainedtheiruseof drama activities in university classes. Healy focused on her class adopting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She pointed out that drama-related activities provide reality in the language learning environment, and bring out not only all four skills of language acquisition, but also promote personal development and improvement in motivation among students. Gillis-Furutaka covered role-play activities based on TV interviews, ordering at restaurants, and conversationsat travel agencies. She stated that by using role-plays, students can learn how communication also includes non-verbal dimensions. Role-play unexpectedly draws out aspects of student personalities that they themselves may not beaware of. Both presentersshowedvideo recordings of the students that they used for both teacher and student self-evaluation. Both mentioned the hurdles of using audio-video equipment and how to solve the problems.

ReporterbyWakana Takai-MacLean

KyotoDecemberPresentations by Professional Development Scholarship recipients andend-of-the-year luncheonbyPaul Evans andGlen Cochrane.

TheKyoto chapter sponsored its first annual Professional Development Scholarship Fund to assist first-time attendees to JALT2009in Shizuoka last November. The winners, Evans and Cochrane, reported about their experience: what opened up their eyes and stimulated their brains. Cochranereportedon presentations he attended on culture and technology with EFL;Evansreportedon the TLT annual meeting, using cell phones in an EFL environment, and ESL writing. Both had carefully studied the conference handbookin advance to line up the presentations they wanted to attend, and spent the three intensive days wisely at the venue. They returned to the chapter event more confident as professionals, and gave a positive overall impression of the conference, which encouraged prospective conference attendees. Kyoto chapter will continue to provide the scholarship next school year.

Reported byWakana Takai-MacLean

Nagasaki: NovemberFunctional literacy and contextual learning theories applied to English language learningbyApril Alcazar. In November, Nagasaki welcomed the Balsamo Asian Scholar, April Alcazar, as part of the Four Corners Tour. Shebegan with a brief definition of contextual learning theory and functional literacy theory, and thendescribedher involvement in a number of NGOs, student programmes, and organizations, including the Teachers Helping Teachers(THT)SIG. She showedvideos explaining the work of THT, including footage of participants involved in developmental work in the Philippines. Subsequent discussion focused on a wide range of issues, including the status and role of English in Japan and in the Philippines, the similarities and differences between contextual learning and immersion education, the varying degrees of student motivation, and the potential for (and possible constraints on) contextual learning opportunities for students in Japan. The presenter used examples from her own teaching experience to illustrate how she was able to guide and encourage students to learn contextually, while stressing that the approach requires a high level of language proficiency on the part of learners.

Reported by Richard Hodson

NagoyaandGifu: OctoberGlobal issues and poetry: Awareness-raising in the classroomby Hugh Nicoll. The presenter beganby asking questions about global issues and what linkscould be made with poetry and pedagogies. Hestated that poetry can play an important role in raising awareness of global issues in language classrooms. He thinks poetry and arts are good medicine, and useful for learners to learn the critical ability to sympathize and analyze information, so that they can be more autonomous learners. He quoted from The Gleam of Light by Naoko Saito: “The classroom must then become a place to cultivate the art of patient listening and imaginative seeing in resistance to the incessant threat of blindness to, and suppression of, internal light.”Nicoll thinksthat learners are able to develop better English skills by being exposed to lots of listening activities, more engaging writing activities, and repetition of poetry rhythms. He used a poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes, for discussion on how to use poetry to make learners consider their own situations. He thinks imagination, creative thinking, and visualization through writing poetry can greatly improve our classrooms.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Nagoya: DecemberExperience the magic of cross-curricular English lessons for young learnersbyLesley Ito. Ito explained that cross-curricularEnglish lessons motivate studentsandthat English used as a tool for communicationismore relevant to their lives. She demonstrated this with the Double Ring lesson.After a 40-minute basic English lesson(the first ring)and a 10-minute break, students have a 40-minute cross-curricular lesson (the second ring), using language taught in the first ring.Proficiency is an attainable goal with a third ring—a consistent homework program with plenty of parental support. Ito also demonstratedher mixing-colour lesson using a coffee filter. Students dip just the tip of the coffee filter in water until absorbed water reaches a line drawn on the filter with a water solublefelt-tip marker. The colour will begin to separate. Students report and discuss in English what they observed using a worksheet. She also showed how sheuses a  How to Make a Mummy worksheet and stuffed body parts fastened with velcro to teach students the vocabulary of human body parts; and demonstrated how to teachcomparatives with cups made of various materialsby putting ice and hot water in themandletting students touch them in turn.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

Oita: SeptemberUsing songs effectivelyby Neil Millington.Oita JALT held its second event since forming earlier in the year. The theme of the event was teaching English to young learners:There were presentations on the use of games and the effective use of song. Millington demonstrated how song could be used to engage students with playful variations in tempo, rhythm,and so on. He also explored with the audience different ways in which a song’s words could be creatively revised to make original songs that incorporate new sets of lexical items. For example, the audience was asked to participate in the creation of original songs about sea creatures,based on their actions and characteristics,by adapting the popular song “The Wheels on the Bus”. This well-attended presentation provided the attendees with a number of ideas about how they could use song effectively to teach grammatical structures, vocabulary, pronunciation,and intonation in a fun and creative way.

Reported by Steven Pattison

Okayama: November—(1) 2009 Balsamo Asian Scholar,April Alcazar. Attendees learned about Alcazar’s experiences as a multilingual learner and speaker. Shediscussed how the mind naturally seeks meaning from context and defined functional literacy as when one can read well enough to function in society. She differentiated between self-confidence—the language skills one possesses, and self-efficacy—those skills plus the knowledge of specific subject matter in skilled learners. Shethen showed two brief videos of a Teachers Helping Teachers (THT) mission to a village school for indigenous people on a remote Philippine island.This talk was preceded by two local presenters.(2) Kenji Chida’sthemewas that there is no goal for English language learning in Japan. He cited examples at all levels from MEXT to school districts to individual schools and students. According to Chida, reinforcement of Japanese and feeling comfortable among foreigners are the unstated goals of English teaching in Japan.(3) Christian Burrowsintroduced results from his study of published research on communication strategies (CS) in university English classes in Japan. He suggested differences in CS research results between Japan and western nations are due to differences in students’ self-perception. He concluded that paraphrasing and generalizing were the two most often taught CS inJapan.

Reported by Richard Lemmer

Omiya:November—(1)Student-selected visual images for speaking morebyKyoko Suzuki.The presenter, anMA candidate in TESOL currently teaching TOEIC preparation courses for several companies and universities, presented her research intohow test-takers function in the first part of the TOEIC test. She discussed her findings that test-takers followed three phases in choosing answers and that the answers were regularly influenced by several factors,including known vocabulary. Those present gained important insightsinto test-taking strategies, which will affect their future pedagogical decisions. (2) Let’s delve into the minds of “bad” students: Alternative TESOLbyJun Harada. Haradadrew lines to the source of bad student behavior as being low to no motivation. He identified causes, cited pertinent research and theory,and discussed some of the ways he has tried to manage “bad” bahavior. His presentation was well researched, informative, and entertaining.

Reported by Brad Semans

Omiya: DecemberDuring December’s special 4-hour gathering,two highly anticipated presentations were given. (1) Steve Kingshared his insider knowledge of the educational publishing industry’s past, present,and future development. (2)Jerry Talandis Jr.held an interactive workshop during which the path to being published in The Language Teacher was illuminated and all participants got a start on their own writing projects under his guidance. After hearing about the ins and outs of getting published in TLT, the audience was given guidance on the writing process. Many in the audience had never been published. All participants left with the beginnings of the next great article in language teaching.

Reported by Brad Semans

Osaka: OctoberAutumn potpourri: Job-hunting, corpus linguistics, and curriculum design. (1)In his Job-hunting workshop, Doug Meyer, JALT’s Job Information Center Coordinator, gave his top 10 hints for job-hunting in Japan and allowed time for participants to discuss interview questions. His list included not only good ideas, such as getting qualified and networking, but also some good information specifically for within Japan, like writing a rirekisho,or Japanese-style resume, or finding a sempai.(2) Matt Smith, of Chubu University, presented Words, types, and patterns: An investigation, demonstrating how lines of concordance can be analyzed to reveal significant patterns that provide new ways of thinking about grammar. The patterns also shed light on unusual word usage and word families.(3)Integrating part-time instructors in a coordinated curriculum had Gerald Williams, Jonathan Aliponga, and several others from Kansai University of International Studies leading a lively discussion of their methods, which have students coming to class better prepared and teachers reporting higher motivation and improved classes. The group discussed topics such as computer usage in and outside of class, outside class activities, and the EnglishOnly policy instituted on campus. The topic of homework was raised and the group discussed their no-homework/get-a-ticket policy and the effects it is producing.

Reported by Kelly Butler

Sendai: NovemberMind mapsby Miles Craven. In this very practical workshop, the presenter helped us understand mind maps and how to utilize them in language classes. We first learned what mind maps are and how to draw one, following his example. As he shared his own map, Craven pointed out key concepts and options—for example, limiting entries to a couple of words (not a writing activity) and using quick pictures rather than words, if desired. Next, we paired up and practiced making our own mind maps on different topics, e.g., “the happiest time in my life” and “things I like to do.” Craven then led us through a variety of communicative activities based on our mind maps, which could be employed with students of various ages and levels. In one activity, we were asked to recall a story told by a partner based on the partner’s mind map. In another, we asked questions to help a partner expand their mind map. Craven emphasized that mind maps provide support which can help maximize speaking and listening practice in the classroom. Over 20 participants attended the workshop and were satisfied to pick up practical techniques which could be directly applied in our classes.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Shinshu: December—(1) Effective procedural instructionsand Motivational teaching strategiesby Andy Boon,and(2)Panel discussion on motivationfeaturing Koji Matsuoka, Yuko Itoh andDavid Carlson (view at <www.ustream.tv/channel/shinshu>). In his first talk, Boon began by identifying types of problems which occur in instruction-giving and discussing his action research. He then provided advice for issuing task instructions which included: make “today’s goal” and the lesson plan clear to students, involve students in the process, and include instruction planning at the lesson planning stage. In his second talk, Boon provided motivational teaching strategies which were followed by activities which would generate and maintain motivation, nurture group cohesion and cooperation, as well as provide relevance and positive self-evaluation for learners. In the panel discussion, Matsuoka stressed the need for students to set more concrete goals. He recommended providing interesting class activities, content, and atmosphere, as well as being an interesting teacher. Itoh outlined practical course content, such as training students to be English guides at Matsumoto Castle, which motivated her lower-level students. Carlson related how he successfully motivated English students at a dentistry university by changing the content to reflect what they would truly need in their future professions.

                                                         Reported by Mary Aruga

Tokyo andWest Tokyo:JanuaryTechnology-enhanced active learning strategiesby James Morrison. Former editor of Innovate and On the Horizon, Morrison spoke about how to increase active learning by influencing technology policy in education. After an initial presentation explainingthe definition of focus, pertinent terminology,and the tasks at hand, participants broke into a Nominal Group discussion to focus on barriers to TEALS (Technology Enhanced Active Learning Strategies) in Japan, and then strategies to overcome those barriers.Participants ranged from the Head of Library Sciences department at a university in Osaka, to corporate trainers, software developers, a university department head, and various others. The discussion was stimulating and a number of strategies to overcome barriers were noted and evaluated. See Ideagora at<ning.com>for an ongoing follow-up discussion, and see video feeds of discussion reports at ustream.tv (search for James Morrison at both places).

Reported by Kevin Ryan

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