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Chapter Reports - January 2010

 

Akita: October—Motivation in the classroombyWayne Malcolm. This meeting was a bit different, as only the first half was devoted to the presentation, while the second half was for chapter elections and business. Malcolmpresented on the topic of motivation. This was a very interactive presentation, as the audience was involved in both brainstorming ideas about student and teacher motivation as well as offering possible solutions to the problems involved. As motivation is one of Malcolm’s main research topics for his doctorate ineducation, he was able to direct our attention towards aspects of the topic that might have escaped the casual observer. The second half of the meeting was devoted to officer elections and future aspirations of the Akita chapter. A great time was had by all.

Reported by Stephen Shucart

Gifu: September—Increasing student input and responsibility to encourage active learningby Jon Catanzaritiand Mike Stockwell.Catanzariti and Stockwell began by explaining how they have worked together at their university to develop students’ ability to reflect on their input into the learning process. Students are asked to discuss appropriate behavior for learning, as well as how they can enhance the learning environment. During the concluding stages of each lesson, they are asked to not only grade but also to comment on their own performance, as well as give reasons for their assessment of the lesson. The presentation began by asking teachers to assess, through a questionnaire,what type of teacher they were, and whether their beliefs followed a more constructionist or behaviourist approach. There was a lot of information to absorb in this inspiring presentation.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

Gunma: September—Art in the classroomby Yoko Munezane.In language education, art can function as a medium of communication because it stimulates human creativity and can be perceived as a way of social communication. We are all inherently artistic, so usage of art enhances motivation in communication. Munezane presented several classroom activities that boost the motivation for communication in class using artwork and the concepts of multiple intelligence (MI) theory. For example, students produce drawings while they listen to a song, which enhances musical and intrapersonal intelligence. By talking about their own pictures, a group activity can be turned into interpersonal intelligence reinforcement. Another activity is having a conversation involving art. Students look at a painting of their own choosing, and form questions about it in their minds. By attempting to share how they interpret the intention of the artist’s expression in the painting, classroom communication turns into an interpersonal activity. This can further develop into a creative activity by putting students in a role play as characters that appear in the painting. Communication about art involves imagination, so creative usage of language can take place in the classroom. Films can also be shown to students to enhance listening skills, as well as cultural and situational understanding concerning communication among people. Intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of conversation with art can be broken down to various levels of linguistic activities by an instructor to accommodate various student levels.

Reported by Harry Meyer

Hamamatsu: September—Sharing 18 years experience with language immersion in a Japanese k-12 schoolinsights and implicationsbyMike Botswick. Original designer and director of Katoh Gakuen in Shizuoka Prefecture, Botswick spoke about his school’s immersion program. Katoh Gakuen is the oldest and most successful immersion program in Japan. It has Japanese students being exposed to English in learning basic subjects from kindergarten through high school, roughly half or more of each school day. Botswick showed us how the view that introducing English too early may damage children’s development of their native language (in this case, Japanese) is false. He said not a single study providesevidence of thisaround the world. On the contrary, thousands of studies show that children’s native language development is the same or better than other children who are not exposed to a foreign language early.He showed films of first-grade children doing math problems by arranging English word cards to form an appropriate question and then answeringit, and of high school students debating in English.There were a wide range of questions from the audience and people left with a desire to learn more about immersion education.

Reported by Dan Frost

Kitakyushu: October—Language awareness and language variety by Saeko Urushibara. So English is not so different from Japaneseor other languages either? Urushibara proposes that language awareness be the basis for English education in Japan, particularly when it is introduced at the primary level. She maintains that while vocabulary is arbitrary and must be explicitly learned, grammatical knowledge is universal and therefore comes cost-free in principle. She supported this notion with many examples and some technical terms, explained to us in very accessible language. Urushibara stresses that English is not Japan’s second language, but a foreign languageand should be taught in the context of Japanese. After discussing languages’ shared properties, she showed ways of expressing them in various languages and then how to recognize and hence utilize our tacit knowledge of them coupled with our first language to support understanding of the target language. She noted that unique aspects of grammar, such as word order and agreement, can best be handled in terms of contrast. After some discussion of the relative roles of teachers and computers in language instruction, Urushibara fielded questions and remarks about our classroom experiences with and reflections upon the interrelationships of languages.

Reported by Dave Pite

Kyoto: OctoberPresentation practice session for JALT National Conference/JALT Business

MeetingbyKim Bradford-Watts, Bjorn Fuisting, andMichael Furmanovsky.The Kyoto chapter in October provided an opportunity for three speakers to introduce their presentations for the JALT National Conference in November. Bradford-Watts prepared her poster session on metaphorical patterns through analysis of randomly picked textbook prefaces written in English. This unique study suggested the significance of anawareness of metaphors for teachers in the EFL environment. Fuisting presented a stimulating analysis on how to start, organize,and reorganize extensive reading programs. This overall talk was aimed at various ER organizers and worked as a starter kit for a complete beginner to a managing kit for those facing obstacles along the way, as well as a budget consultation. Furmanovsky, using two examples of movie versions of classic novels in Graded Readers, pointed out the possibility of bringing out characters’ personalities and using them to introduce vocabulary for personality traits. These practice sessions were a good chance for presenters to polish up their presentations before their big show, but for those who unfortunately could not attend the National, it was a tasty bite. We also held the annual officers’ election.

Reported byWakana Takai-MacLean

Nagasaki: October—Elementary school teaching and the implementation of the new English CcrriculumbyKai Pence, Meghan O’Connell andWarren Allen. The presenters, all ALTs working for boards of education in Nagasaki, began by explaining their backgrounds and their motivations for coming to Japan as participants in the JET Programme. They gave their views on the current state of the programme, stressing that they regarded it as an important tool for grassroots internationalization, including interaction not only with students, but also with their parents. With English teaching being not the sole, or perhaps even the main goal of the programme, the diverse background of ALTs was seen as beneficial. Using examples of textbooks introduced in the 2009 school year, the presenters then compared their experiences of elementary school English classes before and since the April move to a new curriculum. Discussion focused on the increase in class hours for fifth and sixth-graders, and the consequent reduction for lower grades, as well as the change in roles of ALTs and homeroom teachers in terms of lesson-planning and materials development. The new textbooks, in particular, were seen as having a positive impact on homeroom teacher confidence and involvement in English classes.

Reported by Richard Hodson

Okayama: October—From textbooks to TQ: Publishing for EFL teachers by Keiko Sakui and Neil Cowie. The two presenters shared their experiences in publishing, from academic writing to the recent release of their textbook, in a casual format. All present were encouraged to share their experiences as well. Sakui introduced the various factors that can lead to getting published and attendees shared their publishing experiences and future plans in small groups. Next, presenters addressed the questions why to publish in the first place, where to publish, and what kinds of writing to consider publishing. They also provided a helpful list of academic journals, specifying their acceptance rate, approximate readership, and other valuable information. Finally Cowie and Sakui explained how their recent textbook came into print. The presenters, as well as the attendees themselves, provided all present with a wealth of helpful advice for future publication projects.

Reported by Tom Fast

Omiya: OctoberImplementing an effective program using English Notebookby Laura Blefgen-Togashiin English and Setsuko Terasaki in Japanese. Blefgen-Togashi and Terasaki, who have been teaching at public elementary schools implementing new programs focusing on English

Notebook, demonstrated hands-on techniques using English Notebook. The presenters first overviewed the current situation of Foreign Language Activities at public elementary schools.Togashi discussed her teaching approach by saying, “Children should enjoy language activities, but learning must be happening.” To deal with the shortcomings of English Notebook, the presenters suggestedhow best to use it by: (1) pre-teaching followed by ample practice, (2) using materials available at schools, (3) providing interactive opportunities, (4) adding additional challenges and tasks, (5) overlapping English with other subjects, and (6) creating a positive learning environment. In order to enhance learning, the presenters showed how to reinforce the concept of numbers and counting using beanbags. English Notebook 2, Lesson 2 was drawn on to familiarize the students with singular and plural forms. Ideas related to feelings and countries were also introduced to strengthen specific lessons.All participants enjoyed the presenters’ delivery style and practical lesson ideas. Teachers can easily incorporate these activities withEnglish Notebook to implement an effective program.

Reported by Masa Tsuneyasu

Osaka: October—My share:Autumn potpourri. (1)Jobhunting workshopbyDouglas Meyer. Meyer,the Job Information Center Coordinator, reviewed the basics of finding and landing good jobs, which nowadays require much more than a degree and a smile.With a decrease in the number of students enrolling each year, the numbers of available teaching positions become more competitive. Strategies, appeal, and flexibility are critical to getting the job. (2) Corpus linguisticsbyMatt Smithshowed how words could be analyzed by their behaviors and the patterns they usually create, allowing the formation of word category families. Participants engaged in concordancing tasks with corpus texts to investigate and evaluate this approach. The presentation also included a brief description of how this approach is being applied to the analysis of the Chubu PASEO Learner Corpus. (3) Curriculum design byGerald Williamsexamined a coordinated curriculum to improve students’English level, and using part-time instructors effectively. Also covered were English use in class, student homework, and socializing. Lively group discussions followed all three presentations, and made this a very stimulating day.

Reported by Douglas Meyer.

Sendai: SeptemberMeasuring learners’ vocabulary size byPaul Nation. Nation introduced his recent project designing and administering the Vocabulary Size Test to measure English learners’ receptive (written) vocabulary knowledge. Nation offered evidence that a goal of 8,000 word families is essential for learners to deal with a range of spoken and written genres, and it is therefore important to track vocabulary acquisition using tests like his. Using actual test questions as examples, Nation explained how he designed the test and listed features which good vocabulary tests must have. In the second half of the session, Nation shared his concept of the four strands necessary for a balanced language learning program: (1) meaning focused input, (2) language focused learning, (3) meaning focused output and (4) fluency development. He followed this with a task in which we were asked to classify various learning activities into the four strands. The session attracted around 70 participants coming from all over the Tohoku area, both teachers and learners. Everyone came away satisfied with the inspiring and insightful presentation.

Reported by Soichi Ota

Shinshu: September—Learner autonomy in a CALL-based classroom andVocabulary strategy training byHana Craig.Craig’s first talk covered the development of a CALL course in a private university with students averaging 295 on the TOEIC test. Through teaching the course, it quickly became apparent that although students were studying alone in a computer room there was very little learner autonomy as students made no choices, had no personal goals,and were not raising their self-awareness. Basing her approach on Rebecca Oxford’s Strategies Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) and adapting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to her classroom, she aimed for scaffold autonomy, with special emphasis on motivating students with content relevant to their worlds, and providing files and notebooks so that they could keep quality records of their work.The second presentation began with ataxonomy of vocabulary-learning strategies but recommended that students not be overloaded with strategies. Craigsuggested that students choose words that are interesting, relevant or in the top-1000 word list. She recommended using flash cards and vocabulary notebooks, but suggested that vocabulary learning is more effective if classes are connected so that new vocabulary can be recycled.

Reported by Mark Brierley

Tokyo: NovemberInterpreting meaning in popular culture media products: Censorship and readers by John E. Ingulsrud andKate Allen.Authors of the book Reading Japan cool: Patterns of manga literacy and discourse, Ingulsrud and Allen were prompted by the question, “How does our students’ manga literacy relate to other literacies?” Using a brilliant slideshow with striking images, the presenters explained how certain harmful contentsuch as racism and sexism led some countries to respond with censorship. Responses like this were compared to classroom responses to manga in which strict correct interpretations interfered. They noted four possible positions of interpretation for consideration, in particular selectiveor parodic, as thissuggests that readers interpret manga in a number of ways.

Reported by Jim McKinley

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