Chapter Reports - July 2011

 

AKITA: March—JET program in actionbyTakaaki Hiratsuka. Hiratsuka began with having participants talk about their experiences and stories of the March 11th earthquake. This paired conversation was a way to introduce experiences and how people learn from them. Hiratsuka talked about the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program’s assistant language teachers (ALTs). While the particularities of the JET program were laid out, it was set to the backdrop of how Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) cooperate with their ALTs. Hiratsuka had a very good experience with his ALT, although in Akita Prefecture this was not the norm. The use of ALTs in Akita is very inconsistent as some are responsible for planning all lessons, while others are responsible for nothing. The presentation had many facts about the JET program. With the narratives and themes set we watched a video involving team teaching between Hiratsuka and his ALT. The presentation ended with a discussion where Hiratsuka spoke about the two main implications from his study: (1) JTEs should go abroad to improve their English language abilities, sponsored by the various Boards of Education; (2) JET ALTs should be hired incorporating a two-step process involving testing for English language and cultural education/teaching knowledge. During the Q & A session Hiratsuka said he remains hopeful the JET program in Akita can continue more effectively, but the Board of Education has to give a clear outline about how to best utilize the ALTs.

Reported by Wayne Malcolm

 

GIFU: April—Testing and evaluation: Alternative means and methodsby Mike Guest. Tests are very topicaland it is important to make tests as effective as possible. Guest asked “Why test?”, and explained that he had concluded that tests can increase both student and teacher motivation. However,there is often a wide discrepancy in what administrators and teachers regards as valid tests. The audience shared various ways in which they approach evaluation. Guest discussed various alternative methods of assessment including dynamic role plays, course reports/summaries, presentations, poster sessions, and portfolios. Guest emphasized that evaluations should be curriculum driven and test multiple and relevant skills.

Reported by Brent Simmonds

 

GUNMA: April—Engaging and experiencing homelessness through a process drama projectby Eucharia Donnery. Donnery presented her ongoing PhD dissertation. The project details the use of process dramas to teach students about social issues in English. Process dramas can be contrasted with performance dramas in that they have separate goals. Unlike performance dramas such as plays and musicals, process dramas are not performed for the benefit of an audience. Rather, the performance itself is a teaching tool and participants in process dramas can “understand through doing.” Specifically, Donnery talked about her experience teaching students about homelessness using process dramas. She used the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII as her main theme. Assuming the role of the American military, Donnery rounded up families (groups of students) and role-played their internment. Students naturally asked questions of their captor such as “Is there food where we are going?” and “How will we get new clothes?”; questions which homeless people often must face. Using process dramas, Donnery showed how she helps her students understand social issues through experiencing them.

Reported by John Larson

 

KAGOSHIMA: FebruaryMy shareby Lee Glenister. Glenister led a very relaxed seminar on Picture Dictionaries, which can be used for a variety of activities. The speaker gave a quick review of the various types available and then there was a discussion about how best to use these books. There were some great contributions from the audience and everyone left feeling like they had learned something new.

Reported by Lee Glenister

 

KAGOSHIMA: MarchE-learning presentationbyBo Causer.The presenter gave a very lively, interactive presentation on how we can use various devices in our everyday teaching. For example, she showed how to use an iPod to play video clips on TVs in the EFL classroom. Everyone who attended left with the impression that there is an enormous amount of learning potential in some of the items we use every day.

Reported by Lee Glenister

 

KITAKYUSHU: April 9—Dogme in ELT: A demonstrationbyBarbara Hoskins Sakamoto. In true dogme fashion, rather than telling us what the approach is about, Sakamoto had us co-construct a definition by sharing in groups what we already knew about it and formulating questions to ask her. The dogme style of teaching was adapted for European language teaching from a Danish film movement. We came to the conclusion that dogme teaching is conversation-driven, materials-light, and focused on emergent language. We then did a typical group conversation activity (answering three questions about our names) while also taking notes on useful vocabulary and patterns that emerged. In order to give students an opportunity to practice the language in a subsequent lesson, we designed student-centered tasks. Finally, we discussed possible roadblocks to dogme in the Japanese environment and how to deal with them.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KITAKYUSHU: AprilHow to get students to read without really tryingby Thomas Robb. Robb started his reading program at Kyoto Sangyo University in 1988 with popular foreign English youth literature, having students write summaries of one notebook page per 40 pages read. However, syntax, vocabulary, and slang in children’s books are often beyond the ability level of EFL readers, thus failing to stimulate interest in recreational English reading. Also summaries may be more challenging and daunting than quizzes. Next was accelerated readers, and in 2007 Version 1 of Moodle Reader was developed and implemented into the English department in 2008. Students often have other priorities for their time, so reading quickly is good, with less down time for dictionary searches so they read more and get more exposure to lexis and syntax. Starting at a lower and more accessible level helps break the translation habit while hopefully maintaining interest. However, the bottom line is that if there is no way to check, many students will not do it. The MoodleReader quiz program lets students complete quizzes, which teachers can check, online, free of charge. Each student has a personal page on the website that records their progress in books and the number of words they have read. Robb finished off by walking us through the simple processes for implementing this excellent tool into a school curriculum.

Reported by Dave Pite

 

KYOTO: March— My share byVarious. Two dozen Kansai members gathered on a chilly Saturday morning to hear presentations and share ideas for the new term’s classes. The event started off with John Campbell-Larsen from Momoyama Gakuin University, speaking on the Strategy and Discourse of Questioning. Pointing out how natural conversation is often more about finding common interests than about communicating specific information, the presenter shared three worksheets he uses with students to personalize conversations and teach the use of discourse markers. Mizuka Tsukamoto from Osaka Jogakuin College introduced a series of four Cooperative Reading activities, including context setting, pre-teaching vocabulary, skimming, and reading for details. Tsukamoto uses these in her mixed-level university reading classes to focus attention and discourage over-reliance on dictionaries. The final presentation was by Richard Miller from Kansai University, introducing the use of learning portfolios in classes. Miller spoke about the important role of reflection in helping students understand the skills and knowledge they acquire in class. He also mentioned how he uses these portfolios as one part of his evaluation of student progress.

Reported by Paul Evans

 

KYOTO: MayThe potential for cognates in Japanese to aid language learningbyFrank DaultonandJames Rogers. Both presenters, Daulton and Rogers, have done extensive research on cognate recognition, high frequency words, and loanwords. Their presentation demonstrated the high potential of cognates to aid the Japanese in English language acquisition. Orthographic, phonological, and semantic deviation among cognates in particular, in addition to affix knowledge, were addressed. High-frequency vocabulary words and western loanwords were further examined. Japan has an extensive lexicon of English-based loanwords. Understanding how to teach them effectively is a challenge. Rogers had a particularly interesting way to teach loanwords through categorization. The helpful cognate, the close false friend, the distant false friend, and the false Anglicism. Students would work together to label the katakana word appropriately. Through both presenters’ extensive knowledge on this subject, the audience was given a wealth of information of all forms of cognate information to bring back to the classroom.

Reported by Kevin M. Maher

 

NAGOYA: March—How any instructor can assign web pages for homework by Rich Porter. This workshop is intended for instructors working from the elementary school to university level. It takes only five minutes to assign any page of a website for students’ homework and Porter recommends signing up for a webpage such asYahoo. To create a website for homework, Porter recommends using the site <pagefin.com/>, which offers a free and easy way to create and share web pages. Find a good site for the assignment, highlight its URL, copy and paste it in the right space of the pagefin site, write an instruction in the text space, click “Shorten URL” and “Share it”. Porter showed a video of “Where the Hell is Matt?” as an example. Any kind of homework can be given using the website chosen. To see students’ responses or their ratings of appreciation for the website or video, Excel can be quite versatile. It is easy to use and can calculate averages.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NAGOYA: April—Assessment and evaluation by Mike Guest. Guest introduced the four major test types: diagnostic, achievement, process-based, and productive tests, and the four standard cognitive levels of tasks: recognition, recall, retrieval, and reproduction. The point of having tests should be to raise students’ motivation, fulfill expectations and give satisfaction. To help students prepare to do well on extended group projects, give the samples of past successful projects and allow for checks and revisions during the preparation process. For a valid assessment, rotate group members, check group size and preparation time, and examine the audience’s role. It is also important to consider the merits, limits, and conditions of open-book tests and peer/self-evaluation. Guest suggested various types of tests: class summary as review tests, oral interviews, students’ choices of test types, and student-made tests. In terms of the diagnostic function of testing, the evaluation should serve as part of the entire study and review experience. Evaluation content, criteria, and focus must be made clear. Feedback and opportunities for correction are crucial to ensure fairness and long-term skill development. A large number of test types should be used to measure a variety of skill and personality types. A good test should encourage improved academic skills and the development of learner autonomy.

Reported by Kayoko Kato

 

NIIGATA: March—Material development and teaching with multiple intelligences theoryby Masa Tsuneyasu. “Can Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory be applied to adult learners as well?” This was an audience concern, but all agreed that MI Theory can make a difference in any classroom. Tsuneyasu started by introducing the eight intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner (1999) and pointed out that English classes focused on various intelligences are preferable to classes that only focus on certain intelligences (e.g., Language and Logical-mathematical). She argued that MI theory helps to make classes student-centered and helps teachers become aware of students’ individual differences. The presenter showed a sample lesson that included activities uniquely designed to activate other intelligences (e.g., Logical-Mathematical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and Intrapersonal intelligence). The lesson was for a reading class, but involved all four skills. The participants found that her activities were engaging and addressed students’ various interests or strengths. Additionally, Tsuneyasu had us complete an MI inventory sheet that assessed the distribution of eight intelligences, and presented her action research project in which she examined the balance of MI across five classes. The speaker recommended that such data be collected at the beginning of the semester to arrange every day activities accordingly. The workshop was full of insights and practical hints. The audience became further aware that MI Theory can be helpful in fostering healthy class dynamics and student motivation.

Reported by Kazushige Cho

 

OKAYAMA: April—Connecting the brain to teachingby Jason Lowes. Beginning with a review of the different areas of the brain, as well as the mechanisms of synaptic connections and long term potentiation, Lowes then turned to the question of how to facilitate learning and memory formation for students. Through a series of short information presentations followed by contests, games, and other activities, Lowes both taught the subject matter and illustrated some primary strategies for improving students’ chances of learning. These strategies include focusing students’ attention on subject matter through contests or learning games, helping students develop an emotional relationship to the subject matter, and presenting subject matter in readily learnable packages. Finally, Lowes connected lifestyle choices like exercise, nutrition, and sleep to elevated brain function and memory formation capability.

Reported by Eric Rambo

 

OMIYA: April—Putting Truman on trial: An academic speaking workshopby Jason White and Content-based classes for fun and profit by John Helwig. White’s workshop provided teachers with the opportunity to get a firsthand look at how an eight-week long academic speaking project gets a group of 21 students to step beyond their normal ideas of English speaking and challenge themselves to produce a collaborative final presentation. Putting World War II President Harry Truman on trial for crimes against humanity supplies the role-playing framework for students to learn and develop the essential academic speaking skills of inference, persuasion, and elaboration. The workshop put the audience in the roles of the students, allowing them to discuss and participate in the preliminary activities of the project that led to the final presentation. In the second half of our session, Helwig spoke on how content can be added to most skills-based classes. The presenter led the audience step-by-step in how to create their own content-based class, visually providing examples from his own experience. Helwig also discussed the Photography 101 class he has created last year. He provided solid reasoning for using heavily content-based techniques.

Reported by Ivan Botev

 

OMIYA: May—Practical activities using Mac Keynote by Mary Nobuoka and Teaching English -it’s YOUR businessbyMiguel Gervais. Nobuoka demonstrated practical ideas and classroom activities utilizing Mac Keynote software, much of which is applicable to PowerPoint software. The presentation included tips and cautions on preparing and using technology in the classroom. Teachers were involved in integrating fun, interactive, and engaging activities for their digital-age students and gained practical ideas to bring back to their classrooms. Towards the end of the presentation participants were encouraged to share their experiences and ideas using Keynote or PowerPoint in the language classroom. In the second half, Gervais covered a somewhat novel topic—that of the business side of teaching English. The presentation provided some interesting ideas for improving cash flows and personally managing teacher’s own affairs in a turbulent economy. It also sketched out a personal business plan and discussed some of the nuts and bolts of the business of teaching English in Japan. Gervais provided some intriguing data on the corporative situation as well as his solid reasoning behind starting one’s own English school as a sole proprietorship.

Reported by Ivan Botev

 

OSAKA: AprilBack to school 2011, by Various and co-sponsored by the TBL and FLP SIGs. This second annual event held at Osaka Gakuin U. was a big success, with 24 presenters, over 60 attendees, and over ¥50,000 raised for Tohoku disaster victims donated to Save the Children Japan. Thanks to OGU, TBL, and FLP for helping make this mini-conference a “home run!” (And a special shout out to OGU student and key gripRyouta Maruyama, a volunteer par excellence!) The main hall featured eight TBL presentations, including Wes Lang’sTask-based writing activities for lower-level university students,Julian Pigott’sApplying L2 motivation theory to task-based learning, andFergus O’Dwyerwith Implementing the CEFR learning cycle in a task-based course. A wide range of presentations filled the other two rooms, such as Fun and effective vocabulary card tasksbyLaura MarkslagandRobert Sheridan,Using YouTube in the EFL classroomby Michael WilkinsandJon Watkins,Content-rich speakingbyJohn Campbell-Larsen,Bilingual number chart byMichael Iwane-Salovaara,Typographic best practices for classroom materials byCameron Romney,Using 21st century tools to teach literaturebyMary Hillis, andStudent self- management diarybyMichelle Graves. Summaries of these, some with .pdf downloads, can be viewed on the editorial pages of our website: <osakajalt.org/blog/>. Two special presentations featured Japanese learners of English who had recently returned from living overseas: Osaka Jogakuin College fourth-year studentYui Shiotanispoke onMy first study abroad in the US after spending a semester at Northwestern College in Iowa, while 2011 Osaka U. graduateMio Kumagaitalked aboutDaily life and Japanese education in Myanmarafter spending seven months teaching Japanese there. Many learning moments happened amongst the attendees throughout the day, judging by the lively interactions that took place even between presentations, so please join us for next year’s event and others throughout the year.

Reported by Ray Franklin

 

SAPPORO: March—Swap meet for teachers of kids by Mary Virgil-Uchida. The speaker gave suggestions for teaching English to young children and shared class-tested activities. She pointed out teachers need to adjust their approach and activities, including teaching materials, depending on the difference of children’s ages, nationalities, and background, as well as the class size. She stressed the importance of making children speak more English in the class. Virgil-Uchida and several attendees introduced successful activities and discussed potential pitfalls and possible modifications. The discussion dealt with a wide range of topics, including the ideal way of rewarding children for their work and the merits and demerits of giving presents to reward classroom performance. This presentation gave teachers a great opportunity to experience classroom activities and games by themselves and learn how to use good hand-made or easily prepared teaching materials for children. It was of particular interest for both teachers and parents of young children.

Reported by Naoko Tanaka

 

SHINSHU: May—The 22nd Suwako charity walkbyVarious. At our annual community outreach event, over 100 participants walked halfway around Lake Suwa accompanied by Shinshu University researchers, who provided hands-on explanations of the lake’s ecosystem. The walk was followed by a forum which included a talk by graduate student Hiroki Kobayashi on Shinshu University’s research on the role eels play in cleaning Lake Suwa and a bilingual quiz on the lake’s environment. Music was provided by the Okaya Elementary School Music Club. This event provided a chance for teachers to mingle with students and people from all walks of life, as well as to acquire more knowledge about the environment which may be used in the classroom.

Reported by Mary Aruga

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