Report on the 20th Kusatsu Summer Workshop

Writer(s): 
Hideto D. Harashima, Co-president of Gunma JALT

 

It is a delight for the Gunma chapter of JALT to report on our commemorative 20th summer workshop at Kusatsu. With pride, we consider that having sustained this event for twenty long years is an achievement in itself.

This year's workshop was held at the Kusatsu seminar house, as it has always been, in the Kusatsu Highland and Spa Resort, on August 23rd and 24th. Those who have visited the area in summer will already know how cool, green, and traditionally exotic Kusatsu is. The participants in this seminar must surely have benefited from the unique local culture as well as the academic stimulus.

Probably due to the bad weather, we had a relatively small number of registered participants (19), but the workshop was very informative and cozy nonetheless. The theme of the workshop was "Speaking in English as an L2" and the speaker was Kim Bradford-Watts of Kyoto Women's Junior College. She gave two addresses on speaking skill development, followed by four presentations from other participants.

Bradford-Watts's first lecture was on Speaking skills: Theory and the materials we use. She began with a brief review of the theories of speaking pedagogy, introducing such models as the behaviorist, constructivist, and complexivist models. Then she encouraged us to participate in several activities on how to "create language quickly" within the framework of communicative language learning. Participants formed several groups in which they practiced producing quick questions and answers.

Her second lecture was titled Classroom management in the speaking class. This focused more on how we can manage our daily lessons in a more productive manner. She led the audience in discussions on speaking needs analysis and suggested forms/means to investigate this area among our students. She went on to introduce a Me! Me! speaking activity, which was fun, and a reflection paper. A reflection paper is a way for students to review each lesson and self-evaluate what was really learned: new vocabulary items, new grammar, the percentage of time spent speaking during the activity, etc. It is also a good system for the instructor to learn how the students have digested each lesson.

Kazushige Chou and Fuyuhiko Sekido spoke on Speaking presentations for college students: Types, management and evaluation. They implemented an English presentation project in each of the schools they teach at, and introduced the results by showing a video. They also discussed important elements in managing such a project as well as how they evaluated the students' performances.

Sarah L. Birchley presented on Branding as a discursive practice--The discursive constructions of a Japanese private college. She discussed how universities in Japan are struggling to enhance their school image by "branding" school logos, signs, songs, and other school-related items. From a semiotic perspective, she discussed how branding creates the identity of an organization by manipulating text and by using visual, social, and spatial data coding.

Naoko Harada spoke on the Zone of proximal development in Harry Potter's class and my class. Though she admitted that this work was in progress, she succeeded in sharing her insights into using the Harry Potter series for language classes. She showed new possibilities for applying Vygotsky's ZPD to learning by video.

Finally, Hideto D. Harashima and Barry Keith co-presented on Developing online reading quizzes: A joint project for engineering students. In the first half of the presentation, Keith explained how TOEIC tests have been implemented in engineering schools for placement, entrance examinations, and course creditation alternatives. He then discussed some of the difficulties test-takers typically experience in TOEIC tests. In the second half, Harashima introduced online TOEIC-style reading quizzes that he has developed especially to help students overcome the difficulties mentioned earlier. The main feature of these reading quizzes is the glossary link function that provides definitions and sounds.

The workshop ended with a group photo and a farewell address by our co-president, Michele Steele.

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