Meeting Reports

Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.

  • Reports for meetings prior to July 2008 can be found in the meeting archives.
  • If you are looking for details of upcoming meetings, these are available on our schedule page.
  • Click on an event title to see the original meeting announcement for that event.
Charlie Bell, Paul Collett, Malcolm Swanson, Markus Yong, Andrew Zitzmann

This session involved a number of presenters giving short (15-20 minute) introductions to activities or ideas they thought might be helpful for others.

Conversation Modelling

Charlie Bell

Charlie gave a presentation discussing his preliminary research findings into the effects of conversation modelling on student motivation.
Modelling involved him preparing a video of students taking part in conversations and then showing this video to students in another class just prior to them attempting the same type of conversation. The hope was that this could potentially improve his learners’ willingness to communicate.

This can occur as the videos may:

  1. increase personality and environment support.
  2. increase motivation by showing videos of peers doing the same task.
  3. improve cognition - if you watch other people doing it you can learn more easily.

To assess the impact of the modelling, Charlie distributed pre- and post questionnaires to his university students who were majoring in Nursing and Occupational therapy.

The questionnaires’ purpose was to determine if their willingness to communicate changed after watching the video. If it did change, how and why did it change?

The students so far have provided mixed feedback.
Some thought that watching the video made it seem like an achievable goal and that it showed them what to do, allowing them to visualize how to do it and compare their conversations with the modelled ones. Others mentioned that their willingness to speak depended on the people in their group as well as the topic.

On a more negative note, some students didn’t understand the contents of the videos, and didn’t like the fact that the video showed non-native speakers.
Some simply had a negative attitude and would not be motivated one way or another.

Charlie therefore found that video modelling can build confidence as it shows how to communicate but it is not useful for all.


Paul Collett

Paul gave a brief introduction to Flipgrid, an online video-sharing platform that helps educators see and hear from every student in class.

Flipgrid is designed specifically for educators who would like their students to create and share short videos of no more than 5 minutes. This could be for activities such as creating weekly reflective journals, debating issues, giving mini-presentations and providing summaries/reviews.

Paul explained how he has used Flipgrid to help with assessment of a presentation skills course. He gave students iPads and then let them go away separately to record their presentations. After finishing their presentations, they would then upload them online for him to assess.

He then went on to describe other benefits and features.
The platform allows for applying effects such as filters and emoji to the recorded content, adding a familiar aspect from popular SNS applications. The videos can be public or private. If made public, the platform has the flexibility to network with other like-minded educators who want to share videos.

Videos can be added by smartphone or from your PC.

One major feature is that you can automatically add closed captions and download them as well, potentially saving time with transcribing what was said on each video.

Finally, Paul talked about how user-friendly Flipgrid is. However, it is necessary to have a stable online network available in the classroom in order for the videos to be automatically upload to the cloud.

Ideas From JALT2019

Andrew Zitzmann

Andrew talked about a number of potentially useful activities he had observed at the recent JALT international conference.

“Flat Andrew project” - This is basically a letter exchange with other schools outside of Japan. This exchange involved the Japanese students making a paper image of themselves and sending it to a foreign school. The foreign students then took the image around town and took photos of it in various locations. Afterwards they write a report about the image’s adventures and then send it back to Japan.

“Symbol songs” – This involves getting students to try and guess the name and lyrics of a song based on symbols on the page.

“Greek and latin roots” – An activity where the students tried to guess and understand various words’ origins.

Internet-Based Apps

Malcolm Swanson

Malcolm presented two apps that can be useful for gathering student feedback in large classes.

The first one is called Plickers. This app is a convenient way to efficiently gain feedback from all students and can be used for quick classroom surveys and quizzes.
In order to do this, a teacher hands out specially-prepared cards to each student. Each card is printed with a square geometric pattern, with each side of the square labelled A to D. The teacher can then pose a question for the students and offer multiple-choice answers. The students indicate their answers by showing their cards to the teacher with the letter of their choice in the up-right position. In order to gather all the responses, the teacher uses the Plickers app on a web-connected device to scan the room, recording student responses which are automatically uploaded to the teacher’s Plickers account. This enables instant large group feedback. The advantage of this app is that every student doesn’t need to have access to a tablet or smart phone to take part.

The second app called Menti serves a similar function to Plickers but differs slightly in method. Instead of gathering feedback from scanning cards in a room, the teacher gets students to connect to its website, input a teacher designated code and then proceed to the quiz or survey. Once again, student feedback is instantaneous and can be broadcast in real time via the app.

Other useful features of Menti is that it allows the teacher to create word maps and turn surveys into a quiz games. This app is available through the web site

Table-Top Gaming

Markus Yong

Markus presented a way of making complicated table top war games more accessible for young English learners as well as outlining their associated benefits and challenges.

He used a game called Airfix Battles, a WWII-based tactical board game. Since the game mirrors real life battles there are a multitude of rules and actions each player can take such as measuring weapons range, calculating hits, assessing damage, looking after morale and finding cover.

Through trial and error Markus found that it is not necessary for kids to learn all the rules straight away. Instead, all that was needed was to teach the language necessary for them to move and then to shoot their units’ weapons. Then the teacher would calculate the rest. This should provide students with motivation to learn more complicated English to do this themselves in the future whilst still having fun playing the basic game.

He also found that having the kids actually make the soldiers from plastic model kits provided an extra source of motivation for when they eventually play the game.

Reported By
Markus Yong
Michael Stout

Michael Stout led the audience through a well-paced and thoughtfully-structured overview of how Action Research (AR) can benefit teachers.
After beginning with a brief introduction outlining the principles behind this approach, Stout drew on his own experience of using AR to show how it can help improve classroom outcomes.
He outlined how, after identifying a problem with his particular classroom situation, he and a fellow teacher implemented changes leading to positive outcomes which could be attributed to these changes. He pointed out the need to collect multiple data sources when introducing interventions. This is essential for the teacher-researcher to better understand the influence of any changes the intervention may contribute to, and to be able to progress through the reflective cycle that is part of the action research process.
He also reminded attendees that the AR research process could also lead to academic publications or presentations, a process beneficial for both professional and learner development.
Stout then led the presentation attendees through a quick session on how to develop our own research plans. This resulted in considerable discussion and exchange of suggestions, hopefully sparking some ideas for future AR projects.

Reported By
Paul Collett
Huy Tran

On Saturday, June 8, 2019, Huy Tran presented Teaching Methods in a Blended English Learning Environment. Mr. Tran described his own school in Kikuchi where students use computers to study English. He called it a Flipped Classroom where students do their homework at the school and then learn the lessons at home. Through extensive use of things like Skype in the Classroom as well as a number of other apps, students create language and learn independently and in groups. Mr. Tran provided an excellent video of the presentation that can be found here:

The meeting was attended by 5 members and ran from 7 to 9 pm.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Ms. Hoskins gave a workshop and presentation on Saturday, May 11, discussing her very successful children’s textbook Let’s Go and why it has remained the EFL standard for children’s texts for the past couple of decades. She talked about how there needs to be a balance in the textbooks, and in EFL materials, between the students, the teachers, the content and the parameters of the text. EFL materials must pay attention to all four elements if they are to be successful.

Ms. Hoskins talked at length about designing materials in such a way that the teacher will know what to do with the material, and also the students will be able to intuit what is expected of them. The content needs to be geared for the intended learner with an eye to any potential cultural land mines that might spring up - such as having dogs inside the house or foods being discussed.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and there were 14 in attendance.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Stephen Case, Hudson Murrell

Mr. Case and Mr. Murrell gave a presentation on Saturday April 13, discussing how anxiety affects the perceptions of tasks and how this impacts collaborative testing. Collaborative testing features two students in a test situation where the two students are required to perform specific tasks while being observed by the test giver. They talked about how there has not been much research into collaborative testing and that their preliminary findings are promising. Students who are slightly more anxious about testing situations reported that they found collaborative testing to be very helpful while students who were very confident tended to dislike collaborative testing as they felt that their partners were not helpful.

In order to reduce stress in collaborative testing situations, they proposed that students should practice repeatedly with a wide variety of partners in order to gain familiarity with the process.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and there were 8 in attendance.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Paul Collett, Malcolm Swanson

Mr. Collett and Mr. Swanson gave a presentation and workshop on March 16, discussing using online tools in the classroom, specifically Moodle and Google Classroom. Mr. Collett walked the audience through the various pros and cons of the Google Classroom and Mr. Swanson discussed Moodle. Both halves of the presentation were very practical, with attention being paid to how to set up an online classroom using either platform. Both platforms have different benefits and costs and these were highlighted quite clearly during the presentation.

There were 9 in attendance and the presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Charlie Bell

On Saturday, February 9th, 2019, Charlie Bell gave a presentation about sequencing classroom activities for more effective communication. The presentation started with a discussion about some of the common issues teachers face when implementing communicative teaching methods. The presenter then proceeded to explain, using examples of his own classroom hand-outs, how the correct sequencing of classroom tasks can lead to greater learner participation and increased understanding in communicative tasks. The second half of the presentation was run as a workshop. Guided by the presenter, participants were given the opportunity to work together to design a sequence tasks for use in their own classroom.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Michael Berg

Mr. Berg presented his thesis from his paper on how mindset, either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, affects language learning, with a specific focus on Japan. He found that a fixed mindset, one where natural talent is expected to succeed in language acquisition tasks, often has a negative impact as students write off language acquisition as too difficult. It is possible, he argued to overcome this mindset through intervention.

Whether natural talent or learned skills is most important is greatly debated, but, what appears, he argued, to be more important is what the student believed. He then went through the methodology he used to gauge student mindsets.

Using surveys and then interviews he looked at linguistic and social backgrounds as well as possible gender biases. He suspected that there might be some limitations to the methods as there were fewer upper year students taking the surveys and students frequently did not take the surveys seriously.

He found that major does not correlate with mindset nor were there indicators within university entrance requirements nor overseas experience. Mindset is a very individual thing, he argued.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and was attended by 12 people.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean, of Osaka Jo Gakuin outlined the challenges he faced when creating a vocabulary based program at his university. He began by outlining a number of terms, focusing on the difference between vocabulary size and vocabulary level. In his findings, vocabulary size was useful for distinguishing different levels of students, but, was not a good indicator of the vocabulary level of the students. And because of this, there is a tendency to overestimate student ability based simply on their vocabulary size.

He argued that some of the most effective ways to learn vocabulary include using the L1 to make connections between the two languages and also to use multiword units. His testing method started with a small group of words, with weekly tests where new words were added and tested, but, the tests would also contain words from previous lessons instead of simply testing new vocabulary lists each week. He also argued for a focus on the first 1-3000 words of the NGSL as these would be most important to the students.

In his program they took 5000 words and then translated the word list. After that, they made audio recordings of the list and through applications like Memrise, created vocabulary programs for the students. Testing generally took about ten minutes.

Finally, he outlined some of the issues in taking this approach. The introduction of a new program found some resistance from faculty and it was somewhat difficult to convince them of the use of the new program, although, in the end he was successful in bringing the program into the class. He also emphasized the need to approach the teachers and get their support before implementing a program like this. Additionally, there are technical issues to overcome as well as simple physical issues of how to get the information into the hands of the students.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Jerry Talandis Jr.

The presentation outlined a number of ways to bridge the theory of testing in English classes in Japan into practical applications that teachers can use to promote language acquisition through testing. Mr. Talandis argued that since testing in English classes in schools in Japan is a fact, then we as teachers should embrace that fact and use it to our advantage. By promoting positive washback, we can turn testing into a positive experience for the students by emphasising motivation, personalized feedback and use testing to diagnose problems in the classroom.

He outlined the qualities of a good test – Reliability, Validity and Practicality. When teachers create rubrics, the teacher should ensure that the test is actually focusing on what needs to be tested – either holistically or analytically. He then gave numerous examples of test evaluation forms and gave a number of suggestions for aiding in evaluation, such as recording speaking tests and having the students evaluate each other.

In conclusion, Mr. Talandis argued that testing is an art, not so much a science, so, being creative in testing is to be valued. There is a balance that must be struck between reliability, validity and practicality that teachers must be aware of when creating tests for the classroom.

Reported By
Jason McDonald