In his presentation, Curtis discussed why stories and narrative structure are so readily received by the human brain and how language teachers can implement narrative structures in their classes to assist language learning. Curtis explained that the mind actively makes predictions when processing the flow of a story, releasing several chemicals such as dopamine, cortisol, and oxytocin that focus attention and activate both analytical and emotional processing centers in the brain. Several studies have demonstrated that this can lead to increased performance in both short and long-term language retention compared to expository or descriptive methods of instruction. He also shared examples of how classroom activities where students generated their own short stories using presentation software led to increased motivation and self-confidence in students who did not respond as well to more traditional analytically oriented language instruction.
Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.
In his presentation, Todd discussed the realities of publishing language learning material in the Japanese market, arguing that in order to successfully establish a publishing career in Japan one must remain aware of the needs and goals of publishers, editors, and sales representatives of publishing companies. The business realities are often not on the minds of potential authors when developing educational materials, but authors need to be willing to listen to publishers and editors throughout the publishing process, as these individuals are often considering many other market factors of which educators may not have full or sufficient knowledge. Todd also offered his advice in regards to the textbook material iteself, including making sure to carefully increase the difficulty as the textbook progresses, keeping the content length manageable, maintaining a consistent interface, and mastering the art of developing content that can be applied to a variety of educational contexts.
Paul and Malcolm discussed how they have implemented an extended reading programme at their institution with the primary goal of increasing student reading fluency, comprehension, and fostering the the growth of intrinsic motivation towards reading and language study. Over the course of a semester, students are assigned a goal of reading 180,000 words from a collection of graded readers available both online and at the school library. Two e-learning platforms, XReading and Moodle Reader, are used to monitor and manage student progress through the use of online quizzes. Other advanced statistics on student performance such as reading speed are also available to gauge student progress. One of the benefits of this approach is that students have concrete goals they need to reach but also have a degree of autonomy in terms of the reading items that are selected, important for both short-term and long-term programme success. Paul and Malcolm also stressed that the role of the teacher is crucial through the monitoring of student progress and giving frequent feedback on student achievement.
In his presentation, Colin discussed how practice relates to language acquisition from both a theoretical and research perspective. The first half of the presentation focused on theoretical aspects of practice and how it relates to language skill development. Certain factors of practice that were mentioned included production vs. input based practice, intensive vs. gradual practice, and the amount of repetition. He also discussed issues relating to practice that are currently being researched such as the nature of the practice, how deliberate the practice is, and the transfer effect of acquired skills into tangential domains. For the final half of the presentation, Colin reviewed research that suggests that intensive, concentrated practice may be of greater benefit to lower level learners than more spread out practice in certain learning contexts and that input based practice may yield more positive benefits than purely productive practice.
In the first half of the presentation, José discussed how traditional textbooks and classroom materials often fail to expose students to authentic spoken English conversation due to the limitations of the textbook medium and the tendency for instructors to use a “teacher” voice rather than a natural voice when addressing students in the classroom. He then introduced a website he developed to provide learners with authentic spoken English covering a variety of topics that aims to teach more natural forms of pronunciation and speech patterns. In the second half of the presentation, Robert summarized the results of a study conducted at his institution to explore gender differences in fluency and dysfluency of Japanese university students. Robert and his colleagues developed a corpus constructed from over 100 conversations between male and female students in order to analyze in detail trends in speech rate, pauses, conversational gambits and a variety of other linguistic traits. The study suggests that men tend to often unconsciously control conversations while female students often remain passive as evidenced by the data collected. Robert suggested that these trends could be contributing to the falling marriage and birth rates of the overall population in Japan and that further study would be necessary to develop methods for remedying this societal problem.
Our chapter held its annual PechaKucha night and four people gave presentations on a variety of topics. For the first presentation, Zack Robertson (“Quiet Learners: What to do?”) talked about different factors that can contribute to quiet, unenthusiastic classes and what can be done to improve them. He discussed psychological, physiological, cultural, and pedagogical causes of student non-participation and offered concrete activities and management strategies to improve them. Next, Michael Phillips (“Using Facebook Groups as W-LMSs”) talked about utilizing Facebook groups to manage and facilitate communication between students and the teacher. He explained how to set up groups, add students, and offered suggestions how utilize the various functions and tools to make the most use from the platform. In the next presentation, Stephen Case (“Using Movies in the Classroom”) introduced a variety of websites and applications that offer short movies that can be used as both full lessons and supplemental activities. After showing part of an example movie, Stephen elaborated on potential lesson ideas that can accommodate a broad range of ages and language abilities. For the final presentation, David Wilkins (“Mobile Technology in the Classroom”) introduced a few mobile apps that can be used to facilitate classroom discussion and participation. He demonstrated how the Kahoot! App can be used as an interactive quiz that teachers can create and students can answer using their smartphones.
Robert discussed various maxims from his collaborative research related to NeuroELT and the theoretical underpinnings of some of these concepts. He began by briefly introducing Kurt Fischer’s dynamic skill theory, a cognitive theory that postulates dynamic development from reflexes to complex systems within the human mind. According to this framework, all learning including language learning follows these principles and as such we should strive to incorporate these concepts into our language teaching approaches. In the second half of the presentation the audience was invited to choose from a short list of NeuroELT maxims and try to develop new ways they could implement these concepts in their own language classrooms. These ideas were then presented and discussed with the entire group.
Barbara introduced several approaches for eliciting and developing creativity in the language classroom built around 4 key concepts: Communication, Collaboration, Creative Thinking, and Critical Thinking. Ideas centered around students collaboratively creating learning content together in the classroom, with the teacher as a helpful guide. These activities ranged from simple word/letter puzzles, original story development, and allowing students to make their own game from simple everyday items. For the second half of the presentation, the audience was invited to develop their own language learning activity from a variety of everyday items directed at their target age group. The groups then shared their activities with the rest of the audience to demonstrate the ideas and concepts in practice.
Tom introduced several ideas for bringing the latest neuroscience and technology into the language classroom. Augmented reality has now become a relatively feasible possibility for language learners utilizing google street view and expeditions with headsets, and Tom demonstrated how this technology could be harnessed to cover a wide range of language functions and content. He also demonstrated how the latest smartphone apps can be used to gather instant feedback from a classroom of students by utilizing an ad hoc local area network. He finished the presentation by discussing certain physiological aspects of the brain and how it relates to learning, citing the importance of sleep and meditation for memory and attentiveness.
Yumiko Cochrane - Lost in Katakana: Exploring the efforts of loanword cognates on English Acquisition. Yumiko began by stating that 10% of Japanese words are loan words, and only 6% of that 10% are English based. Looking at the different types of loan words firstly we have true cognates which have the same meaning in Japanese and English. Non true cognates include semantic changes (e.g. viking or mansion), morphological changes (e.g. stainless or ringtone), phonological (the open vowel sound 'katakana English'), or Wasei Eigo which are words unique to Japan (e.g. leiman shock or hi vision). Yumiko's findings were that literal translations lead to dangerous assumptions on the part of students. Once these errors are engrained in students' heads it is difficult to change them. In conclusion she stated that there's no shortcut to English acquisition using loan words, and keen awareness of the problems should be promoted. She instead recommended a 'katakana' of the day where the English and Japanese meanings of words such as mansion or dryer were contrasted.
Steve Paton - Freeing up fluency in a silent speaking class. In Steve's presentation he noted that students in Japan lack a usage of learning strategies. Steve divided these into Metacognitive (organising study activities, self management and self evaluation), Cognitive (repetition, note taking, deductive inferencing and linking new knowledge to old) and socio effective (used in actual communication such as 'can you repeat that?'). Steve stated that these strategies will be most effective if students understand the strategies, believe they're effective and don't consider them too difficult. He outlined a system of assessment points he uses with his students that encourages active spoken participation in class. His participation guidelines for the students were: extend your comfort zone and take risks, stay in English for the duration, communicate with the instructor in confidence, make the most of your English speaking opportunities and be outstanding. He stated that his participation system was a success and students participated much more in class.