Joseph discussed different models of assessment in the language classroom, comparing the traditional a priori assessment models that measure student performance in an isolated and decontextualized manner to an interactive model that allows the teacher to scaffold the student during the assessment session to grasp the upper limits of student capability. Simpson began by covering the different theoretical underpinnings for dynamic assessment and followed by presenting two actual assessment sessions, one traditional and the other dynamic in order to highlight the difference in student performance.
Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.
Kitakyushu hosted two presenters this month: Creative Variations for Textbook Conversations, by Bill Pellowe and Assessing Gains in Extensive Reading by J. Lake. In the first presentation, Bill talked about various methods for adapting English conversation textbooks to various classroom settings, offering several unique approaches for engaging students such as having students use smartphones for recording and assessing dialogue performance. In the second half, J. Lake presented recent research findings supporting the incorporation of reading for speed as a means for improving learner reading fluency, motivation, test scores, and streamlining various cognitive and neurological processes that strengthen overall language competency.
Markus talked about game theory, what constitutes a game from a theoretical standpoint, and how it can be applied to a classroom setting. He began by introducing the online role-playing Classcraft, a free online application designed specifically for a classroom setting, and explained the rules by having the audience participate in the actual game itself. He then went into detail on how he has implemented this game in some of his university classes, listed some of the advantages and drawbacks to the game, and provided suggestions for how to adapt the game specifically for Japanese learners.
(reported in honor of Dave Pite)
In “The Japanese Languages”, Michael Phillips went over the genetics of language/linguistics and the relationship of the Japonic language family, briefly going into the different language groups across the world and the debate of which groups are related or not, as well as touching on diglossia and how it applies to the topic.
Roderick van Huis told us about "Pronunciation Prediction for the Classroom", offering suggestions on how we can do spot treatment pronunciation in class with no preparation on things that suddenly pop up.
In Marcus Yong's "Game Design and Motivation" presentation, Marcus explained what makes games so addictive and how we can use those elements in our classroom. To further his point, he demonstrated how the free online game "CLASS CRAFT " can be used in classes.
In Stephen Case’s presentation, "20 Websites for 20 Lessons", he went over some websites that were intended for education use and others not specifically intended for education use and how they could be applied to classrooms in unique ways.
Beuckens loves teaching English as a foreign language, appears passionate about his hobby, entrepreneurship, and shared lots of information with us from his years of experience.
He showed us the basics of starting an online business—from finding something lacking in the vast TEFL field (“How many here have had to work with a textbook they hated?”), to filling that niche, then getting the project operating, getting people to use it-- and monetizing it.
He credits his initial motivation for online publishing to a student who kept demanding more resources. His thriving online Elllo (English Listening Lesson Library Online) was completely free for three years, until it started attracting sponsors.
Pointing out that starting a business was mostly about attending to all the details, Beuckens listed several useful outsourcing services, elicited from the audience (and rewarded with cookies) lists of salable digital items under the headings of Ads, Products and Services and then got us into groups to create and record language exercises which he will soon upload to the free site >
Attracting the biggest turnout at our chapter in years, this presentation gave a good picture of the time, effort and dedication required to make a useful website.
Robertson explained the cognitive development stages of young English language learners (YELLs) acquiring their first language, then differences in language learning/acquisition processes between children and adults. He ran us through various physiological/neurological, psychological/cognitive and sociolinguistic patterns that are emerging currently in the fields of SLA, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics, noting that individual variation resists compartmentalization, which may prejudice our teaching approaches.
While language development is better viewed as a continuum rather than defined through rigid age brackets, other considerations such as the Critical Period Hypothesis and puberty (both influenced by possibility versus effort) and the Reticular Activating System affect intrinsic/extrinsic and integrative/instrumental motivation. While YELLs tend to look to their teachers to provide these and often fail to negotiate meaning, older learners tend to display a wider variety of learning strategies in their language acquisition and are simply better at finding ways to supplement formal study.
Following this intensive input was a quiz, “Who is better at what?” We answered whether children or adults were likely to be more successful at specified language learning tasks. Robertson then had us review further by discussing in small groups where we see and how we might use the presented concepts in our teaching practice.
Fab 5 started, as usual, with online required and recommended pre-reading to “get everyone on the same page”. Friday afternoon and evening featured an advanced workshop exclusively for presenters and those enrolled in the certificate course. Saturday started with examinations of connections between memory and language processing, moving into the first of four plenary broadcasts by featured speaker Vanessa Rodriguez, shifting focus from the learning to the teaching brain. This was followed by pecha kucha presentations, lectures, workshops and demonstrations by a diverse international group of academics sharing a strong interest in language teaching impacting the intercultural mind from a neurolinguistic viewpoint-- all scheduled around a uniquely organized set of book and poster sessions and continually relieved by energy breaks involving yogic breathing and meditation to maintain the frenetic pace throughout the entire three days. Lesson planning, textbook adaptation and computer games designed to optimally stimulate learners enjoyably and dynamically were introduced and practiced in novel ways. In the final session the 50 original main maxims of the conference were reviewed and condensed into seven practical tips for lesson planning.
The dinner and banquet/beer garden organized events went over very well and the overall social ambiance was stimulating and friendly.
Philips reviewed his pechakucha presentation, English Circles (November 2013) to continue a discussion of including world Englishes in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
English Circles are the different conceptual layers—or varieties—of English as a Lingua-Franca (ELF), with non-native English speaking countries represented by outer circles and native English-speaking countries at the core. The split between teaching to native-speaker proficiency within the reality of non-native speaker experience was clarified by a TED clip, which pointed out that, while there are two billion people in the world presently fervently studying English, actual perfection in the language is unattainable. There is an expanding circle of non-native speakers escaping allegiance to the core and regional variants are getting increased identity. These English as an International Language (EIL) learners need intelligibility more than native speaker similitude and, as Widdowson (1994) says, English is the property of those who speak it.
Globish is the name applied to the emerging language code evolving into a simplified lingua franca; whether it is a descriptive or prescriptive term seems to depend upon the success of those enterprises trying to market it.
All this begged the question of which Standard English should define Globish and opened a very lively discussion to finish the presentation.
Foreign teacher frustration in junior and high schools at forced student memorization of outdated unused vocabulary (and syntax)—usually administered by colleagues entirely in Japanese, right from ‘sit down’ and ‘open your books’— was vindicated by Waring’s comment, “It’s insane”, as a recap of and response to questions regarding his presentation of extensive research done by himself and others into required and actual frequency of word meetings to effectively and enjoyably lodge them into students’ permanent memory. Publications supporting this welcome catharsis are available at www.robwaring.org/presentations/ -- essential reading for EFL curriculum developers.
Illustrating that Japanese high school textbooks provide only one fiftieth of the words students need to enter a good university and debunking false pedagogical notions throughout, Waring walked us through the rationale for and stages of a balanced curriculum of vocabulary teaching and learning (as distinct concepts), pointing out how the (non-linear) cycle needs to acknowledge the forgetting curve and to teach students how to deal with new words independently. Without criticizing course books for their limitations, he pointed out how they need to work with extensive additional (graded) reading to cover the otherwise impossible number of word meetings essential for adequate English exposure.
Thompson gave us Rod Ellis’ definition of a task as an activity that requires learners to use language with an emphasis on meaning to attain an objective—not simply as conversation. There are four criteria: it focuses on meaning; there is some sort of information gap; learners rely entirely on their own resources-- linguistic and non-linguistic; and there is a clearly defined outcome. Some advantages of task-based learning are that students’ communicative level can be readily seen by the teacher (facilitator) and it develops second language communication skills—because in the real world students must depend on their own resources. We then did a picture-sequencing role-play in groups to check task criteria.
A key feature of task-based learning is that there is no pre-teaching; the pre-task just introduces the topic. The teacher helps students to complete tasks, teaching them the language they need as they look for meaning. In task-supported language teaching, on the other hand, the pre-task provides model language and the task adds meaning and form-- compromising learner autonomy for more teacher input, as with traditional PPP (Present, Practice, Produce) methodology.
The presentation finished with a discussion of which approach is better suited to develop students’ communicative skills.