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.
14 June, 2014
Michael Philips

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.

Reported By Dave Pite
24 May, 2014
Rob Waring

Foreign teacher frustration in junior and high schools at forced student memorization of outdated unused vocabulary (and syntax)—usually administered by colleagues entirely in Japanese, right from ‘sit down’ and ‘open your books’— was vindicated by Waring’s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.

Reported By Dave Pite
8 March, 2014
Colin Thompson

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.

Reported By Dave Pite
11 January, 2014
Robert Murphy, Rick Eller, Zack Robertson, Joe Simpson

After telling us about the recent neurolinguistic conferences in Quito and Boston, Murphy introduced a list of 42 maxims that have been synthesized with colleagues (http://fab-efl.com/) from hundreds of books and scientific articles in and around the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education, which he invited us to consider and connect for better EFL teaching in our classes.
Simpson followed with extensions on numbers 20 and 21, discussing the various effects of sleep upon our brains, which is beneficial for learning in general, and some specific ways that it is good for language learning in particular. Because, according to the first maxim, emotion drives learning, Eller begins his children’s classes with pictures, the wilder the better. He explained how positive and negative experiences throughout a lifetime uniquely shape our emotions and how tapping into them can be fruitfully exploited. Robertson noted that our thinking processes have evolved to anticipate things before they happen, as a survival mechanism, and that they filter out mundane or irrelevant stimuli and how that can be exploited for language teaching.
Our interest and imaginations piqued, Murphy then organized discussion in small groups of new collective insights and changes that might be effected in our teaching.

Reported By Dave Pite
14 September, 2013
Paul Collett, Trevor Holster

Collett gave us an introduction to the R statistical package. With a huge user base of smart statisticians, R is also much cheaper than comparable programs; it’s free and easy to download (one click for Mac) and use, though commands have to be typed in like the original DOS programs. All packages have Help PDF files included and there are many tutorials, books and guides. Input data is standard Excel format. He ran us through a survey – of reliability tests measuring different aspects of the scale of self-regulated learners, pointing out that the system saves all past entries, facilitating returning to a project at any stage, and then showed how to use the package for various types of data analysis. Holster’s presentation reviewed Rasch's simple concept of "specific objectivity" (to gain a more objective picture of student performance than raw scores can give us by seeing how such things as rater bias and item difficulty affect those scores for a specific test/task) and then demonstrated Rasch analysis using data from a multiple-choice vocabulary test and from judged ratings of classroom presentations.

Reported By Dave Pite
8 June, 2013
Michael Phillips

Introducing himself via “googlegangers” to kick off a light-hearted sampling of aspects of linguistics as an alternative to the usual microanalysis dictated by our profession, by stepping back and looking at the big picture of what language really is, Phillips gave us a three-session approach to defining and understanding what language codes embody and represent, examining idiolects and language identity and challenging participant notions of correctness, acceptability and accommodation through diglossic issues.
Citing our students as examples, Phillips reminded us that knowing the language was more than just knowing the grammar and that agreement and systematic behavior regarding language use, as well as appropriacy and semantics, influence our using it differently from how they do.
Viewing a picture triggered different images in our brains; watching some movie clips highlighted different idiolects among speakers and the emerging dialects of non-standard English with various types of fillers employed, rife with modern slang for solidarity building. We then attempted to describe elements of our own idiolects, with their various accents and lexical items.
Finally, a discussion between standard and non-standard speakers of English—Noam Chomsky and Ali G—illustrated appropriacy and marked language in an amusing way

Reported By Dave Pite
11 May, 2013
Rob Waring

Waring organized his presentation into three parts. In part one, he reviewed the current online reading environment, first noting how common reading online has become across many markets, while pointing out the plus and minus features of reading online. EFL learners, for example, often do not know enough high frequency words, and the online texts can be difficult to understand. One solution is graded readers, which are becoming more available online. These however, pose problems such as the cost involved for the user, as well as lack of adaptability to the learner.

In part two, Waring focused on online vocabulary learning. After reviewing concepts important to language learning, such as the form-meaning relationship of words and the deeper meaning of words, he brought the Kitakyushu JALT attendees through different web sites devoted to different aspects of vocabulary learning. Again, good points as well as deficiencies were pointed out.

Waring offered his solution in part three. It is a non-profit web site that he is creating with Charlie Brown. The site addresses all the issues explained in the presentation. It is helpful for writers of extensive reading texts, or for anyone creating texts for use in classes. On the site, there are texts, leveled according to ER Foundation levels, and vocabulary learning and practice sections. One main point is the adaptability that this site provides. The content is free. Teachers as well as students will have wealth of information available for learning, teaching and research. Waring concluded his presentation by encouraging submission of texts to the site.

Reported By Linda Joyce
13 April, 2013
Alun Roger

Alun Roger briefly touched on the history and evolution of this “small-talk” testing program; his immediate concern was training his audience in the step by step process of how to administer it-- hoping for argument and disagreement from us to facilitate understanding.
First clarifying the distinction between transactional and interactional speaking, Roger stressed the emphasis is upon the latter—to develop and maintain social bonds rather than simply exchange information successfully. In this mode speakers tend to jump from topic to topic quickly and frequently (high topic turnover) with conversational listening (confirmation and engagement) overlapping the conversation.
In small groups, we simulated a “norming” session, critical to the test’s reliability, where we watched a couple of videos of paired-student conversations, discussed how to rate them and then compared with our total group. This “socialization period” develops inter-rater reliability and rater orientation. Step two is getting the candidates into the test room that has been set up to ensure they are accurately identified and scored. They talk together for eight to ten minutes, followed by quietly closing the test, and evaluation.
Our attempts at cooperative, relative ratings gave us a good taste of the criteria involved in this essential type of assessment.

Reported By Dave Pite
9 March, 2013
Neil Millington

To facilitate discussion on the current and potential use of social media in the language-learning classroom, Millington presented his research interspersed with opportunities to relate it to our own experience and situations. The aim of his study was to achieve a better understanding of the ways students are using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites; focus groups were utilized rather than individual interviews to get a truer, more candid picture of individual use patterns that might be exploited for language instruction.
After describing the history and growth of online communication, Millington suggested we consider the extent to which it should be encouraged as a supplementary educational tool -- whether in class time, whether included in teachers’ personal networks. Other discussion topics focused on ways in which computer mediated communication was changing the language learning process and some common types of autonomous usage and popular topics as well as the variation in the amount of English used between students at different ability and confidence levels. A developing cultural awareness among wired participants, world-wide musical trends, favorite videos, various food cultures and other discussion topics further illuminated possibilities for exploitation of this new phenomenon of daily life in language teaching and learning.

Reported By Dave Pite
9 February, 2013
Linda K. Kadota

Kadota first asked how many of us taught poetry and used iPods or other technology. She said many teachers are afraid of poetry. Her classes begin with riddles, which is a good and fun way to get students thinking outside of the box. (What’s a deer with no eyes? No idea.) This starts them thinking about words and meanings in new ways; some get the answers, some come up with new answers. Motivation is vital; if teachers cannot maintain it, classes will fail.

Incorporating into the classroom the five basic types of multimedia—text, video, sound, graphics and animation--we can use technology to help students better access the English language and appreciate the existence of multiple levels of meaning within it. At first students cannot imagine they can write poetry—but realize by the end that they are poets. Among many examples of zany and innovative poetry on her handout is the url of a web-based concrete poetry generator and new verses generated from Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, a text designed for teaching fourth grade students in the U.S. The handout also included compelling lists of the benefits of classroom multimedia use for both students and teachers.

Reported By Dave Pite