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.
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
12 January, 2013
Takashi Uemura

TOEIC vocabulary seminar applying CLIL approach

Kitakyushu JALT January 12, 2013

Uemura finds that the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach successfully combines cognitive/academic language proficiency (CALP) and basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) (Cummins, 1984) to transcend traditional methods and improve learner performance. Scaffolding and translanguaging are vital to his method, based on a "4 C Framework" (communication, culture, context and cognition).
An eikaiwa teacher for six years, Uemura began by asking us to visualize his presentation from a learner's point of view; some are intrinsically motivated to study TOEIC, others want raises, promotions or overseas positions. For relevance, he integrates finance and accounting into his course, defining meanings of key words in context. As a holistic overview of his teaching philosophy, Uemura started by displaying several vocabulary items of these fields for volunteers to read and guess meaning. He showed indistinct sketches of famous people to identify. The three-letter initials of corporate titles were displayed and we guessed what they were short for. Tongue-in-cheek, Uemura then listed the assets and liabilities of (his) marriage to parallel such considerations with a corporate relationship (including shareholders equity)-- to introduce vocabulary and continued with a clozed written discussion of a tantalizing topic relevant to both relationships, i.e. Why can't you receive all your bonus?

Reported By Dave Pite
10 November, 2012
various presenters

In “The Ups and Downs of Student Presentations” Malcolm Swanson outlined his rationale for these projects, noting the usual reasons for errors as being top-heavy on media and difficult to understand due to lack of speaking practice. Walking students through step by step is how he overcomes these problems, giving them exercises with broken presentations they have to repair and directing them towards the plethora of online apps available to help them.
Ai Murphy told us about “Brain Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. After telling us why we eat, she connected Nutrition and Education—explaining how and why what we eat when affects our ability to study and learn.
Connecting “Neurons and Good Teaching”, Robert Murphy explained how cognition occurs due to our networks of a quadrillion connections in a superdynamic context of top-down versus bottom-up learning driven by emotion.
“The Strategic Role of L1 in L2 Learning Environments” was explained by Michael Phillips, who pointed out that language teachers often find it unavoidable to switch between the two, finding the first language necessary for smooth task instruction, metalinguistic explanation, class management, discipline and creating a rapport with students. Some stress the importance of one over the other; neither strategy indicates a lack of knowledge per se.
Judith Rennels told us about setting up a Self-Access Learning Center and the challenges of translating a teacher-centered into a learner-friendly environment—sometimes making SALC activities a mandatory part of courses is the only way to ensure it gets used. She noted how some aspects of the SALC were popular and resulted in spontaneous English usage.
Charles Ashley described his experience of “Teaching Pronunciation” in Japan where, in many classroom, the 44 English phonemes are crunched into 21 katakana ones, intonation and rhythm notwithstanding. Considering the history of English pronunciation, he questions whether katakana is an acceptable accent.
Margaret Orleans pointed out that Japanese students are not taught English punctuation because their teachers are not comfortable with it and this hinders their reading comprehension in the language. She gave examples of how punctuation may be graphically illustrated to illuminate English for students.

Reported By Dave Pite
6 October, 2012
Carol Rinnert

From a three-hour presentation delivered in half the time, we got an impression of what is involved in researching the development of English writing abilities among EFL students in Japan.
In the U.S. Rinnert was teaching composition at Boise State University and researching Japanese writers there, finding they tended to go from specific to general, in contrast to their American counterparts. She came to Japan and teamed up with Hiroe Kobayashi at Hiroshima University, encountering new trends in multilingualism, with a tendency to downplay the hitherto favored focus on monolingual mastery of the target language and the realization that intercultural speakers and writers are potentially superior role models. Attention is shifting to Vivien Cook’s (1991) notion of multicompetence (the compound state of a mind with two grammars) as a standard of evaluation.
Results were reported of Rinnert and Kobayashi’s long-term, multi-stage research project and their implications for improving multicompetent academic writing. Diagrams illustrated essay structures in three different languages as demonstrated by different writers; “think-aloud” techniques helped show changes over time and how repertoires of writing knowledge expand and are internalized. Discussion followed regarding adaptation of this model and implications for teaching, such as goals and methods of writing instruction.

Reported By Dave Pite
8 September, 2012
Michael Phillips

Phillips first posited the need for a new theory of education to cover 21st century changes in information processing and communication technologies. We all brainstormed together and watched a short film illustrating how fast things are changing and thought about whether new critical thinking skills needed in the real world are being given to students in the modern classroom—or if it is just same old, at a faster speed of delivery. Digital literacy is moving from learning and storing to accessing information; creating has supplanted evaluating.
Siemens (2004/5) maintains that behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism need a concept driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly changing knowledge foundations. After a theoretical review of connectivist learning theory considering new meanings of ‘learning and knowledge’ to meet the needs of learners in the digital age, present and future, we were encouraged to discuss in small groups how it would all impact on our teaching practice.
The presentation finished with a thought-provoking video clip which outlined just some of the plethora of ways and means of accessing information on the web—and underscored the necessity of good teachers to disseminate it all into something students can relate and respond to.

Reported By Dave Pite
14 July, 2012
various presenters

Creating bilingual brains in the classroom, from the neuroscience of lesson design through personal construct psychology, effects of music in the classroom, brain food, dyslexic students, infant phoneme acquisition, motivating learners with a Confucian heritage culture and the Zen of language acquisition, there was something for everyone at our three-day conference held at Kitakyushu University. Battling the heat was a challenge but we survived; the occasional spontaneous laughter therapy sessions having a positive and cohesive effect. The essential role of emotion in learning was stressed throughout and impromptu juggling sessions were a part of focusing exercises for teachers and students. Pecha-Kucha presentations included motivating with technology, activities for instilling rhythms of English, narratives for oral development and the relationship between the amygdala and creativity. Presenters from Israel spoke on the special challenges of bringing their widely divergent immigrant population up to an equally high level of English proficiency.
Held together by “power sessions” every morning and afternoon, that included synthesis of our collective insights at the end of each day, the vision of mind, brain and ELT was exhaustively investigated and discussed throughout this conference, with first-time speakers and old hands cooperatively leading about fifty participants through various new and fresh approaches to the ongoing challenge of language teaching.

Reported By Dave Pite
9 June, 2012
Mark Gibson, Gareth Steele, Lawrence Chivers

Alternating between individual rotating presentations and discussion in small groups or collectively, these three school owners shared a lot of very useful information on starting up a new school or improving or expanding on an existing business, and ways of attracting and keeping students in any size or scale of private language teaching. After outlining their range of discussion from starting up through keeping going, marketing and management, they focused in on the particulars of this line of business, starting with location, licensing, pricing, size and curriculum. Marketing advice included flyers, web-pages, word of mouth, billboard advertising and print media, very welcome for anyone interested in getting more students, whether on a large or small scale, in addition to such insights as regarding potential competition as potential cooperation—where teachers can pass on students to a more appropriate class level elsewhere and expect the same in return. Useful direction regarding what one needs to succeed included tips on getting everything done whether you like it or not as well as maintaining good communication with staff, students and parents, remembering that no complaints does not necessarily mean no problems, and generally getting most of the fundamental right most of the time.

Reported By Dave Pite
12 May, 2012
Colin Thompson

Thompson spoke on current trends in task based learning (TBL) and tools to promote speaking practice. He showed us several interactive speaking tasks and discussed advantages and disadvantages of using them to focus on communication and grammar. We learned how teachers could design such tasks for their own classroom use, emphasizing the importance of pre-teaching them and vocabulary so that students can focus on performance. We all had fun with the activity he showed us using a short video segment from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. In pairs, one person turned their back to the video, while the other described what was happening. The person with their back to the video had to make quick notes as to what they understood was happening. Then together we watched the video and compared the notes to it. We all thought that it would be fun for most students (even adults) and challenging. This TBL activity can be used for any level of students by using level appropriate material, such as still pictures for low-level students with timed viewing, or slower paced (muted) animation. Tom and Jerry is good for advanced students with its fast paced action and no speaking by the characters.

Reported By Charles Ashley