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.
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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
14 April, 2012
Craig Lambert

From common notions of second language fluency to the basis for high-stakes decisions about it (recommendations for jobs or Phds.), Lambert walked us through some of the history of the various theories and methodologies that have been developed to define and propagate the teaching of conversation and discussed pros and cons of popular ways to teach it, from the Structural Approach in the 1950s to the Communicative Approach popular since the ‘80s. He pointed out how language which is acceptable and understandable among family or friends is not good enough for the workplace or school, and that students need to know this. In order to focus Communicative Language Teaching to promote second language development there are many advantages to task-based learning, such as the focus on actual communication, meaningful outcomes and connections to future needs—although it requires an egalitarian value system often found to be at odds with Asian classroom values. Finally, Lambert showed us a Fluency Module, to facilitate the putting into practice of these previously presented ideas for teaching fluency.

Reported By Dave Pite
10 March, 2012
Covenant Players

Our chapter was treated to another session with the Covenant Players; this time it was Kate, Cathy and Kurt who gave us some new tools to take back to the classroom. Introducing themselves as actors rather than teachers, they explained their purpose as being to encourage speaking to break down barriers of hesitation from inhibitions—a major requirement for successful language practice.
With their repertoire of over 3,000 plays, bare stage style, they often work on a thematic basis—including teaching culture with teaching language. They start with getting ideas from the students as to setting and mood, get them involved right from the beginning. Invite them to imagine they’re in a large auditorium instead of a classroom and add the accoutrements such as lights, curtains, stage, seats, aisle, mike, etc., pulling out the vocabulary and reinforcing it and grammar with repetitions.
Spelling each other off seamlessly in speaking, demonstrating and whiteboard writing, they walked us through games and skits for stress and intonation awareness. Reminiscent of Theater Sports and other improv organizations, they got everyone involved in real educational entertainment. These workshops are based on their ELCP – English Language Communication Program that they use in schools for ESL students.

Reported By Dave Pite
11 February, 2012
Paul Collett, Kristen Sullivan, Malcolm Swanson

The trend in faculty development is towards accountability, more awareness of student needs and building courses accordingly, with bridging of levels becoming an important issue. With this in mind, Collett, Sullivan and Swanson are teaching their students how to learn, in tandem with presentation of EFL course material. They feel that students tend to be reliant on instructors to ensure that they are making an effort to learn so it is important to get goals straight from the beginning of the course and then reflect on them again half-way through and at the end (“goaling”). Course objectives presented very explicitly via “can-do statements” start self-directed learning cycles, keeping their well-understood goals firmly in mind—facilitated with “Study Progress Journals”. Students need to understand self-assessment, to know that something may not have succeeded not because they are stupid but because they need to reevaluate their methodology. This results in what is called English Improvement Goals and Objectives (E.I.G.O.)
As an illustration of preparation for this type of class, we individually examined some sample textbook units for useful learning/teaching points, wrote them out as “can-do statements” and then pooled our results on the whiteboard for discussion.

Reported By Dave Pite