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.
Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.
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.
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.
Adapting Board Games for Language Practice: A Workshop
Margaret Orleans (Seinan Jo Gakuin University)
Kitakyushu JALT, January 14, 2012
Following the advice of Guy Cook (1997) that students should be playing with their new language right from the start, Orleans gave us, and got us to think of, ideas of how to facilitate enjoyable repetition of useful vocabulary and grammatical structures, enhance awareness of lexical rules (and the extent to which they can be bent and broken) and ensure student investment through personalization of the target language. From her large collection of commercial board games, Orleans started with the popular Clue, eliciting opinions on its usefulness in the language classroom and how it might be adapted for specific teaching objectives. A principle recommendation was to have students devise their own materials as much as possible to encourage interest and ensure the level is appropriate. Other considerations are amount of exposure to language coupled with extent of encouragement of competition and argument to get the spoken language out.
Following this, in pairs and threes we learned new games and devised possible adaptations to share and discuss with the total group, then received printouts of rules for several more. On the whiteboard, Orleans illustrated examples of how she had stimulated her students’ creative writing by exploiting various board game materials.
Andy Boon started by defining motivation and then got us into groups to brainstorm and pool ideas about why Japanese learners may not be motivated to study English, which he then commented and expanded upon. He showed us Maslow’s hierarchal diagram of student needs, followed by Dornyei’s motivational teaching practice model, to introduce some of his ideas for animating classes under the following headings: Breaking the ice, Nurturing group cohesion, Creative use of classroom space, Making it relevant, Novel uses of traditional ideas, Creative use of classroom materials and Encouraging self-reflection. After this abundance of techniques and ideas for drawing students into interested participation in their language learning, Boon asked us to share techniques we had seen or used to generate and maintain motivation and then encourage positive retrospective self-evaluation.
As a student of library science working on his second distance degree, Hicks is well-placed to advise regarding the improving access to research materials for English speakers in Japan. He introduced four sources of materials: academic libraries, subscription databases, personal research budgets and free online resources. He recommended considering the research community that will be using the journals that you subscribe to with your research budget and balancing the content
Japanese academic libraries are well-resourced by international standards and tend to contain about 25-30% English materials. He walked us through filtering information to get the most from online public access catalogs (OPAC), by using links to publishers’ webpages for better indexing.
Hicks also pointed out that the English language pages of government websites are not translations of the originals but actually separate and considerably skimpier versions-- so it is more useful to translate the original with free tools such as Google Chrome.
You can sometimes access institutional subscription databases and print out what you need if you are physically present in the library. You can also carry out more fruitful searches by ignoring the results list and going instead to the list on the left which provides more helpful links and search terms.
Charles Ashley reviewed the history of error correction and reported on his experience with a workbook to correct common errors, concluding that his students’ level was too low for them to recognize the errors and that teachers must be aware of the Been Here Too Long syndrome, in which they no longer recognize some errors.
Ai Murphy talked about the brain theory behind anger management and how it leads to better learning for our students and children.
Paul Collett outlined three student approaches to learning--mastery, performance, and performance avoidance—and detailed their implications for the classroom. He emphasized the need to teach students goal-setting through modeling and scaffolding.
Matthew Jenkins introduced three quick activities that can be adapted for students of all ages—the Janken Bon Voyage Mixer, the Vocabunator, and Hot Potatoes quizzes.
Margaret Orleans explained how she tries to create an English atmosphere in her classrooms with bulletin boards, computer games, and displays of student work.
Robert Murphy unveiled his formula for creating champion students—a mix of emotion, curiosity, empowerment through choice, and adequate sleep.
Steven Herder describes his epiphany after many years of classroom EFL teaching when he took an MA course in the subject as, having dutifully followed the Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) module for all those years, realizing that his students were simply “doing anything to get out of the classroom” and he needed to change that. Herder points out that “input can be controlled but output cannot be put in a can”—and that successful language learning first focuses on fluency, then accuracy and complexity (like kids do). Writing has an advantage over speaking in the luxury of time to work out how best to express what you want to say.
To this end, the first activity in his classes (duplicated in this presentation) is ten minutes of free writing—No dictionary, eraser, stopping or talking, with follow-up activities such as counting adjectives, words in the past tense or words using time-- and then putting them together in a scale. (Some classes double their average total word count over one year in this not particularly academically outstanding high school.) Herder then went on to describe a variety of innovative exercises which made a good personal introduction to his inspiring website: http://stevenherder.org
Rod Ellis reminded us that the main goal of second language instruction is to develop implicit knowledge-- because without it, you’re a lousy communicator. Implicit language learning occurs without intentionality, without awareness (beyond the level of noticing) of what has been learned—or that it has been learned, or how. This is how children learn their first language and their caregivers/ language teachers are providing all the input they need—without explicitly teaching them anything. (That comes later, in school, when they intentionally, consciously, explicitly try to help students become aware of the rules of grammar they have intuitively learned.)
Ellis encouraged us to consider the extent it is possible to facilitate the (essential) implicit understanding of a second or foreign language and its relationship with explicit instruction. He feels that confidence in communicating comes from building up implicit knowledge and that the lack of access to it by adult learners outside the classroom must be offset by appropriate exposure to it inside, with students discovering implicit rules for themselves. With a combination of presentation and discussion, Ellis guided us from awareness-raising through brainstorming of ways to facilitate that, which went way late and spilled over into a nearby café.
In a day so packed with presentations and discussions that attendees had to take notes while eating, but were fueled with Turkish coffee and cookies, about fifty people explored the implications of brain research for the EFL classroom. Robert S. Murphy began by comparing neurons to the reproductive system, in that excitation has to happen for transfer (of information) to take place. Students’ emotions have to be engaged, as in the scene from Dirty Harry curiosity had to be satisfied. Curtis Kelly followed up with an explanation of how to create a rewarding dopamine rush for students. Christopher Stillwell led an activity that simulated a cocktail party to help students realize how successful their listening can be even when they don’t understand 100% of the material. Marc Helgesen recapped the elements of happiness--which has more to do with people’s attitudes toward life than with the number of happy events in their lives--and showed how it enhances learning. Tim Murphey introduced the notion of mirror neurons, which are responsible for altruistic behavior, and screened a very moving appeal by his students to the Ministry of Education to improve the teaching of English. Hayato Mine and Suguru Goto explained a system of communication using pictures that is helpful for disabled children and those on the autism spectrum. Group discussions led by the presenters and sprinkled throughout the day helped attendees consolidate what they had learned and apply it to their own teaching situations.