Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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Gifu Chapter

Saturday, November 7, 2015
David Barker
Brent Simmonds
John Spiri

Participants this month were treated to a preview performance of JALT presentations by three of Gifu’s finest. Firstly, David Barker presented on the topic, “What do we know about language teaching and learning?”. Barker argued that there are two types of ‘knowing’, which are: 1) being aware of the truth of something, and 2) being convinced or certain of something. The problem is that some ELT professionals assert they ‘know’ something as being true (type 1), whereas in reality, it is knowledge that is contestable (type 2).
Barker went on to say that despite the volumes of research that have been done in SLA, we still do not really know how people learn languages. Even so, there are some things which seem to hold true, such as languages are learned, not taught; it’s all about motivation; learning a language requires a huge investment of time and effort; anyone can do it; a lot of what research tells us is wrong; it’s all about balance; a combination of formal and informal learning works best; and learners need training
Next, Brent Simmonds spoke about ‘Climate Change’, and the efforts of JALT’s Environmental Committee to promote sustainable education, raise awareness of environmental issues and, in particular, to create a sustainable conference.
Finally, John Spiri presented on ‘Extended talks for learning and assessment’. Spiri outlined some ways in which pictures can be used to launch students into extended turns, speaking to their partner for one or two minutes at a time. Spiri asserted that ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, so can be used to good effect in the language classroom.

Reported by Paul Wicking
Sunday, October 25, 2015
by Ben Shearon

Shearon spoke as a man who has been reading, learning and synthesizing all kinds of information about money and investing for more than the last three years of his life. A fellow expatriate English teacher, living and working in Japan, Shearon warned about the three biggest dangers to financial security: doing nothing, doing the wrong thing, and getting ripped off. The ideas and ways of thinking about wealth that he presented will help guard against all of these dangers.
Basically, the key to getting on track to financial security is to change your mindset, and then change your habits. In order of importance, good financing is dependent upon psychology, spending, earning, planning, and investing. And of these, spending and earning are particularly important. The idea is simple but it’s true: earn as much as you can from a variety of income streams, and then save as much of that as possible. Various avenues for investing in Japan were also explained. Shearon often repeated that the two best books about principles of investing are, “Your Money or Your Life” (Robin) and “Millionaire Teacher” (Hallam). Those unable to attend this helpful presentation are advised to get their hands these texts.

Reported by Paul Wicking
Saturday, September 26, 2015
by Aya Kawakami

Kawakami opened by sharing how awkward she feels presenting in front of a large group of people. Presenting is quite different from acting, because an actor puts on a mask, which gives a sense of security. The dramatic mask used in acting can be put to good effect in the communication classroom.
Difficulties in the communication classroom can arise with students being shy, unmotivated or apathetic, and textbooks lacking authentic dialogues with emotion and depth. Drama techniques can address these issues by focusing on emotion, exploring conflict, and examining physicality, tone and non-verbal messages. Kawakami demonstrated this by using a dialogue from a popular communication course book. The dialogue was explored through “hot seating” and improvisation. In another activity, characters were developed from a role-play scenario and then a scene was improvised based on that situation and those characters.
It was also shown how drama activities can be extended beyond the classroom, through writing exercises (such as a journal entry as the character or a script), visual exercises (a poster or a comic), and making a movie using smart phones.

Reported by Paul Wicking

Gunma Chapter

Sunday, June 11, 2017
Harry Meyer
Yoko Kamo
Daniel Hooper
Yoko Miyazaki

A Short Workshop for Intercultural Relations
by Harry Meyer - Gunma Prefectural Women's University
As the world is becoming more globalized, the importance of intercultural education in Japan continues to increase. This very short workshop focused on something that most of us take for granted - personal space. Participants started with an examination of their own personal space, followed by a look at personal space in different cultures, and finished with a discussion. This presentation:
Made participants aware of various cultural perspectives regarding personal space.
Made participants aware that foreigners are not one monolithic block, but are culturally diverse and may seem strange to each other.
Made Japanese aware that their own behavior may be strange to people of other cultures.
Had participants consider the importance of their own use of space in the classroom and its impact in intercultural
Using Kobanashi in a Beginner Level English Classroom
by Yoko Kamo - Gunma Language Center
This was a report of a short project to use kobanashi in a beginner level English class of 6th grade students. Kobanashi are short jokes that rakugo performers tell to warm up the audience before launching the main story of rakugo. Performing kobanashi in English was shown to be one of the excellent ways to learn English regardless of age. This presentation explained its educational effects by showing students' performance movies as well as some kobanashi stories.

Self-access Learning in eikaiwa: Attitudes, Reflections and Challenges
by Daniel Hooper - Kanda University of International Studies
This presentation was based upon two recent studies concerned with the need for and viability of self-access language learning among adult students in the under-researched private English conversation school (eikaiwa) sector. Language learning in eikaiwa schools is unique within Japanese ELT in many ways and, therefore, any instructor needs to be aware of these context-specific affordances, constraints and ideological hurdles if they are to create realistic and sustainable provisions for self-access learning that will engage students. This presentation addressed potential contextual constraints, highlight relevant findings, and present practical ideas for teachers interested in promoting self-study in eikaiwa schools.

An Activity Exploiting L1
by Yoko Miyazaki - Takasaki City University of Economics
Miyazaki believes students’ L1 can be positively integrated into teaching methodology for lower-level adult classes in Japan, where often more than 90% of students share the same L1. She shared an activity which utilizes L1, or Japanese, to help learners establish the linkages between pragmatic functions expressed in L1 and those in L2. The learners were encouraged to grasp the meanings of the English sentences by chunking them and applying equivalent Japanese to them. They were also encouraged to be aware of the form of the English sentences through repeating and shadowing exercises.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Jun Harada
David Gann
Kevin Miller
Fuad Olajuwon

Revising is Fun
by Jun Harada
Many students often have trouble expressing themselves through writing due to their poor vocabulary and low confidence. One way to overcome this is to be witty and use simple language. Harada showed that Even non-native speakers can excel by exploring many possibilities to express the same message. Attendees were shown the fun aspects of revising writing.

Rescuing a Dying Class: How to Utilize Card Trick Instructional Videos with Supporting Online Language Learning Resources to Develop 4-Skills Competence
by David Gann
Gann showed how a successful single-lesson magic activity became a launchpad for creating an entire toolbox of developed methods and materials for extended student-centered magic-related small-group projects. Attendees of this presentation learned to make use of these materials which are freely accessible to any interested educators at criticallyminded.com.

Correlation between Extensive Reading and Intuitive Grammatical Confidence
by Kevin Miller
This presentation introduced a extensive reading study which utilizes two online learning platforms, X-reading and Error spotter, in order to illuminate any connection between the amount of extensive reading and improvements in learners’ grammatical confidence or accuracy. Preliminary descriptive data showed improvement in grammatical confidence and accuracy over the semester; however, this improvement’s correlation with the extensive reading word count remains to be seen.

English Self-Study: How Interactive Programs Boost Learning Imperatives
by Fuad Olajuwon
Online learning imperatives are an excellent way to supplement English self/study, as well as help educators keep up with their students in terms of frequency of practice. This presentation covered the pros and cons of using such materials as duolingo and clozemaster.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, April 23, 2017
by Steve Jugovic

Many teaching certifications typically include various instructional approaches and methods but often exclude the students’ important cognitive processes of how actual learning takes place. Why do students have difficulty sitting and concentrating for extended periods or forget recently taught content so quickly? Is the student staring out the window as a result of boredom, a limited attention span or actually consolidating the information? Over the past decade or so, advances in neuroimaging technology have given us significantly greater understanding of the human brain, leading to the emergence of Mind, Brain and Education, Science (MBE). Further to this, NeuroELT - where neuroscience informs language teaching, is providing valuable content and supporting teachers in Japan and abroad through the JALT Brain SIG and FAB conferences.

As NeuroELT relates to MBE, this session was applicable for a variety of teaching contexts. Amongst the broad spectrum of research areas, the presenter included topics regarding the crucial keys to learning-attention and memory, the importance of intermittent movement, exercise and other biological aspects such as sleep and nutrition. Gunma JALT members' questions, comments, and discussion were so enthusiastic that Jugovic didn't even get to his great workshop conclusion! Through this interactive presentation all attendees moved a little and were able to transfer and retrieve the information they received - all vital NeuroELT learning skills!

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, February 12, 2017
by Samuel Nfor

Nfor (the N is silent) presented results from a study which investigated Japanese students studying English who participated in an applied drama project emerged with improved pronunciation skills. Students’ sketches were recorded and transcribed to identify pronunciation problems so as to make informed interventions in a series of lessons and were again recorded and transcribed after the intervention to assess progress made in addressing the original pronunciation problems. The study also used questionnaires and interviews at the start and end of the course to gauge students’ enthusiasm and to analyse their self-assessment. The study concluded that language taught through applied drama supplied a motivation for positive change in the students'; pronunciation of English.

After a break, Nfor led participants in various drama-based activities including rhythm-based group chants and a charades-like pantomime game. To finish, he led a wide-ranging discussion about teaching and correcting pronunciation, goals of pronunciation instruction, and pronunciation role-models.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, January 22, 2017
by Richard Sampson

Whatever our teaching context, as practitioners we often consider it our own task to “motivate” students. Cookbooks of “motivational strategies” for teachers abound, propounding the idea that motivation in the classroom is, in large part, down to the teacher.

This workshop introduced participants to a more complex view of motivation that places agentic individuals – students and teachers – and interactions – with others in the class group, with opportunities afforded, with ideas – at the centre of classroom motivational processes. The session began with a brief outline of two currently prevalent motivation theories and one scientific theory which were drawn on throughout: Self Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002), The L2 Motivational Self System (Dörnyei, 2009), and Complex Systems Theory. The majority of the session then was turned over to allow participants to take part in a number of classroom activities that encourage students and teachers to explore their own motivation and share ideas across their class group. Activities included those intended to encourage realization of a more communicative approach to learning, explore messages and expectations from society about English, share ideas about classroom and future English use, and co-adapt motivation through collaborative activities and projects. The presenter also occasionally referred to some of the reflections and realizations emergent from students in his past learning groups through undertaking these activities.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, November 13, 2016
by Barry Keith

Research shows that the faster we read, the better we understand. Why is that? The reading rates of 500+ first-year students majoring in engineering at a Japanese university were tested using timed readings. Streamed by a standardized placement test, students learned English in a coordinated curriculum. They read extensively toward a target of 220,000 words per annum. Their reading rates were tested three times in the academic year: at the beginning of the first semester, at the end of the first semester and at the end of the second semester.

Keith's presentation reported on a comparison of the reading rates of students in five, lower-level classes (n=150) in the second semester. Three classes served as a control group and two classes formed a treatment group (n=55). Both groups used the same textbooks and participated in an extensive reading program (reading target = 140,000 words). The treatment group practiced timed readings for 12 weeks by reading 300-word passages and answering five comprehension questions without referring to the passage. Students recorded their reading rates and comprehension scores on a chart. Although the control group had 5%-11% reading rate gains in the final reading rate test, the treatment classes increased by 70% and 81%. Students' understanding of the texts also increased as they read faster, These results led to the adoption of timed reading practice for all the lower-level classes in the following academic year. Keith's results suggested that a combination of extensive reading and timed readings will greatly benefit students’ reading fluency.

The second part of the meeting consisedt of our chapter's Annual General Meeting (AGM), in which we selected officers to administer and lead our group for the coming year. The positions selected were Chapter President, Treasurer, Membership Chair, Publicity Chair, and Program Chair, Hospitality Chair, Speakeasy Editor, and Facility Chair. Details of the AGM will be included in our yearly Chapter Report which will be posted on our webpage.

Reported by John Larson
Monday, October 24, 2016
by Anne Burns

Have you ever wanted to explore challenges in your teaching or work to further understand learners and their engagement with activities in your classroom? JALT Gunma and Gunma University were the proud co-sponsors of an action research workshop with Professor Anne Burns from the University of New South Wales (Australia). This was a very hands-on session that provided attendees with some steps to get started with their own action research. Participants were given opportunities to share their ideas about language teaching and learning with other teachers and to develop some new ways to understand what goes on in their classrooms.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, October 9, 2016
by Christopher Philip Madden

On October 9th, Chris showed the participants at Kyoai Gakuen College results from his research project utilizing a “Secret” Facebook group where students upload numerous speaking videos. He instructed Gunma JALT members how to create a secret group, and suggested numerous activities for how to use it to increase students’ talking time, listening time, English writing and even motivation, all outside the classroom.

Also, Chris showed Gunma JALT attendees two YouTube videos. In the first, Steve Jobs talked about collaboration, and was an appropriate level for any university student. Chris shared his worksheet with cloze, discussion questions, and writing homework. In the second, “Drive” by Dan Pink, regarded motivation, and with the worksheet could be used with higher level students. In it, Pink proved through two social experiments that external incentives hamper cognitive performance. Then he outlined the three vital factors necessary for motivation in all of our lives; autonomy, mastery and purpose. This second video served as a point of departure for a fruitful discussion among Gunma JALT participants.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Junko Yamanaka
David Gann
Daniel Hooper
Ming Qu

Lecture 1: What Should Every Teacher Know about Extensive Reading?
by Junko Yamanaka
Experts state that extensive reading is indispensable for all language programs. The presenter agrees. She believes that ER plays an important role in the paradigm shift second language education is going through right now, and that it has potential to bring drastic changes in the Japanese EFL environment. In this session, “What is ER?”, “Why ER?” and “Keys to success in ER” was discussed.

Lecture 2: Developing Critical Thinking and Language Skills
by Junko Yamanaka
In today’s world, helping students develop critical thinking skills is an important role for educators. MEXT proposes it can be most effectively done in language classes. The presenter feels it makes sense. In language classes, language, communication, critical thinking and cooperative learning can be naturally and effectively integrated. This session focused on how EFL teachers in Japan can develop students’ critical thinking and language skills at the same time, while students are involved in communication, working cooperatively.

Presentation 1: Critical Thinking Skills Instruction through Deception
by David Gann
This demonstration of a collaborative five-skills magic trick showed what critical thinking skills instruction means in an EFL learning environment.

Presentation 2: Success Closer to Home: Utilizing Near Peer Role Models to Empower English Conversation School Students
by Daniel Hooper
This study suggested the value of NPRMs in empowering students by providing motivational support along with evidence that English proficiency is not something monopolized by native speakers.

Presentation 3:Japanese Teachers' and Students' Attitudes towards Peer Assessment
by Ming Qu
This presentation showed the results and offered some recommendations on the usage of peer assessment.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, July 24, 2016
by Alison Stewart

Exploratory Practice, also known as "inclusive practitioner research" (Allwright & Hanks, 2009), is a set of principles for conducting research on learning with students. Different from "action research", EP places an emphasis on the learners' concerns or "puzzles", or on seeking a better understanding of issues that face the class as a whole. Rather than finding solutions to specific problems, the focus in EP is always on improving "quality of life". In this workshop, participants were introduced to EP through the experiences of three researchers in different teaching contexts, before going on to reflect on and discuss "puzzles" in their own teaching and learning situations.


Alison Stewart is a former coordinator of the Learner Development SIG and now edits the SIG's newsletter, Learning Learning. She has been involved in the last three SIG book projects, as an editor and contributor, including a chapter, co-authored with Robert Croker and Judith Hanks on Exploratory Practice.

Alison Stewart氏はLearner Development SIGの元コーディネーターで、現在は同グループの会報Learning Learningを編集している。Robert CrokerやJudith HanksとのEPについての共著を含め、過去最近3つのプロジェクトに編集者や貢献者として参加している。

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, June 26, 2016
by Nicole Gallagher

In this presentation, Gallagher and attendees discussed about how we can foster critical thinking in our language learning classes. She began by sharing some of her own teaching puzzles that she met in her first year as an instructor at the Center for English Discussion Class at Rikkyo University. Gallagher also talked about her own experiences of practitioner research over the past few months. The presentation finished with a useful discussion of ideas and experiences employing critical thinking in classrooms.

Reported by John Larson
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Mark Deadman
Sandra Wigmore & Florence Ito Valderama
Jonathan DeNardis

Gunma Chapter welcomed three presenters from Saitama, and one home-grown speaker, in this second-half of the Saitama-Gunma Dual My Share.

Logical Directives
by Jonathan DeNardis
This presentation introduced a novel replacement for the be-verb/auxiliaries that DeNardis calls Logical Directives. Logical Directives are a new way of teaching the hard-to-teach helping verbs. This tour de force took participants from the common difficulties Japanese have learning English, through circles, dots, lines, and supercomputers, and landed on a cute little character named Tenten.
Jonathan DeNardis can be reached at Jonathan@hardlyenglish.com

Building Friendly Classroom Communities
by Sandra Wigmore & Florence Ito Valderama
This presentation helped participants explore the role of creativity in the classroom, both in the sense of helping students to express their unique creative identity, and also by helping them to think about and use language creatively, through a series of specially designed classroom activities using manipulatives. The activities presented were suitable for a broad range of students, from lower to high levels, and can be used alongside a wide range of course materials.
Sandra Wigmore & Florence Ito Valderrama can be reached at sandra.wigmore@gmail.com and renz17vito@gmail.com respectively

Day to Day Critical Thinking
by Mark Deadman
This presentation showed one teacher's experience starting January 2016 of using Day to Day challenges on the social website medium of Facebook to gather new ideas for critical thinking, teaching and self-reflection. This easy to do self-improvement exercise is free, convenient, accessible and sharing on nature. Participants were shown how it can be tailored it to their own needs.
Mark Deadman can be reached at markdeadman0@gmail.com

Reported by John Larson

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