Event Reports

Event reports from our chapters and SIGs.

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Shinshu Chapter

Saturday, April 23, 2016
Dr. Sue Fraser
Gregory Birch

SHINSHU: April – Teaching Presentation Skills: Process, Content, Performance, Evaluation. Presentations are a common activity in communicative English teaching in many contexts, ranging from simple in-class activities, to higher stakes speech contests and business presentations. How can teachers develop these skills in their learners in a systematic way? In an engaging and interactive presentation, speakers Gregory Birch and Dr. Sue Fraser shared their comprehensive approach to teaching presentation skills, first breaking content creation into six sub-components, including purpose, audience, and message. Together, they illustrated how these key concepts can be applied in both product and process approaches to teaching presentation skills through three examples: a self-introduction, a tourism-themed presentation for senior high school and college speech contests, and a formal product introduction for ESP learners. Fraser demonstrated the stages used to develop the first two presentation types, and Birch used examples of a local company/product introduction presentation, requiring learners to construct their speeches based on a model and analysis of its organization. Performance aspects of presentations, divided into voice, behavior, visuals, and ‘other,’ were then discussed, and a system for marking performance cues on a script was introduced. Finally, issues surrounding giving feedback, clarifying evaluation criteria, and the weighting of content and performance elements were considered. This included ideas for peer evaluation and active listening by assigning specific roles to different students in the audience (e.g. writing advice or asking questions). This in-depth and comprehensive treatment of presentation skills offered expert guidance for anyone involved in helping language learners to engage in public speaking.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Sunday, March 6, 2016
by Chiyuki Yanase

Yanase presented a “learning” (as opposed to “learner”) centered story-based approach for teachers of young learners. Before introducing the three basic segments of this approach (pre-story, core and follow-up activities), she discussed the reasons for using stories, factors involved in choosing them and different types of storytellers.

Yanase then had participants try a variety of pre-story activities including picture description, vocabulary games, prediction, word-mapping and story circles to arouse interest in the story. For the core segment, she recommended reading the story numerous times using various methods, starting with mainly the teacher reading and gradually progressing to more student involvement by asking them questions, having them complete sentences and doing shared reading, among other activities. For follow-up, Yanase introduced sequencing using picture cards, drawing pictures based on target vocabulary, post-story discussion, story cubes and acting out. All of these activities culminated in “Tell your story for a minute”, in which learners tell their own stories multiple times to multiple partners, improving with each time.

Participants came away with a myriad of practical, enjoyable ideas as well as a wealth of resources for learning through stories.

Reported by Mary Aruga
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Joe Mecha
Ivan Brown

Developing Intercultural Communicative Competence! Speakers Joe Mecha and Ivan Brown presented important aspects of intercultural communicative competence (ICC), both in terms of underlying theory and application. Mecha spoke about the need to preserve the connection between language and culture in communicative language teaching. He presented a thematic unit on how North Americans prepare for college, which was designed from an intercultural perspective. The activities in the unit gave students intercultural experiences such as filling out a college application from the U.S., and encouraged students to compare and contrast their culture with that of target culture, in this case of Canada and the U.S. Student feedback suggests potential to gain from a greater emphasis on cultural content. In the second presentation, Ivan Brown explored theoretical work in the field of ICC, from definitions of terms and concepts, to models by ICC theorists such as Byram’s (1997) framework consisting of five savoirs, or ‘knowings.’ He engaged the audience through opportunities to co-construct difficult-to-define terms such as ‘culture,’ ‘language,’ and ‘critical language awareness,’ complementing participants’ definitions with ideas that appear in the literature. Brown drew attention to assumptions such as equating culture with socio-political entities, and the importance of cultural schema and scripts for participating in a given culture. He discussed the view of ‘culture’ as a verb or process rather than a noun, and the opportunity to learn about one’s own culture through experiencing differences. Through both presentations, participants were invited to consider the role of culture in FL education.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Saturday, November 7, 2015
by Andy Boon

Inspire or perspire? Getting students speaking and Exploring worlds outside: Students as researchers by Andy Boon. In Inspire or perspire? Getting students speaking, Boon introduced a number of strategies which not only can help break the silence in the Japanese classroom but also get students engaged in meaningful communication. Activities from Cengage Learning’s Inspire series which were tried out by participants included “kaitenzushi”, “zigzag”, agree/disagree game and others involving images from the textbook, research using smart phones and eye contact. Ideas for projects which develop communicative language skills were also explained.

Boon further developed his project work theme in Exploring worlds outside: Students as researchers. After explaining the rationale behind his semester-long university student projects, he described the process from completing a research proposal to delivering a poster presentation to classmates. Numerous concrete tips were provided for research, monitoring, collecting primary and secondary data and sharing research findings. Boon concluded by describing students’ reactions to the overall learning experience.

Reported by Mary Aruga
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Cameron Romney
John Campbell-Larsen

Speakers Cameron Romney and John Campbell-Larsen presented on materials and methods for teaching spoken language. Romney spoke about best practices for creating supplementary materials that increase opportunities for interaction. He presented his four-step framework for designing materials that connect seamlessly to the textbook. Through the example of the “directions unit,” Romney illustrated how to make materials that transform giving directions into a relevant and authentic undertaking, in part by simplifying tasks while increasing the complexity of speaking required. He gave advice for designing handouts, including the importance of legible and larger typeface for less proficient readers.

In the next presentation, John Campbell-Larsen explained and demonstrated overlooked features that are critical for conversational spoken language, including discourse markers, and reported speech. Without the awareness and ability to use these features, students’ fluency will be limited. In one stand-out example, Japanese adjective repetition (“samui.” “samui desu ne.”) was contrasted with the upgrading of adjectives in English (“It’s cold.” “Yeah, freezing.”). Campbell-Larsen presented a template for extending speech, transforming robotic exchanges such as interview-style Q&A from transactional to extended speech that approaches norms of spoken discourse. Campbell-Larsen concluded with video showing students’ progress towards fluency after instruction in using features of spoken conversation.

Reported by Joe Mecha
Thursday, March 1, 2012
by Mari Nakamura

Mari Nakamura defines her Eikaiwa (English Square, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref) as ‘not a juku’.
Summarised her questionnaire results (of parents of children attending her school) to the question regarding “Attitudes to learning” as ‘quite negative as a whole through high Scholl and Center Examinations, and that students don’t know what to do with the English they have learned’.
Audience member (Japanese male with experience living overseas) said he had a ‘complex’ against learning English as a child, which other Japanese audience members agreed with. Our later presenter Atsuko has never lived overseas but told us she needed English to get published and to present overseas. Asked if she thought people also have a complex about learning maths (and I think people generally do) she explained that maths is not tested/assessed later, and the audience realised that we are not generally required to ‘perform’ in it. It was noted that we rarely hear people exclaiming “Oh, I can’t do maths” as an admission of guilt when we do hear this viz. English all the time (in Japan). It was further suggested that maths quickly becomes abstract & concerned with how we think/do logical processing, and quickly moves away from simple calculation/arithmetic.
Mari suggested that children now know much more than she did as a school child, but that they are now also far more aware of their status in class, have more access to technology (iPads, internet) and that they are far more worried about their ‘mistakes’. Of the 25% who responded to her questionnaire, all were mums and most responded “massively” – two or three page replies (she suggested this was a ‘listen to me’ plea).
Mari quoted respondents wrt lifestyle of children as
• Too busy
• Not safe to play outside
• HS ss have too much free time
• Children spend a lot of time alone with cell phones & PCs
The country’s “Nittori” education policy was accused of being “Slow and low” instead of the advertised “Slow & deep”, with MEXT (Ministry of Education & Science) now veering back to the opposite “cramming” extreme – schools in Ishikawa-ken adopting a sixth period in elementary schools + after school activities being accused of taking away free time, which ‘bugs’ all mums. Appropriate that children of that age being so busy they are having to learn time management skills?
Nakamura quoted respondents as having zero/near zero expectations of public school education, that school was all about going, not doing. Also, children have ‘too many choices’ of extra-curricular activities and are in a “keeping up with the Jones’s” mindset (audience comment that kids in the UK have too much free time with nothing to do).
Nakamura claimed that an holistic view of education is missing, and that education is being outsourced. Eg
• For creative input – send kids to art class
• For patience – send them to calligraphy class
• For respectfulness – send them to martial arts class
• For physical development – send them to swimming class
Nakamura closed by telling us she was being asked to teach phonics – which MEXT guidelines specifically prohibit being taught in elementary schools with the much-derided Eigo Noto textbook. (If mum knows best why don’t they vote?)
This left me wondering what the actual function of English classes was perceived as. Nakamura suggested English was now a pursuit outside of school because parents had fears about their children’s future job prospects, a pressure being felt from as young as three years old...’earlier the better’.
Bilingualism as a goal, based on fear rather than nurturing, is a very bad place for us to start from.

Reported by Jim George
Sunday, January 29, 2012
by Marcos Benevides

Marcos Benevides, author of the award-winning book, Whodunit, spoke about Task-Based Learning and Teaching (TBLT) at Shinshu JALT’s An Afternoon with ABAX. He began by making a distinction between TBLT and tasks. Since essentially anything assigned to a student could be labeled a task, some may think that they are employing task-based learning and teaching. Consequently, it’s important to discern that TBLT is a specific approach, and that not all tasks qualify as TBLT.

In order to help clear up any confusion, Mr. Benevides explained that TBLT is a subset of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), and generally has more structure, such as sequencing, recycling, and assessment.

In an ELT blog , Mr. Benevides outlined TBLT in six points:
Tasks should be authentic. The main goal is not linguistic. In his example of ordering a pizza, he points out that the main goal is to get the pizza, not to use certain grammatical or vocabulary terms. As a result, the tasks should be chosen carefully. Tasks should be meaningful to their lives (and meaningful does not necessarily mean useful). Assessment must be based on the fact that the main goal is not linguistic (see #2). Using the previous pizza example, teachers determine whether or not the pizza would have come. If yes, then the student passed, and if not, then he/she failed. Mr. Benevides suggested three levels of assessment: a) An initial pass/fail; b) varying levels within the pass/fail spectrum (on a scale of 1-10, for example); and c) feedback, which is where linguistic comments can be made. He also mentioned that the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) may be useful to establish an assessment standard. Allow language to emerge. Students can take any path to get to the goal, and when they need help, they ask for it, resulting in more effective learning. Also, grammar and vocabulary are not pre-taught, but explained either as the students need it during the task, or post-task. The tasks should be contextualized or themed, which allows for recycling in an authentic way.
He also pointed out that while all of the above help describe TBLT, the most important points are numbers two and four.

After presenting an overview of TBLT, Mr. Benevides then described three types of tasks along the “Task Continua.” First he talked about closed versus open tasks. A closed task has one or more correct outcomes (e.g., spot the differences information gap), while an open task has no predetermined solutions (e.g., planning a trip).

Next, he explained focused versus unfocused tasks. Focused tasks target a specific language feature (e.g., a To-do list), while unfocused tasks have no set linguistic target.

Last, he discussed pedagogic tasks versus real world tasks. Pedagogic tasks depend on a classroom context (e.g., arrange a mixed-up paragraph), while real world tasks simulate conditions that are found in a real situation (e.g., job applications, in a restaurant). He pointed out, however, that this distinction is problematic considering that any classroom-based task will be skewed due to the fact that it’s done in a classroom.

There was a bit of discussion about how to implement TBLT into a system that places so much importance on passing tests. As one member of the audience pointed out, there is a focus on vocabulary and grammar in high school English classes, and often, defining terms and explaining complex grammar are done before an activity. Yet, Mr. Benevides explained that defining key vocabulary or targeting a specific grammar point or phrase prior to a task-based activity can lead to restrictions on student communication. Moreover, worrying about a test can also restrict the students. For more information, he referenced The Language Teacher’s special task-based learning issue from March 2009: Muller, T., Talandis Jr., J., & Inamori, M. (Eds.). (March 2009). The Language Teacher 33(3), .

Unfortunately Mr. Benevides didn’t have time to get into the importance of having themes, but before he ended his talk, he shared an activity whereby students have a list of common words that they must communicate to their partner without using the actual words, Japanese, or gestures. He stressed that using words the students know, such as restaurant, mouse, Canada, etc., is crucial; if students don’t understand the word themselves, they can’t explain what it is to someone else. The main point of this kind of task-based activity is that the students can find a way to communicate.

Inspired by Mr. Benevides’ talk, I recently tried a task-based activity similar to the one mentioned above in my first and second year high school English classes, which resulted in classes full of students communicating (mostly) in English. However, I didn’t just throw the students into the activity, but had them try it after I gave some examples. For lower-level classes, I also wrote some examples on the board. As one student commented, “This activity is a little difficult. I couldn’t think of questions early. I want to know some words.” I find I have to use a combination of approaches to address the various learning styles and abilities in my classes. That being said, however, even if one’s pedagogical approach isn’t wholly task-based, I think that incorporating TBLT can help students actually use English in a meaningful and interesting way. The evidence is in many of the students’ post-class comments: “Today’s communication challenge was difficult, but interesting.”; “I enjoyed this class! It’s fun for me to speak English.”; “Today’s class is the best fun in this year.”

Reported by Tonya Kneff

Tokyo Chapter

Friday, December 11, 2015
by Mick Short

Waseda University commissioned a book that specialized in the vocabulary most useful for the department of Political Science and Economics, called “Word-Scape”, it’s basically there to improve academic reading/TOEFL and has quite a large overlap with TOEIC vocabulary also.
So he was stuck with yet another book to somehow included on the course so He was thinking ‘how?’ The book we have already is too big to work through completely. Then it occurred to him- what a great candidate for being repurposed as an app. This way he could take some of the work out of the classroom by setting quizzes for the students to do at home. Fun quizzes can also take the hard work out of repeatedly going over the same vocabulary. Also, by the student getting a certificate from the app to send to him (percentage of accuracy on the quiz) he could accurately grade them for their vocabulary building with no laborious paper based testing. He made it so that it would be useful to him (the teacher;) as well as it being fun enough for students to enjoy working with it. So the first part of the talk was about the app, how it was used and some of the results of a study he was halfway through.

The second part of the talk got under the bonnet: what do you need to do to make an iPhone app? What steps do you take for personal app building and what steps for delivering through iTunes/AppStore.
We also went through a brief demo, made a small “Hello World” app and loaded it onto an iPhone so that you could see a thin slice of the whole process.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Friday, December 4, 2015
by Eric Hauser

Today, oral proficiency in a second language (L2), or L2 oracy, is often treated as equally, or perhaps even more, important than L2 literacy. Oral language tests are therefore often an important component of L2 educational programs. Such tests may involve the test-taker in performing a monologue, but they may also involve interaction between the test-taker and one or more others, such as another test-taker or a teacher. As shown by previous work on oral language tests (e.g., the various chapters in Young and He (1998)), disourse/conversation analytic research on this interaction can provide valuable information about the nature of this interaction and the validity of oral language tests.

In this talk, he looked at interactional data that he has only recently begun working with (e.g., Hauser, 2015). The data come from oral language tests given for a first-year required academic English class at a Japanese university. The curriculum for the class is genre-based, with one of the genres included in the curriculum being the genre of procedure. In order to draw on the students’ relative strength in mathematics, the procedure genre was taught in the class by having the students work with procedures for constructing geometric figures using a compass and straightedge. In order to assess the students on their mastery of the procedure genre in spoken English, the students were tested by having them use notes, prepared by the students in advance, to instruct the teacher on how to construct a geometric figure. Each test performance was videorecorded for the purpose of assessment. After the assessment was complete, the students were asked for consent to use the videorecordings for research.

He used multimodal conversation analysis to analyze the videorecorded interaction. Multimodal conversation analysis focused not only on talk (including, e.g., inbreaths and outbreaths, pauses, intonation, etc.), but also on gesture, gaze, body position, and so on. He analyzed the following: 1) the framing of the test performance, that is, how it is entered into and exited from; 2) the organization of the test interaction as a series of instruction/instructed action adjacency pairs; 3) the organization of student corrections of teacher errors in following the procedure; and 4) the teacher’s scaffolding of some test performances. This last item—the teacher’s scaffolding—was especially relevant for the concept of dynamic assessment (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006), a relatively new perspective on language testing that has developed within sociocultural theory.

Overall, he attempted to convince the audience of the value of looking carefully at the fine interactional details of oral language test performance.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Thursday, November 19, 2015
by Dr. Alice Chik

Language learning histories have brought to the fore the diversity in affordances, trajectories and contexts of learning, but most language learning histories take the form of written texts. In this talk, she presented an alternate way of knowing our learners: draw and tell. She used visual narratives created by young, teenage and adult learners to demonstrate the advantages and versatility of visual narratives for understanding our learners and their learning in formal and informal learning contexts.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Thursday, October 29, 2015
by Dr. Lesley Gourlay

The concept of 'open education¹ has entered the mainstream of higher education policy and practice in recent years in the UK and beyond, with the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and the prevalence of open access publishing. This lecture took a critical look at the origins, tensions and complexities inherent in the notion of 'open education', with reference to recent research and critique. It concluded with a discuss focused on the implications for educational policy and practice.

Reported by Sayaka Amano
Friday, October 16, 2015
Asako Yamaguchi
Kentaro Sawa

With the rise of globalization, the number of companies looking to recruit foreign students increase every year, and about 60% of graduating foreign students want to work in Japan. However, in reality, only 28.2 % of foreign graduates were able to fulfill their dreams of finding full-time employment in Japan in 2010. Many universities in Japan incorporate career support for foreign students into programs tailored to Japanese students. It is time for them to offer career support specialized to the needs of foreign students.

Temple University, Japan Campus, founded in 1982, is the oldest and largest American university in Japan. They have been offering not only professional career support by the Career Development Office, but also a special course for foreign students who want to find employment in Japan after graduation. In this seminar, first, Kentaro Sawa (Manager of the TUJ Career Development Office)explained how Japanese “shuukatsu” (job-hunting) is carried out, and next, Asako Yamaguchi (Assistant Professor of Japanese) discussed how language teachers can help foreign students finding jobs in the framework of a language course. For the past 3 years, Temple University, Japan Campus has been offering the “Advanced Oral Japanese Course,” in which they support students acquiring basic business Japanese language by preparing them for resume writing as well as job interviews, and having them experience business communication through SWOT analyses and presentations. What they believe is important is that the career staff and the language teacher work together to help students get ready for job-hunting both academically and psychologically. In this presentation, they talked about the above issues and how they had been cooperating to accomplish our goals.

Reported by Sayaka Amano

Tottori Chapter

Sunday, April 23, 2017
by Caroline Lloyd

Caroline showed how mini-speeches (a guided step-by-step process to building a short speech using pictures and word prompts) work and gave practical examples on various topics, such as “introductions, likes, internet usage, vacations, pets,” etc. She began by outlining what ‘mini speeches’ are and how they can help students build confidence in public speaking. These activities can be used across all levels and ages, and improve students’ vocabulary, grammar and writing skills by giving them ownership of the language. Caroline focused mainly on elementary school and junior high school but also gave some other examples for older students. The students are guided through their speech writing, they then memorize it at home, and present it to the class the following week.

Mini speeches: (1) are an effective way to improve students’ language skills, (2) can be used by the students to express their own ideas on a variety of topics, (3) get and keep students involved in all steps, (4) help students develop the ability to express their ideas in a logical way, (5) create situations where students can use a variety of grammar and vocabulary, and (6) help students get used to speaking in front of others.

In the second part of the presentation Caroline shared some other activities that she has found successful in getting students to talk. She showed us how to use the creativity of the students to make interesting situations for phone conversations, and shared with us how to use a TED Talk to start discussions within the classroom that keeps the students engaged on various timely topics, such as politics, technology and music.

Reported by Christopher Hollis
Sunday, March 12, 2017
by Tim Murphey

Tim Murphey started by outlining the importance of group dynamics and how we can help students learn more socially and interactively. We went through the four main stages in group life (forming, transition, performing, and dissolution), and looked at the special needs and problems that seem to occur in most classrooms. We also looked closely at the use of songlets (short songs) in getting students to bond and acquire good learning strategies and life-skills.

We began the afternoon discussing the various issues that students feel during (and bring to) the classroom, and how to help build strong and healthy relationships between students. We talked about how to nurture the, all important, “feeling that you belong in the group” and how to attune/synchronize classmates with each other. Tim talked about how this is an important part of any language learning classroom because student-to-student relationships are key to learning success and students often learn more from each other than they do from the teacher. Next, Tim had us ask each other “How are you, today?” and we sang our responses with the answer of “Super, happy, optimistic, joyful, and prodigious.” This type of interaction was but one example of how Tim uses songlets (short songs) to encourage a positive learning environment that builds meaningful relationships between students.

Next, Tim discussed ways to encourage students to start talking to themselves in their L2 because this will encourage proactive language learning. As an example of an activity that we can use in the classroom, Tim had us shadow each other in order to synchronize ourselves with our fellow classmates. We also practiced story retelling, split stories, and spaced repetition within the classroom. We discussed how telling a story of ourselves making a mistake (and what we learned from it) can encourage students to feel more comfortable with making mistakes in the language classroom (and beyond). Then, we talked about the eight ways to reduce stress (“COPS and BEES”) and the 5 ways to happiness (Smile, Breath, Look-up, Singing, and Love). Next, we discussed having students write a “language learning history booklet” to shape the environment and to encourage student bonding and improve group dynamics. We concluded with a bit about social testing and how to encourage our students to evaluate themselves because, after all, both cooperation and autonomy are important qualities that every student needs to develop in order to assure future success.

It was a rewarding afternoon of thinking about and actually experiencing positive group dynamics within the classroom. We hope Tim Murphey can come back to Tottori again sometime soon to talk more on the subject.

Reported by Christopher Hollis
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Mutsumi Kawasaki
David Barker

We were delighted to welcome Mutsumi Kawasaki and David Barker of Gifu University to Tottori for a witty and relatable presentation on the personal experiences of learning Japanese and English. This was a particularly memorable presentation because it was the first one held in Tottori that was conducted in both English and Japanese.

David began by explaining in Japanese how he went about the task of learning the language, and what he discovered about language learning on the journey. Drawing from his experiences, he talked of his belief that learners need to move from being students to users of language and they have to feel that they are making success. While there may be emotional ups and downs with learning a language, the fundamental message is that a massive investment of time and effort – especially applied outside the classroom – will see a huge payoff in language acquisition.

Continuing this thought, Mutsumi related in English how she overcame her initial negative feelings about the language that began at a young age and she experiences both highs and lows with learning English almost on a daily basis. She said that while she does not believe that language learners necessarily have to travel abroad to acquire another language, she built upon David’s message that diligent repetition and perseverance are crucial elements. Interactive group activities got the presentation participants involved by having them consider their personal enjoyment and achievement in their own language studies.

Many thanks and a big well done are extended to Mutsumi and David for the engaging and practical presentation - one that each and every member can take lessons from, both for their own learning and that of their students.

Reported by Raymond Levy

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