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 JALT National 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.
Miguel Mision

For our first presentation in 2022, Miguel provided us with some interesting insights from his investigation into how his students feel about learning English online.

The research took place between 2020 and 2021. The research approach consisted of interviews and surveys that targeted first and second year non-English major Japanese university students. Through this investigation he hoped to better understand his students’ impressions of online lessons in comparison with traditional face-to-face lessons.

The most surprising results were the large number favourable responses he received towards online learning. Students indicated that being online made them feel much more relaxed as it is easier to look things up during class. In addition to that, online lessons allowed them to customize their personal space to create a more comfortable learning environment. For example, students mentioned that they could have a bigger desk at home and could place snacks within easy reach whereas such luxuries are not possible in a classroom.

Another advantage was that they felt less physical exhaustion as online lessons meant that they could save time by avoiding a tiring commute to campus. This time saving allowed students to catch up on more sleep and resulted in students quickly getting used to online lessons after the first year.

Miguel also noted to his dismay that his students actually felt closer to the teacher during Zoom classes than they did to face-to-face ones. He speculated that online lessons gave students more freedom to contact the teacher directly whereas they felt more intimidated speaking up during a traditional lesson.

Despite their overall positive assessment of online lessons, they did however express some complaints. Group work was one such area. Here, during Zoom breakout sessions where students were put into groups, they reported that it was hard to speak when there was more than one other person in the room. It was also the case that sometimes there would be a person who wouldn’t speak at all. Another issue was that they found breakout room countdown timers to be stressful and distracting.

Students liked the freedom to access on-demand video content, however these videos should not be too long. 100-minute classes for example were tiring, with 10 to 20 min videos being easier for students to maintain focus.

Other problems from the students’ perspective included:

  • Online lesson didn’t really give students many opportunities to make friends.
  • Students wanted more consistency with how online lessons are taught. They had to relearn how to do lessons for each of their classes.
  • Students sometimes felt bad about communicating online due to cameras being turned off and occasional connection problems,

In conclusion, Miguel found student attitudes to online learning were not as bad as what he had expected, however students felt that there were still some disadvantages. To overcome these disadvantages, he recommended hosting a non-educational/social online meeting to encourage team-building. Also, during breakout sessions, he recommended formalizing the roles of all participants. For example, assigning one member to become a scribe, another to be a chairperson etc. And in applying the findings to face-to-face classes, teachers could possibly make an effort to better furnish classrooms to create a more relaxing atmosphere.

Reported By Markus Yong
Namiko Tsuruta

In this presentation Namiko described how she is harnessing the power of the internet to create an ongoing cultural and language exchange between students in Nepal and Japan.

Namiko works at a consultancy called Global Language Institute (GLI) whose goal is the promotion of sustainable learning and education of students around the world.

In order to do this she works on various projects, one of which is the Japan Nepal project. The project is basically a means for students in Nepal to have ongoing interactions with those in Japan through the maintenance of a shared online server (GLISS).

GLI facilitates these interactions by maintaining the server, ensuring student privacy, consulting with officials and gaining permission from the schools.

In a nutshell the project promotes sustainable learning by helping students in Japan and Nepal exchange ideas on how to solve problems related to sustainable development goals (SDG). For example in Japan, students might be given practical SDG problems to solve such as how everyone can get clean water, reliable electricity or take action to combat climate change. The students then have to research how to solve their problem and will then need to present their findings at the end of the school year. Throughout the project, students will be exposed to task-based English language learning activities and then will use their new language skills to interview students in Nepal via the GLISS. As well as students, teachers should also share information over the one year life of the project.

At the time of her presentation, the GLISS had yet to go live online and students had been using only the offline version. Once it does go online, Namiko mentioned that she hopes that the GLISS can be a place for everyone to build fun, authentic and creative activities together.

Reported By Markus Yong
Stephen Case, Andrew Gallacher

In today’s presentation Andrew and Stephen showed us how they successfully developed and implemented a task-based English education curriculum requiring students to design and make their own games.

To start their presentation they provided some context about their students and their teaching goals. The students were all undergraduate education majors who will one day be working as educators in various subjects at elementary and secondary schools in Japan. By the end of the course Stephen stated that they should be able to produce a fully working game in a subject of their choice. Additionally they should also provide comprehensive lesson plans, rules and associated materials.

Stephen then outlined the methodology used to achieve these learning outcomes.
They first introduced a couple of games to trigger awareness of characteristics and mechanics since the more they are exposed to different varieties of games, the better they will be at creating their own original game later on.

During the semester they then concentrated on understanding and practicing one game at a time. Each game usually takes about 3 weeks and involves the following steps: First, students receive a learning feedback worksheet and a game. Then they then practice it in Japanese as homework. Afterwards he has them practice the game in English. The final step involves filling out the feedback worksheet.

Stephen and Andrew discovered a number of interesting results from their lessons. They found teaching games that do not require binary knowledge (either you know the answer or not) was a good confidence building tool as such games are more inclusive of less skilled players.

Student motivation and output was often very high however there were still some that did the minimum work. Such students would simply doing carbon copies of a game and adapt it to their topic. The highly motivated students on the other hand would surprise them by coming up with highly original games with interesting game mechanics.

As a part of their action research they conducted entry and exit surveys. Their surveys tracked their knowledge of gaming and if they thought it was a useful teaching tool. Preliminary data suggests a significant positive change in attitude over time.

They also found that students work best in pairs so that there is always negotiation and mutual support.

In conclusion they stated that this project might not always engage with all students all the time, but they felt it was nonetheless helpful with most of them. This was because they felt the activity was worthwhile at helping improve their students’ ability to plan and explain concepts better, thus supporting their future teaching careers.

Reported By Markus Yong
Whitney Sarver, Tracy Koslowski

In our May presentation, the presenters demonstrated the importance of critical thinking in the classroom and how activities encouraging such thinking have been incorporated as an integral part of lesson plans.

The presentation started with the question of “what is critical thinking?” This was defined as the examination of something to make a judgment in order to solve a problem. Such thinking is important for academia as it is the key to academic success.

Important aspects of critical thinking include:

  • Questioning skills.
  • Using and interpreting information
  • Keeping an open mind
  • Drawing conclusions.

Some particular cases were illustrated by Tracy. At the university in Mississippi where she teaches, she works with foreign students to prepare them for entry to the university. In the process, she has found that getting the students to apply deeper analysis has been hard to achieve. In particular, the challenge has been finding suitable syllabus, creating and adapting materials, creating projects and evaluation of results. As a first step, she thinks about what students need to know. This aids in formulating student learning outcomes (SLO) as it helps her to visualize what is necessary for the students to achieve. She then thought about a suitable mode (i.e. The tools used to educate) and what skills should they have. As a result of this planning she has carried out the following teaching projects:

Podcast project
During the podcast project Tracy had her students carry out various activities with the goal of producing their own podcast in the end. The activities she used to help them do this included an analysis of what makes a good interview, the sharing of ideas on Flipgrid, the application of technical skills and how to edit/produce their end product. Her assessment consisted of how well they applied their technical skills, their reflection of what they had produced, and whether or not they achieved the set SLO.

VR Guided Tour
For this project, Tracy had her students pretend they were tour guides. The mode used to conduct the tour was Google maps and Google Expeditions (no longer available).
The lessons proceeded as per the steps used for the Podcast project. However, instead of analyzing podcasts, student analyzed free online tours available from various tourist attraction web sites. Students then shared a picture of a place they like and using Flipgrid students would ask one another questions about that place. Their final product was to narrate an online tour of their favourite places and as well as that they were free to add any music or special effects to this narration.

These activities automatically force students to think critically as it makes them consider how they should put their work together and communicate with their audience.
In terms of assessing the activities, the presenters did not state exactly what rubrics they used but instead advised us to limit their scope as it would be too time consuming to assess all possible outcomes.
In conclusion they presented some very useful lesson activities which are bound to make any student more engaged and thinking critically.

Reported By Markus Yong
Tim Thompson

In this talk, Tim provided tips for planning a presentation, training activities, syllabus design, common mistakes, and both teacher and peer feedback on students’ presentations.

At the planning stage we need to think about if a presentation is either “informative” or “persuasive”. For an informative speech it is important to consider what knowledge we have that our audience might want know. A persuasive presentation’s goal is to motivate the audience into action so therefore it requires information that emphasizes a topic’s benefits .

When it comes to training his students Tim outlined a number of steps that work best in his classes. At first he has all the students make groups of three and has one of them do their presentation whilst sitting down at the same eye-level. After doing this, he then has that person present whilst standing up. This gradually gets the presenter used to the unnatural change in the eye-level dynamic that one experiences during a real presentation. After these steps the student should then be ready for to present in front of a larger group.

During these exercises he helps the students to improve their timing, eye rotation and their awareness of distracting gestures. He also encourages students to avoid a number of common presentation errors such as weak introductions (with no hook), tech failures, going over-time (as this would annoy the audience), slides with too much information, a low energy presentation styles, lack of co-ordination if it is a team presentation and a weak Q&A at the end.

Tim finished with highlighting the importance of feedback and assessment. He assesses students using the metrics “PDC 5/5/5”.
P = Preparation (Does the topic match the audience and presenter? Is the presenter familiar with how to operate the technology?)
D = Delivery (Body language and voice)
C = Content (Did they prepare enough content? Are the slides and is the speech

Whilst the overall focus of this presentation was on how to run a university presentation skills course, Tim gave some useful teaching advice that is transferable to other types of the English lessons such as writing and conversations classes.

Reported By Markus Yong
Chelanna White, Mark Fennelly

Our March meeting was in two parts, beginning with a My Share session from Chelanna White, an ALT at the senior high school level in Kyoto prefecture currently teaching 1st year students. Chelanna introduced two ideas for lessons that she found to have worked well.

The first of these involved an idea for giving directions. Chelanna wanted to make the learning and teaching of direction-giving as fun as possible. Additionally, she also hoped to tap into her students’ nostalgia for Pokemon.

Her lesson follows the WPPP style structure (warm-up, presentation, practice, production). The warm-up activity involves a review of cardinal directions where the students get to run around the classroom choosing to go either north, east, south or west. Maps downloaded from from, are then used to demonstrate how to give directions to specific destinations. Following this, the whole class then practices giving directions. The production part of the activity involves student pairs participating in an information gap exercise where students need to teach the others how to get to a certain destination on their respective maps.

For Chelanna’s second activity, she explained the benefits of storytelling and how she uses it in the classroom. The aim here is telling stories in a comprehensible way by using simple English, gestures, pictures and sounds to help students learn new vocabulary and make learning more enjoyable. Students are not required to remember the words. The goal is for the students to simply understand the story - based on Krashen’s input hypothesis.

Chelanna likes to get stories from and adapts the contents to match her students’ level. During the story telling she uses a prompter (list of words) to tell the adapted story. Sometimes she also provides a copy to read later. By doing this she has made story telling more enjoyable and feels that it is effective at helping learners remember vocabulary.

After a short break, we moved into the second part of the meeting, by Mark Fennelly, a professor at Shikoku University. He has been involved in the production of Ministry of Education policy materials, and teaching materials based on them. Mark gave an introduction to understanding and using the new course of study at elementary school.

In Mark’s presentation, he described the national Ministry of Education English curriculum at junior high schools and elementary schools in Japan. He also outlined problems with it, as well as changes being introduced to address these problems.

He highlighted a number of issues:

  • A lot of students lack confidence in English resulting in 60% of students not interested in working overseas.
  • Student performance has been lacking as per Eiken and TOEIC test results.
  • In rankings based on the Common European Framework, Japan has been languishing in the “A” level.
  • There has been a lack of coordination between elementary and JHS. Some elementary schools had only taught English once a week whilst some once every 3 months and therefore JHS teachers found it hard to build on the English already taught to students.
  • There is a gap between the English taught at Elementary school and JHS in that the first focuses on listening and speaking, whilst the latter focusses mostly on reading and writing.

Changes to English language education are as follows:

From January 2021 there has been a change in the university entrance exam. Now students have to demonstrate how they can apply their knowledge by using critical thinking techniques with creative writing tasks. However, there is as yet no speaking test due to problems with outsourcing.

MEXT has also set a goal that students should be competent in what is described as approaches to communication. In general, this means using the knowledge of context to adapt strategies when participating in a conversation. For example, when introducing your hometown, a speaker would include different information if you were describing it to a friend in a foreign country as opposed to someone you’d like to impress.

Another change included different types of language activities whereby students will now need to exchange their own ideas, thoughts and feelings, and not just repeat teacher-instructed expressions. In other words, students will now be expected to think about the language learned and therefore make judgments to express themselves through these language activities. The hope is for them to have a meaningful exchange of ideas by implementing skills such as greetings, shadowing, reacting, checking and asking follow-ups.

Finally, another change Mark talked about related to improvements in coordination between the different levels of schooling. Up until now, the teaching of English at the elementary level has been rather haphazard. Some students received weekly English instruction, whilst others only monthly. As a consequence, when students entered junior high school, the teachers needed to start from scratch when it came to teaching reading and writing as not everyone was on the same page. With the new system, all elementary school students will be introduced to reading and writing from years 5 to 6. All will be taught the names of the letters and be taught the basic sounds of each. They will be taught how to write from A to Z, and how to copy longer sentences. However, the teaching of phonics is not covered under these changes. With these changes in mind, JHS English textbooks will be revised based on the assumption that all students will have a basic level of reading and writing skills.

Reported By Markus Yong
Erin Noxon

In today’s presentation Erin Noxon explained to us how she set up her Global Interaction class and how it facilitated the ability of the students to become more globally aware.

Her goal was to improve their conversational abilities by providing authentic situations in the classroom for them to hone their skills. The aim here is that such situations could help learners realize the utility of foreign language to become global citizens.

Noxon set up the class using blended technology, i.e., her class incorporate technology as the backbone of the curriculum but the technology usage is not the main purpose of that instruction. Therefore in the class, the students use computers as the medium for their English study.
Her classes are broken down into two sessions in which various tasks are assigned for students to complete. These include Listening and Speaking sessions.

For Listening, this includes face-to-face interaction with the teacher, pronunciation practice using voice recognition software from Google and listening practice using video interviews from the web site With the Elllo videos, students do cloze activities and answer questions about the videos they are required to view.

For the Speaking session, students are expected to complete activities such as making presentations and speeches, doing conversation tests, doing interview tests and completing computer-based tasks. One particular computer-based task that is quite popular is using voice recognition software through Google Docs where students read a text aloud so that Google could transcribe the dialogue.

Additionally, Noxon discussed how it is important to teach students about digital citizenship. This is important in terms of confirming the guidelines students should follow to ensure their safety when working with online resources.

Links to various worksheets to use with Elllo videos were provided:

Reported By Markus Yong
Justin Harris

In this month’s presentation, Justin described Task Based Language Teaching (TBLT). The session was divided into five parts - a TBLT definition, why it is ideal for students in Japan, problems with TBLT, an Input Task Output Task Integrated Framework (ITOTIF) definition and practical applications of TBLT.

The TBLT can be quickly defined as one that focuses first on language’s meaning rather than form. In other words, it has a strong communicative approach that allows students to try a task first before they focus on the language needed to carry out the activity. Learners focus on achieving a non-linguistic outcome that gives them a reason for communicating.

Harris gave a number of reasons as to why this sort of approach was ideal for Japanese students. Firstly, students in Japan from secondary school level have already studied a lot of language, but have had little chance to use this in communicative tasks. Also, with the test-based curriculum in Japan, the school system has set up students to fail if they haven’t studied and memorized the language in a certain way. On the other hand, task-focused lessons are more forgiving or language mistakes so long as they complete the given task. This provides students with more freedom to think creatively using the language they know and therefore results in a more motivating challenge.

In the past however, TBLT has been criticized as over-reliant on students’ current knowledge to produce language and it does not provide enough teaching input to support language acquisition. Justin suggests one way to remedy this is to make input tasks an integral step in eliciting student language output. He uses a framework based on the ideas of Jane Willis that can be divided into three stages. These include Pre-tasks, Task cycle and Language Focus. Pre-task introduces the topic, necessary vocabulary and structures. The Task cycle involves students trying the task. At the Language Focus stage, there is a reflection on the language used and practice of areas of weakness.

Justin takes this framework and adapts it his methodology called ITOTIF (Input Task Output Task Integrated Framework). In most textbooks, Justin finds that lessons flow in the following order:

  1. Presentation of target vocabulary
  2. Grammar practice
  3. A production task using what students have just been learned from 1 and 2.

Steps 1 and 2 are teacher input related activities, while 3 is an output task. As an alternative to this, Justin has incorporated input and output tasks throughout the syllabus. An example of how he did this was demonstrated in a reading lesson from one of his textbooks. Usually before students read something, there might be explicit teaching of new words and/or a warm-up discussion question related to the text. The alternative approach here is to skip these activities, and instead provide students with a task of creating their own original story as the pre-reading activity. Once they have completed this, students then read the story in the text. Because the students were now curious to see how well they predicted the article’s contents, there was now real motivation for them to read for meaning. This could then be followed by a post-task comprehension check such as listing the events of the article in their correct order. Finally, as completion of the Input/Output cycle an output speaking task could be used where students talk about a topic related to aforementioned article.

In summary, Justin’s method allows for teacher-centred instruction, but prioritizes student autonomy by providing chances for the students to work with the language and think for themselves first.

Reported By Markus Yong
Chris Flynn

In our February presentation, Chris Flynn covered a number of issues relevant to teachers working in Japan. During the talk we learned about labour standards for subcontractors/employees, insurance coverage at work, union formation rights and unlimited term contracts.

Regarding the labour standards law he highlighted two important points.
According to article 3, Japanese and foreign workers are obliged to be treated the same. Also, part time and full time workers should be treated the same.

The only difference in the eyes of the law was if you are an employee or are sub-contracted. If you are subcontracted, you have no protection under the labour standards law especially in the case of being summarily sacked. Subcontractors are considered to be independent business entities so if a subcontractor loses a job then he/she needs to take the issue directly to court rather than contact the Labour Office. On the other hand the employer has no direct control over a subcontractors work. Therefore Chris warned us to look very carefully at any contract before signing in case it says “行未委託”(gyoumuitaku - subcontracting).

Chris then gave practical examples of how the embrace of gyomuitaku has been adversely affecting teaching in Japan. He describe how most non-JET ALTs are working as subcontractors in a team teaching capacity with a full-time teacher. This is despite the fact that it is illegal for an employer (i.e. the teacher) to give instructions to a subcontractor (the ALT). He also highlighted how often companies exploit employee’s ignorance of this system by making threats that can not be carried out such as cancellation of visas or penalty fees for quitting the job.

The next part of his presentation was about the importance of social insurance and how/why companies avoid having teachers be covered by it.

Normally full-time employees are entitled to social insurance. 50% of the insurance fees of will be paid by the employer. However the social insurance office issued a memorandum saying that a worker who does about three quarters of a full-time worker’s hours must be enrolled. So to avoid paying for social insurance companies have be deliberately restricting work hours to just under three quarters of a standard 40 hour week (29.5 hours). Employees should try to get social insurance as it offers far better long-term coverage in the case of illness or injury.

We were then given a summary of general laws relating to work rules, firing/quitting, wages, breaks, and holidays. The details can be downloaded at the General Union web site Of note was the fact that all employees are legally protected from retaliation if they wish to join a union and to participate in collective bargaining in conjunction with a union.

The final topic of discussion covered our rights to obtain an unlimited term contract.
On April 1st, 2013 the government instituted a law that allowed for employees that have worked in a company for 5 continuous years to demand permanent transfer from their 6th year. This means that the worker’s contract will no longer have an expiry date and need to be renewed for him/her to continue working. This law only applies from 2013 and any work prior to this will not count. Once this occurs the company are obliged to give you work until your retirement age. Unfortunately to get around this law some companies have been laying off workers for 6 months and then reemploying them. At the moment this practice is being challenged in court.

The final point Chris made was that if you feel there’s something wrong at work you should get informed and speak out. Also, joining the union offers a source of information to avoid trouble and protect from being exploited.

Reported By Markus Yong
Rab Paterson

For our January 2020 session, Rab Paterson gave an overview of various apps that can be used to help students in the classroom. He presented a wide variety of apps that are relevant for different teaching situations.

Rab started with a comparison of current attitudes towards digital teaching tools between digital immigrants and digital natives. Digital natives are people who have grown up in the digital age and take apps for granted, while immigrants are those old enough to remember a time before the digital age.

He related to us a number of stories demonstrating how digital immigrant educators still have outdated views of how we can use technology. It’s a problem especially in Japan. These teaching methods don’t appeal to younger students today as they have higher expectations of how to learn. Children today enjoy the freedom to use apps for everything and as a result they can do self-study with all sorts of topics that suit their interests. Unfortunately digital integration is often missing from traditional teaching methods.

The next part of his presentation outlined some theories behind how we can assess and apply different learning apps.

One theory was the SAMR (Substitutes, Augments, Modifications and Redefinitions) Model. This model helps us decide on the best teaching tool to use by posing the following questions: Does the technology not just “substitute” but also “augments” traditional media? If so, then it will be worthwhile. Are there any “modifications” that also expand the activity? Then can we can use the app to “redefine” what the task encompasses and become more creative?

The final part of his presentation outlined a number of online learning tools and activities that could be useful for the classroom;

Here is a summary of some of the apps introduced:

  • Wallet challenge - “A” asks probing questions of a partner "B" about their wallet. Then that person has to design a better wallet and present their idea by, for example, writing a blog post about it.
  • Lextutor - You can copy and paste your work into this site and it analyses the amount and types of words that are used.
  • - This site can give an assessment of the writing level of your students (eg. Grade 15 = student is writing at a level of a 21 year old). It can also turn their text into a cloze exercise.
  • Paperrator - You can analyze and break down the types of grammar and words and give your text a score.
  • Rewordify - You can simplify a text and make it more readable.
  • Purdue Writing lab - This is a web site with lots of tips and hints on writing.
  • Draftback - This app can show a student’s progression on a document as well as how they are working on it.
  • Likeso - This is an app that improves a teenager’s vocabulary.
  • - This quantitatively compares various categories of things.
  • - This app allows a teacher to keep track of all student’s blogs and the pro version allows you to do a key word search.

The complete list can be found at the following link:

Reported By Markus Yong

Contact Us

You can contact us via the main JALT site.