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.
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 pokemonpets.com, 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 worldoftales.com 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 Elllo.org. 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:
http://bit.ly/EllloWorksheets
http://bit.ly/EllloForms

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 http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/index.html. 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.
  • Analyzemywriting.com - 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.
  • Hofstede-insights.com - This quantitatively compares various categories of things.
  • Feedly.com - 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: http://bit.ly/Rab2020JALT-Nankyu

Reported By
Markus Yong
Charlie Bell, Paul Collett, Malcolm Swanson, Markus Yong, Andrew Zitzmann

This session involved a number of presenters giving short (15-20 minute) introductions to activities or ideas they thought might be helpful for others.

Conversation Modelling

Charlie Bell

Charlie gave a presentation discussing his preliminary research findings into the effects of conversation modelling on student motivation.
Modelling involved him preparing a video of students taking part in conversations and then showing this video to students in another class just prior to them attempting the same type of conversation. The hope was that this could potentially improve his learners’ willingness to communicate.

This can occur as the videos may:

  1. increase personality and environment support.
  2. increase motivation by showing videos of peers doing the same task.
  3. improve cognition - if you watch other people doing it you can learn more easily.

To assess the impact of the modelling, Charlie distributed pre- and post questionnaires to his university students who were majoring in Nursing and Occupational therapy.

The questionnaires’ purpose was to determine if their willingness to communicate changed after watching the video. If it did change, how and why did it change?

The students so far have provided mixed feedback.
Some thought that watching the video made it seem like an achievable goal and that it showed them what to do, allowing them to visualize how to do it and compare their conversations with the modelled ones. Others mentioned that their willingness to speak depended on the people in their group as well as the topic.

On a more negative note, some students didn’t understand the contents of the videos, and didn’t like the fact that the video showed non-native speakers.
Some simply had a negative attitude and would not be motivated one way or another.

Charlie therefore found that video modelling can build confidence as it shows how to communicate but it is not useful for all.


Flipgrid

Paul Collett

Paul gave a brief introduction to Flipgrid, an online video-sharing platform that helps educators see and hear from every student in class.

Flipgrid is designed specifically for educators who would like their students to create and share short videos of no more than 5 minutes. This could be for activities such as creating weekly reflective journals, debating issues, giving mini-presentations and providing summaries/reviews.

Paul explained how he has used Flipgrid to help with assessment of a presentation skills course. He gave students iPads and then let them go away separately to record their presentations. After finishing their presentations, they would then upload them online for him to assess.

He then went on to describe other benefits and features.
The platform allows for applying effects such as filters and emoji to the recorded content, adding a familiar aspect from popular SNS applications. The videos can be public or private. If made public, the platform has the flexibility to network with other like-minded educators who want to share videos.

Videos can be added by smartphone or from your PC.

One major feature is that you can automatically add closed captions and download them as well, potentially saving time with transcribing what was said on each video.

Finally, Paul talked about how user-friendly Flipgrid is. However, it is necessary to have a stable online network available in the classroom in order for the videos to be automatically upload to the cloud.


Ideas From JALT2019

Andrew Zitzmann

Andrew talked about a number of potentially useful activities he had observed at the recent JALT international conference.

“Flat Andrew project” - This is basically a letter exchange with other schools outside of Japan. This exchange involved the Japanese students making a paper image of themselves and sending it to a foreign school. The foreign students then took the image around town and took photos of it in various locations. Afterwards they write a report about the image’s adventures and then send it back to Japan.

“Symbol songs” – This involves getting students to try and guess the name and lyrics of a song based on symbols on the page.

“Greek and latin roots” – An activity where the students tried to guess and understand various words’ origins.


Internet-Based Apps

Malcolm Swanson

Malcolm presented two apps that can be useful for gathering student feedback in large classes.

The first one is called Plickers. This app is a convenient way to efficiently gain feedback from all students and can be used for quick classroom surveys and quizzes.
In order to do this, a teacher hands out specially-prepared cards to each student. Each card is printed with a square geometric pattern, with each side of the square labelled A to D. The teacher can then pose a question for the students and offer multiple-choice answers. The students indicate their answers by showing their cards to the teacher with the letter of their choice in the up-right position. In order to gather all the responses, the teacher uses the Plickers app on a web-connected device to scan the room, recording student responses which are automatically uploaded to the teacher’s Plickers account. This enables instant large group feedback. The advantage of this app is that every student doesn’t need to have access to a tablet or smart phone to take part.

The second app called Menti serves a similar function to Plickers but differs slightly in method. Instead of gathering feedback from scanning cards in a room, the teacher gets students to connect to its website, input a teacher designated code and then proceed to the quiz or survey. Once again, student feedback is instantaneous and can be broadcast in real time via the app.

Other useful features of Menti is that it allows the teacher to create word maps and turn surveys into a quiz games. This app is available through the web site www.mentimeter.com.


Table-Top Gaming

Markus Yong

Markus presented a way of making complicated table top war games more accessible for young English learners as well as outlining their associated benefits and challenges.

He used a game called Airfix Battles, a WWII-based tactical board game. Since the game mirrors real life battles there are a multitude of rules and actions each player can take such as measuring weapons range, calculating hits, assessing damage, looking after morale and finding cover.

Through trial and error Markus found that it is not necessary for kids to learn all the rules straight away. Instead, all that was needed was to teach the language necessary for them to move and then to shoot their units’ weapons. Then the teacher would calculate the rest. This should provide students with motivation to learn more complicated English to do this themselves in the future whilst still having fun playing the basic game.

He also found that having the kids actually make the soldiers from plastic model kits provided an extra source of motivation for when they eventually play the game.

Reported By
Markus Yong
Michael Stout

Michael Stout led the audience through a well-paced and thoughtfully-structured overview of how Action Research (AR) can benefit teachers.
After beginning with a brief introduction outlining the principles behind this approach, Stout drew on his own experience of using AR to show how it can help improve classroom outcomes.
He outlined how, after identifying a problem with his particular classroom situation, he and a fellow teacher implemented changes leading to positive outcomes which could be attributed to these changes. He pointed out the need to collect multiple data sources when introducing interventions. This is essential for the teacher-researcher to better understand the influence of any changes the intervention may contribute to, and to be able to progress through the reflective cycle that is part of the action research process.
He also reminded attendees that the AR research process could also lead to academic publications or presentations, a process beneficial for both professional and learner development.
Stout then led the presentation attendees through a quick session on how to develop our own research plans. This resulted in considerable discussion and exchange of suggestions, hopefully sparking some ideas for future AR projects.

Reported By
Paul Collett
Huy Tran

On Saturday, June 8, 2019, Huy Tran presented Teaching Methods in a Blended English Learning Environment. Mr. Tran described his own school in Kikuchi where students use computers to study English. He called it a Flipped Classroom where students do their homework at the school and then learn the lessons at home. Through extensive use of things like Skype in the Classroom as well as a number of other apps, students create language and learn independently and in groups. Mr. Tran provided an excellent video of the presentation that can be found here:

https://youtu.be/T3koRT2ZY4A

The meeting was attended by 5 members and ran from 7 to 9 pm.

Reported By
Jason McDonald
Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Ms. Hoskins gave a workshop and presentation on Saturday, May 11, discussing her very successful children’s textbook Let’s Go and why it has remained the EFL standard for children’s texts for the past couple of decades. She talked about how there needs to be a balance in the textbooks, and in EFL materials, between the students, the teachers, the content and the parameters of the text. EFL materials must pay attention to all four elements if they are to be successful.

Ms. Hoskins talked at length about designing materials in such a way that the teacher will know what to do with the material, and also the students will be able to intuit what is expected of them. The content needs to be geared for the intended learner with an eye to any potential cultural land mines that might spring up - such as having dogs inside the house or foods being discussed.

The presentation lasted from 7 pm to 9 pm and there were 14 in attendance.

Reported By
Jason McDonald

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