Event Review: Nara JALT June Event: Debate and Discussion for Secondary School Education

Reviewed by Masayuki Takano

The June event hosted by the Nara Chapter on June 17th, 2018 featured five speakers presenting overviews of their work introducing debate and discussion English learning activities to secondary school students.

In the first presentation, Rachel Stuart explained how she had been developing her teaching debate curriculum for second-year high school students such as developing strategies for debate. She also talked about positive and negative aspects of different forms of debate among students (e.g., a debate between one on one, students in pairs, or in groups etc). In the second half of the presentation, Angela Wren then shared about how the curriculum had evolved to suit small-group classes. The goal of the lessons is to encourage students to express their opinions using commonly used expressions.

As a second presentation, Kazuhiro Iguchi and Ritsuko Rita shared their teaching practice of implementing debate and discussion skills in their academic writing course. Although the aim of the course was students acquire the ability to write a five paragraph essay, they placed importance on integrating the four skills based on principals and the four strands by Nation (2009). That is, a well-balanced language class should consist of learning through meaning-focused input and output, deliberate attention to language items, and developing fluency. For instance, while Kazuhiro and Ritsuko had students work on grammar focused drills in the classroom, their students also had to write a lot in order to develop their fluency in writing. They also shared a debate worksheet to improve their speaking and writing skills.

As the last presentation, M. Ohdai shared her classroom experience in the junior high school context. The curriculum is built around choosing a location for the annual school trip, and students were split into groups to research on locations that they would like to visit for the annual school trip. Students were split into teams and were tasked to prepare poster presentations on their proposals for the school trip. The posters provided an anchor for students to prepare talking points for the subsequent debate session.

Finally, lively discussion session between the speakers and participants was held. We discussed how much we should have focused on specific language features, how to effectively implement “rebuttal” in actual debate, which could be quite challenging for secondary level students.

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