Category Archives: post-event comments

JALT PanSIG 2018—A Conference Review

Review by Angela Wren

The diversity of the presentations (25 mins), poster presentations (55 mins), SIG forums (85 mins), and plenary conversations (55 mins) at this year’s conference was refreshing.

 “PanSIG is not just for university educators; it is also for eikaiwa teachers, ALTs, and public school teachers” – Conference Chair Jennie Roloff Rothmon

For educators of younger learners

Everyone is interested in what the future of English education looks like in Japan. The audience for Alison Nemoto’s popular Getting Ready for 2020 presentation included a games developer, a parent, university lecturers, elementary teachers and teacher trainers. Highlights of the new MEXT ES textbooks are that they are child-centered and focus on communicative language. It is hoped that the extra hours for English learning will provide more chances for student interaction,presentations, and more English input beyond the expected student output.

For teachers in any context

In The Role of Working and Short-Term Memory in L2 LearningPeter Wanner discussed how to keep students’ working memory free to focus wholly on language by breaking tasks into small steps, avoiding redundancy in excessive teacher talk and using memory aids such as checklists. In Steve Paton’s engaging talk Eliciting Student Answers: Finding what it takeshe shared practical ways to make teacher and student interaction “normal, friendly human communication.”

Using humour and cartoons to disarm reluctant speakers, he showed how he has students think about, “why are they here?” and learn to speak English by doing it!

For textbook or course designers

Two research presentations that took an analytical look at textbooks were Cameron Romney’s The Purpose of Images in ELT Textbooks Revisited and Chie Kawashima’s Speech Acts Presented in Japanese EFL Textbooks. The identification of the role of images in textbooks, and the evaluation of grammatical forms used in common speech acts were useful for those interested in choosing or creating course materials, rather than being directly related to teaching skills.

For task designers

Task and curriculum design is my pet interest, so I may be biased when I nominate this presentation as having the most original ideas and fresh content of the weekend. Stephen Case’s Incorporating the Best Practices of Game Design into Task Design went into depth on how the ideas from video and board games can be put into analogue format for classroom use. He broke down the concepts behind successful game design, and gave examples as well as some extensions to familiar tasks. We left inspired by new ideas and ways to use the concepts in our own “engaging, motivating and educational” task design.

Alec Lapidus’s Multiliteracies: Comics and Sociocultural Theory was another presentation which focused on practical teaching ideas and the theory behind why it works. His use of comics to fill in the gaps of knowledge, both culturalandlinguistic, of newly-arrived refugee students in an ESL context, could also be adapted to the Japanese EFL context. He demonstrated how to use comics in diverse ways such as visually expressing new grammar points or exploring social issues with lower language level students.

For educators exploring alternative career pathways and language school owners

The Lifelong Language Learning SIG’s Career Design in the Lives of Teachers forum from Gregory Strong, Charles Browne, Joseph Dias and Blair Thomson covered topics as wide reaching as building a portfolio career, wealth accumulation, achievements through volunteering and long term financial planning.

Grant Osterman’s School Ownership: The Unbiased Reality and John Gayed’s Driving Traffic to Your School via Google were both helpfulpresentationsfor anyone considering whether starting a private language school is feasible and desirable in their situation.

For educators with an abundance of energy

The Speech, Drama and Debate SIG Forumfeaturing speakers Gordon Rees, Jason White, Vivian Bussinguer-Khavari, Chris Parham, Cynthia Gonzales, Rachel Stuart and Angela Wren, included drama activities which got us all moving, a different take on drama using radio plays, a debate curriculum, and debate skills for SHS, JHS and even ES students. Despite it being the last time slot of the day, it was a popular forum with a decidedly Kansai presence, full of ideas, energy, enthusiasm and creativity.

The onsite JALT and student volunteers, and of course the behind-the-scenes planning volunteers, did a great job putting on an event packed with ideas for all educators. The presenters and participants of this year’s JALT PanSIG Conference were knowledgeable and welcoming, and made the event worthwhile. With thanks to all involved for another successful conference.

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Are you listening? Responding to the challenges of diversity

Mehran, who, along with another Iranian speaker, had mesmerized the Nara Chapter audience with their talk about the beauty of Iran a year before, shared with the audience this year her realities of harassment around gender and nationality. Her personal accounts of the “microaggression” she experienced since she left her country revealed how people, in general, are ignorant of others and stuck into stereotyped ways of judging others. This would lead to irrational fear, anger, insult or even pity toward others. The painful path she had to go through has made her an activist and change-agent, serving as a wake-up call to all of us in the fight against macro and microaggressions. Yokota warned us that we could easily become both victims and offenders of any sort of harassment and misconduct. She emphasized how dangerously a snowball effect can happen and how important it is to deal with the initial stage of a potential incident. The audience also had a chance to look at and discuss the recently implemented JALT Code of Conduct <https://jalt.org/main/jalt-code-conduct&gt;. We all agreed that the JALT Code of Conduct should be a prototype of our professional behavior toward any human rights issues and thus permeate us. The following end-of-year dinner party further strengthened our bonds of friendship and made us look forward to another exciting year for the chapter.

NARA: February—Lexical bundles in English for Academic Purposes: On the other hand by Averil Coxhead.

Dr. Averil Coxhead specialises in vocabulary learning, with particular focus on English for academic (EAP) and/or specific (ESP) purposes. Many are familiar with her work on the Academic Word List (AWL)—one of the most well tried and tested word-lists available. In this presentation, she focused our attention on lexical bundles, which she defined as ‘three or more words repeated without change,’ for example, on the other hand. Many of the benefits of learning these set phrases seem common sense to us—gains in fluency, more native-like and idiomatic expression, etc. On the other hand…

We were taken on a whirlwind tour of corpus linguistics, and Dr. Coxhead’s own research, and introduced to some of the challenges that arise in using lexical bundles in the classroom. The following is a top-ten list of lexical bundles used in academic English (Byrd & Coxhead, 2010).

1) On the basis of, 2) On the other hand, 3) As a result of, 4) The end of the,  5) At the end of the, 6) The nature of the, 7) At the same time, 8) In terms of the, 9) In the form of, 10) In the absence of

Dr. Coxhead highlighted the structural features and limited frequency of these bundles as limitations for their use in the classroom. For example ‘on the basis of’ occurred 308 times in an academic English corpus of around 3.5 million words. This means that a learner reading 15,625 words of academic text, could expect to meet this—the number one most frequent lexical bundle in the academic corpus—twice. Not great bang for your buck. These bundles, also tend to be functional, discourse markers that get buried in-between long complex clauses and noun-phrases in academic English. She gave the following as an example.

Clyne’s research provides valuable information on the distribution of a large number of these languages in Australia (Clyne, 1985, 1991, Clyne and Kipp,1996). On the basis of his analyses, Clyne also identifies a number of “unequivocally important” factors as relevant in accounting for different rates of language shift in different communities….

Looking at this extract, it is apparent that a learner would be doing rather well if their major hurdle in comprehending these two sentences were the lexical bundle buried in the middle (highlighted in bold). Furthermore, these phrases tend to lack face validity with learners who already know all the words in the set and resent relearning them as a bundle.

Dr. Coxhead’s message was one of caution—there are so many other things going on in language to compete with a learner’s attention. Not least of all, there are other pre-fabricated lexical formulas; such as, frames with slots, collocations, academic formulas and metaphor. Metaphor, Dr. Coxhead pointed out, with particular reference to Frank Boers’ research, can be much more problematic in L2 comprehension. Dr. Coxhead left us with guidelines to approaching lexical bundles in academic English. We should always be wary of learning lists. We need to draw attention to lexical bundles in context, and revisit them in order to provide the repetition necessary for learning. And we can benefit our learners by being explicit about expectations for learning these bundles.

I’d like to conclude this review noting that Averil Coxhead was one of the most dynamic presenters I’ve seen in a long time. She charmed the audience with warmth and wit, and healthy doses of tales from her homeland, New Zealand. If ever you have a chance to see Averil in action, do not miss the opportunity to see yet another great kiwi teacher-scholar.

 

Review by Leigh McDowell


Averil Coxhead Slides

Really? Where does she slide? Right here. If you attended the TUJ weekend seminar given by Dr. Averil Coxhead in Osaka and are hungry for more—or if you missed the seminar but would like to get a glimpse of what she covered—look no further. Here are the slides she presented available for download: https://public.me.com/leighmcdowell . Spread the specialised vocabulary joy!

Those who attended the Nara JALT talk given by Averil who want to see the slides she presented for that event can take a look here.

Good times,

Leigh McDowell

Nara: April—Poetry for Language Learning and Personal Growth by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Nara: April—Poetry for Language Learning and Personal Growth by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa 

After brief self-introductions, attendees were asked by Joritz-Nakagawa to look over the 17 poems on her handout and select the one(s) we could use in class. When everyone was ready, each person related which one(s) could be used and how. Rather than mere presentation, everyone added comments and questions about each person’s potential uses, which created an interactive and useful sharing session. Some of the considerations in choosing poems were language difficulty, length, the sound of a poem when read, and the image created by a poem. Activities ranged from merely reading the poem, to having discussions about it or students sharing impressions. Joritz-Nakagawa noted that songs are often better for rhythm and rhyme if that is a goal.  

Although she has taught courses devoted to poetry, she mainly peppers her other classes, including general English classes, with activities similar to the ones we discussed. One thing of note is that she tries to make many of the activities communal in nature so students can share their ideas and help each other, rather than working alone. She then gave us information about materials and resources before ending the workshop with ideas and experiences of using poetry for therapy and personal growth.  

Reported by Rodney Dunham

 

If any other attendees would like to comment on the presentation, particularly anyone who has had the chance to try any of her ideas in the classroom, please feel free to chime in.

Thanks.

Lena Okada Presentation.

Lena thanks so much for an interesting and enthusiastic presentation.

Thanks too to everyone who made it out to Gakuenmae and contributed through your participation and questions.

Nara JALT Publicity.

Nara: March—Everything You Need To Know About Teaching English at Elementary Schools by Lena Okada 

With abundant energy, ideas, and experience, Okada led us through three hours of learning needs, classroom activities, and situational considerations. She began with a look at the pros and cons of teaching English in elementary school at respective ages.  One concern she expressed was that the “rich Japanese culture” may be dying.  She spent quite a bit of time talking about pronunciation and related activities. The role of ALTs in the classroom was another area she dealt with. Other things that she explained were the importance of visual aids, need for TPR-oriented activities, use of songs, and the role of games in the classroom. Okada then demonstrated a number of games, which reflected the priorities of her curriculum: numbers, colors, shapes, then fruits and vegetables. She stressed that purple should be the first color taught because it is the most difficult to pronounce. Right from the beginning, students should work on their pronunciation so they can train their muscles and ears for sounds that are not part of Japanese.  

The relatively fast-paced session was peppered with interesting ideas and useful activities. In addition, Okada has written a book that she feels is an elementary school English education curriculum.  

 by Rodney Dunham