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.


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

Music and Movement: An UpBeAt ReViEw

Music and Movement: An UpBeAt ReViEw¯

Presenters: Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi

Review by: Luke Rigano

Who is Eric Jensen? Not sure? Nor was I but that was the very question posed to an eager audience on Sunday, September 19th 2010, at the lovely Yume Shirube Kaze Shirube meeting room nestled in foreground of Nara’s world famous Todaiji Temple.  The answer to the afore mentioned question was melodiously addressed in an interactive and inspiring presentation by Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi. 

Before I get into the question at hand, wherever you might be reading this, I urge you to start tapping your feet. Yep, right now. Go on.  That’s it.  A little faster now. Great.  Ok, you can stop now before other people start to stare but it feels good, right?

The point Ray Santos outlined throughout the presentation, based on the of the findings of author/researcher Eric Jensen,  was that using music in the classroom can in fact create not only a positive mood but also a more energised group of more often than otherwise ‘I’m sleepy…’ kind of students. 

I hear you asking yourself the obvious open ended questions that such a gripping statement may evoke.  Let me briefly recap a few of Ray’s main points.  Having some music playing in the classroom as students stager in, before they slump into their seats, can often set an more vibrant atmosphere from the get go.  Not just any music mind you; a bit of Enya may just be just enough to make even the most severe sufferer of insomnia descend into a deep slumber, perhaps a matter of personal opinion. Instead, what you are going to want to pump out that expensive audio equipment that rarely gets used for anything else than the monotone textbook dialogue is something with a minimum of 120 beats per minute.  According to the research presented, that is the magic number.  You know, something upbeat, something that gets the heart pumping, something that rocks!! By letting the beats work their infectious magic for the first few minutes of class it was suggested that it’s likely to get the blood flowing freely and invigorate students allowing for better concentration and participation in the classroom.

A similarity was drawn by one of the participants that if one listens to tunes at the gym, not that I can personally attest to ever going to one of those health freak facilities, then the beat rate of the music will inevitably set your work out pace. I can imagine it would.

Point there being, it’s not so much what you play but how fast it is. In the words of Jensen himself, “Music is a language that kindles the human spirit, sharpens the mind, fuels the body and fills the heart.”

This was demonstrated by Ray with a number of well planned music related activities that got the crowd, even the rhythmically challenged like myself, tapping our toes.   These included a ‘guess the beat count’ task to have participants consider the tempo appropriacy of some classic musical numbers.  This was followed by some maraca/hip shaking action and a finally a brainstorm session.  The results of the brainstorm not only showed an eclectic taste in music but also shockingly revealed what a bunch of ‘stuck in the 80s’ kind of audience members we were. They were. Musically speaking. Michel Jackson, The Buggles, and a-ha were just a few of the artists that were thrown in to the retro circle.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for slower music in the classroom. The point was also made that slower, more relaxing mellow type music can potentially also be incorporated into lessons as either soothing background music or to bring calm to a rowdy mob.

Where Ray was able to gets us tapping our toes, Catriona took care of things in the leg department, taking things up a physical notch, not surprisingly leading the ‘movement’ activities.  Ray and Catriona seamlessly alternated activities with a well balanced mix of seated contemplative and collaborative tasks contrasted with stand, bound and bounce type active activities. That’s when the stomping started!  The composed yet effervescent Catriona smoothly lead the group through her take on a few active classroom classics such as some variations on ‘fruit basket’ and some personal introductions which culminated in the ol’ ‘yes-no side step’, but with a difference.  That being the clearly labelled ‘DMZ’ running slap bang down the centre of the region, well, room.

One important thing that I haven’t mentioned is the mantra for the day, something that set the whole day off to a dynamic start from the duo.  A little chant with exaggerated energetic gestures that was effectively and repeatedly incorporated throughout the presentation to get us out of our seats, as a transition between tasks or just to keep us on task.  Wait for it… ‘Exercise boosts brain power.’ This wonderfully imaginative chant was used not only as an effective classroom management technique but also served to drum home the philosophy behind the presentation

The EBBP chant itself is a re-incarnation, introduced by the wonderful Kim Horne at her presentation a year or so back, though credit for the mantra is due to Ms Horne, kudos to Ray and Catriona for putting that extra ‘oo’ in boost and the ‘pow’ in power.

All of the melodic methods and swinging strategies presented on the day would be suitable for use in classrooms ranging from Elementary school right through to University classes.  Or, perhaps, even by flamboyant aerobics instructors to boot.

A big thanks must go the presenters Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi for a practical, pentatonic presentation.  Their enthusiasm as presenters certainly energised the audience and set a great example for educators wishing to follow the beat of their drum by incorporating some tunes into teaching. 

Further reading on the topic can be sourced from Eric Jensen’s book, Music with the Brain in Mind.