Event Reviews

Recent event reviews (2017 ~ )

Nara JALT MyShare

Date: February 26, 2017

Location: Takemaru Hall, Ikoma

Presenters: Tadashi Izumitani, Carl Eldridge, and Ray Santos

Reviewer:        Motoko Teraoka

Tadashi Izumitani, a first- year junior high school teacher, introduced teaching struggles, specifically with the use of a hybrid PPP (Presentation, Practice, and Production) approach. “Small talk” is used as the threshold of grammar instruction in the presentation stage. This talk aims to draw students’ attention to grammatical structures, thus encouraging them to notice basic usage and function. However, time constraint is a common classroom issue. Izumitani indicated that the production stage tends to get reduced, with most time allocated to the first two stages.

Carl Eldridge explored the core concepts of English tense, aspect, and modality. A schematic diagram mapping English tenses and aspects looked complicated at first glance, but was revealed as a fresh tool to aid students and teachers in understanding the relationships between tenses and aspects. Similarly, a modality diagram was also well structured. The more exposure to the uses of modal verbs students have, the more clearly they understand the choices in modality in real life situations.

Ray Santos used his vast teaching experience to introduce an important message using a small timer; “time” helps students focus on tasks. Participants in pairs memorized a short dialogue and recited perfectly within a designated and very brief time period. Additional effective ways to use time were further explored among the audience.


 

Archived reviews (pre-2017)


The Annual Tenri University-Nara JALT Joint Seminar 2012

Date and time:            Sunday January 29th 2012, 12:40-17:50

Venue:                            Tenri University, Somanouchi campus

Presenters:  

Presentation 1:           Kazuya Nakakono (Unebi Junior High School)

Presentation 2:           Yasuhiro Sakata (Takada High School)

Presentation 3            Takashi Yamamoto (Tenri High School)

Misa Naruse (Tenri High School)

Motoyasu Saito (Tenri High School)

Workshop:       Matthew Apple (Nara National College of Technology)

Lecture:              Jyuichi Suziki (Kyoto University of Foreign Studies)

Reviewer:        Motoko Teraoka

The 12th Tenri University English seminar co-hosted by Nara JALT, Kansai English Language Education Society (KELES) and NET forum was held with the theme of “Reconsidering the Standards of Teaching”. There were three presentations, a workshop, and a lecture. One presentation was done entirely in Japanese and the other two both in English and in Japanese. Only English was used in the workshop and the lecture in the two languages with the core content explained in Japanese.

 

  • Presentation 1: Looking Back at My First Year as a Junior High Teacher

 

Kazuya Nakakono recounted his first year as a junior high school teacher and talked to us how hard it had been. He is from a rural town of Nara Prefecture and finished a junior high school whose average number of students per class was less than ten. Now he teaches English to 38 students, four times as many students as he studied with. First, He had no idea how to deal with such a big number with different academic abilities. Eventually, he invented study-aid handouts which accommodated different English levels of students, from slow learners to fast ones. He actually uses ample handouts in his class in order to get all his students engaged in the class and not to make the less bright feel left out or marginalized.

Mr. Nakakono also introduced one of his teaching activities, “rotation reading” which is based on a pair reading activity. He divides the class into four groups and the students have to change their partners within a certain time limit so that each student in a group does the reading-aloud activity at least nine or ten times. Through such an activity he encourages his students to take active part in the class rather than sit and listen to him. He is still seeking better teaching practice and class management like many other teachers including me and raises questions whether traditional teaching practice being carried out at junior high schools in Japan is justifiable. His pursuit of being a better teacher never seems to stop.

 

  • Presentation 2: Pronunciation Practice for High School Students Who Want to be Elementary School Teachers

 

Yasuhiro Sakata’s project, “Pronunciation Practice for High School Students Who Want to be Elementary School Teachers” launched with the result of a survey conducted in May, 2010 targeted at 360 first graders. The survey revealed that more than half of the students answered “yes” when asked whether they liked English, but only more than a quarter of them had confidence in their English pronunciation. Actually, 93 percent of them wanted to improve their English pronunciation.

Mr. Sakata is in charge of “Education Course” of his school, which offers to students a curriculum in order to become elementary school teachers. Under the curriculum students are able to acquire necessary knowledge and skills for that purpose. He video-recorded his students introducing themselves in English or speaking aloud passages written in English when they first entered the course and re-recorded them a year later. During one year the students practiced their English pronunciation with the knowledge of phonology: Segmentals (vowels, consonants, and schwa sounds); Suprasegmentals (stress, intonation, and rhythm); and Connected Speech (assimilation, elision, and liaison) in the class and at home. The video recorded a year later showed how much their English pronunciation and confidence in speaking English had improved. Students’ self-evaluation also indicated the same outcome (77.5 percent and 65.0 percent of the students respectively answered affirmatively when asked whether their English pronunciation and their confidence in English pronunciation had improved).

Mr. Sakata believes that the improvement of the English pronunciation makes learning English fun and gives learners confidence in speaking English. He also maintains that speaking activities which help automatize students’ skills gained through pronunciation practice should be put in the learning process. Such activities can be hard to take root in the class, but certainly worthwhile.

  • Presentation 3: Towards Establishing a Unified Syllabus for the Whole School

Three passionate young high school teachers, Takashi Yamamoto, Misa Naruse, and Motoyasu Saito embarked on a big mission which was to establish a unified syllabus for the English department where they work. They figured out the reason for their students’ dislike of English was attributed to themselves: a lack of a consensus of teaching principles among the teachers of the department. The school climate-a private high school which has a diverse demography of teachers from fresh blood to old-timers with more than twenty years’ teaching experience-made it difficult to address and discuss the problems facing the department.

The three bravely put the issue on the table and persuaded their colleagues to participate in the mission. Establishing a unified syllabus, they thought, was to establish common ground among the teachers, to have a clear goal shared between teacher and student, and to reconsider their standard of teaching. By trial and error they succeeded in making up the syllabus and now are trying hard putting it into practice. Ms. Naruse mentioned three essentials of encouraging cooperation: explaining advantages, publicizing action, and compromising. Those three essentials can apply to any occasions when cooperation is necessary.

 

  • Workshop: To Use Tech or Not to Use Tech: Is This Even the Right Question?

 

Matt Apple, Nara JALT’s presenter, converted the ambience of the seminar from listening to participating. He started off his workshop with a questionnaire to encourage attendees to speak to others and the attendees actively engaged. Then, he explained what “tech” is, referring to a few definitions from dictionaries and some other resources. So what is “tech”? It is anything that people make, any tools, machines, utensils… well, anything really. The participants then discussed what “low tech” and “high tech” are.

Mr. Apple briefly mentioned six (+1) criteria of CALL task appropriateness: 1) Language learning potential; 2) Learner fit; 3) Meaning focus; 4) Authenticity; 5) Positive impact; 6) Practicality; and 7) Enhancement. However, he did not justify CALL only practice in the class. The blend of learning with CALL and non-CALL tasks should be sensible. The last group work given to the attendees was to determine what tech was needed for three language tasks focused on “language needed” and “method”. The attendees were then asked whether low tech or high tech were effective for each task.

After all, teachers do not need to choose either low tech or high tech and “which is better, low tech or high tech” is not even the right question. Teaching materials, methods and devices should be eclectic for learners’ learning purposes. Mr. Apple ended his half-lecture-and-half-workshop session in a way that made the audience fairly relaxed with a sense of participation. Thanks to his active and friendly nature, the seminar as a whole was spiced up.

 

  • Lecture: Improving Teaching Procedures through Self-evaluation

 

Jyuichi Suzuki changed his mind just before starting his lecture. Instead of introducing himself briefly, he revealed why he had decided to become a teacher of English. When in junior high school he was influenced by a girl he fell in love with, who had a strong desire of being a teacher of English. He wanted to share a mutual goal with her although his real intension was to be a teacher of history. Unfortunately, however, she had to give up her dream because of a lack of financial support and this incident urged him to be a teacher of English for her sake.

After breaking the ice, Mr. Suzuki got participants to self-evaluate 20 teaching procedures commonly seen in the English class in Japan with a four-point scale: 3-very often applied; 2-applied; 1-sometimes applied; and 0-rarely applied. These 20 teaching procedures are often used to hope enhance reading ability and comprehension. Some of them are: “have students look up every single new word in a dictionary as part of preparation”; “ have students copy down the pages of a textbook before they study in the class”; and “nominate students to say the meanings of new words”. All of them mentioned above seem to be ineffective, time-consuming, and serve no useful purpose. There appear to be many unnecessary teaching procedures being carried out in the class.

Mr. Suzuki challenges the legitimacy of traditional teaching procedures and recommends amending them in more effective ways. For example, instead of having students put slash marks in an English passage according to grammatical or lexical chunks while listening to the passage read aloud, let students read the already slash-marked passage and encourage them to remember those set-chunks. Although his true-or-false answers to the 20 teaching procedures do not seem to apply to all teaching contexts, it was quite convincing that he showed the result of some of his research to prove his conclusion. Many of the participants took note during his lecture, which showed their strong interest in teaching procedures.

The joint seminar was rounded off with a snack party. Informal discussion continued with name cards being exchanged. I walked around each table and handed out leaflets on Nara JALT’s 2012 events. In order to make the leaflets, every officer put a lot of time and efforts into the process. Special thanks go to our Publicity Chair, Luke Rigano who designed the fascinating layout and Program Chair, Matt Reynolds who laser-printed them and had a few copies enlarged for posters and laminated. Thanks are also extended to Leigh McDowell, Treasure who worked as a liaison officer between Tenri University and Nara JALT. It was actually worth the effort in that Nara JALT took part in the joint seminar with many friendly locals who have common interest and values. This will be a good sign of another promising year for Nara JALT.

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

Harold Palmer in Japan: A Lesson from History

Date and Time: Sunday, 17th October 2010, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

Venue: Yumekaze Hiroba

Presenters: Leigh McDowell & Yoko Yaku

Reviewer: Motoko Teraoka

This was a thought-provoking presentation.  Leigh McDowell started off with a question, “Have you ever been frustrated with English language teaching in Japan?”  He then gave us a bit of time to reflect on our teaching experience.

Firstly, Leigh introduced Harold E. Palmer (1877-1949), a reformist educator who has influenced English language education in Japan since the Meiji period.  We learnt about his early life, family and educational background.

Then, Leigh discussed Palmer’s methodology which was initially inspired the Direct Method known as the Berlitz Method, but with a more scientific approach to language teaching.  One of the central concepts in Palmer’s methodology was the binary distinction between language as speech and as a code.  “Speech” is an expression of communication, whereas “code” is contained in the grammar, spelling rules and phonology.  These two were separated entities and “speech” preceded “code”.  In other words, accustoming learners themselves to the English language itself was given priority over analysing it.

Another feature different from the Berlitz Method was that learners’ L1 was used in the Palmer Method, if necessary, to confirm the meaning of particular vocabulary after the success of attempts to communicate meaning in the L2 remained uncertain.  This was a new perspective, perhaps derived from someone who had studied several languages: German, Spanish, Polish and Esperanto.

Yoko Yaku later took over the presentation, focusing on how Palmer’s arrival in Japan came about and what he did in Japan and why his methodology did not take root in Japan.

We leant that in 1923 Palmer established the Institute for Research in English Teaching (IRET), where he put into practice; “imperative drill”-a  method currently known as TPR; “action chains”-action and speech with grammar structure involved; and “reader system”-utilization of knowledge gained from speech in easy English.  Through these teaching activities along with other attempts, Palmer had following reading comprehension, extensive reading and writing.

Yoko then explained four reasons for the failure of the prevalence of Palmer’s methodology: 1) Lack of financial support, 2) World WarⅡ, 3) Universalisation of English language education in Japan and 4) No imminent need of practical English.  The last two reasons also apply to the current English education in Japan, but the last one, I believe, appears to be something we would have to give serious thought in taking “teaching methodology” into account.

At the end of the presentation Leigh and Yoko took questions from the floor. One of the participants pointed out Palmer’s methodology overlapping behaviourist models of learning.  Another participant asked the reaction from the students who had studied in IRET.  The audience seems to have concluded that Palmer’s students must have had a hard time learning the foreign language, as well as dealing with various social expectations of a modernising Japan.  And regarding “phonetic transcription”, oral English practice based on this logical approach to learning the English sound system has been brushed aside in the current English education curriculum in Japan.  What a pity!

Let’s go back to the question asked by Leigh, “Have you ever been frustrated with English language teaching in Japan?”  Yes.  We all nodded in affirmation.  What is important for language professionals is to look back on the history of language teaching and learn from it, and search for appropriate methodologies in our own teaching contexts.

There is no doubt at all that Leigh and Yoko knocked at our door and made us rethink of the current practice carried out in English classes in Japan and what direction should be taken in the language classroom in the future.

Once again, this was a well-researched and insightful presentation.  Leigh and Yoko certainly deserve a big round of applause!

Further reading (authors): Anthony Philip Reid Howatt, Hans Heinrich Stern, Makhan Lal Tickoo and Ferdinand de Saussur

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.

GREG DUNNE and SEAN TOLAND.

Date: July 17, 2010 (Sat)

Venue: Nishibu Kouminkan (Gakuenmae)

Presenters: Greg Dunne and Sean Toland

Reviewer: Alessandro “Alex” Stanciu

Professional development among athletes in various sports often involves the use of videotaping and countless hours of close examination of the tape in order to pinpoint any flaws which, once corrected, could lead to an improvement in their overall performance.  These professionals view the video camera as an essential tool in polishing their techniques; the same cannot be said, however, for other professionals, particularly teachers.  In the teaching profession… videotaping is often viewed as an evaluative tool, and frequently utilized in a teacher’s pre-service practicum.  Once this pre-service period has finished, there is not much perceived benefit of the video camera.  In their presentation, Greg Dunne and Sean Toland set out to explain how the video camera can actually be used as a very powerful tool for professional development among teachers.

At the beginning of their presentation, they had the attendees separate into groups of four and spend a few minutes discussing a list of questions (see jpeg 1 below) they had prepared on the topic of professional development related to teaching. Then, referencing work carried out over the past four decades by various experts, they set out to demonstrate how a well-planned, structured videotaping project can lead to tangible improvements in the classroom.

Their project consisted of videotaping a number of university English classes in such a way that all students verified that the presence of video cameras impacted on neither teacher nor student performance and that the lesson designs themselves, did not significantly deviate from those of regular lessons. Each videotaping was followed by critical self-reflection, and later critical peer feedback from colleagues.  This willingness to openly share video of each other’s classes created an environment whereby the instructors could comfortably provide and receive critical feedback on the classroom performances, knowing they were all working toward a common goal, that of mutual professional teacher improvement. (see jpeg 2 and 3 below)

In their presentation, Greg and Sean also pointed out some of the technical, logistical, and technological issues which need to be addressed in setting out to implement a videotaping project. (see jpeg 4 below)  These included matters such as obtaining consensus among students, staff, and administrators and also addressed factors such as camera positioning, lighting, sound, and software by which to view and record feedback for each video.  In their presentation, they highlighted Video Paper Builder as one such tool which they found useful in their project.

In conclusion, they found that the benefits which can be realized from a properly planned videotaping project are well worth the efforts, and argue that the video camera should be seen as yet another powerful tool in the professional development suite of tools which teachers have at their disposal.  The presentation was very interesting in that it challenged us to think of a video camera in our classrooms as a friend versus a foe, and demonstrated to us how a properly planned videotaping project, can lead to tangible improvements in our classroom performance.

Thank you to both Greg and Sean for an informative and enlightening evening.

Greg Dunne: EFL Program Coordinator, Osaka Shoin Women’s University

Greg Dunne has followed on from a high school English teaching career in his native Australia by teaching EFL in Japanese universities for the past 12 years. Currently, he is a tenured instructor at Osaka Shoin Women’s University where he coordinates the EFL program. He holds a Masters in Applied Linguistics (TESOL) degree from Macquarie University, a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Tasmania and a Diploma in Teaching from Sydney Advanced College of Education. His research interests include teacher development, CALL, task-based learning and world Englishes.

Sean Toland EFL Instructor, Osaka Shoin Women’s University

Sean Toland has taught English as a foreign language in Japan and Korea at every level from elementary to University.  In addition to his EFL experience, he has also spent three years teaching high school students in two geographically remote Inuit settlements in Canada’s far north.  Sean holds a Masters in Education degree from Brock University, a diploma in Education from McGill University, and an Honours B.A. with a double major in History and Religion & Culture from Wilfrid Laurier University.  He is currently working as an English instructor at Osaka Shoin Women’s University in Osaka, Japan.

Jeff Crawford’s My Share Presentation.

Scaffolding Activities.

Review by Ray Santos.

On Sunday, May 16th at Yumekaze Hiroba, our new JALT meeting location in Nara City, Jeff Crawford gave a My Share presentation.  Jeff demonstrated “how he scaffolds activities from lower to higher levels, creating greater learner confidence and autonomy in output”. The activities which Jeff presented were mainly in a game based format and were for lower level university students.  However, a simplified form of the activities could, also be used for elementary, junior high and high school students.

First of all, Jeff discussed the underlying theories to this game based approach that he employs in the classroom.  Then, he further explained that the activities which he was going to present were based on the game ‘battleship’ (see attached prints).  Basically, by communicating in English, students had to locate their partner’s hidden ‘battleships’.  After this brief explanation, we were given the ‘battleship’ prints and asked to do the activity.  Suddenly, the room became lively as all the participants began making statements to try to locate their partners ‘battleships’.  Even though I was not a student, I felt that the activity was quite entertaining. Moreover, I believe that English language learners will find these activities exciting and educational.  In addition, by using this game based strategy, low-level English learners will focus on accomplishing the task of locating the ‘battleships’ and not worry about being embarrassed to speak English.

After Jeff presented a few versions of this activity, we were divided into groups of four and encouraged to discuss the positive and negative aspects of these activities.  Following this, we returned to our large group and then reported on what we had discussed in the smaller groups.  There were a number of excellent ideas on how to use these activities in various educational setting.

Overall, the presentation was not only thought-provoking, but also fun.  What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Thank you, Jeff!

Date: 20-Mar-2010 (Sat)

Venue: Nishibu Kouminkan (Gakuenmae)

Presenter: Associate Professor Rintaro Sato

Title: English teaching in the Japanese EFL Environment. How Efficacious?

Reviewer: Leigh McDowell

Sato-sensei is an education researcher from the Nara University of Education. A look at his recent publications indicates that his research interests fall on the practical, and that one of his main areas of focus is integrating western language pedagogy with formal education in Japan—an area that deserves our full attention. His presentation for Nara JALT was an investigation of the merits of Task Based Learning (TBL) and the Present, Practice, Produce approach (PPP) within the context of EFL in Japan.

The presentation started with an overview of TBL and PPP and highlighted a lot of the criticism PPP has received. We were guided through the familiar constraints inherent in the Japanese education system (reliance on authorized textbooks, learning for examinations, focus on grammatical forms, large class sizes, lack of training in communicative pedagogy, etc.) while Sato-sensei pointed out the limitations of TBL to accommodate these and elaborated on its incongruity with Confucian-heritage education.

In light of these constraints, and drawing on principles from Skill-Acquisition Theory and Transfer Appropriate Processing Theory, Sato-sensei suggested we reconsider the PPP approach since this is more in line with students’ exam-oriented needs and motivation. He offered us a revised version of PPP to help overcome the parrot-like, mechanical aspects of the approach, connect form with meaning and context and insert open, skill integrated activities into the production stage. He highlighted the importance of the practice stage in the Japanese context and the need to consider both exam-oriented pedagogy along with communicative activities.

This was the first time the Nara Chapter held an event at the Nishibu Kouminkan.  The venue has a lecture style feel but on a more interactive scale. After wrapping up his presentation, Sato-sensei was able to sit with the audience and participate in an engaging discussion on the merits of TBL and PPP in Japan. After that most of us including Sato-sensei continued the discussion over pizza and beer in the Italian restaurant upstairs of Gakuenmae Station building.

All in all, this event was a great success with a good balance of professional and social stimulation. We hope to see everyone again at the next one.

3 responses to “Event Reviews

  1. You should have submitted this to the Language Teacher. They may have asked for a shortened version, but even that would have been good PR for the Nara Chapter.

    • Leigh McDowell

      Jim,

      You are right, of course. Probably too late now, but that is advice to keep in mind for future events.
      Thanks,
      Leigh

  2. Good point to think about in future Jim. Thanks.

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