Saturday, November 22, 2014

2014 November 22 | JALT International Conference | Conversations Across Borders | Day 2 Report

The greeting at Tsukuba's
Epochal Congress Convention Center
This year's National Conference had the theme of Conversations Across Borders. The venue was the Tsukuba Epochal Congress Convention Center which was a beautiful location. There were hundreds of presentations, workshops, poster sessions, and other ways to connect and communicate with other language teaching professionals from around Japan and around the world. It was quite exciting to both attend and present at the conference. Included in this post are a few notes about the presentations I watched on the second day (I didn't attend the first day or the fourth day).

Here is a picture of my colorful conference bag:

Conference bag and program
A view from above of the
Epochal Congress Convention Center
Karen Masatsugu
One of the first people I met at the conference was our outgoing president Nagasaki President Karen Masatsugu. She also presented at the conference on Sunday, however my early return flight prevented me from seeing what I heard was a very lively and crowded presentation. I hope to ask her to present her topic again locally in 2015.

—— 1st plenary - Clair Kramsch - Why Conversation Needs Borders

In the 1st plenary session, Clair Kramsch, from University of California, Berkley. She’s originally born and raised in France and teaches German at University of California Berkley.

Dr. Kramsch challenged the existing trends of globalization and breaking down of borders. Her theme expressed the need for borders in order to validate the need for cross-cultural linguistic studies. The common idea is that language teachers are used to having borders which contrasts the globalization movements. She gave us good examples of cross-border communications especially with her examples of a German student and an American student conversing about a potentially difficult topic of 9/11.

The notion of Symbolic Competence:
  • Understanding language use as attempts to construct meaning (semiotic process) e.g. 9/11 as an historic event. 
  • Constructing meaning as pitting events in relation to others (indexical relations), e.g. 9/11 conspiracy theory - patriotism - extraordinary rendition - national security 
  • Reflecting on the dissonance between indexical relations, e.g. patriotic vs. un-american; extraordinary rendition vs. torture; national security vs. kidnapping 
  • Searching for a phenomenon on a higher symbolic plane that will help resolve the dissonance: e.g., social awareness of NSA surveillance can lead to historical and political consciousness on the global plane 
Resignifying the boundary requires a relational pedagogy the put the various border as well as the different aspects of these borders in relation with one another and seeks symbolic meanings on a higher plane.

My comment: Excellent speech. I don’t think she took a breath during the entire 40 minutes. I really enjoyed it.

—— 1st presentation - Leslie Ito - Use Graded Readers in Conversations Class and More

Students are typically unbalanced - have one skill much stronger than the others. They might be good communicators, but they are poor at reading or writing.

Reading books —> to talking about it. Some students are good readers but fail in the ability to talk about what they have read.

Ms. Ito covered motivational for readers for all ages. Even adult classes can benefit from graded reading in order to break the cyclical pattern of talking about nothing.

She also covered book reports. I commented that it looks much like we have implemented at NIU using the Moodle Graded Reader program. Possibly it is more interactive based on the Choose Your Own Adventure format.

She also covered the benefits of multi-path readers (choose your own adventures). These readers generate discussion between the students since they have to interactively discuss the possible paths.

Problems with existing graded reader versions of CYOA books is that the adventures are too varied (very long or very short or some with an infinite loop).

The new books being published by Atami-ii Books (new publisher, being promoted by the presenter) have a structured format which makes all the possible stories the exact same length.

She covered a format for group reading - read the same book together. Alternate standing and sitting between pages so each member knows when the other members are finished with the page. When the decision stage arrives, students wait for each other and then discuss the possible decisions. The rules could be that the group must all agree with the decision and then proceed to the next decision in the same standing/sitting format.

In our practice discussions there was a lot of discussion especially during the decisions. We were morally motivated by our choices and sense of adventure. Students will feel similarly.

Leslie feels her students have increased in their motivation to read as a result of this interactive-style of classroom reading. These CYOA books are also made available to some extent on YouTube. The YouTube version is an interactive book reading.

There is a writing-style activity for having students creating their own CYOA story.

—— 2nd presentation - Andy Boon - Exploring Worlds Outside: Students as Researchers

Andy Boon presenting Students as Researchers
Andy covered the concepts of implementing a research/presentation course. Each course concludes with a poster-presentation in “kaiten zushi” format.

In student feedback, it was reported
  • They enjoyed choosing their own topic.
  • They were able to use English outside the classroom as well.
  • Also, reading and studying about the topics was also a positive.
  • Speaking and writing skills could improve.
  • Students teach useful information to each other.
  • Designing a poster is a useful skill.
  • Giving a presentation to just a few people was very enjoyable. 
The things they didn’t like:
  • Choosing the theme was difficult. 
  • The student chose a theme which was boring.
  • Not enough time to research. 
  • Not enough questionnaire responses.
  • Andy didn’t provide poster paper.
  • Speaking in front of people was difficult even though the audience was small.
  • Writing the assignment was not enjoyable.
  • Risky topic so took courage.
  • Was absent from poster day so did not see other presentation. 
In the workshop, Andy asked us to answer some questions which later became spontaneous poster presentations around the room.
  • What kind of institution? (My answers: Private University w/Service Industry Majors - tourism, pharmacology, nutrition, social work)
  • What kind of classes? (My answers: some Enshu, some Global Tourism)
  • Do you / How could you incorporate Project-Based instruction? (My answers: We currently give students project-based work)
  • What are / would be the advantages or constraints? (My answers: Advantages are that students can learn to use English to present a topic which is greater than just practicing their English in conversation. The constraints are the limited number of classes and getting students to work on things outside of class in an organized fashion. Having checkpoints along the way helps us to keep students on track). 
Then we presented our answers practicing the format that Andy uses with his students. It was a very interactive presentation and allowed the participants to join in actively.

—— 2nd plenary - Bill Harley - Story and Song - Ancient Crafts in a Modern World

Bill Harley
Bill is a singer/songwriter who is a 2-time Grammy award winning musician.

Bill spoke about the human voice and spoken and sung word as being the base upon which all other forms of the language are based. He emphasizes the importance of story and song in the classroom and life.
Bill sang us songs and told us stories. His quote, "stories don't take meaning until they are told," was very poignant. It is the story teller’s duty to bring stories to life. He also had everyone in stitches telling his stories. (14 yeast rolls and a slice of pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner - nicely told!)

When we give a story to a student, we give them a framework to understand the world… to make sense of their lives. This type of medium makes learning easier.

Media is fine, but only people know the stories to tell at the right time and the right place. The storyteller knows the audience which makes them unique to a media.

Then he sang a song for the civil rights movement - worked with some famous musicians on it. Pete Seeger. "I’m gonna sit at the welcome table.” and “This little light of mine”

—— 3rd presentation - Ben Shearon - Presentation Skill Success: Breaking Things Down

Ben is sponsored by OUP and covered presentation skills. He also is promoting the Stretch: 6 Skill Textbook Series published by OUP. Each unit has a presenting skills section. It is a basic framework for teaching presenting.

Ben got us started by asking us to define “presentation”.

Ben Shearon presenting
Our group (Thom, Eiji, and Bethan (Kanda Univ. of International Studies)) came up with “individual or group which stands in front of an audience and transmits information in an easy to understand format."

Why teach presenting skills?
  • Students need them.
  • It’s not taught elsewhere.
  • It’s good practice
  • It’s a change of pace from the regular classroom.
Presentation skills can transfer to speaking/writing. The skills can also transfer to L1. A good point for teaching presentation to students: If you sell the idea of the value of presentation skills learning to students, it will go well.

Obstacles faced:
  • It is new for students
  • It is complex and intimidating
  • The students are essentially learning 2 things at once.
  • It takes a lot of time.
  • Seems practical
  • Can be a lot of fun
Ben discussed why it is important to start the students off on the right foot. Selling the course to the students before they get into it to get them onboard.

What to teach? The 4 areas of presentation
  • 1st Physical - Easiest to learn, hardest to master.
    • Posture - Teaching posture is important. What position is your body in? Feet shoulder width apart, head up, standing straight. Where are your hands? Advice would be to keep them in front. “Stand up straight and don’t move."
    • Eye contact - Cultural differences must be observed. It’s useful for building rapport with the audience and getting visual cues from the audience if they are engaged. It makes you look more confident.
    • Voice - 3 aspects: Volume (be loud enough, regulate the speed accordingly, pausing properly when making an important point)
    • Gestures - two types - meaningful gestures (showing how tall someone is or showing an action from a gesture) are not really necessary. Hand movements for emphasis. Let students decide what they need.
    • Movement - Move appropriately and deliberately. Left to right to balance the attention to the class. Move back to remove focus on you and return focus to slides. Move closer to audience to build a personal rapport. 
  • 2nd Content - 
    • Message - Main point or desired action (the call to action)
    • The Basic Structure
      • Beginning - introduce the topic 
      • Points - distinct points supporting the topic
      • Ending - the main thing people will take away from the presentation.
    • Transfer to essay writing
    • Helps to develop empathy
    • Use critical thinking skills
    • Telling stories - the best way to introduce it is to show when it has been used by a student.
  • 3rd Design - 
    • Simple and effective
    • Presentation ZEN (good book for slide design)
    • Gave a good example of the bad presentation.
    • Images and data display
      • Some examples of images and text which look good for a presentation.
    • Support the presentation
      • Usability
  • 4th Rhetoric - Only if the students get comfortable with the first three items
    • Use a question to “hook” your audience.
    • Comparisons - 
    • Repetition - Happy students are more motivated in class. Happy students do better on tests. Happy students work more effectively.
How to teach?
  • Decide the order - 
    • Number/type of presentations - depends on your class size.
    • Content - give them guidance on choosing a topic.
    • Activities - practicing the skills learned as activities.
Basic lesson plan: review the previous lesson skill, introduce new topic, then practice. “Kaizen Cycle"
  • Some activities: (no script allowed, no memorization allowed)
    • Solo practice - 
    • Pair practice - 
    • Small group practice - let students give each other feedback
    • Whole class practice - practice in front of the class
Collect PowerPoint files before the presentation.
What happens if you're not prepared? 
  • No notes. (Check Michael Bay Samsung Presentation)
Feedback sheet - focused feedback.
  • Watch classmates
  • Watch teachers
  • Watch online
What else?

Presentation component in general English classes
Focus on skill practice
Specialize textbook or homemade

Private one-on-one classes
Feedback loop
Provide specific models based on need
Normally short-term

Mobile phones
Language tools

Interesting and varied content
Different length videos

Shawn Acre - Happiness
Hans Rosling - Focused and emphatic

Enter the stretch competition (

—— 4th presentation - Yoko Kusumoto and Monica Hamciuc - Bridging EFL and English Medium Instruction

Monica Hamciuc and Yoko Kusumoto
Covering the transition from students moving from the EFL classroom to an EMI classroom in university. These researchers recognized a systematic problem with the methods of support for students and worked to both identify the issues and propose solutions.

What is CLIL? What is EMI?
  • Content and Language Integrated Learning
  • Teaching target language through using the target language
  • It is believed to enhance student motivation and confidence
  • Content teachers don’t have a lot of foreign language skills or pedagogy.
The research team gathered data from studies in Asia (Korea, Thailand, China).

(See context in JALT Conference guide page 44)

They used to assess the readability of the course materials in an EMI course. They found the readability to be quite low. They also found student were ill prepared to take notes in class. Students were offered advice from the researchers on how to study (Read, Review, Keywords, Key Concepts, Note Taking Video, Not taking demonstration by EFL teacher)

Yoko talked about the outcomes. She reported most students were unaware of the study tips or they didn’t even know they existed. Those that did use the tips did leave positive comments or comments requesting more support.

The overall result of the study showed a slight increase in ability upon making use of the study materials. They gave a list of Do’s and Don’ts to advise both EFL and EMI teachers.

—— Reception Best of JALT —— 

Conference participants attended a reception with some drinks and a few light snacks. It gave people a chance to unwind and catch up with fellow colleagues.

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