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Date: Sunday, April 24, 2011
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Location: Osaka Gakuin University, Building No. 2
Admission: Students: 300 yen, JALT members: 500 yen, Non-members: 1000 yen

JALT’s Osaka Chapter, in collaboration with the Framework and Language Portfolio SIG and Task Based Learning SIG, is proud to sponsor our second annual Back to School event, to be held April 24 at Osaka Gakuin University.

At this mini-conference there will be presentations on a wide range of topics including theory and practice related to Task-Based Learning and the Common European Framework (CEFR), as well as presentations on pedagogical practices and topics of interest and practical application to classroom language teachers.

The schedule of presentations is at the bottom of this page.

100% of proceeds from this event will be going to support relief efforts in Tohoku via the Save the Children organization, so come join us for a great day of sharing ideas that are sure to help start off the new school year on a positive note. 

Wrap up

Sometimes the most important "learning moments" come during the chats between presentations, such as this randomly overheard comment: 

“Interviews show that often there is one key person or turning point in a student's trajectory, where one particular comment or recommendation by a teacher or other respected person will change that student's life path.”

Back to School 2011

Ever since hearing this comment, I have been reflecting on the teachers and turning points that have led me to 20 years of teaching English in Osaka, as well as how some seemingly random comment by a teacher like us "Your English is good." or "You should consider studying abroad." could change a student's life and send them on adventures across the world!

So let's try to do more of that.

Thanks to everyone who came out to our Back to School event. It was a great day with lots of wonderful presentations. We raised over ¥50,000 to help victims of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. We will be donating the money to Save the Children Japan. Thanks also to the FLP and TBL SIGs for helping to make this event happen.

Event Schedule

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Michelle Graves

Student Self Management Diary – Helping students to become better students

By Michelle Graves

In the session I demonstrated a tool, that is basically a behaviour modification tool, that I developed to quickly identify to my students what I expected in class (punctuality, pencils etc), but turned the management of it back onto the students. I was driven to create this tool because I wanted to fix things that were important to me in my classroom; to create a smoother environment for teaching, and it needed to be a non-distracter in class.

I believe that students honestly do not realize they are continually late, forgetting textbooks and the list goes on, and it needs to be drawn to their attention. I didn’t want to be seen as penalizing these actions but rather rewarding the good actions, hence the “√/” and “X/” system.

This behaviour modification handout is given out and collected each lesson. I do this quickly by either having the students in set groups or rows with one student handing out and handing back the handout each lesson. I want it to appear that I am not involved so the students basically manage it themselves. But they like the bonus ticks provided by me to reward good behaviour. While I don’t appear strict, I keep an eye on things. As a teacher, you know, you soon uncover two types of students - the good students and the trouble makers. You usually only have a small handful of these students so it easy to keep track of what students are putting on the handouts. It is not that important to monitor, it is more the threat of an “X”, and the embarrassment of a“√” when homework was not done only happens once (if you are unlucky).

I make the introduction of the handout a lesson. I use terms like “First and family name”, “Underline your first name”, “What is the day you have this class” etc.. If a student comes late, that is used as an example for “L”, if a student talks, that is used as an example also, if a student does something good, like answer a question etc. he/she is rewarded with a bonus tick. I find that while they do not actually understand my English, they certainly understand what I like and do not like within the first 15 minutes of the lesson to gain bonus ticks. A copy of the handout I use is below; I change it to fit the class needs. The comment section is where I make notes for the student if required, it has been useful on many occasions where I have had to fail a student. I also take time write positive notes to students throughout the semester.

The handout can be downloaded HERE.

Laura Markslag and Robert Sheridan

Fun and Effective Vocabulary Card Tasks

By Laura Markslag (Osaka Gakuin University) and Robert Sheridan (Otemae University)

Vocabulary learning can be a difficult task for many EFL learners. In our interactive Back to School 2011 presentation, we demonstrated how learner vocabulary cards could be used in practical ways to complete four different meaningful tasks that reinforce vocabulary learning for all level language learners. Participants had the hands on experience of completing the tasks throughout the presentation and walked away with fun and effective ready-to-use activities for their classes.

The handout can be downloaded HERE.

A participant reacts... here.

Cameron Romney

Typographic best practices for classroom materials

By Cameron Romney

Many teachers make their own classroom materials and one of the basic tools of document creation, and one of the most misunderstood, is typeface (font) choice. In this presentation I talked about why choosing a font is important and offered teachers some “best practice” suggestions for choosing a typeface when creating materials.

I began by outlining a few typography basics, specifically different types of typefaces and the difference between legibility and readability. I then summarized some existing research that shows why choosing a typeface is not merely a case of aesthetics or preference, but affects the readers motivation, comprehension, recall and efficiency.

I then explained some problems that L2 learners have with different typefaces. I gave and example of an activity from my classroom that students had trouble completing because they could not tell the difference between the lowercase l and the uppercase I.

I then shared my five best practices for choosing a typeface for classroom materials. They are:

1. Use a font that the students are familiar with
2. Set the typeface at a larger size
3. Use a font with good legibility
4. Be aware how the printing and copying effects the typeface
5. Use fonts with purpose

I ended the presentation by sharing a few fonts that I felt addressed the issues that L2 learns have with typefaces and that followed my suggested best practices.

Mary Hillis

Using 21st Century Tools to Teach Literature

During the presentation, I described a variety of ways to use technology to enhance literature lessons, and in this article, I would like to share three technological alternatives to summary writing.

After reading “The Cub Pilot’s Education,” an adaptation of “My Life Along the Mississippi” by Mark Twain, students used Twitter to write a series of tweets as if they were the main character in the story. In doing so, students needed to reread the story carefully to pick out the main points to include in their tweets. The 140 character limit in Twitter helps students to focus on writing clearly and succinctly. Also, the class used a unique hashtag, such as #cubpilot14, to aggregate posts for easier viewing.

Another option for summarizing the story is to have students write newspaper articles. For instance, after reading “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, students could write an obituary for Mrs. Mallard. Using Fodey, a free online newspaper image generation tool, users simply enter their ideas for a newspaper title, a date, a headline, and text for the article; the resulting image can be downloaded, displayed, and discussed.

In another assignment, students created character blogs after reading an adaptation of “The Blue Carbuncle” by Sherlock Holmes. Students blogged from the point of view of various characters, not only summarizing the story, but also providing insights into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. As an extension of this project, students could comment on each other’s blog posts in character.

In addition to these activities, I also talked about using Google Images and Google Maps for pre-reading activities; using the discussion board in Blackboard; and finding useful literature-based teacher resources on YouTube and SlideShare. Please consult the presentation slides for further information.

Michael Iwane-Salovaara

Bilingual Number Chart 

By Michael Iwane-Salovaara
Momoyama Gakuin University

Several years ago a student complained about how difficult is was to switch between Japanese and Arabic number systems. This was not a surprise given the lack of EFL teaching and study materials. So the student and I set out with markers and a white board to "draw a picture" of the problem. From the positive response from the student it soon became apparent that one of the problems was a lack of direct comparisons between the two number systems.

After the student had left I continued to develop other ways of representing numbers under the assumption that no one approach will make sense to all students. In the end I came up with three different ways to visualize numbers. In the first approach I transcribed the numbers into to their alphabetic form (i.e. one hundred) in rows of three number elements in each row (see pdf). The second approach was a chart with the numbers in the top row and the unit signifier in the second row. The third approach, the one developed on the white board, placed the Arabic structure on the top row and the Japanese on the bottom row. In the middle were blank rows for the learner to input any number up to 999 trillion (or 999兆)

Take a look at the pdf and see if it works for you or your students. If want a .doc version to edit for your purposes, please email me and I will be happy to send you a copy.

The .pdf of the handout can be downloaded HERE

John Campbell-Larsen

Content rich speaking 

By John Campbell-Larsen

In this presentation I was trying to focus people's attention on a common way of speaking that many Japanese students adopt, namely, the preference for very short answers to questions that are communicative in intent. Many classroom activities involve students in pairs asking each other questions. Very often, students engage in single word responses, or single sentences, and very rarely, if ever go on independently to develop more extensive answers.

I suggested that naturalistic English spoken interaction consists of the speakers giving more information than the minimum required by the question being asked, and that in addition to the factual content of a response, some kind of evaluative input is desirable.

I gave out handouts that could be used in lessons and demonstrated ways in which teacher could model the desired discourse patterns to students.

I also brought up the topic of 'discourse markers' and tried to demonstrate that they are a key part of naturalistic spoken English. When listening to students speaking English I had noticed a complete absence of discourse markers such as 'well', 'you know' and 'I mean'. In fact, not only do students not use these words, they litter their English with Japanese discourse markers.

I suggested ways in which students could be encouraged to understand and use discourse markers in their English speaking.

I concluded by suggesting that responses with a good balance of factual and evaluational matter, appropriately discourse marked are a worthwhile goal in spoken English classes. 

Wes Lang

Task-based Writing Activities for Lower-Level University Students

Teaching writing to lower-level University students poses a challenge for teachers, so I wanted to offer a few suggestions that will hopefully make the process a little less painful.

I first offered what I call my “AME” principal, a guideline that can be used when designing writing tasks under the TBL framework.
In general, teachers should design tasks that are:
A – Authentic (something other than busy-work for students)
M – Meaningful (personalized for the learners whenever possible)
E – Engaging (students should generally be interested in completing the task)

I also gave some tips for teachers with lower-level learners who may not generally be interested in English. Some of the tips include: the importance of establishing rapport with your learners from the first day of class, providing both written and oral scaffolding to help learners with the task. See the Powerpoint slides below for the full list.

Finally, I demonstrated 3 different writing tasks for the participants:

Activity 1 – Short-story swap.
Learners work in pairs to write an imaginary fairy tale using the “Once upon a time” structure. After writing one sentence, pairs swap stories and write one more sentence about the other story. Stories kept getting passed around the room, with each pair continuing the story from the previous pair. After a certain number of turns, the stories are returned to their original creators so they can see the finished product.

Activity 2 – Thank-you letter
In pairs, one student writes a birthday present for the other on a small piece of paper. The pairs exchange their ‘presents’ by saying: “Happy Birthday, this is a present for you”. After opening their imaginary gift, they write a thank-you letter to their partner who they received the present from.

Activity 3 – Travel Postcard.
Learners work in pairs to make a postcard from a travel destination of their choice, using travel brochures from a travel agency (brought in by the teacher). After making the postcard, they write a message to their teacher (or other students), imagining they are currently in that country. See the Powerpoint slides for real examples from my students.

The PowerPoint Slides for this presentation can be viewed on HERE.

Osaka JALT,
Feb 14, 2012, 6:15 AM