Blogs from the past
Glen Hill (AKA Glenski) was, for many years, a prolific blogger for JALT
Hokkaido. He has stopped but I wanted to include some of the many posts
he made over the years in this post here. Many of the links will
possibly be out of date but I'm sure you'll see what an amazing resource
he was from the wealth of posts he made.
The 2012 London Olympic games are upon us. If you want to develop some lesson plans around that theme, take a look at this link from Teacher Planet.
I am always on the lookout for materials to be added to my reading course. My friend Ben Shearon has a nice summary page of links on a PDF called Free Reading Resources, and I followed one of them to a site called Reading a-z. It is pretty much for young kids, but it is full of stuff, from leveled readers (and a description of how they do the leveling, plus how it compares to some other American rating systems), vocabulary, phonics, and more. Give it a look. Some of the leveled readers are offered as free samples.
The title says it all. This is a very brief round-up of some advice on how to do project-based learning. Don’t miss the supplemental links at the bottom of the page.
Obama just announced a plan to pump a billion dollars into education in the U.S., in order to “form a corps of “master teachers” who will specialize in science, technology, engineering, and math”. This is an effort to create better students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields so that American can “compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow”.
Fine, but when you consider that most graduate students in the U.S. in those fields are not native English speakers, isn’t there another gap here, one in the English language field?
How is that money going to be used? According to the article:
Within the next four years, the White House hopes to spend $1 billion in what Duncan calls “new money” to support up to 10,000 master teachers… “master teachers” will be chosen by local education leaders and will be expected to spend at least four years in the position.”
What seems contradictory to all of the above is this recent news article, which says 32 states so far are exempt from the No Child Left Behind policy. According to the article, that means those states do not have to follow “the law’s requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 — a goal the nation is still far from reaching”. Something to think about in itself, but coupled with the above article, it really makes one think.
You can subscribe to the free online publication El Gazette and get a picture of English teaching news mostly from the UK and Europe, but there are also stories from many other countries around the world. This month has more articles of interest to me than most others. Here is a synopsis.
‘Guidance’ causes course chaos at US unis. This is a follow-up to another news report about how the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security laid down the law with its Accreditation of English Language Training Act, and how it fouled things up for universities.
There is a brief article about a 20% rise in student complaints in UK universities from non-native students, with regard to Read the rest of this entry »
On July 19, there was an article in the Daily Yomiuri, “Student motivation surges in English-only classes“. The article talks about high school successes in having English-only environments that do not worry so much about grammatical perfection. One school has banned Japanese in the English classes since 2009!
One teacher, Noriyuki Kataoka, said it is hard for Japanese teachers to know what to correct in spoken English. Furthermore, he said,
I point out students’ errors after they obtain the basic skills to communicate in an interactive fashion. I believe making many mistakes is a shortcut that helps students improve [their English-language abilities].
Wouldn’t it be nice if this worked everywhere?
Two recent news articles from the U.S. caught my eye this week. In one of them, teachers are reminded of an apparently growing indicator of “gauging teacher effectiveness”, namely, student surveys. I was a bit surprised that the article seemed to make it out as if these were new, but maybe that was just my perception. What do you do where you work? Do you give an end-of-semester feedback survey of your own making, or just rely on what the school provides? If you do the latter or nothing at all, you might want to consider asking your students what they think of your classes and teaching style. Even if their responses confirm points you already know (good or bad), you can learn from that, and if you get surprises in the survey, all the better to help you change. Read the rest of this entry »
Advice in how to learn English, by the way, not in reading Korean lit. Kim Seong-kon, professor of English at Seoul National University and president of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, has 3 pieces of advice which he seems to have developed over the years when people ask him (much to his surprise) “How can I master English?” or “What’s the shortcut to learning English?”
You should learn English with pleasure, not pain. (Oddly enough, he cites his daughter’s indulgences in video games as a primary reason for her “naturally acquiring” the language.)
If you have a strong motivation, you can learn English quickly. (This one is up for semantic grabs.)
The third important factor in learning English quickly is immersion. (Yes, there is no substitute for it, as long as one applies oneself. However, Kim’s example is a bit unbelievable: “I saw American students speaking fluent Korean after spending two months in the Korean zone where they were required to speak in Korean only.”
I thought it would be only fitting on this Friday the 13th to post a link to an article that talked about what things are going to die in our industry. Well, that’s according to one person, anyway. In 2009, Shelly Blake-Plock assembled a list of 21 items that he feels will be obsolete in education by the year 2020. (Why that year was chosen, I don’t know; perhaps because by its very nature 20/20 is supposed to be perfect vision, at least by optometrists’ standards in the west?)
Blake-Plock talks about furniture and electronic machines, policy, departments & institutions, cafeteria food and even paper. Personally, I think it is just a little too soon to expect many of those things to happen, but read and judge for yourself.
Recent psychology research suggests that people, especially young children, are strongly affected by what they are told about their own abilities. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana showed that “children’s performance was “impaired by exposure to information that associated success in the task at hand with membership in a certain social group…regardless of whether the children themselves belonged to that group.”
Does this mean that if a Japanese student constantly heard they would intrinsically be unable to learn English, that they would believe this so strongly that it would become true? Something to chew on.
Here’s a link to the study itself. From there you can tap into related citations.
Well, it didn’t take long. An article in The Japan Times explains it all. Several new residence cards were issued this week without an electronic signature from the Ministry, something that is part of the anti-counterfeiting nature of the cards. Read all about it.
What happened in history on the day you were born? Students can go to this site and find out. Using the Quick Page option, they will get a generic summary, but if they go through the Advanced Page option, they can pick and choose from a long list of items. In either case, they can see what other people (from all walks of life and nationalities) were born on that day, what books were out that year, what toys were new, what music was on the charts, and even how much groceries cost.
Aside from the intrinsic value in such items, students could learn how to use certain verbs, perhaps passive voice, upon reporting the information.
Playing around with my iPad, I discovered a new application (app) called Sounds. It is put out by Macmillan, as a complement to a book by Adrian Underhill called Sound Foundations. The app’s focal point is in showing students how to use the phonemic chart, originally created by Underhill himself. You can watch a
Sounds features practice “tasters” in reading & writing Read the rest of this entry »
SiSAL Journal is the Kanda University publication for Studies in Self-Access Learning. They have 2 calls for papers at the moment, so you might want to use some of your summer break time to prepare for them.
On a page of The Chronicle for Higher Education, you will find some news stories related to online learning. There aren’t a lot, but they seem to cover a fairly broad range of topics, such as the following.
Making assessment work
10 faculty perspectives on what works in lecture capture (using Mediasite software)
Online higher education: offering a global perspective
When experience matters
Learning is evolving. Is your institution prepared?
A study just came out from Yi-Ching Pan (National Pingtung Institute of Commerce) and Tim Newfields (Toyo University Faculty of Economics) (Do tests promote changes in listening and reading skills?: Evidence from a Taiwanese EFL context) that measured the English proficiency of students in tertiary schools in Taiwan, whether they were shooting for a score on a proficiency exam to graduate or for no such exam score. After 9 months of studies, they concluded that there was “no statistically significant scoregain differences between these two groups.”
So, does this have any bearing on Japanese students, whether in high school or college?
The authors provided responses from a questionnaire on student attitudes, too. I thought it was interesting that practically no difference existed in all categories. The only one where there was a difference showed that students in a school with a proficiency exam for graduation felt more strongly that such a policy was needed. Uh, ok.
The OpEd section of The New York Times just published a short article by writer/translator Kumiko Makihara, called “Changing Tongues“. It is a first-person account of how her son improved his English in just a year of living abroad (U.S.). Not a lot of meat to the story, but a tad heartwarming, so if you need a little of that today, give it a read. It won’t take long.
I just wonder how many other stories like this we could get to many of our students to help them overcome their feelings of amotivation, unmotivation, or demotivation.
You may have seen the column on microaggressions in The Japan Times. You might agree or disagree with what was written. Regardless, a long-term resident of Japan, Mike Guest, has his own response on another newspaper, the Daily Yomiuri. See what you think.
London is the site. July 27 to August 12 is the time. The summer 2012 Olympics are almost here. If you want to put together some lesson plans related to that, look no further than the Teacher Planet web site.
Some people would say that English is the lingua franca of business and science, perhaps even global communication. Others would argue that it is a monster (yes, some have used those other terms in actual publications). Would you like to discuss the topic? IATEFL is holding another free online discussion of an article on that topic, beginning July 9. The article to be discussed is entitled “Review of developments in research into English as a Lingua Franca“. You don’t have to be a member to join.
By now, foreigners on this list have probably all gotten their notification about the changes in the alien registration system which will take place on July 9. If you saw no typos on the form they sent, you didn’t have to do anything. Well, now there is one niggling point to contend with. Your name.
I just got a mail (in English and Japanese) which is called a “Request for registration of your name in katakana script”. So, I get my residency certificate (juminhyo), and a replacement for the alien card will be on the way when my current card expires, but they want my name in katakana down at city hall. As it’s worded on the form: “foreign nationals who have an[sic] personal seal (hanko/inkan) registered will also need to register their name in katakana script.” Don’t register, and you won’t be able to use your hanko after July 9.
So, I and others like me will have to take time out our busy days to spend 10 minutes at city hall to do this.
In searching for information about the Black Cat readers (Green Apple, EarlyRead, EasyRead), I stumbled upon a Teachers’ Corner on their homepage. It’s a modest site with a couple of videos by Robert Hill at the moment, plus a monthly archive of downloadable lesson ideas. (This month is about Queen Elizabeth, and past archives have things about Robin Hood, Easter, Alice in Wonderland, football, Darwin, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, just to name a few.)
See if there’s anything there for you.
TESOL is offering a virtual seminar on July 18 entitled “7 Ways to Get Your Students Talking in the Classroom“. The 2 presenters are Donna Tatsuki (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, Kobe, Japan) and Noël Houck (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California). The link gives more information on each speaker, by the way.
On the link you will find another link to a short page with 3 discussion questions for this seminar:
1. What are the advantages or disadvantages of letting student
choose their own partners/groups as opposed to random or teacher
2. What kinds of roles do teachers play in communicative classes that focus on oral production?
3. What are the trade-offs between an emphasize on accuracy as opposed to fluency?
Deadline to register is July 12.
Most of the people on this JALT list have probably heard of the term ALT (assistant language teacher). The more widely known type might be the one from the JET Programme. But JET also hires people for positions called CIR (coordinator of international relations). Most work in city hall, and they may have a variety of responsibilities. Here’s a link to the JET CIR newsletter and homepage in case you want to learn more.
TESOL is offering a couple of courses on 26 August to help out teachers who feel they may be a little weak in grammar. Heck, I have heard that in the UK they aren’t even teaching the parts of speech in high school anymore! What is the world coming to? Check these out. Registration closes 18 July. They are not cheap, but nothing in life is free, is it?
Back on May 6, I wrote a blog entry to introduce The Mixxer as a potential source for people to get online classes. Many people use Skype nowadays, but people constantly ask how to get started as a teacher with Skype. Well, in my mailbox today there was a message from Skype itself. It described their program “Skype in the classroom“. I found it to be mildly interesting, and it seems to be more of a use for Skype to teach content than languages. It has a few menu tabs worth checking out, showing teachers who have joined, projects, and partners. One particular link was Collections, where you can see a “showcase of exceptional Skype in the classroom projects from around the globe”.
At a glance, one thing this web site does not do is actually provide a how-to of setting yourself up with Skype for your classes. For example, it has:
no explanations or suggestions for choosing microphones or cameras, especially for large groups
no suggestions for business plans (how to get paid, how to prepare lessons for the camera, how to attract/get clients, etc.)
no tips on how to use Skype functions to exchange documents or show embedded videos or deal with split-screen options, etc.
From the Teacher Planet update, there is a link to a PDF on how to practice spelling six different ways. To me, these can be for the very early beginners or even for some a little further along the line. In either case, I am not sure how effective these would be, since some rely on pronunciation, and we all know how poorly “katakana English” matches with spelling, thanks to phonics. I would be interested in knowing how other people deal with spelling problems, too. My uni kids are horrible, and it’s largely due to lack of practice and to their own pronunciation. (Just had a student write “poul” instead of “pole”, for example.)
I am beginning to work on how to teach students how to use their dictionaries, so this seemed related.
Of the many wonderful things available on Paul Nation’s web site, I found this recorded presentation from Korea. It gives a very nice synopsis of important things to consider when planning to implement new vocabulary in one’s classroom for conversation courses, and then offers some specific tips.
Paul has a very friendly and clear way of speaking, and in my opinion he simplifies his research quite well here, so you don’t need a degree or background in linguistics to understand it. Heck, all of his publications are available online anyway if you want to get that deep into the research.
Seems a simple enough question, but this little query is apparently stirring up a big controversy in the U.S. Some uni programs figured because their whole university was accredited, their individual program was also accredited, but this is turning out not to be the case. That may prevent them from accepting foreign students.
Read about this in The Chronicle’s article “U.S. May Require College Language Programs to Get Special Accreditation“.
Keep this in mind when your own students consider applying abroad.
Looks like the old U.S. has another Hallmark holiday for teachers and students. Well, a holiday of sorts. It’s supposedly Student Safety Month in June. Wouldn’t hurt to see if you could adapt so of the lesson plans from Teacher Planet along those lines.
Whether you are screening potential clients for language studies or just trying to figure out how to give tests in speaking to your students for grades, I’m sure you’ve come up with the question of rubric. How do you decide what they know or don’t? What questions should you ask (and let them ask)? Is there some overall strategy that can be adapted to most situations? Here’s an article from The Guardian that describes the UK government’s attempts to screen immigrants from Pakistan for their English speaking ability. It also talks about how International House London assesses students. There are also some good comments from the Norwich Institute for Language Education.
The folks at IATEFL Research SIG have opened the floor on Yahoo forums for another discussion of a topic in EFL. This one is materials development. And, I’m happy to see that they are holding this online discussion for 2 weeks instead of only 1.
Read more about it at this link. You can see the article upon which the discussion is based at this link. You can join the Yahoo group free, and you don’t have to be a member of IATEFL to join in on this discussion. People from around the world take part!
The kind people at Teacher Planet have announced some lessons that you might want to consider for another one of those un-Hallmark holidays: No Tobacco Day, which is slated for May 31st. Might be a chance to see if students can practice negatives or the use of “should”. I’m sure some of the TP lessons include content for those CBI or CLIL types of ESP lessons, too.
Just thought I’d pass this along. There are probably lots of budding writers all over the world. Take a look at this link for news about the 6th Annual Japan Writers Conference. It will be held in Kyoto at Doshisha U on Nov. 10 & 11.
Included in that link is another link to a 2008 blurb on an earlier conference, reported in The Japan Times.
Whether you work in the hard sciences or social sciences, a university teacher often lives by the code of publish or perish. But, not everyone is a good writer. And, just how should one prepare to create an article for publication? The following link explains 5 key points for hard science articles, but they pretty much apply to the social sciences as well.
What’s more, as editor for the CUE journal, I see a lot of submissions that are below par on one simple matter: following instructions from the CUE guidelines. Heads up, people everywhere. Journals often have such guidelines, and they are there for a reason. Since around 1999, JALT has had its own peer support group for writers, too, and this should be sought out if one is unsure of how to prepare an article or if one has been rejected for substandard writing.
Hang around Internet forums long enough, and you will soon see someone posting “why the Japanese are so bad at speaking English“. Well, Gaijinpot has a posting with this very title. Not much new there for me, but perhaps newbie teachers might want a recap.
What is more interesting is the author’s suggestion on how students can practice speaking. He mentions a Skype-like tool called The Mixxer. Actually, it uses Skype, but with selected categories for speakers around the world to give opportunities to people wanting to learn their languages. You can also register to be a host teacher for such conversations.
See if you think it’s for you or your students.
You might also want to review David Barker’s 2004 article, “Encouraging students to take their language learning outside the classroom“.
Education Week reported on May 3 a study from the National Center for Education Statistics (U.S.), where they claim the following:
Children who started kindergarten already proficient in English—regardless of the language they spoke at home—scored better as 8th graders on reading, math, and science tests than language-minority peers who didn’t gain proficiency until after starting kindergarten.
That point alone is not very surprising for the reading scores, in my opinion, as long as the children continue to be exposed to English (which these were, because they lived in the U.S.). And, on the surface, it’s more ammunition in favor of starting English at a young age in Japan, despite claims by some that it will hamper their overall learning (or at least their Japanese language learning). However, Read the rest of this entry »
I have just run across a very useful manual / handbook for driving in Hokkaido. You can access it by PDF at this link. It’s a rather large file at >4 megabytes. Sadly, it was last updated in 2009, so information after the completion of the tollways is not included. It does however include many things from the “vastness of Hokkaido” travel time info, to what to do if your vehicle hits an animal, to how to use rental car navigation systems, and more.
Couple that PDF with an older blog posting “Living in Hokkaido: What to know before you go“, and you should be as prepared as anyone.
Teacher Planet has tons of lesson plans. Since it is baseball season, why not take advantage of that (and students’ interest in baseball)? Here is a link to the TP lessons related to baseball, including some math-related stuff, history of the game, vocabulary, and even the science involved. Batter up!
Recent talks have centered around Japanese universities that want to switch from a spring (April) start date to one in the fall like western universities. The Yomiuri Shimbun had a short article recently with a few more numbers to share on the topic.
Consider yourselves lucky that you can come to Japan without a Japanese language requirement. Beginning July 2012, Canada will require immigrants for semi- or low-skilled professions to take a test in either English or French. It will test their reading, writing, and speaking skills. Details can be found here.
Qualitative research often involves interviewing people. But what is an acceptable sample size? Sarah Baker and Rosalind Edwards from the UK have published a paper on this topic: “How many qualitative interviews is enough?” Fourteen veteran researchers in social science and five “early career researchers” contributed their insights into determining the answer(s).
I’m confused about all this. The following link goes to an article (“Do students really have different learning styles?“) that contains further links to 2008 and 2010 studies supposedly debunking the idea that students have different learning styles. In the same article, however, it also says this:
While students do have preferences about how they learn, the evidence shows they absorb information just as well whether or not they encounter it in their preferred mode.
So, is “preferred mode” or “preference in how to learn” different from learning styles?And, if they absorb the information equally well Read the rest of this entry »
I ran across this article “Preschoolers’ Reading Skills Benefit from One Modest Change by Teachers” from a TESOL announcement, and then saw it on the ER Yahoo forum. Teachers and parents alike can help kids become better readers with just a simple strategy of pointing out various things as they read. One of those “Doh!” concepts. I seem to have been doing it already with my own kid (but need to do it far more).
A high school headmaster from a major metropolitan school said, “Students can read text, but they do not understand the content and they cannot summarize the text.” Another headmaster said the reasons for low English quality were “the unreasonable curriculums, teaching and learning conditions, unqualified teaching staff and unreasonable assessment method.” Guess what? Those are not quotes from Japanese schools, but from Vietnam! Yes, it seems that we are not the only country with such problems.
You can read about this similar sad situation in the news article “Students get nothing from 7-years of English learning at general school“, published on 17 April this year. If you want to add this to your research articles on comparing Japan to other Asian countries, here it is.
Check out The Japan Times’ article “Why good wi-fi is so hard to find in Japan“. The answer is pretty straightforward, but there are some tidbits that you might not already know. Demand is growing, and I hope it becomes more accepted at more than just the few vending machines which are supposed to offer free wi-fi.
One thing the article mentioned was that so many Japanese supposedly are willing to carry around “their own 3G data cards or a Wi-Fi router to which they can connect their laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc. ” Gee, are they all that cheap? In today’s economy, I would think more than just foreign visitors would be screaming for free.
Today’s Yomiuri Shimbun has an article about TOEIC (“TOEIC’s popularity on the rise“). It seems that the number of people who take TOEIC jumped 30% and almost match that of Eiken test takers now. This article speculates reasons why, and our students need to know!
On 20-22 April, you can take part in a virtual round table conference. Details can be found here, but in a nutshell this is what you are getting into.
FRIDAY, 20 April – 5 hours of sessions, panel discussion, keynote by Nicky Hockly, who (among other things) has a regular tech column for teachers in ESL/EFL and co-authorship of books on teaching with technology
SATURDAY, 21 April – 9 hours of panel discussions, keynotes and unconferences, sessions about virtual worlds, online testing tools, online resources, video, digital publishing and presentation techniques
SUNDAY, 22 April – 12 hours of panels, keynotes and unconferences, sessions on holistic teaching and learning, e-publishing, demo lessons, mobile learning, teaching & learning tools, dogme & tech
The conference is free and will also be livestreamed. Details to sign up are on the site.
If you have classes which require students to generate original stories, and you let them do this at home, you might want to join the ranks of teachers around the world who use anti-plagiarism software. Some say that you should be careful not to get free software because (they say) it actually retains the copies of things you want to check, and then later sells them to essay mills to be used later. Catch-22!
I found 2 sites recently that review anti-plagiarism sites (most if not all cost money to obtain, but for individuals it is pretty cheap).
Mind you, not all software (even the good ones) are 100% foolproof, so heads up on the false positives.
I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education (“New twists in online recruiting of international students“)raises an interesting point about how many foreign students prefer to use Facebook to contact universities abroad. Is this realistic? Read and judge for yourself.
Seemed to me the first time I read the article that to propose that unis use FB is a big request, not only for the privacy issues, but for general maintenance. Yes, the story reports problems in the responses from universities being inadequate to many (51% of 162 universities in 8 countries answered within 3 days of receiving inquiries via Facebook accounts), but is that really the problem here…the lack of responses in and of themselves? How do Japanese universities (or you personally) deal with student inquiries?
An article in The Japan Times (“Book is behind bullying of mixed-race children”) should be read by all teachers of younger children, and especially by parents of mixed-race children. A retelling of a Japanese folk tale, this book contains some material that could lead some children to bully or tease others because of their skin color. Heads up, people.
More on this story can be found at this blog, which has a similar story from the Asahi Shimbun.
I recently was searching for some background information on extensive reading libraries and self-access centers and ran across the SiSAL Journal and its accompanying web site. SiSAL stands for Studies in Self-Access Learning. Their journal has only been out since June 2010, but it has some interesting articles about motivation, success stories, e-learning, and more.The site and journal are put out by Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS), Chiba, whose teachers have made quite a few contributions at JALT Hokkaido regional conferences as well as other places in Japan.
Give it a look.
Be aware that unless you speak very good Japanese, you might not be allowed to donate blood, even if you have a Japanese-speaking person go with you to translate. Read about it in The Japan Times Lifeline column.
English and Spanish being taught together to youngsters? To some it may sound like a recipe for disaster, but this video report from Education Week shows otherwise. Too bad that the accompanying written report is by paid subscription only.
If you are interested in learning more about TESOL 2013 at this early date, go here to see more info on the Dallas conference.
They are just around the corner. Teacher Planet has some lesson plans and worksheets if you are interested and not yet prepared.
Easter (April 8)
Passover (April 7-13)
World Health Day (April 7)
Dates for the religious holidays will be different for Eastern Orthodox churches.
Here are some other religious dates related to Easter time.
Check out these sites for more calendar info:
Easter dates 2012 – 2016
Passover dates 2012 – 2029
The Daily Yomiuri reported that proposed changes to the pension system have been submitted as bills to the Diet. If enacted, these bills would shorten the time needed to be eligible to receive pensions, and it would create some sort of pension contribution system for part-time workers. Inquiring minds want to know more.
If you need something like email translated at work, what do you do? Can’t really rely on coworkers all the time, so many people go to online translation web sites. But which is best? Well, iSoftwareReviews.com has published their top ten list of free ones. Sorry, Bill Gates, but your Bing site didn’t make the cut?
I couldn’t see when this review was published, so iit it outdated,please let me know. Also, I would hope readers would add their own comments about these and other software.
Anyone who has touched on research into vocabulary and EFL should recognize the name Rob Waring (Notre Dame Seishin University, Okayama, Japan). He is one of the leading figures in the field. His web site alone offers enormous information on extensive reading as well as vocabulary, including a 32,000 item listing of papers on second language acquisition and learning! One of the most interesting and perhaps useful links on his site related to vocabulary is the one called Finding Vocabulary Resources on the Internet. It covers word lists, software, dictionaries, and journals. Rob also offers all of his own publications online at this site.
In January 2011 Rob presented a plenary talk in Seoul at the KAPEE conference. His presentation was entitled “Why extensive reading doubles your students’ vocabulary”. You can see the entire recorded talk here.
In this 2008 video interview (roughly 14 minutes long), he talks in general and specifics about vocabulary research. (The video was made at a conference in Japan, but it was held in a break room that had frequent noise problems from people rustling plastic garbage bags and snapping chopsticks, not to mention talking in the background. Aside from that, I thought the short interview provided some good insights.)
JALT members can look back to a May 2007 issue of The Language Teacher and read an interview with Rob Waring and Marc Helgesen on the topic of extensive reading, so you can see some crossover in topics.
Here is a written interview conducted in 2002 by ELT News, just to give people more background on how Rob thinks.
Vocabulary research and its applications are growing in popularity nowadays. It would pay to get in touch with information related to it, and Rob Waring’s site is an ideal place to start.
TESOL is once again holding virtual (online) seminars, and 2 are coming up in May. The first is Teaching Academic Reading and Writing in English (May2), by Ryan Miller (TESOL program at Carnegie Mellon U) and Danielle Zawodny Wetzel (director of Carnegie Mellon’s 1st-year writing program). The other seminar is The Rights of Immigrant Students and English Language Learners in U.S. Public Schools by Roger C. Rosenthal (Migrant Legal Action Program, Washington, D.C.).
Registration is required, and non-TESOL members must pay US$45. Here is a link to the TESOL virtual seminars site itself in case you want more general information and a peek at their overall calendar.
Former Goldman Sachs employee Jonathan Allen is interviewed in a Grinning Studios podcast. The history alone of how Allen got involved is interesting and just shows how small the world can be, as he and his wife initially moved to Korea and then Japan. The Japan Blog List site had been inactive for 2 years before he took it over from a Canadian who had a blog about Korea first, then just got too busy to maintain The Japan Blog List site, and it was Allen’s passion that rekindled the flame to keep the site up by adding more blogs about Japan. There may be over 300 blogs on it now, and he said that about 3 people per week write in to add their blogs to his site.
Before you listen to the podcast interview (more than an hour long, by the way), I’d suggest reading this brief background on Allen. From this site you can also find an iTunes link to the podcast interview.
If you provide a lesson plan for April Fool’s Day (which is on a Sunday, by the way), here is a link to the Teacher Planet web site with a few ideas. No fooling!
I have an electronic dictionary that lets me draw kanji characters, but if you don’t have this and need to check something, there is another option. I ran across 2 web sites that allow you to use your mouse. It’s a little clumsy, of course, but those electronic dictionaries aren’t all that nifty, either, as I’ve found. With the electronic dictionary I have, you need to keep your stylus on the dictionary pad, or it times out, and you have to start all over. No timer on these two sites.
The first site I’ll describe can be found here. It has a large square to draw in, and as you draw the stroke order is numbered and many look-ahead possibilities are shown. You have to be careful about filling the square properly with radicals taking up the right position. Once you’ve finished Read the rest of this entry »
The Extensive Reading Foundation (ERF) has recently announced the finalists in their annual language learner literature (LLL) award contest. Teachers and students alike are involved in the voting process. This is a unique way to motivate students and get everyone involved in ER.
Now, of the 15 nominees, I could only find 4 that were on the list of books that have MoodleReader quizzes:
Here are two reports (links in the next sentence) from psychologists and sociologists that talk separately about how being bilingual (or nearly so) is better than being monolingual. Better in the sense that bilingual people are healthier (although the article admits that the researchers don’t know why), and better because they are smarter (well, you judge what that means; this study has more details than the other, and I found it more interesting).
Have you found it difficult to design a rubric (scoring scheme) for student presentations, papers, posters, etc.? The kind people at Teacher Planet have a whole list of them, almost 3 dozen links with multiple rubric designs in each! Take a look and see if anything matches your intended goals.
The University of Reading (UK) has posted 4 short video segments from a debate or panel discussion on the cultural hegemony of English in the world vs. simple linguistic diversity. I do not recognize the 4 speakers, but that’s not important. The vids are 9-15 minutes long each, and I thought that they offered an intriguing look at the language we teach.
If you’re really into terms like cultural imperialism and hegemony and diversity, you might also want to read some titles I have run across recently.
T. Wan, DW Chapman, and DA Biggs. 1992. Academic stress of international students attending US universities.
Rob Waring (author of the National Geographic Footprint series of graded non-fiction readers) has just announced that the ER Foundation and Japanese Extensive Reading Association put out a Japanese version of the ERF Guide to ER. I’m not sure how useful this would be to students (perhaps copying some pages for them would help them to understand more of what ER is all about), but it would certainly be something that Japanese teachers of English would (probably) find easier to read than the English version.
Currently, you can download either English or Japanese version (both available at that link above), but Rob also stated that at the beginning of April, a printed version of the Japanese edition will be available for sale. I think one already is for the English version, but I couldn’t find mention of it on the ERF site or in Amazon (.com and .co.jp sites).
I proofread and copyedit, so I have to deal with the dreaded references section of academic papers all the time. Trying to determine how to format certain references can be very tricky, and with today’s explosion in Internet technology, it’s getting more complicated. If you are on LinkedIn, you probably already saw this news from The Atlantic, “How do you cite a tweet in an academic paper?” Interesting topic, and don’t miss the comments section! Essentially, though, the article says how MLA standards have actually come up with the proper format to include them in your papers.
Why would an academic paper even need Twitter chat messages (tweets) for a reference list? One comment after that article asked just that, referring to as tweet as “some random, unsubstantiated comment”. When I first thought about it, I agreed, but then I could see some possible uses. I just hope people are careful in using them, and as an editor, I guess I’ll just have to deal with the possibility that they will be crossing my desk soon, too.
What is your opinion?
What do your students think of you? Many of us conduct our own end-of-semester surveys to supplement what the school gives. I recently ran across 2 articles that deal with student perceptions of foreigners as EFL teachers in Japan. One 2010 article (The uniqueness of EFL teachers: Perceptions of Japanese learners) surveyed 163 university students, and one 2011 article (Secondary EFL students’ perceptions of native and nonnative English-speaking teachers in Japan and Korea, starting on p. 272) interviewed 268 eighth and ninth grade students in Japan and Korea.Compare to what you already know!
The Uniqueness of EFL Teachers: Perceptions of Japanese Learners
Building on the work of Borg (2006), this article reports on
a study of Japanese English as a foreign language (EFL)
learners’ perceptions of some of the unique characteristics of
EFL teachers that distinguish them from teachers of other
subjects. The data were collected by means of a questionnaire to
which 163 collegelevel EFL students in Japan responded. Their
responses were analyzed to identify the characteristics that are
exclusive to the province of EFL teachers. The results of the
study indicate that these learners perceive EFL teachers to be
unique along four central dimensions: the complex nature of the
subject matter, the content of teaching, teaching approach, and
teacher personality. The findings also suggest that the
particularity of the sociocultural and educational context may
ultimately influence how
EFL teachers and their work are conceptualized by learners in crucial ways. I conclude by arguing that if language teacher education is to provide a more nuanced explanation of the uniqueness of EFL teachers and teaching that may be meaningful
and relevant to teachers and students working within particular contexts, the voices of all stakeholders involved in EFL education need to be included in the dialogue on what it means to be an EFL teacher.
Secondary EFL Students’ Perceptions of Native and Nonnative English-Speaking Teachers in Japan and Korea
This survey study explores Japanese and Korean secondary school
students’ perceptions about their native English-speaking
teachers (NESTs) and nonnative English-speaking teachers
(NNESTs), concerning their competence in the target language and in
language teaching, cultural and personal traits, teaching styles,
and the classroom atmosphere the teachers establish. The purpose
of the study was to examine and extend previous studies’ findings
concerning the characteristics of NESTs and NNESTs. Our study only
partially supported the previous studies. While it corroborated
the studies that reported language competence and cultural
aspects as NESTs’ strengths over NNESTs, anomalies were found when
it came to personal aspects and competence in teaching language
skills. Our findings suggest that students’ perceptions about
NESTs and NNESTs are situational, and contextual
particularities and strengths and/or weaknesses of all teachers need to be understood on an individual basis rather than assumed as characteristics of any group of teachers.
If you or your students have the potential to become an interpreter, it might be worthwhile for you to read the Special to the Japan Times article (undated) entitled “Interpretation & Translation. Opportunities abound in Japan’s hospitals, courts”. It talks about how full the market is for interpreters at conferences:
“The employment market is wholly saturated,” Funayama said. “And though the number of international conferences held within Japan is still growing, it is no longer expanding as it once did. Simply put, we now have enough top-level people for our needs.” (Chuta Funayama is president of the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, and also the head of the Japan Association for Interpreting and Translation Studies.)
With that in mind, Read the rest of this entry »
British newspaper The Guardian is frequently cited with other worldly publications such as Washington Post or The Economist whenever some major news item pops up, even in regards to teaching ESL or EFL. The other day I stumbled onto a section of The Guardian that deals solely with education, including teaching English.
Don’t miss a few extra links on the upper left under the heading Education: languages, postgraduates, linguistics, students, e-learning. There is also a link to get TEFL updates from the newspaper if you like
Yomiuri Daily newspaper columnist and educator Mike Guest has come out with a list of “dumb things” (to use his words) that English teachers in Japan do. The list spans 2 columns in the newspaper, so you’ll have to catch the first article here and the follow-up article here. I agree with most of them, and I encourage people to click on his comment text box after each article and contribute some thoughts there, whether you agree or not with Mike.
By now, I think most foreigners have probably heard that beginning on 9 July this year, immigration and the Ministry of Justice have some changes in mind for us and our residency requirements. I suspect that a lot of rumors have been flying around. While there is no government agency that can give 100% definitive answers, I thought that I should at least provide the most official site so far. Here it is. Some of the information might lead to further questions, but that’s normal for this sort of thing. Best I can advise is just to be patient and watch the news.
Please pay close attention to the 4 blue boxes marked Point 1, Point 2, Point 3, and Point 4 after the first question paragraph at the top of the page. They are clickable links to spell out more details of each point.
Finally, don’t be surprised if someone comes a’knocking at your door to help explain some of these things. I’ve seen a couple of reports in discussion groups that this is already happening. The Japan Times just published a blurb on it taking place in Suginami ward of Tokyo (with a very badly worded headline about “informers”). See here.
Additional note added a day after initial posting: If you want to keep a copy of the announcement from immigration, note that you can by clicking on the PDF link at the top left corner of the first page.
Today’s article in The Japan Times stated that after 3 years of striking, Berlitz union members were finally recognized as having the right to strike. Whew! That’s a long time to wait for such a basic declaration. Berlitz basically didn’t like the strike (what company would?), and as a counter-measure it filed a suit against the strikers to try getting the law to day they didn’t have the right to strike. Berlitz lost.
Details are in the article, but basically the strike is still going on, and both parties have to pay their own lawyers, but striking people are happy that at least at the moment, they are able to continue to improve their working conditions. Berlitz will appeal, of course, which will only stretch this out longer.
This article in The Japan Times reports Peach Aviation, an airline which offers great discount fares from Kansai International Airport to Chitose (less than 4,000 yen in some cases). In these times of poor economy and reducing research budgets, it might be just the ticket for savings. The airline’s homepage is here, a Japanese-only site. This press release also shows the dates and times when Peach will fly from Osaka to Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taipei.
Daniel Stewart published an article in the ER Journal last year on graded readers available on iPad applications. The article was reprinted here at the ELT News web site. The article does a good job of describing what (little) is available at the moment, but it also goes into a thorough description of what the iPad application presents to students when they read the books. This includes advantages and disadvantages of highlighted vocabulary as well as audio recordings and tests.
Since I just acquired an iPad, I thought I’d try out what is there, and to my disappointment, I can see that Daniel left out one important item. Although he praised the online nature of the stories (in part, for providing color pictures instead of black and white ones), I see that each book still costs about the same as if a student were to buy the paper version (700 yen). If one were running an ER program with these books and really expected students to read a lot, that would mount to quite an expense for students. Heck, mine complain about buying any textbook more than 1500 yen!
What I saw on the iPad, however, is a nice preview of what students could see. Just click on any book (without buying yet), and the iPad application shows you sample pages, glossary, quizzes, and highlighted vocabulary. The cover of the book I previewed (The Elephant Man) contains clickable buttons to take you right to reading, or to pages for table of contents, glossary, quiz, and settings. Very convenient.
Daniel stated that at the time of writing the article, there were no starter level books available, so I don’t know if that has changed. I didn’t see any today.
The Daily Yomiuri’s column on Indirectly Speaking has another article by Mike Guest that should be of interest to teachers. Mike writes about 4 bad habits in Japanese culture, and he relates them to how they can cause difficulties in a classroom. He then provides simple solutions from his own experience, so that we can have some ammunition at our fingertips in combating these issues. The solutions may not be overly miraculous, but they are sound and straightforward. Give it a read.
The web site Gaijinpot is fairly notorious for posters on its discussion group, but in the last year or so GP has also offered some interesting and at times quite useful information on its opening page, before one even gets to the forums. One such tidbit includes some posts by foreigners who have set up their own businesses in Japan. Some talk about the incorporating process (2 postings actually), recruiting for one’s employees, and more.
Input this! Plenary speaker at the 5th ER SIG Seminar (in Nagoya this year) will be none other than Stephen Krashen, father of the Input Hypothesis of second language acquisition. In case you want more here is a link in English and Spanish to Krashen.
Good old Wikipedia can also be a place to start to learn more, so here you go.
Remember that this ER SIG Seminar was held in 2010 in Sapporo.
The Daily Yomiuri has an article called “Reading of English papers help exam preparation“. In it, 56-year-old teacher Yasumi Shiga explains a little how she uses newspapers and magazines to help her students in junior and senior high school learn to read English (and a little conversation, too). I wish there was more description to her method, but for the moment there’s enough to get started on.
People often ask on discussion forums what sort of teaching jobs one can get in Japan. Some have the image that university work is a pinnacle of a teaching career, while others prefer a string of part-time jobs, some say working in business English situations. The Language Teacher published something in March 2009 that extends this one point further: going into business for oneself. In that article (Five things to consider before starting a language school), Ben Shearon gives some advice. While this is not specific to Hokkaido residents, who knows in today’s market whether one may wish to go this route? Give it a look.
The Daily Yomiuri has an interesting Language Connection column (on Sept. 23) by Helene Uchida. Skip the first part about video-taping oneself in a classroom. The second question (on p.2 of the PDF file) asks about teaching adults. Ms. Uchida’s answer begins mysteriously with a trip she took to Denmark. Don’t stop there. Here comparison of English fluency in Denmark and Japan is pretty interesting.
I particularly like the statement she writes from a Danish friend there:
This summer, my husband and I visited my best friend in Copenhagen. While there, I was especially impressed with the English fluency of Danes. To our delight, everyone we met could speak English: Read the rest of this entry »
TESOL has recently advertised for a proposal on a book on assessment (Assessment in English Language Programs). Deadline is December 1st. You’ll need to submit drafts of a couple of book chapters.
I ran across a short article on what some educators think about using YouTube videos for their classes. Take a look at what one workshop (“boot camp” it says in the article) summarized as 5 useful points of YouTube. One of the items talks about improvements in YouTube’s editing process. I didn’t view it, but I hope things have spruced up since the last time I tried editing a YouTube vid!
(Actually, I thought the list really had only 4 items, since 2 of them were so similar, but what the heck.)
SpeakGlobally has come out with a way for English learners to practice their speaking and listening. For a fee, they can choose from a number of cartoon character faces (humans only) and hold conversations.
I looked at the 7-minute online demonstration, and it’s not that bad. You can see an animated face speaking to you, and under that are 2 text windows — one that shows in English what the character said, and one that shows what you say. I noticed that pronunciation is important to a degree (the Japanese speaker said “pray” instead of “play”, and it printed out the former, but thanks to the context the animated speaker gave the appropriate response). What is very good about all this is that the student can ask for a written translation of what was just said, and this shows up on the side in a third text window. Overall, I’d say the translation is very fast. It’s also very fast voice recognition for the student. (I noticed that in the demo the student said “chat friends”, but it printed out only “friends” even though he tried to correct that twice, so it’s not completely perfect.)
Sometimes the dialogue gets a bit stilted, and I’d like to see more of a free demo. Using this program costs almost 2,000 yen per month (1,500 yen/month if you buy a year’s plan). The speaker seemed to know a bit of Japanese culture, which is nice for our students, but I wonder how much of the conversation becomes just Q&A, with the questions coming mostly from the screen.
Take a look, but keep in mind the cost.
Steve Denning has written several books on business, and he has a column with Forbes. See what he offers in the way of an opinion on how the U.S. education system should change. Interview is here: “Management guru offers radical ideas for school reform“.
A new version of the book New Ways in Teaching Reading is due. The call for papers can be found at this link. TESOL is asking for additions to 2 new sections:
teaching young learners
using the Internet to teach reading
Throw your hat into the ring! Deadline for submissions is November 1.
The Daily Yomiuri has a short column out that talks about spoken replies in the iBT (Internet-based TOEFL). What is nice is that it offers a link to the ETS rubric for independent tasks and integrated tasks, and it shows an example of a good and a bad reply. What is not so nice is that the rubrics themselves are pretty long (a fault that cannot be helped, and they are for referees anyway, not students) and that the article doesn’t go into the specific flaws of the poor example response.
The lengthy rubrics are good for referees to follow. Whether anyone else wants to adapt them to their own speaking tests is up for you to decide. If you are giving advice on the iBT, I would suggest simplifying these rubrics so that the students know what they need to do to score well. They deserve to know what they are getting into.
Whether you are a TESOL member or not, you can participate in an online discussion about putting research into practice. Here is the link you can use for a bit more information and for instructions on how to sign up.
Dates are 14 September to 21 October. Participation in this interactive event is free.
The annual TESOL meeting is coming up again on 27-31 March 2012. If you are thinking of attending and presenting as a first-timer, but you don’t have the travel funds, you might want to consider applying for a special TESOL grant for just that purpose.
The Japan Times just came out with an article “Home Truths. Once settled in, chances are you’ll have to pay to stay “, which describes some useful information about apartment contracts. It is not all-encompassing, but the news is noteworthy, especially with regard to landlords requiring supplemental fees for lease renewals. Considering that the article says some of this may be a regional thing, I don’t know how much it applies to Hokkaido, but if one is thinking about relocating, it would be wise to look at it.
The authors conclude the article with 7 bullet points on what to look for in a contract and a (Japanese-only) link.
The Japan With Kids web site has additional information on renting and contracts on a link called Law Governing Landlord and Tenant Relations in Housing, and that means more links and translations of terminology. Check it out.
JALT Hokkaido’s annual CALL workshop will be held on Saturday, 15 October. There is a call for papers still open until 14 September. It’s always a good workshop, so take a look at the link just to see what is offered at this point, if nothing else.
Osamu Tezuka created the character Astro Boy (Atomu, in Japanese), and although he has been dead since 1989, his works are now reaching the English-speaking world. Earlier this month, Tezuka Productions announced the English release of “Osamu Tezuka Magazine Club,” a manga digital library featuring various works by “the father of manga.” It will contain 62 volumes in cloud storage, plus audio works of doctor Black Jack, another character created by Tezuka.
For now, only iPad users (and soon Android PC tablet users) will have access, and the fee (sad to say) will be $9.99 per month.
Other information on English manga by Tezuka can be found at this site.
In the latest (July 2011) edition of El Gazette, there is a short article of interest to linguists. It brings to light evidence from a study that asked the question, “Are there universal rules of grammar that our brains recognize without being taught and regardless of culture?”
Take a look and see the answer.
I just attended the JALT CUE 2011 conference on motivation over the July 2-3 weekend in Tokyo. One point that came out seemed like a simple one, but I know that even experienced teachers may stumble with this from time to time. To motivate students, it is vital to have a clear lesson plan. How many times have you given instructions, told students to begin, and then saw no movement at all (other than the wrinkling of their brows in confusion)?
From the Teacher Planet web site this month, here are a lot of lesson planning ideas. I hope that at least some of them reduce the confusion in your classroom. The link at the very top, called Lesson Plan Guidelines, might be one of the first you would want to check out. It links you to 6 other sites to help describe how to build a lesson plan.
At last weekend’s CUE 2011 conference on motivation, one of the featured speakers mentioned that one way to motivate students might be to find role models for them. Well, what kind?
There are a fairly large number of Japanese celebrities who speak English, well or perfectly well, and I suppose we could try digging up their names and biographies. I for one would love to have such a list, especially if it can show just how the person became so good at English.
The Daily Yomiuri newspaper has recently begun a once-a-month column (in Japanese) that does just that. They have had 3 people featured so far: musical director Amon Miyamoto, tennis player Ai Sugiyama, and model Kurara Chibana. The DY has articles about these people and how they studied English. I wonder where we could find out more information (and in English this time)?
It didn’t take long for someone to publish a book on the post-quake, post-tsunami situation around Fukushima. On this Foreign Policy web site, you can see some details about an ebook called Tsunami: Japan’s Post-Fukushima Future. It is a collection of essays from “top writers and scholars working in Japan today”, edited by Jeff Kingston (Temple University). Proceeds go to the tsunami relief efforts.
In April this year there were a couple of announcements about “Summer Story“, an educational application for iPhones and iPod Touch. Plug in a mike and students can watch the cartoonish picture and interact verbally with the story of taking care of 3 exchange students for the summer. From another web site, it is describes as follows:
The game contains minimum grammar explanation, and emphasizes colloquial expressions instead. It includes both speaking and listening modes.
Yet another site has descriptions of all the characters in this visual novel, and you can even see a demonstration of the game/application in a short video. (Yeah, the site is Otaku Life, but I’m not into that. I just found it on a search.)
According to another site:
The real Title of the game was “Real Taiwa de Manabu Jissen Ei-Kaiwa“(Learn Practical English Conversation Through Realistic Dialogue) but it too long so they decide it Summer Story.
I think they were
wise in doing that.
The IATEFL is in a bit of a controversy at the moment. Some members want to start an ER SIG, while others seem to think it is not necessary. The latter group claim that the current Literature, Media and Cultural Studies SIG already pretty much take care of ER matters. The former group disagrees. IATEFL requires 50 members are needed to form a SIG.
Tom Le Seulleur (UAE) put an announcement in IATEFL’s Voices newsletter and followed up with the following message in the ER Foundation web site:
Proposed Extensive Reading IATEFL SIG – request to IATEFL members to support Read the rest of this entry »
The CUE SIG homepage has a nice page which lists some reference books on experimental design, plus a lot more for statistical analysis. How do you go about designing your experiments? What references to you use, if any?
TESOL is looking to put out a book “Assessment in English Language Programs”, and they have a call for papers out. See the top of this link for details. Deadline is December 1st.
If you have to deal with editors, or if you are one yourself (perhaps thinking of becoming one), you should read this interview with “legendary editor Robert Gottlieb”. We’re talking about the former editor in chief of The New Yorker magazine and Alfred P. Knopf. I found some of his anecdotes and comments insightful.
Probably nothing in there directly related to radiation concerns, but still it is always good to have such lessons.
Here’s a little article that has started making the rounds, Death to high school English. Two paragraphs in it seem to describe the failure of Japanese students to learn how to write properly, but it’s not about Japan! The article is actually talking about American students! Pretty sad state of affairs, so if you were the type who compared today’s students in the U.S. with Japan, think again if you said Americans had good writing skills.
There’s also a discussion thread on the ESL Cafe on the same topic.
An article in the Lifelines column of The Japan Times (Pension “gap years” and missed payments) recently provides some information on pensions for foreigners in Japan. Wouldn’t hurt for anyone, veteran and newcomer alike, to give it a read. The good advice about a 2-year leeway when a pension payment is missed stands out to me.
If you miss a payment and have not applied for an exemption from pension contributions, you are entitled to a two-year grace period to make the missed payment.
On the ETJ Yahoo group, Alan Miesch provided a link from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The link goes to an article “It’s Not Hard; It’s Just Work“, which describes 7 things to tell failing students in order to perk up their ears and try getting them on the right track. See what you think about some of these.
We talk about extensive reading and graded readers in English for our students, but have you ever wanted to use a Japanese graded reader for yourself? I found this web site with a bunch of them.
I have not looked at or used the books, but they seem to be offered in 5 levels (0 – 4), beginning with something that corresponds to JLPT4 (the old ranking system, if you recall) and peaking with JLPT 2 and 3.
They contain 350, 500, 800, and 1300 headwords per book, depending on level.
The total word length per book seem comparable to English graded readers. Read the rest of this entry »
Want something to do on Golden Week that is related to TEFL? Check out the online seminar sponsored by TESOL. The topic is large heterogeneous classes, and the speaker is the famous Penny Ur. TESOL members and nonmembers have options to register. Deadline is May 1.
In the shadows of the Tohoku earthquake situation, I am offering some Earth Day links that might be suitable for lesson plans. For some basic background info on Earth Day, go here.
For some lesson plans, see this link.
BTW, it’s Friday, April 22nd, so you still have time.
Just a quick note here if you are interested in putting in some time at the quake site. Peace Boat accepts foreigners. Read their physical requirements, though.
Whether you have an Extensive Reading library or are thinking of creating one, you might want to check out Rob Waring’s site. He has pictures and descriptions of 11 schools that have set up their own ER libraries.
The site is also a gold mine for many other things related to ER, whether in Japan, Korea, or China: videos about ER, free e-book lists, presentations on ER, manga and comics online, and much more.
A colleague of mine forwarded a chain email to me today. I hate those things. Most of the time it’s easy for me to spot them as obvious fakes/hoaxes. I usually locate a reliable article that refutes it on Snopes, then click Reply All (not just Reply), and include the link so that as many people as possible can be educated on the falsehood of the mail’s claims.
Sometimes Snopes will say it is true or false, and sometimes it has a mixed flavor of believability to it. This one is no different. The subject line reads: “Fwd: WHERE TO GO … EARTHQUAKE…. NOT UNDER A TABLE… PLEASE READ”. (Yes, it is in all caps, a sure sign that one should be on guard.)
This one claims to stem from a Mr. Doug Copp a Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI). You go ahead and read the Snopes reply, which basically cautions readers to take the tips with a large carload of salt.
Second Harvest site. They accept money and supplies/food.
Japanese Red Cross (English site)
To keep people properly informed, I have discovered a nice site with a lot of links to maps of the country. Some are interactive, some have animation, many have extra information beyond just city and prefecture. Here it is.
I particularly liked the map showing radiation levels across the country from the SPEEDI system (despite the fact that all of Hokkaido is based only on Iwanai), and the Japan quake map showing various circles around the epicenter to indicate depths of the shocks (wait a moment for these to flash onto the screen). This before & after map is also very cool; put your cursor on each photo and move left to right to see pictures of before and after images of various locations.
The CUE SIG has a call for papers out that I think might interest JALT Hokkaido members. It’s on the theme of motivation. CUE is hoping to assemble a collection of research on motivation to be published in a book form. This ties in with the July 2-3 conference on motivation that CUE is sponsoring in Tokyo this year. (Pre-registration for the conference begins April 1st, by the way.)
Take a look. The call for papers for the book ends on August 1, so you have plenty of time.
No, that’s not a misspelling or a problem in phonics. Phishing is a new term that applied to schemes that unscrupulous people employ to create fake web sites in order to steal your valuable private info. Sadly, there are those types out there at times of emergency like now. Be careful. Here’s a web site that offers tips on how to avoid such phishing schemes.
The Japan Times has a page listing various phone and Internet information to help people locate police, missing people, and to answer questions about language assistance, gas and electric power.
Yahoo has a link if you want to contribute donations. Here it is.
This is the Information Age. That’s nothing new. The folk singer John Prine said it in a song Living In The Future: “We are living in the future. I’ll tell you how I know. I read it in the paper 15 years ago.”
Most of us teach classes in the comfort of buildings with walls, but some try their hand at virtual classrooms. That is, they interact with students live via the Internet with some sort of videoconferencing connection. I see a lot of people asking on discussion forums how to do this.
The March 2011 issue of El Gazette has an article on this (“Top tools for teaching a ‘virtual’ class“) by Russell Stannard of the University of Warwick. He mentions universities using modern computer technology and programs like Elluminate, Captive, WebEx and Wimba (none of which I’d ever heard) to get classes together online. I suspect these are for large groups. Software like Skype can only set up small groups as far as I know, but people like to talk about it for the same purposes.
Stannard says that these software packages have many things in common:
What can be shown on the screen and how the participants interact with that content varies depending on the tool. All the software I have seen uses an interactive whiteboard, and permission can be granted to participants to write on the board, offering the possibility for group work and brainstorming.
He adds that these virtual classrooms let the teacher show his computer screen to the audience to demonstrate things.
A down side, though, is that (as Stannard explains) “Loading files, pictures and even video [while you are in the middle of a presentation] is often clunky”. Another bad point is sound. He says that the quality is “often disappointing”. Even with today’s webcams, teaching a large group is not what one might expect. You can’t make out individual faces on a screen showing a huge audience (a “sea of heads”, as Standard puts it).
A nice feature that I think even Skype doesn’t have is what he calls a “polling feature”, which you can use for immediate feedback or class responses.
Stannard doesn’t claim that these virtual classrooms are better than sliced bread. In fact, he cautions readers:
In truth, the VC experience is a far cry from what most people imagine. Once you are over the initial problems and the wow factor, you begin to focus on what can be achieved with these tools. They are powerful but take a whole new mindset.
Read more on the PDF.
Coming in like a lion or a lamb, March is World Reading Month. Take a look at the lesson ideas from Teacher Planet. Might not be a bad time to start paging through publisher catalogs for graded readers that your library is missing. It seems like a new series comes out fairly often. If you want to hear about some success stories with extensive reading, and SSS (Start with Simple Stories) in particular, you might want to read what Akio Furukawa has done. His site is here. Akio has another good site here with some downloadable information. Some of his results have been published here on the ERJ site.
Get ‘em while they’re young!
By now you have probably heard of the cheating scandal at some big-name universities during the entrance exams. The latest news report from The Japan Times (“Test cheater phone tied to Tohoku teen“) has implicated one person, but there were obviously others involved.
In the spirit of “Teachers Helping Teachers”, let’s review some of the ideas that have come out related to how to stop such cell phone cheating during this and any other exam. Read the rest of this entry »
People who attack problems need to isolate the causes in order to better understand how to approach resolutions. In Karuizawa, they are doing this in a unique way. The Japan Times has reported that there will be a new International University of Asia in Karuizawa beginning in 2013. All classes will be held in English, and the planners have in mind isolating the students to get things done. Isolating means that they intend to make the environment “residential”; that is, they will live closely together.
Planner Lin Kobayashi, who attended high school in Canada where there were 86 nationalities studying together, says the following:
“In Japan, when people talk of leadership, they tend to imagine someone who is very extroverted, a bit arrogant — someone who is really out there,” Kobayashi said. Read the rest of this entry »
I have no links in this blog article, but I think the source of inspiration is an interesting one: The Scientist magazine. It is something you can get only through a paid subscription, and it’s rather pricey. What I found interesting was an article in the October 2010 issue, “Aren’t you blogging yet?!?”, in the Careers section.
Granted this magazine is for people in the life sciences, but here’s a recap of what the article says about personal blogging to improve one’s career. I think it all can be applied to people teaching EFL.
What it can do for you:
Connect with collaborators (who knows what those comments will result it? Working together relationship or a paper?)
Generate ideas (When you’re stuck for ideas on how to solve something, ask readers!)
Affect change (Well, only if you have something valuable to write, but who can say?)
Sell yourself (Self-promoting your work may draw attention to yourself in a positive way.)
Land jobs (Ask about jobs you see posted, or just ask for general job hunting advice.) Read the rest of this entry »
English education in Japan has undergone several changes over the decades. A professor from Rikkyo University (Kumiko Torikai) was recently interviewed about a “new paradigm in English education” that she thinks is needed. Here are some quotes that should fire up a debate in any corner of your office.
The schools have since followed the [1990s MEXT] guidelines so faithfully that some people, who believe in the importance of grammar and comprehension, insist today that the pendulum must swing back. These people are concerned that not only have students’ communication skills not improved, but also that their basic academic performance standard itself has declined. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Guest has used his imagination again to put together a mock discussion about a TEFL topic. This time, it’s student-centered classes vs. teacher-centered ones. (You might be surprised at the winner.)
Read more of this in the Yomiuri Shimbun online.
G Communication is the company that picked up NOVA and GEOS branches after each company underwent its financial fiascos recently. As far as I know, the schools kept their names and teaching formats. In the January 2011 El Gazette, there is a report of “merging” these under a group name of “Nova x Geos”. Not sure what that means in terms of any fee system, management, or teaching formats. Here is the (brief) story in total:
Geos and Nova face merger. G Communication – the company that acquired many branches of bankrupt English school chains Geos and Nova in Japan – is to merge fifty of its 167 Geos branches into ‘Nova x Geos’ schools. Twenty other Geos schools will close and students affected by the closures will be taken on by local Nova branches. Twenty other Geos EFL schools will be incorporated into exam preparation ‘cram schools’ owned by G Communication’s subsidiary G Education.
I just posted a bunch of links on the ESL Cafe related to choosing a TEFL certification course. There are so many out there (both online and in real classrooms), that people have problems deciding. Forums like the Cafe are nice in that they give people a chance to ask others advice on such matters, but there is so much free information out there that is not that hard to find. I tried to find websites that did not cater to any specific program, but that offered sound advice on selecting a program. Here they are again. Read the rest of this entry »
If you are planning on getting a Japanese driver’s license, whether you have to take the practical (behind-the-wheel) test or not. I’d suggest getting a copy of Rules of the Road from JAF just to familiarize yourself with the basics and any differences from your own country. Here are some videos that may also be useful.
Toyota rental car video series (in English). These are made like a story with a Japanese student showing a Taiwanese and Korean friend around Hokkaido, and the Japanese student explains a lot of rules of driving. Pretty simplistic but who knows how helpful the videos may be to a newcomer.
Personal videos on driving course. A Hokkaido resident from Michigan (Mike Schamper) made two videos showing himself behind the wheel in a practice course drive with a Japanese instructor.has his voiceover to explain certain things in English, andis the same video without voiceover so you can hear the instructor as he drives the course. (They start with some screaming kids at a school, but thankfully that lasts only a few seconds.)
Here’s one showing the. (Could be a little dizzying due to the point of view camera shooting. Beware.)is a guy explaining the motorbike test (no view of the course, just an explanation, but still informative).
And, just some humor from a Japanese(subtitled in English).
I’m sure there are more videos out there, but this will get you started.
I have written 2 blog posts related to doing online master’s degrees. One of them was pretty general, summing up what an El Gazette article wrote about the hardships one feels when doing such a degree. The other described another El Gazette article, which wrote about what type of people shoot for such degrees.
But how can you even decide what online degree to get? The following is a bunch of links to sites that show degree programs and some rankings that may prove to be useful along those lines.
This link from U.S. News and World Report breaks them down by school name, state, tuition, tuition, accreditation, and exams.
This link from U.S. News and World Report shows rankings of various online programs.
This WorldWideLearn site gives a capsule summary of reasons to do an online degree, plus lists many programs you can choose and a newsletter to which you can subscribe.
This site for online master’s degree in education breaks down the various sub-majors and provides a link to each program for information to be sent to you.
GetEducated.com has a directory and provides some ranking information as well.
The rest of these seem to provide similar information as directories of programs, and I’m sure that there is a lot of overlap. See which one works best for you.
Also, if you have finished (or are currently enrolled in) an online program, please feel free to add a comment to this posting. Let readers know about the success and weaknesses in the programs, especially with regard to tuition, time needed on campus physically, needs for writing the thesis, amount of time spent per day or week, and overall support you received.
I’ve been looking at journal articles on how well or poorly Japanese (and other international) students perform when they study abroad. I’d like to help them. Maybe I’m wasting my time. What do you think?
According to Mizuho Aoki in The Japan Times’ latest article “At Japan’s Expense? Japan far behind in global language of business“, the number of Japanese students who choose to study abroad has been declining in the past few years. It seems that with the shrinking population and economy in Japan, more and more students feel it is more important to stay at home and not miss chances of landing jobs here, so says a Kyodo News service report. In a way, I’m not surprised, but are that many jobs here in Japan going to use only Japanese in their business? Read the rest of this entry »
As my last blog entry for 2010, I thought I’d share something about neighborhood values in Japan. For the veterans, this may be old hat but still something to muse on. For people who have just arrived, it is perhaps something valuable. The article in the Daily Yomiuri called “Keeping in line with the Joneses” begins by telling about how important Japanese consider neighborhood relationships are and how easy it may be to establish one. It finishes with a more negative point, what you might expect if you get on the bad side of your neighbors, perhaps in a seemingly innocent way. Let’s all take care this holiday season, newcomer and veteran alike, and enjoy our own lives as well as the support we get from those around us.
The Daily Yomiuri recently came out with 2 articles related to using technology in the classroom, particularly in elementary schools. One of them “Teachers’ ICT training skills lag” shows how 2010 skills in Information and Communication Technology have not met with the expectations of the 2007 MEXT goals. The other “From slates to tablets: schools eye digital future” seems ironic to publish considering the poor state of affairs in the teachers’ skills, but it still makes for interesting reading.
I just wonder how many kids will be able to read and write before I get them in university classes.
Have you ever heard of an anecdote that goes something like this? A Japanese person was secure in thinking that he would never need English in a career, so he went on his merry way to pursue a Japanese life without English, when suddenly a change in his company forced him to use English in a serious way. I’ve heard a handful of these accounts, even read one in a Japan Times article a few years ago (but have not since been able to find).
In a recent Japan Times article “University grads need to expand their horizons“, there is a hint of such a thing. The article talks about how today’s graduates are still often thinking that there is lifetime employment in Japan, and that they cannot figure out why they are not being hired. Author Philip Brasor writes that a big problem is Read the rest of this entry »
Most of you are probably familiar with Rakuten, the Japanese shopping mall operator that said its employees must all speak English by 2012 or be fired. It must make for quite the New Year’s resolution by employees!
I dug up an archived story on this from The Japan Times. It mostly talks about the president Hiroshi Mikitani’s idea to do this, but it also briefly describes the language requirements behind a few other companies — Fast Retailing (Uniqlo), Nissan, Nomura Holdings. It also describes how Rakuten is not paying for lessons for its employees to learn English, but that hundreds are taking them from Berlitz, who gives a discount.
If you’re wondering about Mikitani’s ability to speak English and on his charisma (both touted in the article), you can actually see him talking Read the rest of this entry »
A while back, I wrote a short blog entry on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) when it had been changed from 4 levels to 5. I see now that the link inside that article is no longer active, and that’s probably because the JLPT page may have been upgraded. Well, although the December test has come and gone, I thought better information should be provided. You have 7 months to study for the next one. So, here is the latest homepage for JLPT information. It contains the following tabbed links on its menu: Read the rest of this entry »
Over the course of the years that JET ALTs have come and gone, some have written their share of books. Nicholas Klar wrote “My Mother is a Tractor“. Bruce Feiler’s “Learning to Bow” is a classic. “Japan Diary: A Year on JET” was written by Eric Sparling. David Kootnikoff and David Chandler have edited a book called “Getting Both Feet Wet: Experiences Inside the JET Program“, which offers 7 essays from JET ALTs and 7 more by JTEs. And, David McConnell has his own approach in directly describing & critiquing the JET Programme with “Importing Diversity: Inside Japan’s JET Program“.
If you are interested in what it takes to buy land in Japan, there is a “webinar” coming soon, and at a decent time for Japan. On Monday, 6 December at 2pm, Chris Dillon will provide information online on this issue. You can see details about the webinar and registration at this link.
I don’t usually read editorials, but this one caught my eye. Yeah, it started in June this year, so I’m a little slow, but that’s besides the point. Steven Herder started an editorial “conversation” with others on the ELT News site, and his topic was a critical point to us all: “Pressing issues in EFL Japan“.
He got the ball rolling with 3 items of his own:
EFL is not ESL
Balancing accuracy and fluency
Textbooks vs. your own materials
The discussion went on from there. I think that even though it ended after a few posts, the thoughts presented are food for serious thinking.
There were more posts all the way to August 2007