Chapzine No. 1
This Chapzine has been edited for readability for publication on this site. Photos, charts, and tables, all painstakingly created by the authors and carefully posted by the editors have been removed. We apologize for this and appreciate your understanding. All of the documents are included in the PDF file which is available on the main page. Thank you and enjoy the Chapzine No.1.
Welcome to the first and hopefully not last issue of the JALT Tokyo Chapter ’zine!
TYO is a destination code for Tokyo, and the TYOchap’zine is a destination intended to provide some primarily light and entertaining magazine style reading for its members and anyone else who is interested.
We have feature articles by chapter presenters Heath Rose and Peter Cassidy, and this issue also includes a Taste of JALT 2009 from chapter members, as well as what we expect to be regular features: My School, Essays from the Front, Letters to Dr. X, Classroom Quips, and Cartoon Classrooms. We hope that you find something that you like and consider contributing in the future.
In This Issue
Towards content-based curriculum designHeath Rose
Respecting L1 use in L2 learningPeter Cassidy
DEPARTMENTSLetters to Prof. X Taste of JALT 2009 JALT 2009 Briefs My School Essays from the Front Classroom Quips Cartoon Classrooms
Towards content-based curriculum design
Heath RoseRikkyo University
Anyone who has been teaching in the Japanese university system for any length of time may have noticed gradual changes in their student body in terms of changing proficiency and changing needs.
The motivated Japanese student body has adapted to changes in teaching methodology over the past decade that employ more student-centred approaches. As a result the types of curriculum offered in all types of English language programs are under pressure to change. Students are now demanding more from their courses than traditionally provided.
These changes are taking place in part because of a “knock on effect,” in that changes at the beginning or lower end of English instruction, are having an effect on curriculum development all the way through to the higher end. At the lower proficiency end of the spectrum, students that once learned grammar in high schools and rudimentary English programs at universities are now seeking more communicative programs. At the next level on, students from traditionally communicative programs such as in English Departments at established universities are now demanding more content-based curricula. Finally, at the upper end, progressive universities that have offered content courses for some time are finding their students demanding even more from their programs.
What has happened? The past 20 years have seen a movement from grammar-based instruction to communicative and student-centred instruction. Now communicative language teaching is considered an old term, and new ideas on teaching methodology have started to garner attention. Moreover, in an attempt to differentiate their programs from others’, institutions are examining new ways to teach and motivate students to study English. In many ways, Japanese education has changed students’ proficiency and needs, and as a result the students want more changes in their programs at a faster pace than curriculum developers can implement. Lets take a few real examples from different types of universities.
At the lower proficiency end of curriculum design, many university language instructors are employed to offer general English to a wide range of students. In these programs, a more grammar-translation approach was once adopted in an effort to improve average TOEIC scores of the student body. Nowadays, in an environment where English communication is considered more valuable, many of these programs have taken a more communicative approach to curriculum design.
In the middle arena, we find students who major in English communication or for whom English education is a voluntary choice. Populated by more motivated students, these programs have enjoyed a communicative approach to curriculum design for many years. In order to differentiate themselves from general English programs that have become increasingly communication-oriented, many of these institutions are introducing more content-base language courses. To examine some real examples, students in the English departments at both Kanda University of International Studies and Sophia University students take skills-based language courses in their freshman and sophomore years and then largely engage in content-based language courses in the latter two years of their university lives on a range of social subjects. Such curriculum organisation, which was progressive less than 10 years ago, is gradually becoming the norm for many English departments in universities nationwide.
Finally, at the highest end of spectrum it is not in the language departments where the final stage of this knock-on effect is occurring. Ironically, language departments are in essence restricted in curriculum development by their own existence, in that the objective of a students’ education is the development of knowledge of language ability rather than knowledge of specific content. In order for the final step in the knock on effect to take place, the curriculum needs to progress to an environment where English is no longer the central outcome, but the outcome becomes the learning of content through the medium of English. This is where programs like Rikkyo University’s Department of Global Business differ.
At Rikkyo University, the Department of Global Business has been established as a trial in bilingual education. In the first three semesters, students undertake business content classes mostly taught in Japanese concurrently with academic English skills classes designed to improve their ability to use English for university study. Then, from the middle of their second year the number of business content courses offered in the Japanese language are phased out and the number of business content courses offered in English increases. For example, two-thirds of all elective courses in the Global Business Department are offered in English only. The students must then apply their academic English skills to the study of business. As a result, the objective of these courses focuses on the development of content knowledge using English as the medium of instruction, as opposed to the development of linguistic knowledge through content which is the purpose of content courses in English departments at universities such as Kanda and Sophia as mentioned previously. Moreover, in structuring the courses in this way, the English classes serve a real purpose, and students can understand the clear goal of the English curriculum to build upon their skills in order to study business content in classes in their future academic life.
This leads us to ask the question of how such a program is different from those programs offered in the Faculty of Liberal Arts in Sophia University and the College of Liberal Arts at ICU, which have offered degrees in English for decades. Programs such as this are different in one fundamental way. The ICU and Sophia programs have largely been established to cater to the English-speaking Japanese and international community in Japan by offering a general liberal arts degree entirely taught in English. Programs such as the Rikkyo’s, however, are catering to an emerging demographic of student that wants to further their English expertise, but also wants to apply it to a specialized area of interest. The serious language student no longer wants to finish a four-year degree that specializes only in the study of language itself. Likewise, the serious international business student understands the necessity of developing a knowledge of international business in English. Furthermore, such programs create another option for Japan’s growing demographic of returnee and international students who are no longer complacent with having only the option of a liberal arts education in English.
Within language departments at the university level, where content-based language teaching has become the norm, this knock on effect may prove detrimental to their attracting higher proficiency students in the future. Majoring in a language alone only gives so much scope to content-based language teaching, in that the focus of any course will still be the advancement of English knowledge rather than knowledge of the content itself. It seems we will be seeing more programs such as the one described above emerging in Japan in the future as students realise they can get an education in a foreign language and specific content at the same time.
Respecting L1 use in L2 learning: Maintaining
creativity and social development
Peter CassidyMitsui Gardens International Preschool
Globalization has changed the language classroom in many parts of the world and policies promoting English-only learning environments may be the result of the spread of English worldwide. Learning English can increase domains for communication, but the idea that using the vernacular or mother tongue (L1) will lessen one’s ability to learn a second language (L2) has affected language policy to the point that students are not being optimally supported in their second language acquisition (SLA) endeavors. I have been witness to policies that would even have children speak only in English during free play, meal times, and during field trips. This inspired me to show the negative effects of re-directing children away from using their L1 in L2 learning environments.
Through a videotaped study of pre-kindergarten Japanese children within an L2 learning context, it was determined that re-directing children away from using their L1 not only stifled their ability to socialize optimally, but it also affected their creativity negatively. Tangible quantitative evidence (number of blocks used during play) revealed through a block play study, in unison with the qualitative analysis of thirteen TESOL graduate students (discussions about the language used during play/circle times), led to a revealing survey that brings to light the need for language policy change in young learner L2 classrooms. It will also be argued that these policies, stemming from the influence of globalization on government, school administrations, and parents, are founded in misconceptions about SLA. It is my hope that alternatives to re-direction away from the L1 in L2 learning contexts will highlight the importance of respecting the many learning styles that make up every type of classroom and will underscore the possibilities available to language teachers of all ages.
An action research project involving fifteen participants took place over a period of two weeks in a pre-kindergarten classroom, eventually leading to a survey of forty-seven practicing teachers. The ages of the children ranged from late four to recent five and three groups were formed. The first group was made up of all native English speaking American children. The second group was a mix of both American children and Japanese children. The third group consisted of all Japanese children; one child being American-Japanese. Three studies were conducted, and the main focus was on the third group consisting of all Japanese-speaking participants.
The procedure of all three studies began with an introductory circle and concluded with a wrap-up circle once the block play activity time had elapsed. Speaking was the main focus for these circle activities before and after the children had played for approximately twenty minutes in the block center. Study one had no element of re-direction away from their L1; the children could speak any language of their choosing. Study two was virtually the same except for the stipulation that the children were not to speak Japanese and should instead speak English only. The third study had a pre-play-prep element in which the children were read a story about building a playhouse before playing in the block center. It was my hope that the block-play area would support the speaking data with tangible block creations and act as the focus of discussion in the wrap-up circle for the conclusion of each session. The results were very revealing to say the least.
Groups one and two ended up speaking English only for all three studies, as was expected. The real focus of my action research project was the third group of all Japanese participants. Study one, with no language re-direction element, was meant to be the control study and would be the comparative tool for the other two studies; speech in any language was the target. It was anticipated that speaking and socialization would be affected positively after the pre-play prep story (study three) and that creativity would be heightened. It was also predicted that re-directing children away from their L1 during study two would have a negative affect on speaking and socialization.
Surprisingly, the pre-play prep (study three) did not show any significant differences from the control study (study one) with any of the three groups, but the re-direction element in study two produced the anticipated results with a surprising drop in the amount of blocks used (approximately 67% less). This quantitative data could lead to some conclusions regarding the measure of creativity, but to remain neutral in my analysis, the creativity component was interpreted through the qualitative data from the block creation descriptions/discussions that took place during the wrap-up circle. Creativity is different for everyone and very difficult to measure at this age. The comparison between study one and study two is the focus of this analysis, but admittedly, my singular perspective was a problem in the qualitative analysis. Because of this issue, it was decided to seek support for my findings based on the video footage as well as my field notes.
I presented the video footage and my notes to 12 peers from Columbia University Teachers’ College (Tokyo campus). Without being told which study had a language re-direction element, they were shown the footage from study one and study two. They were asked to discuss which session showed better socialization, more cooperation, more speaking, and better creativity based on the block creations and the discussions during the concluding circle. The qualitative analysis was unanimous and everyone surmised that study two must have had the language re-direction element.
Discussions evolved after seeing the negative socialization, the tattling on friends for speaking Japanese, the whispering in Japanese, the silence, and the decreased amount of play that actually took place in study two. It was noted that one participant in the block play study actually followed the instruction to not speak Japanese, but as a result this individual was either silent or resorted to the use of hand signals to communicate during the entire block play time.
We later discussed this age group and the importance of social development, emotional development, and language development, and it was the consensus that language development, for this age group, was less important than social and emotional development. Re-directing the children away from the use of their L1, it was agreed, was probably the reason for the diminished socialization, cooperation, speaking, and creativity. Of course, questions arose from our discussions and it lead to the creation of a survey as well as my inclusion of possible alternatives to re-directing learners away from their L1 in L2 contexts.
Forty-seven TC Columbia graduate students, who are also practicing teachers, were given a survey that was meant to clarify the issue of re-directing young learners away from their L1 in L2 learning contexts. The survey revealed that, although 89.4% of those surveyed thought that social development was most important for young learners or at the very least social development and language development were of equal importance, only 38.3% said that re-direction away from use of the L1 should never happen. I believe that this shows a discrepancy between beliefs and classroom practices. Those who said that social development was more important or as important as language development made up 89.4% and yet only 38.3% said they would never re-direct young learners away from their L1 during playtime. Perhaps the perception of the effects language re-direction has on language and social development is where the discrepancy lies, and it is my hope that the results of this study will inform people about the repercussions that certain practices have on young learners and that there are alternatives which respect the L1 in SLA.
Even with the misconceptions about the relevance of the L1 in second or other language learning, solutions are available so that respect for the L1 in SLA remains a possibility within L2 learning contexts. Informing governments, school administrators, and parents of the L1 benefits in L2 acquisition is one step in the right direction. SLA courses in universities teach how important the L1 is in the learning of a second or other language, and there exist studies that point towards the benefits of code switching and how the L2 can also affect the L1. Bringing to light the ways that young learners acquire their first language (receptive leading to productive) may also promote respect for the receptive learning that is happening in L2 classrooms that tend to demand productive results. Adopting some incidental learning strategies through songs, games, and stories can empower the receptive learner to become productive without the need to re-direct them away from their L1. Making language learning fun may be more powerful than making sure all the input and output is in the target language (TL). It all depends on the types of activities being employed, but these activities should never require re-directing learners away from production in their first language.
Showing respect for all languages may be the most important catalyst for learners to become productive speakers while operating within the L1/L2 continuum of language acquisition. Policies need to take into consideration how respect for the L1 in L2 learning can help maintain social development and creativity, as well as language development. Once there are policies in place that allow for the L1 in L2 learning contexts, teachers can then align their beliefs to match their classroom practices and make language learning fun for optimum success. Limiting L1 use in L2 classrooms does not show respect for its legitimate place in the learning process and if this becomes a part of the planning towards policy, both teachers and learners alike will benefit.
Letters to Prof. X
Dear Prof. X,
There is a student in my university English class who is often late or sleeping. She seems to be interested and usually does well, but I don’t know how to handle her problem. How can I deal with this student without causing further problems. I’m at my wit’s end!
Dear Just Trying,
Before talking to your student, you should consider some possibilities. If she seems to be interested and performs well enough, what else could be the cause. Is your class early in the morning? Students are often up late at night because of part-time jobs, or sometimes they are really studying other subjects very hard burning the midnight oil. The student could even have low blood pressure! You could ask the student to see you after class and gently ask why she is often late and sleepy. If you approach your students carefully, they may even tell you something that can help you solve the problem. Be gentle and consider the whole student.
Taste of JALT 2009
Why consider ethics in English language teaching?
Maggie LiebMeiji University
Ethics may be defined as "standards of behaviour that tell us how human beings ought to act in the many situations in which they find themselves, as friends, parents, children, citizens, businesspeople, teachers, professionals" (Velasquez, et al., 2009). A code of ethics means "A set of standards by which a particular group or community decides to regulate its behaviour - to distinguish what is legitimate or acceptable in pursuit of their aims from what is not " (Flew, 1979, p.112). This establishes a goal or purpose to justify ethical standards, and assesses the efficacy of each standard "in terms of the contribution it makes ... towards this end" (p.113). Philosophers and ethicists recommend basing ethical standards on the following:
1) The utilitarian approach - maximizing good and minimizing harm.
2) The rights approach - safeguarding human rights.
3) The fairness or justice approach - equal treatment for all.
4) The common good approach - making a positive contribution to society.
5) The virtue approach - actions that reflect our highest potential as human beings (Velasquez, et al, 2009).
Ethical work goes beyond perfunctory performance. It is excellent in quality; it contributes to the good of society; and it is engaging and meaningful (Gardner, 2008, p. 128). For a profession, ethics are crucial. A profession is "a highly trained group of workers who perform an important service for society... serve in an impartial manner, and exercise prudent judgment under complex circumstances" (Gardner, 2008, p.128). Maintaining society's trust requires self-regulation and adherence to recognized standards, "or risk... being disbarred... from their professional guild" (Gardner, 2008, p.129). Although most professions have ethical codes, educational ethics are rarely discussed. If we consider education a profession, we must also adhere to ethical standards especially as we have the capacity to influence attitudes and behaviour. Ethical education, like ethical work, should go beyond perfunctory performance and be excellent in quality, contribute to the good of society, and be engaging and meaningful. The same applies to English Language Teaching (ELT).
Excellent in quality
An enormous amount of ELT research is devoted to new, innovative approaches to instruction. While this is admirable, the focus is usually on cognitive outcomes rather than affective outcomes. Kramsch (1998) points out that "Linguistics is well served with... expositions and explanations which are comprehensive, authoritative, and excellent in their way... However, their way is the essentially academic one.." (p.vii).
Contribute to society
Ethical ELT serves both the international and the host communities.
The international community
Linguapax (a UNESCO initiative) situates “...language education within a wider framework of education for peace" and entrusts ELT's with "enhancing mutual understanding, respect, peaceful co-existence, and cooperation among nations" (Marti, 1996). This requires revisiting our rationale for ELT. Are we merely facilitating business and commercial interests? Sampedro and Hillyard (2004) state that "Language (is) a natural vehicle for fostering cross-cultural, cross-boundary understanding” (p.6). We are well-positioned to generate cross-cultural goodwill and “eliminat(e) stereotypes and negative prejudices” (Marti, 1996).
The host community
Worldwide, although Mandarin has the greatest number of speakers, English is currently dominant. Mufwene (2008) writes, "The language of the most powerful prevails, regardless of how this state of affairs obtains." Thus, there is potential for marginalization of indigenous languages. If students believe that "the language through which they have expressed themselves up to this point in their lives is deficient, and must be replaced by a superior model... human potential is being diminished" (Cummins, 2003). Ethical ELT validates the host culture, offering English as a supplement, not a replacement for indigenous languages.
Engaging and meaningful
According to Sampedro and Hillyard (2004) “Language acquisition is meaningful only when it is viewed as part of the human condition” (p.5). Thus, ethical ELT fosters cross-cultural friendship and involves awareness of what affective messages students receive about the English language and culture as well as their own culture. This corresponds with Resnik's (2007) principle of responsible mentoring and Velasquez's (2009) virtue approach.
Many Japanese believe that their hierarchical system of polite language (keigo) is unique. However, English speakers also show deference and respect through register, intonation, sentence length, and word choice. This is one of many situations in which I used a Venn diagram to illustrate that while customs differ across cultures, there is often a common goal. In this case, I wrote the common communicative goal (Showing deference) in the overlap. Then, in the Japanese circle, I wrote keigo and in the English circle register, intonation, sentence length, and word choice.
Instead of fostering international understanding, some foreign language textbooks “contribute to international misunderstanding" (Cates, 1993, p.342). Starkey (1990) claims that "foreign language textbooks are amongst the most fertile grounds for discovering bias, racism, and stereotype" (in Cates, 1993 p.325). For example, one university textbook states, "Although North American students can seem friendly, their friendliness is rather superficial and insincere... To international students, Americans appear to be self-absorbed and uninterested in making friends" (Gareis, 1995, in Shulman, 1998 p.8).
Adopting an ethical orientation to ELT
Ethical ELT requires reflective teaching. This involves awareness of weltanschauung and critical pedagogy.
Weltanschauung is comprised of Welt ("world"), and anschauung ("view"). Thus, weltanschauung means "a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint" (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). Ethical ELT requires awareness of our weltanschauung, or value system, which is communicated to students, as we are “imparting, although often unconsciously, a system in which meanings are interpreted and subjectivities are constructed" (Hammond, 2006).
Engaging in critical pedagogy raises awareness of how educational practices are “...shaped by wider, socio-political forces, and in the interests of dominant social groups” (Hammond 2006, p.549). The following framework (adapted from Velasquez et al. 2009) may be useful.
- maximize good in my teaching and minimize harm? (The utilitarian approach)
- respect the rights of all who have a stake - the source culture, the target culture? (The rights approach)
- treat people equally or proportionately? (The justice approach)
- serve the wider community? (The common good approach)
- enable students to be the best that they can be? (The virtue approach)
The potential of ELT
In 2008, an American professor conducted ELT workshops in Kosovo, a society "with strong ethnic divides... with minimal opportunity for people to communicate with one another across cultural barriers" (Medley, 2009, p.11). There has been growing distrust and hatred between Serbs and Albanians leading to the deployment of NATO peace-keepers. Thus, Medley incorporated peace-building concepts into his workshops:
I saw the potential that Kosovo ELT's have to be peacebuilders... to teach communication skills that build inter-cultural understanding and to teach a language (English) that can be a medium of communication between groups that are suspicious of each other or completely hostile. (p.12).
Medley also describes the program, ACCESS, "in which Kosovar youth from different ethnic backgrounds study English together and enjoy extracurricular activities". This allows them to "forge friendships that bridge the ethnic and linguistic divide" (p.12).
Ethical ELT is excellent in quality, serves society, and is engaging and meaningful. This requires reflective teaching, awareness of weltanschauung, and engaging in critical pedagogy. Ethical ELT ultimately means teaching English as a unifying language. Maggie Lieb teaches and conducts research at Meiji University, Tokyo. Her research interests include inter-cultural communication. the affective domain, EAP, and multiple intelligences.
Cates, K. (1993). Images and Values in Foreign Language Textbooks. Journal Of The Faculty Of General Education, Tottori, Japan (27) 325-351.Cummins, J. (2003). Language and the human spirit. TESOL Matters, 13(1).Flew, A. (1979). A dictionary of philosophy. London: Pan Books in association with The Macmillan Press.Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Gareis, E. (1995). inter-cultural friendship: A qualitative study. In Shulman, M. (1998). Cultures in contrast. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Hammond, K. (2006). More than a game: A critical discourse analysis of a racial inequality exercise in Japan, TESOL Quarterly 40(3), 545-571.Kramsch, C. (1998). Language and culture, Oxford University Press.Marti, F. (1996). Linguapax, languages and peace (Translated in part from the original French by Kip Cates, Tottori University). The Language Teacher, 20(10),33-44.Medley, M. (2009). Hope for the English language teachers of Kosovo, Newsletter of the "Global Issues in Language Education" Special Interest Group (GILE SIG) of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT), Issue 72, 11-13Mufwene, S. (2008). 'Global English' vs. 'English as a global language'. Plenary presentation at the 47th JACET Convention, Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 12th, 2008Profession, (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Retrieved August 2, 2009 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionResnik, D. B. (2007). What is ethics in research and why is it important? National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/whatis.cfmShulman, M. (1998). Cultures in contrast, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan PressSampedro, R., & Hillyard, S. (2004). Global issues (Alan Maley, Ed.). Oxford University Press.Starkey, H. (1990). Subject-based approaches to global education: Foreign languages. In Cates, K. (1993). Images and values in foreign language textbooks (1): An exploration of example problems, Tottori University Journal of Foreign Studies, 325-351.Velasquez, M., Moberg, D., Meyer, M.J., Shanks, T., McLean, M. R., & DeCosse, D. (2009). A framework for thinking ethically. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/framework.htmlWeltanschauung (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved August 2, 2009 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weltanschauung
JALT 2009 Briefs
Exploring SL Writing Methodology and Online Tools
In this 100-minute forum, Harry Harris and Lorraine Reinbold of Hakuoh University introduced the “product process” SL writing methodology in use in the English program of a small private university outside of Tokyo. For group discussions, participants were then provided a list of “hot” issues, such as the need for English writing instruction and desirability of writing textbooks, feedback for and evaluation of student work, in-class grammar instruction, machine translations, plagiarism, student peer-work “borrowing,” and CALL. After participants summarized their ideas, the presenters demonstrated Writeboard and Etherpad, two online tools used by their students for journal and peer correction activities, respectively. (HarryWHarris@hotmail.com & email@example.com)
What’s the most common word in the English language? The 1000th? The 2000th? When students become aware of word frequency lists they can approach vocabulary study more methodically. John Spiri of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology presented the Word Quest system for encouraging students to drill frequency word vocabulary via Hot Potatoes quizzes or other methods, take teacher-friendly weekly quizzes designed to minimize paper use; and self-correct and self-record quizzes as they move towards the study of academic vocabulary and greater fluency. For more information see http://globalstories.spiriatwork.net/ for the student study page or contact the author to receive the 20 Word Quest quizzes in Word format or as a Google document. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fighting against vocabulary loss
Yuka YamamotoToyo Eiwa University
For many learners, the ultimate goal of vocabulary learning has been to acquire productive vocabulary knowledge in order to convey their message accurately and fluently while they are speaking and writing. Yet in order to attain this goal, it is essential for learners to improve their receptive vocabulary knowledge. Thus, in a practical sense, it is crucial for students to bridge the gap between the receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge. Even though no one denies the importance of vocabulary for foreign language learning, there is widespread belief that not much time is actually spent teaching and learning vocabulary, especially in university classes in Japan.
Recent studies (Okamoto, 2007; Maruyama, 2009) have suggested that Japanese students’ vocabulary knowledge is at its peak in the final year of high school and declines rapidly after entrance to university. Okamoto (2007) examined the vocabulary size of 275 Japanese university students of differing majors. She found that students upon entering university had a receptive vocabulary of 5,894 word families but after six months, their receptive vocabulary size decreased by 25%. In line with Okamoto’s study, Maruyama (2009) found even though non-English majors retained their receptive vocabulary size after a thirteen week experimental treatment, their productive vocabulary size exhibited a marked attrition of 17%. As supported by other lexical attrition studies (Hansen & Reetz-Kurashige, 1999; Weltens & Grendel, 1993), even though productive knowledge is much more challenging and takes a considerable amount of time and effort to acquire, it decays much faster than receptive vocabulary knowledge.
The present study investigates to what extent we can stop the loss of receptive and productive vocabulary size through vocabulary list learning using the Academic Word List (AWL) created by Coxhead (2000) and doing crossword puzzles and wordsearch. Therefore, this study addresses the following research questions:
1. Will the participants lose their vocabulary size if no instruction is given?
2. Does 20 minute vocabulary activities stop vocabulary loss or help to expand students’ vocabulary size?
This study involved 194 students (Experimental group, 89 students; Control group, 105 students) from two intact co-educational classes at a private university in Tokyo, Japan. They were first-year students majoring in Economics and Intercultural Communication enrolled in a listening and reading Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) course.
In both groups, over 80% of the class time was spent on computer assisted listening and reading materials. On the first day of class, the students in the experimental group were given the Academic Word List (AWL) established by Coxhead (2000) as homework and asked to prepare for the quizzes given in a form of crossword puzzle and wordsearch to be done in class. In each quiz, the definition of the meaning in English with an example sentence was given for each target item. In total, there were 10 target items for each quiz.
To examine if the course was effective, we administered two tests: the Vocabulary Levels Test (N. Schmitt, D. Schmitt & Clapham, 2001), and the Productive Vocabulary Levels Test (Laufer & Nation, 1999) once at the beginning and once at the end of the semester.
After the administration of each pre-test and the post-test, the experimental group (n = 89) and the control group (n = 105) were compared on the two vocabulary scores. To investigate the students’ vocabulary size growth at the beginning and end of the semester, paired t-tests were analyzed. The results are displayed in Table 1. A Bonferroni adjustment was made and the traditional p value of .05 adjusted to .025 (.05 divided by 2, the VLT and PVLT tests) and the traditional p value of .01 was adjusted to .005 (.01 divided by 2) (Tabachinick & Fidell, 2001).
After fourteen weeks of treatment, there was a significant increase (experimental group, t = 7.79, p = .000, two-tailed; control group, t = 2.86, p = .0051, two-tailed) in their receptive vocabulary scores in both groups. In addition, as shown in the mean difference, the gains were much larger in the experimental group (MD = 2.85) compared with the control group (MD = .63).
[See the PDF for the table]
Similar trend was shown in the productive vocabulary size. Analyzing this data using the t-test, a significant difference (experimental group, t = 12.51, p = .000, two-tailed; control group, t = 4.46, p = .000) between the pretest and posttests were observed in both groups. While both groups showed a significant gain, the mean scores for the experimental group nearly tripled after the fourteen-week treatment. The mean scores were 1.75 in the pretest and 5.37 in the posttest. Again, the mean difference indicates that experimental group (MD = 3.62) gained more academic productive vocabulary size than the control group (MD = .81).
The current results were not in line with previous findings (Okamoto, 2007; Maruyama, 2009). We did not see any vocabulary loss among our students. Both measures indicated a statistically significant increase, and the controlled production particularly showed a remarkable gain. The reason could be explained by looking at the types of vocabulary that has been tested. For instance, Maruyama excluded the AWL and only saw the 2,000, 3,000 and 5,000 word levels. Also, students probably encountered with academic words more frequently than the other types of words.
This suggests that introducing a small vocabulary component within the curriculum helps learner retain and even increase their vocabulary. On the other hand, the data also suggested that vocabulary list learning may not be the most efficient way for acquiring a large volume of productive vocabulary within a limited time. Looking at the gains of experimental group, learners were able to gain only four productive academic vocabulary words on average (pretest, M = 1.75; posttest, M = 5.37.
Limitations and suggestions for future research
Even though the gains were not unexpectedly large, the results still showed that introducing vocabulary activities foster their lexical growth.
However, several limitations need to be considered for future research. First, it is questionable whether spending 20 minute on vocabulary tasks is enough to improve vocabulary size. It would be worthwhile to carry out the experiment for a longer term to see how much vocabulary they can actually retain over time. Furthermore, we only measured two aspects of vocabulary knowledge: receptive and productive vocabulary size. We are still not sure about other types of vocabulary knowledge including the use of collocation, idioms, and phrasal verbs. Also, the real test of whether the small component was truly beneficial needs to be based on the assessment of their skill performance (e.g. writing, speaking).
The paper was presented at the JALT Conference, 2009, Shizuoka, Japan with Dr. Tomoko Ishii.
Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quartely 34, 213-238.Hansen, L., & Reetz-Kurashige, A. (1999). Investigating second language attrition: An introduction. In L. Hansen (Ed.), Second language attrition in Japanese contexts (pp. 3-18). New York: Oxford University Press.Laufer, B., & Nation, I.S.P. (1999). A vocabulary-size test of controlled productive ability. Language Testing, 16, 33-51.Maruyama, Y. (2009). English vocabulary size changes of Japanese university students. Temple University Japan Proceedings of the 2008 Applied Linguistics Colloquium, 25-30.Mochizuki, M., & Aizawa, K. (2000). An affix acquisition order for EFL learners: An exploratory study. System, 28, 291-304.Okamoto, M. (2007). Lexical attrition in Japanese university students: A case study. JACET Journal, 44, 71-84.Schmitt, N., Schmitt, D., & Clapham, C. (2001). Developing and exploring that behaviour of two new versions of the vocabulary levels test. Language Testing, 18, 55-88.Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics. (4th ed.). New York: Allyn and Bacon.Weltens, B., & Grendel, M. (1993). Attrition of vocabulary knowledge. In R. Schreuder & B. Weltens (Eds.). The bilingual lexicon (pp. 135-156). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
Aoyama Gakuin Chat Room
David W. ReedyAoyama Gakuin University
Aoyama Gakuin University has long had a reputation for its international awareness and English education as well as its comprehensive education system for learners at the K through graduate school level. As a way to further enhance this campus environment, the Chat Room was established in the spring of 2008. The aim of the Chat Room is to provide:
1. The opportunity for students to learn about other cultures as well as to become aware of their own.
2. A context outside the classroom where students can build confidence in their communication skills in English and in other foreign languages.
3. A gathering spot for Aoyama Gakuin students of all age groups.
Throughout the day the Chat Room is staffed by Chat Leaders, who are exchange students of various nationalities and backgrounds. These exchange students are screened and trained by Chat Room Committee members (teachers from all levels of Aoyama Gakuin) to become competent Chat Leaders. These Chat Leaders are trained to lead conversations with Japanese students by maintaining a balance of speaking and listening among all participants. The Chat Room is divided into three or four chat groups according to English proficiency levels so that the Japanese students can chat (unlike computer chats, face to face) in small groups. Students can expect to chat with the Chat Leaders in groups of up to eight students, but there can be one-on-one sessions as well. Each day a theme is designated as the topic of the chat sessions. The topics (i.e., music, fashion, movies, etc.) are selected according to the ease as to which students of various levels can participate. Because the purpose of chat sessions lies in providing opportunities to learn about each others’ cultures and maintain a free-flowing conversation, the day’s topic is often transformed into new areas of the participants’ interests.
For students who are in junior high school and under, sessions are designated exclusively for their use, and other activities such as games, story-telling and games are scheduled. There is very little structure and formality to each chat session, as the function of the Chat Room is not to teach students English. Along with the cultural experience, students learn that English is not only a medium of communication for native speakers of English, but it is also an indispensable tool in reaching out to people of all nationalities.
The Chat Room is conveniently located in the middle of Aoyama Campus, so that students from kindergarten throughout graduate school can access this facility. The Chat Room provides five 40-minute chat sessions every day. Students are free to stop by any time during their free time to join a chat session, but they are encouraged to make reservations online or by visiting the Chat Room. The students are limited to one session per day unless there are vacancies.
The Chat Room is not a place for instruction. It is a facility that provides opportunities to learn about the world and build friendships across borders. Furthermore, because the Chat Room is not in a classroom setting and there is no official evaluation of the users, students are relieved from the fear of making mistakes which enables them to speak freely. In other words, student users can take risks when they try to convey their thoughts and opinions through the chat sessions.
As stated earlier, the Chat Room is a place to foster international exchange on campus. This enables the chat sessions to be run in other languages as well. As a means to cater to the needs of exchanges students, the Chat Room is now operating sessions run by Japanese Chat Leaders majoring in Japanese Language Education at the graduate school. Twice a week, exchange students join groups according to their various Japanese language levels and take advantage of these Japanese chat sessions. Moreover, experimental sessions in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and French with exchange students as leaders are underway. If demands remain high, sessions in such languages will become part of the regular session schedule.
Essays from the Front
Choice in the classroom
Chika HayashiSeikei University
We engage in different types of decision-making many times in our daily lives. From the morning, we make a number of decisions, such as what time to wake up, leave home, go to bed, what to wear, eat and do, where to go shopping, and sit down to watch TV. Some may use their intuition to make a decision, whilst others deeply and carefully think about what is going to happen if they choose alternatives.
I, as a teacher, often incorporate decision-making into the process of learning in many ways. Regardless of the institution and age of students, I try to find opportunities to negotiate with students regarding aspects of classroom learning, such as an activity, procedure of lessons, and seating arrangement. Most students keep silent when asked to be involved in the decision-making process for the first time. I often see a lot of puzzled faces; however, in most cases, there are some students who are brave enough to break the silence and express their decisions.
I think it was the third lesson in a third year senior high school English class when I asked students if they want to carry out an activity. They responded to me with silence regardless of my repetitive questions. After a long silence, one student said to me, "You are a teacher, right? Why don't you decide?" I was frightened, thinking I had done something wrong. He nominated me to make a decision. Did he expect teachers to take all the responsibility for the process and outcomes of their learning? Did he prefer doing what was told by teachers? Didn't he care about what he was doing? Did he think learning is a transmission where students accept what teachers say without critically examining it? Did he say this only because he wanted to break the silence in some ways? Was he too young/old to make a decision? Did he care about the eyes of others? Whatever the reasons he might have had, he took this opportunity to articulate his own voice. What is more, he made his own decision and distributed decision-making to me. Of course, this was not the reaction that I expected from the students.
In response to him, I accepted his decision-making but made an improvised decision to deflect the same question to the class, asking in a warm voice, "Are you all happy with this? Do you all want me to decide?" The students again looked at me, wondering what this teacher was trying to do. Some might have thought that I conducted some experiments to see how they react, whilst others might have started to think I may not be reliable as I try to dismantle the authority of a teacher. Then some students opened their mouths and talked with each other about a series of classroom events as well as their thinking about the activity. The group talking was wide-spread and the classroom became a space where the students were free to express their opinions and share different views.
In this way, all the students were involved in the decision-making, not in the same but different ways. It was effective that at least the students shared the time to reflect on the classroom activity and talk about it as a whole class. I believe this was a small but significant step to invite students to be involved in the process of decision-making about their own learning. <email@example.com>
[See the PDF file for the illustration]
Reproduction of a student’s artwork drawn on a blank attendance card turned in after the first day of class: “I don’t understand a thing!!!”
A student does not want to practice in a pair: "It's OK. I do not need a partner. I can do this pair-work by myself."
A student asking a teacher for help with a speech that she has written for a speech contest: “I want you to check my English.”
Class management policies: By force or suggestion?
John SpiriTokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Classes at my university, particularly the technology campus classes, have relatively few females One first year communication class in fall 2009 had more females than usual: eight of the 32 participants. Every week throughout the first half of the semester these young ladies filled the back two rows to create their own little subsection of the classroom.
On the back of my class syllabus there's a space for students to write a different partner's name each week. I created this system due to the belief that students who pair up week after week often develop counterproductive behaviors, such as chatting excessively in Japanese, which is not conducive to optimal language learning. Also, I feel it's worthwhile for students to expand out beyond their "zone of comfort" which might normally include just one or two close friends.
In this particular class, a quick calculation led me to remind the girls that after the 7th class they were expected to sit next to new partners, who would have to be male. When the week finally came, and they had once again congregated in their usual section, I valiantly tried to usher them out into rows scattered with males, which met with painfully long pauses of hesitation. Several girls stood, looked around, but were frozen still for what seemed like several minutes. A couple of others stayed sitting in the back. What could have been going through their minds as they saw this middle-aged foreigner animatedly flailing his arms, indicating the various open seats which would form partnership with a boy? I believe it took a full five minutes to get the class settled with their new partners. Phew!
As if to accentuate the wisdom of my plan, the new partners seemed to get along well, and interact happily in English. Success! One girl in particular frequently smiled and giggled throughout the class, but still was admirably able to focus on what I was saying and the activity at hand. Inside I felt the satisfaction of both a teacher when a task is well done, and a matchmaker whose couple goes on to live happily together, if still too brief to crow "ever after."
The next week, however, I got more of the rock solid hesitation that hampered my efforts the previous week. Didn't they recall the joy of new partners and interacting with boys? It seemed not. Another Herculean effort finally scattered the girls throughout the classroom to sit next to, and interact with, their male peers.
When the following week, now week 10 of the course, produced the same opening struggles, I decided I'd had enough. I disappointedly decided to let them be, even if it meant a female pairing with the same old female friend. After all, I couldn't say with certainty that the boys weren't just pairing with their friends two or more times. I had shared with them an idea, and made several direct requests, but if at that point they chose to ignore me, I felt I'd have to accept it. From that point on, some female students continued to find (presumably new) male partners, while others chose their habitual and exclusive all-female interactions in the very back two rows.
Teachers at all levels can benefit by reacting to class events in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and aims. With this class "rule," as with others, I strive to gain compliance with gentle persuasion. But with this one, the final say rests with students. There may even be a compelling educational or culturalreason for why they choose to sit with the same partner. I tried.
Another issue for which I utilize gentle persuasion is sleeping in class. I quietly ask the offender to wake up. When that's not working, I hand the sleeper the "yellow card" which gives them ideas to stay awake (like drinking caffeine before or during class, getting more sleep at night, or making suggestions to me to make the class more interesting for them). The last line warns that a second card, the dreadedred card, will mean he or she will be marked absent. Students usually get a kick out of these cards (well, the first one anyway), which are half of an A4 page with a cute clip art picture of a student sleeping. Usually a couple of classmates gather around to see and read it. Only very rarely do I have to resort to handing out the second card (and only more seldom do I actually mark the person absent). Consistent sleeping in class, which may be contagious, is something I cannot accept. With this one, I have the final say, but try to give a lot of leeway before getting to the point of compulsion.
An issue for which I'm starting to move from gentle persuasion with students having the final say to compulsion is forgotten or unpurchased textbooks. I've recently made yellow and red cards to remind students that students without textbooks tend to sleep, talk, bother classmates, or do nothing in class, so forgetting it the next week will result in being marked absent. I'm hesitant to strictly enforce this rule, however, in part because I am the author of the classroom text, and fear the perception that I'm trying to spike sales. I'm certain I'd be more strict about this were I using some other author's textbook. In addition, one or two students a semester regularly borrow a friend's text and just photocopy chapter pages week after week. Besides being illegal, they invariably have missing pages, and take extra time flipping through these unattractive black and white versions. I frown. I suggest to them that they break down and pay for the text. But I don't force the issue, not yet anyway.
In the end, teachers have to decide when compulsion is and isn't appropriate. In the case of boys sitting with girls, there are certainly cultural issues at play. Perhaps girls feel they will appear too "eager" if they willingly sit down next to one without an exaggerated performance of persuasion by their teacher. Perhaps they are distracted by boys, or vice versa. Or perhaps cards are in order for the above-mentioned class, with the yellow one listing all the reasons why it's desirable to find a new partner of the opposite sex every week (after same-sex matches are exhausted), and the red one demanding they take gender awareness classes to better understand their aversion. But for the time being, I'll let the chips fall where they will.
[See the PDF file for the illustration]
A student comments about her teacher’s appearance in the classroom: “You look like a lesser panda!”
Old teacher in retrospect
Peter CassidyMitsui Gardens International Preschool
Revisiting an earlier poem entitled “Old Teacher” brought to mind the reason for writing it the way that I did many years ago. It was written in recollection of my inability to stand up against an injustice, perceived at that time, when I was only a high school student. It was also written when I first started teaching. I have since come to realize that it was not really injustice but rather the inevitable clash that happens when people do not relate well to each other. This memory remains with me as an adult and, more importantly, as a teacher. This short attempt at the contrast between the old and the new, as depicted in the poem, was supposed to reflect my feelings regarding a class that I was a part of in high school as well as my own experiences as a teacher.
Perhaps it is important to mention that the teacher was not a woman nor was the teacher part of the English department. I had considered using a male character for the teacher as I thought that it would work well with the line “...and his tribute to English” but, in the end, I thought that “her tribute” actually sounded better. Changing the adult character in the poem to a English teacher was poetic license that I felt necessary in order to protect the identity of my former teacher but it was also helpful in the desired extended metaphor of contrasting youth with experience...with youth prevailing in this particular case. In retrospect, I now understand that those classroom problems that had made me feeling very uncomfortable for my teacher was mostly the fault of my instructor for the way he had established himself in the classroom setting. Still, I remember how I would feel so sorry for this teacher when the class would start to impose its will against him; he is someone, to this day, that I perceive as a really nice person and whose biggest fault was not understanding how to manage a classroom properly. I didn’t think in these terms back at that time but it seems that retrospect has brought with it some clarity.
These changes, regarding the choice of a English teacher and his estranged and unruly students as the subject, were crucial for the conceit that I was hoping to successfully achieve. More importantly, I am a kindergarten teacher now and I see myself as the representation for the old when watching my class revel in their youth. This poem reminds me of the importance of recognizing the need for young children to be allowed their outbursts and, of course, their share of mistakes. The teacher in the poem represents the past not being able to deal with the present. Some may also interpret the students as more the future than the present. Regardless, I continue to cling to the idea that it is better to accept differences and present my perspective with confidence and integrity while working in the field of education. I have since learned that my inability to stand up against my peers, in defense of my teacher many years ago, was my inexperience and youth on display. I have since forgiven myself and have honored this memory by vowing to not have history repeat itself with my teaching experiences. So far, so good...
Impudent sneers strangle words with such ease.
Hollow stares asphyxiate sermons.
For she teaches these pupils - most so estranged,
That her tribute to English,
And even her breath,
And any commotion confirms they're alive.
Come one, come all, chapter members!
We are looking forward to seeing you at upcoming chapter events. Keep an eye out for notices that will appear on the chapter mailing list. All attendees will receive free official JALT Tokyo Chapter pens and folders while the supply lasts. Don't miss out on this!
Sayoko YamashitaJALT Tokyo Chapter President
[See the PDF file for the illustration]
Before and after the introduction of elementary school English language education....
Before: Hello, hello, peace peace!!! After: Hello, class! Ah, yes, learning a second language in meaningful chunks.
Call for Contributions to the Tokyo Chapter's TYO chap'zine
The Tokyo Chapter is pleased to invite contributions for the 'zine from chapter members. Articles will include magazine style reports of chapter presentations and entertaining features related to language teaching in Japan. Contents are not limited to English language classrooms alone. Contributions related to Japanese as a second language and other foreign language classrooms are especially encouraged. The following are regular features open to contributors:
'zine Features: Usually chapter meeting reports by the presenters (1,000-1,200 words) in magazine style without a reference list.
Essays from the Front: Vignettes describing interesting situations or happenings in classrooms at Japanese schools (500-600 words).
My School: Descriptions of unique learning environments (600-800 words).
Letters to Prof. X: Prof. X will give advice to the forlorn teacher, with a touch of humor, the "Miss Manners" of the language classroom (200-300 words).
Classroom Quips: Short, clever statements that could be attributed to students or teachers, real or imagined (brief!).
Cartoon Classrooms: Four-panel or one-panel cartoons depicting the classroom situation humorously; be the Dilbert of language teaching.
Send all contributions by e-mail attachment in MSWord or rtf format for stories and 300 dpi tiff files for cartoons, along with your name and contact information to: Chapter editor, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
JALT2010 CREATIVITY. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOXNovember 19-22. 2010. Nagoya, Japan.
36th Annual International Conference on Language Teaching and Learning & Educational Materials Expo
Aichi Industry and Labor Center
Prof. Kim's talk and the Global 30 Forum are scheduled for Saturday, November 20th.
*The time and room for each presentation will be announced later.
JALT Tokyo Chapter Sponsored Presentation
English Language Education in Korea: Early ExposureSpeaker: Dr. Kee-Ho Kim (Professor, Department of English & Literature, Korea University)
[See more in the PDF file]
Forum: The Global 30 Project and Japanese Language EducationSpeaker 1: Allan Patience (Sophia University)Speaker 2: Koshiro Takada (JAFSA)Speaker 3: Shingo Moriyama (Nanzan University)MC: Megumi Kawate Mierzejewska (Temple University Japan Campus)
[See more in the PDF file]