Tokyo JALT Journal Vol. 3 2016


Update 09/18/2018

This journal 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 of the TJJ 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 Tokyo JALT Journal.

Best regards,

Matthew Kocourek

Incoming President

Tokyo JALT


Dear JALT Tokyo Journal Readers,

Welcome to the third issue of Tokyo JALT Journal. This issue opens with Amanda Yoshida’s personal account of reflective learning to improve teaching practices. Then, Hungche Chen and Chuanning Huang explore test performances of students by using cooperative learning activities. Both Mark Hanbury and Gary Wolff offer concrete and easily adaptable lesson plans for use in the classroom.

It has been a privilege to work with the writers on the Tokyo JALT Journal and as a committee member of Tokyo JALT Journal. From this year, I am indebted to Darla Cornett for taking on the mantle of editor.

The next deadline for publication is September 30, 2016 and all submissions should be sent to The editing and revision periods take time so the publication goal is October/ November. Remember, it all goes on the CV and your article could be the stepping-stone into a new job. Please find the details below:

1. Deadline: August 31, 2016

2. The style is a modified 6th edition of the Purdue University APA guidelines:

I hope you enjoy the third edition of Tokyo JALT Journal and it has been a pleasure to have worked with such talented and creative writers and educators.

Your editor,

Eucharia Donnery

Tokyo JALT Journal

Table of Contents

1. Success Motivates and Negativity Deflates: A Language Teacher’s Diary Study

Amanda J. Yoshida

2. Japanese EFL Students’ Reading Test Performance and Perceptions of Working in Small Groups in Highly-Structured Cooperative Learning Activities

Hungche Chen and Chuanning Huang

3. The “What’s New? Line Game

Gary J. Wolff

4. Teaching Train Directions

Mark Hanbury

Copyright © 2016 Tokyo JALT JournalAll articles contained herein are copyrighted by their respective authors and cannot bereproduced or distributed without expressing permission.

TJJ Vol. 3 2016

Success Motivates and Negativity Deflates: A Language Teacher’s Diary Study

Amanda J. Yoshida

Toyo Gakuen University


This paper explores one process of reflective practice and how teachers can observe their own practices and make decisions about interventions that may potentially improve their classes and work environment. In this paper, the author demonstrates her own process of reflective practice in the form of a teaching diary. After a six-week period, the author examined her diary to find any patterns that emerged. She found that her use of language varied whether she was reflecting on positive or negative events. In addition, she found that positive events motivated her to work harder, look for ways to improve her classes, and collaborate with her colleagues. However, negative events outside the classroom often left her feeling deflated. In sharing her experiences with reflective practice, the author aims to shed light on the ups and downs of teaching, how important it is to maintain balance between the positives and negatives teachers likely experience on a daily basis, and how reflection can allow a teacher to focus energy on improving her situations both inside and outside of the classroom.


This diary study centers on the various classes and interactions I experienced on a daily basis at my job in a secondary school located just outside of Tokyo, Japan. The students ranged from seventh to twelfth graders, and the teachers I interacted with consisted of various members of our English department. This school employed four native English teachers, one assistant language teacher, and seventeen Japanese English teachers. There were four tracks for the students: the General track, the Intercultural track, the Junior High track and the Junior/Senior High track. Native English teachers taught an average of eighteen class hours per week, which included about eight different English courses, from all four tracks. At the time, my courses included the following: 11th grade Writing and 12th grade Writing in the General track; 9th grade English Communication in the Junior High track; 11th grade Writing in the Junior/Senior High track; 11th grade Writing/Drama, 12th grade English Comprehension (Discussion), 12th grade Cross-Cultural Understanding, and 12th grade Current English in the Intercultural track. Each native English teacher was connected to a school year and assisted in extra duties related to their school year, such as field trips, contests, university preparation, etc. During the time of this study, I was linked to the 12th grade.

Literature Review

Farrell (2015) defines reflective practice as “a cognitive process accompanied by a set of attitudes in which teachers systematically collect data about their practice and while engaging in dialogue with others, use the data to make informed decisions about their practice both inside and outside the classroom” (p. 123). Professional development “is an evolving process of learning, growth, and change and is based on a teacher’s personal experiences and reflections of teaching” (Farrell, 2013, p. 20).

Maintaining a teaching diary is a common method used by reflective practitioners to collect data about their own practices in and out of the classroom. The following are common questions and answers from the literature pertaining to this method.

Why keep a journal? Farrell (2013b) maintains that writing helps you gain distance from your immediate experiences. Writing allows you to step back from a situation, and, after several diary entries, you may notice a pattern, which could offer insights to your beliefs, approaches, and possible solutions to dilemmas. In addition, writing regularly allows teachers to explore their own beliefs and monitor their practices while becoming more self-aware about teaching styles, attitudes, habits, etc. (Farrell, 2012b).

What should we write about? Farrell (2012b) recommends that teachers write about their thoughts regarding teaching, planning, classes, assessment, frustrations, and successes. It is common for reflective practitioners to choose a main topic for self-monitoring but to allow themselves the freedom to write about whatever strikes them.

What is systematic reflection? Systematic reflection refers to the idea of writing in a teaching diary on a regular basis. Farrell (2013b) recommends that teachers set attainable goals and to set aside enough time to write and then review entries on a regular basis. Furthermore, Farrell recommends that teachers read over their journal entries on a regular basis and attempt to notice patterns or features that they may not perceive on a day-to-day basis. Some teachers may not have time to write immediately after class and must wait until the day is over or later in the week. Cohen and Hosenfeld (1981, as cited in Nunan & Bailey, 2009) refer to this as delayed retrospection because the entries were written a few to several hours after they had occurred. Nunan and Bailey (2009) recommend that diarists allow themselves the freedom to write regularly and candidly and to wait until several weeks of data are collected before searching for patterns.

Data Collection & Analysis

For six weeks, I kept a teaching diary on my computer. Due to my busy work schedule, I usually typed my diary entries in the evenings, after returning home from work. At first, I attempted to focus on certain speaking-oriented courses that I teach; however, soon I began writing about anything that struck me as interesting and relevant to my teaching or my work situation. Gradually, I began writing about a variety of daily events, including my courses that focus on writing, interactions with specific students, conflicts with other teachers, and my feelings about my workload or balancing my priorities. This period of diary-keeping produced 34 typed pages (24,711 words) of which I then attempted to find patterns.

After a six-week period, I printed out and read the diary entries several times. Through this process of reading, I kept three lists entitled “General Observations”, “Possible Research Questions” and “Emerging Patterns”. The three lists allowed me to see some patterns, and I chose two themes that I currently would like to pursue further:

1. Beliefs concerning success, happiness and excitement in teaching and learning.

2. Feelings about teaching and working in a high-pressure high school environment.

For Theme #1, I used the Find function on my computer to see how many times variations of key words were mentioned. For example, I noticed that I used words like “improve”, “proud” and “praise” frequently. In addition, I noticed that I often used emotional words such as “excited” and “happy”. Finally, in addition to analyzing the above emerging theme about beliefs in relation to success, I will use Richards and Lockhart’s (1994, as cited in Bailey, 2001) assumptions about teaching. Richards and Lockhart proposed that teachers can learn much through inquiry, that much of what occurs in the classroom is unknown to the teacher, and that critical reflection of our teaching leads to deeper understanding of the subject.

Upon reading and reflection with theme #2 in mind, I noticed a variety of metaphors. In an analysis of eleven diaries, Bailey (1983b, as cited in Nunan & Bailey, 2009) found that metaphoric uses of language can indicate patterns in qualitative data. I decided to further examine my metaphoric uses of language. I extracted all of the metaphorical language and examined it closely. I discovered that I used this language device in a very specific way, and this will be explained in the next section.

Major themes

Theme #1 Beliefs about Success, Happiness and Excitement

Initially, I noticed that I use words like “proud”, “improvement” and “successful” quite frequently in my reflections about lessons. In fact, I used the word “improvement” fifteen times, “proud” nine times, and “successful” five times. In all cases, I was reflecting on courses that I particularly enjoy teaching because I had recognized the development of my learners’ writing or speaking skills over time. In my writing classes for 11th graders, I often reflected on how much progress they had made in the last six months. When I had begun teaching them six months prior, they could barely write full sentences, but, by then, they were writing five-paragraph essays.

I have been checking a lot of essays recently, and I am definitely seeing improvement. I am not really seeing improvement in grammar although if I actually measured it, I would hope there would be some improvement in this regard. I am seeing improvement in format and logic though. I can see they are building decent essays that look like essays with 3 to 5 paragraphs and the paragraphs are well-structured. I am so proud of them. (November 10, 2012).

In my Intercultural track courses for 12th graders, I taught three classes and saw many of the same students several times a week. In addition, I had taught all of their native- led English classes for three years, so it was easy to see the development of their English skills. In the next excerpt, I commented on the strides my Intercultural students have made:

I have really enjoyed our discussion textbook and I think the students have improved quite a bit since January. I am very proud of them. Most of all, their confidence has improved, and they seem to be more willing to speak out, ask for clarification, disagree in public, etc. One key advantage to doing all this debate and discussion is their ability to think more logically (October 18, 2012).

Finally, what causes teachers to become excited about their work? I found that I used the word “excited” quite frequently when describing my own feelings as well as my perceptions of students’ feelings. The synergy that occurs when learners are progressing in their skills and finding their new skills useful while giving them the right amount of guidance is what motivates me to keep teaching. I wrote about this at times in my diary, and the following is one such excerpt in which I had attempted to justify to myself the success of a certain elective course, Current English, and its relationship to the other courses that my students in the Intercultural track are currently taking. Taka* is the name of a student who often gave me unsolicited advice about my teaching approaches.

To be honest, even though Taka* sometimes complains about the class, I think we have been very successful in helping them acquire a wide variety of useful vocabulary words (useful in terms of high-level discussions about news and society), and that they actually do use their words in the Discussion class. In addition, they seem to recall the various articles we read, which come in handy when thinking up possible solutions, discussing the history or problems in various countries, etc. Then, they actually teach these words and about these situations to their group members since not everyone has the advantage of belonging to the Current English class. This is perfect synergy, and it is exactly what gets teachers excited! (November 30, 2012).

Through reflection, teachers need to find their own success stories and focus on what gets them excited just as much as they need to examine their failures. By looking at what is going well, we can find ways to replicate that feeling in other courses we teach. Richards and Lockhart (1994, as cited in Bailey, 2001) proposed five assumptions about teaching, and some of these assumptions come into play here, and are interspersed with my comments regarding my situation:

1) Much can be learned about teaching through self-inquiry. By reflecting daily on my successes, as well as my failures, I was able to see patterns and understand why some lessons or projects worked while others did not.

2) Much of what happens is unknown to the teacher. By writing reflective diary entries on a daily basis, I began to understand the patterns concerning my teaching environment were occurring, and I attempted to justify them in my mind, but sometimes I could not explain why things were happening, and I realized that I could not possibly know everything or I might not realize it until too late. At times, a lesson does not end well, and I find out that I failed to notice some important issue my students were having but did not bring to my attention. For example, one episode demonstrates how I realized too late that there were problems I could have helped the students overcome, if I had been aware of the situation. This is an excerpt from my 12th grade Current English class:

Both leaders began by introducing their topics, and Yongsun* kind of took over with his topic and we spent the whole 50 minutes comparing Ghibli** and Disney. Now, this was not an uninteresting discussion, and to be sure, Erika* was participating just fine as she has very strong opinions about Disney. My main concern in the discussion was that Taka* and Tomomi* were not talking much, but unlike a few of our past discussions, everyone was fully engaged and most people were talking freely. At one point, they spent a lot of time confirming and clarifying someone’s point, which definitely shows how far they have come in the last six months. I made sure to praise them in the feedback at the end of the discussion. However, towards the end of the discussion, I noticed that Erika was retreating into herself a little. This is unlike her. In her past turns as leader, she has been very active and skilled at leading a discussion, so I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, and even in my role as observer, I couldn’t see it! What I did wonder about was WHY Erika never chose to bring the discussion back to sexism and racism in Disney. I mean, that was her topic and she had started out by introducing it. I, myself, would have enjoyed talking about that much more than comparing Ghibli to Disney for 50 minutes. I knew that if I had not been playing observer, I would have certainly steered the discussion in that direction. Anyway, at the end of the discussion, I explained my opinion about what they had been discussing, and then I gave them feedback about their skills and participation. THEN, Erika showed me her outline for today’s discussion. She had prepared an organizational plan and some questions for the participants, but she never had a chance to use it. I asked her why she didn’t and she said it was because of Yongsun. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but later, I saw her talking privately to Amy* [my colleague] in the corridor and apparently she was lamenting over what had just occurred in my class and she was feeling quite bad about it. I later emailed her (December 6, 2012).

3) Critical reflection can trigger deeper understanding of teaching. Richards’ and Lockhart’s (1994, as cited in Bailey, 2001) point out that a tendency to notice the progression of students’ abilities, as noted in my frequent references to their development, is an important pathway into gaining a deeper understanding of teaching decisions. By focusing on why they are progressing, teachers can attempt to replicate features of their teaching styles, lesson plans, feedback, etc. in future lessons and courses. For example, since my 12th graders seem to be progressing partially because they have two discussion-based classes, one in which they focus on discussion skills and the other in which they focus on useful vocabulary items and current news issues, it would be more useful if their third English course, “Cross- Cultural Understanding” would also serve to contribute to this synergy even more than it does in its current state. By reflecting daily on my classes, I realized that this was not the case, and I was not feeling excited or happy about my Cross-Cultural Understanding class, even though the same students from Discussion and Current English were taking this class. Why was there such a big difference? Towards the end of my diary-keeping period, I found that I was quite disappointed with the results of their final project, and I lamented about the failure of this course, which was supposed to be the most challenging course of the Intercultural track. I came up with an idea to change the final project so that it will synergize more with the Discussion class and Current English class, and I presented my idea to my colleague. She readily agreed to give it a try next year, so I am looking forward to making a new project plan with her in the near future.

In conclusion, it is clear that recognizing the development of my learners’ skills motivates me to find ways of being more successful in other courses that I teach rather than just blame uncontrollable aspects of the situations. Instead, I tend to acknowledge my successes and then search for ways to improve other aspects of my teaching. Furthermore, I find that this aspect of teaching and course planning energizes me greatly. This is an important discovery, especially when I consider my second theme, which explores the negative side of teaching.

Theme #2 Feelings about Teaching and Working

In the course of reading my diary, I noticed that I often used metaphors to describe my feelings about teaching and working in this high-pressure school environment. On 36 occasions, I used metaphorical language to describe a variety of feelings, but by extracting these excerpts, I found that most of them related to negative feelings. When I was feeling positive about an event, I used direct language to express happiness or excitement; however, when I felt negatively about a situation, I used metaphors associated with pressure and sports to describe my feelings. I categorized the phrases into four distinct feelings: Anger, overwhelmed, frustration and compliance (See Table 1) .

[See the PDF file for the table]

What is most interesting in viewing this chart is that my friends or family might have described me as a strong-willed, efficient and resilient person with boundless energy. In actuality, the feelings that came out in my diary were much different from this public persona that I tried to present. I noticed through the course of diary-keeping that, underneath my public persona, I experienced daily doubts and frustrations which expressed how exhausted and inefficient I felt from maintaining three very important roles in my life – that of mother, teacher and graduate student.

The following are a few such excerpts:

• She said she was willing to do it, but I was practically seeing stars because how could she agree to this with such a limited time before the deadline when we have so much work to do? (October 26, 2012).

• Morally and ethically, I completely disagree with how this whole thing has gone down, and I believe it sets a precedent for next year (October 26, 2012).

• He was understanding and said that would be okay, but still, I felt my head starting to swim again (October 29, 2012).

• I get really annoyed when teachers at my school assume that it is okay to load work onto the [foreign] teachers because they think we have nothing better to do (November 5, 2012).

• I managed to finish checking the essays for classes 2G and 2E today, but this is only a small dent in my huge to-do list (November 6, 2012).

• I think I have mentioned this issue before, but being given mountains of work like that, that is over and above our work for our own classes, really annoys me (November 15, 2012).

• We think we should say something at an English meeting, but the problem is that whenever we try to stand up for ourselves, certain “powerful” English teachers immediately shoot us down! They have no sympathy for teachers who don’t come in and work on Saturdays or stay until 8pm or 9pm doing their lesson prep or assessments (November 22, 2012).

In analyzing my feelings about work, I realized the need to find a constructive way to deal with my feelings directly in order to address the growing and often overwhelming workload that the native teachers are expected to handle each year. According to Cupach and Canary (1997), in interpersonal conflicts within organizational settings, “subordinates tend to avoid, compromise, or smooth over issues when in conflict with superiors” (p. 157); therefore, researching more about resolving conflicts professionally might assist me in overcoming some of my difficulties at work. Rather than complying with their requests and policies, I would like to start negotiating ways to reconcile the structure of the English department with our annual contracts.


I had never kept a teaching diary before, and in the course of reflecting on each day, I was able to start seeing a number of patterns. In the context of this paper, I chose two themes that were most salient; however, there were several more that I could have addressed, thus creating potential for further analysis. I would like to continue this reflection process because it feeds back into my teaching practice. Bartlett (1990) states that “in reflecting on ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions, we begin to exercise control and open up the possibility of transforming our everyday classroom life” (p. 120, as cited in Nunan & Lamb, 1996). In addition, after my evening reflections, I was more likely to talk to my colleagues about certain issues the next day, which lead to further development of our ideas on how to

improve our courses and our work environment. As for the two themes covered in this paper, I feel it is unavoidable to write about interpersonal issues in the workplace environment because after all, we are not just teachers, but also employees. It seems these issues are often ignored or not considered important enough to write about in the research. Vasquez (2011) discusses the need for more research in the area of teacher identity and the stories “that surround us in virtually every realm of our professional activities: in our classrooms, in our offices, even in our hallways” (p. 542). Narrative analyses of these ordinary experiences have the potential to reveal how teachers perceive themselves in their roles as teachers, employees and colleagues.

In a more practical way, research about EFL teaching situations, such as work environments in Japan, has the potential to uncover the reality that teachers are often ill- treated because there are no laws to protect them, and even if there are, they might not have a way to learn about such laws and get assistance. Stanley (1998) offers advice to teacher trainers regarding reflection, saying that teachers should be encouraged to communicate with other teachers about issues so that they may share resources and ideas and so they will realize that “others can and do encounter similar issues in their classrooms” (p. 589); however, I would expand on this advice to include working environments. Having a positive working environment in which teachers are allowed to focus on what they do best, as expressed in my first theme, is the ideal and something that we should all strive for, even if it means publishing research that touches on the less positive issues so that teachers do not feel isolated.

*All names used in this paper are pseudonyms.

**Ghibli movies are animation created by a Japanese company headed by Hayao Miyazaki. These feature-length animations often carry heavy environmental themes and have female lead characters.

BioAmanda J. Yoshida has an MA TESOL and has been teaching in Japan for 15 years. She currently teaches at a university in Tokyo. She is also the Publications Chair for the Teacher Education & Development SIG of JALT. Her research interests include reflective practice, assessment, and collaborative learning.
References Bailey, K. M. (2001). What my EFL students taught me. The PAC Journal 1(1) 7-31. Cupach, W. R. & Canary, D. J. (1997). Competence in interpersonal conflict. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Farrell, T. S. C. (2012b). Reflecting on teaching the four skills: 60 strategies for professional development. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Farrell, T. S. C. (2013). Reflecting on ESL teacher expertise: A case study. System 41, 1070 1082. Farrell, T. S. C. (2013b). Reflective writing for language teachers. Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing. Farrell, T. S. C. (2015). Promoting teacher reflection in second language education: A framework for TESOL professionals. New York: Routledge. Nunan, D. & Bailey, K. M. (2009). Exploring second language classroom research: A comprehensive guide. Boston, MA: Heinle, Cengage Learning. Nunan, D. & Lamb, C. (1996). The self-directed teacher: Managing the learning process. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stanley, C. (1998) A framework for teacher reflectivity. TESOL Quarterly 32(3) 584-591. Vasquez, C. (2011). TESOL, teacher identity, and the need for “small story” research. TESOL Quarterly 45(3) 535-545.

Japanese EFL Students’ Reading Test Performance and Perceptions of Working in Small Groups in Highly-Structured Cooperative Learning Activities

Hungche Chen

Kanazawa Institute of Technology

Chuanning Huang

University of Auckland


This study investigates reading test performance and perceptions of Japanese students under the influence of highly-structured cooperative learning activities using Fan-n-Pick, a review technique that allows students to rotate roles using question cards about the current unit of study. One hundred and fifty-six Japanese undergraduate students in eight sections of an introductory English reading course participated in the study over a fourteen-week semester. The study employed a mixed method design consisting of data from a pre-test, a post-test, and a perception survey. The findings indicated that the experimental group using Fan-n-Pick overall received better scores on the post-test and expressed higher satisfaction than that of the control group. The factors that underlie these positive changes were identified and are discussed. The study also attempts to describe non-linear relationships among the variables for the purpose of drawing the right conclusions from the data, and to provide recommendations for future research involving cooperative learning in higher education.

この研究は、英語の読解クラスにおける、試験結果とファンピックという協同学習法への学生の意識を調べた。被験者は読解クラスを1学期間履修した 156 人の 日本人大学生である。データ収集は、ポレテスト、ポストテスト、および質問紙 調査で行った 。調査結果により、ファンピックの練習は、学生の学習成果と満足 度に良い効果を与えることが明らかになった。本研究では、その理由について議 論し、今後の研究方向を提案する。


Reading is vital for learning a new language. Students gain exposure to many written words in different contexts, which improves spelling and expands vocabulary knowledge. They also see grammatically correct sentences, which they can use as a model for other language skills. For this reason, teachers set out to create a classroom environment that helps all students to read and learn more than they currently do. However, not every student is the same. One student might need a reward to read. Another student might be able to absorb reading materials quickly. Still another student might need extra time with the teacher. In classes with such a diverse set of students, the concept of cooperative learning has been successful in assisting teachers to accommodate individual differences in experience, knowledge, and motivation (Felder & Brent, 2007; Walters, 2000).

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships among the use of a cooperative learning review technique called Fan-n-Pick to rotate student roles using question cards about the current unit of study, reading test scores, and perceptions towards working in small groups in an English reading course in Japan. The study was guided by the two following research questions:

RQ1. What kind of relationship, if any, is there between the use of the Fan-n-Pick activities and the Japanese students’ test scores in an English reading course?

RQ2. What kind of perceptions towards working in groups do Japanese students have in such activities?

Literature Review

One definition of cooperative learning is “the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning” (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991). According to Kluge (1999), there are three theories that form the basis of cooperative learning: Social Independence Theory, the Zone of Proximal Development Theory, and the Theory of Cognitive Elaboration. Deutsch (in Johnson: 2003) argued that individuals in group situations interact and affect each other, resulting in three types of social relationship: positive, negative, and no interdependence. When individuals become aware that they need support from each other to achieve the same goal, positive interdependence occurs. On the other hand, negative interdependence occurs when they cannot accomplish their goal until others fail. If individuals find that they are not related to how others achieve their goal, then no interdependence will exist. Vygotsky (1978) defined the Zone of Proximal Development as “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). He believed that individuals can get a boost to achieve a goal when they enter the zone. In the Theory of Cognitive Elaboration, Wittrock (in Kluge: 1999) suggested that the most effective way to learn something is to teach or explain it to someone else. When individuals prepare to teach, they need to organize what they have known. By so doing, these individuals will improve their understanding and memory, and identify problems and/or gaps in their knowledge as well.

The five key elements described below differentiate cooperative learning from just letting students work together (Johnson & Johnson, 1999; Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991; Jones & Jones, 2008; Kluge, 1999).

1. Positive Interdependence. This is arguably the most important component of all. When members of a group feel that they rely on one another to complete a given task, they begin to share resources and to help each other.

2. Individual Accountability. Each student is assessed by and responsible for group performance as well as his or her individual performance.

3. Face-To-Face Promotive Interaction. Students work together in small groups of two to four members so they can be physically close to each other, creating opportunities for “helping, assisting, supporting, encouraging and praising each other’s efforts to learn” (Johnson & Johnson, 1999, p. 27).

4. Social Skills. Students follow specific guidelines for working in groups, which include the language and behavior needed.

5. Group Processing. Students discuss what their group has done well and what needs to change next time at the end of an activity.

However, while these seem like elements teachers would want in the classroom, a group of researchers (Deutsch, 2006; Felder & Brent, 2007; Kagan, 1990) identified group conflict to be a potential challenge with which teachers face after implementing cooperative learning activities. When members of a group have different ways of approaching a task, frustration or difficult feelings often arise among these members, consequently causing the group to stop working cohesively. One possible solution to this issue is to adopt the Structural Approach developed by Spencer Kagan in 1990. The Structural Approach is a classroom approach that systematically organizes the interactions of students. This approach includes “various distinct sequences of classroom behaviors, called structures” (Kluge, 1999, p. 19). According to Kagan (1990), the structures or techniques “usually involve a series of steps, with prescribed behavior at each step” to be followed by students (p. 12). The use of Kagan’s techniques has been proven effective to increase students’ academic achievement and their relations with others in a variety of school subjects at different levels, from elementary to high school. For example, in a middle school in West Virginia, 25 sixth-grade social studies students in an experimental group participating in activities with Kagan’s techniques over nine weeks had higher curriculum-based assessment scores than other students in a control group did (Dotson, 2001).

In Japan, two researchers investigated the benefits of using Kagan’s Structural Approach in their classrooms. Nakagawa (2003) found in an anonymous end-of-semester course evaluation questionnaire that approximately 120 students expressed overall satisfaction with her cooperative learning-based English courses using Kagan’s techniques, such as the Timed-Pair-Share technique. In this arrangement, the students paired and numbered off, 1-2. The teacher chose a number, 1 or 2, to speak first. The students took turns speaking about a topic while their partner listened quietly with nod or smile. Finally, the teachers called on a few students to summarize what their partner had said. In the same questionnaire, Nakagawa’s students also wrote positive comments regarding their improved interrelationships, increased confidence, and abundant learning and communicative opportunities. More recently, Wada (2012) taught her Japanese college students to learn reading strategies and vocabulary with several techniques, which included the Fan-n-Pick technique. She found in her end-of-term survey that a high percentage, more than 90%, of her students liked her multi-structural lessons and preferred studying in groups over independently. Her students also showed active participation, long retention of reading knowledge, and support for their classmates.



One hundred and fifty-six students who scored more than 90 points on the TOEIC Bridge test registered in an introductory English reading course at a private, technical university in Japan. All participants were randomly assigned to eight sections of the introductory English reading course. These participants, 18-21 years old, non-English majors, consisted of 146 male students and 10 female students.

Research Design and Instrumentation

The researchers in the study employed a sequential mixed method design to increase the database that helped to support the usefulness of the proposed solution, Kagan’s cooperative learning techniques (Creswell & Clark, 2006). The three criterion measures used in this study were a pre-test, a post-test, and two perception questionnaires. The pre- test and the post-test (see Appendix A) were used to measure reading test performance on knowledge of topics covering culture, science, social issues, and travel and adventure. Both tests were identical, with 120 items, worth one point per item, in various formats including multiple-choice, fill-in the blanks, and short-answer. One administrative assistant scored all tests with an answer key. The tests and their answer key were developed by a group of instructors who had experience and expertise particular to the field of teaching reading in EFL. The two perception questionnaires (see Appendix B) were also identical, consisting of five bilingual questions and used a five-point Likert scale where one equaled strongly disagree, and five equaled strongly agree. The questions were drawn from a body of literature based on the benefits of cooperative learning and then assessed by a group of teachers who had experience using cooperative learning methods with their students. The test-retest reliability estimate of the survey was 0.98 and the Cronbach’s Alpha was 0.84. Students also wrote additional comments about working in a group. T-test, a data analysis procedure which compares the means of two groups and assesses if they are statistically different from each other, was used to test for the differences between the experimental group and control group on pre-test and post-test scores. The survey data, including the frequency of the students who selected each number, were tabulated, question by question, to help explain the results precisely.

Procedures for Fan-n-Pick Techniques

The study lasted 14 weeks of a 16-week semester, and all 156 participants completed the pre-test and the first perception questionnaire in the first week of the semester. The pre-test was used to determine the amount of each student’s pre-existing knowledge of the materials. Participants in four sections were randomly placed into the experimental group (G1, n=86) who were taught using the Fan-n-Pick technique, chosen for its multiple academic and social functions. These included meeting new classmates, getting acquainted with teammates, equal participation, role-taking, tutoring, helping, praising, team-building, and memorizing facts and practicing social skills. Students in the other four sections were in the control group (G2, n=70). One researcher, who had received training in the use of Kagan’s techniques, and had used them for two years before the study, taught both groups with the same materials during weekly 90 minute sessions from the second week of the semester. Therefore, the difference between the experimental group and control group was limited to the type of practice exercise.

Each week, the researcher used the Team Shake application, a technological tool on smartphone, to create random teams of four or three people ahead of the class time. The researcher entered the students’ names on his smartphone for a random set of color-coded teams. In the classroom, the image of the groupings was displayed in a PowerPoint presentation to the students. The students were then asked to move their tables and chairs together with their team. Each team in G1 was given a deck of 20 cards, which had been pre-prepared by the researchers. Every card had a reading comprehension question; in multiple-choice, true/false, or short answer format, related to that week’s topic with the answer to the question together printed on one side of the card. Students were assigned a number from one to four. They were then given directions: Student One holds cards in a fan and says “Pick a card, any card!” Student Two picks a card, read the question out loud, and allows thinking time. Student Three answers the question. Student Four checks the answer and then either praises (claps) or coaches. Students spent 15 minutes rotating roles on a clockwise rotation for each new round with unused cards. The teacher followed up with a brief whole-class reflective discussion about what worked and what did not work in the process. For the G2, the teams were given individual copies of a worksheet with the same 20 reading questions as the experimental group. Without getting any instruction about assigning roles and responsibilities, they were told to discuss and complete the exercise within 15 minutes before checking their answers with the teacher. Near the end of the course, all participants completed the post-test and the second perception questionnaire. The researchers then collected these documents for scoring.


Reading Test

In Table 1, t-tests revealed that participants in the experimental group (M=82.08) performed significantly better than the control group (M=69.14) on the post-test as the alpha level (p=0.0016) was lower than 0.05.

[See the PDF file for the table]


G1’ mean scores (Table 2) and frequencies of agreement (Figure 1) were consistently higher than G2 on all five statements. On the first statement asking students if they liked English, 65.12% of G1 students agreed or strongly agreed in contrast to 54.29% of G2 students. A greater percentage of G1 students perceived that all members were important to the group’s success than that of G2 students, as indicated by their responses to the second statement (G1, 69.76%; G2, 45.71%). The third statement revealed that approximately 60% of G1 students felt responsible for the success of their group while less than one-third of G2 students felt the same responsibility (G1, 60.47%; G2, 31.43%).

[See the PDF file for the table]

In the responses to the last two statements, G1 students largely perceived that they helped each other to practice English (69.77%) and also that their group understood how they should proceed (76.74%) during the assigned task as compared to G2 students.

[See the PDF file for the figure]


The study was partially similar to previous research (Wada, 2012) in the way that Kagan’s cooperative learning techniques were used to reinforce what students have learned from the course’s reading passages. However, a strength of this study is the establishment of a control group. With that control group used as a basis, the study ascertains that the

difference was due to the Fan-n-Pick technique and not to some other factor. Another special feature is that the study has a focus on improvements of the students’ reading abilities. The analysis of the post-test results (p < 0.05) showed that those participants using the Fan-n-Pick technique improved their reading abilities more than those who did not. The reason is that the use of the Fan-n-Pick technique created a classroom in which all the students had the same amount of opportunities to take on different roles with specific responsibilities. Furthermore, the reading task was divided into manageable chunks. These chunks became easier for the students to approach, and from which they could get a feeling of accomplishment.

Survey results showed that the use of the Fan-n-Pick technique had a positive impact on student perceptions towards learning English and working with others in small groups, confirming the findings of previous research on student response to cooperative learning (Morgan, Rosenberg, & Wells, 2010; Tsay & Brady, 2010). Nearly 65% of G1 participants expressed their feeling of satisfaction with the technique. Two students explained that “It was interesting like a game” and “I did not get nervous when I talked to my teammates”. As the Fan-n-Pick technique kept groups moving through asking/answering questions and coaching/praising teammates, it helped the G1 participants focus on what needed to be learned. It was also found through the survey data that the majority of G1 participants recognized the importance of participation by all members of the group (69.76%) because each different role that they took on was part of a team performance. When these participants accepted their individual roles (60.47%) and saw others also doing their share of the work, they tended to work more cohesively as a team. In turn, this group cohesion or bonding led to more positive behaviors, such as helping teammates, from the students.

From the teacher’s observation while monitored the students using the Fan-n-Pick technique, most G1 participants exhibited certain paralinguistic behaviors, providing a feat of concentration during their conversation. For example, they constantly gave affirmative verbal and non-verbal feedback. Also, they often looked each other in the eye most of the time instead of looking away or down at some point, though culturally Japanese students tended to limit direct eye contact when talking. One explanation for this change is that they wanted to demonstrate active listening.

The findings of this study revealed that the relationships among cooperative activities, learning outcomes, and perceptions towards working in groups were complex (See Figure 2). In highly-structured cooperative activities, the teacher fairly assigns students roles and responsibilities, creating opportunities for students to exhibit the target behaviors. Behaviors and motivation affect each other, and together influence students’ perceptions. However, behaviors seem to be the single factor influencing the learning outcomes in the study.

[See the PDF file for the figure]

It is also worth noting that the G1 students, in general, became less dependent on the teacher for help because they could learn from their more capable peers, which allowed the teacher more time to find and to help the students who truly needed extra social and emotional support. To best accommodate for those identified students, the classroom teacher used several emotional support strategies. For example, he listened deeply to and/or paraphrased what the students were saying; smiled and spoke in a sincere tone; or complimented the students’ continuous contribution in front of their teammates. The increased interaction among the students and between the teacher and the students is a reason that the teacher rarely encountered resistance from either the higher ability students or lower ability students after the activities were implemented.

There were several limitations in this study. First, the 156 participants enrolled in eight medium-sized sections of an English reading course with an average of 21 students in each section over a semester. Therefore, the findings may not be applied to larger classes or other subject areas. Second, each section had between 4-5 students who missed one or two activities for school events or personal reasons, thus reducing the accuracy of the data. Research bias might be another factor that influenced the results because one of the researchers taught both groups in the study and was therefore not in a position of complete objectivity.


The results of this study suggest that highly structured cooperative activities are positively related to students’ reading test scores and their perceptions towards working in small groups. The participants in the experimental group using the Fan-n-Pick technique had better post-test scores and a higher satisfaction level than those in the less-structured control group did. The reason is that the teacher created a classroom in which all the students had equal opportunities to play different roles with specific responsibilities through the use of the Fan-n-Pick technique. When the students learned in that type of environment, they worked more cohesively as a team and exhibited the target behaviors that helped everyone in the team to understand the materials. The study also found that the relationships among cooperative learning activities, learning outcomes, and perceptions are not straightforward. More positive learning behaviors occurred, when the teacher implemented the Fan-n-Pick technique and therefore improved the students’ scores and perceptions. Other research opportunities exist in investigating if and how cooperative learning activities-- and highly-structured ones in particular—influence students’ academic performance in large classes or other subject areas. Also, the correlation between language anxiety and the use of Kagan’s cooperative learning techniques in the classroom makes a good topic for future research.

BioHungche Chen currently works at Kanazawa Institute of Technology as a lecturer. He earned a Doctor of Education degree from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. His research interests include foreign language instruction, technology in teaching and learning, and research design and methods.
Chuanning Huang is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Auckland. Her research interests include language program development, multilingualism, and language policy.
References Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2006). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Deutsch, M. (2006). Cooperation and competition. In M. Deutsch, P. T. Coleman, & E. C. Marcus (Eds.), The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and practice (23-42). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Dotson, J. M. (2001). Cooperative learning structures can increase student achievement.Kagan Online Magazine. Retrieved from ment.php Felder, R. & Brent, R. (2007). Cooperative learning. In P. Mabrouk (Ed.), Active learning: Models from the analytical sciences (pp. 34-53). Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. Johnson, D. W. (2003). Social interdependence: Interrelationships among theory, research, and practice. American Psychologist, 58(11), 934-945. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1999). What makes cooperative learning work. In Kluge, D., McGuire, S., Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (Eds.), Cooperative learning (pp. 16- 22). Tokyo: The Japan Association for Language Teaching. Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (1991). Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity. Washington, DC: The George Washington University. Jones, K. A. & Jones, J. L. (2008). Making cooperative learning work in the college classroom: An application of the five pillars of cooperative learning to post- secondary instruction. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 8(2), 61-76. Kagan, S. (1990). The structural approach to cooperative learning. Educational Leadership, 47(4), 12-15.Kluge, D. (1999). A brief introduction to cooperative learning. In Kluge, D., McGuire, S., Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (Eds.), Cooperative learning (pp. 16-22). Tokyo: The Japan Association for Language Teaching.Morgan, B., Rosenberg, G., & Wells, L. (2010). Undergraduate Hispanic student response to cooperative learning. The College Teaching Methods and Styles Journal. 6(1), 7- 12. Nakagawa, J. (2003). Spencer Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Structures. Proceedings from PGL2 ’03: The Second Peace as a Global Language Conference. Tokyo: The Japan Association for Language Teaching. Tsay, M., & Brady, M. (2010). A case study of cooperative learning and communication pedagogy: Does working in teams make a difference? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 78-89. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.), Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (pp. 79-91). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wada, T. (2012). Teaching Japanese students English with Kagan Structures. Kagan Online Magazine, Retrieved from Japanese-Students-English-with-Kagan-Structures Walters, L. S. (2000). Putting cooperative learning to the test. Harvard Education Letter, 16(3), 19-25.

[See the PDF file for the appendices]

The “What’s New? Line Game”

Gary J. Wolff

Quick guide

Keywords: EFL, Japanese learners, student motivation, impromptu speaking, warm-up exercise

Target learner level: High beginner and above

Target learner: High school and above

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes (only necessary for first-time use)

Activity time: 5-10 minutes, sometimes longer depending on the number of students and available class time

Materials: Computer (or mobile device) and classroom projector to display sample 2- person conversation and student line-up procedure

In my quarter-century of teaching Japanese learners of English in Tokyo, one of the most popular activities in my university classes has been a warm-up exercise at the beginning of class called “What's New?” Students are given 5-10 minutes to discuss with their classmates anything of interest in their lives since the last class.

Students enjoy this very relaxed and motivating method for starting the class and consistently rate this “What's New?” activity as one of the most enjoyable classroom activities in their mid-term and course-end evaluations. However, because students tend to sit in the same seats every week and invariably will always talk to the same classmates, a few years ago I decided to introduce a variation of this exercise called the “What’s New? Line Game”.

Rather than speaking with only one or two other students, as is the case with the usual weekly format, the “What’s New? Line Game” allows students to speak with up to half of the class by lining up in two lines at the front of the classroom.


Prepare a document with a short, 2-person sample “What’s New?” conversation, which is appropriate for the class’ fluency level, that can be finished in 30-45 seconds (1 minute max.), and which shows the student line-up procedure. I use the Notability app (Ginger Labs, Inc., 2009) on my iPad Air 2 to display this document on the classroom projector.

Procedure Step 1: Ask students to come to the front of the room and make 2 lines, Line A and Line B, facing each other with an equal number of students in each line. If there are an odd number of students, the teacher joins in so everyone has a speaking partner. In some cases, depending on the layout of desks/chairs in the classroom and the number of students, it may be better to line the students up on the side of the classroom, rather than the front. Either way, it is best if at least one line of students can see the projector screen.

Step 2: Students in Line A talk to the person they are facing in Line B. After students have had time to finish their first conversation (30-45 sec.), the teacher calls out to “Change!” Then students in Line B all move down one person to the right, in order to speak to the next student in Line A, with the student at the front (or far right) of Line B coming to the back (or far left) of Line B. Students in Line A remain in the same position throughout the entire exercise.

[See the PDF file for the figure]

Step 3: After students have had time to finish their second conversation, the teacher once again calls out to change positions and the students in Line B move as before to face their next Line A speaking partner. This same procedure continues until most students in Line B have spoken with Line A, or until the teacher decides enough time has been allotted to the exercise.

Additional notes

• Unlike the usual “What’s New?” conversations in their seats, students may need to be reminded to keep their answers short and not to carry on long drawn-out discussions. The emphasis here is on the fluency, and not necessarily the accuracy, of the conversations.

• The teacher might want to ask the students to speak quietly and, if necessary, warn teachers in any nearby classrooms in advance, as the students can get a bit raucous during this very enjoyable exercise.

• In university classes, this exercise is most effective in Period 1 or Period 3 when students may need an extra boost to get the blood circulating first thing in the morning or to combat post-lunch drowsiness.

• Because students in one line never get to talk with other students in the same line, if necessary, the teacher can make a note of which students are in each line and switch the next time.

• I would recommend using the “What’s New? Line Game” no more than 2-3 times per semester, or it could lose its novelty effect. In a 15-week semester, using it in weeks 5 and 10 might be ideal.


The “What’s New? Line Game” continues to be universally popular in my classes, regardless of grade, major, fluency level, or whether the course is compulsory or an elective. One reason for this, I feel, is that students are given the opportunity to converse with several others in an enjoyable cocktail party-style atmosphere. This excites the students, and when conducted at the beginning of class, sets an upbeat mood, having the spill-over effect of increasing student motivation for the rest of the classroom activities that day.

This, of course, may not come as any big surprise to many EFL teachers, as many academic research studies have suggested that student motivation and learning are enhanced by active interactions with other students, especially classroom activities requiring them to be out of their seats (Ockert, 2011).

For many students, the “What's New? Line Game” can have the added benefit of boosting their motivation for learning English in general. Because there is no reason to believe this game works for English-learning classrooms only, it should be suitable for use in other language classrooms as well.

BioGary J. Wolff has been teaching English to Japanese learners of all ages in Tokyo since 1991, including engineering and science students in his university’s School of Science and Technology for the past 16 years. His interests include online student forums, student motivation, computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and fostering global awareness among his students. In his free time, Gary enjoys mountain climbing and has scaled all of the 25 highest mountains in Japan.
ReferencesGinger Labs, Inc. (2009). Notability (Version 6.2.1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from, D. (2011). A multivariate analysis of Japanese university student motivation and pedagogical activity preferences. The Language Teacher, 35(2), 15.

Teaching Train Directions

Mark Hanbury

Quick guide

• Keywords: Train, directions, team, game

• Learner English Level: False beginner to upper-intermediate

• Learner maturity: High school to adult

• Preparation time: 30-45 minutes first time

• Activity time: 60-90 minutes

• Materials: Note paper for students, cell phones (optional) or train maps (optional)


With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, Japanese students are conscious of the prospect of dealing with foreign visitors. MEXT is similarly aware of the challenge this poses, with the English Education Reform Plan timed in accordance with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As the volume of international tourism increases, the ability to give clear and comprehensible directions to foreign visitors will become essential. While various authors have written on how to teach street directions (see Dimoski, 2013; Farrow, 2004; McMillan, 2013; Turner, 2013), there is a dearth of material on how to teach train directions to Japanese learners of English at the university level. Given the importance of public transport to getting around in Tokyo, and the fact that the train and subway system in greater metropolitan Tokyo is perhaps the most complex in the world, this seems a major oversight.

The following lesson plan introduces an enjoyable way for students to practice giving and understanding train directions in English. The game itself is based on an activity taught to the author by a former colleague, Lindsay Black, which has been modified and adapted.


Step 1: Prepare a basic model of train directions (See Appendix) which are put on the board at the start of class. Ensure that it includes a transfer from one train line to another, 'bound for ______,' with a variety of train-types, e.g. express, rapid, local. This author uses directions for how to get to his home station Higashi-Kitazawa from school, as per the example below:

Take the Keio Inokashira line express train bound for Shibuya.

At Shimokitazawa, change to the Odakyu line local train bound for Shinjuku.

Get off at the next (1st / 2nd / 3rd / last) stop.

Students create their own train directions based on this model.

Step 2: Choose a famous person or group that students all know, (e.g. Sanma). Ensure that the name is made up of only five or six letters. This name will be the answer to the puzzle in the train directions game.

Step 3: Choose five or six train stations or landmarks in your area that students are likely to know, the first letters of which make up the name of the famous person in step two. For Sanma, one might use 'Akihabara,' 'Meijingumae,' 'Asakusa,' 'Nogizaka,' and 'Skytree'.

Step 4: In a similar style to the model from Step 1, write basic directions for how to get to each destination in Step 3. As student teams guess the destination from these directions, refrain from saying the place name itself, but rather use language such as “it's the third stop,” or “get off at the next stop.” The directions may proceed sequentially from one destination to the next, or else be completely independent of previous clues, at the teacher's discretion.


Step 1: As a class, brainstorm the English names for different types of train. E.g. tokkyuu (special express), kyuukou (express), kaisoku (rapid), kakueki teisha (local). Some students will know the English words from their daily train journeys. Different train lines may use slightly different terminology.

Step 2: Draw students' attention to the model of train directions already on the board. Go through each step of the directions together, checking comprehension of 'bound for ___'

( ___ yuki / ____houmen), and 'transfer' (norikaeru).

Step 3: Have students write directions for how they get home from school by train. For students who do not commute to school by train, have them write directions from their nearest station to a place they often go. Call on students to read out their directions in plenary. Alternatively, have groups of four or five students take turns to read out their train directions without saying the final destination, and the other group members compete to identify the station name correctly.

Step 4: The train directions game. Put students in teams of four or five, depending on class size. Tell the class that you will give them five/six sets of directions, and teams will guess the destinations. As discussed in the Preparation section above, the directions may proceed sequentially from one destination to the next, or else be completely independent of previous clues, at the teacher's discretion. Allow teams to use train maps or their cell phone train route apps to assist in following the train directions and finding the destinations.When teams have correctly guessed all destinations, they will use the first letter of each place to make the name of a famous person/group (as chosen in Preparation step 2). It may be helpful to write the appropriate number of spaces on the board (e.g. _ _ _ _ _ ).

Step 5: Read out the first directions to the whole class. As each team guesses the destination, they should send one member to the front of the class to whisper their answer to the teacher. If it is correct, the teacher tells them the next set of directions, which they must relay to their team. Ensure that the clues are in a different order from the puzzle answer. Continue until all teams have guessed the destinations and used the first letters to make the famous person/group's name. The first team to finish are the winners!


This lesson plan has been successful for the author at various schools, with classes of different English levels and make-up. Students report that they find it useful and enjoyable.

BioMark Hanbury has been teaching English at universities in the Tokyo area for 10 years. His research interests are the teaching of pronunciation and the effects of L1 interference.
ReferencesDimoski, B. (2013). Using Google Earth Street View to teach directions. The Language Teacher, Issue 37(2). Retrieved from http://jalt- teach-directionsEnglish Education Reform Plan corresponding to Globalization. (n.d.). Retrieved from, N. (2004). Walk-around street directions. The Language Teacher, Issue 28(2). Retrieved from around-street-directionsMcMillan, B. (2013). Bring the outside world into the classroom with Google Maps. The Language Teacher, Issue 37(2). Retrieved from http://jalt- google-mapsTurner, M.W. (2013). Bringing the street into the classroom: A directions lesson with Google Maps. The Language Teacher, Issue 37(6). Retrieved from http://jalt- directions-lesson-google-maps

[See the PDF file for the appendix]

Contact Information

Eucharia Donnery


Linamaria Valdivia


Matthew Kocourek