At the lively JALT 2017 Conference, James Broadbridge, Greg Strong, Melvin Andrade, Jeff Bruce, and myself gave a well-attended talk on “Exploring Online and Autonomous Extensive Reading.” Here’s the blurb on it that ran in the conference handbook: “Extensive reading’s value for English language learners is well-documented. However, students need to read enough to realize gains in their abilities. This presentation describes an ongoing action research study of twelve classes of university sophomores using an integrated skills approach to maximizing the benefits of an online library of graded readers with an LMS that records time on task, reading rates, cumulative totals, and comprehension scores.”
In the Lifelong Language Learning Forum at the JALT 2017 Conference in Tsukuba, Mitsue Allen-Tamai–along with her former MA student, Yumi Matsunaga, now an English teacher for elementary schools in Shinagawa Ward–gave an intriguing report on the effects of Allen-Tamai Sensei’s Story-Based Curriculum, which is being implemented at public elementary schools in Shinagawa. They emphasized the important role of gestures and sign language to enhance the students’ memorizing, recalling, and retaining of English.
A long-time friend and colleague, the indomitable Nena Hosonaka-Nickolic (Kanda University of International Studies), spoke about how to choose stories that capture the imagination of the learner and allow them to guess from context, rely on their own knowledge base, and use clues to decipher meaning. She demonstrated her approach using the charming children’s story, “A Happy Day.” Participants became mice, bears, ground hogs, and squirrels in retelling the story, creatively and with panache. [I was a mouse, which was appropriate as I was born in the Year of the Mouse.]
It was my pleasure to organize this forum and to see the joy on the faces of the participants who attended. Many thanks to Mitsue Allen-Tamai, Yumi Matsunaga, and Nena Hosonaka-Nickolic, and the cooperative and enthusiastic participants. — Joseph Dias
Click on the thumbnail of the Schedule for the 2018 Academic Year for a larger and clearer view.
Find an English version of the 2018/19 schedule at http://aoyama-iec.sakura.ne.jp/wp/wp-content/uploads/ukeire2018-2019_Academic_Calendar.pdf.
Many thanks to Prof. Matsuo Kimura for his great organizational skills and hard work in organizing AGU’s hosting of the JACET extravaganza.
From August 29th to the 31st, Aoyama Gakuin University held JACET’s 56th International Convention. Mitsue Allen-Tamai and I presented on EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) and the (25-year) history of our department’s IE (Integrated English) Program, respectively. Henry Widdowson and Barbara Seidlhofer, of the University of Vienna, and Dr. Phyllis Ghim-Lian Chew of the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), spoke on various aspects of ELF (English as a Lingua Franca).
It was an extremely well attended conference, with about 900 participants. It was good to see many old friends there and make some new ones. The plenary speakers were well chosen and productively provocative, especially Dr. Chew who challenged the mainly Japanese audience members to seriously consider how tiny Singapore could be at the top of PISA scores, GDP levels, overall English proficiency benchmarks, and university rankings, while Japan lags behind in so many domains.
She chalked it up mostly to the fact that English proficiency is closely tied to high attainment in all of these areas and, for Japanese, language is tied to identity so closely that English has always been “other” and something that the population is unwilling to embrace as their own. She stirred up some nationalistic sparring in the Q & A, with one South Korean co-panelist wondering out loud what the happiness index of Singaporeans might be. This spurred me to check it out. It seems that Singapore is ranked a respectable 16 (out of 155 countries listed), so Singapore—despite its caning and reputation of obsessiveness about cleanliness—seems to be doing a lot right. — Joseph Dias
At the 4th Extensive Reading World Congress, which was held at Toyo Gakuin University last weekend Gregory Strong, Joseph Dias, Gamal Mohamed, Milton Miltiadous, and BJ Butler presented their observations using the extensive reading app Xreading with students. This was an action research project with a quasi-experimental design. We spoke about how students engaged with the software, what the challenges and surprises were to us as teachers, and what advice we would give to other teachers who may use the app in the future.
A final panel of speakers represented countries that don’t have a “reading culture” — that is, reading is not part of the daily practice of most people in these societies (including Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam, among others). They spoke of their efforts, against all odds, to introduce the habit of reading among children through extensive reading programs. One teacher from the state of Sinoloa in Mexico considered it life or death for the next generation, because reading can show kids that there are other things that can be admired other than drug kingpins.
We can’t be complacent in thinking that cultures where reading is still considered important will always be that way. A plenary speaker at the conference from Singapore, Loh Chin Ee, spoke about how, at a school she visited in her country, the principal would sit on a chair in front of all the students reading a book as the students read their books silently in weekly reading assemblies. Reading really does have to be cultivated so we don’t have to suffer through future leaders who won’t have become better people through reading.
The video featuring IE Program teachers announcing the Integrated English Program’s plagiarism policy is now complete with subtitles.
You may have heard that our dear friend, and former AGU teacher, Richard Basso passed away last Thursday morning. If you haven’t, I’m sorry to break this news to you. We have planned a special event in his honor:
Richard Basso: A Celebration of Life
Saturday, April 15, 4 PM – 12 Midnight
There will be an informal gathering of the friends of Richard to honor and celebrate his life through joyful conviviality. Bring food, drink and Richard Basso lore to share. The setting for the get-together is an apartment near Shibuya Station that Blair Thomson kindly made available for the occasion. Email Joseph Dias for the address of the venue and a link to video directions.
Former students, colleagues, friends, and casual acquaintances are all welcome. Richard Basso taught AGU students for 36 years, starting in 1978, so he has legions of admirers and those who respect his tireless dedication.
Donations can be offered for Richard Basso’s family to cover his hospital stay and medical expenses, which were considerable.
On April Fool’s Day we held the IE Orientation and 24th Annual Faculty Development Symposium on University English Teaching. Approximately forty IE teachers and guests from other departments were in attendance. Presentations included a forum on teachers in publishing, featuring James Broadbridge, Jeff Bruce, and Gregory Strong; presentations on innovative learning systems for mastering pronunciation, listening comprehension and speaking fluency (EnglishCentral), and extensive reading (Xreading); a demonstration of an app/ website (Quizlet) for studying vocabulary in an enjoyable, interactive way by Joseph Dias; and a fascinating presentation by Mariko Muro Yokokawa on English Sketches and Role Play that provide a window into intercultural insights and understanding. CLICK HERE to see an album of photos taken on the day of the IE Orientation.
Here is the Word file with the full schedule of the IE Orientation and 24th Annual Faculty Development Symposium on University English Teaching.
Click on the thumbnail of the Schedule for the 2017 Academic Year for a larger and clearer view. Also, you can find a version of the schedule in English that clearly states which holidays are normal working days and which are genuine holidays at: http://web.iec.aoyama.ac.jp/english/student_life/pdf/aca_calendar_2017_2018_1208.pdf.