Supporting Out-of Class Learning Through In-Class Activities and Supporting Students’ Learning Opportunities with Digital Technology

Last Sunday Shinshu JALT was very fortunate to host Louise Ohashi as she shared her presentation on Supporting Out-of Class Learning Through In-Class Activities and Supporting Students’ Learning Opportunities with Digital Technology.

Louise’s presentation started with a brief explanation on the target of one of the subjects she teaches – “Self Directed Learning”. The goal of this subject is to encourage students to be as per the namesake – more independent learners taking their own initiative. Students are first tasked with setting their goals for English and being more specific – “I want to speak good English” – well what does that mean? Students then refine their goals further in measureable terms and then start to plan how they can achieve both short-term and long-term goals. Louise shared what is called the SMART plan

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

Students are then asked to share both their plans and the levels of success they achieved or didn’t achieve. The end of term feedback indicated that most students were significantly encouraged from hearing about what their peers were doing and often similar activities were adopted and shared among students.


The second part of Louise’s presentation focused on the digital material available for both teachers and students and how they can be utilized. This ranged from the use of vocabulary building applications outside of class on the train, using LINE to communicate with classmates, using social networking to follow foreign celebrities and even Lyricstraining which lets studens listen to their favorite songs and fill in the lyrics. Louise also demonstrated the use of QuizletLIVE as a quick and easy way to enjoy quizes in class.


Louise also shared some survey information she gathered that indicated most students were very enthusiastic about using digital materials outside of class and thought it was beneficial to their studies.

One again ShinshuJALT would like to thank Louise for coming to Nagano to share her inspiring work and ideas. We hope you enjoyed your time here.


Event report: MOOCs and Professional Development

On the 24th of September, Shinshu JALT was fortunate to have Nathaniel Reed as a guest speaker for an event on MOOCs and professional development.

The day started with Gregory Birch sharing the results of his published research on the role of JTEs and ALTs throughout various schools within Nagano and Toyama prefecture. Greg’s work highlighted the differences in workplace roles within different prefectures and also levels of education. While English education policies may be trying to align role structures, the reality in the workplace is very different.

Nathaniel’s one hour presentation spent a majority of the time going through the current state of the ALT program in Japan. This included the history of the ALT program, the original intention and how the nature of the job has changed over time. His presentation also gave context to the issues currently facing the position of an ALT, from the teachers themselves as well as from the teachers, schools and administrations they work with. These include things such as culture shock, language barriers, JTEs failing to utilise their ALTs and the high turnover rate which sees many ALTs leaving only once they become experienced and proficient at their jobs.

This context served to highlight the increasing need for ALTs to pursue their own professional development, which is why he founded the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) – ALTTraining online. Nathaniel has called upon the help from various language teachers with years of experience to help contribute in creating content available for anybody to access online for free. The MOOC is already live ( with some content available, although he is predicting all the courses and services to be ready by April next year.

Nathaniel Reed is still looking for people who may be interested to help with the MOOC in contributing content, proofreading or any other ideas that may assist the site. If you are interested please visit his website and contact him directly.


Event Report: Get going with Google


On July the 30th, Shinshu JALT was very privileged to host an esteemed educator and certified Google innovator and trainer – Rab Paterson.

The first 2 hour portion of Rab’s workshop focused on setting up a workflow using the vast array of apps and tools available from Google. From setting up and personalising your own Gmail account, the workshop instinctively moved on to creating a platform for learners to share and exchange ideas under constant teacher supervision. Rab had much to speak about in regards to the strengths of using a Google platform compared to others. In particular the security, cross referencing capabilities and the free compatibility regardless of device – all readily available for any user teacher or student. The workshop also covered many of the tools available to teachers and students via an online system such as – various methods to proofread and improve your writing fluency and ways for a teacher to monitor how a student’s writing piece develops.


The second part of Rab’s workshop dealt with his Google accreditations and current work. Rab explained the process involved in the various Google certificates available and how it improves your skills as a digital educator. Those at the workshop were also fortunate to see how Rab’s work platform creates a network for his students to create media and content that is readily shared online via blogs. Some of the work involved videos made by the students – digital videos as well as recorded performances – and well written thought pieces by students expressing their ideas and desires.

Shinshu JALT would like to once again thank Rab in taking the time to share his online teaching experiences with those of us in Nagano, who for the most part conduct a majority if not all of our teaching offline.


Event Report:Designing tasks informed by CEFR and CLIL to develop cognitive and intercultural skills

Shinshu JALT would like to thank Dr Naoyuki Naganuma, professor of the International Education Center at Tokai University, for his very informative presentation at the 47th Annual Conference of Chubu English Language Education Society (CELES) held at the Education Faculty of Shinshu University on June 25.

Dr Naganuma began his presentation, entitled “Designing tasks informed by CEFR and CLIL to develop cognitive and intercultural skills,” by highlighting both recent shifts in educational policy and planning which will be implemented by MEXT across content areas by 2020 and also the specific challenges for English education. Two key concepts that were guideposts for me throughout the rest of the presentation were deep learning and dialogical learning which may also be expressed as “sophistication” and “diversification.”

When discussed in the context of language education, the emphases on deep learning and dialogical learning correspond to cognitive and intercultural skills respectively. To respond to increasing attention on these points in language education, Dr Naganuma expressed the need for integrating higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) into lessons at both lower and higher language levels, using scales informed by CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), and the corresponding need for thinking-scaffolding as well as language-scaffolding. Content-focused lessons like those associated with CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) might more naturally provide opportunities for HOTS and for the second concept of diversification/intercultural skills. Although Dr Naganuma’s presentation focused on primary and secondary education, I found his insights on the importance of deep active involvement tied in well with the earlier university-focused presentations from Shinshu JALT’s Gregory Birch and Sue Fraser on topics related to learner autonomy and motivation.

In his conclusion, Dr Naganuma presented concrete examples from CEFR-scaled textbooks with a focus on critical thinking and suggested we explore the Intercultural Competence Assessment (INCA) framework, a European framework focused on global social skills, for additional ideas. Placing more emphasis on HOTS and on awareness and respect for diversity is no easy task, but this presentation provided us with useful resources for our classrooms and models for our own materials development.

Once again Shinshu JALT would like to thank Dr Naganuma for making the trip out to Nagano and helping to prepare us for the new directions in English education in Japan.

Reported by Colleen Dalton

Event Report: Practise, Create, Motivate: English through Drama


Shinshu JALT would like to thank Dr. Sue Fraser for taking the time to present her experiences and activities in teaching English through drama on February the 19th at Matsumoto.

The presentation began with Dr. Fraser highlighting the importance of drama in developing a variety of skills and breaking the monotony of conentional learning techniques. Sue referred to several texts which were published in the 60s and 70s and are still being printed to this day – meaning the material is still relevant for the learners of today.

Moreso than just having fun and pretending to be trees, there are many direct learning benefits for Japanese students. Learning English through drama can help with speech and debate contests, pronunciation, presentation skills, teacher training and paralinguistics.


The majority of the presentation was spent going through numerous activities instructed by Sue. There was an activity where one person was blind folded and had to listen and slowly move towards a person saying a key word.


Another activity involved groups being given scenarios and having to mime the situation without any talking. Everyone was then asked to guess the situation and figure out the dialogue that was taking place.


Sue also distributed several hand outs of situations with missing dialogue, and participants were asked to fill in the conversations and guess what was taking place.

Throughout the presentation all the activities demonstrated a recurring theme of helping learners understand the minute details that go into communicating and expressing meaning while also engaging people to just have fun and enjoy themselves. Sue’s talent for theatrics was evident throughout the lively session and the laughs and enthusiasm from all the participants showed everyone had a great time.


Event Report: JALT National Pre-Conference + My Share + AGM

The pre-conference started with Miguel Mision presenting his Master’s research project on “Mobile Assisted Language Learning for Young Learners” (MALL). While there has been a lot of work on using smartphones for language learning with adults or university students, very little research has been done for young learners. To determine the key learning design features for young learners, Miguel researched a variety of fields outside of language learning: game design, children’s behaviour with technology and multi-modality. He prepared six points of criteria:

  1.   Graphics
  2.   Sound/Audio/Music
  3.   Use of Mobile Technology
  4.   Learning Style
  5.   Target Language
  6.   Narrative

From these six points, Miguel constructed a system using a Likert scale to assess popular applications made for young learners, and to examine how the applications address key design points. What he found was a majority of applications were mostly designed with audio-lingual task based methodologies – simple drill exercises that focus on memorization and recall skills. While excellent aids in study, they are still far from realizing the full potential of smartphone based learning. It appears that most applications are created by programmers with little understanding of current language learning approaches and methodologies.

The second presenter was Gregory Birch, who shared the results of his research into the state of team taching in Japanese junior and senior highschools. The study was conducted via surveys completed by 120 ALTs and 80 JTEs and follow-up interviews.

Gregory’s research focused on lesson preparation and teacher’s reasons for using their own teaching materials (as opposed to the textbook). Some of Gregory’s key findings were:

  • More than half of JHS ALTs reported that team-taught lessons were prepared primarily by the JTE. In SHS on the other hand, 66% of all ALTs reported preparing their lessons.
  • ALTs were shown to use a wider variety of sources for their materials (the internet, resource books, materials from the predecessor). Interestingly, only 28% of SHS JTEs reported providing their own materials for team teaching.
  • JTEs and ALTs reported a variety of reasons for specifically using  materials that they had designed,  the most common being that they felt these materials were more engaging and interesting than those found in the textbook.

Third was a My Share presentation by Damian Gowland who just recently returned from a CELTA intensive course in the Galapagos Islands. Damian shared some of his experiences from the 4-week course, including the steps needed to apply, the that need to be taken while preparing and taching a lesson.

Damian begun his presentation by having an open discussion on what attendees felt about overseas professional development courses. The ideal place people would like to go and the pros and cons of undertaking such a course. After this, he moved on to discuss the input sessions he received while on course , which involved preparing materials, assessing student needs and considering the styles or theories the teacher will draw upon. He then shared some of the CELTA teaching principles – Concept, Checking, Question – a process of steps to confirm student understanding before they use the target language themselves. To cap things off Damian played an animal bingo game with all the attendees and showcased the plethora of wildlife he encountered during his stay.

Shinshu JALT would like to thank all the presenters and attendees for coming and sharing in the day.


Event Report: Teaching Debate


Shinshu JALT would like to thank Mr. Ikegami, high school English teacher and founding member of the High School English Debate Association (HEnDA), for sharing his 20-plus years of debating experience with us in an informative and entertaining workshop on September 22 in Matsumoto.

Mr. Ikegami began by introducing himself and giving a brief overview of the situation of high school English debate. HEnDA is the biggest association in Japan and sponsors policy debates among high school teams. Teams spend months researching difficult topics; this year’s topic is Basic Income. In contrast, the Parliamentary Debate Association (PDA) promotes a style of debate appropriate for English classrooms. PDA was the focus of Mr. Ikegami’s workshop.

In PDA style, there are two teams, Government and Opposition. Each team consists of 3-4 members and, after receiving a topic, has 15 minutes to prepare arguments which will be judged on content and style. There is no time to research the topics, so the arguments are generally supported by common sense and personal experiences. Students are given the structure of speaker order, content and time. Each team presents three speeches, and the total time for the debate is just over 15 minutes.

Mr. Ikegami then divided the workshop participants into four teams (for conducting a debate twice), handed out worksheets designed to help each speaker cover the required content parts, and set us to work on the day’s topic: “It is better for university admission test takers to have a boyfriend/girlfriend.” We enjoyed team discussions of the ups and downs of high school romance, prepared our speeches, and nervously stood in the shoes of students. It was challenging and fun!

This workshop was a very worthwhile two hours for anyone who has tried or thought about trying debate in English language classrooms. Greg noted that although he teaches debate, he had never participated in one. I suspect that most participants thought about how to bring PDA into their classrooms on the way home that afternoon, unless, like me, they were still thinking about ways they could have improved their own debate speeches!

Mr. Ikegami’s talent for clear speaking and passion for debate were clear throughout this workshop. I for one hope he will be come back to answer specific questions and offer advice to those of us who have decided to give PDA a try in our classrooms.

  • Reported by Colleen Dalton

Event Report: Classroom Exercises

Teachers in charge of language classrooms have to consider both the overall plan and goals of a particular course and also the very concrete exercises and activities that will be used to help students move toward those goals. In our July 2 workshop, Terry Yearley of Saitama University and West Tokyo JALT helped us think about both.

Terry Yearly introducing his “Three Interesting things about you” activity

Terry first introduced Nation’s four-strand framework for language courses (meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning, and fluency development) which Nation believes should receive equal time under a syllabus, and then led specific speaking activities, namely “432” and “Talking Zone.” JALT participants used “three interesting things about me” as the topic for the repeated speaking practice in shorter time frames of 4, 3, and 2 minutes. For “Talking Zone, we worked in pairs to match descriptions with pictures.

JALT members practicing the “Talking Zone”

After the speaking activities, we reflected on how they fit into Nation’s framework. There was some discussion about how to distinguish the first two strands (meaning-focused input and output) from fluency development. According to Nation’s definitions, all three strands are meaning- and usage-focused, and all three revolve around familiar topics and language. The key point of fluency development seems to be 100% known vocabulary (as opposed to 95% for meaning-focused input and output) and an attention to speed. However, since most classrooms include students of different levels, a fluency speaking task for one student is likely to be a meaning-focused input activity for the listener.

Shinshu JALT would like to thank Terry for highlighting a framework for creating a well-balanced language syllabus and for raising our consciousness about the differences among speaking activities.

Event Report: Teaching Presentation Skills

Gregory Birch teaching presentation skills

Presentations are a common activity in communicative English teaching in many contexts, ranging from simple in-class activities, to higher stakes speech contests and business presentations. How can teachers develop these skills in their learners in a systematic way? In an engaging and interactive presentation, speakers Gregory Birch and Dr. Sue Fraser shared their comprehensive approach to teaching presentation skills, first breaking content creation into six sub-components, including purpose, audience, and message. Together, they illustrated how these key concepts can be applied in both product and process approaches to teaching presentation skills through three examples: a self-introduction, a tourism-themed presentation for senior high school and college speech contests, and a formal product introduction for ESP learners.

Sue Fraser demonstrating presentation techniques

Fraser demonstrated the stages used to develop the first two presentation types, and Birch used examples of a local company/product introduction presentation, requiring learners to construct their speeches based on a model and analysis of its organization. Performance aspects of presentations, divided into voice, behavior, visuals, and ‘other,’ were then discussed, and a system for marking performance cues on a script was introduced. Finally, issues surrounding giving feedback, clarifying evaluation criteria, and the weighting of content and performance elements were considered. This included ideas for peer evaluation and active listening by assigning specific roles to different students in the audience (e.g. writing advice or asking questions). This in-depth and comprehensive treatment of presentation skills offered expert guidance for anyone involved in helping language learners to engage in public speaking.

Reported by Joe Mecha