Hiroshima residents may have noticed the sudden bump in the English teacher population as hundreds of ESL professionals came to Hiroshima from across Japan for the 11th annual JALT teacher’s association Special Interest Group (SIG) conference at Hiroshima university June 16 and 17th. 22 SIG’s were represented at the conference to present ideas along this year’s theme of “Literacy- SIGnals of emergence”.
How best to teach reading, writing and communication courses were addressed in presentations as well as how to add drama, global issues or discuss the concepts of gender. I was happily moving around from presentation to presentation over the two days taking in the various theories and ideologies. I particularly appreciated the honesty of the presenters who often referred to their own downfalls when lesson plans weren’t as successful as they had hoped. This openness often led to interesting discussions among the audience.
On the first day, I was able to listen to an informative, group presentation on how to: Use drama techniques to spice up communication lessons (Speech, Drama and Debate [SDD]). It was interesting to learn of new ways to present information that would make a stronger connection to the students as they are asked to act out the situations in conversations they are studying. These ideas can easily be applied to any curriculum or textbook use.
Then I listened to an interesting, self-critical review of an ambitious lesson Jennie Roloff Rothman tried with her Kanda university students: Using critical media analysis to deconstruct stereotypes (Critical Thinking [CT]), even though she felt her lesson didn’t run to plan, she was able to show us some great posters students had made of stereotypical images of target words and gave us lots of food for thought to take back into our media courses.
Later, I sat in on Sarah Mulvey (Nanzan university) and Amanda Gillis-Furutaka from Kyoto Sangyo university. (Gender Awareness in Language Education [GALE]) presentations. First, Mulvey addressed the challenges of standing up to gender stereotyping and bias in EFL teaching forums as she had done in the “Leggy Keiko” case. Gillis-Furutaka played Britney and AKB48 for us to show how analyzing music videos is not only for extracting linguistic content, but can also be useful for class discussions on gender and culture. The next morning, Reiko Yoshihara talked about the background and validity of using a feminist pedagogy in EFL classes.
The featured speaker on the second day was by Dr.Nagao, the president of Hiroshima Jogakuin university and former Japanese court translator. She had a lot to share as a knowledgeable veteran in Japanese court translation. She also discussed issues of humility in translating and the need for a higher moral standard to be upheld worldwide, but especially in Japan where there are currently no standards set for translators. Her points could also be applied to teaching in general where aiming for a higher moral standard should also be a part of any curriculum planning.
I was then able to catch an interesting talk on chaos theory and its applications to language teaching by Erich Fortin (Global Issues in Language Education / Other Language Educators [GILE/OLE]). After a delicious gourmet sandwich (thanks to the sandwich guy), I heard some inspiring talks about creating classes to assist autonomous learning by the teachers at Meisei university in Tokyo where they seem to have a great passion for using the CALL lab to teach first year students how to learn online without much need for “teaching”. Matthew Porter of Bunkyo university also discussed ways to introduce learners to online resources that may help their pronunciation, reading, writing and listening skills. Our group then discussed the methods and means of running English camps as extension programs for university EFL programs.
Even from the limited presentations and talks I was able to attend, I felt inspired and motivated to try out new ideas and rethink my set routines of teaching, it was a great conference. Big thanks to the conference chair, Naomi Fujishima of Okayama university, the many presenters who prepared interesting ideas for us to consider, and last but not least, all the staff who worked hard to run the event and the many volunteers in their green shirts who helped out even in the pouring rain. Looking forward to the PanSig2013.
If you are interested in getting inspired in your teaching through a local seminar or presentation, contact Hiroshima JALT / HiroshimaJALT on facebook or for further information or updates about the national conference, have a look at the JALT national page.