JALT 2017

Last Sunday, I went to a conference for the first time in my life, and I absolutely LOVED it!! It was JALT 2017 conference, the biggest one in Japan.

In this post, I want to tell about the most interesting parts of it.

  1. Creative Writing: Essential, not Supplemental by Malu Sciamarelli

This was the best of all! I can’t measure the level of inspiration it gave me. Malu started with a short presentation aimed to highlight the difference between creative writing and expository writing (she involved us into brainstorming the antonyms for the characteristics of expository writing). Then she talked briefly about the benefits of regular use of creative writing in the classroom for both students and teachers. And then there was time for the tastiest part of any workshop – practice! We tried writing a poem, a recipe, a haiku…

That’s what I got:
I am Russian, and I’m an English teacher
I wonder how the mind works
I hear the waves
I see a mountain
I want to go around the world
I am Russian, and I’m an English teacher

We read the final pieces of our spontaneous creative work for each other, and it was fun! Any of these activities can be easily adapted for any age and any level (with small limitations, of course).

Here’re the bullet points for using the CW in your classroom:
– it has to be done regularly (at least once a week);
– you should encourage students to share their results with each other;
– you have to tell them what you’re gonna do with their work;
– it’ll be nice if you publish it in some ways (e.g., in your blog or just hand it on the wall in the classroom).

2. Creating Instant Games with a Course Book by Ian Bosiak

This was a really good one as well. I find creating the games to be one of the least developed of my teaching abilities so this workshop came in handy. Even though it was focused on teaching YL, the same principles can be easily used for teaching adults (the course books are not that different in terms of task variety after all).

Ian demonstrated a set of funny games as long as guided us through the process of their creation. In total, there were 8 games presented. We tried all of them, and it was extremely entertaining.

My ultimate favourites were:
– listening with the numbered pictures (students tell each other the numbers and have to name the pictures; they can say several numbers at once, and then their partners have to name all pictures in the correct order – it creates quite heavy cognitive load I must say!);
– board race with Chinese whispers (the runner and the talker stand back to back, and the talker has to whisper the word to the runner);
– dialogues performed with various emotions (students get the cards with an emotion written on it and read their lines with these emotions; the rest of the class tries to guess what are the emotions).

3. VR app for EFL/ESL

I also had an opportunity to try the brand-new VR app for EFL/ESL.
I got special goggles with a slot for a smartphone. You start the app on the smartphone and do the tasks. The EFL app was about the airport. It was kind of a quest where you had to do different tasks (e.g., matching words with definitions, etc.). You follow the arrows, do the task and proceed to the next stage until you finish it all.
The device is quite intuitive; it only took me less than a minute to figure out how to use it. And I got a free sample!! The only disadvantage is that the picture was flickery and a little bit blurry so I got sick and dizzy at the end.
The tasks were interesting, and the idea itself is rather nice; however, I can’t see any broad use for it. It’ll be OK for the teachers of general English as a way to make tests more exciting but how can it be applied to EAP, for example (which is currently my field)? Another thing is that these tasks can’t be used in multiple contexts. I mean, if your textbook has a unit about the airport then yes, that would work (considering you teach the same vocabulary), but otherwise, since there’re so many different books, tons of scenarios have to be created and adjusted to every single one of them which sounds quite tough.
Finally, how can be such tests assessed? Some assessment system is needed; teachers should be able to access the logs and grade students’ work.
So far, I see more cons than pros but I’ll be happy to use it as soon as some nice variety appears! I’m pretty sure that if they cooperate with Cambridge Press or MacMillan, we can get an amazing add-on that will be loved by both students and teachers.

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