Friday, February 25, 2011

Second week with Kanda


Last week I was a bit surprised that my students seemed really motivated to talk out of class but didn't really want to talk in class. My two attempts to build negotiation skills when speaking with native speakers seemed to fall flat on their face. Are my students WTC and self confidence higher than I think. The other community interaction teachers seem to think that sending the students off to talk to native speakers right off the bat is fine. I've voiced my concerns but then on Friday my warm up activity disintegrated as students rushed off to complete an activity that James created where groups of students asked the public about sustainable fishing. In one week the students have talked to professors at school, went out to talk to professionals at a non-profit, talked to native English speakers in panel discussions, and completed two scavenger hunt type activities. I'm wondering what is left for the students to do in my class. There goes my idea of social scaffolding too as students have willingly jumped into the deep end of the pool. Good for them, but that means I have to re-evaluate my entire action research study. Yet, as I noted above, the students seem to be reluctant to talk in class.

However, this week on Wednesday, our class completed a discourse completion task and on Friday they went out to Monterey Peninsula College to complete a survey and walking activity there. This journal will briefly narrate the events of both classes and then reflect on the events and plan for next week.


1) At the beginning of the class I outlined the menu for the days events. Then I asked students to find a speaking partner and told them that today's topic would be about their experiences at Stevenson's Middle School. I asked the students to talk about what they learned there and what they will do for their next visit later in the week. Sekiya sensei also announced to the class that there might not be computers and profectors for PowerPoint presentations, so they may have to think of some other strategies for giving a lesson. I asked the students if they would like part of my class period to work on their projects, and they said yes.

2) After the warm up conversation, I gave students hand outs to students who could not complete their online reflections. I then told them that they are expected to complete the online journal and if they can't log in, then they should come to the workshop next week.

3) Then I told the students a story about how I poured soy sauce on my rice during breakfast at my host mother's house in Japan and how I offended her accidentally. I told them that in language, we should think about culture when we speak to other people. Then I played a clip from Mr. Baseball where the pitcher accidentally doesn't tip his hat to Tom Selleck and causes a fight between both teams.

4) Next I divided the teams by their closest class members and handed out a worksheet with examples of pragmatic problems between a teacher and a student that I made up. I asked each team to read the discussions and then discuss what they noticed about the discussions.

5) After the students had a brief discussion about the made up pragmatics. I asked them to turn the sheet over. On the other side I wrote down some pragmatic problems and asked each group to write four different answers to the situation. E.g.,

Pay a complement: You want to give someone a complement for losing a lot of weight without hurting their feelings.

Furthermore, I told the students that they should write four answers with one being a really good answer, two being not so good, and one being bad. After the students wrote their answers, I asked them to find four people on campus and ask them to tell you which is the best way answer they were most likely to say. Sekiya sensei also said to ask the person if they would say something in a different way. I gave the students 15 minutes to complete the survey.

6) After the students were finished, I asked them to share their answers with the class.

7) I gave the students the remaining time to work on their presentations.


1) James and I met all of the students at the bus stop at the transit plaza. We took the bus to MPC and got off at the lower stop.

2) When we reached the main campus, James gave the students direction to complete the survey that was given to them in the survey class. I also gave them a map and a "scavenger" hunt task to visit different places on campus and find different information. I told the students that the first team to come back with all the information would win a souvenir from me (four kitchen magnets about Monterey).

3) The students then went off to complete the task while we waited. A group from James' class was the first to finish my scavenger hunt task. I also stuck around to update students and help them figure out what they wanted to do after the class while James left back to school early.


Wednesday's class sounds good on paper, but there seemed to be a disconnect between what I had planned the students to do by warming them up in with partners, working in groups through reading and discussion, and then sending them out to survey students around campus. I was in a rush to complete the lesson plan earlier that day, and despite repeated vows, I wasn't able to plan ahead as early as I would like. However, I don't think the lesson was as bad all that. My impression is that the students didn't find the task useful and were not invested in it. The students who had higher abilities didn't care and the student with lower abilities were confused. Sekiya sensei and I seemed to be the only ones who cared. So, indeed, the end was very anti climatic, but I do think that the students learned how to do a discourse completion task correctly, and maybe if I had more time to think of better situation, or better yet, if I asked the students to create their own discourse task, they would have felt more involved. So this class, I definitely didn't do a good job in maximizing learning opportunities.

The trip to MPC was a disaster. I think the survey that the students were given didn't interest them, my task was perceived as busy work, and the campus didn't have any classes so there weren't many college students for our students to talk to. We definitely should have had them do something else.

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Week with Kanda

This past week marks the beginning of another intensive English program. Twenty one students from the University of Kanda are visiting Monterey Institute of International Studies for four weeks. My class, and research, will be very similar to that of the Osaka Science program. I will be studying ways in to raise students' WTC and increase their motivation while at the same time going out and contacting members of the community. I'll be collecting data through a pre and post questionnaire and reflecting in this blog each week about problems that arise during the previous week. Students will also be writing their reflections on a class blog and I'll use that data to qualitatively analyze the validity of the finding for this research project. In the mean time, I hope the students will have learn to build their communication skills, their confidence, and proficiency while they are here. The following are the research questions for my study:

1. What are students' self-perceptions of their WTC?

2. What are the teachers' perceptions of the students' WTC?

3. How can we raise our student's WTC in authentic speaking situations?

4. Does explicit conversation instruction influence students WTC in non-classroom settings? If so, how?

5. Are students’ self-perceptions as a member of an L2 community related to their WTC?


As mentioned before 21 students from the University of Kanda are visiting our program from Feb. 14 until March 11. Most of the students are female (only two male students), and their English proficiency ranges from advance to lower intermediate. The students major in a variety of subjects, including English at their university. The purpose of the program is to immerse the students into a content based course with different themes throughout the week. The classes, include presentation skills, data collection, American culture, and community interaction. I'm teaching the community interaction class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The sister class is being taught by James Atcheson. James is not participating in the action research, although he is helping by having his students contribute to the questionnaire and weekly reflection assignments on the class blog. In addition, Tony Kazanjian also ran a learner training workshop during the program orientation and two computer development workshops to help students learn how to go online and use Google Sites and to learn how to use Excel for their data collection and presentation classes. At the end of the program the students will create a presentation on a topic of their choice. In addition, I've asked the students in my class to collect photos and music to create a memory slideshow that they can feature during their graduation class. The mood of the class is very energetic and the students seem willing to interact with us and to learn about American culture while some students are more motivated to use English in and out of the class than others. Some teachers have also reported that students were unwilling to talk during whole class discussions, which matches me and Wing's data from the Osaka action research project. It will be interesting to see how this group matches up with the previous group.

My first class was on Monday, but the teachers started planning for the first class on Sunday. Because of the way the classes are set up, lesson plans from earlier classes, such as presentation skills, can effect my class as students will need to practice those skills in public. Also, students are expected to learn how to engage native and non-native speakers so my first class focused on building awareness in engaging interlocutors and selecting a pragmatically appropriate approach to engaging their interlocutor.

I began the class by showing a video about surfing and having the students to a warm up speaking task and introduced the class syllabus and the assignments for the class. Then I gave the students the pre-questionnaire for my study. We then shared pictures that they took form the previous class. Because the students were in another community interaction class on the previous day with different groups and different instructors, some of the students didn't have access to their partner's camera because those students were now in the sister class. I asked the students a number of questions, but as expected, they seemed reluctant to answer questions in a whole group. Their reaction was important to see how much willingness to communicate there was even among the proficient students (later I learned in the teacher meeting that students who were expected to lead were not and students were unexpected to lead were leading, according to Sukiya sensei).

I then ran another activity where students talked to partners using "roles" given to them on cards. The idea of the role play was to test how students would navigate different pragmatic situations so they could anticipate different reactions in conversations in public. However, it was very difficult to model and explain the purpose of the role play and my impressions were that the students didn't understand. My last activity of the day was for them to go out and perform a "Mission Impossible" where they asked people questions and gathered information. We finished the lesson with a "whole group" discussion in which students seemed to be more relaxed and willing to supply answers, but not in whole sentences. Usually their answers were in one word sentences.

What a week. I was really frustrated because I felt like my lesson plans were being soaked up by other classes who needed by do finish lessons or recap important activities that they should have finished in their class. Also, I felt like I was a mile behind in my lessons because most of the teachers had already had one or two lessons by the time I saw the students and that their Friday community site visit (where the whole group goes out and visits a location) was already planned without my knowing. That made me really angry, and I kind of confronted James about it and I definately complained to Kaite (the coordinator about it).

As for the students, they seem very capable to communicate in English. I thought only a few seemed overwhelmed by being away from their homes or that they felt uncertain about communicating. In fact, my impression was that each student could communicate at at least a very basic level and that they were more than willing to strike up conversations with people in the public. In class though, they do have reluctance to answer questions as a whole group and I think I'll try to stick to my usual write/think, pair, share when doing class activities or tasks. Also, I really felt like my lesson planning has been lacking because I've been split between teaching Sattar and my portfolio and Kanda. Though the students' WTC hasn't been so much an issue, I think that my lesson planning has been sub par compared to the other people.

So far this week, I think students appreciated the pragmatic approach to the community interaction class but the lack of scaffolding in the task set up and during the task itself has left them wondering what the point is. I want to set or prime them more with some stimulating listening, reading, or even writing exercise and then send them out to a specific location on Wednesday to do something cool. It's a little late in the planning, but I wonder if I can set up a visit to the art museum. This coming week's theme is education, so I'm wondering what approach I can use? Perhaps capturing something about American education? Students studying, people reading, signs, affordances? And then have them come back and report what they learned? Sounds fun.