Monday, March 15, 2010

Teacher-Student Relationship : How open is too open?

Hi everyone,

I’ve been thinking about something recently and would like to hear what you have to say about it.

Everyday we interact with our students in and out of class. Over time we may build relationships with some of our students, some closer than others. Some of us may even go out from time to time with some of those students and obviously discuss various topics, some of which may revolve around you, as some students are curious to know more about their teacher.

My question is therefore,

How open is too open?

What I mean is how much should we let our students know about ourselves as a person? Of course there is a limit, but beyond the obvious, how open should we be with our students?


Monday, March 8, 2010

The ROBOT EFL Revolution?

Hi everyone,

I know I just posted not too long ago, but I was just taking a look at the David English House e-mail newsletter when I stumbled across the following article:

Robots to Replace Native English Teachers

What do you think? Can we be replaced?


Discussing pragmatics now are we?

Hi everyone!

I just had my first official discussion meeting with a grad school classmate, and I think things went really well. We discussed a variety of topics including the dummy operator verb ‘do’, which Leech (2006) explains as follows:

"[T]he verb do, used as an auxiliary, is often called the dummy operator because it has no meaning of its own but exists simply to fill the 'slot' of operator when an operator is needed to form (for example) negative or interrogative sentences. In a similar way, it can be called a dummy subject when it fills the subject slot in sentences like: It's a pity that they wasted so much time."

We also did an analysis of a small dialogue based on the properties of everyday language as stated in Peter Grundy’s book Doing Pragmatics (2008). For those of you who are unfamiliar with these properties, there are nine in total:

1. Appropriateness
-Use of the most appropriate language for the given context
2. Non-literal or indirect meaning
3. Inference
4. Indeterminacy
-Ambiguous or unclear utterances, which leads the addressee to infer its meaning
5. Context
6. Relevance
-Understanding an utterance by choosing its most relevant meaning for the context in which it was uttered
7. Accommodation
-Background information, often cultural
8. Reflexivity
-Advice, or information a speaker provides to facilitate the understanding of his or her utterance
9. Misfires

And here is the dialogue we used for the analysis:

A: Are you an exchange student?
B: No, I'm a teacher here.
A: Oh. Where are you from?
B: I'm from Canada.
A: Nice.

Although we have already discussed our own analyses, if you are interested in pragmatics, or if you happen to be studying it as well, just go ahead and leave a comment and tell me, “How would you analyze this dialogue?”



Leech, Geoffrey N. (2006) A Glossary of English Grammar (Edinburgh University Press).
Grundy, Peter (2008) Doing Pragmatics (Hodder Education)

PS. Although I used Leech’s book as a reference, I actually found the quote for the dummy operator verb here on, but was unsure as to how to make such a reference, so went with the original source. If anyone knows how to make such a reference, or if anyone knows of a resource for explaining such references, please let me know and I can make the changes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Coming out of blogger hibernation

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I can't believe that it has almost been a month since my last post. Why haven't I been posting? Well, honestly, my reasons are pretty much the same as those Martin Tuttle gave on his blog last month - except for the baby part. I was quite surprised to stumble upon his post yesterday when checking my Google Reader, something I need to do more, and see that there was someone else who felt the same way. So thanks to you Mr. Tuttle, I've decided to try to post more often despite not having classes. Of course, I will begin posting regularly again from April when my classes start, but until then, I will try to keep myself in the blogosphere as much as possible. So tonight, for my comeback, if you will, I have prepared, what will probably be my biggest post - I would like to present the self-access language learning center that I have set up at the university where I am currently teaching. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome all your comments.


PS: Maybe I don't need to say this, but just in case, please click on the photos, graphs etc to enlarge them.


SAC - Introduction

Since the 1960s and 1970s, when the first resource centers and self-access systems were developed, the notion of self-access has prospered, both as theory and practice. Self-access centers are now common in many countries, and Japan is no exception (Jones, J.F. 1995; Gremmo, M., Riley, P. 1995). In order to clarify the goal of such a self-access center, Sheerin explains:

“The primary aim of such facilities is to enable learning to take place independently of teaching. Students are able to choose and use self-access material on their own and the material gives them the ability to correct or assess their own performance. By using such a self-access facility, students are able to direct their own learning.”

(Sheerin, 1989: 3)

The type of self-access system that I have set up is that of the ‘supermarket’ system, which offers the learner the opportunity to look around and choose what to study (Miller, L., Rogerson-Revell, P. 1993). Ultimately, I would like to have the students themselves organize, control, and maintain the center with the teacher’s role being that of an advisor or guidance counselor.


Gremmo, M. & Riley, P. (1995) Autonomy, self-direction and self access in language teaching and learning: the history of an idea. System, 23(2):151-164.
Jones, J.F., (1995) Self-access and culture: retreating from autonomy. ELT Journal, 49(3):228-234.
Miller, L. & Rogerson-Revell, P. (1993) Self-access systems. ELT Journal, 47(3): 228-233.
Sheerin, S. (1990) Self-Access (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


History of SAC

June 2009
I distributed a survey to all my students to find out which materials they would like to have in the center.
Using this data, I proposed the idea of setting up a self-access center at the departmental meeting.

July and August 2009
A budget was created for the project.
I started discussing floor plans and materials with my student volunteer staff.

October 2009
The room for the SAC was renovated.
I ordered the necessary materials for the SAC, ie furniture, DVD players, books etc.
I presented the SAC to students at the department orientation and asked for volunteers.

October 2009 – February 2010
In one of my classes, I had students make supplemental materials for the graded readers available in the SAC.

January 2010
The materials arrived.
I started to get the room ready, ie assembling shelves, arranging materials etc, together with the student volunteer staff.

February 2010
We conducted trial opening of the SAC, which is still underway.
At the end of the semester, I discussed the SAC in all of my classes.
The staff and I made and put up posters to advertise the SAC.

March 2010
I presented the SAC to a group of professors.


Plans for 2010/2011

I intend to re-distribute a modified questionnaire to all students.
I will try to recruit new staff including more exchange students.
I will announce via memo the opening of the SAC to all faculty members in order to request support and materials.
I will allocate two courses to SAC material preparation
Spring Semester - Audio/Visual
Fall Semester – Reading


Survey for SAC and Survey Results (June 2009)

I used a bilingual survey with a 6-point Likert scale, with 1 being ‘No, not at all.’ and 6 being ‘Yes, I would really be interested.’ I also asked them to write their name, sex and age.


Peach – 6 (Yes, I would be really interested.)
Purple – 5 (Yes, I would be interested.)
Pale Blue – 4 (Yes, I would be a little interested.)
Pale Yellow – 3 (No, I don’t think I would be interested.)
Burgundy – 2 (No, I wouldn’t be interested.)
Lavender – 1 (No, I wouldn’t be interested at all.)


Floor Plan


SAC Assistant Responsibilities

-checking out materials
-answering questions related to the center/materials
-checking inventory
-selecting materials
-making displays/posters
-planning events
-inputting data
-peer exchange


Materials Available in the SAC


SAC Material Preparation - Activity Making Process

1. Choose a chapter. Any chapter is OK, but the first chapter may be the best to use.
2. Write out the chapter using Word.
3. Read the chapter.
4. Write down any words you don’t know or any words you think students may not know.
5. Use a dictionary to find out each word’s part of speech (noun, verb, etc), and meaning (Japanese, English or both).
6. Choose the order of the activities you will make, and begin making them.
7. Once you have completed the activities, read the rest of the book.
8. Write down any words you don’t know or any words you think students may not know.
9. Use a dictionary to find out each word’s part of speech (noun, verb, etc), and meaning (Japanese, English or both).