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Newsletter No.26 - October 2019  The link for download


JALT CEFR & LP SIG  Newsletter No. 26 – October 2019


Dear members of the CEFR & LP SIG,

Hopefully this message finds you well after several typhoons hitting Japan seriously. This newsletter edition is published just in the wake of JALT 2019 in Nagoya.

JALT International 2019 will take place in Nagoya WINC from November 1st to 4th, 2019. CEFR & LP SIG will hold a combined SIG Forum and AGM on Sunday, November 3rd, 2019. On request of some members, we will introduce a “My share corner” where SIG members can introduce their CEFR-related project(s). CEFR & LP SIG will have a SIG table on Saturday (contact Alexander Imig) and on Sunday (contact Maria Gabriela Schmidt).

(1) This newsletter contains an interview with our member Colin Thompson from Josai International University, on designing a CEFR-informed English language textbook that focuses on the A1/A2 level. He has just published the book with his colleague Tim Woolstencroft, and we wanted to know the details from behind the scenes, and their reasons for the textbook project.

(2) This newsletter includes the Call for Contributions for CEFR Journal – Research and Practice for Volume 2 by November 30th, 2019. We are looking for your submission! (page 5)

(3) You will find in this newsletter a short report of the CEFR&LP SIG activities preparing the AGM, on the CEFR& SIG Forum and on CEFR-related presentations at JALT 2019.

(4) This year there are 8 presentations! And CEFR&LP SIG nominee Tim Wilson for Best of JALT of CEFR&LP SIG 2018! ) .

(5) Looking back, we want to say thank you to JALT Tokyo chapter for the joint event on April 19th, hosted at Rikkyo University, which was very well organized and attended.

And looking forward, we are happy to announce the next joint event, this time in Kansai with JALT Nara Chapter and CEFR & LP SIG on December 7th, 2019 (Saturday). Please mark this date in your calendar!!!

If you would like to organize a joint event with the CEFR&LP SIG, please contact one of our officers. We ask all our members to get involved in organizing meetings and mini-conferences. Therefore, we are seeking your cooperation to make this happen.

Best regards

Gabriela Schmidt

Your coordinator on behalf of all officers

Featured Interview

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“Designing a CEFR-informed English language textbook at the A1/A2 level” 

Interview with Colin Thompson

Colin Thompson is an Assistant Professor at Josai International University in Chiba. He co-authored the textbook entitled ‘Framework English’ with his colleague Tim Woolstencroft. In this interview we will hear the background of this book project.

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Colin, thank you very much for sparing your time to answer our questions on your CEFR-informed textbook. First of all, congratulations on your textbook project! There are many textbooks for English available in Japan. Some of them claim to be CEFR-related, yet leaving doubts. But there are not many English textbooks which are developed in a real CEFR-informed way in Japan. Some of our members did to do so, Naoyuki Naganuma, Noriko Nagai and Fergus O’Dwyer in 2015 aiming for a B1 level.

 First, can you give us a short biographic background on you and your colleague?

 Yes, sure. I’ve been working at Josai International University (JIU) for almost three years, after gaining my PhD. My colleague Tim has been teaching at JIU for approximately fifteen years, and we both work in the Center for Language Education. My research concerns language pedagogy, and Tim has expertise in materials development and CEFR.

 What was your reason to start a project like this, and to develop your own teaching materials according to CEFR?

 Well, we coordinate a four skills English language course for all first-year students at JIU. We had been using textbooks from the market, and the growing influence of CEFR in Japan led us research around its pedagogic aims. Of course, everyone knows CEFR in relation to Can-do statements and that’s generally what it’s associated with. But once we became familiarized with CEFR’s philosophy towards language teaching we realized that designing a CEFR-informed curriculum would really benefit the needs of our learners. In terms of textbooks, as you say, there’s lots out there, and the CEFR-informed ones we looked at seemed to be language or ‘grammar driven’ with lots of grammar points and this didn’t seem to reflect CEFR’s action-orientated approach to us, for example, fostering students as language users rather than language learners, and focusing more on communication than linguistic accuracy etc.

 Now, Tim and I have a lot of experience regarding the needs of our students for learning English. A lot of our students study abroad, so we needed a textbook that not only developed communication skills, but also developed their cultural understanding of how languages work. We also wanted to develop students’ cognitive skills that would benefit other areas of their academic studies, not just English, for example, inferring, reasoning, analyzing information, visual processing, problem solving etc. We wanted to design tasks and research projects that targeted those skills, and have them based topics of interest for students, such as food, fashion, and travel. We then found that the communicative aims of CEFR, and its domains, were very compatible with our own goals, for example, having students complete real-world tasks that are not primarily focused on language. So, thankfully, we received the support from our university to write Framework, and here we are!

 OK, so can you explain more about the advantages of a CEFR-informed textbook?

 Yes, CEFR’s action-orientated approach involves learners being engaged in the learning process and also to be responsible for their own learning. In terms of engagement, CEFR advocates that content should be related to students own personal experiences to help motivate them. So in Framework, students always have to use the content by relating it to their own experiences, whether its speaking, listening, reading, or writing, students have to complete an activity or task about them, using the content in some way, and this seems to help the learning process.

 Furthermore, autonomy is very important with CEFR. Providing goals, giving students choices and reflecting on their language ability. First outline the goals of each skill, at the start of each module, then learners can plan head. We then provide activities and tasks for learners to practice their ability, then at the end of each module, learners’ complete Can-do statements for each of those skills. In this way the goals, activities and Can-do statements are tightly connected, and this helps autonomy because learners then have awareness, they can plan, practice and reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses.

 Also, we think having CEFR-J listed vocabulary in Framework is a big plus. Thankfully, we could incorporate the ratings used in CEFR-J to list the vocabulary that we target in the book. The vocabulary progresses from A1 to B2, according to CEFR-J. This is particularly useful for us because the CEFR-J corpus is based on English vocabulary within an Asian context, so teachers and students can see which words are more commonly used and which are of a higher level.

 You started with A1 which is related to pure beginners. At university level we talk of “false beginners”. How did you address this gap?

 Well, CEFR A1 does relate to pure beginners and coming from a European context, this can also mean young learners. At the university level in Japan, we have the term ‘false beginners’ because Japanese students have generally had six years exposure learning English. Now as a general population, when students enter University, they may have A1/A2 knowledge in terms of vocabulary and grammar, but in terms of communication skills, they generally need more practice using English. So, we wanted to design a textbook that gets students using the knowledge they have, and to enjoy using English by completing motivational activities and tasks that are based on personal interests. Then, as the units progress in the book, students are exposed to higher level vocabulary up to the CEFR-J B2 level. Furthermore, although Framework focuses on A1/A2 in terms of grammar, we wanted to develop skills that are important for university level students, such as ‘scanning for information’ which is classified at the CEFR B2 level. We also target cognitive skills, as I’ve mentioned, so yes the book focuses on A1/A2 at a grammatical level, but it also devotes a lot of attention towards additional skills that can benefit university level students in their academic studies.

 What was the most challenging part?

 Trying to finish it! It was a time consuming project, Framework covers reading, listening, speaking and writing skills, and there’s 14 units so there’s a lot of information. In addition, I guess wording the Can-do statements was a challenge. English language textbooks in Japan cannot use Japanese instructions anymore, and a lot of the CEFR Can-do statements use complex words, even at the A1 level. However, CEFR’s aim is to be flexible and teachers can adapt Can-dos to their own contexts, and that’s what we did, using simple English that students hopefully can understand.

 A challenge post-publication (but a rewarding one) has been teacher-training regarding the use of the book in line with the aims of CEFR. As I’ve mentioned, CEFR is largely known for assessment and Can-dos, but less so in terms of teaching. There’s a lot of information available on CEFR but teachers have busy schedules, and the CEFR manuals can be time consuming to read, so we arranged a workshop for our teaching staff to inform them of CEFR’s philosophy and how to use our book in line with CEFR’s aims. And that’s been a positive experience, which in turn helps improve our curriculum.

 Do you plan to continue writing textbooks throughout the six CEFR levels?

 Yes, we do. It is a series and we are in the process of writing book 2 which focuses on the A2/B1 level. It’s again multi-skilled and it will follow a similar structure to book 1. As book 2 is a higher level, it will cover more professional use of English, as opposed to book 1 which focuses more on personal and educational use. So as the books rise in level, there is a gradual shift in the domain of English use.

 Thank you very much for your explanation. We wish you well on your project and hope you will share your experiences with our SIG members.

 My pleasure! And thank you for providing this great CEFR & LP SIG resource! Colin.

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CEFR Journal - Research and Practice

 Call for contributions for volume 2  - Theme: the CEFR Companion Volume (CV)

 In May 2019, we launched the maiden issue of our CEFR Journal; it is freely available here on this website. Now, it is time to get volume 2 under way.

 We are especially – but not exclusively – seeking contributions addressing theoretical and/or practical issues surrounding the CEFR Companion Volume (CV). Publication of the CEFR CV has sparked a lot of attention since 2017. Particularly, the newly added descriptors for mediation seem to have captured many a language teaching/researching professionals’ imagination. Thus, it might be said: the CEFR CV has hit a nerve. The CEFR Journal is keen to learn your thoughts on this matter.

 Categories for contribution we are looking for are:

articles (4,500-6,000 words), work in progress/practice reports (2,000-3,000 words), book reviews (400-500 words), or conference reports (400-500 words).

 For starters, we are looking for abstracts of 250-300 words (excluding keywords and bibliography) by 30th November 2019.

 The abstracts need to state the category, give an outline of the intended text, name a minimum of five keywords, and present a preliminary bibliography. If and when chosen by the CEFR Journal Editorial Advisory Board – see p. 3 in volume 1 (plus, additional more recently recruited experts in the field). All contributors will be contacted by mid-December, 2019. If accepted you will be asked to submit your text by mid-February, 2020. A double blind peer review will follow. You may be asked to revise your text, before it becomes part of volume 2 of our exciting new CEFR Journal.

Please direct all communication towards journal [ ad ] cefrjapan.net

Looking forward to your contributions. Thank you ever so much!

The editorial team

Morten Hunke, Maria Gabriela Schmidt, Alexander Imig

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JALT Conference 2019 in Nagoya November

JALT CEFR & LP SIG Forum and AGM  15:25 – 16:55 Room 904

Presenter(s) will be Noriko Nagai (Ibaraki University), Alexander Imig (Chukyo University) and Jack Bower (Tezukayama University). Naoyuki Naganuma and Greg Birch will be not available this time! I am sorry and apologize for this change.

Teacher Autonomy and Learner Autonomy – Using CEFR

The CEFR &LP SIG-Forum will provide an opportunity to discuss the interrelationship of teacher and learner autonomy and their role in language learning and classroom interaction. The role of the CEFR and CEFR/CV to provide the basis of a thorough needs analysis and to integrate learning, teaching and assessment in the classroom will also be discussed. In addition to talking about the outcome of the Kaken-project and future plans, a short SIG AGM will be held.

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of JALT CEFR & LP SIG will be held on November 3rd, 2019 at JALT 2019 International Conference in Nagoya as part of the CEFR&LP SIG Forum & AGM Teacher Autonomy and Learner Autonomy—Using CEFR” 15:35 – 16:55, in room 904, WINC Nagoya. All members are kindly invited to the Forum and the AGM. If you are not able to attend, we would deeply appreciate if you as members would give comments and feedback directly to the officers.

 Agenda JALT CEFR & LP SIG 2019

 (1) Report on Activities of the JALT CEFR & LP SIG in 2019

(1.1) Reports by officers

Coordinator (Maria Gabriela Schmidt), Treasurer (Alexander Imig), Membership (Noriko Nagai),  Program (Gregory Birch), Publication (Naoyuki Naganuma)

(1.2) *Reports by events (chronological, only in this report)

(2) Officer election

(3) Plans and activities for the year 2020:

- Pan SIG in Niigata (May 30th and 31st, 2020)

- JALT 2020 in Tsukuba (November 20th – 23rd, 2020)

- Newsletter, Journal (Volume 2 Cfa)

- Events and other activities, Homepage

- Research topics: (a) Composition (B1/B2), (b) CEFR-informed teaching materials, (c) CLIL and CEFR, (d) CEFR specifics in Japan

 (4) Varia

  (1) Report on Activities of the JALT CEFR & LP SIG in 2019

[* Remark; In JALT there are three forms of “year” in practice: (a) There is a calendar year (mainly for activity reports), and (b) a JALT year from annual conference to annual conference (October/November to October/November which is mainly for officers) and a fiscal year (from April to March which is for treasurers).]

 (1.1) Reports by officers

Coordinator: As a SIG, we took part in the main JALT events in 2019 (the PanSIG Conference in Nishinomiya and the JALT International Conferences 2018 in Shizuoka and now in 2019 in Nagoya) each with a SIG Forum. All three Executive Board Meetings (EBMs) were attended, and Finances and Membership developed steadily. As for programs, we held a well attended joint event with Tokyo chapter on April 19th, 2019 and we plan one more joint event with Nara chapter on December 7th, 2019. Concerning publications, we were able to launch volume 1 of a new, international reviewed journal “CEFR journal – research and practice” in May (ISSN 2434-849X). The Cfc for volume 2 is out. For Publicity, we sent out newsletters, short mails, emails and posted events on the JALT calendar, ELT calendar, and Facebook.

Besides events and activities, all CEFR & LP SIG officers were engaged in various activities: We held various business meetings and conducted research activities related to the Grant-in-Aid (Kaken) project. A small group did prepare an introduction to the CEFR as a book publication with Springer to accomplish the Kaken research projects. A research articles was published in deGruyters Language Learning in Higher Education (LLHE for CercleS) in October 2019. This article included very valuable feedback from our members in our workshops. Thank you very much for your support!!!

Schmidt, M., Nagai, N., Naganuma, N., Birch, G. (2019). Teacher development: Resources and devices to promote reflective attitudes toward their profession . Language Learning in Higher Education, 9(2), pp. 445-457. Retrieved 18 Oct. 2019, from doi:10.1515/cercles-2019-0024

 In regular officer meetings we discussed various issues and developments concerning the CEFR and the CEFR Companion Volume as well as recent trends in FLT as CLIL. In 2019 we had officer & research groups meetings in March (Hayama), April (Ikebukuro), June (Nagoya), July (Takanawa), September (Bochum), September (Tsukuba), November (Nagoya).

The relation between the CEFR and CLIL seems to make sense, and we asked Mark de Boer to initiate and coordinate activities in this direction, including to seek cooperation inside of JALT and in Japan.

 In General, JALTCEFR & LP SIG did well in 2019 again, fulfilling the requirements for SIGs to maintain their status and to pass the annual evaluation. According to the report submitted at the June 2019 EBM by the SIG Liaison Representative (SLR) Mark Brierley, CEFR & LP SIG reached for the year 2018 a score of 149 points (ranking 4th/5th out of 28!). These points are credited according to nine evaluation features for groups (Chapters or SIGs) in JALT.

 Excurse: About the evaluation of CEFR&LP SIG

The line nine evaluation features for groups are: (1) Number of members (as of March 31st each year), (2) Number of officers, (3) Public events, (4) SIG publications (a) peer-reviewed (journal), (b) officer reviewed (e.g. newsletter), (5) Publicity, (6) Website, (7) Complete annual report, (8) EBM attendance, (9) Treasury reports.

 Applied on CEFR & LP SIG activities in 2018:

(1) Members: As of March 31st 2019 we had 66 members (= base for annual grant), as of September 30th, 2019 we had 72 members.

(2) Officers; The number of officers is actually 10. Beside the required 5 officer positions, officer for special tasks and officers at large help with the newsletter and various events. It is a good starting position to get acquainted to running a SIG in JALT.

(3) Public events: This is the SIG Forum at Pan SIG, the SIG Forum at JALT International Conference, as well as presentations, events and mini-conferences (including joint events) by SIG members, advertised to SIG and JALT members in advance.

(4) SIG publications we have one (a) peer-reviewed journal CEFR-Journal – Research and Practice, and (b) three officer reviewed newsletter.

(5) Publicity, e.g. postings (SNS) and short newsletters about ongoing activities and were send out.

(6) Our websites do provide actual and reliable information.

(7) Complete annual report: You find the draft to it with this newsletter, to submit it to the AGM

(8) EBM attendance: the coordinator or officers attended all EBMs regularly

(9) Treasury reports: the financial reports are submitted by the treasurer regularly

 Treasurer: CEFR & LP SIGs financial status is in 2019 very sound. We submitted the financial reports regularly. As of March 31st, 2019 we had 66 members which is the base for calculating the annual grant for CEFR & LP SIG in 2019. Beside the annual grant we received shared program fee from Pan-SIG conference 2019 which is the second major income for our SIG because we engaged in Pan SIG actively. The money was spend mainly for events (speaker honorarium) or publications.

 Membership

Membership developed throughout 2019 very well. We attract more and more new members every month despite some dropouts. As of September 30th, we had 72 members. Thank you for supporting CEFR & LP SIG with your membership. Every single member counts!!!

 Program

Originally, we planned a CEFR&LP SIG conference in December 2018, rescheduled for March 2019, but we weren’t able to arrange it. Sorry for the inconvenience. In 2019 we had beside the SIG Forum at Pan SIG and the joint SIG Forum and AGM at JALT 2018 and 2019, two joint events. One event was with Tokyo chapter on April 19th, 2019 with three presenters: Noriko Nagai, Alexander Imig and Maria Gabriela Schmidt. The Forum was very well attended (30), and it was a very good discussion showing the growing impact of and interest in the CEFR. And we will have an event with Nara Chapter, featuring Jack Bower (Tezukayama University) and Gary Cook (Hiroshima Bunkyo University) on December 7th, 2019.

 Publication and Publicity (newsletter, journal)

Volume 1 of a new reviewed journal “CEFR – research and practice” has been launched in May 2019 with international contributions. This was a huge effort. We seek to bring the CEFR research in Japan to a wider audience and to join with other professional CEFR networks. Call for Abstracts for Volume 2 is open until November 30th, 2019.

Three SIG newsletters were published No. (December 2018), No. (May 2019) and No. (October 2019). The SIG newsletter is for communication inside the SIG and inside JALT and beyond. Various mail-newsletters and mails were send out (April 2019, October 2019) as well as postings on the JALT calender, ELT calender and on Facebook.

 Website

The websites of CEFR&LP SIG have been updated. The new HP cefrjapan.net is steadily growing. For the new journal a site was arranged. Still available is the old HP on https://sites.google.com/site/flpsig/home/publications.

 Officers at large helped in proof-reading publications and giving a hand at events. Thank you very much for your help!

 

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CEFR related events at JALT 2019

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There are 8 presentations in total related to CEFR, CEFR&LP SIG, or CEFR&LP members at JALT 2019.

Further more information are on events. See for details the pdf-file of NL #26. 

This online toolkit is supported by KAKEN Grant-in-Aid project no. 20K00759, no. 19K00808 and no. 16K02835 and aims to support teachers of all foreign languages in Japan in using the CEFR and CEFR/CV efficiently.