Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The PIGATE Blog and kindred sites–rites of passage

It has been a remarkable and stimulating yet tumultuous year.

The JALT NanKyu Chapter's Blogger blog passed away on Dec. 5th at the early age of one year, two months, and 14 published posts. So I've removed its RSS feed from The PIGATE Blog sidebar and replaced it with a new RSS feed from JALT NanKyu's recently established website

That removal followed on the heels of a similar removal of the disused NanKyu Chapter's Google calendar from The PIGATE Blog Calendar of Events page display and its replacement with a generic Japanese holiday calendar feed.

Previously invisible in The PIGATE Blog sidebar, but now growing slowly, is a list of cross-links to Other PIGATE Favo(u)rites. There now are two links there to sites from which feeds don't seem to be available (8-(:
  1. PIGATE on Facebook (a closed group), and
  2. JALT NanKyu Chapter on Facebook (no longer a closed group).
If you have any other favo(u)rite sites that you'd like to share publicly on The PIGATE Blog, either as RSS feeds or cross-links, please shout them out in comments [on this post]–OR, better yet, volunteer to lend a hand in fostering The PIGATE Blog, which was a year and 33 published posts old on Sunday, Dec. 13!

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

PIGATE & JALT NanKyu: Joint My Share, 2015.10.10

This blog post ... [was] a work in progress [that I began composing shortly after the October gathering]. In this post, ... [in] which there ... [have been] numerous [modifications and] amplification[-s] ..., please find embedded a presentation file that covered the PIGATE and JALT NanKyu Chapter joint event in October (2015.10.10) at KGU.

For anyone who missed the October session, [the presentation (Google Slides) embedded in] this post may provide a rough idea of what took place; for those who were able to attend, it should (eventually) provide additional information collected just prior to, during, or after the numerous presentations–10, all told.

Please stay tuned for updates and amplifications, not only in this post, but also in the presentation file itself. Comments and questions on this post are more than welcome.

[Latest revision, 2015.11.18: 133 words]

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Teaching Ideas Exchange: October 10th, 2015–Call for presenters

PIGATE and the NanKyu chapter of the Japan Association of Language Teaching (JALT) are planning a teaching ideas exchange for the PIGATE gathering next month.

Image source: Pixabay (https://goo.gl/5163KH)
License: CC0 Public Domain / FAQ
As teachers, we are always looking for new ways to teach. This meeting will be a great chance to exchange ideas with other teachers from various teaching backgrounds and with a wide range of experience.

You can present a game, an interesting way to ... [teach] a language point, a book you often use, or any other useful tips you may have for your fellow teachers. We hope this will be a fun, informative and valuable experience for all who participate.

You can present in any format you wish: PowerPoint, a poster presentation or a demonstration. Your presentation should be between five and ten minutes.
(JALT NanKyu blog, PIGATE Meeting October 10th, 2015.07.23)

If you're interested in sharing your ideas, techniques or tips, please contact Sarah Faherty, the JALT NanKyu Program Chair, today!

The event will be at Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku [on] Saturday, October 10th, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Please check the Calendar of Events and Meeting Location pages for details.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015


Someone who knows pigs has been playing with words on my office door!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Shadowing for Improving Listening and Reading Skills (Fukushima & Lavin, 2013): A brief review

On June 13th, Mr. Taishi Kaneko (right) made his début as an emcee for guest speakers Mr. Hiroshi Fukushima (left) and Prof. Richard Lavin (center) at the PIGATE gathering in the KGU English Lounge. I hope we'll see and hear from them all again soon!
Mr. Kaneko introduced the guest speakers.

Along with a bit of historical and theoretical background, Mr. Fukushima and Prof. Lavin introduced two types of shadowing. The first focused learners' attention on the sounds of the target language, and the second focused on content–namely vocabulary, syntax (grammar) and meaning. 

PIGATE members had opportunities to try a little of both types. Then Mr. Fukushima reported on an on-going study to assess the effectiveness of shadowing relative to standardized test results. 

Prof. Takaki summed up the session.

Below are a couple of books on shadowing (Kadota, 2007, and Tamai, 2005) highlighted either in the presentation itself or in Prof. Takaki's summary. The other (Kadota, 2012), which I discovered today at Amazon, JP, appears to be a follow-up on the first.

  • Kadota, Shuuhei. (2007). シャドーイングと音読の科学 [shadouingu to ondoku no kagaku: the science of shadowing and reading aloud]. Tokyo, JP: Cosmopia.
  • Kadota, Shuuhei. (2012). シャドーイング・音読と英語習得の科学 [shadouingu, ondoku to eigo shutoku no kagaku: the science of shadowing, reading aloud and English acquisition]. Tokyo, JP: Cosmopia.
  • Tamai, Ken. (2005). リスニング指導法としてのシャドーイングの効果に関する研究 [risuningu shidouhou toshite no shadouingu no kouka ni kan suru kenkyuu: a study of the effects of shadowing as a method for teaching listening]. Tokyo, JP: Kazama Shobou.

Though there seemed to be a general consensus among audience members about the potential of shadowing for dedicated individual language learners, a question remained about how teachers might adopt and adapt such practices for general classroom instructional purposes.

If you have other key readings to suggest, other questions about shadowing, or suggestions regarding shadowing and classroom teaching practices in particular, please feel free to spell them out in comments on this post.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Coming June 13th: Fukushima and Lavin on Shadowing!

Shadowing is a practice of repeating the words of a model just after they are spoken. It is used quite widely in English education in Japan, where it first became popular after simultaneous interpreters found it beneficial in their training. It is considered important for beginners, because it is helpful in learning pronunciation. It is also considered useful for more advanced learners, because the time pressure can help learners increase the speed of their reactions.
In this presentation, Mr. Fukushima and Prof. Lavin outline the history and theoretical background of shadowing, and then look at its uses in improving language skills. Mr. Fukushima reports on a study he is conducting, in which he is using shadowing to try to improve his TOEIC® scores. 
(Presentation abstract, revised, 06 June 2015)

Mr. Fukushima (right, below) has a Master's degree from the University of New South Wales (Australia), and is working on a Doctoral degree in the Graduate School of Letters at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto (PUK). Prof. Lavin (left, below) teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature at the PUK.

Their presentation will take place in the English Lounge at Kumamoto Gakuen University (bldg. 1, 1st fl.). For a map showing the location and info. about getting there, please see the Meeting Location page.
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Saturday, May 9, 2015

PIGATE on the web!

In addition to this blog, we have a Facebook Group, which is located at


It's a closed group, so please ask to join.

We are still getting our internet ducks in a row, and we would love for you to join us on facebook, and we would also love to have people post to this blog. If you are interested, please let us know!

May Pigate meeting

The monthly meeting of PIGATE, the Kumamoto teacher training group, co-sponsored by the NanKyu JALT chapter, was held on Saturday (9 May) at Kumamoto Gakuen University, Building 1, 1F English Lounge.

This month's meeting revolved around reading.

Mio Ebara discussed Canadian approaches to reading education that she saw in her one year stay there while she was studying TESOL and conducted a reading lesson using Cinderella.

Tomomi Nishioka discussed Ken Toyama's English Grammar textbook presenting a number of examples from the text.

Hisao Kobori introduced his use of Extensive reading at his previous JHS (Shichijo JHS) and his attempts at his new school (Koushi JHS).

The meeting closed with the traditional summary by Takaki sensei.

Next month will be Hiroshi Fukushima, a PhD candidate at Kumamoto Prefectural University and Rick Lavin, a professor at the university, talking about shadowing for listening. Hope to see you there!!

Places to order Extensive Reading books online

There will be a summary of today's PIGATE meeting, but this is probably worth a separate post. There are 2 online booksellers in Japan that you should be familiar with.

The first is Englishbooks.jp and the second is ETJ's book service. Both offer a 20% discount and englishbooks offers free shipping for orders under 8000 yen and ETJ offers free shipping for orders under 10,000 yen. For the latter, you need to be a member of ETJ, but it's free.

This is, of course, great for small purchases, but if your school is trying to buy a large order of books, this can be a big savings and I encourage you to contact them directly.

One of 41 Women in TIME's 100 Most Influential People in 2014

Can you spot Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in the line-up below? It's easy if you filter the TIME 100 display by age. She's one of only two under-twenties and the only under-twenty activist.

You can read what Gabrielle Giffords, a survivor of a different assassination attempt, wrote about Malala by clicking on the thumbnail photo of Malala in the TIME 100 display.

Interestingly enough, eight of the total eleven activists are women, and three of those eleven are from Asia. Do you recognise anyone else?
Image source: TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World in 2014

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning English the STELLAR way - Channel NewsAsia

Here's a bit of news about English teaching and learning in Singapore from 

I'd never heard of STELLAR before. How about you?

Are any of the activities the article mentions already in your teaching kit, or do they sound like they may be worth trying out (adopting and adapting)?

I'd love to read your thoughts about STELLAR practices in comments on this post!

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Malala Yousafzai Honored by Astronomers

Amy Mainser, a NASA scientist in charge of a deep-space telescope called NEOWISE that discovered an asteroid previously called 2010 ML48, asked the International Astronomical Union to rename the asteroid after the youngest-ever Nobel prize winner, Malala Yousafzai.

"Among the strong women of history who have already had NEOWISE-discovered asteroids named for them are civil rights activist Rosa Parks, conservationist Wangari Maathai, abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, and singer Aretha Franklin" (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboaratory, Asteroid Named for Nobel Prize Winner Joins Historic Lineup, 15 April 2015).

Image from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Used with permission

Screenshot from the NASA JPL's Small-Body Database Browser:
Orbit Diagram for 316201 Malala
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

April PIGATE meeting

by Joe Tomei.  Another great PIGATE meeting!

First was Nicole Gallagher speaking on her recently completed masters dissertation and her upcoming JALT PanSIG presentation on teacher beliefs and the new Course of Study.

Next up as Fumi Ogata from Kikuyo JHS, talking about using the speech of Malala Yousafzai, the recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the youngest recipient of the prize. A link to the speech is here.

If you are interested in the topic, you can watch Malala's speech on EnglishCentral.com. It is free to join, and if you join, you can access 2 videos a month, but if you become a member, you can watch and record yourself repeating as many videos as you would like. I have some free one-month memberships, so put your name and email address in the comments, or write to me directly at tomeiter@gmail.com.

Another great meeting, looking forward to seeing all of you next month!
Joe Tomei

Friday, March 20, 2015

April PIGATE meeting: Nicole Gallagher

Hi PIGATE! My name is Nicole Gallagher and I have lived in Kumamoto since 2010 when I joined the JET Programme as an ALT. I spent three great years teaching English at Seiseiko High School, Kumamoto Commercial High School, and Kuroishibaru Special Needs School, and I am now in my second year working at the Kumamoto Prefectural Board of Education as the ALT Prefectural Advisor where I provide work and personal support to the ALTs in Kumamoto. During my time as an ALT, I began and completed a Master’s in TEFL/TESL with the University of Birmingham. My dissertation topic focused on SHS teacher beliefs on conducting classes in English and using communicative language activities in class (the main revisions of the new Course of Study for English in 2013). I am interested in hearing what teachers think about teaching, and I believe that is the first step in understanding how to improve English education. As I continue my journey of teaching in Japan, I look forward to having some great conversations about teaching with all of you! 

Here's what I'll be talking about, I'd love to hear from you before the meeting, so please feel free to add comments below!

Teacher beliefs on conducting classes in English

TEFL trained educators often take it as a given that conducting English classes in English is necessary and appropriate, and indeed, the Senior High School Course of Study for English (MEXT, 2013) has established that English classes be conducted primarily in English. Yet how this mandate is adapted in the classroom is strongly influenced by the beliefs of teachers and their subsequent actions. In this presentation, I would like to have a discussion about your beliefs about conducting classes in English and explore how your beliefs may be shaping how the new Course of Study will be realized in the classroom.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March PIGATE board meeting

PIGATE members came to KGU for the JASELE meeting and after the conference, gathered in the English lounge for a Board meeting.

Hard at work! Planning for the next 6 months!

Some things planned are
-April: Some preliminary presentations from PanSIG

-June: Hiroshi Fukushima and Rick Lavin on Shadowing

-August: Takaki sensei's ID card activity

A number of other things are planned, but we are always looking for more! And now some words from us!

What I was most interested in about is that how we can motivate students who are less motivated on studying English.
I'd like to make my class more cheerful from Monday. (Tomomi)

I learned a lot today. (Hitomi)

I am sooo motivated now! (Misato)

I'm proud of PIGATE! 20 of them came to the seminar! Wow!! (Takaki)

What impressed me most was the story about the importance of motivation.
I'll encourage my students to improve their English ability. (Soejima)

I learned "how I can motivate the students to study English". I'll try some ideas in my class. (Nagai)

I'm studying about learners' identity formation for my graduation master thesis. it is closely related to motivation. So, I had a very good time today. (Shiori)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

JASELE and JES @ KGU: 4th English Education Seminar, 2015.03.14

The Japan Society of English Language Education (JASELE) and the Japan Association of English Teaching in Elementary Schools (JES) are jointly sponsoring a 4th English Education Seminar at KGU, Saturday, 14 March 2015. Please follow the link above for location, program, and registration details in Japanese.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Blast from the Past: Mr. Waterman's Materials from 10 Jan. 2015

PIGATE members who attended the January workshop with Mr. Waterman
  • On adaptations from published board games, 
  • Emceed by Ms. Sakada at KGU

may already have received copies of his materials. That is, if they left their email addresses on the list that he'd prepared for requests for copies.

Worry not! For anyone who:
  1. Wasn't there in January to sign up, 
  2. Didn't get on Mr. Waterman's sign-up sheet, or 
  3. Wants the new improved version;
Mr. Waterman and I have prepared a Google document from his originals that you all can view via these links:

If you have any concerns or questions about access to those materials or how you may use them, please spell them out in comments on this post. Thanks!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thank you messages from Rob Peacock and Keiko Willhite

Dear Pigate members,

Thank you so much for inviting us to join your meeting last Saturday. It was a pleasure to meet with so many enthusiastic, dedicated teachers and trainee teachers from a variety of backgrounds. I hope that the teaching ideas and materials which we presented on the day were useful and that everybody found some interesting concepts to bring into their classrooms.

Teacher group meetings are always a great chance to share ideas and experiences with other educators, and I certainly enjoyed being able to do so during the discussion sections of the workshop and during the break.

Thank you once again for such a warm welcome. I hope to have a chance to meet with you all again sometime soon.

All the best,
Rob Peacock


Dear PIGATE members,

Thank you very much for attending Rob’s presentation and taking a look at OUP books.

I had such a great time talking to everyone and hope that I will get a chance to meet you all again soon!

There are many links I would like to share with you that I hope will be helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or requests.

Oxford Teachers' Club: By becoming a member you will get to download various handbooks and worksheets for free.


Graded Readers: You can find worksheets and handbooks on graded reading here:

For further information on graded reading, also check out the Extensive Reading Foundation:

With warmest regards,
Keiko Willhite
Contact me at: keiko.willhite@oup.com


Monday, February 16, 2015

Study in Ireland!

I just received the following information about four-week scholarships to study in Ireland for English teachers:
The Embassy of Ireland in Japan is pleased to announce the 2015 Ireland Scholarship for teachers of English working in Japan. Please find attached details. Application opening date is Saturday 21st February and the closing date is Friday 20th March.
For more information about this, please look at this and this.

"Special for" v. "special to": 3 to 6 or 16 to 14?

On a quick break between a family emergency and tests, I ran a few searches on the Compleat LexTutor site for phrases that someone had asked about at the PIGATE gathering on Sat., Feb. 14.

In a mega corpus of approx. 3 million words, here's what I found:
The mega corpus is approx. 2/3 British National Corpus (BNC: written + spoken).

A couple of bigger, slower searches of the BNC plus the larger Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), approx. 14 million words in all, gave different results:

  • "Special" with "for" within a few words and words that repeat 1 word to the right of special:
    • for=16, interest=3, provisions=3, time=3, ...
  • "Special" with "to" within a few words and words that repeat 1 word to the right of special
    • to=14, interest=11, issue=10, attention=6, access=3, effort=3, permission=3, prosecutor=3, reference=3, way=3, ...

Though convenient findings like these may be inconclusive, since they don't directly compare the BNC to the COCA, perhaps the author of the textbook passage in question was inclined toward British usage. [As I recall, the next word after "for" or "to" was a pronoun ("special * her"?). Anyone keen to dig into that?]

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Feb 2015 Meeting: Rob Peacock from Oxford University Press

Rob Peacock from Oxford University Press was the main speaker at our meeting, held on 14 Feb, 2015 at KGU's English Lounge. He spoke on the topic of "Teaching English in English", fitting right in with the ETE (English Through English) special interest section of PIGATE!

And whatta crowd! 30 participants enjoyed Rob's 2 part presentation, first taking us through some great ideas for the classroom and then working through ideas in Extensive Reading.

Takaki sensei wrote the following:
Let me express my sincerest gratitude to you all for your great contributions to the Feb session of PIGATE. It was a big success, and I could tell that the participants really enjoyed the presentations, materials exhibition, and getting to know various people with different background. Rob's presentations were not just well-organized, but also informative, educational, and persuasive. Many participants told me that they learned much from them. It was also a very good thing that they
actually touched some OUP materials, talking with Keiko and discussing their concerns with her and among themselves. If possible we would really like to welcome you back to more PIGATE sessions in the future. Thank you once again. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Rob will be sending me a post with all of the links he shared along with his powerpoint presentation, so rather than write a summary, I'll just end here and ask everyone who attended to write a short reflection on the session and what they learned. Thanks!

Grammar Monster

Looking for a site to point out to a student who had waited almost a year to inform me that (s)he didn't know what "title case" meant, I found Grammar Monster with a quick web search. Interestingly enough, the lesson page topped the glossary page for title case in the search and in ease of understanding.

The main entry began with a Quick Answer, and then a brief explanation that used a few words like articles and prepositions. Learners at first might want but not need explanations, because the both the lesson and glossary pages for title case gave examples of those parts of speech. 

The explanation on the lesson page could be simpler than it is, so I sent these suggestions to the site owner: "When writing a name or a title, it is . . . common . . . to . . . use capital letters [only] to start the . . . [main] words." (2015.02.15). Following the brief explanation, there were plenty of annotated examples of titles in title case–plus more notes in a sidebar to the right.

The site itself features five pages in a navigation bar on the home page:
  1. Common Grammar Errors
  2. Easily Confused Words
  3. Free Grammar Tests,
  4. Grammatical Terms
  5. Punctuation Lessons.
Grammar Monster also has a search page with cross-links to the most popular pages on site. So the site may be quite useful. That is, if you know what to look for, and if you are able to ignore the ads here and there, and the video clips playing over and over in the side bar.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Muppets Treasure Island - Cabin Fever

The Cabin Fever song from a 1996 Muppet movie is based on a classic adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wikipedia, 2015, ¶1). The song has been burning inside my head for the past several days. So I decided to find a video clip that I could share here.

This song has been memorable not only because I love the Muppets, but also because the ship-board setting for the song in the video (Baker, 1996) contrasted so vividly with a snow-bound mountain cabin image that I've held from childhood adventures–including reading!

That is, my image related to the second definition of the noun (n.) cabin in WordNet 3.1, and the Muppet movie scene represented the first. As far as collocations go, "cabin fever" may not occur very frequently outside this song. Nevertheless, you may find it catching.

Doing a bit more browsing around the topic of cabin fever, I think I may have found a remedy, namely getting out and communing with nature (Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008). Perhaps that's what I should be doing now, instead of planning another post!


Baker, Martin G., & Henson, Brian (Producers), & Henson, Brian (Director). (1996). Muppet treasure island [Motion picture]. United States: Jim Henson Productions.

Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x

Wikipedia. (2015, February 11). Muppet Cabin Fever. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muppet_Treasure_Island

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Feb 2015 PIGATE meeting: Teaching English in English: Grammar, Vocabulary and Extensive Reading in an All-English Classroom

The February meeting will be at Kumamoto Gakuen University (KGU) on Sat., 14 February, from 13:30-17:00, on the first floor of Building 11, in the English Lounge.

Rob Peacock of Oxford University Press will on speak about Teaching English in English: Grammar, Vocabulary, and Extensive Reading, in an All-English Classroom.

Rob wrote (5 Feb 2015):
In this session, we will look at some practical ways to teach all-English classes to elementary, junior and senior high school students in Japan. We will start by brainstorming some methods of introducing classroom English, before dealing with the practicalities of teaching grammar and vocabulary without using translation. Finally, we will review the benefits of introducing an extensive reading program.
Rob currently works for Oxford University Press, and is an Oxford Teachers' Academy certified teacher trainer. He has spent many years in Japan, teaching students of all ages, as well as providing teacher support through workshops.

Hope you can join us!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Call for participation: Survey for ALTs and JTEs

Ms. Hiromi Takayama, a native of Oita, is working on a Ph.D at the University of Iowa. She's calling for participation in a research project. She'd like both ALTs and JTEs to complete an online survey about teacher efficacy and identity. 

To find out more about Hiromi and her research project, please see her LinkedIn, English Teachers in Japan (ETJ) group discussion post:

Please allow me to thank you in advance for your consideration. The more responses she is able collect, the more valuable her research findings are likely to be.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year's resolution worksheets

Looking for a worksheet that you might adopt and adapt for collecting New Year's resolutions, or one simply to serve as inspiration for various sorts of resolutions–if not this year, then maybe next? Check this one out!
Image source: http://blogs.scholastic.com/files/resolution-1.pdf
You'll find a couple more if you read on.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jan 2015 Meeting: Chuck Waterman and Using Activities based on Published Board Games in the EFL classroom

Pictures and information from PIGATE's 1st meeting of 2015 are below!!

Despite end of the term tests and other obligations, we welcomed 20 participants to the January meeting of PIGATE, again held at the English Lounge.
Ai Sakaida, a fourth year student in the Foreign Language Department at Kumamoto Gakuen, was the chief for the session and opened the session by introducing Chuck.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Joe Tomei

Hi everyone, my name is Joe Tomei, and I'll continue what I hope will be a huge category of introductions.

New Year's Resolutions

Tomomi mentioned that she'd like to share everyone's new year's resolutions in the newsletter....

[You're also more than welcome to share] yours in the comments [on this post]!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January 2014 PIGATE meeting

Hi, everyone! Happy New Year!

I hope to see you all soon. Here's our schedule upcoming for this weekend.

Thanks to Prof. Charles Waterman, we are expecting to have a wonderful time at PIGATE. He plans to do a presentation on language learning games for us. Can't wait to have this opportunity!

Date: Saturday, January 10 
Time: 13:30-17:00

Place: Kumamoto Gakuen University (KGU)
Building No.11, the first floor "English Lounge"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reflections on the monthly meeting: Dec. 13, 2014

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Ms. Fukushima (right) on her role leading the meeting at KGU on December 13th, 2014. For a teacher in training, it took a lot of courage to do so in English, an additional language for her. I have no doubt that as she gains public speaking experience of that sort she will need to rely less and less upon prepared scripts.

Three other main speakers rounded out the schedule.