Music and Song for Language and Culture Learning

JASEC Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention
October 14, 2017 at Kinki University
By J. Poulshock, PhD,
Professor, Senshu University
Faculty of Economics

Almost everyone enjoys listening to songs, but often English language learners in Japan are not acquainted with many of the most well-known English songs, and if they do listen, they may find these songs difficult to understand and talk about. We can solve this problem by using easy-to-understand and culturally relevant songs, and we can introduce these songs with compelling stories. Stories can be about a musical genre, a musician, or a theme in the song for the day. These stories can inspire interest in the songs, genres, and artists they introduce. As we choose popular or significant songs for lessons…

Click here to download the presentation.

ER is Essential

By Joseph Poulshock & Douglas Forster

45 Minute Paper, Presented at the Extensive Reading World Congress
Sunday, August 6, 2017

Is ER essential? The presenters consider this claim by looking at various theories en masse, which are corroborated by research, that guide and support ER. Thus, the presenters show that by integrating these theories and their related research that we can have increased confidence that ER is indeed essential.

Click here for PDF.

Experts say that ER is essential, but this claim needs to be supported. We can do so by considering en masse various theories, which are corroborated by research, that guide and support ER.

Thus, in this paper we look at language acquisition and general learning theories that mesh directly or indirectly with ER. These theories include the Communication Hypothesis, the Comprehension Hypothesis, the Spaced Repetition Hypothesis, the Retrieval Hypothesis, the Interleaving Hypothesis, the Generation Hypothesis, the Noticing Hypothesis, the Flow Hypothesis, and the Task-Based Learning Hypothesis.

After seeing the varying degrees that these theories harmonize with ER, we consider their empirical support. In addition, we also examine some of their weaknesses in relation to ER.

For example, extensive readers may acquire language through the receptive spaced retrieval of grammatical and lexical items. This is because readers abundantly meet the same high frequency grammatical and lexical items through ER. However, readers may not as effectively remember the factual or narrative content in texts by reading and rereading because this content is only repeated as many times as a reader reads a particular text. Rather readers may better remember textual content by active retrieval and spaced repetition, such as through spaced self-quizzing of the factual or narrative content in texts.

In short, despite some weaknesses, when we consider en masse the theories that underpin ER, and when we see the related lines of research that support it, we can have increased confidence that ER is truly an essential component of language education.

Extensive Reading for Language and Liberal Arts Education

By Joseph Poulshock and Randall Short
A paper presented at the Extensive Reading World Congress
Saturday, August 5, 2017

Click here for PDF.

Extensive reading (ER) fosters (a) language education with its emphasis on developing verbal intelligence in first and second languages and (b) liberal arts education with its emphasis on critical thinking and whole person education. The presenters define ER, delineate its broad educational benefits, and discuss ways to invigorate its practice.

In this age of information, with its tyranny of the digitally urgent, we may be seeing a sobering decline in enthusiasm for reading. Despite this, extensive reading remains an essential element of education for the sustenance of civil society. In fact, we can say that extensive reading energizes and perpetuates both (a) language education with its emphasis on developing verbal intelligence in first and second languages and (b) liberal arts education with its emphasis on critical thinking and the education of the whole person.

Therefore, educators need to persuade, inspire, and motivate students, fellow teachers, and educational institutions to invigorate the practice of extensive reading so that students can more fully experience its benefits.

Linking Speaking and ER

By Joseph Poulshock and Rebecca Babirye
A paper presented at the Extensive Reading World Congress
Monday, August 7, 2017

Click here for PDF.

Teachers can show how reading can help students improve speaking by linking reading and speaking activities. One such linked activity is the problem solver. Presenters will show how to make problem solvers linked to readings and provide a simple recipe and downloadable template for generating many problem solvers.

Learners often measure their English ability by how well they speak, not by how well they read. However, teachers can link reading and speaking activities, showing students how reading relates to speaking.

One such activity is called the problem solver (Nation, 2013). Problem solvers are small-group speaking activities, which employ three concrete outcomes. The three basic outcomes for problem solvers are: suggest, choose, and rank, and teachers can link these outcomes to extensive, fluency, or intensive reading.

For example, the teacher assigns a simple biography of a famous musician. Students may read it as homework or in-class. After students understand the story, they break into groups and do a problem solver directly or indirectly linked to the story.

Teachers can instruct students as follows. Step one and problem: You want to share your favorite music with friends. As a group, *suggest* 5-7 artists or bands in a list that your friends will like. Step 2: Individual members *choose* your favorite of the five and give a reason for your choice. Step 3: As a group, *rank* your suggestions where number one is the best. Step 4: Groups share their rankings with the class.

This is a sure-fire speaking activity linked to a reading. The three concrete outcomes ensure that it works, by providing a clear recipe for discussion. Presenters will explain other types of problem solvers and provide a basic downloadable template for teachers to create their own.

Nation, P. (2013). What Should Every EFL Teacher Know? Compass Publishing.

Power Point Problem Solver Template

MS Word Problem Solver Template

Doing Extensive Reading with SCRUM

scrumTo promote extensive reading, we show how teachers can use Scrum (Sutherland & Sutherland, 2014), an established method for efficiently managing projects. Our preliminary results show that Scrum may markedly help students increase the amount they read, possibly contributing to a 60% increase in reading word counts.

First, we outline a 10 step process for using Scrum to promote extensive reading. (1) Pick the General Scrum Reading Manager (the teacher). (2) Make teams of 3-4 members who will meet for a weekly Scrum. (3) Pick Reading Scrum Masters for each team. (4) Using post-its, each group makes a “Book Pile” of books that they want to read. (5) On their post-its, each member estimates how long a book will take to read. (6) Students set Reading Sprint Goals for the week. (7) Students make work visible, using the Scrum Board. (8) During Weekly Scrum, group members ask each other the three key Scrum reading questions. (9) Every 2 weeks, groups Report and Review their progress to the class. (10) At each Report and Review, groups reflect on how to improve.

During a period of four weeks, 27 students did a total of four reading Scrums. We then compared student reading word counts between the four week period before they did Scrum and the four week period while they did Scrum.

The results were encouraging. During the four week period before Scrum, each student read an average of 28,670 words. During Scrum, each student read an average of 46,919 words. This is nearly a 64% increase in reading amount.

At this point, we cannot claim that Scum will greatly increase student reading amounts. There are other variables that may have contributed to the increase for our students. However, this study does show the potential of Scrum for helping students read more, and we suggest that other teachers and researchers try Scrum in more rigorous experiments to see if it really works for promoting extensive reading.

This paper was presented at the 9th Annual Extensive Reading Seminar held at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan on October 1, 2016. The original title was “Applying Scrum Principles to ER Instruction,” by Joseph Poulshock and Douglas Forster. Click here for a PDF of the talk.

Sutherland, J., & Sutherland, J. J. (2014). Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. New York: Crown Business.