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2011 Back to School: Cameron Romney

What follows is a summary of the presentation given by Cameron Romney

Typographic best practices for classroom materials

By Cameron Romney

Many teachers make their own classroom materials and one of the basic tools of document creation, and one of the most misunderstood, is typeface (font) choice. In this presentation I talked about why choosing a font is important and offered teachers some “best practice” suggestions for choosing a typeface when creating materials.

I began by outlining a few typography basics, specifically different types of typefaces and the difference between legibility and readability. I then summarized some existing research that shows why choosing a typeface is not merely a case of aesthetics or preference, but affects the readers motivation, comprehension, recall and efficiency.

I then explained some problems that L2 learners have with different typefaces. I gave and example of an activity from my classroom that students had trouble completing because they could not tell the difference between the lowercase l and the uppercase I.

I then shared my five best practices for choosing a typeface for classroom materials. They are:

    1.     Use a font that the students are familiar with
    2.     Set the typeface at a larger size
    3.     Use a font with good legibility
    4.     Be aware how the printing and copying effects the typeface
    5.     Use fonts with purpose

I ended the presentation by sharing a few fonts that I felt addressed the issues that L2 learns have with typefaces and that followed my suggested best practices.


2011 Back to School: John Campbell-Larsen

What follows is a summary of the presentation given by John Campbell-Larsen

Content rich speaking

By John Campbell-Larsen

In this presentation I was trying to focus people's attention on a common way of speaking that many Japanese students adopt, namely, the preference for very short answers to questions that are communicative in intent. Many classroom activities involve students in pairs asking each other questions. Very often, students engage in single word responses, or single sentences, and very rarely, if ever go on independently to develop more extensive answers.

I suggested that naturalistic English spoken interaction consists of the speakers giving more information than the minimum required by the question being asked, and that in addition to the factual content of a response, some kind of evaluative input is desirable.

I gave out handouts that could be used in lessons  and demonstrated ways in which teacher could model the desired discourse patterns to students.

I also brought up the topic of 'discourse markers' and tried to demonstrate that they are a key part of naturalistic spoken English. When listening to students speaking English I had noticed a complete absence of discourse markers such as 'well', 'you know' and 'I mean'. In fact, not only do students not use these words, they litter their English with Japanese discourse markers.

I suggested ways in which students could be encouraged to understand and use discourse markers in their English speaking.

I concluded by suggesting that responses with a good balance of factual and evaluational matter, appropriately discourse marked are a worthwhile goal in spoken English classes.


2011 Back to School: Mary Hillis

What follows is a summary of the presentation given by Mary Hillis.

Using 21st Century Tools to Teach Literature

Mary Hillis

During the presentation, I described a variety of ways to use technology to enhance literature lessons, and in this article, I would like to share three technological alternatives to summary writing.

After reading “The Cub Pilot’s Education,” an adaptation of “My Life Along the Mississippi” by Mark Twain, students used Twitter to write a series of tweets as if they were the main character in the story. In doing so, students needed to reread the story carefully to pick out the main points to include in their tweets. The 140 character limit in Twitter helps students to focus on writing clearly and succinctly. Also, the class used a unique hashtag, such as #cubpilot14, to aggregate posts for easier viewing.

Another option for summarizing the story is to have students write newspaper articles. For instance, after reading “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, students could write an obituary for Mrs. Mallard. Using Fodey, a free online newspaper image generation tool, users simply enter their ideas for a newspaper title, a date, a headline, and text for the article; the resulting image can be downloaded, displayed, and discussed.

In another assignment, students created character blogs after reading an adaptation of “The Blue Carbuncle” by Sherlock Holmes. Students blogged from the point of view of various characters, not only summarizing the story, but also providing insights into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. As an extension of this project, students could comment on each other’s blog posts in character.

In addition to  these activities, I also talked about using Google Images and Google Maps for pre-reading activities; using the discussion board in Blackboard; and finding useful literature-based teacher resources on YouTube and SlideShare. Please consult the presentation slides for further information.