Friday, 30 June 2017

An invigilator share: Keys to writing examination failure

If you are taking an examination that requires you to write an extended piece of writing, then there are a few things you really shouldn't do. If you want to know what you should do to give yourself a fighting chance of success, then any good exam preparation textbook will give you a list of tips. My recommendation for success in FCE (Cambridge: First) would be a copy of First Result from OUP.

In no particular order, are ways to make sure you will not pass:

  • Bolt into the writing as soon as you are told to open the question paper & write furiously....good chance you did not read the question properly, certainly no planning or clear construction of an argument.
  • Rewrite everything - do it in pencil first then write over the top in pen....I have seen this done so often while invigilating I want to shout at the candidates! If you've got that much time, make a better plan.
  • Rubbing out your plan/notes....what's the big secret?! All question papers & rough work go in the shredder immediately after the test. And the table knocking on the wall while you do it?
  • Looking for extra questions....if you haven't prepared for the test then there's a good chance you've already wasted the entry fee. 
  • Reading & underlining the above - you must know what you have to do, and have a solid battle plan before the day of the test
  • Writing two answers simultaneously....if you can do this then you should be in the circus. Concentrate on one task at a time. Recently saw a candidate write a whole paragraph in the middle of the wrong answer, realise the mistake, panic, copy it out word for word in the right answer (but wrong place) 
  • Go to sleep after blitzing the paper...are you really that good - there are no improvements you could make? Remove repetition maybe, improve vocabulary, elaborate or embellish maybe? At the very least, re-read critically. Inevitably, this is the candidate that did not make a plan.
  • Demonstrative body language while 'brainstorming' or thinking of a word...I'm not impressed, candidate - I don't do the marking!
  • Crossing out a full answer and doing another question....good luck with that against the clock.
  • Doing a Dostoevsky...the first question answered was such a masterpiece, the second one was no more than a post-script. Did you notice both questions were equally weighted? The marginal returns to scale are very limited if you go over
    your time allowance (ie 50%) and certainly counterproductive if you go over the word limit.
  • Counting...1,2,3...167... You should know how many words you can write on a line of A4 already! How many lines will you need to write to be within the target range? How fast can you write? Fine tune at the end when you've finished smoothly producing your work.
  • Leg-shaking...stop it. It annoys everybody.
  • Pencil-twirling...does that help you concentrate? Really?
  • Looking around a lot...relax, there's nobody sneaking up on you. Unless you are cheating, in which case I already caught you.
  • Checking your watch...we are on my time, the clock at the front of the room. It might not be 'right' but it is the one we are all using today.
  • Blanket on your you want to be disqualified? It's June and it's hot. The a/c will keep you awake at 24 degrees - you won't get frost-bite.
  • Using your favourite erasable pen...did you not read the instructions we sent you/that are posted on the door?
  • Shoehorning in all the must use phrases you could remember...appropriate? Relevant? 
  • I don't do paragraphs...which is a shame, because you just missed out on a load of marks
  • I usually write in the present tense...which makes telling a story kind of hard, and will likely put the reader to sleep. Pity, because the only person reading your work needs to be impressed with a variety & range of grammar & can only drink so much coffee while marking.
  • I just answered the you didn't do all the other parts, like write a greeting, reason for writing, closing, ending? 
  • Plea for help...the marker really won't be swayed by begging. Nor will apologies get you anywhere.
  • Artist impression...this will work in Young Learners, perhaps, but very unlikely to be getting you any extra marks at this level. Pictures, emojis, lines joining ideas together, different colour pens? Not going to work.
Wow. That's a long list already! Obviously, Cambridge English does not mark candidates down, but rather employs a Can Do approach. However, if you set out to pass a writing paper and do any of the above, I guarantee you will not be scoring as highly as you could. 

So, exam candidates, please have another look at your teacher's or textbook's top tips, and use them. Plan. Prepare. Pineapple. Pen.

An IELTS (writing) examiner adds: " I don't invigilate exams but I sure do mark a lot of scriptsHey Candidate ! Know the exam you are going to take ! Not the name of the test but what is required to pass . I see a huge difference between candidates who have studied for their choice of test and those who wing it , as their university teachers cannot be arsed properly correcting their content , style or approach."

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

What I did yesterday

I got up at 5 o'clock and cooked my children's breakfast. Then I woke my children up and served their breakfast. After that, I took my children to school at 7:00 on foot.

I went back home at 7:45 and did up my youngest daughter;s hair. I took her to kindergarten at 8:45 by car. Then I went shopping and did housework.

I had lunch at 11:00, because I didn't have breakfast this morning so I was very hungry.

At 2:45, I picked up my youngest daughter from kindergarten and picked up my eldest daughter from school. Then I listened to her did practice in piano and read aloud the Japanese textbook. After that I took her to swimming class at 4:00.

I made dinner and listened to my son did practice in piano and read aloud the Japanese textbook. At 5:30, I took my son to Luna and Picked up my eldest daughter from swimming class.

After that I went back to Luna. While I waited son's class to finish, I watched the film 'Life in a Day' on YouTube. It was my homework bu it was a very boring film.

At 7:30, I had dinner with my children. At 8:30, I took my youngest daughter a bath and slept. I got up at 11:30 and washed the dishes. After that I had a bath and I went to bed again at 2:00.

Posted for a Luna student.

Amelia Earhart - Inspiring woman

After I read the story of Amelia, I thought how she was treated in the society. It is no doubt that the accomplishment she made was surely great. Was she outstanding female icon or a woman who was out of ordinary?

Here I’d like to introduce Paula Gunn Allen, the Native American feminist/activist. While I read Amelia I thought she was like “Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.” She didn’t act like women from a very old-fashioned point of view with bias. She was independent, natural, active, and sometimes reckless. I like the way she lived but I assume some people might not like it at that time. She risked her life with excitement while others became caregivers.

Paula gives us interesting ways of seeing "self." In her novels, she states that the idealization of a group is a consequence of separation from “the group.” Although Amelia became famous because of her courageous successes, she might be treated as the one out of “ordinary” since many women could not even try. Paula also mentions that in finding self, it is essential for humans to belong to a tradition and to understand the world. Did Amelia grew up in the traditional family and did she know how ordinary people live? I think she did.

Paula affected women’s perspective of how the self can be. Women in the past and present fight against the cultural role models, bias, and stereotypes. I believe that Amelia and Paula taught us how you act is what you are, and that is who you choose to be in the society. Would you like to live like Amelia or stick to the typical and ordinary life of business person? Both are normal, good and right.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

What I did yesterday

I got up at 6:30. I cooked breakfast and had breakfast after I finished housework quickly.

Then I went shopping in Inoue Department store with my daughter. I enjoyed shopping household goods and bedding supplies.

After that, I went back home at 12:00 and I had lunch. It was a ramen my husband made.

I went out to a cafe in the afternoon and met and talked with my friend for the first time in a while.

After that, I had potato and chicken salad for dinner with my family. After dinner did the housework. I had a bath after I watched TV.

I went to bed at 10:00. It was a busy day of coming and going so I got tires and took it early.

Posted for Mie

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Why Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya High School recognises Cambridge English Exams

Press release on Cambridge English website, June 14th 2017

"Cambridge English Exams have been recognised by Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya High School, the top feeder community school in Japan to the University of Tokyo.

Mr Takamichi Nakamura, Head of the English Department, explained why they have decided to adopt the Cambridge English qualifications Cambridge English: Preliminary and Cambridge English: First.

‘There were a number of reasons for the school’s decision to begin testing students using Cambridge English. Firstly, as part of Tokyo Government’s recent new initiative, Hibiya High School is a “Tokyo Global 10” school, a designation which carries with it a responsibility to focus more on global issues and considerations. A natural extension of this is an increased focus on foreign languages and English in particular, as the tool with which Hibiya students could communicate their ideas on global topics.

With this mind, Hibiya High School was looking for a testing system that utilised a broad framework, allowing students both to easily compare their language skills with other schools and countries, and to supplement their studying with other textbooks at the appropriate level. As Cambridge English uses the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR), it makes it simple for students to achieve this.

Furthermore, Cambridge English certificates have a real world value; they can be used for admission to a huge number of academic and business institutions, which encourages students to engage more actively in their English classes, and rewards their efforts with certification. The use of a variety of accents in the listening section of the test was also helpful, as many textbooks focus only one particular variant of English, often leaving students surprised by the wide variety of English they might encounter in the wider world.

Finally, Cambridge English lends itself more to whole-class teaching than some other testing systems might. The skills tested by a Cambridge English exam are those that our students are mostly likely to need in situations they are most likely to encounter; speaking skills directed at communicating with strangers and gathering information, listening skills aimed at catching details in announcements at stations, or reading both for general themes and specific facts.

With all these points taken into consideration, Cambridge English seemed the most appropriate test to adopt.’

Year 1 students at Hibiya High School took Cambridge English: Preliminary in March 2017 and Year 2 sat Cambridge English: First in December 2016. Over 600 students took Cambridge English exams in the first year of the school recognising the exams."









英語版(原文) "Why Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya High School recognises Cambridge English Exams" は

Friday, 23 June 2017

Black Hawk Down - film review

Black Hawk Down was directed by Ridley Scott. It stars Josh Hartnell and Ewan McGregor, who plays parts of the soldiers.

The film is set in Somalia in the 1990s. Mogadishu was a war zone and the political situation was unstable. So it was shot in Morocco.

The film is about the war in Somalia. America dispatched its special forces to stop the civil war there. In the beginning, the operation was expected to finish in one hour, but just after it started, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by rocket-propelled grenades (RPG-7). Other soldiers head into the enemy territory to help their friends, and plunged into violent & dangerous street fighting.

I strongly recommend Black Hawk Down. Each scene is very realistic. The soundtrack is memorable. The acting makes a deep impression on the audience. I think this film should be seen by everyone, as we have to know the facts that are happening in this world, such as war. If you like war films, you'll love this one.

Posted for Tomoro

Monday, 19 June 2017

Plan to build my house - after reading Don't Tell Me What To Do

I have never bought or built any own house, but I would like to describe my process plan how to buy an own house. If I have a child, I will buy the own house when the child enroll at an elementary school to avoid him/her from transferring the school. In order to decide a layout of house, I would like to visit many houses what types of layout there are and what layout/function is convenience for my life style. Also, we should confirm what construction/material have the quality to last long and how maintenance is needed. From seeing many houses, I will get many useful ideas.

I think it is very important to imagine not only current but also future life style and to find a best solution with satisfaction at that timing. My thought mentioned above is caused by my experience. When I bought my current car, I checked many many cars at car park etc to know what internal/external design I really like because I thought it was very important to like the look of the car to ride for many years. Now, over 10 years passed after I bought my current car and I still like it.

When a rough idea of layout/function is made, I will ask some home builders for quotation. Maybe the quotations will exceed our budget, so I will review again what part we can handmade or eliminate and negotiate the home builder to do markdowns.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

So what does Jim do at the weekends when he isn't teaching?

BYOD solution to get SEs talking!
Last weekend I was looking after the Certification of speaking examiners for one of our fellow Cambridge Centres in Tokyo. This is a part of my job I really enjoy a lot, as I am working with professional teachers who are dedicated to the role they have chosen to pursue in their spare time - doing more teachery stuff! Speaking Examiners do not grow on trees; they need looking after, nurturing, and occasionally patting on the back! They need to know when they are doing a good job, and every year they need to freshen up their skills in delivering the speaking tests and to show that their assessment is in tune...matching Cambridge's worldwide benchmark.

We were fortunate last weekend to have half a dozen young CEFR B2 (FCE) level kids studying in the school, who were keen to have a couple of free practice 'goes'. One of the teachers was surprised one of the boys didn't start crying - so well done my team for not being scary & insensitive! Yes, it's a test, but you can still smile and be 'normal'. One thing I really do not want 'my' cadre to do is get all serious and high & mighty. Our job is to provide the candidates with the opportunity to display all that they can do....

This year I have been throwing my examiners into Quizlet Live games, competing with & against each other to tackle tricky topics like feedback commentaries. Rather than me stand there & bemoan this or that, the examiners themselves have to come to some sort of agreement as to how certain behaviour or outcomes should be considered. That in itself generates a lot of discussion - and consensus - and reinforces the message that regardless of location or circumstances, each & every candidate must have the same opportunity to be successful.

Ayako, Jim & Hiroshi - champions!
So I was delighted to be able to introduce the team later to Ayako & Hiroshi Nishizawa, both former Luna students now running a fabulous restaurant in Naka-Meguro ("Yakitori Champion"). Ayako took YLE while at Luna & has since home-stayed & studied in Warwick; Hiroshi was cool throughout our first 10-day farm-stay to Whangarei in New Zealand, 15 years ago. The food? Fabulous lamb, lots of lamb, and then more lamb. Excellent value, if a bit smoky!

For me, this was a 10 out of ten weekend. What do you think?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Smart phones - in my opinion

Almost everybody has a smart phone, but is it a good invention? I think there are both advantages and disadvantages to them.

The first advantage is that we can keep in touch with our friends, for example using SNS, sending text messages or sharing pictures. There are plenty of ways to communicate, and what’s more, we can do it easily with our fingers at any time. Secondly, we can listen to music anywhere. As the mobile phones are very light these days, it is useful to carry them around, so we can enjoy our favourite music on the go and without disturbing others. Thirdly, they sometimes can be our lifeline because we can get an alarm before an earthquake happens. It is well known because of this alarm, many peoples’ lives will be saved by escaping safely, without getting in a panic. Also, in my country Japan, there are many earthquakes every year so this alarm is really helpful.

As for disadvantages, I will give you three. Firstly, we modern people waste our time using them, for instance playing games, watching videos or searching gossip. Of course, it is nice to use them in our pastimes, but I think many people are using them even when they haven’t finished tasks like homework. Secondly, it is bad for our health. Using them causes stiff shoulders and also our eyes get damaged especially in dark situations. It is said that the blue light from mobile phone screens cause injuries to our eyes. Thirdly, sometimes people get bullied by SNS. Being talked about , having a photo shared online which we didn’t wanted to, body-shaming. Nowadays it is getting a serious problem.

In  conclusion, although it is dangerous if we use smart phones too much, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, especially if we add improved media literacy and free access to information. The smart phone is a wonderful invention.

Posted for Yuya

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

PanSIG 2017 AIU

Ready to rock&roll
May 19-21 saw JALT PanSIG visit Akita International University, with members and non-members coming together from all over the country, and even a few from further abroad, to present, exchange and share ideas. It was my first time attending a PanSIG conference, and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to present; a poster presentation on using the mobile app Aurasma.

The entire process was very new to me, writing a proposal for my presentation, getting it approved, preparing all of my materials (with multiple backup copies!), ironing out any technical difficulties with Aurasma and finally standing in front of a crowd of people showing the ins and outs of my poster display.

Augmented reality guru Parisa Mehran checking out my work!
The preparation stage was a good opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate what exactly were my aims with using Aurasma, had I succeeded in attaining those goals and to reflect on ways to improve or do differently. It allowed me to view my project another perspective, the perspective of the audience. What questions would they have, what questions would I be asking if I were seeing some new tech for the first time and how I could translate it into my own teaching.

Leading up to the conference it was a mixture of first-time nerves and anticipating some sort of technical failure, but composed and collected knowing that I had put in the time and effort to create a poster display I was confident in showing to a group of language instructors. It was left in my hands to make the presentation a success.

An interactive poster with an interactive audience
One niggle that I did run into was that I had prepared my posters to be held up by magnets, being a modular poster with various segments it allowed me to have a more dynamic and interchangeable display, under the presumption from reading the PanSIG poster session web page that magnetic display boards would be available. You could imagine my disappointment when I reached the venue realised I had to pin all of my posters! I think it would be a benefit to future presenters if the advice on the official web page matched what was available on site on the day.

Contributions from attendees on the day
The day of the presentation was brilliant. There was a lot of interest and it was overwhelming at times with the number of people crowding around my display. I did come away thinking that I would have preferred the Saturday slot as there would have been even more people to get feedback from. Many conference attendees had to catch flights/trains to get back to their respective workplaces (Akita is not an easy place to get to and from!) for Monday morning, which meant that there was a significance turnout between the Saturday and Sunday poster sessions. Nevertheless, it was an amazing opportunity and my first experience presenting outside of local events.

Thank you to all those involved, especially the organisers for putting together a wonderful conference, Akita International University for a gorgeous venue and for the splendid hospitality, and all the presenters for an eye-opening weekend of professional development. A special mention to Jim for driving all the way there and back while I kipped in the front!