Three Countries in One Day: Retelling the News

| February 5, 2007
Three Countries in One Day: Retelling the News

Keywords: dialogic learning, content-based instruction, EFL materials development in the Asian context, approaches to teaching culture, self-directed learners, globalization, Japanese EFL classroom

Scott Menking

Bio Data
Scott Menking is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law and Literature, Department of English at Shimane University in Matsue, Japan. He has been teaching in Japan since 1993. In addition to teaching at the university, he has taught at a junior college, a community college, and in the community setting with students of all ages. He earned a Master of Applied Linguistics and then a Master of Education from the University of Southern Queensland. His research interests include Intensive English Programs, English as an International Language, and material development.

This article reports on the development of a new course for English language majors in a Japanese university. The course was designed to enable students to become self-directed learners and to develop communicative ability and sociolinguistic competence. The theoretical basis for selecting dialogic learning and Content-Based Instruction is reviewed. Questionnaire items, informal discussions with students, and instructor observations recorded in notes after each class were used to evaluate the course, and they are discussed in relation to students skill improvement in the areas of discourse competence and retelling a story in the second language (L2). Although Japanese students are rarely considered self-directed learners, the students in this course developed the ability to independently analyze news stories, organize their thoughts, and convey the essence of the news stories in their L2. Increases in the understanding of the three countries from which students had to retell news stories (Japan, Korea, and South Africa) as well as the students and instructor s overall impressions of the course are also presented. Over 90 percent of the students positively responded to a questionnaire item asking students whether they would recommend the course to other students. The students explanations about why they would suggest taking the course demonstrate the variety of learning that occurred. The paper summarizes various aspects of selecting appropriate stories and concludes with reflections for improving the course. The latter may be of interest for those considering the implementation of a similar course.

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