Professional Development Reports

Peer reviewed by SOLIFIC joint research Teacher Engagement Project reviewers

This page was created to showcase professional development sessions concerning Academic English and CLIL courses in Japan and around the world.

Report on Inset Presentation January 2016 at Sophia University

Academic Communication 2 – Elementary Level Graded-Reader Reading Circles

Neale Cunningham 

Lecturer, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University

In this presentation, I talked about the use of reader reading circles employed in order to stimulate ‘cognitive engagement’ (Coyle et al., 2010, p. 29) to a group of Center for Language Education and Research (CLER) teachers as part of the INSET program (in-service training). The first step in the process is to choose the appropriate graded reader at the appropriate level. For the Elementary level class I chose the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Stage 3 – 1000 headwords) published in 2000. I chose this fictional work because in fact, it comprises five stories that are framed within one novel (from Captain Walton to Victor Frankenstein, to The Monster, back to Victor Frankenstein, and finally, the reprise with Captain Walton), thus lending the novel to potentially five sessions of group-reading reader circles.

The key point regarding the activity is to assign roles to the members of the reading circle. These four roles are Group Discussion Leader, Passage Person, Connector and Summarizer. The following table provides an overview of the roles (adapted from Furr, 2007).

 Group Discussion LeaderThe Discussion Leader’s job is to prepare several questions to start the discussion and keep the pace lively and to moderate the discussion and make sure each group member participates.
 Passage PersonThe Passage Person’s job is to find important, interesting or difficult parts of the story and bring them to the group’s attention. These passages should be important for the story’s plot or helpful in explaining the characters. These passages might also be parts with especially interesting or powerful language.
 ConnectorThe Connector’s job is to help group members make connections between the reading and the world outside. The Connector should think about how the story relates to his/her own experiences or to the experiences of friends or family members. Also, the Connector can talk about how this story is connected to other story readings or things that he or she has heard or read about. 
 SummarizerThe Summarizer’s job is to re-tell the story (or part of a story) in his or her own words in 1 or 2 minutes. He or she should cover the most important events in the reading: key points, main ideas, the action that takes place in the story. You may need to read the story (or section) more than one time to give a good summary. 

To answer the question whether the reading circles are congruent with the 4Cs of CLIL (Coyle et. al., 2010, p. 41), we can answer strongly in the affirmative for the following reasons. Content is provided in the form of written text and new expertise, communication in the form of language study skills, cognition in the form of engaged thinking skills and community or culture in the form of interaction skills between self and other (Coyle et al., 2010, p.41). In a post-course questionnaire, the students (n=24) gave positive feedback with all 24 either enjoying the activity a lot (13) or a little (11). As regards the favourite roles (n=23), a majority preferred the Connector role (13) above all (Leader 4, Passage 4, and Summarizer 2). This demonstrates the importance and popularity of connecting literature with our everyday real-world experiences, and demonstrates the sympathy and empathy literature is able to unlock in readers.

These are some of responses from students about the Connector role:

– It is interesting for me to think between the story and the reality.
– It is interesting that we consider about real problems.
– I can imagine both perspectives, real and fantasy.
– To think about the connection between the story and real life helped me to understand the
   message from Mary Shelley.
– It is fun to combine the story’s happening and my experience.
– Thanks to this role I can feel close to the story.

In summary, my experience tells us that employing reading circles, particularly in CLIL-based Academic Communication 2 classes, can engage students, stimulate deeper thinking, cover the 4Cs of CLIL, and mesh imagination and reality.


Coyle, D., Hood, P. & Marsh, D. (2010). Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge University Press.

Furr, M. (2007). Bookworms Club Bronze. Oxford University Press.

Shelley, M. (2000). Frankenstein. Oxford Bookworms Library. Oxford University Press.

Report on Invited Master Class Given at the Leeds University Language Centre 2016

Neale Cunningham

Lecturer, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University

Stimulating Higher Order Thinking Skills: The Dramatization of Graded Readers

On 9 March 2016, I was invited to give a master class on the topic of ‘stimulating higher order thinking skills through the dramatization of graded readers’ (Cunningham, 2015) at the English Language Unit of the Language Centre at Leeds University. For the British audience, the presentation first required the delivery of a significant amount of background context about Sophia University (foundation as a Jesuit university in 1913) and the role of the Center for Language Education and Research (CLER) in introducing the new non-English major English programme at Sophia University (Academic Communication 1 & 2), as well as the elective courses: academic English courses, professional English courses, and practical English courses.

The focus of my talk, however, was on the process of stimulating higher-order thinking skills through the dramatization of graded readers based on the application of Bloom’s taxonomy (cognitive domain), which ranks the cognitive thinking skills progressively from remembering to understanding, to applying and analysing through to evaluating and creating (Coyle et al., 2010, p. 31). The talk presented the teacher-developed handouts that the students use to unfold the group-work project (instructions regarding group formation, the choice of a graded reader, and the tasks to be achieved: a poster or PowerPoint presentation; a handout about the book and the performance; the scene to be acted out with dialogue; and the progress reports). Examples of these materials were shown and discussed, including the Group Self-Evaluation Sheet, which was designed to ensure accountability and support the assimilation of new learning experiences into pre-existing knowledge bases through a reflective process. The assessment of the project was discussed as follows:

Progress reports (15% – identification of potential problems & solutions)  Handout (15% – summarizing in written form)  Poster/PowerPoint slides (25% – summarizing in oral and written form, researching required information, agility in public  speaking)  Importance and contextualisation of scene (20% – oral summarization, justification and defence of choice of scene)  Performance (25% – clarity, fluency, body language, enthusiasm). 

The talk concluded that reading self-selected graded readers exposes students to a great deal of English content and motivates them to learn more. Further, it was pointed out that presentations are able to develop speaking fluency, heighten an awareness of the communicative importance of body language, tone of voice and eye contact, that they require the navigation of software tools and also promote the critical assessment of digital content for research purposes. Overall, drama has the ready potential to deepen students understanding of textual content, to aid in the development of language skills, and, lastly, to stimulate visualization and imagination as affective learning components, which makes the project ideal for the CLIL class at this level.


Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. (2010). Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge University Press

Cunningham, N. (2015). Stimulating Higher Order Thinking: The Dramatization of Graded Readers. 

Lingua: Special Issue on CLIL. Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University. 26, 11-19.

The Journey from Academic Study Skills in English to Academic Communication at Sophia University: A report on a professional development session given on 10 January 2014 

Neale Cunningham

Lecturer, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University

The Academic Communication (AC1 &2) program at the new Center for Language Education and Research (CLER) was launched university-wide in 2014. The program is based on EAP courses in the spring semester and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL ) courses in the autumn semester. However, little is known about the pilot program for the Academic Communication program, which was launched in 2010, and the principles of this program. On 10 January 2014, I was invited to present about my experiences on the pilot program to the teachers who were assigned to teach on the nascent AC program from April 2014. 

In 2010 the program was conceived as Academic English I (AE1) and Academic English II (AEII). English was employed as a medium of instruction in both courses. Overall, on the courses, the aim was to integrate language, content, and academic skills (Watanabe et al., 2010). However, while the emphasis in AE1 was on the development of English and academic skills (academic essay writing; formal presentations), in the autumn semester greater emphasis was placed on academic subject expertise (Watanabe et al., 2010). Nonetheless, both courses were offered on the principle of integrating language with specific contents to learn for non-English majors (Watanabe et al., 2010).

In my presentation, for teachers assigned to teach the actual lessons for CLER from April 2014, it was important to move from theory to practice. Thus, I offered my syllabus from AE1 as a handout (see below) for practical orientation purposes. The pilot program offered classes once-a-week, using primarily materials made by the teachers, whereas the new AC program offers twice-a-week classes, and in the spring semester uses academic textbooks, and primarily teacher-developed materials in the autumn CLIL courses. Often, in the spring semester, teachers focus on the four skills of reading & writing and listening & speaking. I was able to emphasise the importance of research skills, for example, in the form of finding a research topic, selecting appropriate materials and avoiding plagiarism. Overall, the aim of the presentation was to help to bridge the gap between theories of EAP and CLIL and the underestimated practical challenges that teachers face in moving from theory to practice.


Watanabe, Y. , Ikeda, M., Izumi, S., & Endo, T. (2010). Academic English Program at Sophia University. Sophia EAP-CLIL Committee. Sophia University.