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The Summer Intensive Program in Boston

Associate professor Mathew White reports the summer intensive program in Boston.


   I did not arrive in Boston with Professor Kikuchi and the rest of the students, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to walk from my accommodations to the students' classrooms with a map of downtown Boston and the directions provided to me by Professor Kikuchi.


   The teachers and administrators of the program were very enthusiastic and accommodating. All of my requests to observe classes were warmly accepted, and teachers were interested in getting feedback about the classes in terms of content, activities, and classroom management. I think the willingness and eagerness of the teachers to discuss and exchange ideas and beliefs about teaching demonstrates the quality of teachers in the program. I was able to gain a lot of insights from observing the classes and also learn a little about differences in teaching styles among the English classes. One major difference between the classes I've experienced in Japan and the classes I've observed in the United States was the way that teachers elicit answers from students. In Japan, teachers often call on individual students to answer questions. However, from the classes I observed in the United States, I noticed that teachers often ask a question to the class as a whole and expect students to volunteer to answer it or simply say the answer aloud. I think this style of teaching was new to some of our students, and it took time for many students to become accustomed to this manner of answering questions. However, I think this style also places more responsibility on the learners. It becomes the responsibility of every learner to pay attention and actively participate in order for the class to continue fluidly. I also noticed that directions to students were often more ambiguous than they have been in classes in Japan. This also meant that students had to ask clarification questions when they were not sure about how to proceed. Once again, this creates a need for active learning on behalf of the students.


   My observation and participation in the ASL classes was an absolute first for me. I have never studied American Sign Language, but now that I have participated in some of the ASL classes, I am eager to learn it. I'm also sure that the study of ASL enhances students' overall ability to communicate. Professor Bucci never uttered a word in his classes, but he was able to convey not only short messages, but also share entire stories. He was able to convey these stories to me without my even thoroughly knowing the alphabet. I believe that the purpose of learning any language is largely to share stories, so the fact that ASL could be used accurately and effectively to convey stories demonstrated to me the value of the ASL component of our program. Students were also able to communicate their stories to me through ASL. On many occasions, the students became my teachers, and assisted me in completing the class activities.


   This was my first time to Boston, and I can honestly say that I think it's an ideal location for students to study. Boston is known as a walking city, with lots of great architecture, museums, parks, and other forms of entertainment. Some attempts were made to incorporate the local attractions of Boston into the curriculum, such as the visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, in which students had to research the paintings on exhibit, and then explain their favorite ones in both ASL and English. In the future, I hope that more of the local attractions in Boston can be incorporated into the program. Due to the limited time of the program, a pre-departure program may be required in order to provide students with some of the content and necessary vocabulary to truly appreciate and understand activities that could be included as part of the course.


   In this first year of the program, when students weren't in classes or completing homework, I'm sure they had plenty of opportunities to explore the city and write their own maps of things to do and see in Boston. I hope that they'll share their experiences and discoveries with others, and help us to continually improve the program.


Mathew White

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