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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Story Project with Six-year-olds

I am a big fan of trying out tasks traditionally left to older students with my youngest learners. Writing stories is one of these activities. I suppose "writing" isn't the right word here as these children are just learning to read and write in Spanish, and have only been learning English for two months with very little exposure to the written word. Perhaps "creating" stories would be a better way of putting it. In any case, my class of six-year-olds have worked together to create a story from scratch, make the pages and then tell the story using Voicethread for the world to see. This is how we did it:

Day One

1) First I told the children that we were going to create our own story as a class. "¿¿En inglés??" (In English???) they all cried! Yes, in English. The first thing was to choose a character as the protagonist. I introduced the concept of voting and we ended up with the spider as our main character.

2) Having ascertained that a story usually contains a problem that must be solved we then started to think of problems the spider might have. The winner (actually my suggestion, but it could have been a student's) was that the spider was sad because her friends were playing without her.

3) I then stuck a series of pieces of A4 paper on the board to create a storyboard. I did this so that afterwards each learner would get a page from which to base their picture. We decided on the events and their order and I drew a quick sketch to remind us of what happened in each scene.

4) I then showed the children the materials we were going to be using - tissue paper, glue and felt-tip pens. I showed them that by layering different coloured pieces of tissue paper, we got different colours and textures. The glue would have a similar effect and the felt-tip pens had a roller stamp which would give us more visible texture. The idea was to create a story similar to Eric Carle's illustrations, as we had looked at The Very Hungry Caterpillar in previous lessons.

Days Two and Three

1) I put the storyboard back on display and I told the story again, pointing to each page. Some new vocabulary came up in the story such as park, play tag, friends, lonely as well as negative sentences (didn't, isn't). If that isn't emergent language, I don't know what is! When all the children were clear about the events of the story and could provide most of the important words, I asked each child to choose a scene. They would be responsible for creating that page of the book.

2) I asked the children what colours they would like to use for the spider. They decided that blue and yellow would be nice with green for the legs. We did the same for the other characters. I cut out some basic shapes from the tissue paper and the children started to stick them onto their pages. The sticking took a while as I had to go round helping them squeeze the glue as you needed very strong fingers! As I went round, I would ask the children what insect the were making. Some children had more sticking to do, others had a spider's web to draw. In the end, we drew the faces and used the pens to draw legs, antennae and patterns.

3) It was then time to find out if the children remembered the story. I ask them to stand in a line with their pages in order. There were no problems here so we then added page numbers. I told the story again, with their help, using their pictures.

4)I took photos of the pictures and later uploaded them to Voicethread.

Day Four

1) I showed the children the basic Voicethread (just picures, no comments) on the computer. They were all thrilled to see their pictures on the internet! I asked them what was missing. I asked them if somebody saw our story, would they know what happened? They decided that it would be difficult to know what happened because there were no words. So I told them that they were going to add the words, but not written words. They were going to tell the story with their voices. "¿¿¿En inglés???" they all cried!

2) I went through the story, page by page, asking the children what happened. I elicited the important words in English and the provided the full sentence. Each child would repeat their sentence several times. We did quite a bit of rehearsing, including using "big voices" that the microphone would pick up.

3) By this stage, the children could say their sentences and they knew what they were saying, so it was time to record. Each child came up to the computer and said their sentence. Some needed a few tries to get it right (including the volume). We listened to each child and then we listened to the whole story. I had to fill in for a couple of absent learners. Our story was now complete!

4) The final task was to collate the pages and create the actual storybook which I would hang in the classroom for everone to look at.

Here is the final product:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Storybooks from the 70s and 80s

Yesterday, browsing on Amazon, I came across the exact same edition of a book I had in around 1980. The book in question was There was an old lady who swallowed a fly by Pam Adams, first published in 1973. Of course, I promptly bought it for the modest price of 3.78 euros! But childhood nostalgia apart, I bought the book to use in the classroom. I loved the story as a young child, partly because the fact that an old lady swallows a horse is hilarious to a four-year-old, but also because the story has fantastic rhythm and rhyme.

There was an old lady who swallowed a bird. How absurd she swallowed a bird! She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wriggled a wriggled and tickled inside her.
The story also contains a lot of repetition, (think along the lines of The Twelve Days of Christmas) always ending each verse with "perhaps she'll die". My mother, who used to read me the story, is tone deaf, but even she got the rhythm right!

Finding this book, however, got me thinking about other storybooks I loved as a child and whether they are still in print. Here is a list of books I read frequently in the early to mid 80s:

1. Paddington at the Seaside by Michael Bond
2. The Topsy and Tim series by Jean Adamson and Belinda Worsley (an eighties Charlie and Lola?)
3. My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (I had one!)
4. Mog's Christmas by Judith Kerr
5. The Secret Seven by Enid Blighton
6. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
7. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
8. The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
9. The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

These are the ones I can remember, but I'm sure there were many more. I loved anything by Enid Blyton including the Mallory Towers series (boarding schools sounded so exciting!). Most of these books were first published in the 60s and 70s ( the Blighton books in the 40s!) but most are still available in new prints or second-hand on Amazon. It just goes to show that a good book will never disappear.

The next few posts will be dedicated to children's storybooks, old and new, and how we can use them in the classroom.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

ACEIA: CHALLENGING CHILDREN - Content in the Primary EFL Classroom

I would like to thank all those that came to my session yesterday and I hope that you took something useful away with you ready to use in your classrooms. I apologise for rushing through some of the practical activities at the end - I would have sincerely preferred to spend more time discussing stories, crafts and games, but as often happens, time got the better of me! If you do have any questions or if there is anything you would like to discuss, you can do so here in the comments section.

In any case, here is the slideshow if you would like to take another look:

ACEIA Challenging Children: Content in the Primary EFL Classroom

If you would like to know the titles of the books I showed you, let me know and I will post them here.

I hope everyone enjoyed the day, I know I did!
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