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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:

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