On Thursday, the 5th of January, 2017, we (Silja and Sara) met with the four primary school English teachers to do a workshop on picture books. We had decided to do this workshop because picture books are a great resource for language learning and teaching. Among other things they are motivating, challenging, and fun, and they can help to develop a positive attitude towards the target language. Every class consists of students with different learning styles: Haptic, visual, and aural. Reading a picture book is a holistic experience which includes many senses and therefore caters for these different learning styles.
Furthermore, picture books present cultural information, or, as Ellis & Brewster say, “picture books are a window on culture” (Ellis, Gail & Jean Brewster, 2002) due to their authenticity, being written for children from the target language and presenting cultural customs and ways of perceiving the world. So, even though – or because – the teachers and pupils here in Laos do not get to travel and experience different cultures first-hand, these books are a great means to show them a little bit of the world outside of Laos.
We started our workshop with the question: “What is a picture book?” To help our tandem-teachers find a definition we showed them a picture book and a text book to enable them to work out the differences between these two book types. To start with, they mentioned that there are pictures and just a little bit of text in a picture book.
Next, we performed a short sample lesson on how to – and how not to – work with a picture book, which you can see in the following video:
After that we spoke about our presentation and we asked them to point out what is important when working with a picture book. As you have (hopefully) noticed, Silja gave a bad performance on purpose, which helped our audience to see what is necessary for the pupils to understand the book. What they found out is depicted in this picture:
For the second part of our workshop, the four teachers were asked to practise and then read a picture book out aloud to us. The challenge was to use as many of the techniques collected beforehand that make reading a picture book an intelligible and pleasurable experience for the listeners. Here are some impressions:
In the first video you will see Mittaphone “Mit” Sichampa, who did an excellent job at including her “pupils”:
In the second video you can see Lathsamy Chanthavongsa reading the big book “Monkey Puzzle” by Julia Donaldson:
In the third video you will see Phovang “Noy” Inthavong, who gave a nice introduction to the book “Princess Smartypants” by Babette Cole by talking about the cover, which should be the first step in reading a picture book. Moreover, she did not read the book but told the story in her own words, for which she also adapted the level of the text to the language level of her “pupils”.
The last video shows Bounpheng Singhalath reading “Snore!” by Michael Rosen. She used some great sound effects to make the story more interesting and to make it come alive.
All in all, we enjoyed a fabulous workshop together with lots of laughter, great picture books, and a growing interest in reading.
Text by S. Schaefer, S. Stoehrer
Photos and videos by I. Martin, S. Schaefer, S. Stoehrer
Ellis, Gail & Jean Brewster (2002). Tell it again: The New Storytelling Handbook for Primary Teachers. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.