“Robin Hood anyone?” “Yes, me please!”
As our primary school tandem-teachers already participated in a workshop by Team III on the general use of picture books in the English classroom, we wanted to show them exemplary ways to use them in class this time, so we concentrated on the so-called “pre-, while- and post-activities” that we can conduct in class. The goal of these activities is not only to get the students to understand the story or plot but also to enlarge their English language skills, of course.
Our workshop seemed to start Lao-style: Due to some official appointments our tandem teachers had to attend and that were announced at very short notice, we had to postpone it twice. Finally, we were able to begin the workshop – half an hour later than planned, this time owing to heavy rain.
Thanks to the visit of Ms Angela Bauer-Seekings, we got the opportunity to try out and use the recently inventoried books which were sponsored by Pearson Publishing. Angela Bauer-Seekings is the head of sales and marketing at Pearson Publishing, one of the largest English Language Learning publishers worldwide, and she had come to Laos partly for business reasons, to get to know our project. The Pearson story books provide different levels of difficulty, based on the length of the text and the complexity of the vocabulary. Having chosen one of the more difficult ones, Robin Hood, we prepared some model material (described below) beforehand so that the teachers would get a concrete impression on how to implement this picture book in the classroom.
As an example of a “pre-activity”, we handed out a picture of the story which showed the story’s main characters Robin Hood, Maid Marian, King John, Little John, Hiss, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. This warm-up activity invited the teachers to describe what they saw and aroused their curiosity concerning the content of the story.
Before reading out the story, we clarified some difficult words, such as tournament, disguise, and taxes, which were needed to be able to follow the story, by activating the teachers’ pre-knowledge and providing further explanations. In addition, we then prepared our “while-activity” by letting the teachers choose one of the character cards we had created in advance. The point of this activity was to stand up whenever the chosen character was mentioned in the story. This way, the listeners would stay focused by getting into action.
Precise questions in the middle of the book helped to summarize what had happened in the story so far and offered another opportunity to involve speaking. For example we asked our audience how they thought the story would go on, or questions about the content, e.g what Robin gave the young boy for his birthday or why Robin robbed rich people. We were surprised how many thoughts and ideas the teachers had developed about the story and the pictures and how well they had been able to follow the story.
In our activating “post-activity”, we focused on comprehension. By asking different questions which came with three possible answers, the participants had to line up in front of the blackboard, which we divided up into three parts. Now it was the teachers’ turn to react and think quickly of the correct answer. Not only for them, but also for us it was a lot of fun to see how involved they were in the game and how enthusiastically they moved around.
As a conclusion, we used our handout to introduce more variations of pre-, while- and post-activities. Afterwards, it was the teachers’ turn to pick one of the provided Pearson books and come up with possible classroom activities. It was interesting for us that they chose higher leveled books: The Beauty and the Beast, Thumbelina, and Peter Pan. With the help of our handout, they came up with possible questions for their students.
The workshop did not only show new activities in connection with integrating picture books into the classroom but also motivated our tandem-teachers to use the Lending Library (a corner in the Ban Sikeud teachers’ room where the teachers can borrow English books and other didactic materials) more often in the future.
Now we hope the teachers are able to put their new knowledge into practice and that they will create a more activating classroom atmosphere for their pupils. Furthermore, we wanted to show the teachers that picture books can be a very motivating teaching technique, not only for them, but especially for their pupils, as they gradually come to realize that they are able to understand a whole new story in a foreign language!
Text by A. Weber & J. Deißler
Photos by R. Dengler