I am back to blogging (maybe).
Last August I started a pilot project called Working with Picture Books. In this project we used picture books from CCUP in elementary schools to teach about the English language and culture. Three teachers from two primary schools in my prefecture were kind enough to participate. The challenges that using English picture books impose on teachers is a little more formidable than I thought it would be. Not only must teachers must try new teaching materials and activities that they have never done before, but they must also read the book in English. Before the project began, we discussed with the teachers about the structure of English activities using picture books: pre-storytelling, storytelling and post storytelling. We gave the teachers 15 picture books as well as guides for using the picture books to teach about culture. The teachers were able to use the picture books to teach about culture but, perhaps, struggled to use the picture books to teach about English. The primary reason for this was that I did not give them as much support as I should have.
As teachers and university staff are busy, we only met once for an hour and a half before the project began. I explained to the teachers the structure of English activities using storybooks: They have a pre-storytelling phase, a storytelling phase and a post storytelling phase. I then demonstrated how a typical lesson might look like using the book Too Many Tamales(or see CCUP ). After that the teachers were on their own. In retrospect, If I had given the teachers a list of potential pre-storytelling activities, post storytelling activities as well as a taxonomy of techniques that they can use for storytelling it would have made it much easier for them to do the pilot lessons. Nevertheless, we have learned a lot from the teacher's pilot lessons and these pilot lessons have contributed to the New Working with Picture Books Project which has just started.
From these pilot lessons and my discussions with the teachers, I think that there are 3 keys to using English picture books successfully.
First, the teacher should conceive of pre-storytelling activities and storytelling techniques that will spark children's interest in listening to the story.
Second, the teacher should conceive of pre-storytelling activities and reading techniques (using pictures, the mother tongue, facial expressions, changing intonation, asking questions etc.) that will make the story understandable for the children. In many cases the teacher will have to simplify or abbreviate the story because more than 10 minutes of reading (in most cases) seems to be too long for primary school children.
Third, the teacher should conceive of activities that will get children actively involved in the class.
Thanks to this Pilot Project I am now ready for the new project where we will be working with the Primary School that is affiliated with my university to introduce English Picture books into their English Activity curriculum. I will write about this new project in my next post.
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