Friday, May 08, 2009

Conducting a Workshop on Using English Picture Books: Part 2 - How to read an English picture book

This workshop was held on April 23 and was the second and last workshop for School A teachers on how to use English picture books. In the first workshop, I gave the teachers a very robust handout on the structure of a lesson using English picture books as well as a list of possible activities (see the previous post) . During the last workshop, I realized that I had talked too much and this time I decided to talk as little as possible and let the participants do 90 percent of the work.

Details of the Second Workshop
In the workshop we did the following:
1. My colleague and I told teachers 4 key points to reading picture books. (10 minutes)
2. We did pronunciation practice for warm up (5 minutes)
3. Practice reading the books in groups. (40 minutes)
4. Each group read its story to everyone else. (25 minutes)
5. Final words

The 研究就任 (lead researchers) of School A facilitated the workshop by introducing and ending each activity as well as giving the teachers instructions. This was immensely helpful. Also, the lead researchers and I planned the workshop together. I will now briefly write what we did for each stage.

1) Four Key Points for Reading English Picture Books

There are of course many more than four key points but I wanted my talk to be as brief but also meaningful as possible so I tried to condense a lot of information into 4 key points. I talked about two key points and my colleague spoke about another two key points. The four key points we discussed are below.

1) You can do it! (If you practice)
2) Plan ahead what kind of questions you will ask and when
3) Abbreviate parts of the story if necessary
4) There are ways to help the children understand other than translation. Pre-storytelling activities, questioning techniques, the book’s pictures, the reader’s expression, intonation, and variation in rhythm will help children understand the story.

The points were elaborated upon and you can see the details in the handout I gave the teachers (in Japanese).

2. Pronunciation practice

My colleague prepared a print which featured sets of minimal pairs which were typically difficult for Japanese speakers to pronounce. I led the practice and I was surprised at how enthusiastically the teachers participated.

3) Practice reading the books in groups

The teachers were divided into four groups, each group had a different picture book:
Sixth Grade teachers (Yoko, for a description see CCUP)
Fifth Grade teachers (Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, for a description see CCUP)
3rd and 4th Grade Teachers (Tulip Sees America, for a description see CCUP)
1st and 2nd Grade Teachers (Suddenly)

The text for Yoko, Nana, and Tulip had been rewritten and simplified by me. Also the book's pages had been scanned and then printed onto A3 sized paper to make them easier to see. I also laminated these pages so they could be preserved. The simplified text was pasted onto the back of each page. Lastly, each group had a recording of me reading their book.

Again, each group was very enthusiastic about practicing. First, they listened to the CD. Many of them highlighted words which were emphasized or wrote accent marks over the parts of words that were stressed.

After listening the teachers practiced reading paying particular attention to how to pronounce the words as well as the proper intonation. During this time, my colleague, the lead researchers and I walked around and provided assistance when needed. I spent a lot of time with the group reading Nana because it was the most difficult book to read.

I would like to note that the teachers did not think of questions to get children involved in the storytelling because it was beyond the scope of the workshop.

4) Storytelling
In this stage each group read its book to the rest of the teachers. After each group read their book, the other teachers wrote them a feedback sheet on their reading. This sheet can be seen in the handout. The feedback sheet consisted of the following questions:
1) Did you understand the content of the story?
2) Which parts of the story were difficult to understand?
3) Did the way in which the story read make you want to listen more and make you anticipate how the story would develop? If so, which part was particularly effective in catching your interest?
4) Any other feedback?

At the ending of the workshop each group received its feedback sheets.

Some teachers read the story very well while others were a little difficult to understand. To my surprise, Nana was read particularly well. Tulip was the most difficult to understand. The reason for this was that to understand this book pre-storytelling activities are important but we did not do any pre-storytelling activities. The teachers were very enthusiastic about reading the books in front of their peers. It will be interesting to see how the books are received by the students. Lessons will begin in June.

5) Final Words
My colleague and I gave our final thoughts. I decided to use English this time because the teachers had been working so hard to speak English and the atmosphere had changed from a formal training session to a real English education workshop. I told the teachers that reading the book was just part of the storytelling lesson and that pre-storytelling activities, post-storytelling activities, and conceiving of ways to get children to participate were essential to conducting a successful lesson. I then pointed out some words that each group had difficulty pronouncing. Lastly, I congratulated the teachers on their effort and encouraged them to keep on practicing. At the ending of the workshop, the teachers also wrote a workshop evaluation sheet that is also on the handout. The questions the teachers answered were:
1) What did you learn in the workshop?
2) What content would you like to learn more about next time?
We have yet to analyze the teachers' responses.


Mehdi Firouzi said...

Hi again,
I wanted to know if you teach Interchange Third Edition by Jack C.Richards in English classes of Japan or no?

JH said...

I do not use it personally but I think it is used.