Inquiries from the obverse side | A questioning activity

500-and-1000-rupees

Last night, the Indian Prime minister in a televised address to the nation, demonetised our highest denomination currency notes: ₹500 and  ₹1000, in a bid to curb corruption, terrorism, and money laundering. It was really quite shocking and unanticipated, particularly because it was effective midnight and would affect ₹14,000,000,000,0000 (US$21,038,416,000,00) worth of cash in circulation.

So it seems an appropriate time to revisit an old activity for practising question forms using currency notes. I’m not sure who originally came up with this activity – it’s been around for a while as an ELT game as well as a soft skills activity. Here’s my version.


Objectives 

  • Form Wh or open-ended questions accurately
  • Probe more deeply to uncover information
  • Reflect on how routine might spawn mindlessness.

Materials 

  • Each pair will need one currency note of any denomination between them which they’ll hopefully supply themselves. I like to get them to pull out a ₹10 note because it’s got really interesting design features on the reverse side such as some animals and the words ‘ten rupees’ in 15 of India’s 21 official languages. (BTW, did you know that the front of a note is called the obverse side?) 

ten rupees.jpg

Procedure 

  • Make two columns on the board and label them “Descriptive questions” and “Evaluative questions”.
  • Elicit question stems from students such as “How many … “, “What do you see …”, “Where exactly …” under descriptive; and “What do you think of… “, How do you find …”, “What’s your opinion on …” under evaluative.
  • Divide students into pairs.
  • Ask each pair to pull out a single note from their wallets and hold it between them. Students take turns to ask each other descriptive questions about what they see on their side such “How many animals are there?” “Which ones?” “Which way is the rhino facing?” etc.
  • Quickly get feedback on how familiar they were with the currency note. You’ll generally find people are quite ignorant about what’s on these notes despite handling them day in and day out.
  • Now ask pairs to flip the note over so each student is now looking at the side that they were questioned about previously. Have pairs ask each other evaluative questions such as “Which of the three animals do you like best? Why?”

Debrief & feedback 

  • Based on your rationale for using this activity, you might want to ask questions to elicit how we see things without really noticing them and how this observational blind spot might affect our work and relationships i.e., how routine might spawn mindlessness
  • You could focus on the students’ ability to probe and ask questions going from general to more specific, building on previous questions & responses.
  • Alternatively, you could simply highlight language issues with question formation or explore the ability to ask questions in a less interrogative, more conversational way.

I’m curious about which currency note or bill you’d choose to use if you were to conduct this activity with your students.

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Frugal edtech: Document camera

Frugal edtech.jpg

Do you know India is famous for frugal innovation? It’s a phenomenon born out of poverty, systemic issues,  environmental problems, and a really resourceful attitude coupled with homegrown ingenuity. There’s even a name for it in Hindi – Jugaad.  My teacher training projects take me deep into the hinterlands and I’ve been observing some examples of frugal education technology that I’d like to document.

This first one, though, is from my own repertoire.


When I first laid eyes on a document camera – I was instantly smitten. The participants in the workshop I was attending were producing written work which was then being projected for everyone to read. The whole group could follow along as the participant or the facilitator discussed this work. I could see lots of potential for applying it in my own classroom. At that point the cameras were really expensive. While they’re a lot more reasonably priced now (between ₹5490 and ₹18105 on Amazon), it’s an added expense that an educator can do without.

You can, however, replicate a document camera using a free Chrome app called the Overhead Projector. To use this app, you need to have a laptop with a webcam (I suppose it could work on a tablet as well although I haven’t tried that yet) and an LCD projector.

Overhead projector.png

Downloading the app

  • Open up a New Tab in Chrome
  • Select Chrome Web Store
  • Search for Overhead Projector (or click on this link)
  • Click Install
  • The projector will now sit within your Chrome apps. To access it, go to a New Tab and then select Apps.

Using the Overhead Projector 

  • Connect your laptop to the LCD projector.
  • Place the document you’d like to project on your keyboard.
  • Open up the Overhead Projector app. It uses your webcam so it will display whatever’s in its direct line of sight.
  • Bring your laptop screen about half way down.
  • Now look at the document being projected. You may need to adjust its position on the keyboard to ensure that no portions are being cut-off.

Application 

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of activities you can use the overhead projector for:

  • Display mindmaps created by participants in small groups which they then share with the whole class using the app. If the mindmap was done on a flipchart, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in my lessons, mindmaps are often created in notebooks and participant guides.
  • Project a list of ideas after a brainstorming task.
  • Share peer feedback notes. Get participants to note observations within a graphic organizer which you can project when they report back to the whole class.
  • Display participant responses as an answer key. While monitoring, make a note of a participant who has got most of the answers to a controlled task correct. Project this page from his or her book and ask other participants to check their answers.
  • Annotate, correct, elicit, and/or give feedback on written work.
  • Project keys from teacher or trainer material.
  • Display model texts.
  • Share utterances for emerging language focus or error correction towards the end of a lesson.

Do you use any frugal edtech in your classroom? I’d love to do a post on it so do share your ideas in the comments section.

Collaborative Activities in Advanced ESL Classes | Webinar summary

I was hoping for something really innovative from this webinar but it ended up being a presentation of fairly basic activities from a single coursebook using an information gap-type format. Nevertheless, there were some neat quotes and interesting variations on trusty old task types.

Collaboration

The speaker, Dennis Johnson, started off by sharing a quote about why you might want to include collaborative learning.

Cooperative learning has a dramatic positive impact on almost all of the variables critical to language acquisition.

Spencer Kagan (1995)

He then went on to specify how this might affect retention and use of lexis.

Before we ‘own’ a word, we need multiple exposures – for recognition around 20 times; for production, nearly 60 times. To provide that exposure to their Ss, Ts need a variety of activities.”

Paul Nation, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, 2013

Finally, here’s an interesting format for expressing future skills. Johnson suggested that 1, 2, 3 & 5 directly related to collaborative work.

7 Cs: essential skills for the future workforce

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity
  5. Cross-cultural understanding
  6. Computing
  7. Career self-reliance (lifelong learning)

Bernie Trilling: 21st century skills

Student interview

Johnson’s name for this activity is unfortunately not very exciting but the way he stages it make it a fairly interesting paired interactive lecture. 

Ss listen to a short lecture and then fill a form that contains 7 questions. However, they fill this form by asking a partner these questions and noting down their responses.  Ss can then rewrite these notes as sentences using academic language phrases for citing evidence and support opinion. The sample listening text he used to illustrate this activity is available here. So you could potentially use any short podcast or perhaps a TED clip.

Some phrases in the questions could be underlined to help Ss notice language that you would like them to use.

  • Questions that require citing evidence: What are the two purposes of small talk the speaker gives? Other phrases that might signal these sorts of questions include ‘how does the speaker define’ and ‘according to the speaker’.
  • Questions that support opinion: Do you agree that people should not start conversations about things that are too personal? Give a reason for your opinion. Other phrases include ‘based on your experience’.

You might also have a poster on the wall which supplies phrases for citing evidence:

According to the author …

________ pointed out that

The author states that …

In the text, ______ states that …

______ indicated that

______ emphasized that

______ concluded that

As feedback, you could call attention to register and style and get Ss to consider replacing ‘I think’ with ‘Based on my experience’ or ‘From my perspective’.

A variation: Group interview 

Ask a series of close-ended questions and tally answers; questions such as “can you tell me if you would permit your child to stay out late?” Ask Ss to then to draw a graph based on their findings. Johnson suggested that Ss would naturally ask follow-up questions such ‘why’ or ‘why not’ even though they are explicitly told to do so in the task. I’m not so sure about that. In my experience, Ss are generally focused on task completion rather than having a real conversation.

 

Partner dictation 

Ss work in pairs but are given very different worksheets. Pairs could be separated a folder or some such so they don’t see each other’s posts. The two sheets have different texts. Ss dictate the texts to each other and they take notes. Ss then check their sentences with their partners and then discuss a follow-up question which asks them to reflect on the ideas in their texts (perhaps a comparative question that bridges the two texts), relate it to their own experience, and share opinions.

Role play 

A really bland name for a not so bland activity. What I like in this format is the opportunity that Ss have to anticipate the content of the role play and plan (without realizing that they’re planning). 

Ss study a picture of a person at his cubicle and make some predictions (This is XYZ, what do you think he is doing?). They then read a short scenario written in the second person (You are XYZ … You call ABC to find out more.) The third part of the activity asks Ss to find specific details such as a deadline or requirements. Because this is essentially an information gap activity, half of the Ss will get a different worksheet but with the same staging where they make predictions about ABC, read a second person scenario which asks them to provide some information to XYZ. The twist in the third stage is when Ss who play the role of ABC need to read some information in the picture and frame sentences which they will then share with their partners.

Untitled picture

Source: Ventures Level 5 Transitions, CUP

Ventures, the coursebook that this webinar was a plug for, has a T’s resource site which may be worth checking if you like that sort of thing.

 

7 creative grammar activities | IATEFL webinar summary

Last week’s IATEFL webinar saw the legendary Charles Hadfield sharing some creative grammar activities. He did say he would share seven although my notes seem to indicate it was only six. I wrote to him but it seems he couldn’t find the mystery seventh activity either.
Activity 1: Platform 1
What?  Collaborative pattern poem describing people.

Language focus: Present continuous, describing people

Procedure: Use a picture prompt of a train station platform with people on it (Check Flickr for images). Ask Ss to use the following pattern to create a poem. You may need to demo an example.

Poem pattern

Line 1: Where are they? (is s/he)

Line 2: A (adjective) (woman/man) with (clothes or physical features)

Line 3: What are they (is s/he) doing?

Line 4: … and thinking of?

Example

Sitting on the bench

a sad woman with a long nose

staring into space

and thinking of wasted time

Charles Hadfield webinar 1 Image attribution: Platform 4 by Brett Davies | Flikr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 2. Preposition painting

What? A pattern for describing a picture

Language focus: prepositions

Procedure: Show Ss the picture and ask them to identify the different things in it. Then give them a decision tree like this one and have them craft a description of the picture.  They should create 5 lines plus an extra one starting with “lies a” which they don’t write but have their peers guess.

Pattern

In                          table

On                        chairs

Near           a         sofa

Beside                   bookshelf

Under         the      fireplace                 lies a …

Next to                   tree

lake

mountain

beach                     is a

grass

bench

moon etc.

Example

On the bench

next to a tree

beside a lake

beneath the mountains

under a sunset sky

lies a …

Charles Hadfield Webinar 2 Image attribution: Peaceful mind by Peter Thoeny | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 3. Maternal Advice

What? Advice from a mother animal to its baby.

Language focus: imperatives, infinitives & gerunds; remember, try to take care, don’t forget, be careful + full infinitive, avoid beware of, forget about, refrain from, resist + ing

Procedure: Do you recognize this passage? Listen carefully. Who is talking? To whom? Listen and then compare ideas with a partner.

“When in doubt, any kind of doubt, Wash!” That is Rule No. I,’ said Jennie … `If you have committed any kind of an error and anyone scolds you—wash,’ she was saying. `If you slip and fall off something and somebody laughs at you—wash. If you are getting the worst of an argument and want to break off hostilities until you have composed yourself, start washing … That’s our first rule of social deportment, and you must also observe it.

`Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in you can’t go wrong if you wash. If you come into a room full of people you do not know, and who are confusing to you, sit right down in the midst of them and start washing. They’ll end up by quieting down and watching you. Some noise frightens you into a jump, and somebody you know saw you were frightened—begin washing immediately … `If somebody calls you and you don’t care to come and still you don’t wish to make it a direct insult— wash. If you’ve started off to go somewhere and suddenly can’t remember where it was you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little. It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or her feelings—start washing …

Any time, anyhow, in any manner, for whatever purpose, wherever you are, whenever and why ever that you want to clear the air, or get a moment’s respite or think things over—WASH! `And,’ concluded Jennie, drawing a long breath, `of course you also wash to get clean and to keep clean.’ `Goodness!’ said Peter, quite worried, `I don’t see how I could possibly remember them all.’ `You don’t have to remember any of it, actually,’ Jennie explained. All that you have to remember is Rule 1: “When in doubt—WASH!” ‘

Jennie by Paul Gallico

Elicit that Jennie is a cat giving advice to Peter, a kitten. How many animals can you think of? Ask Ss to brainstorm. Then, ask Ss to choose one of the animals they brainstormed and write maternal advice from a mama animal to its baby.

Activity 4. Overheard in a cafe

What? Reporting on imaginary conversations.

Language focus: Reported speech, said, replied, denied, asked

Procedure: Show pics of people and ask Ss to select two and think of the conversation they might have. Ss then uses reported speech to describe the conversation the two people might have. Charlie had some paintings in this mix including Van Gogh’s self-portrait and some quirky ones such as a dog and a cat looking at each other.

Activity 5: The house that Jack built

What? Build progressively longer sentences.

Language focus: Relative clauses

Procedure: Show the Ss the following sentence pattern.

This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built This is the rat, that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

webinar grammar Then ask Ss to construct their own from this photo. So their sentence would beging with “This is the photo that Jack took”. You may also want to to supply  words:

Man fish girl boat wind wave whale rod camera rock beach shark cook friend chips cat

Image attribution: Bass fishing by Eileen Jones | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Activity 6: How it’s done

What: Instructions for various topics

Language focus: Imperatives and sequencing words

Procedure: Run Ss through an example of how something is done.

Example

How to make a cup of tea

Firstly, boil some water in a kettle

When it’s hot, pour a little in a teapot to warm it

Then throw out the water and put in two spoonfuls of tea leaves

Bring the water back to boil

Pour the boiling water on tea leaves in the pot

Leave to stand for two minutes

Serve in two cups

Ask Ss to use this template to write instructions for one of the following:

  • Eating spaghetti
  • Falling in love
  • Getting promotion
  • Bathing a dog
  • Going to a wedding
  • Looking after a two year old
  • Taking an exam
  • Having a relaxing evening

Charlie recommended using these activities in conjunction with the following:

  • Sharing session: Choose the best piece you wrote during the lesson and share it with others in a small group.
  • Student control: After doing a couple of these activities, hand over control to the Ss. Give them a particular grammar concept and ask them to come up with their own creative exercise around it.
  • Student ideas: Dialogues, sketches, poems, nonsense sentences, sabotaging the coursebook (playing around with sentences from the coursebook)

References

He had many other references in his list which had to do with the importance of creativity. Here’s a truncated list of language teaching references:

  • Nematis, A. 2009. Memory Vocabulary Learning Strategies and Long Term Retention. International Journal of Vocational and Technical Education 1 (2), pp. 14-24
  • Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House
  • Schmitt, N. 2000. Vocabulary in Language Teaching. CUP

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Jun – Jul 2015

It’s been an insanely hot summer in India this year with temperatures hitting a roasting 48 in parts of the north. Thankfully, things are a bit more reasonable where I live on the coast although the humidity is still suffocating. And what better way to bring in the monsoon than with a nice little bunch of webinars. Do let me know if you spot any online events that ought to be included in this list. Happy webinaring!

An asterisk (*) indicates that the event requires prior registration. A (+) means that it’s probably a plug for a coursebook or some such.

elt WEBINARS

1. Cambridge English Empower: bringing learning-oriented assessment into the classroom | Stephanie Dimond-Bayir & Sarah Unsworth | Cambridge English Language Assessment | June 3, 1000 & 1400 BST*+

2. Personalised Learning Programs – a pick and choose approach | David Petrie | IATEFL BEsig | Jun 7, 1500 BST

3. #FlashmobELT: activities from classrooms around the world | Anna Loseva | BELTA | Jun 7, 1600 CET

4. An introduction to the Oxford Young Learners Placement Test | Hannah Ball | Oxford | Jun 9, 1000 & 1500 BST*+

5. Peer observation – how can we make it work? | Andy Hockley | IATEFL LAMSIG | Jun 10, 1200 BST

6. Exam classes: creating order out of chaos | Roy Norris | Macmillan | Jun 10, 1500 BST*

7. Where have all our textbooks gone? | Maria J Garcia San Martin | IATEFL YLT | Jun 10, 1600 BST

8. Tackling Native Speaker Favouritism Head On – PD and Classroom Ideas | BrazTESOL | June 12, 1200 EDT 

9. Planning a successful blended ESP course | Jeremy Day | IATEFL ESP | Jun 13, 1500 BST

10. Nativeness – a feather in your cap for language teaching? | James Beddington | TEFL Equity Advocates | Jun 14, 1700 CET

11. Developing functional language skills for Cambridge English: Key for Schools | Rachel Harding & Coreen Doherty | Cambridge English Language Assessment | Jun 15, 1400 & Jun 17, 1000 BST*+

12. Creating Creative Teachers | Marisa Constantinides | British Council | Jun 17 1900 EEST (2030 IST)*

13. Children’s apps you can trust | Tracy Dumais | British Council | Jun 18, 1200 BST

14. Teaching with Technology | EnglishOnline | Jun 19, 1900 CDT or Jun 20, 1000 CDT

15. Peer Interaction in the Foreign Language Classroom | Jenefer Philp | Oxford | Jun 24, 1530 BST & Jun 25, 1130 BST

16. Creativity in Teaching and Learning | British Council Seminars | Jun 24, 1730 – 2030 BST*

17. Self-publishing ELT Materials | Dorothy Zemach | IATEFL | Jun 27, 1500 BST

18. Life Skills Special | Emma Sue Prince| Macmillan | Jul 1, 1500 BST*

19. Business storytelling: Helping learners to create memorable stories | Dana Poklepovic | IATEFL BEsig | Jul 5,1500 BST

20. Issues and dilemmas in designing assessments and marking criteria for a module on MA in Professional Language and Intercultural Studies | Judith Hanks | IATEFL Testing Evaluation & Assessment | Jul 8, 1700 BST

21. Assessing reading comprehension with tips for classroom practice | Ivana Vidakovic & Nancy Sneddon | Cambridge English Language Assessment | Jul 13, 1400 & Jul 15, 1000 BST*

22. Creativity in the language classroom | Nik Peachey | British Council | Jul 16, 2100 BST*

23. Published Resources vs. Teaching Unplugged | Andrew Dilger | Oxford | Jul 23, 1100 & 1430 BST*

24. Managing YL Centres – essential training and preparation | Lou McLaughlin | IATEFL YLT | Jul 26, 1500 BST

Image attribution: I’m A Mac by Alec Couros | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Apr – May 2015

GDC Online 2011_Show Environment_Jesse Knish Photography for GDC Online

O Webinar, Webinar, wherefore art thou Webinar?

Worry not because they’re all right here in this post! Here’s a list of free online events for ELT educators between April and May 2015. April is going to be an exciting month with the IATEFL annual conference livecast sessions from Manchester. However, I’m going to be teaching, training and travelling through the month… I do hope I get time to attend some of these events. An asterisk indicates that the event requires prior registration.

If you know of an online event that’s relevant to ELT educators that’s missing from this list, please let me know by leaving a comment.

1. Fostering Global Competency and Leading Change Throughout Education Systems | Fernando Reimers | Harvard | Apr 1, 0900 EDT

2. Make Blended Learning Work for Leaders | Sabrina Leis | Kineo | Apr 2, 1300 CST*

3. Teaching presentation skills in a digital age | Elena Matveeva | IATEFL BeSIG | Apr 5, 1500 BST

4. Multiple choices – A Conversation about Language Testing, Teaching & Learning | David Dodgson | British Council | Apr 7, 1000 GMT*

5. How to Develop Great Online Video Training Programs | Maria Chilcote & Melissa Smith |  Training Magazine Network | Apr 8, 1000 PST*

6. “Make Learning Visible – Connect with parents using social media” | WizIQ | Paul McGuire | Apr 9, 1400 EST

7. How to Jump Start Your Video-Focused Learning Strategy | Chris Osborn | Training Magazine Network | Apr 9, 1000 PST*

8. 49th Annual IATEFL Conference, Manchester | Livecast plenaries & sessions by various speakers | Apr 11 – 14 | Live plenary schedule

9. Study Skills | Dorothy Zemach | Macmillan | Apr 15, 1500 BST*

10. Positive Psychology in Language Learning: The Role of Hope, Optimism, and Resilience in Learners’ Stories’ | Rebecca Oxford | IATEFL | Apr 18, 1500 BST

11. How to Develop Great Online Video Training Programs | Chris Osborn | Training Magazine Network| Apr 19, 1000 PST*

12. Setting up communities of practice | Katerina Kourkouli | Apr 20, 1200 BST*

13. Writing A1-B1 | Urs Kalberer | Cambridge English Teacher | Apr 22, 1500 BST*

14. Solutions Writing Challenge #3 | Elna Coetzer | Oxford | Apr 22 & 24, 1400 & 1700 BST*

15. Making the most of classroom management | Veríssimo Toste | Oxford | Apr 23, 1800 BST 

16. Negotiated interaction in the foreign language classroom: Theory, research and teaching practice | Mirosław Pawlak | IATEFL Teacher training & education | Apr 24, 1300 BST 

17. Planning Teacher Professional Development | Marie Therese Swabey & Liz Robinson | Cambridge English Language Assessment | Apr 27 & 29, 1400 & 1000 BST*

18. Inductive & deductive grammar teaching: pros & cons | Jon Hird | Oxford | Apr 28 & 30, 1000 & 1530 BST 

19. Video in the Classroom: From exploitation to creation | Jamie Keddie | Oxford | Apr 29, 0800 BST*

20. Making the Most of Kindergarten Classroom Management | Sandie Mourão | Oxford | Apr 30, 1800 BST 

21. Teach like TED | Paula Mulanovic | IATEFL BeSIG | May 3, 1500 BST

22. Storytelling Special | Chris Rose | Macmillan | May 5, 1100 to 1600 BST

23. Supporting primary and secondary teachers in CLIL and bilingual contexts | Kay Bentley | Cambridge English Language Assessment | May 18 & 20, 1400 & 1000 BST*

24. Business English & General English: Never the twain shall meet  | Marjorie Rosenberg | BELTA | May 24, 1600 CET

25. Creative Grammar | Charles Hadfield | IATEFL | May 30, 1500 BST

+ every Friday at 4 PM EST, Shelly Terrell does a webinar for American TESOL

Image attribution: GDC Online 2011_Monday_Show Environment by Official GDC |  CC BY 2.0

Storytelling in the classroom | Webinar summary

Jamie KeddieThis is a summary for a webinar that took place a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t find time to write up but it deserves to be written up so I’m squeezing out some time for it now. The webinar was hosted by IATEFL and the speaker was the ever-charming and innovative Jamie Keddie.

Jamie asked attendees if they’ve ever used these seven magic words in their classrooms

I want to tell you a story

Well most of us have probably used these words and don’t feel very enthused by them because our Ss are generally not very excited about listening to stories.  Jamie explained that we often see stories as monologues and associate them exclusively with young learners. However stories need not necessarily be about the “there and then” but could be about the “here and now”.  So, the webinar was specifically about the mechanics of dialogic storytelling.

Jamie told us that his own favourite genre of stories were personal anecdotes and he demonstrated his approach to dialogic storytelling through an example. He showed us the following text on a slide and read it out to us:

When I was at school, we used to think it was hilarious to leave notes on our T’s desk. We would wait for the T to notice the piece of paper, pick it up, examine it, unfold it and read it. We would then wait in anticipation of a reaction. The best note we ever left was this: there is a piece of cheese on the classroom ceiling. Of course the reaction that we expected was for the teacher to look up at the ceiling and try to see the fictitious piece of cheese. At that moment, everyone would have to do their best not to laugh. Laughing would demonstrate that you were involved in the joke.  I don’t remember how many teachers we played the joke on. But I remember very well the day we left the note on the desk of Mr. Francis, our cool history teacher. The lesson was almost over and we were starting to think that Frankie was not going to see the note. But then he did. He hesitated for a moment and then, very slowly, opened it. There was a silence. His eyes stayed fixed on the paper. Then he stood up, walked over to the corner of the room and dropped the note in the bin. He looked at us and said, as calmly as possible, “Of there is – I put it there.” We all looked up.

Jamie pointed out that what Ts are effectively working with are not the words on a piece of paper but 106 internal narratives i.e., one story on paper but 106 stories forming in the minds of those who were attending the webinar. As we are working with internal narrative, what can we do better exploit it?

He invited us to participate in a thought task. He asked everyone to imagine that they were going to use this story with their Ss but pretend it was their own. He asked us think about how long we’d take to get through it. Answers varied but Jamie suggested that he would probably take about 15 minutes because he would turn the story from a monologue into a dialogue – a whole class communicative event.

I want to tell you a story but first let me ask you a question. The question is this. Have you ever played a practical joke on a teacher or has a teacher ever played a practical joke on you?

Jamie suggested that this type of commentary is important because you are signalling that the narrative is about to start and there’s a beginning, middle and end. If I reflect on the stories that I have narrated in the classroom, I usually try to cut back on commentary to keep TTT low. He stated that it would be critical to also consider the language in the story that you want to draw attention to or teach, as well as be prepared for language from Ss that you want to reformulate or correct. As you narrate the story, you can do a number of things to make it a dialogic experience which is interactive and useful for teaching language:

  • Ask Ss about their own experiences.
  • Correct their language.
  • Teach the Ss phrases like practical jokes, to keep a straight face and hesitate (although these may not be explicitly present in the story).
  • Ask them guess when the story took place and speculate what was written on the note and guess how Mr. Francis might have reacted based on their experiences with teachers like him.
  • Set up an environment such that Ss want to ask questions.

He underscored the importance of preparation, rehearsal and identification of  language in the story text that may cause problems.

Jamie’s second example was really brilliant and I think it quite effectively demonstrates how powerful this technique is. I’m going to try to recount it the way he ran this dialogic storytelling activity. At the end of each utterance, he elicited responses which then informed the next set of questions.

The story could be called the box or a miniature model replica. What do you want to call it?

What’s a miniature model replica?

Who makes miniature model replicas?

This story takes place in a room. What kind of room does this story take place?

It’s a room with very little light. The walls have nothing on them.

Bare. What else can be bare?

A prison cell with very little light and bare walls. What else would you expect to see in a prison cell?

Did you used to have bunk beds when you were children?

My sister and I used to sleep in a bunk bed when we were kids. I used to sleep in the top bunk and my sister in the bottom bunk because she was scared of falling out. What’s your bunk bed story?

What else is in this prison cell?

A bucket. What would the bucket be used for?

This prison cell has a bucket in the corner, a window with bars and a bunk bed.

This story starts with a man named Alexander. He is alone in the prison cell.

What do you think he did? Why is he there?

What is he doing?

Right now, he is sitting at a desk, reading.

And on the desk there is one of these (shows a matchbox and rattles it).

What’s the difference between a matchbox and box of matches?

And strangely the matchbox is moving.

Why is it moving?

Alexander puts his finger on the matchbox, why does he do that?

To stop it moving OR to stop it from moving?

He picks the matchbox up and opens a drawer and puts the matchbox inside and closes the drawer.

Behind Alexander is the prison door and the prison door is unlocked. Not the state of being unlocked but the action, it’s being opened

And Adam is pushed in or thrown in and the prison door is closed.

Who is Adam?

What is the relationship between Alexander and Adam?

So you think they’re brothers, that’s interesting, how have two brothers come to be in the same cell?

Could Adam be a policeman?

In this story, he’s Alexander’s new cell mate

There they are, Alexander and Adam, looking at each other for the very first time.

They greet each other. What do they say?

They say hello to each other. Alexander says hello, Adam says hello.

Adam is quite surprised by Alexander’s next action. What do you think Alexander does?

Alexander turns around so that he has his back to Adam and he starts reading his book again.

So Alexander has his back to Adam reading his book, he’s more interested in his book than in his new cell mate so Adam is left in silence.

How would you feel if you were Adam? What would you do next?

Adam looks around the cell room? What are the things he sees? (this becomes a revision of the ideas gleaned from each other)

He sees all these things and what does Adam do?

He walks over to the bunk bed and sits on the bottom bunk and notices something.

He notices the bed is sagging and he notices something beside him

He notices a red box.

And he puts his hand on the red box and that immediately gets Alexander’s attention who turns around and says … What does he say?

He says “no lo abras”. How do you say that in English?  Don’t open it. To which Adam says “Porque no” “why not” to which Alexander says “Porque puede arrepentirse”. Because you will regret, it is that the modal auxiliary I am looking for? No, because you might regret it.

So what does adam do? Does he open the box?

He opens the box. What does he see? Well, what could have been another title for the story?

He sees a model miniature replica of the cell – all the objects. And he sees two figures, one sitting at the desk and another whose legs are sticking out from under the top bunk.

You want to know what happens next but I’m not going to tell you. You have to retell the story from start to end and narrate how it ends.

Here’s the really interesting bit. Jamie got this entire story from a YouTube video and refers to this technique as videotelling. This is the subject a new book he’s written called Videotelling.

Some of his tips while using a videotelling activity include:

  • Ask open questions (What’s your bunk bed story?)
  • Don’t be precious about the answers you want to elicit. If you don’t get the targeted response, cell mate, use it as an opportunity to elicit more language.
  • Don’t be teachery. If the T gets an answer she doesn’t like or want, she might say “yes” in a very peculiar tone and imply through paralinguistic means that this is the wrong answer. For example, if the Ss, say Alexander and Adam brothers, ask “Could you explain how two brothers come to be in the same cell?”
  • Give Ss some space to elaborate and justify their answers. Be open to Ss’ ideas.

While doing the extension activity for this exercise, you don’t need to necessarily have Ss write their stories down. Instead, you could have them create video selfies where they speak in front of a camera using all the language you gave them as well as the story text and you challenge them to complete the story.

I’m really excited about trying out videotelling with my Ss and looking forward to Jamie’s new book.

Resources

Finally, here’s a post from last year on interactive storytelling activities.