Parallel stories | A translanguaging task

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Here’s the next activity in my translanguaging series. It’s designed to be used with a multilingual group of learners but you could also adapt it for a monolingual group. The task uses extracts in different languages from a story calledI am not afraid’ by Mini Shrinivasan from Pratham Books’ Storyweaver collection. I’ve included a selection of eight languages from Southern and Western India. However, the Storyweaver site has this particular story in 42 languages including a number of European and Asian languages so you should be able to easily adapt it for your context.

On the face of it, this is an activity for younger learners who are beginning to learn English but I think it could be used with older beginners as well.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.


Objectives

  • Explore story-specific vocabulary and structures based on learner needs
  • Develop learners’ storytelling abilities in both their home language and English
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials 

  • I ran this task off slides using a projector but you could also distribute printouts in  classic information-gap style. The handout includes the following languages: Gujarati (p.1), Hindi (p.2), Kannada (p.3), Konkani (p.4), Marathi (p.5), Tamil (p.6), Telugu (p.7), Urdu (p.8), English (p.9).
  • Download the English version of the book from this link. On this site, you’ll also see a hyperlink that says ’51 versions available in 42 languages’ which can be used to download translations.

Warm-up

  • If you’re working with young learners, you could ask if they are afraid of the dark and why.
  • If you’re working with relatively older learners, get them to brainstorm things they’ll see at night when it’s dark.

Translanguaging task

  • Group learners so you have students with different home languages seated together.
  • Ask learners to tell you what their home languages are by getting them to raise their hands. Do this step only if you want to make sure everyone knows what language they are going to be focusing on in this task.
  • Ask everyone put their heads on the table or turn away from the screen.
  • Bring up the extracts from ‘I am not afraid’, one language at a time asking learners to raise their heads and silently read what’s written. For example, “Kannada speakers, please look at the screen and read. Now put your head down. Konkani speakers etc.” Don’t let them write anything.
  • When you’ve displayed all the extracts, ask learners to raise their heads and work together to figure out what was written under the picture. Ask them to give you a sentence or a couple of sentences in English.
  • Take whole class feedback by writing each group’s sentences on the board.
  • Prompt error correction right away or after displaying Mini Shrinivasan’s original English version (page 9 of the handout) and getting everyone to compare the learner generated sentences to the original text.
  • You may want to explore a range of language areas based on errors learners are making: vocabulary (adjectives, intensifiers, indefinite pronouns) | grammar: simple questions, ‘there is/are’, ‘it is’.
  • Now ask learners to discuss what happens next in the story in their home languages.
  • After learners have decided on a sentence or a couple of sentences that describe what happens next, get them to convert all the nouns to English ones. Then encourage them to replace the function words and change the word order where necessary.
  • Take whole class feedback by writing each group’s sentences on the board.
  • Display page 10 of the handout and ask learners to see how similar or different their sentences were and provide further language feedback.

Extension task 

  • Ask learners to work in pairs or groups to co-create and narrate a story using these two pages from “I’m not afraid” as a story starter. They can use their home languages to discuss the story but must try to make sure that most of the nouns are in English when they report back to the whole class. You can use the following questions as prompts:
    • Who is this girl?
    • Where is she?
    • Where is she going?
    • How does she feel?
    • What happens next?
    • What happens at the end of the story?

Task frame

  • This task type can be replicated with any story on Storyweaver and with any language that’s available on that platform:
    • Choose an interesting page from one of the Storyweaver books. It should be one that makes learners curious.
    • Find the translations of the story that you’d like your students to work with. These are always listed on the book’s ‘homepage’.
    • Prepare printouts or put these on slides. Don’t forget to acknowledge Pratham Books which licences all the stories and illustrations under Creative Commons. Also credit authors, illustrators and translators.
    • Run the activity as an information gap.
    • Allow students to use multiple languages to communicate.
    • Focus on errors, emerging language needs, vocabulary or contrastive analysis.
    • End with some translingual storytelling.

Here’s the whole book in English with Rayika Sen’s gorgeous illustrations.

https://storyweaver.org.in/stories/show-in-iframe/959-i-am-not-afraid?iframe=true

The Storyweaver site is ostensibly for children and grades stories according to their language level – ‘I am not afraid’ is level 1. I’m not completely sure how this level system works. There are books with more difficult lexis (level 3) and I’ve used some of these very successfully with adult learners although those activities didn’t involve translanguaging. I’ll share one soon.

Image attribution for the image used at the beginning of this post: Pratham Books CC BY 4.0 |  Illustrator: Rayika Sen 

Your favourite word | A multilingual metacognitive activity

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I’ve been working on a project in Southern India which has loads of observations of classrooms and student-led clubs at schools. Particularly at the clubs, I’m often asked to address the students and perhaps even teach them, which is something I’m loathe to do. The children are lovely but I don’t want eat into their club time with speechifying when the focus ought to be on student-led activities. Their teachers, however, are relentless. To satisfy everyone (me included), I’ve come up with an activity that works with well with students whose proficiency in English might be at varying levels, instantly engages them, subtly promotes thinking, and doesn’t take up much time.


Objective 

Encourage children to develop an awareness of words of how they perceive words in both L1 and L2.

Materials

None

Duration

5-10 minutes

Procedure

  • Ask the children if they like learning English (don’t worry, you’re not setting yourself up to fail. I’ve been to dozens of schools and I haven’t heard a no yet).
  • Ask them to think of their favourite word in English.
  • Get them to whisper it to their neighbour. Mime or give instructions in L1 to make sure they understand what to do.
  • Nominate students to share their favourite words.
  • Summarize by pointing out any patterns (a lot of you like adjectives or words about nature etc.).
  • Ask students to work in pairs and guess what your favourite word in their mother tongue is.
  • Nominate students to share guesses and reveal your favourite word.
  • Explain to the students why you like the word.
  • Ask the students to select their favourite word in their mother tongue and explain to their partner why it’s their favourite.
  • Ask the students if they can guess what your favourite English word is (I usually say I have three – please, sorry & thanks) and then ask them why these might be your favourite.
  • I ask the children to then run the same activity with their parents when they go home.

If you run this activity with your learners, let me know how it goes. I’d be particularly interested in how adult learners respond to it.