I’ve just come back from a very fulfilling week in Occupied Palestine, running a course called, Teaching English through Stories with a group of teachers from Gaza, Hebron and Ramallah. We worked with big story books for young learners which are part of the British Council’s Kids Read programme, and also with the Stories Alive material for slightly older learners.
Throughout the course the participants planned and delivered a range of micro-teaching sessions which incorporated stories into their curriculum. They did this in ways that were engaging, creative and, above all, fun.
At the end of the course some of the participants recorded a story that they’d been working on, and since I got back I’ve been adding images to their videos, in Kamishibai style. Here are the ones that are ready so far.
It strikes me watching the videos that these are a useful resource for learners to watch to develop their listening skills in English. The teachers who are telling the stories, Jamal, Sereen and Taleed, do so in a way which is much more in keeping with the Arabic style of storytelling than I could ever do, and this makes them more accessible for learners. As Palestinians, they are also able to contextualise the stories in Palestine more easily, and this helps the learners to identify with the characters. As super advanced speakers of English, the teachers are a great model for their learners because they have gone through the process of learning English as a foreign language themselves- just like the learners are trying to do. These teachers show that it is possible to achieve this, in a way that I, as a native speaker, could never do.
Often when learners do listening exercises in class it becomes a test (listen and answer these questions, or listen and put these sentences in order etc). This can put a lot of pressure on learners. Pressure can be useful sometimes, but as teachers we also want children to listen to English because they want to, because they find it interesting and because they get involved in what they are listening to. We want them to listen with their own agendas, rather than one imposed from outside. This kind of listening is what Bowen and Marks (1994) have called secure listening, and stories, in my opinion, are an excellent way to provide it.
Reference: Bowen, T and Marks, J (1994) Inside Teaching : Macmillan