A Training Workshop about: Edutainment for Teachers of School in Bahrain

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Using Storytelling in Classroom

What is storytelling?

  • Storytelling is a skill that can be effectively directed to improve other skills, such as writing, grammar, listening and speaking. Donald Davis, a noted storyteller, teaches storytelling as a bridge between a child’s ‘first language’ [gestures and speech] and ‘second language’ [writing].
  • Storytelling is the oldest form of education. Cultures around the world have always told tales as a way of passing down their beliefs, traditions, and history to future generations.
  • Storytelling in any form is a natural way for students to build literacy skills. Learning how to tell a story by writing it down, talking about it, and learning to actively listen to someone else’s story. All these activities teach essential language skills in vividly meaningful contexts.

Why use storytelling in the language learning classroom?

Teachers use storytelling in language teaching for several reasons. One of the preliminary reasons is the funny and entertaining atmosphere storytelling creates in the classroom. A teacher of English needs to be imaginative, creative; and telling stories in English Language Teaching can surely assist to make the process of teaching and learning more motivating, interesting and interactive. These are some of numerous reasons for using storytelling effectively in your classroom:

  • Promotes a feeling of well being and relaxation.
  • Increases children’s willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings.
  • Fosters awareness of one’s unique imagination and creativity.
  • Builds verbal self-confidence.
  • Integrates multiple learning contexts (reading, listening, speaking, writing, grammar, vocabulary) into a single instructional input.
  • Builds community chemistry.
  • Enhances reading, listening and critical thinking skills.
  • Fosters teacher-learner collaboration (Fitzgibbon & Wilhelm, 1998).
  • Enthralls empathy.

 

What ways can we exploit using storytelling?

Storytelling provides a valuable source of authentic language materials and there are hundreds of ways to exploit it in ELT.  Listening to stories can develop important skills such as prediction, guessing, hypothesizing, and message decoding, etc. There are lots of different fun activities that spin off from stories: story completion, summary writing, discussion, role playing, story experience, the narrative approach, story act-out, spinning stories, group story, story interpretation, story writing, change the story, picture story, jigsaw story, strip story, tell a story, etc.

Pros and Cons:

There is strong evidence to support the use of storytelling in the ESL/EFL classroom. This provides learners with a comprehensible input that facilitates language acquisition (Hendrickson, 1992) in a fun way.  Using storytelling in the classroom has pros and cons. What are they?

Pros:

  • Gains the students’ attention
  • Enables the students to be exposed to a moral dilemma
  • Enables the students to be exposed to a problem-solving exercise
  • Shares stories of success
  • Develops a sense of community
  • Explores personal roles
  • Makes sense of learners’ lives
  • Contains linguistic information including vocabulary, grammar, and language sense
  • Reduces learners’ intensity of the language-learning phobia
  • Invokes learners’ curiosity, concentration, imagination and critical thinking
  • Enhances facilitation
  • Develops rapport and respect
  • Provides  moral lessons

Cons:

  • Time (Rosen 1988)
  • Preparation
  • Proportion of session
  • Students require a ‘safe’ environment.
  • Topic may be threatening if it challenges personal values (Fairbairn 2002).
  • If students are being asked to write, they may need direction.
  • Previous exposure.
  • It requires visualisation skills.
  • It may not suit the learning style (Davidson 2003).
  • Dependant on the enthusiasm of the lecturer (Weimer 2002).

 

In Conclusion:

Storytelling serves many functions; it will always be the cornerstone of teaching. It is the task of a teacher to find out how to use it effectively, skillfully and develop student’s competence.  A teacher can excel and train his/her students to be good story-tellers using good breath control, careful enunciation, appropriate gestures effective pauses and other speech techniques that make a good speaker.

Storytelling can be stimulating not only to increase students’ interest, motivation, creativity, critical thinking skills, imagination and verbal self-confidence in language learning, but also to maximize their authentic self-involvement, community-interaction, and prolific production. Using storytelling has always been my passion and I have always been happy, both as a learner and a teacher, to take the challenge of using it whenever possible. I would strongly recommend using storytelling in ELT as I know students will also enjoy it a lot! Good luck and have fun!

 

References:

Davidson MR. (2003) .A phenomenological evaluation: using storytelling as a primary teaching method. Nurse Education in Practice 3: 1-6

Fairbairn GJ. (2002). Ethics, empathy and storytelling in professional development. Learning in Health and Social Care 1: 22-32

Fitzgibbon, H.B. &Wilhelm, K.H. (1998). Storytelling in ESL/EFL Classrooms. TESL Reporter. Volume 31-32. P.21-31

Hendrickson, J.M. (1992). Storytelling for Foreign Language Learners. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. ED355842).

Rosen B. (1988) And None of it was Nonsense: the power of storytelling in school. London, Mary Glasgow Publications Ltd.

Weimer M. (2002) Learner-Centred Teaching: five key changes to practice. San Francisco, CA; John Wiley & Sons.

Useful Websites:

http://www.thestoryteller.ca/index.html

http://www.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/pizzaz.html  

http://www.storyarts.org/lessonplans/lessonideas

http://www.proteacher.com/070163.shtml

 

http://www.shambles.net/pages/learning/EnglishP/story

http://www.cas.usf.edu/eliteachers/marystory/storyhandout.htm

http://www.creativekeys.net/storytelling power/ article1014.htm

http://www.storytellingarts.org/teachers guide.htm

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type1430.html

http://www.manythings.org/proverbs/proverbs1.html

 

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Peer Observation

I myself believe in peer observation and I suggest this for teacher of English Language to take the step further for implementing PO in our institutes if we actually seek real PD. We either forget or neglect the salience peer observation. But let me briefly tell you the following: 40% of colleges and universities now use peer classroom observations. Peer observations offer insight regarding the improvement of teaching. Higher education settings are currently moving toward multiple observation formats. There are some of the strengths for utilizing peer observations: Teachers gain new ideas and perspectives about teaching from colleague(s); and both observer and observe may improve teaching abilities. On the other hand, there are some weaknesses of peer observations: Possible bias relating to the observer’s own beliefs about teaching; without a systematic approach–including observer training, multiple visits, and use of reliable observation instruments–peer observation is not a valid method for summative evaluation.

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Finally I Did It

My name is Musallum. I was in level One in FPU. I studied Speaking course with Mr. Faisal. I want to tell you about my story clearly and honestly. At the very scratch, if I had to speak, I stood with my mouth open, waiting for some simple words to form and spill out. But it rarely happened to me. This is because my every single inch of body was frozen. So I nodded a lot and said” I can’t” and “I wasn’t you”. “It would never happen to me”. My dear” Don’t say this” One day you will do it willy-nilly” I bet you “but “ keep this in your mind, this will happen if you yourself want to speak. It is your determination”.
Next class, Musalum was absent. I asked the students if anybody knew why he was absent. Really I felt guilty that I was behind this. Next week Musallum was absent for the second time and I asked who knew why he was absent. Nobody knew. I was thinking curiously why he was absent. Something whispered “it’s you.”
Next class, Musallum came to the class so l felt happy because I will never forgive myself for this. “Musallum, Are you ok?” I asked him. In a low voice “yes” he answered. “Why were you absent for two successive classes?” “Is there anything happened to you?” I asked him eagerly. He burst in tears “Sometime I have to cave myself in my home and sit with myself for hours” I have double whammy. I want to speak and I have to but what came out was babbling and stammering. I always screw up and get really nervous”. “Sir, I want to say something, anything, well of course everything but disjointed thoughts left me red faced… sweating…incredibly embarrassed… desperately hoping the floor would open up and swallow me” “it is ok, Musallum” Don’t say this. Once all what you’ve said, all what you’ve felt happened to me and could happen to anyone inside and outside this class just to let him relax and relieve but what did I do to overcome it and succeed” It is a matter of “swim or sink” “Now Musallum, you sink but when you care about this, study hard and you will walk in it and swim, you see it is so simple just give me a silent promise and feel fearless.” “Please, Musallum, go home and be safe.” “But keep this in your mind that this fear is easy to face, because there isn’t any mortal danger.”
“Mussalum, could you pay me a visit to my office?” I asked him and without hesitant “sure, sir.” I tried my best to simplify things to him and relax him, saying to him” oneday you will be a good speaker.” “Sure, sir” he answered. And let me tell you the following: with practice, you will be confident. You need a supportive environment not only inside my office but outside the university even if with your other self. You have to benefit from each opportunity to hone your skills, and then you will find yourself looking forward to speaking and enjoying it, really.
Mussalum, remember that when you are standing in front of the class, the main fear mantra that might be playing in your head is” what will they think of me?” This is tricky and you have to realize what is in your control and what isn’t. Other people thoughts and ideas are not in your control and worrying about this is a waste of time and energy. When you are to speak, you are in control of yourself and yourself alone. When you speak in front of the class, “it’s the YOU show” where you are the star and everyone there is there to see you and your potential and all you have to do is to speak what they came to hear. Begin with confidence and master your speech, the focus is on you so hold your power: you are the king of their time to make their spent time valuable. If you fail for a moment and it could happen, pick up yourself and don’t leave a room for fear and nerves. You are great. You are enough. Be yourself, their leader, show them you are the boss and how could the boss behave in such handy situations. Now Musallum is in level Two. He is completely a different person. Really, he is a leader of his class to follow.

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Using Songs in the Classroom: Learning Opportunity

On a regular basis to exchange didactic and pedagogic ideas, concerns and insights, teachers use songs in language teaching for several reasons. One of the main reasons is the friendly atmosphere songs create in the classroom. A teacher of English need to be imaginative, creative and innovative and songs in English Language Teaching (ELT) will certainly assist to make the process of teaching and learning more interesting and effective. Besides, there are numerous reasons for using songs effectively in your classroom, so I’ll enlist them:
• Songs provide a break from classroom routine which develops a non-threatening and low anxiety atmosphere.
• They provide authentic material and real examples of the target language which promotes language learning and makes it creative, innovative, fun and interactive.
• They help learners develop automaticity “a component of language fluency which involves both knowing to say and producing language rapidly without pauses.” (Gatbonton and Segalwits: 1988)
• They are a great way to teach and revise grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, reading, writing and listening skills.
• They set the tone of your entire class. i.e., you can use songs to change the pace of the lesson (slow or fast songs will completely change the classroom atmosphere by decreasing or increasing energy level.
• They are also an excellent tool and powerful source for language teaching. Learners relate to songs as part of entertainment rather than work, which often means that they find learning through songs entertaining.
• They expose young students to different culture s and histories of country of the language, so they augment our students’ cultural, social, historical aspects as well as art.

Songs provide a valuable source of authentic language and there are hundreds of ways to exploit them in ELT. We can get students to listen to songs which describe people, places or emotions. Our young learners can write stories or poems of their own. When it comes to songs, teacher can ask students to put lines in order or simply to fill the text with single words or phrases that are missing. Teacher can also ask students to listen to a song and predict what the title might be or to tell the story described in the song in their own words. Furthermore, here is a list of exploiting songs in the classroom.
• Song Building.
• Oral Song Project.
• Contrasting/ Comparing two styles or themes.
• Ear Training and Pronunciation.
• Spot ting the mistakes.
• Comic strip.
• Ordering the verses.
• Discussion.
• Translation.
• Writing the next verse.
• Vocabulary.
• Dictation.
• True/False Statement.
• Comprehension questions.
• Role playing.

There is strong evidence supporting the use of songs tied together with pitch, rhythm and symmetrical phrasing in the ESL classroom. All of this help familiarize students with connections and provides a fun way to acquire English. Using songs in the classroom has pros and cons. What are they?
Pros:
• They are fun and motivating
• They contain linguistic information including pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and rhetoric and language sense
• They are communicative teach them the language, the culture as well as art.
• Most learners like using songs
• They are relaxing which attenuate intensity of the language-learning phobia
• They provide authentic text or material.
• They invoke learners’ curiosity
• They are a whole brain activity – visual, audio, verbal etc. – multiple intelligences
• They are good means for pronunciation, spelling, writing , reading, and dictation practice familiarity with common and real language
Cons:
• Learners don’t think songs are academic – too frivolous
• some learners may not like the songs we have chosen
• grammar, syntax etc. may not be correct morally dubious texts and language
• unclear vocals or ‘slangy’ pronunciation

Choosing a suitable song is probably one of the most important issues. When it comes to using a song, first of all I always want to make sure if the singer has a nice clear voice. No matter what their level of English, learners are easily frustrated when they cannot understand a word. The recording should also be of a good quality. A studio album would be a better choice than a concert version of a song and what is more a CD will obviously give much better sound than a cassette. Another very important point is whether or not the language and also the subject matter is a suitable level of difficulty. It is very great if you ask your students what types of songs or favorite artists from the beginning of the semester they like or penchant.

Songs can be a very interesting and motivating source of real life material for your students and one that particularly reaches into students’ world. There are lots of useful exercises that can be built around songs to help develop your learners’ English. In my classroom, I most often used to use songs eternally occupied with variations on themes and topics of love, friendship, joy, sorrow, dream, jealousy, money, family ties, and many others. So I, like increasing number of EFL teachers, begin to take interest in the use of culture, history and social studies in foreign language teaching and learning. The value of English songs in motivating students to learn English and enhancing their involvement is universally acknowledged by us. In our language classes, we have adopted richly meaningful English songs which take up the whole class period instead of only being used as warm-up activities, time-fillers or games.

Conclusion

Songs can serve as a stimulus not only to increase students’ interest, motivation and self-confidence in language learning, but also to maximize their involvement (involving themselves in classroom activities), interaction (talking to each other), and production (using their own language). Using songs has always been my passion and I have always been happy, both as a learner and a teacher, to take the challenge of working with songs whenever possible. I would strongly recommend using songs in ELT as I know students also enjoy it a lot! Good luck and have fun!

References:

Gatbonton, E and Segalowits, N. 1988. Creative Automatization: Principles for Promoting Fluency within a Communicative Framework. TESOL Quarterly, 22.

Griffee, D. 1992. Songs in Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hock, M. W. 2001. Sing along with the Internet: Making Use of the Internet in the Language Classroom [J]. Fremd Sprachen Unterricht, 6/2001, 411-15.

Lopera , S. 2003. Useful Ideas When Taking Songs to a Class. Ikala, 8(14)

Murphey, T. 2000. Music and Song. Oxford University Press.

Academic articles debating the use of songs for language teaching:

Allan, D., 1995. Using songs in the Communicative Classroom. ELT News & Views, 2:3, 94-103.
Domoney, L., Harris, S., 1993. Justified and Ancient: Pop Music in EFL Classrooms. ELTJ, 47:3, 234-241.
Porto, M., 1996. Songs in Language Teaching: A Response to Dave Allan. ELT News & Views, 3:1, 37.

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All Positive Reflections

I have been presenting at and participating in RSCON3 on July 29, 30 and 31. I found it very enjoyable. It really gave me a solid foundation of the many facets of teaching English to young learners. Also, it brought education back to my life. I have always had some reservations about my teaching style, but rscon3 faded my previous reservations with the help of the knowledge, effective methods and strategies, and technology. It augmented my areas of strength.
I have some reservations on my teaching style comparing to other international teachers. I used to utilize traditional ways of teaching four language skills and sub skills: vocabulary, and grammar to my students. For example, I was teaching reading passages as I was in a police station. Just it was a matter of seriously asking questions and the students answer, stressing on vocabulary more than on the ideas and finally the students copy the answers on their notebooks. Grammar was taught in translation method and most if not all of the time, students use Arabic language for communication inside the classroom. Vocabulary was taught in isolation and giving meaning in Arabic and finally students memorize the Arabic meaning. Really, I was dead in teaching but really this conference brought life to my teaching style and my reservations have been washed away with the gigantic help of knowledge, experience gained during it. Really it was great motivations for me and other teachers all over the World to participate in or present at it. It was a really authentiuc change in me to better teacher at anywhere. Thanks very much to Shelly and other organizers and go ahead.

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