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Are your YLs completely absorbed in class? Great kids’ classes are clearly structured, but learning to re-imagine lessons as stories can engage them through a completely different motivational dynamic. Here, real results exemplify the theory.

Martin Goosey

on 2 July 2017

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Transcript of MULTI-STORY

my lesson has
your narrative

"Now, let's look at the posters. Who had cool ideas for creating:

fun / engagement?
narrative structure?
linguistic meaning?"
My Story: Your Help
"As we've seen, the teacher found it helped to think of planning your lesson as a story, with:
A beginning – establishing a problem or issue
A middle – where tasks are undertaken to solve or work through the problem
An end – where the issue is happily resolved.
He'd like you, his friends and colleagues, to illustrate this structure on their posters. Can you do that? Work together!"
Get into groups - try to find people who teach roughly the same ages/levels as you. Now, think of some lesson ideas for that age and/or level group with one of the following linguistic aims:
A lexical set of household objects
A real (i.e. not hypothetical) conditional structure
Relating a family holiday experience for fluency practice
[Another appropriate language aim you negotiate.]
Write them on a poster. You have
5 minutes
My Story: Your Help
My Story: Your Help
“So many of those activities included stories, our novice teacher now realised that class tasks would be more engaging if he could create a
context to frame these familiar activities he'd identified. He decided that he wanted some lesson ideas that provided this kind of layered approach to motivating young learners…”
“Finally, the teacher realised he'd found a natural way to incorporate fun activities into his lessons, because in telling him what they liked doing in their free time, the kids were actually showing him HOW they liked to learn. So he started to collect lesson plans from his friends - ones that used some of these activities and ideas..."
My Story: Your Help
"Could you help him by defining 'context'? First, could you explain how 'a context' is different from 'a topic'? Imagine that you are telling him now. Off you go…"
My Story: Your Help
“Now, let's say you gave the novice teacher a better understanding of how 'context' differs from 'topic', but he still wasn’t completely clear why ‘context’ is so important to language teaching… Could you help him understand more deeply?"
My Story: Your Help
“That’s right, he wasn’t sure what ‘narrative context’ meant, or even what 'context' meant with regard to Young Learner ELT… Can you help him find out?"
My Story: Your Help
What do you think that problem was?
[Hint: looking in his course book didn't help...]
“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a young, inexperienced teacher of English was asked to plan a lesson for 8-9 year olds, and told to base it on something called ‘narrative contextualisation’ if he wanted to engage them. However, he had a bit of a problem...”
Listen to my story:
My Story: Your Help
Session Aims:
“And they all lived
happily ever after...
You all did really well! Thank you! I like them so much, I’m going to put them in a book and give you a copy!
My Story: Your Help
British Council / Trinity College London
TYLEC: Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate
“Thanks to your input, the teacher got to thinking: 'I wonder what 8-9 year olds like doing at home, in their free time? If I knew that, perhaps it would help me to plan activities that were familiar to them, within clear contexts, and then I'd be sure they'd enjoy the lessons and learn effectively'. But he didn't have much time... Once more, he needs your help!”
My Story: Your Help
Began 2009
Jointly owned: British Council developed, Trinity validated and moderated
Run in: Spain, Portugal, Romania, Greece, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Burma, UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia - others coming soon!
Over 130 teachers trained in Spain alone, and well over 500 globally
Course components: input, peer observation, action points log, materials design, assisted lesson planning, observation and feedback
Focuses on: 7-12 core age range (adaptable); practice linked to theory; in-service training, but flexible delivery; reflective practice.
'Are your YLs completely absorbed and participatory? Great kids’ classes are clearly structured, but learning to re-imagine your lessons as stories – with beginning-middle-end and built-in problem resolution – quickly engages learners through a completely different motivational dynamic… Here, real results exemplify experimentation with narrative classes from a new training programme. Watch videos, hear examples, see the plans, then try it yourself!'
The MULTI-STORY Workshop Abstract
To construct a theory of context in relation to YL learning
To relate this theory to classroom practice by thinking about 'narrative' in planning
To try planning lessons which take advantage of the underlying principles of narrative contextualisation.
First, read the handout on the theories of child learning
(first two pages only)
, and make notes or highlight what might help the teacher understand: what helps 8-9 year olds learn? What are the essential elements in lesson design for teaching-learning with this age group? Work collaboratively - you have
3 minutes
to read and compare notes.
Can you describe

is an important consideration in lesson planning?
[Hint: you can look on page three of the handout!]
Could you tell the young teacher in 30 seconds or less? Practise with your group. You have
2 minutes
to summarise the key points.
He needs a short list of suggestions: what do 8-9 year olds like doing in their free time? Can you think of anything? The group with the most suggestions wins…

You have
30 seconds...
Well, who had the most ideas?
Did your list include any of these?
Have a look at some sample lesson plans: what theoretical principles do they support? Discuss in pairs… You have
4 minutes
Can you help him by providing some ideas?
The context of language use refers to the degree to which the environment is rich with meaningful clues that help the language learner decipher and interpret the language being used.
Face-to-face conversations, for example, provide the opportunity to observe nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures... Children learning to play a game not only have the verbal directions to rely on in helping them figure the game out, they can also actually watch others playing.
Language used in environments which contain plentiful clues to its meaning are described as context-embedded.
Context-embedded or contextualized language is evident in some types of school activities as well. In a science demonstration, for example, as the teacher explains the steps in performing an experiment, students can actually watch the actions, tying the language to something in the 'here and now'... ...Decontextualized or context-reduced language use, on the other hand, occurs when there is little in the immediate environment, other than the language itself, which helps learners derive meaning from the language being used."
"For children who are learning English as a second language, the implications of such language variation are significant.
While children may be able to deduce meaning from context-embedded language, the process of understanding and mastering decontextualized language use is much more difficult.
Since much of school language tends to be context-reduced once one moves beyond the earliest grades, ESL children often find themselves lost in a world of meaningless words."
McKean, D., 1994 'Language Culture & Schooling' in Genesee, F. (Ed) 'Educating Second Language Children', CUP, pp23-4
Shall we vote on it?
“...endings aren’t just important to narrative. They matter because our brains pay them disproportionate attention. Medical researchers report that a long painful experience that ends with some comfort is remembered as being much better than a short more comfortable one that ends with pain... we need start-ups that have a finish, digital experiences that land as well as launch and social networks that send everybody home.”
Russell M Davies, Wired Magazine, August 2010

[Thanks to Jeremy Harmer for sending me this quote.]

What was your 'happy ever after moment' from today?
...to everyone for their hard work and great ideas!
"Said the teacher, 'I thank you all!'
'And we thank you too!' said the children..."
But what about teachers who did the TYLEC? Let's have a couple describe the ideas they got about context from the course, and how it helped them...
Here's a lesson that one teacher came up with:
Let's hear a couple of your examples... Any volunteers?
Who do you think has the best definition?
Here's a Book Definition of Context:
If you'd like to hear a more detailed description of this lesson, you can do so here:
One teacher's sample lesson plan and materials from 2011:
You can see some sample lesson plans here:
And another teacher's sample lesson plan from 2012:
Have you ever asked your class how they like to learn, or what activities they prefer in the classroom?
Here's an interesting article by a teacher who DID ask a class (of native speaker children) what they thought were the most engaging activities to do in class. It's fascinating to see how their answers correlate to the views of the theorists of learning on the handout: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-engagement-stories-heather-wolpert-gawron
Read more here:
Doing so mimics

how children learn their L1 - i.e. situationally, which lends itself to activity
Contextual clues provide a framework on which foreign language learners can 'hang' meaning - i.e. their understanding is enhanced through the addition of connotation, register, usage, and so on
If understanding is enhanced, confidence is too
Familiar contexts provide security for YLs - i.e. they don't worry that the subject matter is beyond the reach of their comprehension
Active involvement in group activities which are familiar and comfortable - and therefore 'doable' - is intrinsically rewarding, so that engagement is increased - i.e. motivation is enhanced and discipline issues decrease.
...Did you think of any other ideas?
Some of the main advantages of contextualising language learning are (in no particular order):
Can you help him by creating some lesson plans of your own, based on a narrative context?
Full transcript