Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Plenary talk by Carol Griffiths - report

Using Narrative as a Strategy to Teach Language

Carol opened the convention with the first plenary presentation entitled ‘Using Narrative as a Strategy to Teach Language’.

Story telling, she began, is universal, it cuts across cultures and it is timeless; but why use it as a strategy in the language classroom? She answered by saying that it provides motivation in that it is integrative and is not necessarily culturally bound, it is instrumental and takes into account both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and it can be dynamic. She went on to explain that it also has authenticity because it is not formulaic as is much material found in course books. This authenticity creates a sense of identity in the learner and because there is such a wide range of genres it caters for a variety of learning styles.

Carol then went on to demonstrate the importance of input by giving a practical example. She began with a picture of a pair of nail scissors and invited a response from the audience to the question of whether anyone had any regrets about the past. This could lead into a group speaking activity as the first stage of what she referred to as an ‘instructional sequence’. She then suggested that learners could listen to a story read out aloud by the teacher and ask questions about the content. All of this should come before handing out the text. She used a quite moving story written by one of her students about a girl’s memory of her grandmother cutting her nails.

Carol then outlined the next stages in the sequence. Learners could read the text either silently or out loud to each other. This stage could be teacher led or student led depending on the nature of the class and learner preferences. This is followed up with a focus on the comprehension of the text with students writing their own questions on the content of the narrative and their understanding of it. Carol also suggested that students could go beyond the surface detail and make their own inferences about events and characters. Any vocabulary or grammar items contained in the text could be dealt with as a supplement at the end.

She also raised some issues about using simplified texts and the accessibility of materials and touched on the use of translation as an approach and the question of copyright.
All in all, Carol’s talk was both instructional and inspirational and those attending certainly went away with food for thought.

By Roger House

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