Erika Osváth, an educator, English teacher and materials writer from Hungary, talks about some different ways for kids to interact with stories.
My friend, who teaches English literature at ELTE University in Budapest told me the other day “I wanted to read this book, which is said to be interesting, written in exquisite language, but I just cannot make myself finish it, even though I am now on page 400. I just cannot connect with anything and anybody in the book.”
This sheds a little light on why we read in our everyday lives. What is the engine, the personal motive that makes us read a story or a book? If I turned my friend’s comment into a definition, she doesn’t read to see if she understands the story, neither to explicitly learn a particular language point, but through reading she satisfies her fundamental need to connect with the storyline and/or its characters. I believe this is the case with most of us when it comes to free reading.
And yet in the language classroom, very often all we have time for (and what the course-books helps our approach to stories with) are the comprehension check activities and some language work based around the text of the story. The one and only way we tend to encourage children to connect with the storyline and/or characters on an emotional level is through acting. I firmly believe, however, that there’s room and need for much deeper engagement forms of authentic interaction with stories, which will help them internalise language in an unconscious and effortless manner.
Here are some activities you can use to go beyond comprehension check and help children engage with stories on an emotional level at lower levels.
After directed reading, i.e. a story chosen by the teacher:
Interacting with the characters:
- Ask children to draw their favourite character or the one they dislike, if appropriate, and fill in the sentence.”I really like him/her because he/she is/can/…” – here, choose verbs that are appropriate for the storyline.
“I didn’t like him/her because …”
- Go through the story again and ask children to stick adjectives to the characters at different stages of the story, for example naughty, cross, careless, attentive, helpful, etc. Alternatively, you could use the faces representing some of these words, if possible, and ask them to justify their choices in L1.
- Ask children to match colours, shapes or sounds of musical instruments to characters and let them explain why. In my experience they love doing such abstract things.