Aesop’s fables – workgroup progress

ArtofEnglish have been quite busy and will soon be ready to share their work with the world. . .’till then, here’s a brief post on how we got here and their progress so far.

As I mentioned in the previous post (you can read it here) primary students set the mood for Aesop and “The boy who cried wolf” and workroup meetings were arranged for Saturday mornings at the school library. A wonderful combination of practicing and learning English in a really uplifting atmosphere – the library is buzzing with activity on Saturdays!
Decisions, designing and storyboarding were happening simultaneously and of course democratically; here are the first two charts my B1+ students created:
ReversingAesop-ProjectOutcomeReversingAesop-DesignBrief

As for me, walking around the room while the workgroup got on with their job, I’ve managed not to get in their way and keep track of their progress – I was really excited while filling in my MidProgressReport (if you like, download and read it here) about all the students remembered and used and all the new vocabulary and functions they learned in the first month of the “Reversing Aesop” project.

Hopefully the next post will contain a sneak peek of their book . . .(!).Aesop - original picture source www.biography.com

Aesop’s fables – storytelling to practise English

We’re right in the middle of March and “ArtofEnglish” have reached a decision: looking at Aesop’s fables from a different angle!

This month our primary students took the lead, after watching the film Balto: Wolf Quest, following a lesson on nature and wildlife.
During the workgroup’s meeting, there was a lot of talking about how amazing wild animals are and what they know about them. With a little help from B1 students, the discussion was directed towards myths and legends involving wild animals and Aesop’s fables came up quickly, as they are well known among greek children of all ages. “The boy who cried wolf” instantly became the topic.
B1’s suggested flipping the fables a bit – “we know what happened with the kid who shouted “wolf” but was lying – what about the wolf in the story?” Younger students started coming up with stories about the wolf in the fable – what did he look like?, where did he live?, did he know the boy? how did he feel?

And so it was decided. They would tell the fable of Aesop from the wolf’s point of view. Brainstorming ideas is always the first task and as there were plenty, B1 students thought it best to have younger students draw the wolf as they’d imagined him while they talked about what would be necessary for the project – materials, information, related vocabulary, meetings’ schedule, etc.

At the end of the meeting, each B1 student became a leader for a mixed group of primary and A2 students; all drawings were collected and discussed and a selection of them was approved by all members. Storyboarding had begun . . .I’m really anxious to see what the following worgroup meeting will bring!

AesopsFables-ArtofEnglish

“TheArtofEnglish”- practicing English creatively!

“TheArtofEnglish” came about three years ago, when I noticed some of my A2 students drawing out a dialogue we had practised in class.  It was one of the funniest cart00n-like set of pictures I’d seen, as they had added extra details to the story to make it more familiar to their own reality.

Being a huge fan of crafts, I suggested creating a workgroup in which they could express themselves creatively while using English to communicate; a suggestion met with more enthusiasm than I could ever hope for! It would be fair to say they went mad for the idea and started promoting it to everyone – in the end, 15 students at different levels, ranging from A2 through B1, decided that such a workgroup would be brilliant and wanted to begin straight away.

We had some difficulties at first, but about a month in the course A2 students became more confident in using English with higher level schoolmates and always helped each other understand what the conversation was about and what they had to do. The group chose to work on  subjects connected to the students’ relevant courses; an interesting dialogue or story would jump from the classroom onto drawing paper and a game we’d played in class would become an actual board game.
They worked together perfectly; higher level students asked around for suggestions or came up with new ideas if there weren’t any from their younger schoolmates and then planned the course of action – they set a time schedule and deadlines, they divided the worgroup in smaller teams, who were each responsible for a different task, arranged meetings in times convenient for all members so as to monitor and review progress and then proudly presented the results in classs.

It’s obvious that there wasn’t – and isn’t – much teacher involvement – the only “rule” I set was that all communication had to be in English. The most important factors that led to this decision were that students rarely get the chance to practise what they learn outside the language school and my belief that teaching is actually learning. When a B1 student corrects the grammar use of an A2 one, it’s a memorable experience for both.
There was of course a lot of background work in this group for the teachers. With a colleague, we monitored what went on during their meetings, helped out with vocabulary if necessary (although we’d noticed that group members were quite as pleased to use dictionaries as asking us for an expression) and kept records of what had been done and how during a project – all of which went into our progress reports.

Creating and sustaining such a workgroup was certainly no easy task; its progress depended a lot on student engagement and there have been times when no meetings were held and no creative projects were started, but never for a long period – perhaps a short interval was actually necessary in order to recharge batteries and renew interest.

Today, even though I have transfered to a new language school, the “ArtofEnglish” has followed me and is again received with interest and a strong sense of commitment by my new students – the series of posts tagged “ArtofEnglish” is dedicated to all my students (old and new) involved in the group, to show and promote their wonderful work!