Storytelling in languages


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Presentation given at teachmeet languages in Sydney on 24th April, 2012

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  • My thoughts on storytelling have evolved as I prepared for this presentation. When I signed up to present I wanted to share a project we did with Yr7 last year, which I will do, but it got me thinking about how we use stories in languages and how I could be using them more, how can we leverage the net to make our stories interactive and how I should be sharing my language stories with my students more.\n\nWe all have stories - share your language journey with your students. \n
  • People love stories. Love listening to them, telling them and love the feeling you get when people are enjoying them. We love to interact. Stories tell you things about people and places we want to go but have never been. Stories can suck us in. So do we tell stories enough in class? Do we use anecdotes and our own experiences with language learning as much as we could. I don’t think I do. Can we use stories more but make truly immersive stories?\n
  • We tell stories to children from the time they are babies. We make the noises, we put on the voices, we do anything we can to immerse them (and ourselves) in the story. They love it, we love it. They make connections and become immersed in the book. How do we get our students immersed into the stories we use? How do we make them care enough to want to be part of the story? \n
  • In the classroom we also have these. This was one of my first textbooks in high school. This textbook kind of had stories in it. There were people, places and scenarios that show how to use language. But there’s not a lot of depth to the characters or any true narrative. Whatsmore, we can’t change the scenarios to suit the needs of the day or the week or the season. It’s largely a passive affair. We try to add depth by getting students to read the passages, act them out and create their own. Some classrooms use the gesture method (AIM) to immerse students in vocabulary. We improvise a lot and it often works.\n
  • But textbooks don’t change very often, despite reality changing constantly. In fact, has it all changed much at all? We use these books now. There aren’t many differences between this text and the previous one. The main difference is visual - colours and comic book format and also the listening CD adds to this. There is more of a storyline and students can engage a little more with the characters as they progress through the book and because the stories are dialogues, students can act them out, maybe even relate to them a little more. Their engagement is a little more active. \n\nBut NOW - shouldn’t we be looking for so much more than this, given what we can do with technology these days? We need characters that the students can interact with - either real people or ‘fictional’ characters.\n
  • These days there are so many tools out there we can use to help tell stories, to get students to create and relate their own stories in the target language. Many of us use some of these sites; VT for speaking / telling stories, the others for creating / writing stories. There’s more of a creative thing happening here. But I have always wondered if we are leveraging the net as much as we could? Can we write stories that connect these sites and have students using language to navigate through them? \n
  • Games are one way in which students are thoroughly engaged with stories in their own time. They immerse themselves in these stories. They work hard to reach the next level or solve a puzzle. They also work together to do this. I think we need to work out how to leverage some of this into our language classroom.\n
  • I’m thinking we need to move from this type of passive listening scenario to a place where students participate in the story. Acting out the story is useful, fun and engaging but is there more? Can we get our students immersed in our stories in the target language or using the target language. Can we get to here, where the students are participating “in” the story. They are taking on the role of characters in the story. They interact with the characters. Can we make it their story - not just characters in a textbook?\n
  • Maybe this can help. ARG (Alternate Reality Game). \nRemember webquests? This is kind of like the final frontier. Taking the quest beyond the web and into real life.\nIt’s about creating a narrative and using sites, email and whatever else you imagine to tie it all together.\n\n
  • So, ARG and Transmedia is storytelling in the digital age. Telling stories across different platforms like video, email, twitter, as in transmedia or telling it across these and including a little real world drama.\nWe see it everyday out there now. It seems every new movie release or TV show has a website or Facebook page attached to it. \nSherlock seems to be a good example in that it uses Sherlock’s website and Watson’s blog to add to the story being played out on the TV screen. \n\nCan we do this in the classroom? It takes time to develop a unit but it is worth it. Choose your timing. A thoroughly engaging unit before language choice time is always a bonus.\n
  • All this led to a couple of projects in our language classrooms. Rosetta2032 began with a QR code leading to basically a movie trailer and consisted of our entire Yr7 cohort interpreting clues, websites and puzzles in the TL, whilst trying to find QR code ‘coins’ around the school. They were of course trying to save our future - and did, so be thankful. The Ninja Diaries task is something I tried with Yr10 last term. \n
  • In creating these we first needed to create a story and work out what widely available free tools we were going to use to tell that story. \nI tried to look at websites as not what they were but as how they could be useful. Eg. an online calendar can be easily used in any language to write diary entries, use dates or scheduling in the TL. Street view can be used for directions and locations of places and objects. These can then all be used as part of a wider narrative that follows a character.\n
  • So the next thing to do was create characters and give them a presence on the web to make them a little more believable. TakF was writing a blog for quite a while before I pointed out the blog to my Yr10s, claiming that a teacher in Japan had shown me the site. It was quite convenient that he had been writing in Japanese, using grammar and vocab that Yr10 had covered or were soon to cover. Think of it as creating a resource that could be reused or pages in your very own textbook. I plan to recycle these characters as much as possible. BenK was reinvented as TakF for the Yr10 task.\n
  • Once you have the narrative and your characters work out how students will navigate through. It’s best that they know what they have to do, why they are doing it and what they get out of it. Ultimately, we want them to do it because it’s just sooo engaging but little rewards and levels they can work through always help.\n
  • So for a central headquarters we used edmodo - an awesome tool for setting up online learning spaces. Here we could send information to all easily, students could work together. It provided a place where ALL students could work out of and where they could communicate with each other and work collaboratively. They didn’t even need to be in the same classroom as the teacher who was ‘teaching’ the language that they were learning. \n
  • Edmodo has the ‘award badge’ function and so this was also perfect for our needs. Students completing phases for the resistance were given the specific badge for that level. One of the other teachers commented on more than one occasion that several boys were still in the classroom a few minutes after the recess bell working on the project - this was usually a rare event at the best of times. They were trying to compete tasks to receive the relevant badge. They were competing against each other, but also helping each other. \n
  • Tasks in each phase varied. For this phase, students were required to read the information on BenK’s site and complete the “Target Profile” sheet. The content of the task contained vocabulary that they had learnt in their Japanese class and was repeated throughout the whole activity. Not all tasks were online - there were traditional ‘worksheets’ and even cut out puzzles - trying to cater for all types of student.\n
  • Hence the number puzzle. For this task, once they worked out the final number they need to add it to the end of a URL. The doiop website was perfect for my needs as it enabled me to create the URL I wanted, with a little bit of fiddling around. \nAll the sites were used to try to keep up the sense of mystery of where to next but there were several comments from the boys in the follow up survey that there were too many sites for them and it was a little confusing.\n\n
  • Ultimately there were a variety of comments.\n
  • So next time you need to spice up a unit of work - start with a story, some interesting characters and use sites, audio clips, videos, and so on to tie it all together. It’s what we do with a textbook but hopefully a little more interactive.\n
  • Storytelling in languages

    1. 1. STORYTELLINGIN LANGUAGES Where to next?
    2. 2. EVERYONE HAS ASTORY TO TELL In any language
    3. 3. Some rights reserved by Etolane by Kalexanderson by John-Morgan
    4. 4. Passive
    5. 5. Active
    6. 6. Flickr image by taylor libraryFlickr image by Blue Mountains Library Flickr image by Cockburn Libraries
    7. 7. Transmedia Flickr image: by minor9th Flickr image: by owenwbrownFlickr image: by Jonas’ Design Storytelling in the digital age
    8. 8. Phase 1Enlist in the Resistance Glen Agua What?Enlisting in the resistance will allow you to gain access to ‘thedatabase’; a library of resources & clues and a list of the phasesyou should complete in order to outwit those in power.Strategy: Be on the lookout. Your language teacher willprovide you with one of those worksheets that often get passedaround. into this, we have embedded the site address and anaccess code. find the site and use the code.Once you’ve accessed the site, to complete Phase 1, you will need tofill in your profile in the target language. success will result inyour ‘resistance badge’ Why?good luck! What reward?Interpretation credits:There is no bonus for this phase.
    9. 9. Edmodo
    10. 10. Badges
    11. 11. Who is BenK?
    12. 12. a mystery type storyline was reallythat you could work at your own pace good, and the way it was tied in with using your languages. e nd th iddles a ere s and r keys w it was better than writing lines oblem hidden out pr re the gure g whe g to fi findinHavin ess of the tasks were a little bit corny succ Make it easier to access the tasks and make ly it more streamlined I real ! hard. some e think s awe m ade m am it wa n g and 2 progr allengi tta203It w as ch Rose The ability to work independently or in a e ed th group and to get through problems thatenjoy challenged your thinking, creativity and language skills. It was challenging and I like a challenge