Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A puppet show as an oral resource to exploit stories

As a teacher of English as a second language to very young children you know (of course!) the value of using stories in the classroom. They are a powerful tool not only for enjoyment and motivation, but also for learning British culture, traditions and festivities.

Children are usually interested in finding out the differences between their own culture and the culture of children in the UK. The legend of St. George and the Dragon has a strong connection between the British and the Catalan culture, as it is a story with deep roots in both cultures.

Illustrator: Cristina Costa
In general children know this story very well, and they can perform it in their mother tongue with some minimum effort. But the challenge comes when we want to play it in English.

There are many different ways to approach the story. Younger learners or learners who have a lower level of English will want to read or listen to the story several times, before to perform in front of an audience.

Older students, upper primary ones, with a higher level of English can be stimulated for creative writing. They could write more complex stories, for example, their own story based on the legend of St George, transforming the characters, creating new ones or inventing new situations.

Role-Play and acting out

As a spring time project, in year 5, we wanted to do a quite ambitious class project: interpreting the legend of St George and the Dragon with puppets as a way to take English out of our classroom, and perform it in front of a much selected audience (children of year 1 and 2).

They wrote a free version of this legend, they illustrated an enormous castle as a puppet theatre and, of course, they learned new vocabulary and grammar structures. Moreover, they practiced movements with the puppets as a comprehension support of the story, they read aloud the dialogue of the characters and the narrator in different voices, they did a lot of pronunciation and intonation, and they had a lot of fun while learning English! (This is probably the most important issue!).

But it is better to have a look at the full process in the following PowerPoint.

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