April 24, 2019 | #EarlyLang

Adapting Fairy Tales and other Storybooks for #earlylang Classes
from April 24, 2019

On April 24, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed benefits and challenges in using picture books and how to choose an appropriate story. They also shared strategies to make storybooks comprehensible and supplemental activities to improve comprehension.

Q1: What are advantages or disadvantages of using fairy tales and/or picture books in #earlylang classes?

One of the main advantages is familiarity. Especially with fairy tales and folk tales, students may already know the plot which makes the story accessible, even in the TL. Stories from a different cultural background can provide different perspectives and encourage further conversation. Pictures can aid in comprehension and allow for predicting and interacting more with the text, in addition to being beautiful to look at. On the other hand, the language can be far above the students’ proficiency levels. In that case, the teacher can rewrite the story or incorporate other strategies to ensure comprehension, assuming he or she has enough time to do so.

Q2: What criteria do you use when choosing a fairy tale or picture book?

First, it should have a compelling, believable plot and realistic characters. A connection to the thematic unit and high frequency language that students will use again is another consideration. Especially for #earlylang, a strong cultural component and a positive representation of diverse characters is a necessity. One participant shared this resource list of Recommended Books for Young Children.

Q3: How do you incorporate fairy tales and/or picture books in your curriculum?

Most participants discussed using fairy tales, etc. as part of a thematic unit, either within the language class or another subject area. Stories can be used as an introduction to the unit, and could be classic fairy tales, authentic cultural stories, or popular children’s books. Stories such as fables, with universal lessons, can be used to help students learn about life. Picture books can also be used as a warm up or closing activity. When selected with care and intention, they provide opportunities for students to interact with authentic, real world language, too.

Q4: How do you make fairy tales and/or picture books comprehensible for your learners?

It depends on the story and whether the students are familiar with it. One suggestion was to get a copy in the home language so that young learners hear the story before trying to learn it in English. Other suggestions included using the illustrations to help retell the story, TPR before and during reading, or making props to use in various ways. Finally, some teachers translate or rewrite the stories, sometimes creating presentation slides with key words and images to aid in comprehension.

Q5: What activities do you include in addition to reading the text of the fairy tale/book?  

@MundodePepita, “Retellings, sequencing the main parts of the story using visuals, connecting to a song or game, connecting to non fiction content where applicable.”

@la_sra_hinson, “sequencing, drawing for comprehension, acting it out, change the story (name, places, objects) with the class so they’re creating it.”

@marishawkins, “With other novels that I have used I find it important to highlight the cultural aspects of the book and bring them more to life with more pictures or videos.”

@KarenNemethEdM, “multiple copies of the same book, using teacher assistant, co-teacher, or volunteer to help read to smaller groups so you can be sure they all have a chance to understand? #earlylang You have better connection w each child – can see what they need to support their learning.”

@nathanlutz, “To my Ss’ displeasure, I sometimes restart the story before I finish and ask them to restate parts of the story. Or I’ll get details wrong and have them correct me.”

Q5: Reflaction (reflection + action) What will you change in your next unit based on this discussion?

Actions steps included reading the summary to gather the ideas shared, include more stories, and seek out stories with high frequency words. Some participants shared resources: Picture book activities and Multilingual children’s stories.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Valerie Shull (@windycitysenora), and our co-moderator, M Cristina Rdz-Villa(@MaCristinaRV), for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.

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