REaChing for the stars
Empowering English Language Learners
This is the second year of Comic class and despite a very small number of enrollment, only two students, we are accomplishing amazing things. At first I was rather nervous about only having two students, especially since one student did the New Zealand study abroad program and one did not. However, I was lucky because both of these students are friends, and they are in a band together, so, they have a certain camaraderie that is an asset to our class environment. They are always willing to push one another and help each other out. This was very apparent through our most recent project, narrating the first chapter of the wordless comic of Sshhhh! by Jason. Last year, when we did this narration, I split up the story pages between different groups of students, and, did the introduction and conclusion myself. This year, I decided to do some shorter, alternate wordless comic practice with students prior to narrating Sshhhh! so that they could narrate the whole story themselves. For this purpose, I used some Bubbaworld Comix extras, short wordless comic strips, to model narration and have students practice some on their own. As we narrated, I took notes on their narration and had them read what I'd written, self-correcting grammar, adding details and descriptive language, and using context to teach key vocabulary.
Before we began our big narration project, I had the students "read" the first chapter of Sshhhh!, which is a dramatic love story about a crow and an evil nemesis. I put "read" in quotation marks here because there are no words to read, but pictures to view and interpret. We discussed the general theme of the story, and I encouraged them to remember the whole story as they narrated each part of the story. While I had only planned to spend a few weeks, two hours a week, working on this project, students became so enthusiastic about their task and dedicated to creating an accurate and exciting account of the pictures, that I decided not to worry about time. We ended up going over our deadline by two weeks, but, the results were worth it. Both students used an impressive amount of English both to narrate and to discuss narration. Each week, I continued to record what students said, and encouraged them to do the same. Writing out new words or sentence patterns helped students remember them. When we met the following week, I would have them reread what they'd previously said, and they would again self-correct grammar and work to make their words more clear and vivid. They never got bored or shut down, but continued to work diligently on this project. I sat with them as a guide, helping them when they got stuck or showing them how to reword things so they made sense, but, my input was purely supportive, they did the hard work themselves. I also provided some translations and pictures to explain vocabulary I thought might be useful and otherwise unknown to them.
In the last two weeks, we began working on pronunciation and intonation, with a focus on consonant endings (Japanese alphabet doesn't have consonant endings so this a continual problem for Japanese students studying English,) and the importance of stressing meaning words. We also worked on adding emotion and drama to our voices, to tell the story through our tone of voice. We did this by listen and repeat and also through students independent practice.
Finally, I recorded the audio of students narrating the story, and converted this audio to WAV files to then embed in a PowerPoint. I uploaded this to AuthorStream again, as I'd done last year. Here are the results: Sshhhh! Narration by Kanazawa Technical College Students 2013.
We also watched last year's narration and the animated version of Sshhhh! so students could see and hear different interpretations of the story.