Friday, 19 May 2017

The Unicorn in the Garden: as many ways as teachers

I find the way(s) a teacher’s personality shapes the learning process intriguing, to say the least. Our entire philosophy of life shows through our instruction not only through the preparation for our lessons but mainly through the snap decisions we take at each moment in class either to compensate for inequalities of any kind or to deal with challenges – educational or managerial.  This means that any material provided either in the form of a course book or lesson plan will eventually undergo as many adjustments as teachers using the material.

It would be interesting, therefore, for teachers who set out to adopt some common material to share their experiences of actually using it in class and accounting for the choices made.

I will provide an example of material that can be used in various ways depending on who you are and what the goals you have set are.

James Thurber’s stories constitute excellent resources for teaching English for various reasons. For one thing, many of his stories can be appreciated by both children and adults. Besides, you can find simple ones that an intermediate student can follow (The Moth and the Star, The Little Girl and the Wolf) as well as stories for more advanced students (The Night the bed Fell, What do you Mean it was Brillig?)

I will use The Unicorn in the Garden here. (Please find the story at the end of this post.)
A traditional approach would be to give the text to the students and allow the time to read it. One could ask content questions afterwards and perhaps invite students to interpret the story, to think of what it could possibly mean. Is it to be taken at face value or should one delve into it to find the underlying message?

One might decide to engage the students in the story more actively, in which case one could show an animated version of it on You Tube (link provided at the end) and then hand out the printed version of it.

One might, however, want the students to produce some language and make predictions about the content of the story, which could be achieved by showing the video without sound and inviting the students to make up the story as they go along.

Alternatively one might decide to provide some key words before asking the students to invent the story so that the resulting stories would approximate the original one.

Rather than having a general discussion, the teacher could guide it by writing down some cues on the board (realism, imagination, society, limits, normal, eccentric etc).

A written task could be assigned asking the students to  give a different end to the story. The woman was right after all (unicorns are mythical beasts!): why should one be penalised for being down to earth – though I don’t really think this is what she was punished for!

Others might grab the opportunity to teach some more sophisticated vocabulary such as “reversal of roles” or “turn the tables on someone”.

The possibilities are endless. So it is over to you now.

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