Volume 1 | Issue 1 | May 2013

Article 1 – The World Turned Upside Down

The purpose of this article is to discuss the theoretical, educational and creative aspects of an alternate history creative writing project with young adults, based on Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel Nation (2008). First, we focus on the potential of the project as a platform for studying how close teenage audiences are to ideal readers of utopian texts who, as Kenneth Roemer (2003) characterizes them, ‘approach literary utopias as opportunities to discover questions, ambiguities, and contradictions out of which they imagine their own models of utopia’ (p. 2). We also see the proposed project as a useful tool both to promote the knowledge of world history and to provoke a reflection on contributions of individuals to larger historical processes. Moreover, we discuss the project as a means to develop those English language skills necessary for students to construct narratives, express causality, and formulate hypothesis or predictions. Finally, we confront the assumptions underpinning the project with students’ reactions to the novel, as recorded during an initial workshop, and with their creative work in English following the workshop. read more

Article 2 – From Reading Pictures to Understanding a Story

This paper discusses the impact of pictures on children’s understanding of a story during their first encounter with the picturebook The Smartest Giant in Town. The study was conducted with a group of 24 children aged between 8 and 9 years in a German primary school. The recorded classroom discourse revealed that children scanned the pictures for clues and actively constructed meaning from them. Learners demonstrated a solid understanding of the relevant situation, which enabled them to make accurate predictions about the developing narrative on the basis of the illustrations within the picturebook. Data from interviews with three groups of four to five young learners each showed that the children were able to jointly reconstruct the storyline 12 months after their first and only encounter with the picturebook. These findings suggest that one encounter with this picturebook helped to create a meaningful context, within which vocabulary knowledge can be expanded during repeated encounters with the story. read more

Article 3 – Humanizing Teaching English to Young Learners with Children’s Literature

High quality children’s fiction can be used in the young learner classroom to advance the broader social intent of language education and humanize it, while enriching language learning. Children are naturally drawn to picturebooks, which can provide a highly motivating and engaging instructional medium in pre-primary and lower primary classes. Short, illustrated chapter books can be used with intermediate level learners. Children’s literature not only enhances language learning, as proven by extensive research, but it can also nurture moral reasoning skills, emotional intelligence and empathy, as well as help children work through difficult issues. Language teaching tasks around literature can further these goals. This paper argues that quality children’s literature, therefore, has a rightful place in teaching English to young learners, and no less so in the very young learner classes that are becoming increasingly common in many parts of the world. read more

Article 4 – Toward Language Bridging in a Multilingual Classroom

To meet the academic and educational needs of first generation school-goers, the Government of India has launched mother tongue based multilingual education for tribal education under the national flagship program of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Universal Elementary Education). In the current multilingual education programme, education starts in the home language. But as the grade advances, curricular subjects begin to be divided between the home language and the school language in a realization of parallel monolingualism in which languages remain closed from each other. This paper proposes the introduction of nonsense texts, including children’s rhymes and folk rhymes and riddles, into the curricular content of language as a bridging subject. For this, I draw upon theoretical perspectives of language awareness, language play and the theories of nonsense. My focus is on the kinds of play that could be attempted with nonsense texts. School education envisages a mere cultural role for nonsense, as a homely, familiar game, and hence, teachers rarely make use of nonsense to initiate experiments with language or to open conceptual doors. I employ the help of some Indian multilingual nonsense texts to illustrate language play – from mimicking sounds and sound patterns to making linguistic connections and discoveries. read more

Article 5 – Response to the The Lost Thing

This paper discusses students’ responses to the picturebook The Lost Thing (Tan, 2000) and its film (2010). It describes a small-scale project in a secondary school in Portugal, which involved 16-18 year-old students, learning English as a foreign language. Following a socio-constructivist approach to language learning and the basic tenets of reader response theory, discussion and an interpretative stance to meaning making were encouraged. The aim was to foster students’ appreciation of the visual during their interpretative discussions as well as developing their English language skills. This paper demonstrates how the picturebook in particular afforded the students with opportunities for language development through talk. It closes with notes on the implications of using picturebooks and their films in the classroom. read more