Our students are reading Louis Sachar's highly acclaimed bestselling children's novel, "There is a boy in the girls' bathroom." Although many, if not most, students detest reading at school, we have found this title to be one that taps into the adolsecent-psyche. We can only put it down to its subject matter: sibling rivalry & bullying.
Bradley, the protagonist, is a young teenage boy going through his indifferent and beligerent behavioural stage, where he hates everything and everybody; especially authority figures - like, e.g., teachers. As he experiences the consequences of his actions he utters this epic retort to Carla Davis, the new school counselor: "Nobody can hurt me, not even myself..."
I chose to share this quote because we, as adults and teachers know, he could not be further from the truth. A teenager's biggest enemy IS himself/herself. So, with that in mind, and the connection to students reading at school, I believe that if students were more interested in connecting to reading lessons, and simply giving it a chance, they would benefit greatly from well-chosen books, interesting reads and the self-knowledge that grows from it.
We have found that one way of getting students to read on their own (WE HATE any classroom situation where a teacher would think it is ok to read pages and pages of a novel to their teenage students!!) is to instill in them the power of the inner-reading voice in the library. By using an adapted style of S.S.R. (a previous post showing another example of S.S.R.), a stipulated number of pages in 30 minute chunks, and carefully prepared worksheets that relate the characters to the students and their own environment, it opens up the possibility of getting the majority of your students willingly into the novel. Furthermore, it leads to healthy class discussions, written responses and group work. However, we feel that variety is essential with young minds. So, in order to alleviate the boredom that inevitably creeps in, we have come up with this ICT-Supported activity.
We have reached half way through the book. It seemed like a good time for our students to reflect on certain parts of the book; in order to see which enduring understandings they had garnered and acquired as thematic considerations.
Therefore, we looked to see the SIX most important parts of our protagonist, Bradley's, demise through bullying. This we felt was better identified by us, since it was to be the first time any teacher had asked our students to do up till this year. The resultant table is below, and this was past on to the students via the BLENDSPACE of the activity.
We arranged the students into SIX groups (5x3 & 1x2), and directed them to the BLENDSPACE, so they could make this reflective activity totally intrinsic. We reminded them we would not offer up any support, at this time, since we wanted to see how they could cope doing group work alone. Below are the steps as a jpeg:
We gave the students 50 mins to complete ONE page of a comic. Even though they managed to submit their group-efforts in that time, the standard was well below what we expected for this time of the year. However, we took it as an opportunity to give feedback to each group on how they could improve their comic strips. Here are the tips and feedback we gave them to make their first efforts better:
When I was giving the feedback in class there were visible signs from the majority that they were not pleased at the constructive criticism. I soldiered on, and convinced them to engage. They then got a further thirty minutes to redo their comic life pages. You will see the difference...
Now, I know theye are not up there with the quality of Marvel Comics (a previous post about another comic book ELT activity), but at least they tell a message, and it is their own doing. They got creative, eventually, and that was rewarding for us all. I think the most important aspect of this activity is the reflective recall of the excerpts of bullying from Bradley in the book. It gives students a more interesting and productive way for going back to the narrative, rather than simply looking at notes, highlights and annotations. We hope you can try it out, and let us know...