Saturday, May 18, 2013
Reflecting on an Inspiring Plenary Session
Presenting in seminars pushes teachers to study, research, and experiment. It surely pushes us towards sharpening our teaching skills, but attending a seminar also gives us the opportunity to watch, learn and observe from the generous presenters who take their time to prepare interesting and inspiring content to reach their audience. Last friday, I attended The One-Day Seminar - Telling Our ELT Stories and left with great insights to help inspire my learners. The opening plenary by Valeria Franca started with her telling us a story. A story that had a clear, concrete starting point. She showed us a pair of ballet shoes and enchanted her listeners as she unveiled the details of her narrative. She had all our attention and that`s when magic happened. She led us through an experiencial path and started asking us to perform some tasks. The activities not only touched us, but also taught us some interesting techniques to use in our classrooms. Why are stories such a meaningful teaching tool? It brings up emotions, and emotions please the learning brain. I heard what she had to say, I learned because I connected, I cared.
In the first activity, we had to think of a concrete object that conjured up personal memories and answer with a single word her questions about it. What the object is, where the memory takes place, who was involved, the sound and the smell of such a memory. Then, we exchanged papers and had our partners guess what the story was. My partners could not guess my story, but there was a lot of interaction among us because they were genuinely interested in knowing about it.
In the second activity, she taught us a technique used by fiction writers to create characters. We had to draw stars on a piece of paper and write next to each one a life changing event. Then, we had to draw other stars to join the events. We had to link the stars to create life stories, and it was magical again. I realized that I had created different people and that each and every one of my characters had his or her life story and background. I can imagine lots of practical ideas to explore this technique with my students.
Valeria started her plenary talking about people, moved to objects that trigger memories and had us thinking about events to create background stories. Then, she took us back to thinking about people.
In activity 3, she explored the idea of adding layers to creating a character. She showed an image of a boy and asked us to create a background story for him. Then, she played a beautiful soundtrack of waves breaking on shore to help our imagination flow, and, in a click, I felt creative and the boy was no longer an image projected before my eyes; He was a character because he had a story. The combination of image first and then sound provided me with the thinking time I needed.
I left the plenary eager to keep using stories in my classes because that`s when magic happens, and thanks to Valeria, I left the plenary with some more techniques in my toolbox. One more tip she gave us - springpad to have students create and publish their stories.