“I believe that all children should be surrounded by books and animals.”
Considering that fairy tales and fables emerged some thousand year ago, it is no wonder that an updated insight may reveal cruel attitudes and negative models for children. In guise of an example, despite the variety of classic fairy tales, the gender roles remain the same; the men appear brave and dashing, whilst women are frail and in need of saving.
In this same line, it seems clear that traditional stories contain elements of brutality, cruelty and abuse of animals; and of course a stereotyped trait that made poor wolves appear like ruthless beats that likes eating innocent girls and a bunch of harmless, pink, little pigs. Fortunately, wolves have somehow survived despite the black legend fuelled by these traditional stories; and also we FL teachers count on adapted stories, like this beautiful version of the Three Little Pigs, by HOMER
As we all know, the use of storytelling in foreign language teaching represents an invaluable resource to grasp our students´ attention and take advantage of the “fictional space of stories”, which permits delving into the field of positive and negative emotions. The use of fixed stories (adapted versions of traditional tales) provides a wealth of possibilities to play with the plots and come up with contexts related to animal care. In this case, the story of the Three Little Pigs may serve as springboard for a series of FL tasks:
- In groups, students devise a different creative ending; (i.e. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf become really good friends because the wolf is vegetarian). As we know, collaborative work is a source of enrichment for all children if the task if correctly monitored by the teacher. In this case, a creative collective writing activity can be supported with simple models and pattern for children to write a basic script. Motivation is ensured if children are asked to take that simple script to a real comic format in which they simply have to drag an image (they choose out of a set of pre-selected free pictures provided by the teacher) to a comic panel.
- Retelling the story is a practical way to review structures, vocabulary and functions. It can be done in groups by guiding learners in the creation of a simple script with the help of a model. If we want children to create a sense of reality, an audience should go beyond the classroom walls, especially for these native students. Therefore, children in groups turn into scriptwriters and use their previous different story endings to write a full simple story, being helped by the teacher. They rehearse and finally their particular version, which should differ from the original one in a funny way, is recorded by the teacher to be uploaded to a FL blog. Children shall count on parental support at home to design their costumes.
- Characters in role: In this activity students in group take on the role of a character (i.e. the group of wolves, the group of grannies). They are given a set of sentences which they have to read to obtain more information about the character. Finally, each group is interviewed by the rest of “group-characters”, whose questions have been previously written with the help of multiple-option sentences (i.e. to the wolves “why do you like eating girls?). This activity can be especially attractive for gifted learners, who can at this level enjoy being asked by their classmates.
Far beyond these few tips, there is a vast array of possibilities for creative FL teachers who feel that animal care is a crucial transversal element which, as we have seen, is perfectly compatible with communicative and joyful learning experiences in the English classroom.
VIDEO BY HOMER