Section 5

Turning oral stories, poems and games into books


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:
  • used discussion to help pupils understand the similarities and differences between oral and written texts;
  • developed ways pupils can turn oral stories, poems, songs or games into written and illustrated forms;
  • explored how to produce books of stories, poems, games and songs for a class library.

One important aspect of teaching is that your pupils see a real purpose to the tasks you set them. By helping pupils to make books for the class library, you will be giving them a reason for taking care with their writing and drawing. This will also encourage them to value their home languages and the classroom lingua franca or additional language. The books can be written in the pupils’ home language(s), a classroom lingua franca or an additional language. More than one language can be used in the same book. The books pupils make, with your help, will also give you extra materials for reading activities.

Page 1

Pupils who speak a language at home that is different from the language of the classroom need to know that you value their home language. This is important because a home language is part of who a person is. One way of demonstrating this is to encourage your pupils to tell stories and riddles, recite poems, sing songs and explain games in their home languages and then to write these down, either in their home languages or in another language. In Activity 1, you help pupils explore the similarities and differences between oral and written texts. You will encourage them to think about what is valuable about the oral tradition, why people write things down and which languages are used in speech and writing.

Case Study 1: Telling stories in home languages; writing them in a lingua franca

Mr Okitikpi, a Yoruba-speaking teacher, has recently been transferred to a community in Northern Nigeria that has Hausa as a common language, but a number of pupils speak three Nigerian languages. A few parents and young adults have agreed to act as teaching ‘aides’. They know Hausa and some English and are helping Mr Okitikpi to learn Hausa so he can communicate with his pupils better. As some of his pupils can speak three Nigerian languages, Mr Okitikpi has involved these aides in storytelling activities to build pupils’ confidence in speaking and to show that their home languages are valued. He wants pupils to write some stories down, ideally in their home languages. However, a number of the languages do not have a written form, so he decides they should write the stories in Hausa. One of his aides discusses with pupils why people write stories down. Next, they write down their favourite story, in Hausa, so that they can put it into a book for the class library. Mr Okitikpi puts the pupils into groups for this writing activity, making sure that at least one group member is fairly fluent in Hausa and can support the others. He also asks his aide to help him monitor the writing process.

Activity 1: Writing down oral literature and games

First, read Resource 1: How stories are made into books, and think about the answers to the five questions for pupils. Ask pupils for the titles of home language stories, poems, songs and games they know. Write these on the chalkboard. Discuss these questions with pupils:
  • are these home language texts written in books?
  • why do people write down stories, poems, songs and games in books?
  • would you like your home language stories, poems, songs and games to be written in books? Why, or why not?
  • in which language or languages would you write poems, stories and games for a book? Why?
  • how do books get written and produced? Tell pupils they will be making books for a class library.
Ask pupils to each choose a favourite story and to write the first draft in the language of their choice. Were you pleased with the discussion? How did pupils respond to this activity?

Page 2

Some kinds of learning, such as learning to play a musical instrument, use a computer or drive a car, require a great deal of practice. As a teacher, you need to give pupils opportunities to repeat and practise what they have tried before so that they can improve on their first efforts. While Activity 2 in this section is similar to the Key Activity in Section 4, the repetition is important. Pupils will learn that writing is a process and that their written stories, poems and instructions for games will give more pleasure to others if they craft them carefully. Writing, illustrating and reading these books may take several lessons, but as these activities provide many opportunities for language work, the time will be well spent. You can use Resource 2: A checklist for pupils to help pupils assess their work. Case Study 2 suggests how teachers can make books with pupils who are not yet very skilled as writers.

Case Study 2: Helping beginner readers and writers to make a storybook

Regina Banda teaches 60 Grade 1 and 2 pupils, in a combined class, at a farm school near Lilayi in Lusaka. Regina regularly invites parents into school to tell stories in Chinyanja to their pupils. Regina asked her pupils to help her turn a favourite story, which they had helped create, into a book. First she made a big blank book (see Resource 3: Turning pupils’ stories into a ‘Big Book’). She wrote out the story, using short phrases and sentences. Then she decided where each phrase or sentence should go in the blank book. She used a black wax crayon to write the story in large neat letters, leaving space for drawings. In class, Regina held the book up for pupils to see, and read the story with them. She discussed what kind of picture was needed on each page. She gave pieces of paper to each pair of pupils, and two pairs of pupils illustrated each of the 15 pages. She asked pupils to find the right page for each picture, and helped them paste the pictures in.

Activity 2: Crafting first drafts and planning the books

Ask pupils in groups of four to read the first drafts of their stories (from Activity 1) to each other. Ask them to choose two drafts (from the four) to work on in pairs to improve them. They should use the checklist in Resource 2 to guide their work. Remind them ‘real’ authors revise their work many times. Next, ask them to show it to the other pair in their group for further improvements. Now collect their work and write on it corrections to spelling, grammar and punctuation. Next lesson, give the groups their blank book (see Resource 3) and ask them to do the following:
  • plan which sentences go on each page and where illustrations will be;
  • decide how to divide the writing and drawing tasks, so that each group member participates.
Ask them to show you their plan; discuss this and then ask them to carry out their plan. With younger pupils, you could write a story together in a big book and then the pupils can do drawings for each page.

Page 3

Communication is not just about words. Today’s newspapers carry far more photographs than in the past and modern textbooks include many more illustrations than older ones. Advertisers use images on billboards, in magazines and on television to sell products. Computer screens combine words and images in exciting ways. Pupils need to be able to create and read texts that combine the verbal (words) and the visual (pictures). As the teacher, your responsibilities include:
  • keeping up to date with what interests pupils;
  • including design activities (for example, designing grocery packages, posters, advertisements) in language and literacy lessons.
This part focuses on designing a cover for the pupils’ books of stories, poems, songs and games.

Case Study 3: Discussing and designing book covers

Mr Eddie Mubanga encourages his Grade 6 English pupils to ask questions in their reading lessons about words and expressions that they hear or read but don’t understand. One morning, a pupil told the class he had heard one character in a TV drama say to another, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Mr Mubanga asked his pupils for ideas about what this expression means and why it might have been used in the drama. After a few minutes of discussion, pupils understood that the design of a book cover may or may not give a good idea of what a book will be about. In a similar way, how a person looks or what he or she says may not be a reliable guide to what that person is like ‘on the inside’. Mr Mubanga decided to take the discussion further. He asked the class to think about the purpose of book covers and then to look at the cover of a storybook he had brought in. Can they tell from the cover what the story is about? What did they like or not like about the cover? Could it be improved and if so, how? After a lively discussion and reading the story to the pupils, he asked them to work in groups of four to make a new cover design for this book and gave them loose sheets of paper to work on. When they had finished, one pupil from each group explained to the class why they had chosen their design. Mr Mubanga displayed the covers on the classroom wall.

Key Activity: Writing books

Having finished the writing and drawings for their storybooks, your pupils are now ready to design their book covers. You could use the backs of posters, cardboard boxes and other ‘throwaway’ materials, especially if resources are limited in your school. See Key Resource: Being a resourceful teacher in challenging conditions for further ideas.
  • Show pupils some book covers and ask them what they think are good features (see Resource 4: Features of good cover design).
  • Ask each group to design a cover for their book. They need to agree on the words, drawings and the position of each and decide who will write or draw each part of the cover.
  • Move around the groups to discuss their designs with them and provide support and guidance as they make their book cover.
  • Allow time for the groups to assemble their books.
  • Ask one pupil from each group to display the book and encourage other groups to read it.
  • Put the books into the class library.
What do you think your pupils learned from this activity? Were the books read by other pupils once they were in the library? With young children, you could read the story or poems and ask them to draw a picture for the cover or inside.

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