Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Cheeky Story

Can you imagine yourself standing on a stage in front of 300 audience, presenting your own idea?
I honestly can't. I repeat I can NOT imagine that. But what if a little crazy idea pops up in your mind one night and acted on the idea without considering the consequences? I sometimes jump into troublesome adventure because those events make me feel so alive. All my senses got sharp and awaken by the shock. I love surprising people, especially myself. I do sometimes I can never imagine myself doing. This story is one of them.

At the beginning of this new year, one of my friends posted about an announcement that TED Tokyo teachers is seeking speakers and entertainers on FB. She challenged us to make action on this opportunity. That was right after I read a book, Dare Greatly about the real meaning of braveness. As a typical of me, I  dared to send an application form just to show how brave I could be. I thought to myself, "No way I got a chance to talk." But I was happy and proud that the fact that I filled the form and sent it to TED Tokyo.

I have been researching on code-switching and its functions in EFL classrooms for young learners, more specifically beginner students at my school. While reading numbers of research paper on code-switching of bilingual children, I came across one of catchy title, We only learn language once. The role of the mother tongue in FL classrooms:death of a dogma. (Butzkamamm, 2003) It tickled my anti-authority and rebellious mind. The paper  asserts how L1 can be one of the most effective resource for language learning and introduces Sandwich technique, founded by a german scholar, Dodson in 70's. It was such a cathy name that I wanted to dig a bit about this technique and by the end of reading his paper, I was hungry enough to taste it in my classrooms with my students.

I have been planning to have Story-based or narrative-based teaching for I am a big believer of story and its magic over mind and souls of young learners. I enjoyed lots of stories as a child and turned my daughter a big story fan. I believe those stories are the foundation of my beliefs and values. Since I collected so many picture books for myself and my daughter, I wanted to share with other kids and hope that they would learn English as they enjoy the stories. I've read a book called, The Storytelling guidebook and learned how to utilize those brilliant narratives for language learning. So, it didn't take me so long to integrate the sandwich technique into my story telling practice.

For the first time, I read a story a little bit higher than my students' English proficiency with brief Japanese translation, they were so engaged to the story that they went so quiet. They could answer all the comprehension questions after the storytelling at ease. I really liked the result and stretched the use of Japanese a bit more for pair work. I gave some pairs some tasks and asked them to work them out together. They immediately code-switched to Japanese but successfully achieved the tasks together.
I liked the spontaneous interactions among them and the support they give each other. They looked engaged and enjoying the challenges. They came up the answers for the tasks in L2 but the spontaneous interaction that occurred in the pair work was conducted in L1. But it didn't bother me after understanding the nature of code-switching and its benefits. Students felt liberated to participate the class more actively and I was amazed and amused by the interactions among students. The vibe in the classroom was positive and lively.

So, I started to hypothesize that by accepting more spontaneous usage of mother tongue in some activities would facilitate more positive learning environment and consequently have students more engaged and active learners in my classrooms.

This bilingual method was in my mind when I filled the application form and didn't have a second thought when I sent it to TED Tokyo. So, that blew me away when I got the invitation to their speaker's workshop. I humbly accepted the offer and went to their first workshop for public speech last Sunday and had one of the most exciting and though-provoking day in my life with amazingly interesting participants and two incredibly supportive, passionate and giving mentors.

I knew what I wanted to tell but as soon as I got on a stage, my mind went paralyzed with nervousness   and words didn't come out from my mouth. Nevertheless, all the participants were patient, supportive and gave me some feedback.

I am not sure yet if TED Tokyo would want me to get back on the stage and let me to get words out of my heart on March 1st. I am not sure if my little fragile heart can take the thrill.

Excuse me? Yes, I have a very fragile and sensitive heart PERIOD

But I would try to get ready for the day because it would worth trying to do something I never imagined myself doing. I am trying to surprise myself.

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