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Online task 5

Ask the students to plan four meaning-focused tasks for using stories with a chosen age-group and to experiment with them in their own teaching contexts, based on the instructions provided on the sample sheet:

Select a picture book that you consider appropriate for your students’ knowledge level, their interest and for your teaching aims. Based on the model below, create cognitively engaging tasks that will engage your learners into interaction. Then experiment with these tasks in your own teaching context. Take notes of whatever you find interesting (e.g., how your students related to these tasks, how the tasks encouraged them to communicate, what language they used and when, any other issues). Bring your notes to class for discussion.


The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

(picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, 1979)

1. Before reading the story

What is the secret of the garden? Tell the students that they will listen to a piece of music. While listening, they should think of a garden. Give suggestions:

What does the garden look like? Is it big or small? Is it old or new? Whose garden is it? What do you know about the person who lives there? The garden has a secret. What is it?

2. Reading the story

3. Follow-up tasks

What is the word that best reflects the story? (You may want to give them a list to choose from: bizarre, eerie, funny, sad, surprising, impossible). This helps generate a discussion about the story. But you may want to go straight to discussing things:

Discuss: (you may not want to discuss all these issues, these are just tips)

  • Mystery

Was Fritz really changed into a duck, or did Mr. Gasazi play a trick on Alan?

Did it really happen? Can it happen?

Why do grown-ups lose their ability to believe in magic? See more of the author's books, for example, The Polar Express (1985) and Jumanji (1981), if you want to explore the same idea.

  • Characters

Find character clues: What tells you what Fritz is like? Find Find pictures and passages in the text that tell a lot about him. (You can do the same for Abdul Gasazi.)

  • Responsibility

Is Alan responsible? What would you do if you were Alan? How would you feel on your way back to Miss Hester's? What would you tell Miss Hester? Is Mr. Gasazi responsible for anything that happened?

Checking comprehension

Miss Hester left Fritz at home because...

Alan was ...

Suddenly Fritz ...... and ......

Mr. Gasazi detested dogs because ...

The ducks flew up in the sky and ...

On his way home Alan felt ...

When he got to Miss Hesters he...

This is a story about...

The most scaring part of the story was when ...

I liked the picture where ...

If I met a magician, I would ...

If I was a magician I would ...


  • Alan writes a diary entry about the day's adventure.

  • Alan posts a comment on a website: he tells about his adventure and what he found puzzling (in not more than 50 words). He asks for an explanation.

  • Fritz tells his story

  • Continue the story. You can provide the first or the last sentence of the story. For some, writing seems easier if the first sentence is there already. For example: Alan went back to Mr. Gasazi's place next day because... A 15-year-old boy wrote the following story to this prompt:

Alan went back to Mr. Gasazi's place next day because he wanted to ask him something. He had a very important question. He walked between the two statues who guarded the secret garden. Everything was quiet. More quiet than yesterday. The trees were more big. He can't find the path, so he walked through the field with flowers. Then he saw the house. In front of the house two children playing, a boy and a girl. They had interesting clothes. He went to them and asked them: Where is Mr. Gasazi? I must ask him something. The girl said: This is our house and we don't know Mr. Gasazi. Maybe you are lost. Alan shocked. He walks home. Now he had two important questions and nobody to ask.


Ask the students to write down two questions that they would ask of Abdul Gasazi, if they could. This will give you the chance to work on their language mistakes. You can come back to these mistakes by writing down all the questions on a handout which they all get copies of and correcting the mistakes together.

Face-to-face session 2

Discuss questions that have come up in the readings dealt with so far.

Discuss questions that have come up in choosing appropriate materials, designing tasks and trying story-based tasks with in participants' own learning contexts. Allow students to come up with their own challenges and help them relate their experiences to the background literature that forms the backbone of this very course, or that you think they should know from other courses. For example, issues like the need for exposing learners to comprehensible input calls for a link with Krashen's Input hypothesis. Help students become explicit about underlying theoretical assumptions and make them aware that this is what they are expected to do in their research papers for this seminar.