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Inspiring teachers: Using readers to develop creative writing in primary students

March 03, 2021 by Nora Nagy

We are always delighted to hear about classroom projects inspired by our readers, and think they could be equally inspiring for you, our blog readers. We believe that these authentic experiences can inspire other teachers to carry out similar projects with their students. Today's project shows that a good story with a strong central character who engages the readers, followed by an inspiring question can lead to creative results and an overall empowering experience.

The project

We’ll look at a class writing project inspired by Fat Cat’s Busy Day and proposed by Bengü Karav in her 4th grade primary class at Atekent Campus of the Cihangir Schools in Turkey. The English programme in this school builds reading in their primary language teaching curriculum. 

Double page from Fat Cat's Busy Day by Maria Cleary. Illustration by Lorenzo Sabbatini. © Helbling Languages

After reading the young reader Fat Cat’s Busy Day by Maria Cleary, illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini, Bengü asked her students the following question:

“If you were the author and wanted to continue the story, what would you write?”

And the students started writing … One of the stories was a fun slideshow presentation created by Ceren, who you can see in the photo below. 

Ceren, one of the students who took part in the project.

The interview

Let’s meet Bengü Karav, English teacher at the Atekent Campus of Cihangir Schools.

Bengü Karav, the teacher of the class.

How long have you been using readers with your young learners?

I have been using readers with my young learners for 12 years.   

What do you think are the benefits of using picturebook readers with young learners? 

I think the most significant benefit is empowering the imagination of my young learners. When the learners feel this power, then they have got lots of things to say and write, which makes them little researchers.

What kind of stories do your students like?

They usually look for adventure stories.

What is your typical teaching approach to readers? How do you use them?

In my teaching, I rely on the principles of Communicative Language Teaching. I prefer to help the students to focus on the foreshadowing objects on the page we have just read so that they can guess what will happen in the following scene.

What was the idea behind the Fat Cat’s Busy Day project?

My students loved following the adventures of Fat Cat, so I thought the project could give them the chance to create their own adventures to share with each other.

How long did it take for the student to create their new stories?

I would have set up a process-based project if we had been able to have our lessons face-to- face, but we were working online and it took approximately a fortnight to create the new stories.

How did they present them in class? 

Because our lessons were online, the children presented their PowerPoint projects by using the screen share feature of the Zoom Programme. 

How did the students like this project? What were their reactions? We’d love to hear how the story and this activity made them feel.

The students loved Fat Cat, he seemed like a famous cartoon character for them; that’s why they were so willing to continue his adventures. It was a joy for my students to do this project and to listen to each other’s stories. 

Many thanks for the interview!

Bengü Karav, the teacher of this course graduated from Istanbul University English Language and Literature in 2006, and then she received a degree in pedagogy from Marmara University in 2007.

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