Developing Imagination through Listening and Diversifying the Teaching Experience

by

Teacher: Barbara Begelman

Students: Grade 6, ages 11 – 12

Audio Content: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Location: Carnell Elementary, Philadelphia Public Schools


Introduction

Barbara Begelman, a 4th grade teacher at Carnell Elementary in Philadelphia, longed for a curriculum that encouraged creativity. Wanting to engage the student’s fertile imaginations, she chose to download C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from Audible.com and gave her students creative assignments that would spark their imaginations.

Use of Technology

Ms. Begelman logged onto Audible.com and downloaded the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, burned it onto a CD and played it on a stereo for class. Ms. Begelman commented that the CD often sounded “fuzzy.”

Classroom Observation

The narrator’s distinct voice drew the students into the story and helped transport them to another time and place. She also distributed blank sheets of paper and crayons, encouraging the students to draw as they listened. Their task was open-ended: Draw scenes and characters from the book or draw whatever you feel. Ms. Begelman played the book in ten-minute segments, pausing to ask questions about the plot and characters in the story. There were often several eager hands waving in desperation to answer her questions. Ms. Begelman asked the students questions like: “What new developments have occurred? What kind of person does Edmund seem like? Why do people make up stories? What do you think will happen next?” To gauge their retention skills, she also asked select students who struggle with conventional reading to retell parts of the story. As the audio played, she would walk around the classroom encouraging students to create mental images based on the descriptions in the story.

Summary/Results

Ms. Begelman was impressed with how some of her usually inattentive children were not only interested in the story and assignments, but were often times begging for more. She reports that the kid’s drawings showed a creativity that’s often lacking in other assignments. “They drew very graphic facial expressions,” she said, adding that “they really seem to be listening.” Students who struggle with retention in conventional reading also seemed to benefit from listening to the audio books. When Ms. Begelman asked particular students to retell the story, students who normally have trouble speaking in front of others or have a hard time recalling details gave intricate retellings of the plot. Ms. Begelman found that it worked best to play the audio in ten-minute segments, and then to stop and discuss. She reported: “I couldn’t play more than ten minutes at a time without the kids losing attention. My questions helped them stay on track.”

Teacher’s Quote

“It was like having a second teacher in the classroom. The kids enjoyed the activity and many would come up to me and ask for it. I think it was also useful because it gave students the chance to listen to a second voice instead of mine all the time.”

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