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Working with biographies
This biography lends itself well to ‘show and tell’ sessions when learners can talk to the class about their own experiences. In this section too, learners may include any plans they have for taking an English exam, visiting an English-speaking country, or having English-speaking visitors at home.
Age: Older primary
The type of things which learners can include in their biography are:
- Learner checklist
- A narrative about a trip to an English-speaking country
- The day an English-speaking friend came to stay
- Plans for the future
- I start the class by putting some pictures on the board and tell the class I’m going to tell them about my trip to an English-speaking country. The pictures include some famous landmarks, photos of my friends there and a picture of myself on the trip.
- I ask the class to guess which country I visited and then brainstorm any information they know about the city. I put vocabulary on the board which will help in the following task. This activates top-down knowledge, personalizes the task and gives the group time to think about their own experiences.
- We then read the story of my trip to Liverpool together. At this stage I point out that the story is in the past, that it is divided into three parts and that each part is a paragraph.
- There are lots of ways to check comprehension, sometimes I ask questions as we go along, or ask the class to answer questions at the end of the reading task.
- Finally, using my story as a model I ask the group to write about their own trip.
Of course there are many children in the class who won’t have visited an English-speaking country or were too young to remember the trip. I tell them they can write about someone they know who went abroad or about an English-speaking visitor to their home.
One of the objectives of working with portfolios is to raise learners' awareness of the many different ways English can be learnt and practised. It tries to move away from the idea that it is a school subject and that it is useful and necessary outside the classroom.
Finally, it's always a good idea to put work up around the class for the group to read at the end of the activity. It’s a valuable activity for children to share their experiences and find out about what others do. Also, reading about their own classmates’ stories in English is useful for reviewing grammar and vocabulary.