Picture Stories

Irnri Ramses Barrientos, Eduardo Barroso, Juan Pablo García

What are picture stories ?

The picture stories are: Designed to help ESOL instructors address topics that affect the health and well-being of their students. Useful for beginner and low-literacy students. Newcomers to the United States and adults with lower literacy tend to have the least awareness of and access to health care services, thereby running the risk of more serious and chronic health outcomes. Words are kept to a minimum in the stories to give just enough information to convey an idea without becoming too distracting for students with very low literacy. Designed to be safe, impersonal prompts to allow students to discuss difficult topics, ask questions, and obtain information. As the stories are about cartoon characters, the students should not feel pressure to disclose their own experiences on the topic if they don't want to.
Adaptable for use at different levels. What groups of students are the picture stories suitable for? The stories "Emergency," "A Doctor's Appointment," and "Stressed Out" are suitable for most classes, as the topics are common and uncontroversial. "What Should She Do?," however, should be used with discretion, as its topic of domestic violence may evoke strong reactions and discomfort, especially if a class member has experienced domestic violence personally or knows someone who has. How can the stories be used in class? The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is an effective way to use the picture stories with beginners. Benefits of LEA: Uses the students' own language, experiences and observations to create a product, their own story. Promotes speaking, listening, reading and writing, while letting students decide on the content. Life skills are discussed, and the students negotiate to come up with a story on which all can agree. Suggested LEA procedure: The teacher can ask the students what is happening in each frame of the story. She can ask questions to elicit specific details or observations, and if students don't have a clear idea of what to say, various scenarios can be discussed until the class chooses one they like. Once the whole story has been elicited orally, the teacher tells the students that she will write it down as they retell it. While the students retell it, the teacher writes, trying to stay close to the students' own language. She can smooth it out for clarity's sake occasionally, but the story should be the students' product, based on their ideas. The teacher can ask questions again to make sure important information or vocabulary is included. After the story has been written, the class can practice reading it chorally and individually. Students can then copy it down (it's best to leave this step until the end; if students are writing as the teacher is eliciting the story, they don't participate in the creation of the story.). If reading is a skill focus of the class, various follow-up activities like sentence or word sequencing, or cloze activities can be done in a later class. If oral skill development is the focus, retelling without reading could be practiced. Are there any other considerations? In using picture stories, teachers should carefully consider the images that they choose to use. Cartoons or similar drawings or illustrations that incorporate figures of isolated body parts may not be recognizable or comprehensible to all English language learners. This may be especially true for learners with limited literacy in their native languages. Drawings of people or body parts may even be offensive to some groups. Teachers need to be aware of these issues and be prepared to use alternative resources such as photographs, videos, or gestures.
A sad picture story [OFFICIAL VIDEO]