Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

SPRE it up with Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes is arguably one of the most well-known comic strips around the world. There is a small part inside all of us that connects with a young, mischievous boy, his imaginary stuffed animal, and the adventures that they experience together. Though not that popular in Turkey, even some of our teenage students have heard of it. Those that haven't, quickly associate themselves with Calvin, and become interested in reading more of the comic strips in their free time.
For this reason, my colleague wanted to incorporate Calvin and Hobbes in a creative, yet enjoyable project in which the students would have to come up with their own stories, and create the dialogue for it. We found one of our favourite original Calvin and Hobbes strips, and with the aid of technology, we erased the dialogue between the two characters, as pictured below. Then, in classic ELT-style, we print off the comic for the students, who, using the pictures as a guide, create their own scenarios.

This seems like nothing new, you might be saying to yourself.  This type of activity has been done millions of times. True, indeed, but in this version, there is much more going on behind the scenes, per se. Creating the dialogue for the comic strip is the end product of several lessons focusing on, and scaffolding of, the SPRE model of analysis and organization.

I was introduced to SPRE by my colleague, David Mearns, several years ago, and have loved the simplicity of it ever since. In fact, he wrote a blog post on the model itself two years who, which you can read by clicking here. Briefly however, SPRE is a model of analysis that can break down any well-written story, be it print or media, into four basic elements...

Describing the main character(s), the setting, and the situation he/she/they find themselves in at the beginning of the story.


Identifying the problem(s) that the protagonist faces.

Explaining how the protagonist tries to solve the problem(s) that he/she faces.


Concluding how the story ends in regards to the protagonist and the problem.
It is amazing how simple, yet effective it is in trying to understand the root of any story.  However, it doesn't only have to apply to fictional stories. It can apply to real life stories as well, and one area that gets our students totally engaged is sports, which is how he first introduce the SPRE model to them.
Turkey, like many countries around the world, is extremely passionate about football. Therefore, we knew that this would get most of the students on board straightaway. We introduced the 2005 Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan, which was held in Istanbul.  If you are not familiar with the match, it is easily one of the most enthralling football matches you will ever see.  Liverpool were losing 3-0 in the first half, but managed to come back and tie the match in the second half, 3-3.  The game went on to extra-time, where Liverpool won on penalty kicks. We made a tutorial for this SPRE from a Liverpool point of view on Blendspace, which can be reached here.

Thereafter, we have the students go through other SPRE tutorials on Blendspace based on basketball, as well as the life story of Robert Downey Jr. Moreover, the students go back through all of the short stories and ESL readers that we have done throughout the semester, and we discuss the SPRE models for them.

By this time, the majority of the students have a decent idea of what SPRE means and what it is used for.  Once you get to that point, you can move on to more creative SPRE projects to see whether they truly understand the concept or not, leading us back to Calvin and Hobbes.

So, before the students even begin to consider thinking about the dialogue that they will write between the characters, we led them through an exemplar that we had made with the same comic strip, as pictured just above.  After reading it out as a class, the students had to identify the SPRE within it, which is as follows...


Calvin is unhappy because he has to do a research paper on bullying.


He doesn't want to do it, especially when he finds out that his partner in the project is a girl.


Calvin calls his partner, and tries to make the excuse that he has no way to connect to the internet.  The girl doesn't believe him, and tells him that he should find a way to connect to the net, like going to a local cafe.


In the end, Calvin continues to be unhappy and hate girls because he has to do the project.

Finally, after going through our exemplar, the students were ready to get started on their own stories.  To begin with, they had to first write down the SPRE model of their stories in their notebooks. This step allowed them to think more deeply about it, in addition to how their stories were going to match up with the pictures in the comic strip.  Once they showed them to us, and if were satisfied, they could then continue on with writing the dialogue.  

In the end, most of the students came up with creative, yet funny stories, an example of which is pictured just below.  Furthermore, through all of the scaffolding, the students had a better appreciation of how the SPRE model is beneficial for their learning.

1 comment:

  1. The champion group is Sinan and Gözde.