Dr. Christoph Edelhoff, Chairman
At the end of May, teachers and teacher trainers for English in comprehensive schools from all over Germany assembled at the Hamburg State Institute for Education for their annual three-day meeting, this time to explore the potential of story, narration and the creative use of literature in the foreign language classroom. The group representing a minority of schools amongst a basically tri-partite selective school system has made itself a name in communicative language teaching in the last 30 years. Delegates were eager to focus on classroom tactics and good practice in the middle of a national debate that is mainly focusing on standards, evaluation and quality control.
The BAG, as the group is called, was enthusiastic since all the principles it has worked for ever since it was founded 35 years ago were illustrated and confirmed by what Steve Bell had to say about the Storyline approach: a learner-centred curriculum across the subjects, holistic learning (Heinrich Pestalozzi’s “head, heart and hand”), the use of language to explore the world and do things – just to name the major ones.
Drawing on his rich experience in Scotland and teacher workshops in European countries and in the wider world Steve did not simply spell out the philosophy behind the approach but made delegates experience the making and the use of stories in hand-on sessions and gave them examples of good practice. Following his planning model of (physically) creating the characters, setting the time and place of the story participants, in small groups, made their own planning of a Storyline working out the key questions, pupil actvity, class organisation, materials and the expected outcome.
It became very clear that Storyline is not just a number of sequenced activities but a complex framework for all kinds of thematic work at all levels of education. Steve Bell has won over yet another network of school innovation.