A symbolic frame, although common only as a help for teaching various subject in volunteer organizations in the Czech Republic, proved to be extremely useful in English Language Teaching. Outside of the world of education is a symbolic frame used mainly in business world as a motivational tool for running companies. It is mainly because people feel strongly about symbols that represent the groups they belong to and that give meaning to many of their actions. This idea was probably noticed by people who work with children and they started using symbolic frames as an educational tool. A symbolic frame as it is known today serves as both educational and motivational tool in education of children.
This thesis dealt with one particular kind of a symbolic frame. It was a frame which was taken from the literature of fiction. This type of frame has its own specific quality. By linking the curricular topic with a world created by a work of fiction, students penetrate into a completely new learning environment. In this environment they literally live the fictional story from the chosen novel. They help the characters from the story to deal with problems, they learn all about the new world and about its characters.
The characters from a fictional story often serve as role models for the students. The world, in which the story takes place, can serve as an environment that is different from that of students’. Therefore, it can provide a contrasting world for the students to compare their own world with and enable them to learn from the differences. The events from the story provide challenges for the students to solve challenging problems and form their opinions on various things. Considering these possibilities, the symbolic frame can provide multiple possibilities for integration of cross-curricular topics into English classes. Symbolic frame in this way can be used for teaching values as well as factual knowledge.
To reach interactivity, the symbolic frame utilizes various ELT directions. In the practical part the most useful once proved to be task-based teaching and activities based on group dynamics theory. The former because the activities from the symbolic frame must be staged because of their complexity and they usually involve cooperation among the students. The latter theory enabled to place the peaks of the symbolic frame in accordance with the progression of the group of students. The correct placement of the peaks proved to be a crucial motivational factor. The pause between the first and the second peak, which was placed later in the course than it should have been according to the group dynamics theory, negatively influenced the energy in the class. On the other hand the other peaks were placed correctly and they had a positive impact on the students’ motivation.
The response of the students from the experimental group to the symbolic frame in the English course was very positive. It might have partially been because they were used to symbolic frames for different types of learning but the positive reaction came also from students who had never experienced a symbolic frame in learning environment. The majority of the students valued highly the interactivity of the symbolic frame lessons. They also mentioned that the context of the frame made for them easier to remember both grammar and vocabulary. “I think that after the conversation with Jerome Skinner I will never forget the word ‘to pretend’” (Student 4). This student thought that the word “to pretend” means “to ask” and in a fairly serious situation started asking really funny questions.
The students also responded that they felt motivated to come to the class and to do their homework because of the symbolic frame activities and assessment. They evaluated the activities as highly creative and interesting. They also appreciated the fact that the teams, and not the individuals, were assessed with points. All of the students admitted that they felt motivated by this form of assessment because they wanted their team to win. Another positive factor was that among the best lessons, according to the students’ opinion, were the peak lessons because it reinforces the theory about peaks creation from the chapter 3.1.
On the whole, this thesis proved that literature could be used to teach English in a highly interactive way and it can also help students to embark on reading in the second language. The symbolic frame that is based on the story from a novel motivates students to perform various tasks in the classroom and makes the lessons more memorable. Apart from these advantages the symbolic frame is easy to use with more subjects at once and it supports cross-curricular topics. Therefore, its use could be beneficial in any high school curriculum.
Primary Sources (Cited)
Assessment Reform Group (2002) Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles. Research-Based Principles to Guide Classroom Practice. London: London University Institute of Education
Bolman, Lee G. and Terrence E. Deal (1991) Reframing Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Foster, Pauline (1999) ELT Journal Volume 53/1. Thames Valley University: Oxford University Press 1.
eltj.oxfordjournals.org (March 19, 2011)
Golebiowska, Aleksandra (1994) Getting Students to Talk. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall International English Language Teaching.
Hadfield, Jill (2011) Classroom Dynamics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.