Teaching Inanimate Alice

I was delighted today to discover that I have been featured as today’s iTeacher on the Inanimate Alice Facebook page :D

(oh yeah…cool factor = one million!)

My use of Inanimate Alice as a text in the English classroom was part of a wider unit for junior high school on ‘Narrative’ where multimodality was also being introduced as a concept.

Last year I showed Episode 1 of Alice to my tutorial groups of pre-service English teachers.  The quality of the text blew their mind.  I chose to show it on a large screen and some students took turns at coming up to control the interactive parts of the story.  At the end they spoke to the class about how they felt about the added layer of participation in the text – they enjoyed it, though some confessed they had mixed feelings about the text at first as my explanation had resounded with childhood memories of choose-your-own-adventure style books, a genre they had come to look upon as formulaic and contrived.  All found Alice to be anything but.

Viewing the story as a class was a powerful way to communicate the potential of opening the English classroom to texts that shake up our notions of genre and text type (rather than rote teaching students how to classify forms and features).  It also refocussed our attention on the powerful role of storytelling in life and left everyone feeling inspired to seek out ‘better texts’ and ‘more cutting-edge material’ for their future English lessons.

This year I’ll be showing Alice again, but in smaller groups this time for a more intimate experience.  I’d love to hear from any teachers who have seen any of the Episodes – have you had a chance to use them in class at all?  What potential does a text like this hold, do you think?

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  1. #1 by Cecilia Lindblom on January 29, 2011 - 8:14 pm

    Dear Kelli McGraw,

    I teach English as a foreign language in Sweden in a compulsory school. The pupils are from 6 years old to 16 years old. I have not yet had the opportunity to use Inanimated Alice in class, because I only recently found it, but I have viewed two of the episodes. At this point, I have decided to use it in class but I do not know yet how.

    Inanimated Alice is a text which uses all kinds of texts and this is an excellent way to teach and to practise digital literacy. At my school we are starting a project where all pupils from Y4-Y8 are going to have one computor each and that enables a great opportunity and possibility to use Inanimated Alice.

    Language teaching need to be set in a communicative setting and this is an excellent text which enables that. At this moment I search for good examples how to use Inanimated Alice.

    Yours sincerely,
    Cecilia Lindblom

    • #2 by kmcg2375 on February 1, 2011 - 8:00 pm

      Thanks Cecilia. The other thing that I like about IA is that students can move through it at their own pace. This strikes me as an aspect of the text that would especially benefit those learning English as a foreign language.

  2. #3 by Hilery Williams on January 29, 2011 - 10:37 pm

    Hi Kelli
    I am working with learners with dyslexia in Scotland and we started IA 2 weeks ago.
    We have viewed the first 2 episodes and are at present just thinking about the differences between transmedia and traditional text. Needless to say, these 11 year olds prefer this way of accessing text as it places fewer demands on decoding skills but challenges their thinking about literacy in the broadest sense.
    They are already excited about creating Episode 5 and are developing ideas as we travel with Alice through China and Italy!
    I shall be writing about this process on my blog (http://hileryjane.wordpress.com/) over the coming weeks. I hope eventually to post video clips of the children describing thier experiences. A teacher in ArgentinaI and I plan to collaborate together in creating a joint episode – or at least to comment on each others’ This will possibly be between April and June.
    Best wishes – I shall follow your journey!
    Hilery

    • #4 by kmcg2375 on February 1, 2011 - 6:43 pm

      That is an excellent point Hilery, about the big idea being the differences between transmedia and traditional text. Just asking questions like ‘why have some traditions been maintained better than others’ must yield an interesting discussion. 100 years from now, what will people say the ‘traditional’ media of the early 2000s was? What will still be surviving 100 years from now – and why?

      I’m glad we have made contact, and can watch each other using IA. The video clips of children sharing their reading experiences will be invaluable!

  3. #5 by hospitalitybrainwave on January 30, 2011 - 7:30 pm

    Hi Kelli,

    I have just spent some time reading through your latest blogs, congratualtions on all you have achieved thus far! More to come I am sure. I love how you are so interested in improving the classroom resources – there are so many that fight change it is great to see you embrace it, well done!

    • #6 by kmcg2375 on February 3, 2011 - 1:50 pm

      Wow, thanks! It has been a rollercoaster, getting to where I am now…finally I have time to really get my teeth into some of these issues. I might make ‘embracing change’ the theme of one of my tutorials eh ;)

  4. #7 by Emily on February 6, 2011 - 6:08 am

    I’m also an EFL teacher and I’ve just been using it as you would any text. In groups, they predict what will happen next. We watch the clip and they summarize what happened. Each group makes 5 discussion questions and either trades with another group or I pick a few and put them on the board. On occasion, we’ll do “research,” which basically means I pull up a qwiki site on a topic and we’ll watch together. I like to keep it really simple, but we’ve had a lot of fun :)

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