Thinking about barriers in a visual way (see Workshop 2) can be helpful to learners and well as teachers. In this workshop the concept is explored from the learners' point of view. The resources provided here for use with learners consist of two PowerPoint presentations and a set of picture cards for use in follow-up work. Suggestions for using them follow but, as with all resources, these should be adapted as necessary.


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About the PowerPoint presentations

The presentations were devised as possible ways of opening discussions about learning with classes who have little experience of independent approaches to learning or who find it difficult to discuss their feelings about such things. Unlike the PowerPoint presentations for teachers in Workshop 2, these two presentations are not meant to be viewed in sequence. In fact they are alternatives, that might suit different situations, or different groups of learners.

The cartoons introduce a ‘third person’ dimension which reduces the chance of such discussions becoming confrontational. Once learners become engaged, they may begin to identify with some of the learners in the illustrations, but they are still free to talk about ‘him’ or ‘her’ rather than ‘you’ and ‘me’ if they find that more comfortable. A frame can be left in place as long as discussion continues. Some judicious questions from the teacher can open up further aspects for discussion.

Some learners may need help to understand the visual metaphor of the race. You may find that learners have already come across metaphors in English, or visual metaphors in Art, but it is probably best to revisit the ideas so that you can be sure that you and the learners are on the same wavelength. As well as reminding them that metaphors present ideas in unusual ways, speaking about ideas as if they were things, for example, you could point out that metaphors hold hidden messages and ask them if they can work out what the hidden messages here are all about.

About the picture cards

All of the illustrations used in the PowerPoint presentations have been copied and pasted into a set of pages in Word format as a resource for follow-up activities if you wish. Some suggestions:

• Print out and photocopy, then cut into cards for sorting and discussion in groups.

• Use relevant illustrations to supplement text in personal profiles, IEPs, etc.

• Learners can copy/cut/paste them in their electronic form to make further PowerPoint presentations, or as illustrations for posters, etc.

The photocopiable pictures sets include some pictures which don’t figure in these PowerPoint sequences. Learners could be challenged to make up their own hidden messages for these. Illustrations, particularly when used as metaphors, are open to many different interpretations and uses. You and your learners may find new ways of ‘telling the story’, or different uses for the pictures, or even have suggestions for new pictures.

Suggested sequence

If you decide to use both presentations, you could, for example:

1. Show the first of the presentations.

2. Discuss how different people react to situations in different ways. Ask them to think about how they react. Why do they think they react like that? Do they react differently in different classes? You could ask them to discuss first in pairs and then as a class, so that they get used to talking about such things without embarrassment. End by asking why they feel the way they do, and if there might be other ways of reacting.

3. (possibly at a second session) Show the race sequence frames of presentation 2 without comment

4. Discuss what they have seen and how they interpret it.

5. Talk about metaphors and how they work

6. Repeat the sequence more slowly, asking learners what they think the hidden messages are.

7. Show the rest of the second presentation, discussing the various strategies they could use when faced with a difficulty. As far as possible, let the interpretations come from the learners themselves.

8. Use the the cards to initiate pair or small group discussion, with each group reporting back to the class, generating further discussion. Invite suggestions for other strategies.

9. Relate the discussion to current classroom practice. Ask for suggestions about how to improve learning by changing the way difficulties are handled.

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