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Inspiring teachers: creativity and reading in Germany

December 02, 2020 by v.dax

In this series we talk to inspiring teachers who use stories and storytelling to set up reading programmes and creative projects, and use the arts and literature to develop their students’ language and literacy skills.

We share real examples from real teachers to show how small ideas can make powerful learning activities. When teachers share their techniques and experiences, with us, the first thing we notice is that no matter how diverse our world is, our students are interested in similar issues and enjoy doing similar creative tasks.

Katharina Nordlohne
Katharina Nordlohne

During the summer months we talked to Katharina Nordlohne, who teaches English in the Albert-Schweitzer-Realschule in Lohne, Germany. When we read an article about her 'lapbook project' based on the Helbling Reader Ricky and the American Girl written by Martyn Hobbs and illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini, we immediately wanted to find out more about her and her teaching. We hope her ideas will inspire you in the new term to make lapbooks or other creative reading projects. You can see some of the lapbooks in our gallery below and see how colourful, creative and smart they all are.

Interview with Katharina Nordlohne 

Helbling Readers Blog (HRB): Why did you become a teacher? Where and what age groups do you teach?

HRB: I became a teacher because I am passionate about working with young people and motivating them to learn a foreign language. I strive to make them aware of their strengths and to help them find the right way for their future.

HRB: What do you like most about teaching?

The enthusiasm of my students and the varied nature of the job. Every day, each lesson is different. It makes me happy to think I inspire my students.

HRB: How do you promote reading for fun with your students?

I try to show them that they are all able to read a book in English: most of them are really afraid and nervous of reading in English. First of all I choose books (such as Ricky and the American Girl) which I feel are relevant to the students and with characters they can relate to. Then I tell them that once you start reading a book that you like, you automatically want to know how the story continues. Once the students get into the story and realise that they are reading and enjoying their first book in English they are very proud of themselves. They soon realise that learning English  unconsciously through reading is a very powerful experience as they learn and remember words in context.

HRB: Can you tell us about the lapbooks project? How did you get the idea for the project?

A friend who uses this method told me about its effect on young students. I did some research online and decided to create lapbooks in contrast to conventional reading diaries. As this was the first English book my students had read I wanted to find something creative with both compulsory tasks and optional ones in order to give everybody the chance to work with the book and to create their own individual lapbook. The students also presented the progress they were making on their lapbooks at regular intervals during English class.

What exactly did the children create? What did they use?

They worked with the reader and created their own individual lapbooks on the topic. Ricky and the American Girl is a love story and follows the lives of a group of friends in secondary school in Britain. The students developed the themes of love  Bonfire Night and school through songs, favourite movie/series, famous people etc. Then I created a sample lapbook in order as a model and they used it to create their own ones.

We read the book after we had covered the topic High School in America in our coursebook. The students were able to use the vocabulary they had learned in the unit and  compare American and British schools.

Did the students work alone or in groups?

Both. Sometimes they worked alone, for example, if they had to write a diary entry for one of the characters. Other times they worked in groups, for example if they were organising a bonfire part. Everybody had to create their own lapbook. When my students have to write something in class or at home I give them a model text and some useful phrases  which makes it easier for them to think about and write their own text.

How long did it take them to make the lapbooks?

HRB: We worked on the lapbooks as we were reading Ricky and the America Girl  which took 4 weeks in total. Plus we took an extra week to finish the online tasks and the lapbook.

Helbling Readers Red Series Graphic Stories Ricky and the American Girl

HRB: What did you do with the lapbooks?

We presented them in class and in the newspaper to show other students and teachers how to work with books in English class.

HRB: What do your students read and like reading?

The students like to read stories that are relevant to their own lives and crime stories.

HRB: What do YOU like reading?

I like books that are based on true events or that have a historical background.

HRB: What will your next project be? 

In class 9 I would like to read another book and use the green screen and the school tablets to film short scenes that the students create based on the book.

HRB: Thank you for the interview, Katharina!

Inspiring teachers: creativity and reading in Germany Mappe
Some of the lapbooks the students prepared.

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