At this workshop, we had an opportunity to work with a diverse group of newcomer adults from different parts of the world. Participants spoke many different languages and were all attending beginner ESL (English as Second Language) classes.
We used three different activities in this workshop, “All about me bag”, “My life as a river”, and “Hamburger structure for story building”. Each activity had a unique structure and included different tasks–each requiring different levels of understanding and learning. As a result, the activities seemed to be disconnected and required extensive scaffolding. From this experience we learned that in a short session, it may be more effective to use one activity and gradually add more components to it instead of switching to different types of activities. This would minimize the required scaffolding and help participants gradually build upon their ideas.
The activities we had chosen for this session, particularly “All about me bag” and “My life as a river” encouraged deep reflection on personal life experiences to help participants find things and moments in life that were memorable, meaningful, challenging or important to them. We learned that these types of activities led to sharing of very personal moments and experiences that needed advanced communication and storytelling skills in order to share the nuances of these very personal stories. Writing stories in English was a significant barrier that impeded most participants in expressing their emotions and thoughts. In later workshops, we were more explicit in encouraging participants to share their stories in their native language to create a more comfortable space for sharing personal experiences.
As mentioned before, some of our activities led to sharing of very personal and emotional situations that sometimes included traumatic life experiences. In a short workshop, this seemed to be problematic approach as we didn’t have enough time and resources to unpack those experiences thoroughly and reflect upon what had been shared with the group. Thus, for our following workshops, we tried to use other types of activities that would lead to stories that could be comfortably shared and reflected upon in the context of a few hour workshop.