Interview with Andrew Wright by Emmanuel Kontovas
The 22nd Annual International Convention of Tesol Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece was concluded with Andrew Wright’s plenary talk entitled "Storying is Central in Our Daily Life. What about the Classroom?". Bissell Library was literally packed with people who were looking forward to listening to the extremely interesting ideas on story telling and how it can become an integral part of the teaching process. Andrew Wright’s vast experience from the 50 years of teaching in more than 55 countries makes him a leading figure in the field of storytelling and an invaluable source of ideas.
Mr. Wright started his talk by giving a description of his childhood years and the village where he grew up as well as his conversations with his mother. Simple everyday incidents were narrated in the form of a story in Mr. Wright’s unique style and had as their main focus the fact that freedom of expression is essential in the “birth” of any story. Afterwards, he went on to describe the technique he learnt from a theatrical group he once belonged to where to create a story we have to answer four questions; the “who”, “where”, “when” and “what”. These simple yet demanding questions can be the basis of creating any story and any character with our students.
The next stage of Mr. Wright’s presentation included the actual creation of a story right there and then with the participation of the audience. This was a most enjoyable activity that the whole audience really liked and had fun taking part in. Mr. Wright started by asking these four questions, one at a time. As it was expected he got many different answers in each question. He accepted all the answers provided and stressed that it is important in the process of creating a story not to try and guide the students’ answers and dismiss any of them as incorrect but instead to make even more open-ended questions in order to find how the different answers can be combined in a logical way. This of course was the most surprising and exciting point of his presentation and there was a lot of fun among the audience because some of the answers were completely contrasting. Nevertheless we were shown that through many questions even ideas that may seem opposing can be part of the same story. It was an enjoyable and fun way of creating a story and that way he said students want to participate and they are not afraid of using the language since there are no right or wrong answers.
Mr. Wright proved in his talk that stories are part of our lives. Even many TV channels use as their motto the word “stories” and they say that they have some stories to present to us. When we watch the news, in reality we watch stories told by the reporters. Every day all of us use stories and in a way we are storytellers. But teaching our students how to write their own stories demands the creation of a routine based on four simple questions and the safety of an inclusive environment of mutual respect where every idea expressed is important and builds up in the creation of the story. Mr. Wright concluded his presentation by saying that stories are powerful and we should include them in our teaching as a very important part of the curriculum.
By Emmanuel Kontovas
Photos by Margarita Kosior