By Dina Mehmedbegovic-Smith
This whole week London remembers all those who lost their lives in WWI, with the main ceremonies taking place on Remembrance Sunday, 11th November, the date which marks 100 years of Armistice Day. Visual art, sound installations, poetry readings, films, plays, thousands of candles around the Tower of London and poppies everywhere: on people’s coats, monuments, buildings, they touch us and remind us, current Londoners, of losses and sufferings that went on then to give us the present we have now.
For children in schools today these remote events do not always appear as relevant and engaging. But in my experience, this type of learning can be transformed, if explored through personal narratives.
Autobiographical approaches which I presented at the Council of International Schools conferences in Hong Kong and Lisbon earlier this year use multimedia elements like the ones listed above to enrich the process of sharing personal experiences of historical events.
For all our readers in education keen to make history more engaging and personally relevant here is a link to download a publication with my chapter on this theme: Chapter 5: In search of high level learner engagement: Autobiographical approaches with children and adults.
For me this week is also about remembering my great grandparents: my great grandfather Mate Vanek who was 34 when WWI started and became a prisoner of war in the same year. And my great grandmother Maria Vanek who was 31 at the time and had to survive the war on her own with their four children, my grandmother Sofia being one of them.
They were very fortunate to survive and continue with their lives. Here is their photo several decades after the end of WWI. They continue to live in my memories and gratitude. And I feel the same for all those whom London remembers this week. Learning about past is about understanding who we are today.
Dina is a lecturer on a range of UCL Institute of Education (IOE) courses at PGCE, MA and doctoral level. She was on the core IOE team developing the National English as an Additional Language (EAL) Workforce Strategy; a key staff member in the development of the new programmes addressing the needs of bilingual children: MA in Bilingual Learners in Urban Settings and PGCE EAL Pathway. Her previous roles also include: Deputy Director of the London Education Research Unit (2009-11) and the editor of the IOE publication the London Digest, with the brief of generating and sharing knowledge on key education issues in London and global cities. Her research focuses on attitudes to bilingualism/multilingualism, minority languages and positioning of languages in relation to domination, political power and language disappearance. She is currently developing interdisciplinary work with colleagues from neuroscience aimed at providing a broader evidence base for advocating cognitive benefits of bilingualism in education and life-long learning. Her concept Healthy Linguistic Diet is an innovative approach to language learning and has been endorsed by the EU Commission in their report: Rethinking Language Education, as a part of the EU Language policy review.
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