Author: David Kellogg
Publisher: Sense Publishers 2014
ISBN: 978-94-6209-723-0

This book explores how the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky’s cultural-historical approach to human development, along with concepts from Michael Halliday’s systemic functional grammar, can be applied to teaching English to young learners. Kellogg relates some of their propositions to the global human act of storytelling; he expounds on the role of stories in shaping and articulating common human experiences and shared communication in society.

The book comprises 16 separate, academically-oriented chapters. These can be read in any order, although it may make sense to read Chapter 1 (‘Story and play’) and Chapter 16 (‘Play and story’) together, since they both deal with the fusion of narrative, dialogue and painting in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Chapter 1, however, also provides the rationale for the book’s overall organisation and broader educational values. It explains the principles underlying Kellogg’s decision to include proverbs, fables, folktales and plays in his analysis of the relationship between the development of language and literacy practices as societies become more sophisticated. He also discusses patterns of linguistic and cognitive development from childhood to adulthood, then relates this analysis to the way both simple oral and more complex literary narratives shape individual thought processes. Additionally, Kellogg considers how different types of oral and written narrative reflect cultural values and social behaviour.

The author encourages critical reflection on imaginative forms of pedagogy, especially in the case of developing children’s oral and literacy skills through using narratives interactively with them. Rather than offering a rationale and guidelines for classroom activities in each chapter, he draws on his work with young Korean and Chinese students to raise questions about language and literacy acquisition; he stresses the importance of classroom play and creative social relationships with speakers and texts in fostering this process. Moreover, he provides detailed examples of how language learning can be promoted through dialogues built around proverbs, fables, narrative pictures and extracts from Shakespeare’s playscript, The Tempest.

Kellogg’ s methodological ideas and insights are grounded in his direct experience of implementing classroom activities invoking visual, auditory and kinaesthetic engagement with multicultural written and oral genres. He connects and applies Vygotsky and Halliday’s theories to instruction which forefronts the making of meanings and using the foreign language as a form of self-expression.

While some chapters may appear loosely structured, readers will find much to ponder on in Kellogg’s method of exploring the evolution of linguistic practices and literary genres in different Asian and European cultures. His book makes some connections between language instruction and artistic expression. For example, there is an interesting account of William Hogarth’s paintings as the interpretation of stories in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While not for the faint-hearted or the busy teacher looking for new teaching techniques or resource ideas, this erudite and original work, including its extensive range of references, may inspire practitioners to consider how their own pedagogical creativity could be theorised and globally expanded.

Stella Smyth
London, UK