CI Program Checklist: 9 of 13

Classroom MGMT
✔   Rules (DEA & CWB)
✔   Routines (Routines, Student Jobs, Interjections & Rejoinders)
✔   Brain Breaks

✔   Inclusion (Safety Nets, Gestures & Question Posters)
✔   Shelter Vocab (Super 7, TPR ppt, TPR Wall, and Word Wall)
✔   Unshelter Grammar (TPR Scenes)

✔   Secrets (Class Password)
✔   Students (People)
__ Stories

Stories are the most important medium for delivering CI. The entire CI Program Checklist thus far has established what to have in place so you can get to stories on a consistent basis. Here, “consistent” doesn’t mean “daily,” which is key. Carol Gaab has stated that “the brain craves novelty.” Teachers new to CI find this out rather quickly, and it’s understandable. We’re in tricky place because we want to hone our CI Skills, but must do so without killing effective practices. That takes balance. One way to achieve balance is by packing stories in different ways.

Stories can either be told or asked. You’ll see a lot of references to Storyasking (vs. Storytelling) because that process relies on student suggestions to drive the narrative. These highly-personalized details create compelling reasons for students to listen to the target language. Sometimes I tell my students that I already know the story, and it’s their job to GUESS what happens next. This is a game, and students soon learn to play the game well. Other times, we co-create a story completely from the ground up. Both have benefits, so I suggest experimenting with that.

The Storyasking and Storytelling processes require certain skills and strategies:
– asking many questions of various levels (yes/no, either/or, fill-in-blank, why)
– staying in bounds by sheltering vocabulary to what students already know
– establishing meaning of a new word form needed by unsheltering grammar
– checking for student comprehension
– asking/telling in past tense, then reading in present tense

These skills and strategies are best learned via watching others before you give it a go one your own. You’ll find a variety of styles on YouTube. Start by emulating what you see, and then develop your own. Here are a few ways to deliver CI via stories:

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) is the best thing out there, hands down. This method has received some bad press in the past, is often misunderstood to be an extension of Total Physical Response (TPR), and not taken seriously by language teachers who take themselves too seriously. TPRS is regaining support within the community, especially by Second Language Acquisition (SLA) experts like Stephen Krashen and Bill VanPatten advocating for its use in the classroom.

I am not a TPRS presenter, and won’t bog down this Checklist with instructions on how to teach via TPRS. Instead, I’ll point you to YouTube (just don’t watch “TPRS demonstration – Fiesta en la Casa” by Sara Elizabeth-Cottrell…despite the title and huge number of views, that’s NOT what TPRS should look like, as evident by her insistence to not establish meaning, EVEN when her administrator “students” asked her what a word means). It’s a good idea to go to Blaine Ray’s website and find a local workshop to attend. There, you’ll experience what it’s like to learn a language via TPRS as a student, and have some hands-on training.

In the meantime, here’s a PPT I’ve used to ask my first story in Latin. As with all my presentations, use them until you don’t need them (OR, just when you sense that the students need some visual stimulation). This will guide you through the Storyasking process during class so you can focus on checking student comprehension without thinking of what comes next:

First Story

MovieTalk (MT)
The original format of Ashley Hasting’s MovieTalk is to present an entire movie in the target language. The process is as simple as playing a 1-3min segment of the movie, rewatching it, then pausing and narrating in the target language what is happening. This is Storytelling, not Storyasking, although you and your students could certainly co-create details that aren’t part of the movie itself.

MovieTalk is more commonly done now with just 1-3min short clips, usually animated shorts found on YouTube. For this reason, Ben Slavic’s PLC members have called for this current classroom practice to be called “Video and Discuss,” or something similar in order to distinguish this new practice from Dr. Hasting’s original vision.

When presenting a MovieTalk (i.e. Video and Discuss), keep in mind that you don’t have to narrate EVERYTHING that happens. This is particularly important if your students aren’t very proficiency in the target language. There’s no reason NOT to present a MovieTalk the second week of school in Latin I, but realize you won’t be able to say anything beyond whatever those students know, which is not much. Quite often, MovieTalk is prone to going out of bounds by establishing meaning of new phrases “needed” to tell the story, but realize this “need” is in your head. So, find a short clip (the best ones have sound, but no dialogue), preview it, then play it for class the next day if you think they’ll be into it. Here is a decent MovieTalk database in order to get you started:

MovieTalk Database

Magic Tricks
That’s right, you read that correctly. Eric Herman has rebooted an older CI idea of storyasking via magic tricks. He’s about to release some products, and has excellent demos of what to expect on his Story Card Magic site. Obviously, Storyasking in this way is the most prep-intensive story option (unless you happen to know card tricks already), but is relatively easy to accomplish. If I had to choose between using a prep period in school to grade papers, or learning a new magic trick to tell a story, that’s a no-brainer.

Student buy-in is huge during a card trick story, and Storyasking this way helps achieve the goal of keeping things novel without departing from stories, again, the MOST important medium for delivering CI.

Regardless of how you ask or tell stories, it is paramount that your students read 1) that story, 2) a parallel story (same structure, different details), 3) leveled (i.e. embedded, or tiered) versions of the story, or 4) ALL of the above. When it comes to language acquisition, reading is a powerful tool older students have, which is a way to make up for the lack of contact hours with a language in school. On a comparison of L1 and L2 acquisition, read this post from last year. 

Once you co-create a story, just type it up for use in class later on. You’ll get the most mileage by asking/telling a story in the past tense, and reading the story in the present tense. This is another example of unsheltering grammar using sheltered vocabulary. For reading activities, scour the internet. I suggest getting familiar with my current Input-Based Strategies & Activities.

Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)
There’s been enough evidence on Extensive Reading to know that starting an FVR program is paramount. See this post.

14 thoughts on “CI Program Checklist: 9 of 13

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  2. Pingback: Movie Talk (Watch and Discuss) – Cymraeg Cyfrwng Saesneg

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  8. Hi Lance, the way technology companies change hands and change user access can be so complicating, and this is one of those examples. You’re totally right to steer people away from my so-called “TPRS demonstration” on YouTube and it was frankly ignorant of me to label that YouTube channel as “TPRSarita” and to post that video under the TPRS label. I’d done a couple of three-hour workshops about TPRS and they changed my teaching life, so I hit the ground running with a messy set of techniques I thought I was ready to share. However, a few years later, after being called on the carpet, so to speak, by real TPRS teachers for my type of storytelling not quite aligning with TPRS (TM) techniques, I quit using TPRS as a label for myself and started calling myself simply a “storytelling teacher.” I tell people that TPRS is an “am vs. use” question for me now: I am not; I do use.
    I do have to strongly disagree, however, with your statement that I insist on not establishing meaning. I often insist on not translating, and it is not the same thing. I’m bothered by the TPRS tendency to treat the phrase “establish meaning” as if it were a trademarked concept that could only be done by English-to-TL translation.
    Anyway, keep calm and comprehensible input on, right? And there are lots of ways to accomplish that. About the video, that is a legacy YouTube account that I can’t begin to figure out how to access, or believe me, I would take it down. I’ve contacted Google about the issue. Perhaps you’ll see it removed from YouTube soon (or at least the name changed!). 🙂

    • I’ll have to strongly disagree with your strongly disagree. Your admin-students in this video wanted to know what “¿quien?” means, and you didn’t tell them. That’s not establishing meaning, be it a TPRS definition, using English, picture, gesture, definition, or whatever. They heard “¿quien?” 18 times before someone understands that Mickey Mouse is “at the party,” but it is not even clear that as you continue they understand simply that “¿quien?” means “who?”

      I can empathize with the idea of a digital footprint. Perhaps the Rays can help out and get the video removed?

      • They’re welcome to get it removed.

        What has happened here is that you have commandeered the phrase “establish meaning” and decided that your definition and way of going about it is the right one, meaning that the hearer understands an unambiguous meaning at the outset of a learning episode. I struggle to understand how anyone who uses the term language acquisition can present this method as the only one. Given that it is never the way language acquisition happens the first time around, I struggle to understand why it is so important the second time. I have been intrigued by the concept Make It Stick calls “desirable difficulties,” even in this video, even before they gave me a name for it, and how the brain cements long-term memory through accomplishing something through effort, and where the intersection of that research and second language acquisition might be. I can’t pretend to know but I’m having fun exploring it. Yes, I only rarely use English translation as my step one for establishing meaning. No, students don’t leave my class mumbling “What was she even talking about?” (I even include small bits of language in my stories that students do not understand but no one cares because everyone knows they’re not part of the targets.) We just (very) frequently take longer in our journey to establishing meaning than you do in your class – and my students develop real language skills like yours do. Perhaps we should take it from the learner’s perspective – that administrator was extremely satisfied with my non-TPRS storytelling ways.

  9. Well, I just spent another hour trying to get into that YouTube account to change the names, with no luck. It doesn’t seem to be associated with any of my email accounts. Google doesn’t support legacy accounts and YouTube is nearly impossible to contact, and none of their suggestions in the Help Forum work, because I literally know nothing about the account except the name of it on YouTube (which apparently has nothing to do with logging in). Truly, I wish I were able to change it, but it’s a lesson I need to learn about digital footprint, I suppose. Ugh.

  10. Pingback: Assumptions & Definitions: Establishing Meaning | Magister P.

  11. Pingback: NTPRS 2017 Resources | Magister P.

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