Back in 2016, I wrote about five follow up activities based on one story. I’ve certainly been thinking differently since then, though I haven’t so much as changed my tune as I have changed keys. I’m now cautious of doing many activities over and over using just one story. Despite any novelty, the context remains the same. Surely, that can’t be ideal for acquisition, right? After a while, the student is probably just working with an understanding of the story from memory. Similarly, I’ve been highly critical of Latin teachers for remembering English translations they’ve studied and/or taught over the years instead of actually processing the target language itself. Because of that KEY change, I’ve been looking into creating new contexts with minimal planning effort. Here’s a workflow to hypermile your input:
1) Get a text
2) Read that text
3) Do a new activity that gets you a) more texts, b) drawings, or c) both
4) a) Read those new texts, b) Picture Talk the drawings, or c) both
5) Compile texts, drawings, and glossary into FVR packet
I’ve been experimenting with more structure to storyasking. No doubt, I’m a bit rusty after a year teaching classes just 1x/wk, and for which I asked the first and only story on the final day of classes! Prior to that, it had been over a year and a half since I regularly asked stories, which itself wasn’t frequent given the oppressive teaching environment—ēheu! Here are supports that have proved quite useful in helping me get back into the swing of things. But first, what makes good storyasking?
Choice, not Chaos!
A lot of teachers try asking too many open-ended questions that leave students at a loss. The easiest stories to ask include some choice, but not so much that everything feels off the rails. Teachers who attempt the latter, bail quickly. The key is finding the right balance between personalization and control. Experienced storyaskers can release a lot of control over to students, mostly because they have a higher chance of being comprehensible, and the students are more mature, knowing what to expect. Less-experienced storyaskers, or those in particular creativity-resistant contexts, like mine, would benefit from having more structure. The following supports have been helpful in reawakening imagination, something all great stories benefit from, and which most grade students have forgotten about/lost by the time they get to high school, sadly. Give them a try…
On Saturday at RIFLA, I presented some updates to two NTPRS 2018 presentations. After the conference, I made even more updates based on what we discussed, including MGMT issues each setup decision addresses. I also had the chance to see two presenters.
Optimizing Your Classroom Setup for MGMT – RIFLA 2018
No-Prep Grading & Assessment – RIFLA 2018
- Signals Watching Matthew got me thinking: Have I been using signals?! In the past, we’ve had something for stop, and slow down. Matthew showed us one for faster, but I’ve never had the problem of speaking too slowly! Right now students just raise their hand. I might want to encourage the use of signals more.
- Story Cubes I’ve used these, and written about using them as more of a whole-class brainstorm and input activity. Still, I can now see an additional use for them with “unlocking creativity.” For example, I could roll two cubes under a document camera, and ask if any word comes to mind that could fill in the next story detail I’m asking for. This could be real good. I’ve been noticing how much better an either/or question is (e.g. students choose, or are inspired a third possibility they otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on their own). Matthew’s version was to provide a paper with 9 prompts (e.g. where, when, how many, problem, etc.), distribute the Story Cubes, then ask students about the image they rolled on the cube as well as what story detail they wanted it to fulfill. In his experience, this little bit of structure has helped quite a lot. Matthew also gathered the cubes as rolled, and snapped a pic of all 9. Essentially, this is the class story depicted, which could then be used as a Picture Talk, or some kind of story retell activity.
- “Oooooooooh” Matthew shared the 2016 video of Blaine Ray teaching English in Brazil, and the first thing I noticed was how every time Blaine made a story statement, he cued the “oooohs” from the class. If I had been trained to do this, I’ve certainly forgotten. I like how it kept students engaged on even the most basic of sentences! I think I’ll give this a try.
- The sēx game! Viviana captured our attention with a MovieTalk in Portugues. Afterwards, she shared a host of input-based followup activities. I had forgotten about the game Keith Toda shared. In groups of 3-4, students get a text, as well as a 6-sided die and 1 pencil. They take turns rolling until someone gets a 6, yells out that number in the target language (TL), and begins translating sentences from the text. They continue to do so while other team members keep rolling. Once someone else gets a 6, they grab the pencil from who was writing, and play continues. First to finish wins, or give points for understood sentences and highest points wins.
VERBA is an Apples to Apples clone game for language learners designed by the great folks who brought us the Picturae database. Aside from playing the game as-is following original rules (during which I monitor groups and deliver CI by asking students about their choices, etc.), I now use the white noun cards during storyasking/storytelling (e.g. “Once upon a time, there was a ______<reveal card>”).
What makes this different from TPRS? Vocabulary is limited to what’s on the cards, which is already in the target language along with a super clear image. You’re less likely to go out of bounds with infrequent target language vocabulary, or have to accept English details from students. On the other hand, you might WANT to accept English details from students (especially if they’re compelling). In that case, use the VERBA cards as non-examples for your students to reject, and then take their cute/hilarious/dark suggestion, etc.
What makes this different from using Rory’s Story Cubes? Story cubes contain images ONLY, no target language, so using VERBA might help keep your story more “on rails.” For an interesting storyasking/storytelling hybrid, use the white VERBA noun cards for details AND Rory’s Story Cubes: Actions set for verbs.