One thing that can bog down a great story is spending too long on many small details. At least that was my experience when taking 2-3 days to ask a story, finding that kids got bored with all that lack of action and stopped caring where the story went. Still, there’s something great about a vivid scene that’s often lost in otherwise simple, action-packed stories. Thus, I present Most Vivid Scene (MVS)…
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…
This has been the 3rd year in a row that I’ve wanted to start the year cold with a story on Day 1, but have bailed. I was even close this year with Von Ray’s No-Travel story script, but it still didn’t happen. I’m thinking that it’s just not my style, which is fine, but it’s already clear to me that my students need to experience something new besides Total Physical Response (TPR), Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA), and subsequent reading activities. Still, a class story via Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a home run for us right now, so I need a solution.
When I saw Von Ray last winter, he mentioned that MovieTalk is the easiest first step to storyasking. He’s right. Even if you have absolute novice students, just narrate at their level! I’d normally wait for more TPR, or Discipulus Illustris to establish a solid foundation of familiar words, but I’ve decided to do a MovieTalk for this 4th Latin class of the year, which is the 4th week of school (i.e. Latin 1x per week).
The Present is one of the 9 animated shorts used in TPRS Books’ Look, I can MovieTalk! available in Spanish, French, and soon—with hope—Latin! I already know that after just 3 classes my students won’t be able to read even the simplest versions of any MovieTalk readings out there, so I’ve created a super simple Embedded Reading for The Present, retold in 3 versions.
The text doesn’t limit, or represent exactly what I’ll narrate and ask in class, but it does represent a safe amount of language that my students will understand as a follow up reading. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a parallel reading, but I’ll likely ask Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) that stray from the script. That’s a good thing.
You’ll notice that while the word count increases from 13 to 25 from Version 1 to Version 3, the total words figure drops from 71 in Version 2, to 63 in Version 3. Why? There’s less of the recycled exposure to words found in Version 2 because there’s more new information in each version, not just longer sentences, or more sentences about the same information. By the time the student reads the last version, they will have been exposed to the recycled language enough to make repetition less important. I’ve also deliberately used more transparent cognates to support comprehension, and kept the word count low, replacing the classic “there’s a problem” phrase with an already known interjection, “oh no!” I’m still using Picturae images whenever possible, and establishing meaning with English for more abstract words, or possibly ambiguous images (e.g. I couldn’t find a clear image for a generic ball). You’ll also notice that Version 3 has a more typical Latin word order, which students are more likely to be able to read once they’ve understood the meanings of the words in an order similar to English. This is a deliberate strategy for making Latin more comprehensible, and shouldn’t be seen as negative, or damaging. See a February post on Input Processing for more.
The 2 class day (for me, 2 week) plan:
Day 1 = MovieTalk, then Choral Translation of Version 1.
Day 2 (a week later for me) = Choral Translation of Version 2, something else unrelated (like Discipulus Illustris), then Silent T/F Reading of Version 3.
Like Justin Slocum Bailey wrote, Choral Translation is best used sparingly, yet 7 days between classes makes comprehension even more of a priority so that students stay super confident. Also mentioned on the latest Tea with BVP, written input helps students find word boundaries that aren’t necessarily obvious when listening. Knowing these boundaries helps in the search for words, and the search for words—big content words and not their endings—is what novice through intermediate students are doing!
Silent T/F Reading is new, which I got from NTPRS 2017 (i.e. partners read silently for X minutes, then draw just 2 pics: one True, one False. Swap, then partner chooses correct. Pass to other groups, and partners choose correct. Show a few on document cam, PQA, etc.).
Adriana Ramirez shared videos of her and her students doing Picture Talk on Facebook. I apologize if you can’t see them, but the reality is that most of my professional groups have now migrated to FB, which is becoming THE way to remain current in the field, apparently.
Adriana used old family photos for Picture Talk topics of conversation (keeping in mind “conversations” with Novice language learners are interactive, yet require just a few words from students. The teacher—to the dismay of evaluators in the dark—SHOULD be doing most of the talking, here). Once her students developed a higher proficiency level by the end of the second year, she had them bring in their own pictures to talk about. I find it amazing that Adriana continued to provide input, and encourage interaction all throughout the “presentation” of the main student by engaging the class with questions, and checking back in with the main student—basically using Storyasking actor questioning techniques. In a more conventional rule-based language classroom, the teacher would be hands-off, and other students likely bored after 5 or 6 presentations. Not in Adriana’s class.
I instantly thought of how this could follow up Discipulus Illustris (one of 7 language versions of La Persona Especial). Although Adriana had second year students do the presenting, you could do this early on with students of lower proficiency—just be the one providing input and encouraging interaction. To do this, a student emails you a pic to use as a prop. Yes, students are great props, but something novel to look at should grab the attention of others just because it’s different, and fools the mind into thinking the activity is completely different while you could be asking the very same Discipulus Illustris questions about the picture!
I love how it’s no-prep. Actually, it’s can’t-prep, which is exciting on its own. Sure, you could preview the pic (especially if you have students engaging in tomfoolery often), but part of the fun is keeping it lively with unexpected, compelling diversions from what is likely a boring school day. Teachers need to feel energized as well, so try something new.
“Sheltering vocabulary while unsheltering grammar” refers to using ANY grammar necessary to express ideas while limiting words. This mantra has been instrumental in the design of our latest Latin novellas since it simultaneously reduces cognitive demand while casting a broad net of input, exposing students to different verb forms as they attend to fewer “big content word” meanings. Despite this unsheltering, sometimes we have to make a decision about when our story takes place! This establishes a focus—perhaps unwanted—on one tense or another.
If we, indeed, want to expose students to that broad net of input, we can respond appropriately without sacrificing any communicative value. Here are some very practical ways to conceptualize the use of different tenses in stories, and what to do in order to add variety to the verb forms used in stories and readings: