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…
In 2013, Stephen Krashen wrote an article, The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input, about the problems of the traditional “rule of the day” grammar syllabus. Krashen not only wrote how this “targeted” grammar and vocabulary has disadvantages, but also how TPRS reduces such problems, even ending the section with:
“Although TPRS probably succeeds in reducing the problems of the grammatical syllabus, there is another possibility: Non-targeted comprehensible input.”
At this point, it appears that the “targeted” nature of TPRS and non-targeted are—probably—on par, and that it’s really just an option of what appeals to you…
**Updated 1.2.19 with Summary & Write**
See this post for all the input-based activities you can do with a text. But how do we end up with a text in the first place?! Here are all the ways I’ve been collecting:
**N.B. Many interactive ways to get texts require you to write something down during the school day, else you might forget details! If you can’t create the text during a planning period within an hour or two of the events, jot down notes right after class (as the next group of students line up for the Class Password?), or consider integrating a student job.**
If conventional language teaching is grammar-translation, then we’re all somewhat a group of heretics! Still, there are so many sub groups of CI that it warrants a bit of elucidation. At some point, John Bracey and I were talking about if either of us just started discovering CI right now, we’d have NO IDEA what to do or where to begin. Here are descriptions of all the different CI groups I’ve observed over the past 5 years already in existence, or just emerging:
In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!
Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:
Myth 1 – “My students aren’t ready.”
Face it, this is a myth. Your students might not be ready to spend 15min/day reading 300-word, 5k length novels, but they’re probably ready to begin self-selecting short texts like class stories to read very early on. Once you have about 5-10 class stories, make some booklets and start FVR for a few minutes 1x/week. For this reason, I intend to make TPRS a priority early in the year after some TPR. In the past, I’ve built this up too much, spending a whole class or two on a story. My new plan is more shorter stories, at least 2/week.
Myth 2 – “There aren’t enough resources.”
Curating that collection of class stories takes care of this second myth, at least for a while. Also, don’t forget about writing/adapting short texts yourself!
So, I got my first “hey Mr. P, remember me?” email from a former student. Oh no, they found me! Naw, it’s not too hard. I’m the only person on the planet with my name, so…
Anyway, here’s the gist of that email:
“It’s ___, your former student, now majoring in linguistics at _____ in no small part due to your teaching style.”
Why? Because I didn’t explicitly teach grammar or focus on information about the target language when teaching. We were communicating in the language, co-creating stories in real time, and then reading them. I was providing CI (i.e. comprehensible input…the messages students understand), learning about students, and personalizing content. Grammar wasn’t the focus of class at all, yet somehow this student was inspired to learn more about languages. That’s cool.
There’s still soooooo much resistance to teaching with CI. The classic argument is that doing so “won’t prepare students” for studying Classics, linguistics, or related fields in college. Seeing how most traditional programs aren’t doing a great job of preparing students per se anyway—rather it’s the individual student that makes it happen—I’d say we’ll see the death of the “they won’t be prepared” argument sometime soon. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?