I consider Beniko Mason Nanki a good friend and I want to let people know about what Story Listening has meant to her.
I first heard of Story Listening from Beniko at Judith Dubois’ conference in Agen last July. Prior to that I had never heard those words used quite like she uses them. At first, I thought that SL would never work for my students. I thought, “They will become bored of listening, and not suggesting cute ideas.” But eventually, after seeing Beniko demonstrate SL yet again in Portland at COFLT-WAFLT last fall, my curiosity got the better of me, and I tried it out.
What is new to me, at least for me in my work, having been trained in TPRS and having followed various TPRS curricula for years, is that Beniko – who is surely one of the world’s most avid students of Stephen Krashen’s work – simply tells story after story, with no expectation of students’ acquiring certain parts of the language. Her intention is to deliver “pure” CI, as opposed to the “eclectic” approach or the traditional” approach, and she has tirelessly worked over the years to align her approach with that “Pure CI” vision that Ben Slavic just posted about yesterday and Michael Petol Peto and I were talking about this weekend as well.
Beniko’s SL method delivers pure CI day in and day out, over a course of years, telling a wide variety of ever-more-complex traditional tales, folktales, and other stories, chosen carefully to appeal to her students’ unique tastes and interests, and tailored to their level of comprehension. In her firm desire to hew closely to Krashen’s theory, Beniko uses no circling, no forced repetitions, no required follow-up activities (though she does give vocab lists of key words from the story to students who want them), no grammar or vocab structures. That she does this day in and day out, and that it is the basis of her students’ entire CI career, is what is intriguing to me about Beniko’s work.
Her approach is deceptively simple and almost too good to be true, like Dr. Krashen’s beautifully-elegant Theory of Second Language Acquisition. To acquire language proficiency, humans need only to hear or read a steady diet of compelling, comprehensible messages containing rich language data, so that students can build their mental model of the language, in an environment free of anxiety, where students are not focused on correct output until they have acquired the next language structures in the natural order, which cannot be influenced by conscious learning.