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Ben Slavic

Suggested TCI Schedule – Wed/Thurs

Wednesday/Thursday – on Wednesday and Thursday we do the reading class. This growing of the root and stem into a plant goes beyond mere application of the knowledge and content gained on Monday and Tuesday to the analysis of the story in the form of reading, discussion of grammar and accent, writing, etc. There are two options, one focusing more on the reading of a prepared text (Option A), the other focusing more on the writing of a text (Option B).
Option A for the W/Th classes:
1. Write on the board, in L2: the title of the story, and the words who, where, what happens, what is the problem? Then tells the students very quickly, those things, in L2. (optional)
*2. Instructor reads aloud in L2  – this allows the student to make the necessary connection between the sound of the story with, now for the first time, what those sounds look like on paper. (required) [credit: Diana Noonan]
3. Silent reading, decoding of the first page of the three page prepared text (usually a generic version of five classes’ stories). (optional)
4. Pair work to translate. (optional)
[note: some classes can’t handle steps 3 and 4 above and should not be allowed those options]
*5. Choral translation using laser pointer. (required)
*6. Discussion of text in L2. (required)
*7. Discussion of grammar in L1 (3 and 4 may interweave) (required)
8. French choral and individual work on accent – this can be a very special time as we finally are able to hear, after a year and a half of constant input and relatively little verbal output, how our students’ brains have organized the language in the now emergent output. We notice how well they pronounce the language IF the output wasn’t too early. (optional)
9. 5 minute write of the story, in which the students answer the questions: who, where, what happens, what is the problem. 5 minute write of the story, and he urges them to use the questions: who, where, what happens, what is the problem. (optional)
*10. Sacred reading of the text – after 4 class periods of either listening or reading input, the students know the material. So, to conclude, read it to them with meaning, dramatic tone, artistry, in a quiet, sacred kind of setting. One teacher read it with such drama that the kids told her she should have been an actress. I generally do this step without the text in front of the students. They are really pleased when they can understand it. (highly recommended)
*11. Translation quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade. (required)
*these are the steps I do – they form the backbone of this reading approach and they work wonders. I think that the steps with the asterisks next to them, when done as the reading Step 3 of classic TPRS after Monday’s Step 1 PQA and Tuesday’s Step 2 Story, provide the highest quality instruction possible in comprehension based methods. The power rating in the asterisked steps above is off the chart.
[credit – steps 1 and 9 above: Bob Patrick]
Put in simpler terms, with less steps, the above can essentially be described in this way:
1. get something to read up on the screen.
2. translate it with the class chorally after they spend five minutes or so trying to read it themselves (or in pairs if your kids have enough discipline to work effectively together for five minutes (this is rare).
3. ask questions in L2 about the text, pointing out grammar.
4. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “This CI stuff is easy if I work from a reading first. I can learn about stories and personalization on a deeper level next summer, or never.”
Option B for the W/Th class:
I do this when I haven’t had time to write up a story for the reading class or if I am in a lazy mood. I just ask the class to help me remember the story from their class and I do a retell with them refreshing my memory. While I am doing the retell (this is at the start of class), a superstar is writing the story out quickly in English. Once I get the gist of the story into English in this way, I proceed directly into the dictation format for the first 15 minutes. Then, I write the correct text out and the kids make their corrections as per the dictation format described on the resource page of benslavic.com. Once the dictées have been corrected and handed in, we read the text (still on the board from the dictation) in English, discussing grammar, and then we work on accent as per Option A above. Thus, the format for a W/Th using Option B is:
1. Dictée and correction of same (35 min.)
2. Reading of text and discussion of grammar (25 min.)
3. Accent work (30 min.)
4.  Translation quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade.
The time needed for both Option A and Option B is about 90 minutes, whether it is divided up into tho regular class periods or is in block form. Things flow more smoothly, obviously, when a block is available for this mid-week instruction.

Comments

  • John Piazza
    March 29, 2011

    Ben, Thanks for posting such concrete strategies. This is very helpful as I try to visualize and even attempt some TPRS in my classroom. One question I am wrestling with (and perhaps this could be another thread) is the role of technology in the language classroom. I am lucky to be in a school that has all the bells and whistles and wants us to use them. However, I also feel that many of the online activities out there are drill-style, and only help with short-term memory. Online games and activites, culture DVD’s, etc. have been lauded for “reaching” students whose attention spans supposedly cannot handle an entire period of intense language conversation. But what does it mean to “reach” students?
    One pleasant surprise resulting from my early attempts at TPRS strategies, is that even when a lesson crashes and burns in my opinion, I look back and realize that we spent most of class in TL, and students actually remember what we did, even the kids who have diagnosed attention difficulties, or who get overwhelmed and tune out when we’re working in the textbook.

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  • Jody
    March 30, 2011

    John, it has been my experience that kids w/attention problems and spec ed kids thrive with TPRS instruction–functioning exactly as you describe. TPRS does not “take away” their challenges, but gives them access to language acquisition in a way the textbook never will.
    I really like seeing Ben’s templates. One thing I know is that a TPRS template is a living, breathing schema. These have worked for Ben who teaches high school. I also know that they will change as Ben sees ways to improve them. They stay true to his personal experience with TPRS.
    What I have observed over the years, as I have developed my own templates (an activity I suggest all teachers attempt), is that the age of the students (middle school vs. high school or elementary school) and their current language level can change some of the elements of the templates.
    Some examples from this template:
    Choral translation could be individual translation–a sentence here, a sentence there–finding out whether individual students have their eyes on the text and are comprehending well.
    Silent reading of the text could happen or not–you may want the first reading of the text to be accompanied by the acoustical language from you instead of them hearing their “anglicized pronunciation” in their heads.
    Silent reading could be a paragraph instead of a whole page– a whole page of FL text might overwhelm a student’s memory;.
    Choral oral reading of the text could happen or not (I never do this.).
    Translation quiz could happen or not (this really varies by age of student).
    Dictée, choral reading and pronunciation work are not TPRS, but have been helpful to Ben with his students.
    I like dictée and do it with my kids, but it takes forever with younger students. I find it helpful as a tool to heighten their awareness of word juncture and sound/spelling patterns. I have to make sure that the dictée, itself, contains only sentences with which students are very familiar or the task becomes overwhelming to the younger student and they miss the point. For me, dictée reinforces the target structures one more time. It is great for pre-writing. I find the inclusion of these things in a program to be very personal teaching calls. I am glad Ben mentions them, but I (from my experience) would not say that they are “musts” for a CI class.
    The order of the tasks, the time on those tasks, and how the tasks are shaped and carried out are all variables that each teacher must decide based on the needs of the students in the class.
    Curious about other people’s templates and your rationales. Thanks for putting your stuff out here, Ben.

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  • frank james johnson
    March 30, 2011

    Text written specifically to supplement the previous interactive oral communication is the best place for pertinent introduction to new cognates and other supposedly transparent words.
    (Into our novice-level PQA and related storyasking, should we, or not, unhesitatingly supplement our three entirely new target structures with some target-language words that we consider clearly cognate or otherwise “transparent”? Auditory-wise, such supposed transparency is often, at best, a more or less translucent, at least somewhat defocused blur to the inadequately experienced ear. Here is where extensive POINT & PAUSE comes in handy, but I have found however that many of my high-school students have not known a good deal of American-English words that I thought were rather common. In any case, it would seem best to confine introduction of target-language doubles of American-English words, as well as other reputedly transparent target-language vocabulary, to written text and related subsequent discussion.)

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  • Nathan Black
    March 30, 2011

    And regarding the technology, John, I would recommend picking and choosing what is actually useful. Far and away for me the most important thing is the overhead LCD projector and a word processor so that I can type the words we are talking about (as Frank points out) for a Dictee or a reading based on stories that get asked. I’ve even taken to putting my target phrases onto the word processor (blown up to a 40 point typeface) because that makes me less likely to fill a board with additional point and pause words, as I am apt to do. (If I add too many words, I have to scroll up away from the target phrases, so that sort of auto-enforces discipline for me).
    The other big tech thing I find myself using a ton is my document camera, as this allows me to grab student work (often drawings) and make them available to the class instantaneously. If I have multiple people draw pictures for a given story (or sequence of small stories, as I am partial to) I can get a ton more reps in a retell because I’ll flash up a doodle that somebody sketched of what we just talked about and make the class react to/decipher the drawing for me.
    My question for Ben was how to extend the reading of the story over two days, because I can never make that happen. That said, I think I might have just answered that for myself in extending the story through typing up new details (in a different color), adding new pictures, asking for partial retells, adding new endings, etc. In other words, don’t just let the storyasking process breathe sufficiently, but let the reading day breathe sufficiently by processing the reading in multiple ways.

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  • March 30, 2011

    These posts are so helpful as I move through my first year with TPRS/CI classroom. I am wondering what the “accent work” is like? Do you have students read to each other or discuss the text in the TL?
    Thanks for being so willing to share your stuff. This blog has really helped me through this year.

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  • Kristin Dahl
    April 5, 2011

    Hi Ben – So nice to see your blog up again. What a blessing for us all!
    I have a question about step 6 – Sacred reading of the text. I have a guess, but I’m not really sure what you mean by that. The text has been read multiple times: silent reading, choral translation, discussion of text, discussion of grammar, and then choral work on accent. How do you help you kids find energy to yet again read the text, much less read it with awe and respect, – if that is close to what you mean by sacred. Do you use actors at this point?
    Thanks!
    Also, when you do the accent work, what do you do that engages students for 30 minutes? I often work with an expression or sentence for 30 seconds to 3-4 minutes. Do they read the whole text in French as a group? Do you model and have them repeat? Do you let them read and the stop and coach them on certain sounds, words or intonation?

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