Anne Matava

Hi Ben,
I had an amazing experience today.  Our school is doing professional learning communities, starting classes late twice a week so we can work in groups.  Patty, Rachel and I had to present this morning on our work in the foreign language department.
We told them a little bit about CI-based instruction and I did a little story with them, about a pirate. My colleagues were so into it.  It was unbelievable.  They had a ton of questions and positive feedback.  Afterwards two English teachers came up to me and asked me whether this method has application for teaching vocab, etc. in English.
Are you aware of anyone who is using storyasking to teach language arts in the native language?  I actually felt like people were a little jealous of us, because we have found such a cool way to teach our subject. It seemed like the two people who approached me would like to get a little piece of what we have, a student-centered methodology with such radical results.
Now how cool is that?
Later the assistant principal came into my room to observe, the first time ever, because my presentation had intrigued him so.  Since it’s Tuesday, we were reading yesterday’s story off the smart board, translating and discussing.  When we got to the part in the story where the airport employee searched the suitcase and removed the turban, saying it was forbidden, so that he could use it to wipe his dog’s butt, I kind of cringed.  I said to the class, in German, it figures we have this sentence with an administrator in the room.  A boy replied, in German, let’s just not translate that sentence then!  We all laughed, and moved on.
So do you know of anyone with whom I can put my English colleagues in touch?  I promised them I’d look into it. Thanks!

[my response is that it seems that there would be a ton of connections between using CI in our classrooms and the teaching of English vocabulary, and over into other disciplines, etc., but I think that is merely an illusion. The reason what we do when we do CI works is that we appeal to the part of the brain that really acquires language – the unconscious mind. Perhaps the key thought in all of Krashen’s work – an idea worth looking at certainly – is that we acquire language without being aware of it, and methods like TPRS that set that unconscious decoding up in the classroom, a sleight of mind so tricky that the kids are not even aware of acquiring what they hear, are, at the end of the day, and after all the plate throwing, the only methods that are effective. If it is conscious, nothing is going to happen in language acquisition. Except that the textbook monopolies will get yet richer and the storerooms of schools get more and more packed with crap in the form of paper, crap that doesn’t reach kids except to make them think that they are not cut out for languages. It’s weird how we in our field have this way of teaching our subjects that just circumvents the entire conscious analytical thing, and yet, because so many of us learned in the old way, we still largely teach that way, even though, this month more than ever, we can see by the looks on the kids’ faces and by the looks on each others’ faces that we haven’t reached them. I mean, Krashen has laid out a road map and all we have to do is pick it up and open it, but so many of us would rather open Realidades and Bon Voyage. Go figure!



7 thoughts on “Anne Matava”

  1. Anne,
    I slipped TPRS ideas into my highly-scripted Read180 class this year. If your colleagues are using Read180, you’ll have to be careful asking about this for my sake, because we are not supposed to deviate from the script. But I took the vocabulary and presented it TPRS style, then asked stories, then wrote stories, then had kids do the scripting, and my group ended up improving more than others had during the last four years, over the course of the semester in which I was sneaking in these lessons and free-writing exercises (who knew that telling kids they only had 10 minutes to write would free them up so much). You are welcome to give my e-mail to people, just understanding that I broke some “rules” and that I followed free-wheeling TPRS ideas because it seemed to me that if TPRS works in language and science classes, it would work in English. Perhaps the nicest thing that happened was that this class and I grew to be great friends. Usually my reluctant readers and I are not at all reluctant to part on the last day, but we had a hug fest this year. There were even a few tears. And several of the group signed up for Russian, because they knew it would be “easier” than English because I would be allowed to use my own methods there full time.

  2. What’s this about TPRS being used in science?
    TPRS in other fields… what a fun question. I would think TPRS would work anywhere that acquisition of new vocabulary is needed, because of the repetition and contrast provided by circling, the personalization, never leaving anyone behind, and the power of story. That’s a question that for no good reason I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about… haven’t had a chance to apply it yet. Kendall Haven (Super Simple Storytelling, Story Proof) cites some studies on how stories (normal, not TPRS) improved student achievement in other disciplines, I think math and science.

  3. Yeah you guys are right. It can be applied to vocabulary acquisition as described above for sure. CI, gesturing, getting lots of repetitions on certain words, all would apply. Now Michele if you clarify what Read180 is we can grasp how CI applies there as well – what did you do before and after to get those results, and what was the objective of the program?

  4. Anne,
    Yes, I have a friend who use TPRS to teach her English 1 – D students. This is the group of ninth-graders in the “D” track of Cherry Creek High School in Denver. The teacher (Becky was her name) came to my TPR Storytelling workshop for three consecutive years even though it was a foreign language methodology. She had been trained in V/V reading methodology and immediately made the connection.
    Long story short: her “D” level students scored higher than anybody else on the end-of-the-year district-wide vocabulary test! They beat the “A” track, the “B” track and the “C” track.
    How about them apples?

  5. I’ve had the opportunity to work with reading teachers, music teachers, kindergarten teachers and science teachers….all of whom were very excited to implement as much as possible!! Good teaching is good teaching!!
    with love,
    PS Hi Susie!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Ben,
    The Read180 program is for struggling students. They must have a reading score below 6th grade (as ninth graders) to be placed in my class. At least one-third achieved proficiency in reading this year, and most grew at least three years, according to the district benchmark exams and our reading tests. Of course, I am a TPRS teacher, so I don’t believe totally in tests or results, but still–they have to be able to do well on these and other tests to get through high school and then into college. Other years, the vocabulary tests were a huge sticking point, too…the lowest grade anyone in the class got on the year-end vocabulary test (that I didn’t get to write or see) was 75%. Most got above 80.

  7. Oops. Before and after…before, I stuck to the script. Seriously, this four-part program comes with a script to read, complete with questions and rehearsals for moving around the room. It even has demo videos for kids to see what good student behavior looks like. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s hard to be a teacher in the midst of so much pre-programmed material. It took me a couple of years, and then I started deviating. This year, I started right out with TPRS for presenting the vocabulary, asking stories, making up my own readings, and doing fast writes.
    There was still one kid whose highest mark in ten minutes was 37 words. Then we started the NaNoWriMo, a program of novel-writing that I adapted for my kids (it’s supposed to be in November but we started it mid-April). When that kid was writing his own “novel,” suddenly he could write 180-250 words in ten minutes. Well, not suddenly. In fits and starts, but by the end of the year, he was coherent and was sounding like a writer. We had thick novels from each kid, and it got to where I could only read a small section of one or two aloud each day. I think that maybe we could adapt this to our classes…well, actually, we already do…it’s very much a TPRS-friendly writing scenario…
    I applied TPRS precepts as much as I could, even doing parallel stories in the readings and letting things be a little wild. One kid was taking Russian with me as well–he came up from about a fourth-grade reading level to PROFICIENCY–and he was always saying “we do this in Russian.”

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