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16 thoughts on “CAN”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    We saw BR do this in our Winnetka classrooms when he popped in to visit. He did it in my room w/first graders at the end of the day. It felt like a novelty – it was a demo from a new guy who has funny voices and facial expressions – but we (Ts) found it shocking; unsustainable (B-O-R-I-N-G) and antithetical for all the reasons Ben explicates above. We asked him abt it and he stuck to his guns. Perhaps in his consulting life too many places have equated success with output, so he uses this premature output as evidence that the process is ‘working.’
    I don’t think it necessarily pulls kids out from the unconscious depths – he does it seamlessly and it feels like he’s simply trying to get information, like any other detail. But it does get crazily boring.
    For me the crux of the issue is that a correct response (finally!) from the actor in that moment of initial instruction/exposure to the new sounds/meaning doesn’t really prove anything -certainly not durability or retention. Everyone still needs to hear all that language more and more and in different contexts. Seems like this tactic – trying to fix ‘breakdown’- is confusing ‘evidence of comprehension’ – nods, expression, choral response and all the other ways we look for it with accurate output.

    1. This reminds me of all the awkward times I used an actor and have them parrot me — Especially in LV 1 and so early in the year. However, once trust is established, extroverted students feel happy to volunteer. Important to note is that I whisper in L1 to cue the actors for action.

      1. This is why I am slowly becoming convinced of the style of storytelling that Sean Lawler did in his Matava scripts demo, it more leans towards storylistening than TPRS storytelling. Are actors that talk really even that necessary?

        The only benefit I can see is that the class is getting input of the yo and tú forms, but I think those can be worked into readings instead.

        What do you think?

        1. Greg said:

          …Are actors that talk really even that necessary?….

          Bam! No, they are not necessary. The amount of speech practice they get in those moments in a story when we ask them to repeat after us is negligible. Unimportant. Don’t need to do it.

          Sean’s style of no drama, no actors showing off, no big effort to get any output, lulling them into a dream like he did w the Matava script in that video from three weeks ago here is far more effective in my opinion.

          He dragged out two sentences of the script into 30 minutes! It wasn’t about the script, but the language. That has always been Sean’s style. Mr. Molasses. That’s the best way to do CI. One day Sean will finish a story in 30 minutes and it will be a great thing, bc he will have given the kids closure on the story – which they need – and yet in an ultra slow way. It is where I see his work going, based on working with him in summer conferences over the years.

          That said, Greg, there is one thing that having the kids speak during a story does, and it is a very good thing if done in a certain way, the way I saw Tina do it countless times over this past summer in workshops. What Tina does is “lock up” emotionally with the actor and make a game of the dialogue. What does “locking up” like this mean?

          To me it means that when you engage the actor in speech, you don’t go for language correctness, correct point of view, SV agreement (Blaine’s big deal these days) or ask them to repeat after you mechanically, while you judge how well the kid did. Rather, you get a kind of smile on your face that invites them to play, to want to repeat the sentence histrionically, for the purpose of laughing*. In this endeavor you always have the director’s cues that are so useful at the most unexpected times in the wall space above the board.

          In Atlanta Tina had 150 teachers laughing their asses off and no one new why. I was sitting in the back and couldn’t figure it out. It was something in the repeating, the way she was engaging them beyond the mind level, at the play level, that was just funny. I’ll ask her to comment on it here even though we are both thoroughly lost in our new book, which is beating us up side the head right now without mercy bc it is due to Teacher’s Discover at the end of the week.

          *teaching for laughter keeps kids our of their conscious minds. Teaching for correct verb structuring keeps them in their conscious minds. The one aligns with the research, the other not.

          1. I found a passage, still in draft form, about how Tina reaches actors during stories:

            “An excellent move in building these little scenes out of the information on the cards is to have the actor think aloud. Having your actors think aloud is a surefire and tested way to amp up the interest in the action. You might say, “Chloe thinks, ‘Wow!’” and have the actor say, “Wow!” And then say, “Chloe says, ‘Hi, Beyoncé!’” and have the actor say, “Hi, Beyoncé!” It is a good idea to build the confidence of the actor in repeating after you, with some very simple utterances like these, that are not even really in L2, before moving on to more complex use of L2. We encourage the actor to repeat after us, and never correct them, and keep the statements short. If their pronunciation is terrible, it is just a moment of slight levity in class. We often repeat the utterance again and have them repeat again, but even if their second attempt is completely mangled, we still do not publicly correct them. We cherish a good actor and only provide positive vibes to them as they work for our education and entertainment.”

          2. Also this:

            “We narrate the character’s (in this case it is the student whose card we are using to do the little mini-scene) feelings and after we say a feeling, we stop and gesture to the actor to portray that feeling. If the actor does not portray the feeling with enough enthusiasm, we repeat ourselves, gesture a big, dramatic feeling, and then gesture towards the actor again. Generally, this kind of acting is met with lots of laughs and even spontaneous applause for the actor and is a big factor in doing what you most want to do at this point in the year – build community and ensure proper behavior from the students simply because they are having a good time and therefore wouldn’t think to ruin the party by acting out.”

  2. Another thing that I find interesting is that when asked, a major TPRS trainer said earlier this year in a presentation that they only do oral TPRS stories until November, then they start on novels.

    So that’s August, September, October of oral stories (3 months)
    and November, December, January, Februrary, March, April, May (7 months) of reading novels.

    My question is- why are conferences spending so much time doing demos of the TPRS storyasking if that is only 3/10’s of what they do? I mean I get it that the storyasking can help teachers develop foundational skills of circling and establishing meaning, but I think a lot of teachers walk out of these conferences literally thinking that TPRS teachers do oral stories every waking minute of their classes. Hey if you could do it, more power to you. It’s super-enjoyable when it works correctly. It’s just not true that TPRS teachers do oral stories daily, nor is it sustainable for most.

    I think that Ben has really hit on something with exposing the unsustainability of doing traditional TPRS story-asks every day. It’s something that is not talked about in the conferences. Also- of COURSE demos in conferences will go well- you have a whole crowd of adult language educators.

    To me, a traditional TPRS story is an advanced skill, not something that teachers should be attempting after one 3 day or even week long conference.

  3. Greg said:

    …why are conferences spending so much time doing demos of the TPRS storyasking if that is only 3/10’s of what they do? ….

    Right? My answer is because they have books to sell. There is far more money to be made by selling classroom sets than individual books on pedagogy. Tina and I know.

    1. Yes we do don’t we? I mean, do the math. 35 kids in one class, and one teacher. Maybe one day we will write books for the kids. When we finish Projects A, B, C, D, ad E.

  4. Got it. But I don’t believe we can teach classes how to read. We can’t even teach individuals how to read. We can just give them a book. I would source Krashen’s The Power of Reading to substantiate that recommendation. He cites a universe of studies that all point to the one point that we cannot teach reading to classes. I think those who sell class sets of books don’t want that known. Bless their hearts.

  5. Greg I think that the leveled novels are appealing to many Ts, esp newbies, as they provide an input roadmap for an extended unit of time – the topic, the language-in-use, all tied up in a neat bow. Sometimes with a teacher’s guide that allows for robotic ‘set and forget.’
    Perhaps the trainer meant that they shifted to reading said novels after the 1st quarter – but the TPRS story input interactions were still in play – still the targeting, PQA, circling, etc.
    Through this lens a novel is just like story-asking – except without the unpredictability or ‘risk.’

  6. and to state the obvious (my specialty) some schools/departments/teachers won’t/can’t/aren’t allowed to have ’emergent’ structures or curric, tests, etc. So by having a pre-established text, they can show and map their curriculum and pre-plan everything in the ole’ legacy way…

  7. Adminz love to claim the reading. It aligns with the research. It makes the kids appear competent and capable. Shuts the parents up.
    OY! Slap me for being cynical on the first day of the new year!

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