Reading Authentic Texts (formerly CI Straight, No Stories)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



25 thoughts on “Reading Authentic Texts (formerly CI Straight, No Stories)”

  1. This sounds great. What is the time frame? Like do we do the usual kind of PQA / TPR for high reps, as in spend day one on this and day 2 on reading? Or are we trying to do all the steps and get to the reading? Or maybe you go slower at first and once you’re into the story the compelling piece takes over?

  2. My plan is to just PQA it for as long as I need to feel that they can to be able to read the short text (really paragraph/line). It’s going to be weird because this is a pretty sophisticated text compared to anything my students have ever done.

    My big fear is that the text will not be reachable via this sort of PQA. I really don’t know. I’ve never tried it. But I will find out. I am afraid it’s not going to work. Then we can’t read that book together. That makes me sad.


      If they can’t do it they can’t do it. Just keep em reading! I am confident y’all will be successful though. I’m using a similar technique this year in Latin 4 for Caesar and Ovid because the students chose those authors. If you keep the “sophisticated structures” lexical – the students will surely get it.

  3. Leigh Anne Munoz

    Hi, Ben,

    Can you give yourself permission to just read to them, while they follow along? It only takes a few days, and then the kids can say that they read LPP in French!

    I taught several years of AP/level 3 combos, until I had a good situation where I thought I could pull off reading LPP to my students while they followed along. My level 3/AP French classes from last year read it with me. Perhaps that day will never come again, but at least I got to do it once.

    Of course, in the future, they won’t remember a lot of the French. But some of them will remember the story…

    just a thought. Don’t be sad…

  4. Ben, I hope it works out for you. Back in my only very slightly CI days in my first year at this school, I did the Little Prince in German because I inherited them and it was one of the few novels I had. I, being foolish and distracted with other things, was very hands off with it and I think it led to a lot of frustration. However, one of the results of those awful decisions is that I moved closer to CI after I survived that class, because what I was doing wasn’t working. I remember it being a tricky text, but my students didn’t get anywhere near the sort of reading preparation that your students will. It is such a great story though.

  5. The problem with NewStructures-PQA-Read all together in the same class boom-boom-boom like that is, in my experience exactly what you said, Ben, that the new structures probably won’t be very “reachable” via PQA. Of course that’s because the structures are pre-determined by whatever is in the novel. This, along with your recent posts about i+1, are exactly the problem faced by all the Latin teachers on this blog who want the safety of something we can simply read. Latin textbooks all get to i+100 in a hurry, and the +100 is comprised of very un-compelling structures.

  6. I am anticipating what could be a similar situation next spring. I have an awesome group of 7th graders who will then be in 8th grade. At that time, they could be ready to read a Chinese folk tale book called “The Lady in the Painting.” I think the story is compelling, especially knowing that class and their interests. To account for students whom I think may need more than just PQA on new structures and the clickable audio version of the book, I am considering preparing Embedded Reading-style versions of the chapters. I can get it to comprehensible for all of them that way. Writing these readings will become my summer project in 2014 if I go with the idea. I’ll know by spring of this year when I try a simpler book (Susan you mafan) with the same group.

    The Lady in the Painting was written by a Taiwanese man in the 1950’s who recognized that Chinese learners needed easier yet interesting reading. He wrote a traditional story in simpler language for the purpose.

    1. I love this idea of creating embedded readings from novels…and I wish I had the time to do it for my 8th graders! I guess that would be a great project for summertime-thanks for the idea.

  7. My Chinese 3’s got through 6 (of 8) chapters of “Lady” last year. We pqa’d essential vocab and made stories with them. Maybe 2-3 stories. Then a chapter. 2-3 stories, then a chapter. It was ok. If I were to teach it again I would load the front of the year with stories and then read the novel in a more focussed way. In other words, after a few months of class stories, just read the book. The stop and go was frustrating for both the students and me.

    Many of them (the honors students within the class) were also learning characters for the first time, characters from “Lady.” Reading characters in the context of a story that they were familiar with was very powerful. Just like CI instruction, really – we want them to focus on the meaning of the message, not its structure. First, they read a chapter in pinyin a bunch of times, discussed it to death, then a few more times aloud in characters. Character quizzes were mostly translating random paragraphs from the book.

    Embedded readings would be great. It was just too much work for me to think about. But sharing such items sure would be nice… 🙂 Let me know if you’d like any of my materials from last year:

    If you have a laptop cart, you might want to have your tech guys install Google Chrome with the Add-on called “Zhongwen Popup Dictionary.” It allows students to read an html document in characters and hover over for pinyin and English. (Similar to Pleco reader, but free; Firefox works too, the add-on is called Pera-perakun.) I put “Lady” on and had all the students read this way.

    This year, in level 3 I’m trying Liangge Haizi Xiang Shang Tian, something or other. I can’t remember the exact name! But it seems a little simpler than Lady. Right now we’re doing pqa and stories based on the vocab.

    Lady is ambitious for 8th graders! You must be a Teacher of the Month!!! 🙂 I’ll be eager to hear how it goes if you go that route!

  8. Jeffery Brickler

    Ben et al.,

    This is the very thing that we struggle with in Latin. Even if we delay readings in the book for one year which some of us are doing, there still is the issue of unknown words. This is fine, except it is difficult to PQA these things and then jump to the story and read. Not all words are easily PQAed and often the structures can be weird and disjointed. I am doing exactly what you are talking about. After one year of CI, we are trying to read the stories from the book. I then try to PQA the unknown words. It becomes difficult for me to make it work. It seems to fall flat. I don’t know what to do about it. I know that Bob does exactly this.

    He looks at a reading, figures out what the kids don’t know and then PQAs those words, creates mini stories, dictates those words. He does whatever he can to get some meaning and reps. He seems to have success with the stories this way. The only problem is that the reading is so slow and it gets difficult to follow the story line, if you have to stop for 3-5 days just to get the kids prepped for the vocabulary load. It would also help if you knew how important it was to circle/CI those structures. Some structures are not that important and don’t really have much value to focus on. In my mind, this is the difficult part.

    Then, you still have to have embedded readings to work up to the real thing. It is a lot more preparation. If you don’t have the embedded readings, you have to make them and that is more work for an already loaded schedule.

    I am getting a little tired of stories myself because I feel so inadequate when I do them. It isn’t very easy getting a good story going and doing all the skills well. I now understand how the kids begin to shut down when they feel like failures all the time.

    1. Hi Jeffrey,

      Would Look & Discuss help you use the new structures more before reading, taking the place in part of PQA that isn’t feeling effective? That is, if you have time to find a few pictures — or if you or the kids can online & find some pictures live in class.

      1. Jeffery Brickler


        Yes, I think that you are correct. I think that this is going to be the power here. Finding ideas to work with the vocab. I just have to get used to coming up with ideas for the vocab. One idea that I recently had was to use youtube and discuss with Judge judy because a story we have is about a theft and a court case. I was thinking about putting those words up on the board and using a clip from judge judy to talk about the case and make up the story.

        Bob Patrick describes how he is reading here:

        I think that there is power in this reading if we keep it engaging. However, I think that one of the things that I and maybe others struggle with is making sure the kids have enough input before we start this kind of reading.

        I feel pressure to read the book so that I can get students to a certain point. I hate that pressure.

  9. Hi Ben,

    I miss the blog! Between the teaching both at this new high school in Denver where everything still feels new, the teaching at University of Colorado Boulder, the coaching, and all the other stuff I do I’m just so overwhelmed. But I really miss all of you guys and the wonderful conversations here so I will try and make an effort to squeeze time.

    I’m so happy that you decided to teach this wonderful book to your students Ben. I wonder if I could piggy back and try and do it with one of my french3/4 classes and we could exchange notes.

    My idea back last year was to write an easy version of the book for my students but I wasn’t sure of the legal ramifications so I gave up on the idea.

    Anyway it’s a great idea and I can’t wait to hear back on this.

  10. I have recently started reading Holes by Louis Sachar with four different groups of students. Their levels vary, but basically they all have a solid foundation since I’ve been working with them since last year, doing stories and PQA and “reading” films.

    I pick out the words on a page that I suspect they don’t know and list them. There are about 10-12 words per page. I type up the list and put in red the ones that I consider high frequency. Before reading the page we look at the words, I ask them if they know any of them, I give definitions and examples for the ones they don’t know, which they write down. I do some PQA with the three or four words that are in red. I ask them if some of the words “speak” to them, if they think they’ll remember them because of an association, etc. and we talk about why.

    Then we start reading and discussing the story. While reading, they have their notes for any words that they don’t remember. I try to use the high frequency words as much as possible in the discussion, so they’re getting more repetitions. In this manner we can read 3-4 pages in an hour. They are enjoying it and finding it easy. Both the adults and the teenagers love the story.

    I’m hoping as they advance in the story that they will become more autonomous and will be able to read the last chapters on their own. I’m not being as careful or thorough about the unknown vocabulary as some seem to be. I’m certainly not getting seventy repetitions of each new word. But I figure that if it’s high frequency we’ll be seeing it again and again and again. If it’s not high frequency, it doesn’t matter.

    1. Judy, your description seems parallel to how I used a Chinese film with a class. The actual film dialogue isn’t what they needed to comprehend, just the simpler narration by me. I didn’t worry about making all new words aimed at acquisition either, and at the time I felt that was right – the goal was to get through the movie & understand what happened more than it was to acquire new vocabulary. I provided notes with vocabulary and translation as I narrated with any words I couldn’t find a good way to avoid.

    1. Mem Fox talks about not delaying the story (in L1 to little kids) simply to try to “teach” the word or get them to figure it out. She recommends just telling them what it is. Is this what Susie was referring to? To Fox, the more we try to coax the learning (i.e. “sound it out” or “look at the words around it”), the less language they’ll end up seeing and the less action/joy will be experienced. And the less joy, well we know what happens then.

      But of course if it’s happening too often (unknown words), we can sense that and choose something easier.

  11. Yes that is my understanding. Susie also used the term snowplow reading, or at least that’s the impression I got. It is so simple and brilliant. You read to them in L1 as a movie forms in their minds. As they continue to read paragraph after paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, they are functioning fully in the realm of comprhehensible input in the form of reading. If you think about it, this focused reading is very much like the active listening they do in stories.

    Now, this might work for motivated students who have had a good breakfast, plan to travel in France one day, are college bound, etc. I have not found it to work with kids in poverty as well, although it works well enough.

    Blaine doesn’t like it. In 2009 in San Antonio he asked me which I prefer, his way (R & D) or Susie’s way. I said I did both. Which was true at the time but honestly R & D is superior and I do very little snowplow reading these days. My kids can’t read well in English or their native Spanish, so reading is a problem anyway.

    Blaine’s R & D has been proven to be an effective time chomper, and that is another thing I like about it. Anytime I don’t feel like I have my CI story feet under me I bail to R & D and dictee and man is that an easy way to make a 50 minute class seem like 5 minutes.

    By the way, with reference to the original post, I told my 3 class that reading the Petit Prince was in the opinion of some of you a long shot and that just fired them up. We started today. We did the first two lines of the Dedicace. For ten minutes. I followed this sequence:

    1. They read the two sentences (it would have been more but ten minutes was all the time we had left in class).
    2. I translated slowly when they had finished.
    3. I asked questions. (Did he dedicate this book? To whom did he dedicate this book? Why did he dedicate this book?)

    So my structure was “dedicate this book”. All I had to do was what any of us does when we do PQA, ask any questions that come into mind while including the same target in each question until if feels like they “have” the structure. Then do that with another target, in this case in the second sentence they read but at that point we ran out of time.

    My point is that I am not going to go paragraph by paragraph, as Annick said, but sentence by sentence. If they keep the same level of fire in their eyes as they had today, it’s going to be a great winter with that book. (I gave it a big build up. I must have read it with classes at least 25 times over the years. At least. If this works, if I can figure out a way to read authentic literature with a third year class, I am going to be very happy.

    1. “If this works, if I can figure out a way to read authentic literature with a third year class, I am going to be very happy.”

      The Latin teachers here will follow this with interest, Ben. In my experience with trying for authentic literature in third and fourth year, students are interested for a few days but it quickly wanes. The pace just proves to be too slow to maintain their interest and the new vocabulary just starts falling like an avalanche. I’ve always had to mix it up with movies, easier reading, pictures, etc.

      I don’t say this to discourage you, though. The last thing one of us needs is more discouragement. If you can get it to work then the rest of us can, too. Please keep us updated on this particular class! I think we are all trying to solve this 3/4 puzzle.

  12. If the upper level puzzle can indeed be solved…. I am not aware of any group of CI teachers having this discussion. But it had to happen, since our first and second year kids had to grow up. I’m feeling lots of reading, and I want it to be authentic. One thing I have going for me is the book, a gem. And Leigh Anne pointed to the obvious bail out (while staying in the book) of snowplowing through certain sticky passages. I have tried other ideas only to see them fall flat (the Realm was great on character development but I can’t script stories like Anne and Jim so it failed bc it had little action). But hey it’s what we do right? Win a few, lose a lot, learn a lot, and at least we’re not teaching as they did in the 1950’s.

  13. The students I’m doing this lickety-split reading with would probably be closer to a level 4. They’re at the point where I think they could, with a little encouragement, start reading authentic texts on their own. R and D would, I think, comfort them in the idea that they need a teacher to be constantly checking that they understand. I want them to be totally focussed on the content, the story, and I want it to go fast, so that it seems easy and fluid to them. We are discussing the story as we go, but not in great detail. As you would if you and a group of friends were reading a book together. I’m trusting the Net Hypothesis to fill in the blanks and turn them into autonomous readers.

  14. I so wish this kind of reading would work! At this point, I have only two books that I can use in Russian that are at an “easy” level (third year). After that, it’s all short pieces. Now an aide has translated the new elementary-school Brandon book from Spanish into Russian (she’s an exchange student, and I handed her the book the first day, told her she would know Spanish within two days, and indeed she was able to read fluently…it’s a level 2 Russian book, predictably…).

    As I think Ben commented above, when I’ve done the L1 reading while kids look at higher level Russian, it seems to work for particular (4%) kids, but not for those who are either slower processors or those who are weaker readers and/or less motivated to learn.

    On the other hand, here’s what does seem to work right now: I type up a story or chapter synopsis in base Embedded Reading form (completely bare bones), which students read after developing a parallel story to nail down the structures. Then we transfer to the base reading. That reading works to get kids interested and confident that they will at least understand what’s going on.

    We read the original text.

    Then they add x number of details that they picked up while reading the “real” story to the ER that we started with. This exercise gives them accountability while it also gives me an easy way to present them with the next level of ER (they did the writing, so it’s accessible). By reading the second level, they can take credit for what pieces they added and they can really get a handle on what happened in that piece before the class moves on to the next part.

    day 1: PQA with new structures and parallel story; write parallel story as a group if there’s time
    day 2: read parallel story and possibly base ER
    day 3: read original text; groups add their notes, which I collect and use for version #2
    day 4: read ER version #2 and start back at day 1 for the next piece.

    It’s a bit out of order for ER, going from base reading to final level, then back to version #2, but it’s an experiment in progress. Last year, I was typing up an extended ER of the final text and working backward from that to create my ER versions, and it just took too much time to do regularly.

    Keep in mind…I have kids from second-year to fifth year in the same class period twice a day, so that adds to the difficulty of keeping everyone in reading materials.

    I do the same progression with MovieTalk instead of reading a text. Then my native speaker does my extended version. Sometimes I luck out and there’s a synopsis on line.

    (Apologies to anyone from Kitsap County. I didn’t share this emerging plan with you in my workshop last weekend, because it is Embedded Reading.3 and I didn’t want to confuse anyone. But if you’re on this blog, you probably could have taught the workshop…)

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben