Creating Readings from Stories (Step 3 of TPRS)

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16 thoughts on “Creating Readings from Stories (Step 3 of TPRS)”

  1. This is so true and I always pay dearly for taking a shortcut through lack of buy-in the next day. I have tried to have my writers type the story on a chrome book as a google doc, thinking that would save me time. It really doesn’t, as even the upper levels are not accurate enough when recording the text. It takes me more time to fix their errors than just to retype the whole story from their handwritten notes.
    Alas, typing up five stories every Tuesday/Wednesday night it is. Sometimes classes ask to read stories from other groups, only to declare theirs far superior :-). That’s fine by me – they are getting a double dose of CI that way!!!
    In the end, I am saving so much time the rest of the week by not having to create fancy worksheets, elaborate games, etc. that it is absolutely worth putting in the extra time once or twice a week.

    1. I agree with Ben and Brigitte. My students do love to read other classes’ stories and compare who’s is better. I also think that it is a great opportunity for students to practice reading strategies for the vocabulary that they do not know. I also save old stories with the same structures that are completely different and read those as well.

    2. Brigitte said:

      …sometimes classes ask to read stories from other classes….

      Who wouldn’t do this? It would be crazy to not encourage the natural tendency in teenagers to compete with each other. They are so bored in their classes, they seem never to even be aware of how and what each other is doing as a learner, and in most of their classes the only people competing are the ones who in a very unhealthy way are competing to be in the top ten in their class.

      This cuts deep for me. I was and I am sure many of us here were among were those latter competitors. We were among those kids who lost a bit of our humanity each time we walked into a classroom because we do not even see the possibilities for cooperation, only for being the winner. This carries over in a most negative way for us into sports, and into our adult lives.

      That is what competition in classrooms does, it sets into motion a damaging life pattern of winners and losers that describe quite accurately our schools today. I feel that one of the things we are all doing here together is to try to altogether remove the sense of competition from our classrooms and yes, comprehensible input can do that, even in spite of the fact that schools are now all designed around the single word competition.

      Cooperation is indeed coming into classrooms and CI/TPRS is indeed part of initiating that change. Cooperation happens in each class we teach, even though we often don’t even reflect on it, because building a story together takes an enormous amount of cooperation and if competition is allowed into the process in the form of talking and all sorts of finger pointing then the story will not fly.

      Competition not just between classes but also between schools was done by Sabrina and Naomi and jen last year with some success, although time proved to be a limiting factor:

      I wish Joseph taught French sometimes, so we could have a little friendly competition between our students at North High School and Lincoln High School.

      And also this from Brigitte’s comment:

      … I am saving so much time the rest of the week by not having to create fancy worksheets, elaborate games, etc. that it is absolutely worth putting in the extra time….

      This is also a big payoff from doing the extra work. Yet again, if you read Scott’s comment below, we see how we get to bend and shape and mold all of the ideas into what is best as individual teaching artists, and how a core idea on this site is that there is no one way to do this work, there is no right way.

      Thank you for both points, Brigitte!

  2. I agree that the personalized readings by class are important, but the process can be time-consuming. Liam O’Neill, a fellow PLC member and Chinese teacher at my school, has a good thing going with regard to this, and I hope he doesn’t mind that I share. First, he doesn’t like to spend time outside of class on creating readings, so he often does it as part of the class activity. Like Susan Gross recommends, he types a story on the screen as it is created.

    Second, he does often use stories from other classes, but in my view, there is a major advantage to this. All of his Chinese 1 classes have the same target structures for the week, but naturally, they wander off in different directions over the course of the week (i.e. funny plots that require new vocabulary). As a result, each class has acquired the same target structures as well as additional structures/vocabulary unique to their class. So, Liam will share stories from other classes to get more reps and, most importantly, to get all of the classes on the same page. This is helpful for common assessments, and it provides more reps in new contexts (BTW – Liam teaches in two rival schools throughout the day, so he’ll often say something like “Let’s read the story from [rival school] and make fun of it!” It’s all in the sell…) Anyway, I picture a constant weaving in and out of structures – the classes move apart during the week and back together in the end. With new structures, they will again move apart, but the sharing of stories brings them back together.

    1. This is another great option:

      …[Liam] types a story on the screen as it is created….

      I have never been able to do this effectively, even though I watched Susan Gross demonstrate it in presentations and in her classroom many times. I could just never get the feel for it and I think I couldn’t stay in bounds enough. Or something.

      1. I’ll say it is really wonderful for Chinese. On the first day with seeing new characters, I like to do that. We’ll maybe add captions to something Look & Discuss-like (I usually use PowerPoint slideshows for Look & Discuss) and that can help connect the sound with the appearance of the characters. I imagine it’s like magic. “See, this is how what we’re saying looks! Isn’t it wonderful!” Because they understand the sounds so well by the time I’m reading with them now, reading is easier. Making sure to connect the sound with the appearance is a big deal, I am learning.

  3. My classes always think their stories are better than anyone else’s, and they aren’t particularly interested in reading stories other than their own. I do embellish when typing them up, though. It’s fun to add dialog. For example, if the line in the story is, “he ordered a pizza with fleas on it,” when typing it up I may write the following:

    The waiter said, “Yes? May I take your order?” Bob said, “Yes, I’d like a pizza, please.” “And what would you like on it?” asked the waiter. “I don’t know. What do you recommend?” asked Bob. “The fleas are fresh and local. They are exquisite,” said the waiter. “Fine. Bring me a pizza with fleas,” said Bob.

    Of course you have to keep in mind what language the students have already acquired and not go too far out of bounds.

    Another fun thing to do for the reading is to editorialize. If, in the story, the kid wants to go to Japan overnight on a school night and the parents say no, I might add, “His parents are so strict. Poor Jack never gets to do anything.”

    I think that this is a way of differentiating. Some students will remember those little tidbits that you add in to the reading, and use them later. Others will be content to be told what they mean and move on.

    1. Great timing, Anne. –I am doing a google doc story this week (I count it as my quarterly “project”) Each class begins a story and then the other two classes add to it, going back to the original class for the ending–3 classes, three stories. )

      It worked well last year, but I love the idea of adding dialog! Not sure I can think on my feet enough to do the editorializing, but it would add a bit of humor to the story.

  4. Lori, would you mind elaborating on this a little bit (the google docs story). Our district is BIG on technology and we have chrome books for all the kids. Are those three classes you mentioned at the same level? I teach three different levels – 2 separate languages. Do you put the kids in groups to come up with the initial story line (after you have PQAed the structures, I presume) or do you do it as a class (a la Liam) where you type as they give you the ideas? Unless you do the latter, you would end up with a ton of stories. But then again, you mention that this is your quarterly “project” – if you do it as a class, do you give the same grade to all the kids? Can’t really wrap my mind around it just yet.
    Thanks in advance!!!

  5. Brigitte, yes—all three classes are Spanish II. No idea how this would work in your situation. First, I give a list of plot ideas. Then each table group chooses a plot line and names the characters (2-4 characters only). I am the only one doing the typing–I share the doc with them for viewing, but not for editing. Trust me, you don’t want to give students the option to edit or comment. The second day, I move the stories to the next class and so on. Although kids complained last year (they made our story lame!), at the end, they said that they enjoyed it and wanted to do it again.

    This “project” is really a whole class project–I also do an individual project (a Prezi time-line) and a small group project (Sept.–mock interview with a celebrity). We have to give an individual writing assessment this year for each project (minimum of four projects/year) and so that is the grade for this.

    I’ve shared my doc below–let me know if it doesn’t work. I’ve not started it yet this year, so it’s not been tweaked. Let me know if you have further questions.

    Lori Fiechter

  6. Wow, Laurie, thanks so much for sharing your detailed instructions. I could see this working even if I let the kids type since I can monitor the situation on the side from my own computer (using comments if there are any glaring issues). I am going to have to digest this for a bit but there is plenty of food for thought!!! Gracias!

  7. Brigitte, let me know if you try it and how you change it to make it work for you. I know that there were rough spots, but I’ve forgotten what they were!


  8. Blaine showed us a cool technique to go with the readings that addresses Ben’s concerns re: personalisation. (Btw Blaine is now convinced that embedded/scaffolded readings a la Clarq are the way to go). He uses an embedded reading where each reading uses the same 2-3 structures, and same broad plot, but each successive version is more complex, and different in details. So he asks one version. For the reading, he hands out the three progressively more complex “varied versions” of the story.

    a) He reads version 1 (short) aloud and has students translate chorally. (At this point somebody could easily get reps by adding PQA about the story, but Blaine doesn’t do that).

    b) For version B– which is longer– he reads it aloud, AND has a couple of actors acting it and saying bits of it. He will introduce parallel charcters– real kids from class– and “put them through” a similar situation (loads of reps).

    c) Version C: he does ping-pong or volleyball reading (Kids in pairs; kid 1 reads first sentence aloud; kid 2 translates and reads 2nd sentence aloud; kid 1 translates and reads 3rd sent)

    This seemed a good way to personalise stuff and to not also constantly be writing up what each class did…I can imagine overload if you have 2-3 sets of any 1 level.

    1. Never heard of ping-pong reading; I think it’s something my sociable Spanish II kids would like! So, three embedded readings for each class, though–unless the only difference (the only independent variable?) are the names.

    2. leigh anne munoz

      Awesome! I can use this — I have been struggling with ways to get reading ‘moving’ in my classroom.

      I’m going to try these soon !

      Thanks, Chris!

  9. The ping-pong reading is great. You can also

    a) have the kids sit in parallel rows (airplane) and the right-hand kid moves every two minutes. So they are switching partners– a nice break.

    b) When they switch, each pair starts reading where the slower of the two was (read: extra reps).

    I found that this works really well– provided it doesn’t go on for more than say 15 mins. Possibly less with younger kids. Also it only works once they know ALL the vocab…so if you are introducing anything new, put on board w/ trans and make sure you draw their attention to it.

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