Curtail Reading in Level One?

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49 thoughts on “Curtail Reading in Level One?”

  1. oh great! and here I just pushed and pushed to be sure that we got reading in in Level 1. 🙁 ALTHOUGH……I pushed for it to be at the end of Level 1 (1B) Last semester I did Pobre Ana, and the kids hated it. (they said it was too boring) This semester in 2B they read Donde esta Eduardo (again, BOOOORing!) They understood the words – they translated (very well) as we went along, but the stories are boring for them. I suggested that we just do short cognate readings in 1A, and readings of simple dialogs from the textbook.
    Next year I am hoping to get the monies to buy the more interesting stories/novelas i.e. Piratas, Agentes Secretos, Esperanza and building a culture unit around them.
    **GREAT NEWS to share!!! I just found out from guidance yesterday that I will be teaching 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B next year!!! so, I will have the opportunity to have an uninterrupted continuum with at least some of my new TPRS/TCI learners!!! I am so thrilled!

    1. I recommend reading Bryce’s POBRE ANA READING PLAN in which he discusses this issue of “boring” readers. I just re-read it today because we are reading Pobre Ana in level 1 right now, and it is great fodder for a bunch more auditory CI, not to mention something they can bring home and read to their parents (basically my only homework all year).

      1. Thank you! I will. (I argue with them -and my colleagues – that it is an interesting story about the differences between US teenage life and Mexican teenage life. When the 2As were reading Eduardo they argued “that’s just too bizarre, what 17-yo would be asked to go all the way to Costa Rica by herself? AND….why in the world did the stewardess just HAPPEN to have a Happy Meal on the plane?”) I ended up telling them to “zip it” (with a smile!) and let’s just ‘get through it’. We did, and now they are seeing that they actually DID pick up vocab, they were able to recognize preterite and imperfect, that at the beginning it was hard to translate, then all of a sudden they were ‘whipping’ through it!
        Thanks again for the heads up about Bryce’s Pobre Ana!!

        1. I actually don’t think the story is real interesting or captivating on its own, but for its purpose, of serving as a text to stimulate further discussion and comparing our students to the characters in the book, I think it is pretty good. Not to say there aren’t better ones out there now (I really like Esperanza!) but it does the trick and it’s what many of us are stuck with as our budgets get cut and all.

          Bryce’s enthusiasm and recommendations are very helpful in my opinion. If you can’t find it, I would contact him. I think it was a blog post here once actually.

        2. I found that with Eduardo I really had to ham up the chapter where Carmen gets into trouble with that taxi driver. Yeah, the kids don’t really like that book.

  2. To cover my opinions:
    1. I like reading in Level 1. When the content of the reading is personalized and comprehensible, I believe they acquire language. I noticed that my students’ language acquisition improved when I added reading to my program. Thinking about it, though, I likely need to trim down the readings for the first semester and concentrate more on the aural aspects of language.

    2. I like reading one novel, as a class, in the latter 1/2 of the year. At that point, they are ready to read a Level 1 novel without pain. A few very high students choose to read Level 1 novels on their own afterwards. Good idea.
    I noticed that my students’ language acquisition took a tremendous leap (but only for those who were ready) when I added the class reading of novels to the program.

    3. What I don’t like is FVR at Level 1 – Free Voluntary Reading. There is almost nothing they can read with good comprehension because they still have so little language. Boring cannot begin to describe the experience for most. Outside of being able to choose the book, I don’t see how this activity fulfills any other requirements for “reading for acquisition”. I have tried it and see no improvement in students’ language acquisition. I do see loss of time of CI activities when we do FVR. Very few kids are ready to do this in my opinion. Please, no rebuttals. Just trying to make it clear where I stand. I’m sure it’s a bit more effective at Level 2 and, likely, quite effective at Level 3 and beyond.

    4. It can certainly depend on the class, the age of the students, and/or the experience of the teacher, but I have had great success teaching Piratas in late Level 1. My kids, over several years, absolutely go wild for this book. I think my students enjoy Piratas and forget they are reading in Spanish because they understand it; the characters are complex; the setting is interesting to them; the ending is unexpected; and other stuff I can’t think of right now.

    5. Krashen’s study of language acquisition reasearch has been almost exclusively with ELL students. Intermediate ELL students make great language gains from reading from the research I’ve seen. An intermediate ELL is already superficially fluent, but not academically. That student may have very poor reading skills, but reasonably high fluency.

    FLL students cannot be studied in the same way and really haven’t been studied. The situations are vastly distinct. Our Level 1/2/3 kids are not fluent even though they may have adequate reading skills in English.

    The FVR research he knows about has been done mostly with English dominant kids over the last 40 years and some with intermediate/adv ELLs. I have seen no research about the efficacy of FVR with beginning foreign language students–and yes, Level 3 is still “beginning” when you compare it to true fluency.

    Final thought: Not ALL of us think that the novels are boring. I DO believe they can work in Level 1. I get uncomfortable when you write: “We think.” Not all of us do.

    1. I very much agree with Jody on all points. My main difficulty is that I don’t keep the class stories simple enough early on, and then there’s the Cyrillic alphabet. I’m beginning to think that I need to delay reading until I am sure that they can speak the words they’re going to read. That slows everything down a lot, but I’ve got more kids every year who have trouble reading. Maybe that’s because they have trouble reading in English as well. I don’t know…when half my kids in Russian 1 are listed as special ed, there is a constellation of learning disabilities. Still, they can all speak at this point, just like they can all speak in English. I have been setting up my finals so that those who need to can hear the Cyrillic read, because I don’t want that to be an issue for the ones who aren’t decoding well.

      It is amazing how when I plug several repetitions of a word that kids haven’t been getting into a reading, even if it means going back to a familiar piece and inserting that word, they will suddenly get it.

      I know that this is about the research and the results, but I have to say that if I hadn’t had the reading to fall back on, especially in my early years, I would not have survived TPRS. I used reading as the default lots of the time. Granted, I was doing that more in the intermediate and advanced levels, but I certainly can’t wait until level 3 to start reading novels. I’d hate to take the reading “escape hatch” from new teachers. It’s a time that the teacher can be at least somewhat off stage. TPRS is very teacher-focused, even as we’re personalizing and creating around the students. The novels are the one time that someone else has done the writing.

      1. Lots of gold here in what you say and in what Jody says. I really like these three things:

        …I’m beginning to think that I need to delay reading….

        I talked to Annick for almost three hours after school today. She said so much I would like to share here, but this point came up. I think we want to get stories cranked up and so we don’t lay down enough level 1 CI for them to read with ease. I agree. I’m doing more PQA next fall than ever before, like Skip. If they can’t read with ease, they shouldn’t be reading is my opnion.

        …when I plug several repetitions of a word that kids haven’t been getting into a reading,,,,they will suddenly get it….

        This is so key. Actually I learned this from Laurie last summer when she said to limit levels of scaffolding to (can’t remember) a few new words in each level, it is best.

        …I’ve got more kids every year who have trouble reading….

        And we have to know how our kids did on the previous state exams in reading. We should know what number they got. And teach accordingly.

      2. Hi, Michele:
        Laurie was just reinforcing what you said about overly long readings for beginners – I have done this more times that I can count. She reminded us that as long as a sentence has a verb, it tells a story and an embedded reading can start with only one or two structures.

        1. Hopefully there is never a “we” (do it this way) in this work we are doing. We are all exploring the caverns individually, and the rope that we are all tied together with is the rope of comprehensible input. There should be no standardization of the method.

          We are all going to relate to the core concept of interesting and slowly circled comprehensible input in different ways. It will take us a few weeks or a few years or ten or even more years to learn and adapt CI to what resonates with us.

          Any method that refuses standardization is a strong method (I hesitate to even use that word). When it gets standardized, its over. That said, if you or Susan Gross says it, I’m pretty much going to go with it. Like the FVR.

          Annick, today in our discussion, agreed with what you said about FVR, explaining that since she is Chinese she likes to have everything totally clear. Thus, if she does FVR (she agrees with you on delaying it for a few years and I do too), she gives a bilingual reader to the kids.

          This is something I never really thought about before. How can we expect the kids to sit around for ten minutes trying to decode a bunch of words that they have never seen before? It must be terribly frustrating. Why not give them the English as well if we must do FVR early?

          1. Knowing when I started (at the beginning of this year) that they should have access to free reading, I asked the kids what their favorite children’s books were. I then ordered in a bunch of Scholastic – i.e. Clifford, Magic School Bus, Teacher from Black Lagoon, Captain Underpants, etc. They can’t understand all the words, but they do have prior knowledge and the pictures help. I also refrained from SSR so they could share the books with each other and try to decode together. At least they got to see and recognize words as they were learning them, and recognizing syntax.
            **I found one about a turtle on my bookshelf the other day. One of my struggling students absolutely LOVES turtles. I showed her the book, and she exclaimed, “WOW!!! can I take it home and read it???” So, I said, “sure – in fact, if you can write me an essay telling me what it’s about, I will give you extra credit.” (I *never* give extra credit – but I figured, if a kids wants to READ, they deserve extra credit.) She then looked through the book and saw that there were questions at the back. She then offered to answer all the questions! The other day she came in and told me in front of the whole class, “that book is so much fun! I figured out a new word — rió. At first I thought it was the word for river, but it’s the past tense. It means “he laughed” — the accents are on different letters!” I was very proud of her – she’s been smiling and positive in class.

    2. I agree with Jody as well. I agree with Jody’s points on FVR as well. However, I don’t like FVR at level 1 when talking about FVR in terms of reading authentic children’s books, even if they are picture books. Jody is right when she says “There is almost nothing they can read with good comprehension because they still have so little language.” I must admit, I’ve scene children’s books in Spanish that have words that I don’t even know what they mean. For example, I have “Guau, dijo el bicho bolita” in front of me and the word “puchero” is in here. I don’t know what that means! “Authentic” books are so out of level 1 kids’ reach that it’s a waste of time. However I do FVR in my level 1, but not in the “approved” way. I have a pretty good library of level 1 readers built up so I have them read those. The 1st 10 minutes of class is a “reading quiz”, a 10 minute quiz that simply involves sitting there and silently reading for 10 minutes. They get to choose the book. I use Pobre Ana and the boring books for classtime. FVR time, they choose Piratas, Agentes Secretos, Houdini, Isabela, etc. I’ve had students express that they enjoy this time being able to read and understand what they are reading almost 100%. I know FVR is supposed to be with children’s books, etc. but my students are experiencing success with the level 1 readers and it’s somewhat enjoyable. More enjoyable than reading a book that they can’t understand.

      Boring cannot begin to describe the experience for most. Outside of being able to choose the book, I don’t see how this activity fulfills any other requirements for “reading for acquisition”. I have tried it and see no improvement in students’ language acquisition. I do see loss of time of CI activities when we do FVR. Very few kids are ready to do this in my opinion. Please, no rebuttals. Just trying to make it clear where I stand. I’m sure it’s a bit more effective at Level 2 and, likely, quite effective at Level 3 and beyond.

  3. I want to clarify that in spite of my original comment, I will continue to use readings. But during the first year, the large majority of those readings will be transcribed class stories. That way, I know the readings will be comprehensible and interesting to my students.

    I too rely on reading activities as an escape hatch, when a class is simply not cooperating, and being in the moment is clearly not working out. Yesterday I had gone over new structures, and was beginning a story with my 8th graders (Latin 2). This worked well with one section, but the other section could not handle it–too many outbursts, and general lack of cooperation. So I typed up a story for that class, using a combination of the info provided by both classes, knowing that they would understand 90+% of it. Today students read and enjoyed the story, answered my Latin questions, and got a whole lot of CI. With the other class, I am still working on a story with them. In these last weeks of class, this is the best I can hope for right now, and it was a lot better than getting out worksheets, which is what I would have done last year.

    1. Robert Harrell

      Having flexibility is a major advantage for us. It allows us to remain sane and enjoy what we are doing rather than being stressed. I remind my students that I will talk about anything with them, as long as we do it in the target language. Today, in response to a student’s request, I told and students acted out the story of how I caught my red-tailed hawk. I didn’t get as many repetitions as I would have liked, but it was all in German, I did work in several structures we had just started acquiring, I got one of my talkers to be quiet by reminding him that red-tailed hawks don’t talk (yes, he was acting the part of my red tail), and students were enjoyably engaged.

    2. …the large majority of those readings will be transcribed class stories. That way, I know the readings will be comprehensible and interesting to my students….

      This makes almost too much sense. I was talking with Annick today and she told me how one year she used the backwards design list of words that Paul and I wrote for PA about four years ago. Due to the fact that she had done a lot of auditory CI in the first semester to teach that list of words, when she presented PA to her class second semester, because they could read it, it was a big hit for them.

      So, bottom line in my opnion: classroom discipline and general interest in the class is a function of can they understand what they hear and read or not. That is a good argument for meticulous backwards planning, except I ain’t gonna do that. I’m too right brained and too what if and I think the Net will do it all. I trust the Net.

      The approach is constantly changing. It is a big bad beast that each of us has to change and adapt to our own needs and abilities.

  4. I know this thread is about the pros and cons of early reading. However, I also hear that some of us are using the readings as a way to “bail out”. Whenever I need to bail out, I go to OWI. A home run every single time! This has turned into an all-time favorite thing for all my classes. It is so easy to get going and ensures 100% CI. The kids are always completely enthralled and more often than not it turns into great stories that the kids absolutely love to read.

      1. Well we do have new folks in the group so here it is. I started working with this in 2005 with middle school kids in conjunction with my word walls, which I really greatly depended on as a middle school TPRS teacher of Spanish. My dependency on this wall and the creation of these simple images was due to the fact that I don’t speak Spanish. (Hey, it hasn’t stopped a lot of traditional teachers).

        The text below explains and you can find more such explanations of other stuff on the resources/workshop handouts of this site. I once did nothing but an OWI in a three hour worskhop at NTPRS years ago. I should have done Circling with Balls but I got an image going and I couldn’t stop it.

        OWI is easy and fun and I am thrilled that Brigitte is getting good use out of is esp. with the reading piece she added in to it. What she said about turning OWI into readings is strong. I’m going to do it next fall. And I should add it to our Beginning the Year checklist. Brigitte would you say that your first forays with beginning readers is from texts created in OWI classes?

        Here is the description of OWI, long but not that long:

        Handout/Segment #2: One Word Images

        “One Word Images” is a term that I use to describe a way I have of using principles of storytelling to teach exploratory classes that are not ready to do full stories, although I also use this technique with more experienced classes as well. It is a lot of fun for the kids, because it is about one of them, and is my own favorite TPRS activity, one that I could do for hours and hours on end, just to see what the kids come up with. It involves word lists and large amounts of personalization, and is very free form.

        Just pick a word from a word list and ask the kids a specific set of questions about it, choosing from questions about:

        o its quantity
        o its size
        o its color
        o its intelligence level
        o rich or poor
        o mean or kind
        o hair color
        o eye color
        o other physical characteristics – see TPRS in a Year!, Portrait Physique
        o its mood
        o where it is (a huge energy shifting question to ask)
        o when this occurred (time, day of the week, etc.)

        Then just use circling to see where the class takes it as you ask more and more

        This simple process is actually very much like asking a story, but without the complexity. All that is needed for exploratory classes is to work first with a single noun, ask the questions listed above, and expand things, seeing how far the original word can go via simple circling with the students.

        Keep in mind that the purpose of circling is not only to add repetitions to words but also to permit the adding in of details. The repetitions build the CI, and the new details build the (personalized) interest.

        Such little images may not take things as far as a regular story, but so what? They are a lot easier to do, and they carry a feeling of real safety for those new to the method. Building confidence in new teachers is not something that TPRS is known for.

        So the new teacher can just take a word like “casa”. Just say casa in front of the class in a tone of expectancy, like it is a special word that you and the kids are going to talk about in a special way. Repeat it like it is special.

        Next, to establish meaning, write casa on the board and then in English. Point to the Spanish and then to the English and then pause to let it sink in to the student’s minds.

        Next, you may want to associate the sound of the new word with some other image or sound or gesture – you could just put your hands over your head like a roof, and have the students do that. With other words, you may instead want to associate a sound, etc.
        When you do this, the neurology is such that the kids will quickly decode it when it comes up later, relative to the number of repetitions you are able to get in via the circling you do around the word.

        This word – casa – is just the first brick of a little image you are going to build! It may or may not become a scene, but for now it is just a little image, a little brick. But in that image is a potential story! Each new word added to casa, as you work with your students without English to build the image, can contribute to the eventual building of a beautiful and hilarious story – a home run story.

        So you say casa and if the students are beginners you then say una casa and then you ask about a color for the house and then you ask if the house is big or small and big or small in relation to what and soon a person walks into it and something happens and you are off and running with a story.

        That’s it! You just build a little red house together and if it develops into anything more than that, great, if not, the kids are hearing and understanding the language via the circling you are doing, which is the point of the whole thing. And you are getting valuable training that will lead to your building an entire story using TPRS.

        To repeat, the purpose of circling is to get these repetitions, of course, but circling also sets up little gaps after each question you ask into which the students can suggest details in the form of cute answers. When students suggest cute answers to your circled questions you are going to be successful with TPRS because your students will then have ownership in the process – it will be their image, their story.

        It is normal! The kids in a TPRS class have to feel a fairly large degree of ownership in the building of the story or the story won’t be interesting to them.

        Thus, the building of a story must always be done by the group, not by the teacher alone. It also must be done without English except when you write each new word and its translation on the board, or when you allow the kids their two word suggestions in response to your questions.

        So people new to TPRS may want to consider this idea. Instead of swinging for the fences, just try for the bunt or the single – just make contact with the ball by circling single words into little images first, and only after that into little scenes, and finally, when you are ready, ramp one of those little scenes into a story.

        It is further suggested that this technique of building images from a single word, in addition to the PQA technique of circling with balls, be used to in all TPRS exploratory classes, as well as in all TPRS first year classes during the first 3-6 weeks of the year.

        1. OK, now I remember what the acronym means. I’m a little overloaded with so many of them lately. Thought it was something new and interesting–but, it’s old and interesting!

        2. In answer to your question, yes absolutely, the first (and many thereafter) readings come from ideas explored during One Word Image chats. Again, it has to do with what is interesting to the kids. I don’t have a word wall, so I just ask the kids what word they want to turn into a picture in their head. Last week it was as simple as “cat”, but it turned into our absolute best story of the whole year.

          1. Actually, I did not have any employees other than a detail writer since I am usually just going for maximum listening CI. I have the detail writer “just in case”.
            As for the artist, I have to come up with a different solution for next year, as the artist renderings often turn into a major distraction (good and/or bad). I have to get one of those easel things that I have seen you use, so the drawings are not revealed until after the story has been completed.
            Do you think it would be a good/better idea to treat OWI just like a “story asking” session?

          2. Yes and no. The entire reason I made up all of those early year simple activities was bc I was (10 years ago) totally freaked by TPRS after those 24 years as an AP French Language and Literature teacher.

            This stuff was causing me to change, to be much more human in the classroom, and so the thought of jumping right into stories, which was the way they did TPRS at the time after a period of six weeks of TPR (God how boring!), I started those things like OWI to bridge the gap and come up with some easy stuff first.

            So yes, treat those beginning of the year activities as stories if the kids are safely trained in the method and you are safely trained in SLOW. Stories can speed things up. But also use them in the early fall for training in pacing and norming for rules as well. God gives with both hands on this activity!

            I am really glad you brought this up. I have always stopped CWB and OWI and WCTA and WA after the first month to make time for stories but I don’t need to. I can treat them as stories. Now all I have to do is remember that they can be used all year. Remind me next November!

  5. Brigitte you said the thing that needed to be said. Riveting aural input becomes riveting reading. Love it. The form is far less important than the doing of it, the making it interesting.

    For some, that interest lies in novels/parallel novels/RT, etc. One of our DPS Spanish 1 teachers read all four level one readers in a school with kids who weren’t gifted readers.

    For others, readings from stories. I think that would be me, as I have reflected throughout the day on these great ideas presented here today.

    My idea with OWI was to just have fun in exploratories, and I remember when I was teaching at that level – 8 years – that it worked great at that level.

    But it doesn’t work with such power, in my own experience, at the h.s. level.

    How old are your kids?

  6. My French I class just seemed to hit a brick wall after Christmas. Some days were great, but I had this feeling of just not connecting. I have had some success with film as the venue to get the picture going in their heads. I pick the structures that I want them to really acquire to or I introduce some new stuff and in general just recycle. I have made up some short readings based on scenes. They can draw pictures of a scene. I can PQA the heck out of the plot line, make all kinds of comparisons, find out if they know anyone like the teachers or boys in the movie, turn the sound off and have them say something about the action. I am just hitchhiking on the plot line of the film. It’s been instructive. The movie, Les Choristes”, is very a very compelling story. They like it so much that it has brought a lot of energy to what can be a tough time of the year. I was circling a structure yesterday and actually got some output in complete sentences – to great applause and fanfare from everyone. In a way they seem more comfortable talking about the characters than about themselves. They also feel very grown-up watching a subtitled film and are proud that they can discuss it in a limited way which is a totally different vibe than they get from some of the novels. Thanks to Judy Dubois for reminding me about the power of film. AND, talk about the ultimate bailout move, I am watching the same movie with French 2 using totally different structures and pounding the past/imperfect. The work that is involved is producing the reading piece. Small price to pay for peace of mind.

    1. This might be very worthwhile to write up formally–what worked, what didn’t, how you used time, etc. Film can be incredibly compelling. How to use it for comprehensible input is a great art. I’d be interested.

    2. I am doing the same thing right now with level 2 and level 4 Spanish. Rough time of year, spring carnival and lip synchs and prom next week. I’ve been doing stories with related structures from the Matava scripts (fabulous!), but they need something different this week, so we are watching Motorcycle Diaries.

      I have told my classes that I will try hard not to, but that I will occasionally break my own rule of “all CI all the time.” I broke it a few weeks ago for a fantastic opportunity to bring in a dear friend who lives in the DR and who happened to be home for a short time. And I am breaking it now, because I know that the audio in the movie is incomprehensible for the most part. But I am showing it in short chunks (15-20 min) and giving quick quizzes and dictado and circling, all using recycled structures and the kids are totally engaged both in the viewing and in the discussion. In the upper level we are doing more “parallel story” discussion, talking about epic journeys, getting into a bit more personal “dream trips,” where, why, with whom they would like to travel…etc.

      Of course there is an infinite amount of material to work with in a film, and I usually work myself into a spin (ha…not to mention the bewildering effect on the kids) by trying to hit all of it. Not now, though. Just sticking to the plot and whatever questions the kids have.

      1. You have said it, Jen. If WE just stick to the plot, they will be fine. When we get scattered, they get scattered. Someday, I will know this completely and feel safe in my mind while I’m doing it. Thanks.

        1. That is why I am returning each year more and more to using scripts and repeating the three structures in each of the three locations and it works. It worked like a charm today with Cheap Jewelry. If the script is simple and appealing, and if each of the three structures is there in each location, the story usually gets at least three feet of air.

      2. …I am showing it in short chunks (15-20 min) and giving quick quizzes and dictado and circling….

        That’s right on, right there. I, with Jody, want Judy or someone (you jen?) to write the little booklet on how to use films in upper level classes so that it becomes a power tool for the AP/IB exams. Somebody has to write it and if not one of us, then who?

        That is very bad ass, that idea of taking chunks of a film and going into detail using the tools we already have in lower level classes. It can work and can you imagine how a kid would feel even if only one film was done all year when they went to watch it that summer? Wow! I have never used TPRS/CI above level 2 so this is all new to me.

        Well I did teach that traditional class – 3 different teachers before me in three years – at East that was a level 4 but they couldn’t change and my level 1’s were far beyond them by April that year. They were pathetic.

        Speaking of how we learn languages, I was watching a French film, Paris, last night and woke up about three times repeating new stuff I learned. My mind was into this deep kind of mechanical analysis that was so deep I couldn’t even understand any of – it just woke me up bc I was so into it. God I love that language. I lerf it. I loave it.

        While I gorged on popcorn during the movie, just sitting there listening, my deeper mind was gorging on the CI. Whenever I gorge I wake up at night, and it seems to be true when I gorge on CI as well.

        1. Ben, I’ve tried to put down what I do with films.
          I usually work with even shorter chunks. A five minute scene can give enough material to keep us going for weeks. It depends on how the movie is assembled. Most movies start off with a hook, something to get you involved, so we can discuss that, the characters as they appear. If there’s a lot of action, we just watch and discuss. But when there’s a big scene with a lot of material that needs to be understood to follow the rest of the film, I may …
          Watch it without subtitles and talk about what the students have understood.
          Watch it again with subtitles in TL and translate it word by word. PQA any constructions that give them problems.
          Watch it a third time without subtitles but with the script with blanks. The first time they listen with the script they should not write anything down. I ask them to just follow with their fingers so I can tell if they are able to follow or not. Then I ask if anyone remembers any words and we write those in. Then we listen again and they try to fill in all the blanks. This is collective and it depends on how good the class is. I love it when they beg me to let them listen one more time. If they’re finding it difficult, I stop almost every sentence and we fill in the blanks together. It’s very important that the blanks be high frequency words that I’m certain they have already acquired. Otherwise, how could they possibly recognize them? I give them definitions or translations of all the words, even very low frequency ones, just so that they don’t feel frustrated.
          The purpose is to get them to listen to the scene again and again.
          I may then ask the class what happened in the scene and they give me their impressions, which I use to write up a very basic summary.
          I develop the summary as an embedded reading, and we read through the three versions together in the following class. I may assign reading the last one at home and then redo it in class. I like to pick out the vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to them and make a crossword puzzle.
          I give them the puzzle to do as homework, telling them that all the answers are in the (third version) summary. So in order to find the answers, they have to read the text over again and again. ( Last week I had a class of boys where almost none of them had done it, so I put them into groups and gave them ten minutes to try to find as many answers as possible, then the groups asked each other for the answers they hadn’t found and got points when they could give an answer, so they enjoyed it. This may sound like worksheets, but I could see the boys reading through the text to find the answers, so they were getting CI.)
          I then ask each student to prepare five questions about the scene. To avoid having the same five questions x number of students in the class, I may ask one group to prepare questions about one character, etc, or the first part of the scene, the second part, etc. They come to class with their questions and ask each other their questions. Of course, my students have a lot of problems asking questions in English (did-does- seem so unnecessary to them) so we work on getting the questions right before I ask who can answer it. I act as if I don’t understand the question when it’s not correct, I don’t try to explain the grammar to them, but I ask what’s missing or make a hand gesture to show when the word order is reversed. Once it’s correct, I ask another student, or students, to repeat it, so they’re hearing the correct form. Then we answer it. This may seem boring with an advanced class, but my very slow students seem to enjoy these sessions and participate a lot. I encourage them to ask open questions and give extra points for interesting questions. I tell them that an interesting question is a question you don’t know the answer to.
          After this oral session, which usually lasts a full hour, I announce a test, but first I give them a practice test. It’s just like the real one, but we do it all together and talk about the answers. My tests are divided in three parts – I. 20 cloze sentences. ( I give them the vocabulary we’ve seen in a list of 30-60 words at the top of the page. It may include vocabulary from previous lessons. I choose the high frequency words for my sentences but they haven’t caught on to that yet.) II. comprehension questions. they can answer with one word. If they answer with a complete, grammatical sentence I give bonus points. III. I ask them to choose 5-7 words from the vocabulary list and write a story. One point for each word used with its correct meaning and 3-5 points for the quality of the story. No points off for grammar, but I may give a bonus if it’s quite good.
          About the cloze sentences – at the beginning of the year, they find these very difficult. Once they realize that learning a vocabulary list by heart is not the best way to prepare, but rather to read and reread the summary or script, they do much better.

          This assessment is more formal than what you seem to do in the States, but I suspect French students would have a hard time taking me seriously as a teacher if I didn’t do something along these lines. Before the oral session I give them a paper that they write their questions on and do a self evaluation for their participation and attention during the class, which I validate, which usually gives them a fairly good grade to be added to their written grade from the test.
          This works well for me, but has to be adapted to each film. What I have learned is that it has to be a darn good film because I end up seeing every scene dozens of times and get cross-eyed if it’s a silly film.

          1. I have also seen films and film clips hook more kids into the language than any other medium…even music. This is the video/visual generation. They are media-savvy and pick up on amazing cultural subtleties in films. When they see a film that they already know and love in L1, they can really pick up a ton of L2, if, as Judy says, it’s a good piece. Many students who have graduated will send me messages sending me ideas of films to use in class because they are still watching films w/ the Spanish language soundtrack on. Good stuff.

            with love,

          2. Laurie said: When they see a film that they already know and love in L1, they can really pick up a ton of L2.

            This is why I’ve been doing Lord of the Rings every year ever since it came out. I have boys who’ve seen the French version so often that they know it by heart, so when we translate the English into French, they’ve got all the tricky words down pat. Another film that goes over well is The Mighty, which a student recommended. But if I was teaching French, I think I’d want to use French films.

  7. It helps to step back and rethink what a story is. I try to identify that second “Tell a story.” step as “Interact via a storyline.”

    One simple action can tell a story. “I gave him my heart.”
    A conversation is a story. (PQA)
    An artfully constructed description. (OWI)
    Every detail added to each sentence in story-asking.
    Talking about a picture.
    Discussing a movie.
    Sharing opinions about a book.
    Exploring an Embedded Reading.

    Blaine is the King of the Story. Through the story, he uses all of the component and craft skills inherent in TPRS/CI. But each of us has our own strengths and we each have our own groups of students that respond to different things. We can use the same skills interacting via a variety of “story’ formats. Remember that what we do is what Blaine has always done within his story-asking format.

    The key to it is the INTERACTION.

    Statement/Response. Question/Answer. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize.
    Repeat. :o)

    Those are the basics.
    with love,

  8. Sabrina Janczak

    I too, have had my kids in French 1 start reading Pirates a month ago, so three quarters of the year in, and they have a very hard time with it. And yes, when they start struggling with the written language, they give up and start acting out.
    It is interestinfg to see that this method is not a one size for all but people have different experiences with different things.

    1. There is an embedded reading for Chapter 1 of Pirates in the Embedded Reading file at . Here is the base reading (but you could pare it down even more!):

      Un pirate s’appelle François de Granmont.
      C’est le capitaine des pirates.
      Les pirates français attaquent navires espagnols.
      Il y a des rumeurs d’une carte secrete.
      François veut la carte secrète.
      Un Espagnol veut la carte.
      Il s’appelle Antoine Médina.
      Sa fiancée Rachelle aime Antoine et elle veut voyager avec lui.

      There are 4 additional versions leading up to reading the entire chapter. It might be a good way to break them in to a chapter book…and Embedded Reading for the first few chapters.

      I have also done one for more complex chapters in other novels. Sometimes, not all of the details are necessary for every group. Sometimes success trumps details.

      For Spanish teachers, it is easy to use as a model for doing the same thing with Piratas. There is also an Embedded Reading for the entire book of Esperanza. I also liked using that. It lets you, the teacher, tailor the novel for your students.

      with love,

      1. nevermind, I got it. Had to take the ‘s’ off of ‘talks’. I’m looking at the Esperanza embedded reading. How do you do this? I’m unsure on how embedded reading works.

  9. Ok, this thread is old but the topic is still fresh I think. So can someone walk me through what I do starting at Day 1 of teaching a novel. I already made copies of chapter 1 Pobre Ana since I bought one book from which to make copies. So the kids walk in on the day I plan to introduce and what do I do/say. Help me….

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