Go Deep! (Patricia va a California, Chapter 3, Part II)

Bryce continues:
There are many ways of “reading” a novel besides, just, well, reading it.  These are some of the techniques I use to add interest and engage the students.
Parallel Stories
This is Blaine Ray’s method of teaching a novel.  You simply tell a story about a student in the class that is similar to that of the character in the novel.  You use many of the same words and structures that the students will read about soon.  This can work well partially because it gives students a preview of the upcoming chapter and familiarizes them with the vocabulary and grammar.  But the bigger boost, in my view, is that it gives the readers something to connect themselves to the text.  So many students hate reading.  They see it as a chore rather than a joy.  If we can get them to enjoy it, they will spontaneously read on their own and in the long term they will grow.
Back Stories
Creating what I call “Back Stories” is another way to teach students how to read by demonstrating how to think and how to interact with a text.  We have told parts of the story several times before we even act it out, and we act it out before we even read it.  The goal is to help them with a real problem in their lives.
A back story gives depth to the novel.  It is a plausible explanation about something in the book that enhances the understanding and enjoyment.  Sort of like J.R.R. Tolkien did in the Lord of the Rings — he created an entire world of Middle Earth that gave weight and context to the trilogy.  The difference here is that the back story is not heavy, just a fun explanation by the kids to my questions.
With Patricia a good back story would be how she thought quickly in a dangerous situation in Panajachel one time, because that would tie in beautifully to the way she reacted quickly when Debbie Martin was being carjacked.
Off Shoot Stories
When we are reading what I call “Off Shoot Stories” sometimes spontaneously develop.  This happens when a student is interpreting the text into English and reading aloud.  I stop after each paragraph or passage and ask a lot of questions in the TL about what we have just read.  Many of the questions are routine content questions:  How many people are in the family?  Is the house big?  Why do you say that?   
Off shoot stories develop when I ask about something odd in a passage.  In chapter three, Patricia’s brother is briefly mentioned as sleeping in the living room.  Why does he sleep in the living room?  Easy answer is because he is a boy.  Fun, off shoot answers are “because he is very small and get lost behind the bed every day”, or “because he stinks and no one can sleep when he is around”.
Sheltered Content Area Teaching
Some of what we are doing could be considered sheltered content area teaching.  I add a human element and share my experiences as a medical interpreter in Guatemala and talk about culture (the physical, political, and human geography, the history, and the traditions) of the country.
I always take the time to ask students if Patricia is smart or dumb.  What should she do?  Were you ever in a similar situation?  What did you do?  They may not have the vocabulary or grammar to give a complex answer, but they can share their thoughts if I set it up.



3 thoughts on “Go Deep! (Patricia va a California, Chapter 3, Part II)”

  1. One of my recent developments as we’re reading is to pull out structures I think are important. Once I have about 8, I have the kids concoct story lines that have nothing to do with the novel…I pick a story line that offers the most ‘play’ possibilities and then take a detour of 2-3 days developing that…then we go back to the novel. It reworks the structures and gives us a break from doing the same ole/same ole.

  2. That is another good way of playing with the vocabulary and structures, and it offers the advantage of escaping from the confines of the story. Gracias.

  3. When I was in Bryce’s classroom, he used a slide show with his own photos from Guatemala for sheltered content area teaching. There was minimal text with the photos, and he talked about the photos with the students. The part I was impressed with was something he mentioned that was not part of the slide show text– he was explaining how his daughter and others who were helping with child care considered it a badge of honor to have lice within the first day or two, because it showed they were really engaged with the kids. The students in his class picked up right away on the word for lice, and were using it to respond in a discussion. This content area instruction was powerful because it feeds our students’ desire to feel smart and to learn information. The fact that it was all CI in the target language makes it a double bonus.

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