Level 1 vs. 2 Stories – Some Observations

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29 thoughts on “Level 1 vs. 2 Stories – Some Observations”

  1. Makes sense. This involves “knowing” your students, so having them every year is a bonus, because you will remember what they once “learned” and never learned. I really like to pull in “old” structures into PQA to recycle.

    And since we don’t have to circle so precisely like before, we can add more details and ask more open-ended questions and make the stories or questions more elaborate.

    1. Right on, James.
      I have to check myself sometimes and remind myself how much slower and how much narrower I have to be with my more beginning students. My 7th and 8th graders who have had TCI for 1.5 years with me totally rock. So, sometimes I forget that 6th grade isn’t up to that speed and/or there’s a new kid in class. Since I started my first 6 months with LICT 1, and these stories hit the Super 7 like crazy (although not nearly as compelling as Matava scripts), my kids have firm knowledge of the main storytelling words.
      One of my bailouts this year is to re-read or re-talk a MovieTalk from last year. The kids need the words recycled and are still into it.

  2. The different dynamic in level two has been on my mind lately. I too have this feeling inside that recapturing the spontaneity and lightness of level one is hard to recreate in level 2. In part, sophomores can be tough but sometimes I sense a lack of energy with the kids. On the other hand, if they don’t get that continuous din of language, the gains are not there in level 3. I think we are all experts at level one, but the brain craves novelty as Carol Gaab keeps stressing. Interesting thread.

    1. Chill, another way to say what I have in mind is this: In level 2, the only way I’ve been able to maintain “the spontaneity and lightness” and “energy” of level 1 is to speed up my story asking process to match their speed of comprehension. In level 1 I need 2 88 min. days to ask a story; in level 2, I’ve only been needing 1.

  3. I think that they need lots and lots of stories, with less reading and songs in level one. I feel that reading in level one should be limited to one easy novel in the spring and throughout the year mainly in the form of intense ROA on Step 3 of stories. Then there should be much more reading and a strong supply of songs in level two, with minimal stories.

    1. Hear hear Ben!

      Sheltering incomprehensible input should be priority with these level one kids. So, if at all, very limited SSR, and very little songs (unless you have something akin to Senor Wooly, which is appropriate to bust into after the first half or so of the course.

      Does there have to be a “problem” for it to be a micro mini story? I’m trying to make sure I understand the exact definition we are giving it. I rarely introduce “problems” per se, in the first weeks of Level 1, opting instead for simple information, silly details to that simple info, and recycling to the max of those structures in the form of varied CI activity. I’m just starting to get into “problems” with my level 1 kids (just started week 6, 82 min classes). I did one “story” with this group already, and after they were pining for more, because as one girl said “it (the story process) must be good because my face hurt afterwards from laughing so much”. (!!) Too much though, and we’ve got old hat too early, IMO (which is what I told her, and she agreed).

        1. No, we don’t have that. But I’ve had that happen, when I did stories every day, or every other day. maybe that had more to do with me not being real good at it. But I’ve had a better response to stories when I do them less as opposed to more (no more than 2X per week). I’m not talking about the reading of the stories, or the PQA using the structures, or looking at the illustration of the story and discussing it, I’m just talking about the storyasking process itself. Have you had a different experience with stories?

          1. I agree stories need to be spaced out. Honestly, the kids need the time to take advantage of all the new structures in a particular context. If you move on too quickly, you don’t give enough processing time. I like to spend at least 1-2 weeks on one story, going from PQA to asking to reading to re-reading to writing.

          2. I know this has been asked a thousand times….but can you describe your reading, re-reading, and writing processes? It sounds so simple when you put it that way.

          3. We read with ROA, then I get them to re-read by making them answer questions, draw cartoons with captions, do textivate-style stuff, whatever, then we can do a freewrite.

          4. Angie, I love what Diane N. suggested on the forum (under “songs”)
            Diane suggested using a list of emotions: romantically, angrily, enthusiastically, with a cold etc to get kids to re-read.
            Sounds like fun.

      1. …does there have to be a “problem” for it to be a micro mini story?…

        Not in my opinion, Jim. I wouldn’t think it to even be a micro story if it had a problem. Problems drive the larger stories and give them their form. Micro stories may be as simple as a little two sentence event in the minds of the kids, or even one sentence. The entire point is that the students leave the room having fully understood what was created in class. We strive for comprehensibility at all costs. That is all that counts. We want it to be interesting, but it has to be comprehensible.

        When students are new, they can’t understand much, so we leave the problems out until they can understand them. That’s the whole idea behind micro stories. What we ourselves think of as a simple story, a micro story, could be too big for them to handle, so we have to really think about what this term means to us, since it will be the focal point of our curriculum for at least a month in the September/October time frame of each year, as we seem to have decided on that point over the past few weeks.

        So this is a good question, Jim. We don’t even want a problem in micro stories, as we keep our focus on comprehensibility, and not on how cool the story is. If the micro story stalls, we can drive it forward not by adding a problem but by asking for details or a back story instead of moving to a problem.

        Here is an example of what I think a micro story is:

        Ellen sees a cat. The cat jumps.

        So with this, we may possibly think that it is too simple. We think that the ultra simple work that we did in CWB/OWI to start the year should lead, now that we are doing “stories”, even if they are “micro”, to something more complex. But if the students are in their 10th or 20th HOUR of CI, then they can’t handle more than the micro event of “sees” and “jumps” given in the example above. And we can alleviate the boredom, as I mentioned above, with details or a back story.

        Another way to alleviate the boredom in an overly simple story would be to have the kids act it out. When kids get up to act, everything changes, as we know. The interest is much higher. AND it is a good opportunity to teach Classroom Rule #7, which MUST be enforced for any story to be successful. So this is when we train our actors as well.

        This stopping ourselves from building too complex an image when we are in the micro story phase after the start of the year phase (CWB/OWI) and before the full story phase in November, must be at the forefront of our attention as we consider doing these micro stories. In my opinion, I see what we do with the micro stories as determining our success with full stories.

        As you said this morning, Jim, “Sheltering incomprehensible input should be the priority with these level one kids.”

        1. Thanks Ben.

          I think, to clarify how simple these should be, we should go take a look at what David Sceggel linked us to in another thread here recently… all his little micro-mini stories in written form. They are between 3-5 sentences. No problem necessarily, just info, and some silly details. But it’s about them, and their suggestions (even if David trained them to answer this way in the form of either/or questions, as I prefer to do in the early weeks, as opposed to open ended questions like “where?” and “What?”. Save those open-ended questions until after the students have chosen one of the options you gave them, or until they know better how to play the game). (e.g. Where does David play basketball… in the bathroom or in Chile?) This helps keep me in bounds in those crucial early days.

  4. With the micro-mini stories that David shared, would each one take a 90 minute period to ask, or would you do a couple in a period? I feel like I have over-worked my level one class. I am using CI for 3 periods of level 2 and only one of level 1, so I always have to slow down. The ones amaze me though, when I actually reflect on the fact that there are 34 of them in the last period of the day and they have made so much progress. But, I am so tired when I finish with that class that I can never do anymore work that requires brainpower.

    I would like to do these micro-mini stories about this class, but it seems like it would take forever to get through 34 students. Any advice?


    1. Katie, I do 90 min blocks, and I find myself staying on one kid for at least one class period, sometimes two if I throw some other general CI in there (e.g. introducing things in the classroom like magazines and books, or the trash, or whatever). Also, as David has shown us, fall back on some reading about that kid or the kid you talked about the class before. I almost never get through all the cards… they naturally outlast their purpose, as we get to know the kids in more spontaneous ways not involving the card per se. I usually do not get to everyone. Maybe I should. But I don’t. What David is doing, to me, is like a mix between Persona Especial and Circling with Balls… seems as if all the kids are going to have their own super simple mini story in writing… pretty righteous goal to shoot for. (sorry for the floundering answer)

    2. Katie, I would do 2 or 3 a class period. Unless you have a really focused group. My classes energy for runs out in about 20 minutes for each student.

      I will actually establish many of the details of the scene before I ever have the actor “get up” This is actually NOT how you should tell a full TPRS type story, but in the beauty of the beginning of the year goodwill, my kids can stay focused in developing the scene with the anticipation of getting to see Gage win the Race with Dora on the moon.

      After the relative chaos of acting the scene out, I really like reading a scene super slowly from yesterday’s class to settle everyone down.

      Then do a little TPR, and then start another card.

      Also another thing you can do to vary your longer classes. I have a class photographer that will take pics of the little scenes, and then send me them on email. (Sometimes I can do this within the same class period! ) So even though you don’t have a written description done yet, You can talk about the scene if you can display the picture. (its also fun to talk about kids in the background of the pic)

      I love the beginning of the Year with Spanish 1.

      1. Thanks, Jim and David! I’m trying to decide if I should go back and try to do a little more CWB with this class. I did pretty well for a while, but then fizzled out trying to keep up with the one that I had already talked about. Is persona especial talking about a student like CWB?

        I love the photo idea! We also have to let students use their devices in class. I used polleverywhere.com this week for some of my classes to vote on their favorite ending for a story by text. I chose three of the endings that students suggested on the bottom of their quiz paper and let them vote. For them to watch the vote tallying on the board helped the buy-in and helped improve a slow story.

        1. I wouldn’t go back to Circling with Balls/Cards. I always make kids think I’m the extreme master/scientist/etc. of their language acquisition and I don’t know how that would be received. (really I have no idea what I’m doing)

          Just file it away for next year. (So much of what we do is trial and error and file it away for next year).

          La persona especial is from Bryce Hedstrom (he has some blog posts about it on his website. http://www.brycehedstrom.com/?s=persona+especial

          It’s like an interview with each student, but you do most of the talking. It takes practice to ask a lot of short answer questions, and go slow enough so the rest of the class catches everything. (They have a test on each other once a week until you finish) Bryce will do it in year 1, but I only do it in Spanish2-4 and just make it more intense and long each year.

          I watched Bryce talk about it in Denver this summer. I probably did it all wrong, but my classes liked it this year. (we also did some “inventing” of things that happened to them over the summer)

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