Michele On Laurie's Idea of Embedded Readings

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33 thoughts on “Michele On Laurie's Idea of Embedded Readings”

  1. I AM SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is what I experience with my classes as well and it is AMAZING to watch. I want to go to Michele’s room and watch it all, take notes and video everything. :o)
    I can’t tell you how hard it was to get up the courage to share that simple idea with you all. Even after years of teaching, and sharing ideas, I still worry that by throwing ideas out there, that either A) I’m just imagining that they work or B) I come across as pompous or all-knowing. How silly. Especially with all of you.
    So thank you for reminding me that this work that we do is always a collaborative work-in-progress….and the more we share, the more we…and our students…learn.
    And for sharing your experiences!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Michele, I will write more…right now I have to go teach a class lol
    with love,

  2. Michele I read this again and I see in this that the creative key is given over to the kids. You give them three structures and eschew the traditional teacher driven order of Step 1, allowing a first simple story plan to emerge from the kids, getting as many of their simple offerings as possible into that class period. Then you write, in various ways over the next few classes, new and increasingly stacked/embedded versions of each story, either in class (LCD) or out of class (handed to them in paper form). Said written versions of their original first day stories would go through the process Laurie invented and become, over time, texts on steroids. I would assume that, as the text grows in muscle, there would be a lot of riffing and variations on the original theme in the from of Read and Discuss. Any comments on that description?

  3. Michele,
    I love what you’re doing with Laurie’s idea of embedded readings. It seems that it must take the pressure off of you as the teacher to always be thinking of new story scripts. Talk about making the kids responsible for their 50 %! And it adds even more to the personalization, as the ideas are really coming from the students, not from the questions you ask them. I would really like to try this, especially with my 2nd year students who are very bored with me right now. Thank you!

  4. Dear Michele and all,
    You wrote: “This has been a huge turning point for me, but at this moment, I’m not really even sure what I used to do before because everything is getting embedded and embellished. ”
    Ditto! So I’ll try to pull it apart where I can. Once your brain starts going down that path (as with many TPRS elements) it’s hard to remember where you were before. You worded it beautifully.
    I think that several things combine to make embedded readings work:
    1. The reps. It has LAYERS of reps built in.
    2. The success. They know that there is completely comprehensible input there. It is a great way to build comprehension and confidence. It is also a fantastic way to create a bridge from the totally comprehensible input that we want to give them for acquisition to occasional opportunities to wrestle with less familiar pieces similar to those found on state/local exams.
    3. The personalization. It is possible and practical to create our own embedded readings….but there is an entirely different POWER to the readings when they are based on the students’ writings or the students’ story ideas. It doesn’t matter if they wrote it, they came up with the entire outline or they added interesting details. They love looking for, and finding, their own contributions. Those contributions not only make the pieces more comprehensible…they make them IMPORTANT.
    4. It is a great way to differentiate.
    5. It incorporates a number of literacy skills that good readers use and that our districts are clamoring for. Makes a lot of people happy. But mostly my students, which means the most to me.
    6. It works well with technology. Being able to copy and paste makes creating different versions a piece of cake. As Michele showed us above, it can be “written” by , and in the view of, the entire class. We can create stories where additional sentences or details “fly” in and out.
    7. One set of structures or one story can be utilized in several levels at once. This is a lifesaver for many of us.
    All seven of those topics could be a day-long workshop. :o) There is so much potential in this one process.
    Not only can we create and share stories from our own students and our own classes…we could easily share stories between teachers…in different classrooms, in different schools, in different states, in different countries!!
    Here is my thought for my seniors with embedded readings. I’m going to try it when we get back from next week’s winter break:
    Remember how kids embellish the song Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Reindeer!) ……you could even say it glows (like a light bulb!) ……play in any reindeer games (like Monopoly!!)
    We’ll do the first story as a class. I’ll put a basic story on the screen. We’ll add info/rejoinders. When we are finished, I’ll read the basic story out loud and they will chime in chorally with the details.
    The basic story:
    Teo only eats chicken noodle soup. He goes to a restaurant. The waiter offers him chicken soup. Teo says, “I have only eaten chicken soup with noodles. It’s the only way I will eat it.” The waiter says, “In my restaurant we have never served chicken soup with noodles. But we have served chicken soup with rice. ” Teo refuses, saying “I have only eaten chicken soup with noodles. It’s the only way I will eat it.” The waiter repeats his line, but offers him chicken soup with potatoes. ” They go back and forth. The waiter offers him a variety of items to eat with his chicken soup. Teo, of course, keeps repeating, “I have never eaten chicken soup with ______. I have only eaten chicken soup with noodles. It’s the way I will ever eat it.”
    Finally Teo says, “I have never eaten chicken soup with rice…..but……I HAVE eaten rice with chicken soup and so it’s possible that I will eat potatoes with chicken soup and ______________ with chicken soup etc. etc.
    The waiter brings him rice and potatoes and ____ and _____etc with chicken soup and puts it in front of him on the table….along with a loaf of bread. Teo says, “I have only eaten bread with orange marmelade…..It’s the only way I will ever eat it. ” :o)
    The next day I’ll give them another basic story using the phrases: he has never/like that./and he’ll never do it. In pairs they will add to the story. I’ll collect them and check for appropriateness etc. The next day (or later in the week if I don’t have much time !) I’ll sit in the front of the room as each pair joins me. I’ll read the basic story lines and they will chime in with their own additions.
    I may do all of the versions…I may not…I’ll play it by ear. By the time we’re finished they will have heard several versions of the story.
    The follow-up activities are writing a poem using the phrases, I have only or I have never….and then reading/examing several poems with that structure in the poem (ie. Nunca he visto gozosa la victoria por Julio Martinez Mesanza)
    Keep in touch!
    with love,

  5. This turned out to be a very long answer. Hope it’s what you meant when you asked for an example!
    I have been doing this with levels 1/2 up through the mixed 2-4/IB/AP groups. As Laurie says, it means that you can actually use the same story with every single class. Unfortunately, it also means that it’s even harder to remember who told what. It’s best to do the writing with the group watching and helping.
    I started today with a story (that my more advanced kids wrote for my beginners when I was out sick last week–I e-mailed my sub a list of verbs that I wanted included). Here’s the story (watch how important the first line isn’t):
    There was a dog. His name was Bob. Bob liked to talk, but his sister only liked to shout. Bob didn’t like to listen when his sister shouted. Bob’s mother gave him a pair of headphones so that he could listen to music. Then the sister cried, so the mother went to the store and bought a pair of headphones.
    This got expanded with various extra pieces to:
    Bob lived in (Anchorage, Alaska or other places) with his family: a mom, a dad, a sister, and a brother (and other family members). (and all their names) (and later, what kind of people they were, in some cases) Bob liked to talk, but his sister only liked to shout. Bob didn’t like to listen when his sister shouted. He always asked his sister why she shouted. She said she didn’t know. (One group explained that she needed drugs to calm her down.) He said that when she shouted, it didn’t help him do his homework. (got F’s on tests, broke projects part-way through) Bob’s mother gave him a pair of headphones so that he could listen to music instead of to his sister. Then the sister cried, and wanted a set of headphones. Why did Bob get the headphones? –To help him not have to listen to his sister. The mom explained that she’d only had one pair. (then there was some addition about who was spoiled and who got everything in the family, and who was the prince–different groups) She kept crying, so the mother went/drove/danced to the store and bought another pair of headphones, and brought them back to the sister. (Then one group had the girl continue to act out because once you start giving in to little sisters this way, it’s all over. Another group made everything end just fine now. One group had the other brother start shouting, for other reasons…one group lost the mom because when she went to the store she fell in love with the salesman…)
    So really, this is just like the usual fill-in the blank story from Anne, except that it keeps expanding and expanding. And the different classes want to find out what the others wrote, so we’ll see what happens. There comes a point when I have to cut it off.
    When I wrote before, I had three words for every class: sighed, broke, and swimming/traveling by boat. I gave those words to the kids, and each group wrote and gave me a different story in their minute of English (you can hand out mini pieces of paper for this writing activity). One group’s story was: “There was a whale swimming. It swam under a boat and broke the boat when it sighed.” We started with that exact story and ended up with a much longer one about how the whale wanted to get (forgot where) and needed money and there was a flamingo in the boat who had lots of money and was going the same place, but all the money weighed him down, so he couldn’t fly. As it turned out, he was part of the flamingo mafia, and was really a bad guy, so when the boat broke and he drowned, the nice whale had enough money to get wherever it was he was going. There was more about what the whale wanted when he got there, but I’ve forgotten. That story expanded over the course of three days.
    Giving kids the three main words works really well. They love hearing their own stories come to life, and it’s a natural progression to expand on them.
    On Friday, my last class of the day wanted to tell a tacky Valentine’s Day story in ten minutes. They created a muffin that fell in love with a rose, but his frosting girlfriend got mad.
    Today, because some kids had missed Friday, the group wanted to repeat that story before we got to the dog story (and I guess we never really got to the dog story in that group), and it expanded to be that the muffin liked to dance and play basketball. He was at the gym one day and caught sight of a beautiful tall rose who was playing basketball so well that his heart nearly stopped. He immediately fell in love, but then his girlfriend saw him falling in love, so she ran across the room and slapped him, at which point he broke in half (complete with two different sets of actors falling down, a rose standing on the table to be really tall, stage slapping), and the cream went up to the rose and they ran off to the cafe together.
    I got to add two reflexive verbs to the mix, and when a little first-year kid used a past-tense reflexive verb correctly (“broke itself”–which he had down because of the whale and boat story) to re-tell the story, his older sister (visiting the class to show off) had the classic dropped jaw. She couldn’t believe what she heard (she’s a fifth-year kid, and just learned that particular verb over the last two weeks, with all the second-year kids). Only lately have I realized that you really need reflexive verbs in Russian. I used to just avoid them all.
    We told it with actors twice, embellishing as we went, and then turned to the drawing I’d left on the board last Friday so that we could re-tell it in a chorus. That was when my poor year 5 girl clearly wondered what juice these kids have been drinking. For her, what her brother said was grammar, because she had me for three years before TPRS. It’s a past tense, perfective aspect, reflexive, masculine ending verb. For him, it’s what happens when a “he” breaks. It’s just a vocabulary word. Even though she’s now had TPRS for two years, her brain still analyzes. My fault.

  6. Michele,
    This is great. Thank you for posting an example of how the embedded stories are working in your classroom. Can I ask, also, how you go about asking their story skeletons? I have been trying this, and sometimes students do not do a very good job of including each of the three vocab structures, so we could easily derail. Do you just ask each story as a story unto itself? Do you try to combine them all into one big story? How much do you ask, and how much do they tell? Thanks!

  7. That’s a great question Toni. Michele can you simplify the above long comment for people like me who are conceptually challenged by all of this? What Laurie and you are doing are so new, and this entire thing of targeting structures and doing embedded readings is so much like graduate work in nuclear physics, that we need to be simple and clear.
    Targeting structures to set up stories and readings, all of the stuff that we are talking about here, is REALLY complex even for those of us with experience, so let’s not lose the thread and maybe over the next month or so we can make it more clear for anyone who feels like me on this deal.
    Personally, the class I did this morning to set up the Bruni song feels to me like real TPRS. I just circle the hell out of whatever structures I want my kids to eventually be able to read or hear in speech, and then when it comes to read and decode, voila they can do it. They hear it and read it tons of times, it may or may not become a story, and then they know it. Isn’t that just Krashen 101?
    But exactly what do we mean by the terms ” to target structures” and “to embed readings”. When you answer, act like you are talking to a bunch of two years. O.K., maybe I’m a three year old with TPRS, but, still, describe what you said to Toni in really simple terms, if it pleases you to do so. This stuff is so complex and yet so simple!!!

  8. When I do a “lazy story day,” which means for me that I didn’t/couldn’t come up with a story on my own, I put the three structures on the board, establish meaning, figure out a gesture if it’s easy, sometimes PQA them a little if it flows. Then I pass out tiny pieces of paper (1/8 of a sheet of paper, or less). I tell the groups they have one or two minutes to write a story outline in English (or Russian if they want) that includes all three structures.
    The structures may be one word in Russian, but usually require at least two in English. “Slomalsa” is “it broke (itself),” for instance.
    When the time is up, I start collecting them and I make a little pile of papers in the front of the room. I look at the first two or three to gauge whether we can do the story. I try to pick a story that has all the structures in it. Sometimes I make a quick decision to change something (if there’s too much new vocabulary or inappropriate). If the story looks good but a structure is missing, I might add it. Then I start asking the story, but the kids mostly have to guess the story as written, rather than having it be totally up to good suggestions. They all suggest their own story heroes as the story begins, but often don’t recognize their own story until most of the way through, continuing to make suggestions. Because they know which target phrases will be in there, they definitely try to use them as they make suggestions.
    Once we have the story down, we might write it down so that we can embellish later, or we might just go on to the next story. I don’t usually combine them, but that’s a good idea. Sometimes I can get through four or five of those stories in a lesson, but not usually.
    Now we are onto our next phase–reading about Russian history. After having read about how Akhmatova’ relatives were arrested, the kids came bouncing into class to tell me how a boy from another city was arrested at the Supreme Court hearing in our auditorium. Of course, I thought that they were just using new vocabulary, but it was the truth.
    So funny…kids are walking in as I type (EARLY for class) and they are talking about how a grandma is going to bring muffins for a birthday celebration, and I asked whether it was the muffin that fell in love with a rose (from the story above), and all the kids in the room said, “No! That muffin broke in half!”
    Gotta go!

  9. Thanks Michele – nice and clear. I like the idea of hammering out four or five stories in a class, like donut holes instead of donuts. Does it increase interest? Of course the opposite syndrome which some of us are afflicted with is the week long, never ending story. Man I wish I could get my mind round the complexity amidst the simplicity of TPRS. I mean, all it is is CI. So why are there so many variations on how we can set up stories? Like right now, I am writing a template story for all of my classes based on the four structures we did today from the Bruni song “L’Amoureuse”. I want to include:
    the four structures
    more (embedded) structures from the song to move things along, since the song is long
    some questionnaire stuff to catch their eyes – at least two personalized little events per class
    That is a lot. And then tomorrow, with each class, I will just R and D the template story I write and spin in the direction of the song vocabulary, whereas in a past life I would spin in any old direction. I am really trying to grasp the entire thing about using TPRS to target structures in backwards design settings. Diana you can address this, because you were talking about this the other night – the book of the 500 most common words and all of that. Could you, if you read this, say something about the entire concept of how vocabulary is achieved. I REALLY appreciate what Bryce said today here (on another comment I think), reminding us of how word lists are not as effective as reading in context and those other Krashen points he made. I’m just trying to grasp what it means when we say the term target structures. It’s like, I went TPRS speelunking nine years ago and I’m still in the first cave!

  10. I keep thinking of what Susie taught me last summer…that you can tell almost any story with the same target structures (if they’re high-frequency enough). She went from the “Mice and Cat” story to the “Cry Wolf” story, using all the same words.
    You could tell a hundred stories with the same target structures, and what was around the target structures in the different stories would still be useful vocabulary and grammar.
    “I sing to you” (from your other blog) could be worked into the Mouse story–the mouse mother sings to her mice babies. She doesn’t talk to them. Does she sing to you? No! She sings to them. Who sings to you?
    It could also go into the Wolf story: the shepherd boy sings loudly to the village, “Wolf!” Does he shout? No, he sings. Who sings to the village?
    I forgot the other structure you were going to use. But you can see what I mean, and that’s why having the kids use the structures makes it possible to have wildly different stories that I could never come up with.

  11. And you prefer that way – their coming up with the stories – to asking them a story from a prepared script, correct? Just to be real clear. Students generating stories is fairly radical here and I just want to be clear.

  12. Hi Ben,
    I don’t know the song and my French is minimal…but if you give me an idea of the phrases in English I could play with them. I’m starting to realize that I probably am following a “process”, but that I am not cognizant of what it is!!
    My first thought is that I would “build” the story. For example: the four phrases are….I never knew…I thought….you were the one….each and every day.
    Level 1: I never knew
    I never knew that oatmeal was delicious. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because I never ate oatmeal. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because no one in my family ate oatmeal. I never knew that it could be my favorite breakfast.
    Level 2: I never knew + I thought
    I thought I knew everything but I never knew that oatmeal was delicious. I thought that oatmeal was horrible. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because I never ate oatmeal. I wasn;t as smart as I thought I was. I thought that it would be absolutely disgusting. I thought that I would vomit if I ate oatmeal. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because no one in my family ate oatmeal. My mother never ate oatmeal. My father never ate oatmeal. I thought that my father knew everything. You were just the silly little girl next door….the one that always bothered me. So I thought that oatmeal must be horrible. I never thought about trying it. I never thought that I would like it. I never that it could be my favorite breakfast.
    Level 3: I never knew + I thought+you were the one
    You were the smart one. I thought I knew everything but I never knew that oatmeal was delicious. You were the one who always said that oatmeal was fantastic. I thought that oatmeal was horrible. You were the one who ate oatmeal every day. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because I never ate oatmeal. You were the one who told me that I wasn;t as smart as I thought I was. I thought that it would be absolutely disgusting. You were the one who promised me that I wouldn’t vomit if I ate oatmeal. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because no one in my family ate oatmeal. There was no oatmeal in my house. You were the one who had oatmeal in your house. My mother never ate oatmeal. My father never ate oatmeal. I thought that my father knew everything. You weren’t the one who knew everything. My father knew everything. I was a kid!! You were just the silly little girl next door….the one that always bothered me. You were the one who always played tricks on me. So I thought that oatmeal must be horrible. I never thought about trying it. You were the one who put bugs in my salad and told me that they were raisins!!! So when you were the one who told me that oatmeal was delicious, I never thought that I would like it. I never knew that you were the one who could even make oatmeal wonderful, that you were the oatmeal princess. I never that it could be my favorite breakfast….and that you were the one who was right.
    Level 4 I never knew+I thought+you were the one+each and every day
    You were the smart one. Each and every day you ate oatmeal. I thought I knew everything but I never knew that oatmeal was delicious. You were the one, each and every day, who always said that oatmeal was fantastic. I thought that oatmeal was horrible. You were the one who ate oatmeal, some how, some way, each every day. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because I never ate oatmeal. Each and every day you were the one who told me that I wasn;t as smart as I thought I was. I thought that it would be absolutely disgusting. I thought I would vomit each and every drop of oatmeal if I ate it. Each and every day ,you were the one who promised me that I wouldn’t vomit if I ate oatmeal. I never knew that oatmeal was delicious because no one in my family ate oatmeal. Each and every day we ate burnt toast and moldy jam. There was no oatmeal in my house. You were the one who had oatmeal in your house. You ate oatmeal each and every day. Oatmeal with honey, oatmeal with jelly beans, oatmeal with spinach, oatmeal with chocolate chips. Oatmeal with each and every meal. My mother never ate oatmeal. She ate burnt toast each and every day. (dry…she was always on a diet!) My father never ate oatmeal. My father ate burnt toast and moldy jam each and every day!! I thought that my father knew everything. If he ate burnt toast and moldy jam each and every day, then I ate burnt toast and moldy jam each and every day!!! You weren’t the one who knew everything. My father knew everything. I was a kid!! You were just the silly little girl next door….the one that always bothered me….each and every day. You were the one who always played tricks on me….each and every day. So I thought that oatmeal must be horrible. I never thought about trying it. You were the one who put bugs in my salad, each and every day and told me that they were raisins!!! I ate those bugs each and every day for a year!!! So when you were the one who told me that oatmeal was delicious, I never thought that I would like it. I never knew that you were the one who, each and every day, could even make oatmeal wonderful, that you were the oatmeal princess. I never that it could be my favorite breakfast each and every day….with anything….as long as you were with me……and that you were the one who was right. And now you remind me of it each and every day!!! Enough already!!!!!!
    with love,

  13. Thank you for your explanation. I like that you have the students write their stories in groups- cooperative learning :o) And I much prefer your way of looking at the stories first (I was going in blind… dumb, I know). Thank you for the elaboration.
    Laurie, I love oatmeal – LOL. Thanks for your example of building the story with additional vocab.

  14. You know Ben…I’ve been thinking….
    What makes embedded readings interesting to students?
    A) Comprehensibility/Success
    B) Each level adds new information AND repetitions
    C) The structures are combined with student-generated information/ideas/storylines
    I don’t think it matters whether the reading is generated by the teacher, from ‘asked” stories, or from student-created writings….as long as it includes the elements above.
    If I have time tomorrow, I’ll blog more and get back to you……
    with love,

  15. Laurie,
    Can I say again that you are a genius? That oatmeal story blows my mind. (I love oatmeal, too!) I am not quite as organized as you, adding new structures with each new draft. I generally try to get all my structures in from the beginning. But I like the idea of adding them as I add complexity.
    It is worth noting for me that, though I know English very well, I enjoyed reading the oatmeal stories and finding the changes.
    I don’t really feel a need to decide on one way to do stories. The student-generated stories are for when I don’t have a story in mind but do have specific structures. Kids feel a little bit chained down when the story is set in advance, but they like listening for whose ideas made it in. Regular story-asking is when I have a great story in my head (or from you/Anne/Laurie…)
    Embedding is for any kind of story, to add to what kids can read and do.
    Now we’re onto a different kind of embedding, as we read complicated historical texts. I start off by telling them about the person, and they guess what the facts are as we talk. We do a simple outline of the person, then embellish until they’re ready to read the “real” text. They love showing off their knowledge of dates and history as we add to the text. This fits with Laurie’s “C” above–it’s not really student-generated ideas or story lines, but it is student-generated information.
    and Toni…
    Isn’t that the way so often when following other people’s ideas? Until we get that step-by-step explanation, we can’t really do it because we miss steps that seem obvious to other people. Happens to me all the time!
    You must be a wonderful teacher. You express interest and ask the right questions to get clarity. Your kids must be falling all over themselves to tell you things.

  16. I feel the same way as Michele as far as the oatmeal story. Norm’s post on Ben’s new rule post also held my interest. There really is something interesting about reading a developing narrative like that, even when it is simple and in my native English. It might even be a good way to help young readers develop their reading skills, in their first language.
    Michele, I like your idea of using embedded readings to address culture.
    I have to admit, I’ve been putting off starting emedded readings but I think it’s about time I jump on the bandwagon. My students will be seeing some really soon.

  17. That makes sense that this kind of developing narrative is helpful to emerging readers. There are tons of stories and songs that work on this same premise – The House That Jack Built, The Green Grass Grew All Around, etc.
    I know my own two preschoolers love this kind of repetitive story.

  18. Yeah Norm’s post rocks and I read it every day. Same with the discussion from Laurie. Embedding, of course, is also what we do when we design a week backwards from a targeted Friday text or song. I am doing that this week. I am learning a lot. I figure I need to read what Norm and Michele and Laurie said – it is particularly rich stuff – a number of times and mix it with what I am doing this week to get a handle on the new learning here. This stuff is awesome, and yes, Laurie, youreally are a genius. I love the way that you say that you are not conscious of it, too. I just love that. Wow. I’ve learned a lot about CI these past few weeks from you.

  19. Michele,
    Letting the students write the stories is dynamite! Thank you so much. My students are loving it (now that I am doing it correctly). As my students left 3rd hour today, I heard someone say, “Wow, that went by fast .” Here’s why I like it: a.) kids get to work in groups for a couple of minutes (looks like cooperative learning, kids have fun dreaming up creative ideas together, and they are more creative when working together than when working alone); b.) there is little room for story stall-out due to lack of creativity or going too far out of bounds because the whole thing is already scripted; c.) I don’t have to pull teeth to get actors because my kids want to act out their stories; d.) I’m not scared to have actors standing around too long while we come up with details because the details are already there; e.) kids don’t get bored with the repetitions because they 1.) hear THEIR stories and 2.) I get the repetitions in by telling more, different stories, rather than circling and circling and circling the same stories over and over again. Yay! Thank you!
    I haven’t actually gotten to the embedded readings part yet, but I’m working on it. Will let you know when I have more to tell.

  20. Toni same with me on the embedded readings. When I asked Laurie about it she said that it is the kind of idea that just needs to be played around with. So we’ll see how that goes. It does look like a powerhouse reading technique, but one that may be a time eater as well – I mean that in a good way. But I still am caught in the illusion that doing auditory CI with the kids is the big enchilada. I have to remember the power of reading. They learn more by reading than by listening. They need both, not mostly stories and a little reading. Dude.
    Re: your points above, I agree with everything (how wonderful this idea of the kids writing the stories is and your description of the benefits is excellent – thank you Michele and others who have been doing it). I also like the idea of giving the kids the target vocabulary for the Friday song (or non fiction passage) and then they choose three or four structures to include in their group stories, then I write it all out in L2 on the board, and then we read and discuss it, spinning new stories. So their stories actually morph in the usual way, but with an eye on Friday.
    Of course, those kinds of details don’t matter and are reflective of our own individual CI preferences. Like today, with fifteen minutes left in a 90 block, somehow ice skating came up and we tore into a fast PQA session where I asked each kid in the room whether they preferred roller or ice skating and had experience with either one or both, and the PQA was flying.
    It made me think about how I want to remember to always get a lot of PQA into these backwards planning weeks. What a problem to have. Like choosing which steak to choose in a great steakhouse. Beats the old days. I prefer eating steaks to books. They just taste better.

  21. Here is a Friday embedding activity sold as a game!
    Write a short script. Boring example here: I have a brother. He is tall. He likes to play tennis. He is in tenth grade.
    Put it on LCD. Kids are in groups. Groups have three minutes to expand. Each group tells their version. Teacher types it as they tell it (or counts sentence or meaning chunks as they tell it and then types the longest one). The longest story wins. It goes up on the overhead for round two.
    Repeat: groups have three minutes to expand that longest story. Type the longest one up and cheer. I only did this twice. It took us about twenty minutes and was very intense.
    They really hunkered down the second time to be totally efficient. You have to insist on total TL use; that way it’s comprehensible to all.
    I know it’s output. But it’s Friday–kindergarten day. If I have time after my next class, I will share one of the longest story results.

  22. In my last class (a mixed level 1/2 group of 7th and 8th graders), we only got through round 1. The class figured out that they could embellish on the run, and there were some very middle-school embellishments. Here’s the first one from that group: I have a brother. His name is Howard. He has long hair. He’s blond. He has blue eyes. He’s tall. He loves to play tennis, football, and soccer. He’s in tenth grade in the state of Alaska in the town of Anchorage in West High. He has a dog. Her name is Penelope. Penelope is very bloodthirsty and small.
    Here’s the longest–it got kind of unwieldy because three eighth grade boys have lately had a run on eating heads, arms, and small children, and they were interrupting each other to add more:
    I have a green brother. He’s the very biggest brother in the world. He’s also the very tallest brother in the world. He has a father. His father works as an electrician. My brother eats my father. He also eats me. He likes to play tennis. He plays tennis badly. He is in the tenth grade. In a year, he will go into eleventh grade. He lives in the town of Jibuti in the state of Illinois. He has a parrot. His parrot likes to say, “Eat it up!” The parrot’s name is Bob. The parrot eats Bob’s head.
    Given only three minutes of prep time, and because I had ask several questions because it’s easy to mix up “has a” and “eats a” (this was a great chance to set that straight in a truly natural way), I now have a new rule:
    You get only X number of minutes to tell the story.
    This class took half an hour to play, from setting up groups to reading every story. I was intending for them to do a fast write following, but we ran out of time. I might also change the prep time to two minutes for this group, and maybe a requirement for a symbol of some sort on a white board for every phrase so that they can’t free associate so easily.
    In the other classes, the first round involved negotiation over what to say. In this group, the kids were focused right away on expanding, and they didn’t discuss names/description/age. In other classes, the second expansion included some negation of the longest story so that they could get their own information back in.
    To decide the groups, we used a line-up of shoes from lightest to darkest. Then we counted off by threes. That took about a minute and a half. Then each person had to tell their group something unusual about a family member before sitting down together.

  23. It’s just more of Laurie’s embedding, coming from a very tired teacher. I had no ideas today and no energy for “putting on” K-day. Luckily the kids can take the worst script in the world and make something of it.

  24. Hello everyone!
    Ben, I keep thinking about what you said about reading vs. aural input. Which one is more valuable? I want to use my time in the best way possible!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I know that sometimes I “avoid” storyasking because I am a) tired or b) afraid I will just “go all English” on my kids and ruin the whole thing. But they ABSOLUTELY need to hear the language.
    I love to read. It’s tempting to do what I like to do. I like to write. I would rather do that than correct papers, make grade entries, write discipline reports, prepare department meeting agendas and answer emails. So I probably do it more often than I should. :o)
    What I have been trying to do is to do reading AND asking together. I used to see the TPRS steps of Present Vocab., Tell a Story, and Literacy as not only the steps, but also as the order of operations.
    I think that for novices, that is the way it should be. However, once students become literate in the TL, reading becomes the secret weapon. Embedded readings bring all of the best parts of storytelling/storyasking to reading.
    I can:
    use student ideas
    include information about students
    control the structures I want to emphasize
    create a parallel story..in the reading or as discussion
    incorporate illustrations
    use humor
    add the element of surprise
    stay in the TL
    be serious or silly
    incorporate song lyrics
    incorporate literature
    connect with film
    explore cultural/historical components
    The hardest part of reading with my students?
    No, not their reading skill level.
    No, not their personal feelings/experiences about reading.
    It is, gulp, letting the story and the students, rather than the storyteller, become the focus of the class.
    There is a bit of an actress in me…and director…and choreographer…and I enjoy those roles. I think, honestly, it is easy for me to ride that wave with my students.
    But when I use the embedded readings, it is the students who get all the glory….for the writing and for the comprehension. I am more focused on the fun that they are having…rather than on the fun I am having (or not having if the story isn’t “going well” in my opinion)
    It’s a more honest way to teach. It’s a little more humble. And I think that for many teachers, a little more achievable. One of the things that scares teachers about TPRS is the feeling that the teacher needs to be funny and dynamic. You and I know that that is not necessarily true….but all of the good TPRS presenters ARE funny and dynamic.
    I’m not saying that embedded readings are for everyone. I’m not saying that I should (or anyone should) use them all of the time. But I am grateful for what they have done for my students…as language learners, as students, as readers, as people. I am also very grateful for they have done for me as a teacher….allowed me to focus on the language, the story and the student….and to hone the skills I need to do that.
    with love,

  25. Ok..just put a bit longer piece (with this embedded in it!!) on Chill’s piece.
    What is an embedded reading?
    An embedded reading is a reading in three or more levels. The first reading is at a basic level, easy for any student in the class to read. It is usually a summary of the story/article etc. It contains the beginning, middle and end…it’s a skeleton story.
    Each succeeding level adds sentences with additional information. These sentences may also include additional structures or more challenging structures. The final version is the most challenging. However, each version contains the basic version (and subsequent levels) within it. This scaffolding of the story builds success.
    Trying to corral the mercury…..
    with love,

  26. Laurie,
    I have loved your idea of Embedded Readings since I read your first post about them (on the moretprs listserv, I think). It’s more than a “good idea” – it’s phenomenal and just good teaching practice! Unfortunately, I have been sloooowww to incorporate embedded readings in my classroom. So here’s the report: Today, I FINALLY tried my first embedded reading, and the kids responded really well to it. You have given examples of an embedded reading, adding new vocab to each reading (awesome). What I did today was the reverse: I started with a typed-up SGS, then recycled old vocab into that frame to give my students more reps of previous vocab before it slipped through the cracks of their brains into oblivion.
    Thank you, thank you for sharing such a wonderful and effective teaching tool with us!
    Here is my embedded reading example for any and all who are interested:
    Along Came Polly (original story)
    target vocab: le gusta hablar, no le responde
    A Andrés le gusta hablar mucho. A Andrés le gusta hablarle a Chase de Metallica. A Chase le gusta Metallica, pero no le gusta hablarle a Andrés. Entonces, Andrés le habla a Tayler de pepinos, pero Tayler no le responde. A Andrés le gusta hablarle a su amigo imaginario, Bob, de mono-hipopótamos, pero Bob no le responde. Nadie le responde a Andrés, porque él apesta. Entonces la mamá de Andrés, Nikki, le da un loro, se llama Polly. Andrés está feliz porque una persona – o una cosa – le habla a Andrés. Los dos hablan del pirata Johnny Depp, porque Johnny Depp es jefe.
    Along Came Polly (Embedded Reading)
    A Andrés le gusta hablar mucho. A Andrés le gusta hablarle a Chase de Metallica. Andrés le dice a Chase: -Vamos al concierto de Metallica.- Aunque a Chase le gusta Metallica, no le gusta hablarle a Andrés, y no le responde. Entonces, Andrés le habla a otra persona, Tayler. Le habla a Tayler de pepinos, pero ella no le responde; ella se burla de Andrés cuando él se va. Entonces, a Andrés le gusta hablarle a Bob, el amigo imaginario, de mono-hipopótamos, pero Bob no le responde. Aunque a Bob le gustan mono-hipopótamos, no le responde a Andrés. Nadie le responde a Andrés, porque él apesta… apesta como mono-hipopótamos. Andrés está muy triste y siempre llora porque nadie nunca le responde. Un día, la mamá de Andrés, se llama Nikki, tiene idea y llama Petco. De Petco, Nikki compra una mascota para Andrés. El próximo día, ella le da a Andrés un loro, se llama Polly. Andrés está feliz porque algo le habla y no se burla. Los dos hablan del pirata Johnny Depp, porque Johnny Depp es jefe, y nunca dejan de hablar.

  27. Fantastic!!!!!! You are right….an embedded reading can be used for so many things!! I love the review idea…one…because we do need to vist and revist…and two…some stories are just too good to let go of!!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing! May I post this on my blog as well?
    with love,

  28. Toni how much does your idea kick ass? Let me think of how I can say this. Hmmm. Your idea of embedding old vocabulary, words we really want them to know by June, into readings, kicks mucho mucho mucho ass. There is a memo that I have from a traditional department – I think it is in Virginia – in which one teacher openly challenges her colleagues on what their kids will know by the end of this academic year. It is brutal. She says stuff like, “Many of them won’t know what nosotros means” and stuff like that. I don’t know whether it is even safe to publish here, in case one of her colleagues read it, because it is simply so strong in shining light on what is NOT BEING DONE in those classes, that I probably better not publish it. But, anyway, when I think of how we can use embedded readings to support vocabulary that has been previously introduced in the weekly flow of CI, to keep it fresh, as per your idea above, I know that any kid in such a classroom, however it’s called, is going to know a ton of words by the end of the year. It is just so cool that when we don’t focus on lists of single words in class, but rather on the flow of correctly spoken language (i.e. grammar), the kids know them anyway. I can understand why, of course. because in the latter case, what we do every day in our classrooms, the kids hear things like “digs a hole” hundreds of times vs. one or two times, and so, es obvio, they know it! So, great idea, Toni, et merci mille fois.

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