Point and Pause is Needed in PQA, not in Stories

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



11 thoughts on “Point and Pause is Needed in PQA, not in Stories”

  1. Yes, to Point and Pause of target structures. Point and Pause at target structures (especially during PQA–since the students have barely heard or seen the structures) really helps to slow ME down, gives me time to check for comprehension in their eyes, and gives them time to comprehend and process. They feel more confident, then, to comprehend the entire utterance which likely contains some other words they have acquired or are in the process of acquiring.

    As you know, I rarely write anything on my boards during stories because it just gets to be too much for my elementary/middle school students to deal with. Many have trouble visually tracking on the board.

    I do, however, draw pictures (very badly) and label them. If the tigre lives in a castle (which sometimes happens in real life ;-)), I draw a semblance of a castle and label it–for pause and point at. No more than 2 or 3 drawings and labels.

    Keeps me honest and focusing on structures. Holds me to working with about 3 kids and doing a lot of comparing and contrasting among them and with other students–using the negative of the verb, the plural of the verb, etc.

    1. Matthew DuBroy

      So the basic point is that there should be nothing *NEW* in the story, right? Everything should have been introduced before and seen before a number of times. If they forget we could use the what does X mean (what did I just say) question, no?

      How do we deal with new cute answers especially early on in year 1? I’ve struggled with getting cute answers from kids in the target language because they just don’t know much of it. Isn’t hard to surprise them (Blaine always says: ” you surprise me or I surprise you.”) if you can’t introduce something new?

      It would be great if we could have some discussion or thought on how to begin Year 1 when the students know nothing and how do you transition to stories with the lack of vocab. All the guidelines are helpful once the students have a basic core vocab but before that it seems hard to adhere to. I know the Word Wall is helpful early on and PQA before a story of course introduces the new structures, but what about all the different objects/nouns that could be used in stories to make it surprising? It is just not clear to me how to keep their cute answers in the target language and come up with surprising stories when the students have such little vocab to begin with.

      1. I start beginners with TPR and incorporate it throughout the year. That builds vocabulary and gets them used to the rules and the playful atmosphere.

        Visual TCI methods – Look & Discuss, MovieTalk, BookTalk – are also ways to provide compelling CI and build vocabulary before starting beginners with TPRS.

        I still use Ben’s original rule (suggest 2-word cute answers in English). You can quickly translate them on the board or even just continue to use the English word. I know Ben has since moved away from this rule preferring only Spanish in which case the teacher has to provide the options. Even when my kids have enough Spanish to offer cute answers in Spanish, I still sometimes allow 2 words in English, because it has more potential to make the input compelling.

      2. Matthew the way I do get their cool suggestions into the story is by acting like I didn’t hear their suggestion in L1. It’s a very hard game to play for those first three months or so until they get some vocabulary. We have to make it clear that L1 is not allowed in class (if we don’t we are going to hate teaching that spring) and at the same time we have to “ignore” the cutest comments and yet let them in, maybe three per class. We let them in because they are so funny but we move quickly on and hope that no one noticed that the suggestion was given in English. I know that sounds weird but it’s how I deal with this difficult problem early on in the year.

        Does that make sense? We get the flow of L2 rolling along so well that the three or at most four cute suggestions that we get in L1 per class get swallowed up in the general input and thereby make their way into the story.

        One thing is certain, I would much rather keep the L1 suggestions out of my classroom than allow them and then regret it for the rest of the year because I didn’t norm the class strictly enough in the early fall. I allowed those two word answers for three years and they were not good years. They were Trojan Horses bringing in more English.

        And the other point about using Point and Pause with the targets only is a very misunderstood point and one we must be strict in enforcing. When you turn around after BOTH PQA or a story – as I see it now – and look at the board as the students leave the class and there are just a few new words up there, like two, along with the original structures you started class with, then you know you did it right.

        There is a general CI concept lying at the bottom of this discussion: we don’t use words they don’t know except for the two or there new target structures for the day and we set out in each class to teach THOSE structures and nothing else. We are not teaching or asking a story. We are using the story as a mule to bring the target structures to our students.

        One of the biggest new developments in our PLC over the past few years hasn’t even been discussed, but I have noticed it. Eric referred to in the past few days in a comment here. It is that we cannot just leave the structures after one day. They will not be learned.

        For example, I would work with three structures by doing a week’s worth of CI in the form of the Three Steps through the reading, and then use all sorts of other strategies like Textivate and all to pick those same three structures up in a second week of instruction. So I would work on three structures for two weeks.

        Instead of limiting gains, doing that increases them because of the safety and security those three structures provide for all sorts of other words to stick to them, esp. in the second week activities. If you haven’t read the Rebar category posts here on that on the right side of this page, read them.

        Remember, Diane tells nervous new CI teachers in DPS that all they need to do is teach 25 or 30 structures from the 200 word list all year. That is their DPS Scope and Sequence. Somehow tons of other words stick to those 25 or 30. And I mean stick. Compare that with a teacher, like me at a local community college teaching from French-in-Action years ago, having to teach like 100 expressions like the trunk of a car in French per week. No stick.

        Conclusion – narrow and deep works, shallow and wide doesn’t. Krashen’s conclusions about the net don’t apply to us because we don’t have the time each week upon which he based his research. We MUST go narrow and deep because we only have about four hours per week to do our thing.

        Kind of in a ranty mood today. Sorry about that.

        1. Matthew DuBroy

          Thanks Eric and Ben for your responses. Eric it is helpful to point me to those activities. There is so much still I have to learn. I’ve barely scratched the surface with some of it.

          Ben I’ve appreciated reading all of your rants this year! Doing it that way is just like sticking with the rules at the beginning of the year. It is a pain but man does it pay off. They learn the expectations and it goes better because of it.

          I’m all for limiting the structures and using them for 2 weeks. I’ve been doing that recently just intuitively. I have no pressure at my school because I’m the only Latin teacher and there is no curriculum I have to adhere to. So I just spend a lot of time on it and go until it runs out of steam and then move on.

          I’ve been doing some reading on here today and now I’m not sure how the principle you point out – basically don’t go out of bounds during class (having a basically clean board shows you did this) – fits with the net hypothesis and having some i+n potentially. These two principles seem to be in tension. The net hypothesis might imply (if i understand it) that it is better to add some of these extra or peripheral words (and make it comprehensible of course). I might be misunderstanding things because some of this is confusing for me but this seems at odds with only adding the three target structures. Am I missing something? And then if you add them in stories wouldn’t you want to point and pause with them?

          1. Matthew DuBroy

            I still have to read the rebar section because I haven’t read that yet so I’m not sure how that would affect my question. Lots to learn!

        2. Hi Ben, Do you use textivate as homework? Also, in other books/ posts, you’ve discussed a schedule in which you do stories on M + W and readings on T/Th. How does the 3 structures over 2 weeks mentioned above fit into the M/W T/Th schedule. (I’m a long time CI/TPRS convert but have been struggling with the logistics for years! I have just enough aha moments to know when I get it, but not enough to keep me confident. I also struggle with moving the story along and not circling mechanically to death.)

  2. Karen I use Textivate in class as a fun visual reading kind of activity that fulfills the requirement to use tech in my classroom while providing high quality input at the same time, which is a neat trick. The secret to a good Textivate session is that the kids have ownership in the text, which you modify/embed with limited amounts of new words before pasting it into the Textivate program options. So I prefer using just-completed readings from stories in Textivate.

    The M/W stories thing with readings on T/Th has given way over recent years to a need, because of all the new creative ideas we have pumped into what we do here, to extend out these things over days. Many of us spend up to two weeks on three structures now. Counterintuitively, this jacks up the gains rather than limits them. I remember when we thought that TPRS meant doing PQA then a story then a reading all in one class period! Now we are so loaded it can’t even be done sometimes in a week.

    Hey the mechanical circling and the logistics piece is normal for all of us. I struggled with it for eight years before it came more clear to me. It’s a process. The key thought here is for you to give yourself permission to not be perfect and to follow the energy in what appears in class all the while always staying in bounds by using one of the target structures/rebar rods in every single thing you say, every question you ask. You can’t teach a class that feels fresh and exciting without leaving elements of it to chance, which also happens to be a big indictment of the AIM method.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben