Power of Stories

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29 thoughts on “Power of Stories”

  1. Agreed. Stories at all ages. The co-creation (storyasking) is SO POWERFUL in the context of a story. I think there is something special about CI resulting from interaction and socially co-constructed meaning. This activity aligns with way more than just Krashen’s Theory.
    Here’s another way to frame what we do: a “story completion task” – the script with blanks needs to be completed. It would be classified as an “information-gap activity” within “task-based language teaching,” one pure form of “communicative language teaching.” We complete the task with a whole class dynamic.
    A great way of explaining TPRS to those who only see flying purple elephants. A great way to explain TPRS. Period.
    I would only ever do TPRS “step 2,” but then I’d be worried about the novelty wearing off.

  2. …I would only ever do TPRS “step 2,” but then I’d be worried about the novelty wearing off….
    But Eric that is what I use Reading Option A for. It provides such a rich and varied series of activities that we can do after creating the story, making Step 2 merely a set up for Step 3. I would state that I could use up 90% of available instructional minutes in any given year doing just Step 2 and Step 3. And for that other 10% of the time, I can choose from any one of about 30 other killer CI strategies. The CI cup indeed runneth over.

  3. Woah, hold up. When did reading NOT become the most important step? Hasn’t all of Krashen’s advocacy been about the power of reading?
    Of course students aren’t too keen on reading! Even if this wasn’t an issue before, they’re now reading less and less and in smaller segments due to the influence of social media and mobile devices. Students are actually anxious when presented with paragraphs of text, which is why Laurie Clarcq’s first tier reading is one sentence per line.
    I think we have an obligation to offer input in written form.
    I’ve written about reading (http://magisterp.com/2015/08/24/school-isnt-even-close-to-an-l1-environment-why-reading-is-key/), but not sure there’s anything new in there.

    1. My kids will read. We will read over as a class the story we created. But we won’t belabor this. Reading Option A includes lots of low-level comprehension questions and lots of circling – makes it feel like practice and work. How to make kids dislike reading? Give them lots of comprehension questions, especially ones they already know the answer to and that have only one right answer. We also read novels as a whole class and my 8th graders are currently in book clubs. Remember Blaine’s use of a novel: to provide more aural CI, e.g. parallel characters and PQA.
      Reading is NOT the most important step to me, a teacher of beginners. You can acquire an oral language without any written form. The FOCAL SKILLS program would only focus on 1 skill per module (listening first – listening skill increases 3-5xs the rate of a balanced teaching approach and reading skills STILL develop and development is on par with a balanced approach!). Natural Approach suggests TPR for beginners and reading for intermediates (part of the reason is probably because of the lack of reading materials for beginners and another reason is because Krashen sees reading as a bridge to academic language).
      Why is reading powerful? Let’s think about the reading research Krashen is looking at. . .
      What is FVR/ER compared to? . . . compared to explicit reading instruction, often intensive reading of shorter passages beyond the student level, and often compared to grammar-translation. Is it ever compared to another TCI method? Aural CI?
      How are gains measured? Usually a written measure. Doesn’t tell us about oral language development.
      Who are the subjects in these studies? Too often university-level students and too often intermediates, not beginners.
      What if we compared 3 groups of beginner middle school students: step 2 VS. step 3 VS. step 2+3 and measured oral proficiency gains?
      What would make reading MORE effective than listening?
      1) The visual form may have longer memory retention. Everyone learns better visually. And we can control the speed of input, backtrack, and the text doesn’t disappear.
      2) When kids independently read, they MAY read faster than they can listen and thus can get more input.
      Some potential reading pitfalls:
      1) Kids that don’t read – materials not leveled, not compelling, and/or kids lack reading skill.
      2) No spoken form, so doesn’t become oral/aural vocabulary with reading alone. Although, grammatical development that would also show up in the oral mode can happen from reading alone.
      So, if the prioritized goal is reading and writing proficiency, then pile on the reading. If the prioritized goal is oral proficiency, then pile on the listening. If the goal is both, then include a mix.
      To me, the reading is scaffolding for more listening. Students get the chance to match the written form to the sound and meaning of words from the oral story. And then reading is often a set up for reader’s theater. This is more like what is called “guided reading” and even in Warwick B. Elley and Francis Mangubhai’s landmark 1981 book flood the students of the teachers that did guided reading outperformed the students in FVR!!!
      Don’t confuse advocacy (reading) or focus on one part of the SLA process (input) to mean that these researchers don’t support other things. These are just the activities or parts of the process these researchers focus their studies on. They don’t necessarily discount other activities and processes. BVP has said this multiple times, appropriately referring to the parable of the 4 blind men and the elephant.

      1. “Who are the subjects in these studies? Too often university-level students and too often intermediates, not beginners.”
        Another problem is that these are very traditionally-taught university students. I think there needs to be attention put on research outside the university setting. Dr. Krashen has a lot on natural situations and language acquisition. How about more on K-12 language classrooms and especially those that are using CI? I’m told this means logistical difficulties: time, perhaps travel, and set up of video or recording equipment. And that for most people doing research, just adding some little bit of new info on a topic is all they need to do. Changing the world is given a backseat. I sympathize with the lack of time and resources, but there has to be something that can be done better nonetheless. In a conversation on this topic, a friend said it’s like having a room that you want to help heat (K-12 language classes), but the thermometer and thermostat (research) are in the hallway (universities), and the door between them is shut. So there’s little knowledge of what the other is doing, and the people trying to fix the temperature in the room don’t know what’s going on in there.
        Happy Thanksgiving! It’s snowing steadily here in Colorado & the turkey smells good.

        1. A strong argument and nice visual Diane for more professors to get into TCI classrooms and reconsider the way they study applied SLA (or however it is called when considering the teaching aspect as well). A clear distinction must be made between learning and acquiring also before approaching the study.
          On another note y’all, if you had to give a group of 2nd year CI high school Spanish students a respected (traditionally or otherwise) standardized test, one that you could purchase reasonably through your school, which would you go with?

  4. Indeed there is a dearth of hard core K-12 classroom CI research.
    Imagine the convincing and widely applicable lessons the profession could glean from large scale quality research by respectable SLA experts!! It could potentially change both teacher preparation and classroom practice overnite if someone took it on, documented and replicated it.
    Now that Krashen & BVP have sung the praises of TPRS as SLA theory in practice (See the Tea with BVP and Krashen at ACTFL) perhaps their colleagues and grad students will start conducting research in our classrooms? Though they seemed to poo-poo elementary- age WL instruction for anything but confidence-and attitude building (I was left heartbroken with that segment!), our early-start + long sequence TCI students need to be compared with other groups of traditionally taught kids at various junctures – say (4th?), 7th, & 10th grades…I am sure the results would be a wake up call.
    Ignorance & inertia are what’s holding us back.

  5. Alisa your reaction to what KVP said about elementary is important. Can CI work at the elementary level? My thought from reading your posts for a few years at least here, and knowing what your colleagues are doing, and what others are doing, is that KVP are wrong. If so, what can we do to reset that statement by them? Krashen will be at iFLT I assume. If you bring your Chicago team I can ask Carol to arrange something – not just a lunch table chat but a formal session – with you and Krashen there, maybe a round table discussion with elementary teachers and Krashen moderated by Carol, and we can get this out into the open. I have no background in elementary but my colleague Amanda Baumann here at my school who is actively exploring TPRS, has brought me some 5th graders to visit and share with my classes and every time I found them bright and receptive to the instruction. I don’t know about below 5th grade but am I mistaken to suggest that these two researchers have neither research nor expertise in this area? You have both. (I consider field research like the work you have done since transitioning to TPRS in Evanston – was that four years ago? – to count FAR more than anything KVD could say on this topic at this point in the evolution of TPRS.) I can see where you would feel bad on this deal and I empathize.

    1. The issue is with elementary programs not having adequate time (short class duration and less frequency) such that time severely limits the amount that can be acquired, not to mention that in the words of Krashen “older is better.” The older, the faster the rate of acquisition. But these programs can motivate and accustom students to a different language and culture. That’s the classic distinction between FLEX and FLES. It’s all about time.

        1. What can be achieved? What does the program want to achieve?
          Language acquisition can still happen. But how much acquisition with little time and with youngins? e.g. one 30 minute period per week with 3rd graders?
          Facing that reality, many programs are justified via other factors, e.g. motivation, attitude, exposure, etc.

  6. Our district (Winnetka) changed to 3x 30 min or 90 minutes per week in grades 1-5 when we revised our program and transitioned to CI. (BTW this is ACTFL’s recommendation for minimum # of weekly instructional minutes for a FLES program).
    Our kids are doing amazing things. Only 3 years into CI and our 4th graders (non statistically significant sampling) rocked the SOPA- some 4th graders tested into novice high and there were a few intermediate lows. I don’t trot that ‘data’ around cuz I have serious issues with how the interviews were conducted, but most importantly, our kids engage in classes conducted over 95% in the TL, and they can read! When I visit/observe the 6th grade classes I am amazed at how much farther the teacher has taken our kids, and assume that the students’ firm elementary school foundation is part of their success.
    I think Dr. Krashen needs to visit some t/CI in K-5. Maybe then he’ll have a different take on the potential of well established elementary programs…though it’s true that most elementary WL programs have inadequate minutes, overbooked teachers (I teach 39 weekly classes across 1st-4th grade), often don’t have their own classrooms (I was a la cart for 13 years), have questionable goals, (a nearby district has Spanish teachers ‘reinforce science concepts through world language instruction’ wtf?), offer interrupted programming, (i.e., rotating semesters with other exploratories ) and a host of other misguided or clueless attempts at WL instruction.
    But if it’s well conceived and executed, we can take young children to incredible places!!!

  7. Yeah but that segment of the Tea at ACTFL was so disheartening and dismissive!!?. What do u think abt comparing the kids who had elem tci with the ones who start cold in Jr. High? The priority of course is research on the efficacy of our classes….

  8. A topic close to my heart. Alisa, I love reading your posts – you speak on behalf of the many ‘elementary’ (primary school in Australia) CI teachers. Thank you so much.
    My students too blow me away with how much they have acquired in just 12 months and I can only dream about what future students will have acquired over their 8 years at primary school before heading to high school. I too believe age is not a factor with sucessful language acquisition. My junior primary students have 1 x 50 minute lesson per week and while not ideal, the results are still impressive.

  9. I dunno, I interpret Krashen’s response in relation to the question of what to do when you don’t get enough time with students and when asking the district for more time isn’t an option. In THOSE situations it might not be worth the struggle just to say you have an elementary language program. Stephen said that if you reaaaally want to be efficient, start in 3rd or 4th grade. So, if you are only given 30min a week, perhaps it’s better to wait until then. He goes on to say that a couple hours a week is more than enough time in well-established elementary programs for language study to be valuable in terms of acquisition.
    Are there any 20-30min weekly elementary programs out there showing decent progress by the time classes become full year, or at least more consistent? I look at the ACTFL chart on p.13 of the performance descriptors (https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/PerformanceDescriptorsLanguageLearners.pdf) that show expectations over time. Beginning study in kindergarten instead of 3rd grade probably results in a minor gain in the long run, especially if it’s for a limited time each week for those 3 years. I think that’s Krashen’s point.

    1. In my experience with both elementary and high school acquirers, I have to say I’ve observed a much speedier pace with the older kids. But I may be unintentionally biased because I’ve never spent as much time with those younger kids, just trying to base it off the first 15 hours (the longest I’ve ever had a group of elem age kids consecutively.) In fact, it seems much faster to me. But there may be cognitive factors that affect what I am seeing (and therefore not seeing). Weren’t the studies done that compare the two different age groups conducted with traditional assessments (i.e. measuring learning vs acquisition)? So maybe it is due time for the research you guys are talking about.
      Perhaps why Krashen and VP go out of their way to say this too, is the myth of ‘the younger the better’. Sometimes combatting a myth requires some hyperbole. I showed the first ten minute video from that series on public TV that is in the Primers on this site, where they dig into this issue of age. After, my admin and the teachers were quite surprised to learn that younger is not necessarily better (and actually slower so says the video and my own meager elem experience).

      1. Me too, Jim, my experience is the younger, the slower the acquisition. They need (in my experience) more careful pacing, a lot more reps, and more concrete objects & pictures, and physical activity connected to the meaning. Everyone benefits from those things, but it’s all really critical if you’re less than maybe 13 years old.
        I think that high school students I’ve taught are the same pace as adults (ages ranging 30ish-70ish), taking into account that the adults I’ve taught have all been short-term tutoring or single sessions and were beginners. But the adult beginners’ pace seems about the same range as my high school students’ pace. I think just getting started with a language is another time the pace needs especially to be slow.

        1. This is my first year including 4th grade with my 5th-8th graders and I even noticed a considerable difference between by 4th and 5th graders. Maybe it is just a fluke thing this year but the older I go even in this range the quicker they seem to pick it up. When I add a new student to the 7th or 8th grade they usually have no problem to fit in with what the class is doing if they try at all.
          Younger would only be better because it might give someone a higher total number of hours through high school. But it is very easy to believe that 1 hr in the younger ages = 15-20min at the older ages (or something like that).
          So for my 4th graders who get 45 min twice a week – that is a “scheduled” 60 hours for a year (no way that ever happens), and so maybe that is equal to 20 hours in high school.
          It may or may not be worth it – though I should note that with the 4th graders their attitude is far superior to many of my older students. That young they just love it and NEVER complain (at least so far!). I wonder if starting it younger – as we’ve said above a little bit – helps with having a good attitude toward a language.
          Moreover, even if it is 20 “high school hours” it may be worth it because it still may be like 1/6 of the total they may get. E.g. my school does 45 min twice a week for 4th, 7th and 8th, and 45 min three times a week for the 5th and 6th. Altogether that might end up being 120 “high school” hours (at the conversion rate above). So taking away 20 hours might be a considerable difference.
          But it is helpful to take all these things into account when designing a program or thinking about what is expected after “X” number of hours because we see it entirely depends on how old, etc.

  10. Back to another issue – classroom research. SLA is a field in its own right with or without teaching. There is a separate branch devoted to studying teaching – instructed SLA.
    Classroom research is definitively less controlled, which is probably why many scientists won’t touch it. But then, the more controlled you become, the more you risk ecological validity – generalizability to the real world.
    I would be most interested in improving classroom research. First, we need the tests. I especially like holistic tests that capture development over a wide range of elements. Then, the actual studies ought to be large scale as Alisa says, so that the number of subjects and teachers will overwhelm the outliers. This type of research could support TCI, but it has not controlled CI as the only variable, so it could never pinpoint CI as the sole ingredient. The results would be open to interpretation from a wide range of theoretical perspectives.

  11. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Even if acquisition is slower at first for young novices below say 5th grade – and I’d love to see real research – imagine receiving kids who’ve already acquired the Super 7 or Sweet 16, plus all the itty bitty words, connection/transition words, and a good many nouns and additional storytelling words…and they’ve heard so much that you can speak at a faster pace,they recognize some other tenses that were used incidentally- they have killer accents, they know how to read, they love coming up with creative story details and wearing costumes/using props…
    Oh the places you’d go!
    Our 6-8th teachers already see a HUGE difference in the kids they’re receiving who’ve had 3 years of elementary T/CI. As I mentioned earlier, we, too, see the difference when we visit them in our Middle school/Jr high…
    I don’t want elem programs to be considered unnecessary or unworthy of funding (cuz that’s what it boils down to, since elem programs aren’t mandated – they are funded by the local BOE). Hypothesis: A great early start reaps additional benefit down the road. Seems like it’d be easy to ‘test’ – though as Eric pointed out, it’d be hard to isolate the cause…Our local hi-profile HS will be receiving kids with all kinds of prior Spanish & French – from the most traditional to content-related to T/CI – but alas the dept doesn’t really know how to look at it’s students’ strengths and weaknesses…Eric, wanna come study it?

    1. Agreed. In the end even if it isn’t as “efficient” the more time the better. High schoolers can get 600 hours (at best). This is not nearly enough time anyway. Why not augment that in the younger grades as much as possible?

    2. Alisa I think there’s no doubt that there would be huge positives to having a strong elem program that brings kids to a place beyond or even nearly beyond novice-low. I am working on this at my school, for them to move me from half time to full time, with half that time in the elem. It’s a pipe dream right now, but who knows… maybe they’ll bite!
      Geesh, imagine what we could do with a CI program for 12 years!!!
      What I’m working from right now is the choice, more high school or more elem. I think that the elem program is great, but I would rather have a Spanish 3 at the high school level to move a few kids beyond novice via more and more reading time. The elem visits are so sporadic and meager that they’re not paying off as much as a solid level 3 class would, IMO. The kiddos sure are excited about it though! And the school board/admin likes to be able to say we have elem spanish (even though it’s super meager).

    3. If I recall, the context of the question posed to SK and BVP was that of a teacher starting with the premise that time at the elementary school level is inadequate, e.g. FLES – under 90 minutes per week. So right there we are not talking about Alisa’s program.
      I’ve never read firsthand the research showing older is faster. Makes sense. If comprehending input is necessary and sufficient for acquisition, then older kids have more literacy, background knowledge, greater working memory capacity, greater attention spans, greater comprehension skills (inferencing, using contextual clues, etc.), etc. in order to comprehend more input. Just look at the drop in recognition of cognates as you lower the student age.
      So how much slower is the rate? That’s probably too dependent on numerous other factors to ever generalize. But the very program structure makes this a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone’s rate of acquisition is going to be slower with less class duration and less frequency.
      Then, it’s also possible that the attitude and motivation that benefit from early TCI is what would make an early start better in the long run.
      There are 2 separate questions: Is a FLEX (under 90 minutes per week) program worth it? What about a FLES program (90+ minutes per week)?

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