Micro-Mini Stories – 1

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.



46 thoughts on “Micro-Mini Stories – 1”

  1. Ben,

    I just settled into my new job. So far, so good — I am able to strategize and plan with my new French teaching partner without much drama. Wish me luck when my level I’s go over to her.

    BTW — Your ‘Training’ and ‘Really Short Story’ posts are really exciting!

    I am finding myself in complete agreement with you — CWB is great, in doses. Super mini-stories excite the kids much more

    I have a question — what do you do about their little 5×7 name card on their desks getting worn out?

    Just curious…

    1. “Super mini-stories excite the kids much more”.

      I agree. We can call it “super mini-stories”, or “extended PQA” or “Personalized Mini-Story” (the latter which was the original I believe.

  2. They are color coded card stock, each class with a different color. I collect them at the end of each class and after awhile only hand out a few because I know that those, or just one, are what I want to address that day. I stretch the cards out over the course of the year. The questionnaires fit neatly on the back of the CWB information so that I have the CWB info and the questionnaire info f and b on one piece of card stock. So they don’t really get worn out, since they are kept in the room all the time until we finish them all.

  3. I “think” I came up with this story, but maybe I borrowed it from someone. My brain isn’t tip top right now and I seriously can’t remember!

    sees/ is scared of / runs away

    _____ is at _______.
    _____ is scared of _________.
    _____ sees _________.
    _____ runs away!

    _____ is at _______.
    _____ is scared of _________.
    _____ sees _________.
    _____ runs away!

    _____ is at _______.
    _____ is scared of _________.
    _____ sees _________.
    _____ doesn’t run away!
    _____ …. (Let the kids decide). I obviously have to tell them how to say whatever it is new here in German.

    The story went pretty well. We created it in two 40 minute classes, and we did other things during that time too (Dictation, Quizzes, Write/copy out story). I have a lot of work to go on ASKING stories well and circling MORE to get more REPS! I still go too fast. I also have not yet called up actors which would draw it out more.

    Hope someone can use this.

    1. Bring up some actors. Just make them rigidly follow Classroom Rule #7. This is the time when actors are starting to be used and will be in front of class next to you most of the year. Make sure that you absolutely choose the right kids, do not let anybody jump up, talk to the kids about what being a good actor means, which is to basically stand there and pay attention and move only in unison with your words. Most teachers blow this. They let the kids stand around and distract. Get those actors up and let us know how it goes!

      As far as going too fast, no one goes slowly enough, even Linda Li to be honest. So slow down as much as you can, and accept the fact that SLOW is the supreme skill of all, and exists in a way on a mythic level. We can only do the best we can on SLOW – it’s that difficult to actually do. If we went slowly enough, if we could just overcome our tendency to speak too fast, we would see things in our teaching that we never dreamed of. Of course that is mere conjecture on my part, because I never once spoke slowly enough. I came close a few times, however, to the point of getting one eighth grade class into the Pure Land, which is teaching heaven.

  4. My favorite part of TPR, and I think the most beneficial for the students, is the novel commands. So, you have those verbs, (hopefully you also have included a few body parts and objects) now start saying short, nonsensical utterances. E.g. stand on the roof, your feet sit on your head, the desk jumps, your hand smiles, etc. Another good one to include is “like a,” e.g. “run like a mouse.” Then, start those commands for individuals and/or small groups. And you can storyask it, e.g. “Class, does Mary eat Bob’s head or feet?”

    1. This is exactly what I need right now, Eric: TPR novel commands. I need to wedge this TPR stuff into the day’s lesson. I’m getting real tired of doing some brain break involving technology and the technology not working. Talk about dead air!

      1. I think it was Realidades that Karen Rowan wrote a TPRS ancillary for. It has a great explanation with examples of novel commands. Also good for this, Garcia’s book about TPR (“Instructor’s Notebook for TPRS” or something like that).

          1. I read through that thread, Eric. Thanks. As much as I’m hearing people say on that thread (Ben, and Chris…) that TPR isn’t helpful, I’m in the boat with Teri who said that they’re good for brain breaks. And kinesthetic brain breaks are the best.

            I wish I had read that “TPR – How To Do It” thread before I started teaching 6 & 7 year olds over the summer.

    2. I was just wondering about verbs which are already known in, say the present, but “TPR”-ing them in desired tense before using them in the story. From a traditional point of view the word is already “known.” But to the student it may be a wholly different word.

  5. This past week I tried the following really short story, though I don’t think it was short enough:

    (X) likes to play basketball.
    (X) plays basketball on the court in _________ .
    (X) finds a ______z_____ on the court in ________ .
    (X) doesn’t like ______z______ .

    (X) goes to the court in _____________.
    (X) plays basketball on the court in _______.
    (X) finds a _____y_____ on the court in ________ .
    (X) doesn’t like _______y_____ .

    (X) goes to the court in _____________.
    (X) plays basketball on the court in _________.
    (X) finds a _____w____ on the court in _________ .
    (X) likes _____w_______ .

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I have a hard time sticking to the script when doing it in class, and things can really fall apart. I think part of my trouble is getting the story started. I’m finding that I have to be careful with how I start the story. So, the beginning of this script is pretty straightforward, “(X) likes to play basketball.” Now all I have to do is find a subject for (X). (X) could be a student, a famous person personified by a student actor, or a fantastical creature (sometimes I wish my students were more imaginative). But starting off with one simple variable to get things rolling for the story I’m finding is my area of growth.

    I was realizing this with my first period class (the guinea pigs) and adjusted the script for my second period class.

    1. Sean, I’ve found that for “fantastical characters”, less is more, at least in my classroom. We usually have one or two that we always come back to, but they are in our room, always around the corner, watching, so to speak. It may even be beneficial for you to introduce them. Just an idea. May not work for your classroom.

      As far as CWB goes, I pick one kid per 82 min class to focus on. And before I go in I know that I’ll be teaching one structure (fishes, plays basketball, draws), and let the rest of the language that I use be recycled stuff (i+1 in the most literal of senses), but of course it’s not necessarily acquired stuff. Of course, this helps me shelter vocab. And then, because I don’t plan per se, one or two or three additional words will be introduced that class and used a ton. If I am about to say it, and realize that it’s not high-frequency and won’t really add to the interest level, or allow me to get many reps on it, I stop myself right there (obvious to students, they get it because I’ve explained my need to not throw too much new stuff at them) and say something else. Talk about thinking on our feet! We CI teachers are serious students of improv.

    2. Also, in your script, I’d recommend having as a variable the word “court”. I don’t see it grabbing interest as much as, say, he plays basketball “in the bathroom” or “in the kitchen” or as one of my kids just so happens to do as he said in class, “en la tele”. We still haven’t figured out if he plays “on the TV set” or “on actual TV”, but even the “fact” that he plays basketball “on the tele” has gotten a bunch of interest. Instead of pulling him up yesterday to be my actor, I drew it on the board, drawing a big TV set and a stick figure, then drawing the wrong balls he would be playing with while circling and getting corrected over and over by students.

      I think Ben’s suggestion to NOT let your actors mess around, at all, while you’re teaching, is hugely important.

          1. Heya Sean. One of my classes has an inside joke character that makes cameos as Jim mentions. We did a traditional song about a guy having a dirty shirt and during the brain break, one of the kids drew an unhappy cartoon fellow she called “Ugly Shirt Guy.” Ever since then, he’s been a great curve ball – if the PQA is falling flat, see if anyone in the class played basketball with Ugly Shirt Guy! It gets a few smiles and a few more reps since it’s more personalized.

            Is there a way you could subtly inspire one of your kids to make a similar character? A class mascot of sorts?

          2. I was thinking of having a class pet for each hour. Not a real pet but maybe a stuffed animal. I am also having my classes come up with a team name. One of my classes has a character named bunnychicken in Spanish. This came from a drawing that a student made for a class story. I have a program that lets me play with visuals and have created Bunnychicken as a poster. At the end of the year last year I allowed the students to have the characters that we had created. This last week one of my 2nd year students even referred to a character from last year, not from his class but he had seen the poster. It was daddy potato has a raisin in his nose. Papá papa tiene una pasa en la nariz.

            My Spanish club is talking about making a crest to represent us. This could also be a way to bring the students together.

          3. I asked fellow faculty if anyone had some Playskool figures they could part with. Wow, they’re great fun. We now have a very round-shaped little guy called “Little Pudgy” (in Chinese, that’s kind of a compliment) and a hippo, and some others that got immediately named in one class but haven’t all become full characters yet.

            I think the silly visual helps.

          4. I didn’t force it… I just left the figures on the table in the classroom and they gravitated to them. When we needed PQA material, they came up.

            Reminds me of the only thing I remember from high school French classes… the teacher did one CI thing. She had a Playskool farm set, and talked slowly about the animals and where they were going and what they were doing. I was fascinated. That was the only thing that happened in class that I can still remember – I remember at the time how different it felt just to understand the French directly.

          5. I’ve used doll house furniture to retell a story. The kids sat around the edge of the mat, and we circled -a little- the rooms, furniture, layed out mini baguettes and what not. It was highly engaging, and fun. Once we had Goldilocks trampling through the house, and breaking furniture. I was able to keep the kids focused and interested for the whole 30 minutes. No one interrupted, was silly or even touched!

          6. I’ve often wondered if/how I could incorporate using toys with teaching languages. Cool.

          7. In a way, the figures are actors. It points out the huge importance of visuals to get the spoken words lodged in the deeper minds. It’s all about the images created. That is why Look and Discuss is so easy to do with a class, and why CWB and OWI are about creating images. Same with stories. It’s all about creating images. That’s what we do. Even with reading.

            The trick is to get them focused on the image in the speech, or in the reading, and so camouflage the language being delivered. By not focusing on the language, they learn it. By camouflaging the spoken and reading words in images, that sends everything over to the unconscious processing factory of the deeper mind, and thus, without our interference, the language is acquired.

        1. Right on Jason. I bet this character is Blasda. And yes, I meant tasty. Na bi gorach.

          Sean, you said “This is also about me doing a better job in coaxing cute answers out of them.”

          The cute suggestions you make, when circling (in the bathroom, in Chile, etc), will train them to give you the cute answers you want (i.e. non L1 answers). I don’t open it up too much, if at all, to open-ended cute answers the first week or two. Better to use that honeymoon period to keep it simple and direct it more where you want it to go, rather than opening up the possibility of L1 interference. So, if you want to limit the variables and thus extend the scene to further details, go with a funny variable like “bathroom” as opposed to “court” or “Chile”, or give them the choice of one or the other. I’m sure they’ll pick the former, and think they came up with the idea on their own.

  6. After some TPR, and Persona Especial -type stuff, I did 2 stories that worked out really well. The first one was:
    Wants, Goes, Gives to him/her.
    The second one was
    Wants to Buy, Goes, Buys.
    They were 2 locations each, took about 20 minutes to create and provided lots of solid input I think, even given my newbie lack of skills.
    I wish I had a bunch more tiny stories like that. Those first two just sort of came to me. I followed with the Refrigerator story (Matava vol 1) and it was a little awkward. Instead of saca (takes out) they wanted to say roba (robs) from the house. Even though it was awkward, we came out of it with a page of text that everyone can thoroughly read.
    Afterwards, to reinforce saca, I did some fun TPR where I put a stuffed cow in a shoe box and made them pass it around to different people and say “saca la vaca de la caja!” which is really fun to say, and I got lots of reps on le da (gives to him/her), which they seem to get stuck on. Where am I going from here? That’s the scary void.

    1. I love the sentence “saca la vaca de la caja.” I did a short story 2 years ago. There is a boy. There is a blue parrot. The parrot sits in a blue chair. The boy looks at a girl. He walks to the chair. He is looking at the girl. He doesn’t look at the chair. He sits in the chair and the parrot says “Squak”. The boy says “Ay, ay ay.” The girls says nothing. My students already knew there is, sits and walks. So we were focusing on looks at and says.

  7. Typically, I would end up doing CWB up until the end of the year in May, but spread out over the entire course of the year.

    Thanks for mentioning this, Ben. I had the impression you completed this in the early fall.

  8. Regarding CWB: some of my students filled out their question cards completely on the first day of the school year, and some hardly at all. Thus I have a lot of material to work with some kids, and very little if anything at all with other kids. We are now five weeks in. Would you give the students a second chance at filling out the cards?

    1. Yes. The are given so much crap to fill out from all their teachers that they have numbed out to it. Now that they see that this is a bonafide request from a teacher they will want a new card, and the information you get back will be excellent. We can’t blame them for not taking it seriously the first time – we have hardened their hearts in education.

  9. This is exactly what I need now. It is the next step after the stepping stones, but almost a stepping stone in itself. It is part of the rallying cry to simplify. Thanks everybody.

    1. Yes Nathaniel and it will be another stepping stone in the next edition of my book. But you are right – it could be either a stepping stone or an intermediate step between the other stepping stones and full blown stories. One thing is certain – it is important to do Really Simple Stories before doing regular stories. I am working with a Swedish School in Denver in October and I only have two hours. I think I’ll do some CWB and then end with the one about the thirsty dog, all of three sentences long, but it will take at least 45 minutes. Whenever we present on this stuff to others, we should not do regular stories unless we have lots of time – it could only confuse and if there is one thing we need to remember when presenting it is SLOW and making ourselves clear as a bell – that’s what grabs them.

    1. That is brilliant. I’ve been doing brief games and such for variation but reading would likely do the job better. Plus, it would keep my middle schoolers calmer over the course of a period. Thanks, David!

    2. This is perfect David. This is the thing that I’ve been sheltering with my level 1 kids so far, but I don’t think it has made a difference language-wise, perhaps had even had a negative effect overall. Not sure. Pulling out the reading though, definitely makes things easier on us!

      David, are you going to keep these and make them into a book? If you have the time and a helper, I suggest doing so… makes for great personalized SSR material. I bet your principal would throw down the money for this cause. $30 for one book on blurb.com or snapfish.com. And you can ask the kids to illustrate these for the book too.

      1. I haven’t done the professional book thing. What I do is something that maybe I heard from you… The last week of school I let the kids make their own book from class stories from the year. We just chill, listen to all the wooly songs we have done during the year, and they make the books to add to the class library for “five minute free read fridays.”

        1. Why should we buy books we can’t afford when our students, so bored in the last weeks of school, can make them to be read by younger kids who:

          a. know them
          b. know the building
          c. know the adults in the building
          d. know the city

          It’s a no-brainer. Unless you want to try to actually teach them something in May.

  10. Ok, so what do you think:
    TPRS story = micro-mini story + Super 7-9 verbs + recycled language.

    I understand a “micro-mini story” to be a few structures, 1 naturally flowing into another, so easily that just looking at the structures you can think of multiple storylines that do not depend on any extra language besides those structures.. This makes for easy, in-bounds PQA. And the only real difference I see with a “TPRS Story” is the absence of the Super 7-9 verbs and recycled vocabulary from previous classes.

    Location – to be (estar)
    Existence – there is (hay)
    Possession – to have (tener)
    Identity – to be (ser)
    Preference – to like (gustar)
    Motion – to go (ir)
    Volition – to want (querer)

    Credit: Terry Waltz

    You can add a few more:
    To be able to (poder)
    To say (decir)

    1. Hi Eric et al:
      I am very interested in the concept of the Micro Mini story. Along with CWB and OWI, I feel like this has been the key to me starting story-telling and CI this year. I’m looking at Eric’s last post and wondering if you and others can expand on exactly WHAT makes a wonderful, effective Micro-mini story. I am playing around with the idea of creating a set of micro-mini stories for beginning CI teachers (like myself!) as part of my Masters project. I sense a need for a collection of micro-mini stories in the above thread and am looking for confirmation of that. Is a collection of micro-mini stories a need? In your opinions, what would my stories need to include/accomplish? Thanks!

      1. Just strip down and adapt any interesting story script. Like a top-down embedded reading, you’re working back to your “base script” to use with beginners. Interest makes them successful – going to depend on your audience, though there are certainly universals, e.g. doesn’t everyone like to talk about the time they broke a bone? 😉

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