Stories Not Working – 1

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33 thoughts on “Stories Not Working – 1”

  1. Another suggestion is to find another TPRS/CI teacher in his vicinity and connect with that person. Go observe, be observed, start a personal dialogue with that colleague, go to another workshop. It’s hard to know exactly what’s not working from this description. Being the only one doing this at his school is very difficult. I know about that. Writing to this blog is a good start–but I think a personal relationship with another teacher/teachers will be more useful in the long run. Being observed by a trusted person and getting feedback will move you faster than anything else, in my opinion.

  2. Oooh, I’ve been there. I know that grammar packets feel easier, but once students realize that the packets don’t stay in their minds the way stories do, they will become restless & inattentive again. Plus, diagramming a sentence in a foreign language doesn’t sound like communication.

    If the lack of novelty is the culprit, I would do as Ben says and try a novel. Plow through the boring bits, get some good R&D from the interesting parts, quiz, repeat. Another great resource is embedded readings. I have a couple in Spanish that I’ve written on my website, and there’s a wealth of readings on What’s nice about novels & embedded readings is that the story is pre-determined. No mining students for cute ideas, no stress on your part for coming up with your own suggestions.

    If they’re craving grammar, give them dictados. Dictados, Pictados, Matedictados (what I’ve been calling Math Brakes). Limit the vocabulary, but provide lots of contrasting grammar that your top kids will want to ask about. My routine goes like this: I give the dictation, then write the correct version on the board, pointing out grammar-type stuff. Then they translate each sentence. I grade on the corrected version and the translation. (This easily gets me 20+ minutes of quiet concentration.)

  3. A few of us got together informally this week-end over coffee.
    It seemed that practical ideas that we can apply right away are lifesaving.

    With that in mind maybe you could try MovieTalk to re-engage your class.
    Watch Eric H.’s demo on how to MovieTalk. Take notes and imitate Eric:
    the tone of his voice, speed, how Eric engages the students, body language, circling,
    point and pause, jokes around, looks in their eyes, catches side-talking …
    (Eric is a master and can juggle 500 pingpong balls at once.)

    How about “Wildebeest”? Just try.

      1. If you scroll down the long list of previous posts listed under “categories” you will hit “videos”. (to the right of this page)

        In that category of threads many experienced teachers have shared videos of their live-classroom. Eric H. posted 7?8? short videos addressing different TCI, amongst them MovieTalk.

  4. When CWB kind of waned for me and stories seemed forced, I discovered MovieTalk. It has been a lifesaver for me.

    Also, one thing Ben said that has helped me immeasurable is just talk to the kids. I know that if I show up with no plans, no ideas, nothing, I can get my hotel bell, a rep counter, a student timer, and talk for 15-20 minutes about what they did last night, where they went, what did they do. I can take my time, try to keep in bounds, put a few phrases on board that might be new but are necessary to continue, and keep going. A short quiz keeps it real and keeps them accountable and provides something for the gradebook. If a short scenario comes out of it to write up the next day, wonderful, if not, no pressure on me or them. They actually LIKE this, probably because they think we are not DOING anything, but actually I think it’s because they realize it is ABOUT THEM rather than a pre-packaged box I must squeeze them into. The CYA thematic units help also just to have some test once a month or so.

    1. Tim has been finding great movie talk videos that are very different from any others that I have seen before. It has opened my eyes to the variety that we can have. He has one of a rescue of a building fire that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I think that these types of videos can pull in even more students and offer novelty.

      Thanks, Tim.

    1. Melissa sends them to me from time to time, those really good MT vids that Tim finds, and I will publish that list soon. Those are some great observations above, Tim, and I think that they will benefit lots of people. Those aren’t really DPS thematic units but mine, to be used as a smokescreen to make it look like I teach themes. I’m not sure where they even are now though, somewhere on this site I guess.

    2. I’m glad you said that, James. The Ten Minute Deal is an underrated power tool for us. It makes the kids know that they only have to focus for ten minutes, which is a lot better than fifty, and the quiz seals the deal on the success of those ten minutes. Then the change up, as you said, to Textivate or some reading, or a dictée which would be ideal for a bunch of snots.

  5. Movietalk. Novels. Scene-spinning. Dictée around scene-spinning. Picturetalk. Novel reading– input MUST vary. I bet even Blaine’s kids get bored of stories.

  6. Sometimes, it’s nice to let someone else do the teaching! And, the kids can tire of our voices no doubt. Check out ProfeTejeda’s youtube page. There are a few really nice 7-10 min videos. You can watch, then ask questions about the video, then take a quiz or type up the story (I don’t know if any of his podcasts having readings with them) and read with the kids. Have them re-write the story (first ask, “Do you think we need to watch it one more time?” because you’ll likely get them wanting to watch it again to better understand the story).

    Also, unless you’re doing tons of stuff around any given story, story-burnout is likely. Don’t do more than one in a week. Do the story, but after some nice weekend PQA on Monday (as Tim suggests above) with the structures you’ll be targeting (“What did you HEAR?” for example). If the story-asking process is a challenge, could it be due to some anxiety about starting it? If so, I’ve found that if I choose my actor ahead of time and ask them if they’re ok with being my actor, I have an easier time getting going. Then just make a statement, and go from there. (Sorry if I’m making it sound easier than it is, it’s certainly not easy, with 30 anxious teenagers staring at us and trying to figure out how to play the game, no, the many games, that they are dealing with at their age and in school). When I’ve done the story, or even one location, or even part of one location, I give myself permission to bring in a reading that parallels the story. From there, we can go back to our story, or just keep discussing the one we’re reading (If you’re using a Matava script or one of mine, check the categories to the right, you might find one that you can use, or email me and I’ll see if I have any for that particular story trippatmail2jimdotcom)

    If you can, get an illustration (film strip style) to use and project it on the overhead. Or draw one on the board. The illustrations should give you lots of mileage, because you can take the focus off of yourself and put it toward the drawing, and you don’t have to necessarily stick with the target structures, but rather can spin off onto questions about the characters’ hair, motives, etc. If you have the time and energy, type up the class story (completed by you all together or just by you… as long as it has your student names in it, it is probably personalized enough) and read and re-read. I’ve been liking “volleyball reading” which I learned this summer from Blaine and Von. It’s pretty straightforward and it’s a great way to get them reading the same stuff for several minutes with different partners.

    (Volleyball Reading: One partner reads the first line in TL. The other partner translates that sentence, then reads the next sentence in TL. The first partner translates that sentence then reads another sentence in TL. Repeat repeat. After a few minutes, I have them rotate partners. They start off wherever the partner who was earlier in the story left off. Let them know they will likely read the story a couple times, so they don’t stop when they’ve reached the end.)

    Kind of a wonky comment, but I hope it helps nonetheless.

    1. Many years back Jason Fritze was invited to a private school in New Jersey to reform the FL program and coach the new teachers. The parents had petitioned for a change, most traditional teachers were asked to leave, and Jason was hired to set the FL curriculum back on track.
      Profe Tejeda (who Jim mentions) was one of the teachers trained by Jason.

      A few years ago I was fortunate to go watch Profe (Juan) Tejeda, a talented and fine TCI teacher. It seemed though as if the TPRS enthusiasm had wained by then. The new FL director was skeptical, and the teachers had to use TPRS behind closed doors.

      I really should go visit Profe again and see how it all evolved…

  7. This sounds to me like it’s about novelty. It’s a fine skill to develop enough variety to keep their minds off the routine. As others have said, anything novel quickly becomes routine. I find that when the routine, whichever routine, starts to lose a little steam you can usually squeeze a bit more juice out of it just by throwing a little curve ball to them. This would be good for a beginner because you’re getting used to your own routine with the core of what you do.

    For example, give your actor one bizarre quality – There’s a girl. She’s got one gigantic, dirty tooth. Or, There’s a boy. He’s round, green and has one eye. His name is Wike Mizowski.

    then, if your actors are like mirrors, you can go back and point out that odd detail throughout the story and take their minds off the routine an doff the target structures for short little detours down different roads.

    So, by sticking a little longer with your routine, you force yhourself to stretch what you do and get better at it. In the meanwhile, you can pick another CI-delivery process like a novel, a dictado, a pictado… just pick one… and try that out a few times. Keep your balance and add one new trick at a time.

  8. I like Listen & Draw, which others above called Pictado. Instead of actors, you describe a scene. You can story-ask details of the scene in the same way as an acted story, but I find the visual focus helps. Plus, they ask for repeats because they are drawing the ideas — helps me stay reasonably paced. Also, sometimes the vocab lends itself better to drawing. I think having a concrete image helps a lot of students, too. I collect their pictures & grade it for including the details mentioned. A really sharp student could be asked also to write down the description if you have kids needing jobs because they are fast processors.

    I made some videos from class a couple weeks ago of this with my Chinese 4 class. Here’s the playlist, total about 23 minutes of video. I still need to caption it!

    1. Thanks for the video, Diane. I was able to watch just the first of the series. I’ll have to think about when I can do this Listen & Draw activity. Probably not right now. I think I need to teach more vocab first. More descriptive words in particular.

      1. As I was adding English subtitles to that first video clip, I was kind of amazed at how slow it seemed. I was going at the face-pace of my students, and though now it seems kind of boring to me to hear what we actually talked about, it really didn’t feel boring at the time. It felt relaxed. Those were new phrases for them; we’d only spent maybe 5 minutes the day before just introducing them and using them very briefly.

        Descriptive words do help, but they’re not always necessary. Sometimes it’s fun to see what kids draw when no guidance about just what the girl looks like (etc.) is given. I do Listen & Draw with level 1 pretty early on, a la: “He is Justin. Justin likes Chick-Fil-A. Justin wants to go to Chick-Fil-A, but he doesn’t have money. He cries.” That’s a late September storyline in Chinese 1. Later we look & discuss their pictures and that can be really fun.

    2. Diane I will add this to the videos list. Awesome! Did those kids have CI for their first three years? They must have, judging from their comprehension and output.

      The new teacher would do well to notice that when you come to the either/or part of the circling process at :20 you give the either/or hand signals. Your use of your hands and arms is masterful throughout the clip.

      If anybody thinks we squelch output, they should see the part of the second clip from :50 t0 :60 where you don’t say anything for a full ten seconds as you wait and allow the student to try to formulate the language. Most of us would want to show off and finish the sentence for the student. You are patient and you listen to him and when he tries to speak you put on the brakes and allow him in a completely unforced and natural way to do so.

      We also note that the first clip is almost six minutes long, but once you got on the thing about the mountains or lack of them in Cleveland, you didn’t leave it. You parked on that. Newer teachers to this might try to move more quickly through that. But once you asked the question, you stayed with it until it was understood.

      The reading in the third clip, I assume it’s ROA, is just badass. You read, then you spin a bit, and return to the text. It’s masterful and a great demo of how in my opinion we should be teaching reading. I think that readings from stories are better than reading novels.

      One last observation – your ability to stay out of English except when absolutely necessary is really good. What this does is create that unconscious flow that we need for real acquisition. When the flow is there, it becomes unconscious and thus it all works. Too much English when teaching reading or when doing a story are to be aggressively avoided, and I would bet that 99% of us don’t do that.

      And just one more thing. You seem so relaxed. This self effacement of the teacher ego in favor of the language is rare. Usually it’s about the teacher, and since so much of what students experience is visual (93%), they tend to “see” the teacher more than hear the language. But you get out of the way and the language is front and center. You seem happy and relaxed and that translates into the kids so how could they not absorb at a very high rate?

      1. Thanks, Ben! These are highly motivated students who’ve really bought into CI teaching this year. They had a mix based off the best (such as it is) Chinese text series I know about, Integrated Chinese. (At least it has some interesting, but far too little, reading.) Some of them had a lot of words in their heads through memorization but not a flow of language. They’ve made great progress in gaining a feel for language and just plain listening comprehension this fall.

        It’s nice to hear they seem advanced. I am eager to see how Chinese 4 students will be in future years after 3 years of CI with me.

        I’m aiming to finish subtitles on the second and third videos this week.

    1. I don’t think I have too much to add. I agree that novelty and variety are good. I need to go back into my bag of tricks too. As are dictations. I also wanted to request of we had any primers or information supporting circling as an excellent differentiation tool. One of my coworkers got poo-pooed when they mentioned it concerning an evaluation and we would like to more strongly back the statement up.

      1. Eric, when we ask a faster processor a questions, we may leave it open-ended (What did the boy say?). When we ask someone who needs that question put in a way that will make it more at their level, we will make it an either/or question (Did the boy say “I want cheese” or did he say “I want a taco”?), or we’ll ask the question the same way, but upon seeing that the student is struggling to answer, we’ll offer the answers in an either/or way (What did the boy say? “I want cheese” or “I want a taco”?). Or we’ll slow down or speed up the question, depending on processing ability. Or we’ll add gestures when we ask the slower processor versus not with the faster processor. Or we’ll make sure we point and pause for the former student while not finding that move necessary with the latter. Just a few for you…

          1. Those are great, but they are not quite meeting my need. Laurie’s is more about the process of how to circle and get repetitions (and is amazingly well-written), but this assistant principal is not a foreign language teacher. I could maybe try it however. And while Jim’s clearly expresses what we believe. I want something that may be more convincing to an outsider. I agree we shouldn’t need anything more than Jim lists, but I will see what this gets me. In the meantime if someone thinks of something else please let me know.

          2. I was hoping that Laurie’s comments could then be turned into fancy-sounding differentiation comments after each one. But… Laurie also has a version of the Danielson rubric with comments to show how circling-type discussion is differentiating and highly student-centered, right, Laurie? I had downloaded a copy a long while ago. Where is that posted?

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