Stories Trump Novels in Reading

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33 thoughts on “Stories Trump Novels in Reading”

  1. Ben, I totally agree. One practical question: Approximately how many words are the written stories you create for Step 3? I am wondering how many words you are able to sit on for 2 full 50 minute classes. My instinct is to say it needs to be as short as possible and still fill up the time, but without being boring.

    1. …my instinct is to say it needs to be as short as possible and still fill up the time, but without being boring….

      This is really a much more accurate response to your own question than you may think. It’s really the answer to the question.

      What happens to me is that I can’t keep my own grammar man down when I write the readings. He intoduces far too much new stuff. Laurie and Michele have talked about how much new stuff to introduce and when to introduce it in readings. It is a very limited amount.

      I forget in the reading how hard all the new stuff is and I often thereby make the readings inaccessible bc I introduce too much complexity too fast.

      So your answer there is perfect – a small amount of new stuff, with lots of reps, then do another level of embedded text the next day if you want. A little at a time.

    1. Greg,

      I remember you said you watched the video I made of “le coureur”.
      The structures I was teaching were:

      Sort avec : goes out with
      La/le mate : checks him/her out
      Casse avec elle/lui : breaks up with him/her

      This is one of the stories I wrote for the next day. Remember that like Ben I do PQA in the present tense , I ask my stories in the past and I do the reading back in the present tense. The reading takes all my period ( 50 minutes).

      Le coureur

      Il y a un garçon qui s’appelle Randy Savage. Il y a une fille qui s’appelle Betty crocker. Randy Savage sort avec Betty Crocker et Betty Crocker sort avec Randy Savage. Betty et Randy sortent ensembles. Ils sortent ensembles depuis 2 mois déja! Ils sont heureux mais il y a un petit problème. Randy est coureur.
      Aujourd’hui c’est un jour spécial. C’est l’anniversaire de Betty crocker. Elle a 21 ans. Andy a 19 ans. Il est plus jeune que Betty de deux ans car il a 19 ans. Pour l’anniversaire de Betty, Randy décide d’aller à Buffalo Wild Wing. Ils sont à Buffalo Wild Wing et ils mangent des ailes de poulet. Randy en mange 1000 et Betty en mange une. Mais tout à coup Randy aperçoit Halle Berry. Comme Randy est très coureur, il la mate. Il la mate longuement et il la mate romantiquement. Halle Berry le mate aussi. Betty Crocker voit que Randy mate Halle et elle est d’abord choquée. Puis elle devient furieuse. Betty Crocker est très jalouse. Alors elle jette 5 ailes de poulet sur Randy et elle jette son verre d’eau sur Halle Berry. Betty Crocker casse avec Randy. Randy est content.

      Maintenant Randy sort avec Halle Berry. Ils sortent ensembles depuis 2 semaines déja ! Ils sont très heureux. Ils s’aiment. Mais Randy est toujours très coureur. Aujourd’hui c’est la Saint Valentin. Randy et Halle décident d’aller au cinéma voir une comédie romantique. Ils sont assis et ils mangent des popcorns, quand tout à coup Randy voit Angelina Jolie. Il la mate, il la mate longuement et romantiquement. Angie le mate aussi. Halle voit que Randy mate Angie. Halle est d’abord choquée puis elle devient furieuse. Halle est très jalouse, alors elle prend ses popcorns et elle les jette sur Angie. Angie rit. Halle casse avec Randy et comme Randy est très coureur, il est content.

      Maintenant Randy sort avec Angelina Jolie. Ils sortent ensembles depuis 2 jours déja ! Ils sont très heureux. Ils s’aiment. Ils sont très amoureux l’un de l’autre. Randy est toujours aussi coureur! Aujourd’hui c’est “Love Your Pet Day!” Randy et Angie décident d’aller à Petsmart. Ils sont à Petsmart et ils regardent les chiots. Les chiots sont très mignons, si mignons ! Quand tout à coup Randy voit un chihuahua. Randy mate le chihuahua et le chihuahua regarde Randy d’un air triste. Angelina voit que Randy mate le chihuahua et elle est très contente parce qu’Angie adore les animaux. Alors elle va à Toys R Us et elle achète un chihuahua rose en plastique pour Randy. Angie et Randy ne cassent pas. Aujourd’hui ils sont toujours ensemble!

      I add very few new vocab and I recycle a lot of old structures we’ve done in the past, as to not overwhelm them. It remains somewhat interesting b/c it is their stories and it’s easy to read b/c they ve heard the structures so many times.

      Hope that helps.

      1. I threw it into word and calculated around 450 words.

        I think my readings have been too short. I normally aim for around 200 words. And I teach on a block, so I always feel like it just goes too slow and there isn’t enough meat on the bone to get a good movie going in their heads.

        Maybe next time I’ll try for around 400 words and see how long that can go with the standard R&D template.

        1. Err on the side of less words, is my opinion, James. The one I offer below just has too much stuff in it. I would say that 20% of the text below about Rosie is totally new to my kids. That’s just too much.

      2. And now compare that simplicity in Sabrina’s story with the complexity I have put into this one, for a reading class I have prepared for Bryce and Lavinia today. It’s too complex for this level 2 class, and I knew that when I wrote it. I really have to learn to write simpler readings:

        Une fille, qui avait comme prénom Rosie, se trouvait, il y a quatorze mois, dans le train Rouen-Paris. C’était le soir, entre 6h15 et 6h30 (du soir).

        Le train était petit mais long – il avait quarante-et-un wagons. C’est long pour un petit train mais le train était Le Petit Train Qui Pouvait. Quand le train voulait faire quelque chose, comme monter une colline avec tous ses 41 wagons attachés, il respirait, il essayait, il se concentrait, et il réussissait! C’etait un petit engin de locomotive qui pouvait!

        Ce jour-là, Rosie était tres contente d’être dans un train si travailleur. Il n’y avait pas de problèmes. Une fois, à l’approche d’une très grande colline, au coucher du soleil, le train a respiré, il a essayé, il s’est concentré, et il a réussi parce qu’il le voulait et qu’il le pouvait, parce que c’était son intention de réussir.

        Mais, une heure après, juste après le coucher du soleil, vers 7h30 du soir, Il y a eu un problème. Rosie était dans le 34ième wagon. Elle ne l’avait pas remarqué auparavant, mais, assis en face d’elle il y avait un petit homme tout habillé en bleu qui lui ressemblait.

        Cet homme lui ressemblait beaucoup, surtout du visage. Rosie avait un grand nez crochu, et cet homme avait aussi un grand nez crochu. Rosie avait des yeux jaunes et minuscules, comme deux trous créés par quelqu’un qui avait fait pipi dans la neige, et cet homme avait aussi des yeux minuscules. Elle avait de très grandes dents… oh, vous comprenez l’image.

        Rosie essaya de ne pas regarder cet homme, mais puisqu’il était assis en face d’elle, et qu’il lui ressemblait tellement, il était difficile de ne pas le regarder. Elle a essayé, elle a essayé, mais n’a pas pu. Elle a échoué. C’était impossible . Finalement, l’homme lui a dit “Faut pas regarder!” Rosie a éternué pour donner tort à cet homme, mais l’homme avait le coeur dur, et Rosie s’est levée et s’en est allée dans un autre wagon, dans le 23ième wagon du petit train qui pouvait tout faire.

        Dans ce wagon, Rosie s’est assise devant un bébé qui la regardait. C’était un bébé qui ressemblait à Brad Pitt. Problème. Alors, cette fois-ci c’était au tour de Rosie de dire “Faut pas regarder!” Elle lui a dit: “Ne me regarde pas, bébé!” Il n’y a pas eu de réponse.

        Rosie et ce bébé qui ressemblait à Brad Pitt se sont regardés pendant deux heures. Rosie a essayé de ne pas le regarder, mais elle ne pouvait pas s’empêcher de le faire. Finalement, le bébé, tout en regardant Rosie, n’a pas pu s’empêcher de péter.

        La fille ne pouvait pas supporter ça alors elle a quitté le wagon.

        1. Ben, yours came in at around 450 words, too. I agree not to worry about word count, but it makes sense to compare these things every once and a while. I might try just a few more words next time and see what happens. We’ve been running out of steam when the readings are at the 200 word mark. Just my own observations of my classes at this time of year.

        2. I’ve become convinced that my until-now sometimes uncooperative 7th graders were pushed over the edge by readings that were much too hard for them. I wrote using words that they “should have known” from partial-CI instruction last year (which I now fully realize isn’t the case).

      3. Thanks Sabrina! So, the 3 “steps” of a story would be 1) PQA in present tense 2) asking the story in past tense then 3) doing a reading based on the story in present tense? Do I have that right? Just trying to clarify what people mean by the 3 steps…

        1. Greg, that sounds right to me: 1) PQA 2) Ask a story 3) Read a story

          But I tend to do tenses a bit differently. My Step 3 readings, for example, aren’t necessarily in present tense. During every step I use whatever tense is necessary according to the context. So PQA includes past tense if we are talking about the past. The story I ask in past tense, too, but question the actors in present tense. My Step 3 stories are actually normally in past tense, because that’s the normal tense for narrative, but they include present tense everywhere in dialogue and other special circumstances.

        2. Greg,

          Yes I do the reading in the present tense, just like Ben does. However, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I know some teachers who prefer to ask the story in the present tense and the reading in the past.
          And I have done reading in the past also. You have to see what fits the situation but as a rule of thumb that is the approach I take.
          Furthermore, I prefer to ask the story in the past b/c it mirrors how we do it in our real lives.

          So there are many ways to do readings and I know Ben has some templates on the blog as to how reading may be done.

          1) I usually break up the reading into paragraphs ( usually reflecting the 3 different locations) with more Rand D.

          2) Then we do choral translation,

          3) do pop up grammar,

          4) create parallel mini scenes and the possibilities are endless.

          5)For a follow up writing activity I ask them to add a 4th paragraph as per:

          Let us know if you need further explanation/clarification. As always I am happy to be able to help!

          1. One more question: would you have level one students add a 4th paragraph using writing? I could maybe see my French 1 students writing a paragraph, but only if the things being changed were limited to names/places and maybe the few nouns/adjectives they have acquired. Or maybe you are referring to upper level students? It’s just that I’ve gotten the idea that any writing at all is bad in level one…

          2. Greg,

            Yes I started asking my French 1 students to insert that 4th paragraph during the 2nd semester, after we had done tons of readings with the stories we did during 1st semester (may be 15) .
            So they had a lot of exposure already to input in the form of listening and reading.

            And yes, they have a copy of the written story in front of them, so really all they have to do is change the details, i.e names/places etc…. So in reality not much is being created in terms of output, but it gives them the impression they are writing, plus they get practice at it while copying verbatim most of the paragraph.

            After they are done, I read their paragraphs and when they are really cute and funny I read them out loud or put them on the overhead for the class and we get another shot at PQA and circling.

            Furthermore, If an administrator would come in, they’d be happy to see the kids writing .

            So anyway you look at it, it s a win-win.

            As for my French 2, I do the same activity but I ask them to write a little more and be more creative, although all the same is expected from them.

            Hope that helps.

  2. When you do stories of this length, do you do them over one day or two? My stories, like James tend to be only 250 words or less (I keep them that short, partially to keep them to just one page). Do you do the stories over two days?

    Also, although I have read Ben’s ideas on reading, I still feel like that part of the class does not flow very well. My kids are fine reading, and do it, but are not good about answering questions about it. The class just goes flat. Maybe lack of comprehension?

    When you say “do the reading by paragraphs” do you mean that you read the paragraph in L2 to them? or that they read it silently? (do they have copies, or are they just listening, or are they reading off a common projected text?). Do you do each of the steps by paragraph before moving on to the next paragraph?

    Obviously, I recognize that there is no one correct way to do it, but I feel like whatever I am doing falls flat, and would love to hear details about how others work it.

    1. David,

      Do you relate what happens in the story to the kids’ lives? I have been doing that for the first time for the past couple of weeks and it has been going awesomely. Of course the kids love to talk about themselves, so:

      Caecilius [a character in our book] had a dog a long time ago, but Susie [a student in our class] has a dog now. Caecilius had a dog named Cerberus in the city of Pompeii, but Susie has a dog named Bill in the city of St. Jospeh. According to story, Caecilius cursed at his dog because the dog was sleeping on the table. But Susie doesn’t curse at her dog, because her dog doesn’t sleep on her table. Susie loves her dog. Etc. Etc. Etc.

      And there is obviously tons of circling going on all throughout that.

    2. Though there is variation, Ben has a nice post about his ‘Reading Option A’, which is a nice template to follow for the reading of the story.

      I usually give them copies as well as project my text. And, yes, I go paragraph by paragraph. I think interest comes from comparing the reading to the kids’ lives — I always make sure to ask them about themselves in the L2 using the structures from the reading. I think this is essential to engagement.

    3. Hi David,

      My personal observations : if your kids can’t answer your questions whether in a reading, PQA or story , it is b/c they didn’t comprehend them:

      1) So either you are not going slow enough

      2) they need more time to process it

      3) they haven’t heard the structure(s) enough and therefore have not acquired it/them, needing more auditory input.

      The reading puts the auditory info into its written form. So they need time to process that also . Do you read the written story out loud and slow to them first so they make the sound/word connection/correspondence?

      I take at least 15 minutes for each paragraph and you can see my paragraphs, they are not that long. So first I read it loud, then I ask them questions.

      They’ve heard the questions already a ton the previous day while creating the story and the day before that doing the PQA. So I vary the questions.
      Some are familiar, “already heard the previous days kind of questions”, and some are novel questions as I create mini scene with parrallel characters using students in the class.

      When they are done with that part , then we are ready for the choral translation and pop up grammar. Often I don’t have time enough to finish the reading in one class and require part of the next period to do that.

      I forgot to say that after we are done with the reading , and before we do the writing, I plug my text into textivate (thanks to you Dave for bringing that idea to the blog) and do all the fun activities that are available.

      Hope it’s a little clearer.

    4. …my kids are fine reading, and do it, but are not good about answering questions about it. The class just goes flat. Maybe lack of comprehension?….

      That is what Susie said. The general party line response is that flat answers are due to lack of understanding. I think it is true. Make the questions really simple, with one word answers mostly. Don’t forget to tell them they are being graded. I know that you grade them on a daily basis with jGR, so just enforce that. If a kid reacts flatly to the simple questions you ask during the discussion of a reading from a story, just give them a 1 on jGR and see what they do the next day. I would like to hear more from you on this. It’s a good thread to keep going.

      I also fully agree what James says here about relating it all to the kids’ lives.

  3. I am new to TPRS/CI and have 2 classes: one of total beginners and 1 2nd year whose first year was old-school Spanish instruction.

    I do PQA in present tense. I occasionally step into past tense for max 1 thing. I do/ask my stories in past with dialogue inpresent. When I write the stories up– or use the Blaine materials from which the structures and general course shape come– I also use both (or sometimes 3) tenses.

    Today was hilarious with my 2nd years. We start class with “el chisme” (gossip) which (Michelle Metcalfe idea) is BRILLIANT for PQA and reps and generating stories at a whim and I asked “¿quién está embarazada?,” to which the class answered Halle Berry and then one of the boys in the class. Now, this boy, he’s gay (but not out), a brilliant actor and ham, and hilarious, and he was psyched to run with this. So we had a full 60 min of PQA around “está embarazado” , “le cambia los pañales a su hija,” and adjectives limpio, sucio etc. With this kid holding a rolled-up shirt to stand in for a baby, and a sheet of paper (with a brown smudge) for a diaper. The sheer hilarious weirdness of a pregnant boy got everybody tuned right in.

    On Mon, our story– after more PQA with quiere impresionar a, sabe que puede hacerlo, and va a tener una buena impresión– is gonna build around this pregnant boy and his daughter and how he wanted to impress a girl. Will ask in past tense.

    With these 2nd years, when I write the story up the day after asking it (past and peesent) I go HUGE with words…cos I can always throw in a ton of old vocab that they already have dialed. (E.g. Adjectives describing characters, what they like to do, etc) because if it’s already-known, reps will reinforce garammar stuff (eg adjective agreement/ position, 3rd person verbs). I don’t need to do a lot of circling of that stuff when we read together.

    I will however circle the crap out of the new targets and I will incorporate them into the story as both dialogue in present tense (e.g. “Jaime, ¿quieres impresionar a una chica?” — Si, quiero impresionar a…”) and as narration in past tense ( e.g. “Jaime estaba embarazado y también quería impresionar a una chica que se llamaba Toodles”).

    1. See this is it. I wish I could get that crazy. Must be my military school training. This is great stuff, Chris. Just don’t go too wide. “New targets” to me is code for “going out of bounds”. But, if they are all acquiring them then go for it. I just don’t think they can handle more than three new terms in one class period. And they are good at lying to us about what they are getting.

  4. Just a couple of thoughts:

    1. You can add length without new structures to your story by building questions into the written story.

    2. Our decision on what to do in which tense may be partially determined by the language we teach. German past tense works differently from Spanish past tense and is called the “narrative past”. It is simply natural to write a story using this tense, so most of my stories are written in the narrative past. German’s other past tense is the “conversational past”, so it crops up in oral conversation. As a result, I tend to do story asking in the present followed by review questions in the conversational past. Dialogue is, of course, in whatever tense feels natural.

    3. During PQA and general conversation, we should be using the tenses as they naturally occur. On Mondays, I do the soccer project, so we naturally use the past tense to talk about who won, who lost, who tied, who moved up, who moved down, etc. But we also look ahead to the following week, so we talk about who will win. And when we consider standings, points and goals, we use the present tense because that is what they have. Also on Mondays I will ask about how the weekend was, so again past tense. On Fridays I often ask what students will do on the coming weekend, so future tense again. (Of course, in German this sometimes is in the present tense because the language uses the present tense for “near future” events. There are fewer tenses in German than in English or Spanish.)

    4. Yes, definitely keep comparing what is written to students in the class.

  5. Since others have posted sample “Step 3 Readings” above, here’s one I made recently (236 words in Latin, which may be filled with mistakes b/c I didn’t learn via CI):

    Olivia erat montibus. Olivia in montibus volare vult. Olivia Keiferem conspexit. Keifer erat amicus Oliviae. Olivia Keiferem salutavit.
    Keifer rogavit, “cur tu tam tristis es, Olivia? in montibus es! montes magnopere amas.”
    Olivia erat tristis, quod draconem magnum non habebat. Olivia quoque erat irata. Olivia draconem magnum cupivit.
    igitur Olivia Keiferi dixit irata, “draconem magnum cupio.”
    Keifer respondit anxius, “eheu! draconem magnum non habeo.”
    postquam Keifer respondit, Olivia clamavit, “inveni mihi draconem magnum, mi amice! postquam draconem magnum invenisti, redi ad me. ego draconem magnum cupio nunc!”
    Keifer, qui draconem magnum non habebat, e montibus exiit. Keifer ad antrum contendit ut Draconem magnum inveniret. Keifer, postquam antrum intravit, diu circumspectavit.
    “eheu!” Keifer sibi dixit. “draconem magnum non video.” Keifer draconem magnum in antro non invenit.
    sed Olivia draconem magnum etiam cupivit. igitur Keifer, qui draconem magnum etiam non habebat, ad Oliviam non rediit.
    Keifer, qui Oliviam timebat, ad Wal-Mart contendit. Keifer, postquam Wal-Mart intravit, diu circumspectavit ut draconem magnum inveniret. Keifer multas dracones in Wal-Mart vidit. sed Keifer, qui paucam pecuniam habebat, draconem parvum emit. sic Keifer, draconem parvum portans, ad Oliviam rediit.
    Keifer, postquam Oliviam in montibus salutavit, ei draconem parvum dedit.
    Olivia, postquam draconem inspexit, clamavit iratissima, “hic non draco magnus, sed draco parvus est! tu es amicus stultissimus! cur tu, antequam draconem magnum invenisti, ad me rediisti? draconem parvum non cupivi. draconem magnum cupivi!”
    tum Keiferem Olivia pulsavit et draco parvus pulcherque consumit.

    1. The formatting has been butchered, but you’ll notice that I didn’t write this story in three distinct sections. I tend to write naturally and just let it flow. The three sections are there, but are split up among multiple, shorter paragraphs and conversations.

  6. I’m just gonna say it:

    Latin teachers are bad-assed mo-fos! It’s just SO AWESOME that ppl are teaching kids to speak Latin.

    Ppl should also note that Hebrew was a dead (literary) language– like Latin or Sanskrit– in the early 1800s. It was quite literally brought back to life by devoted Zionist teachers and now there are about 6,000,000 people in Israel speaking (a modernised version) of Hebrew. Cool, eh?

    1. Yes Chris,

      Learning Hebrew is THE BEST!

      I’ve been wanting to learn it for a long time and have tried using old fashion grammar type of approach a couple of times. Very frustrating to say the least. So I can read and write it but I have no idea what it all means. So during the winter break I asked on the TPRS list if anyone taught it doing TPRS/CI. I found a native Israeli woman named Bali who was willing to do it.

      So we started a class using a program similar to SKYPE once a week, Tuesday nights for an hour. And Dr. Krashen got interested so I invited him to join us. When we are a little more organized I will ask him to join us again. Ben lev from this blog is in that class with me.

      Our teacher rocks, she is a native israeli. It is an experiment right now but I think it’s going to work!

      Anybody interested in joining just let Ben Lev or myself know and you’re welcome to join us, I know our teacher (Bali) would love it!

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