12 Year Olds and CI

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38 thoughts on “12 Year Olds and CI”

  1. I use stories with all my grades, 3-8. The younger kids love the props, the dress-up, and the “acting.” (Acting is really more like putting a superstar in the “hot seat” and treating them like a CI prop). 3rd and 4th graders (30 minute periods) usually spend the entire class on one scene. I can keep the antsy youngins engaged with the student jobs and some call-and-response on the question words (¿Quién? – Hoo hoo!). I struggle more to keep the younger grades engaged with PQA, but I have had varying success with pre-prepared images to help PQA the structure. At the beginning of the year I do a little OWI, TPR, MovieTalk, magic, and some reading (R&D, textivate, IMT) with the youngest grades, but stories are 1 of the heavy hitters that I get to as early in the year as I can. Sometimes, storytelling, rather than storyasking, is the solution with the younger kids. I can retell the same story with different actors or with all the students in acting groups and get more reps.
    I use the same 10 classroom rules (derived from Ben’s) with all grades, but 5th grade and up get graded, so I can give jGR grades. Yet, actually, I haven’t had to give many jGR grades. While students love doing stories and they are probably the best CI method (I check more for understanding and tend to circle more during stories than MovieTalk), I haven’t done many yet this year. They require the most teacher energy for sure. Back from break, I have fallen into the following routine with grades 5-8:
    10-15m – SSR and R&D of an old class story
    5-7m – Reports (weather, fashion, etc.)
    5-7m – PQA 1 High Frequency Verb
    5-7m – PQA 1 High Frequency Verb
    5-10m – Quiz
    Since classes never start when scheduled and I’ll allow some transition time between activities, this routine takes the entire 54 minute period. Sometimes, we’ll have time for a Señor Wooly video. The PQA of a high frequency verb is a new thing I’m trying out. I want to improve my PQA skills and I want to make a conscious effort to give kids reps on the 50 highest frequency verbs. I have a timer give me 5 minutes and I have a counter. I have probably been averaging 40 reps in 5 minutes. My best this past week was 57 reps/5 minutes. Now that we have established meaning (gestures) for these verbs, we are all more aware of them and I can use them and use the gesture simultaneously to remind everyone of their meaning.
    Note: I want to share what happened in an 8th grade class: I had already said “conoce” about 35 times and a student then seriously asked me what the word meant. The sentence I used it in or the pace of my speech or intonation must have led to her not recognizing the word. Then, think about the low number of aural reps that a traditional class gives to the vocab it “teaches.” And that vocab only gets used in a couple of fake, impersonal situations. 5 minutes of a CI class probably equals or trumps a 50 minute traditional class (in fact, James Asher has studies finding TPR 10xs more effective than the grammar approach).
    Conclusion: Stories can work with younger kids, as can any step of TPRS, but maybe part of the secret to success is to keep the activities varied. At least, that has worked for me. My students also know that the class stories get added to folders used for SSR and I film, edit, and show a re-enactment of the best class stories.
    . . . I’m excited, because I recently got a mini-grant and will be purchasing sets of TPRS readers, so my classes can take a few weeks to read a novel!

  2. I have ages from 2 to 80, so I can experiment at the same time with all of them and notice differences.
    I have my elementary students one hour a week, and some kids I have had for five years. I’ve found that success with storytelling has much to do with the personality of the class.
    I have an amazing group of four 10 and 11 year olds that only started last spring but have so many in class jokes and such a great camaraderie that they just pounce on a story. Often our stories just naturally evolve from what happens in class. Like last week Nozomi walked to school in the rain and it was really windy and her umbrella snapped and she was holding only the handle. No need to embellish that one. I used it all week and many other classes liked it too. Now it’s a reading and using dates and weather etc. which should be boring but they are eating it up.
    That said I have one class that is like pulling teeth, and they have been that way since they were in first grade. ( they are 12 now.) They will make the most intricate drawings when I read a story to them, so I know they understand, but there is some very strange force that holds them back from expressing joy or just having fun with the language.
    Most of my classes are small enough that we can do the same story over and over just changing who is the main character. With the exception of the 12 year olds ( who I gave up long ago with acting ) the kids fight each other to be the star, and this happens even with first and second graders.
    With most groups it has taken a lot of training or norming to give them the skills to be successful. Even then some kids are naturally imaginative and want wacky and others are much more comfortable with stories that are more realistic.
    My jr, high kids 13-15 have loved Anne’s scripts, but we can also just talk for an hour about what they really got for Christmas, and where they really went….It amazes me that it stays interesting for them but it does.

    1. Martha as I read between the lines I can tell that you are in a genuine and authentic place with these kids, even that quiet class. I do very much agree with what you said here:
      …success with storytelling has much to do with the personality of the class….
      But it’s you as well. You have clearly found an indefinable quality in your interaction with them. Was that true back in 2010 when we met in CA? How has it changed since then?

      1. Hi Ben, Just saw this a year late.You ask if I was in an authentic place with my students in 2010. No I don’t think so. I think it took me a couple more years.
        How has it changed since then? Big question. I let go of the pressure I put on myself to do Carol Gaab’s stories, or follow some kind of external plan of any kind and I follow the kids interests and mine. I let go of feeling responsible for the behavior of say, the quiet kids. I wasn’t able to change them. I let them be quiet and we do mostly reading. The other kinds of behavior problems I did have have improved because of what I learn here, and keep adding to. ( Catharina’s magic door got some action this week.) I think what has changed is that I learned that being real was what I wanted to do, and that is how I can make a difference in their lives. And we learn English.

        1. I resonate strongly with two things you said, Martha:
          1. Letting go of the Gaab stories, etc. which are external training wheels (and certainly needed for new people – I used them for two years…) in favor of internal guidance in discussions about the kids and your interests. Man that is a big topic. This work is all about just hanging out in the language with the kids. Krashen’s work has given us full permission to do that – full permission. And yet so many of us look around under rocks for the right teaching trick. There are no tricks. I am finishing up a 380 page monster of an expanded version of Stepping Stones which outlines every CI strategy I ever invented or heard of. It’s not needed if we could just do what you describe above.
          2. I also really resonate with the tour de force insight to emotionally let go of feeling responsible for the quiet kids. You said, “I won’t be able to change them.” That is a big insight. It took me over 30 years to give myself permission to walk away from a day of teaching without feeling in some way inadequate because I couldn’t reach some kid who for whatever reason is hiding from people.

          1. Whew, you got it, it was the inadequate feeling that got in the way of being real. I felt a mild depression every day I went into my little school, not when I left like you did, and usually not durning class. It feels healthy now. The quiet class is in their last month. It makes me giddy just thinking about it, but I am doing my best to give them my real self too. I try to model normal, even if I don’t get much of a response. I started pulling out an old box of photos and let them choose one. They ask me questions about it and it sparks a bit of conversation. ( with other classes it sparks a lot.) Then we read. When class is over I know that I have done my best. I think Laurie has influenced me most over the years about this. We often don’t see how we influenced kids until years later. I don’t give up on anyone, but I don’t tie my self worth to their behavior. One the boys who gave me the most trouble when he was in elementary school, a blurter champion,(I had his mom come to class with him for two years) gradually became a delightful student and has just returned after a year break, a mature, creative gentle person. I look forward to class with him.

  3. …I struggle more to keep the younger grades engaged with PQA, but I have had varying success with pre-prepared images to help PQA the structure. ….
    So – pictures for younger kids. Thank you Eric. I have seen Leslie Davidson have really little kids just stand there holding a picture. They love it. Great idea.
    Stories can work with younger kids, as can any step of TPRS, but maybe part of the secret to success is to keep the activities varied.
    So varied activities, but they still can do stories. Yes. thank you again, Eric.
    …I haven’t had to give many jGR grades….
    I don’t imagine you would need to. I am not an expert with kids younger than 13, but it seems to me that they are still close enough to the days of wonder of childhood that using TPRS/CI with them can transport them and engage them, so jGR wouldn’t be at all necessary, as they are still not self conscious.
    Also you said this Eric:
    …I had already said “conoce” about 35 times and a student then seriously asked me what the word meant….
    Totally. That is what we don’t get. At least what I still don’t get. 35 times is a drop in the bucket of acquisition. It’s not enough.
    Other things I saw as powerful in this post:
    Filming stories and playing them back. Huge interest factor there.
    Also, assigning student jobs. That has got to work with younger kids.
    Great post Eric. I need to put your statements about doing five minutes of PQA on certain targeted verbs into a book or something. I know some people do that, but I never do, and since verbs drive language, and many have said this over the years here, we cannot get enough work with them.

  4. After reading about The Special Chair and thinking about Parallel Circling, I think I see where I went wrong:
    Class A (What I did last Friday)
    1. Establish meaning, TPR a bit, closed-eyes comprehension check
    2. Start PQA and try to extend it:
    Class, Brooke got a dragon for christmas! (circle, circle, circle)
    Class, Brooke got a rainbow dragon for christmas! (circle, circle, circle)
    Class, the dragon had 0 wings! (circle, circle, circle)
    Class B (What I wish I had done)
    1. Try out Eric’s 5 minute PQA technique around “got, received” to make it somewhat familiar.
    2. Start the PQA and extend it: Class, Brooke got a dragon for christmas! (circle, circle, circle)
    (Select a pupil to come sit in the Special Chair and be the dragon.)
    Dragon, what is your name/age/hometown/size/favorite food? (somewhat like an OWI break)
    Dragon, did Brooke get you for christmas?
    Class, who did Brooke get a dragon from? (circle into different facts – did Brooke want a dragon, what day did she get the dragon, was the dragon happy to be given to her, etc while verifying each fact with the dragon itself)
    *I feel Class B is what I should’ve done because the ‘dragon’ was acting as a focus for the rest of the class and would give the kids a more active role in the conversation instead of just supplying answers to the questions. Heck, I could’ve had regular mini-conversations with the ‘dragon,’ making them feel a bit more important and special.
    *I also feel like I’ve keep the scope so narrow when PQAing that I’m not stretching the scenes enough to keep up the momentum. I’ve been very wary of introducing too many new words at once; perhaps too wary. I imagine the right balance is learned through experience, much like the method itself?

  5. My students range from 9 through 14 years old.
    In my experience, they cannot thrive with the kind of stories that last throughout a class period (or more) and involve only 2 or 3 students as actors. It’s too long for them to sustain thought in one direction. Perhaps with a brain break in the middle – I didn’t attempt that – but I don’t plan to try it because of bad past experience. I really think that Blaine Ray and people who can make full-length, live actor stories work with this age range have something different from my situation that I can’t assess – me? my students? the school culture? I don’t know.
    Story-based things, though, are still always the best. Short scenes and short “stories” without too much plot, just descriptive situations, are very powerful. The Special Chair is marvelous. We make up things about the student in the chair, and I talk with that student sometimes to clarify facts, sometimes to tell them what the class said, sometimes to ask for a decision about a detail. These tend to be about 5-8 sentences of content, enough to hit the target structures as the main focus, ending with a retell by a volunteer student or something like that. It’s a regular rotation. Actors who act along with reading are great, too, with younger kids (age 9, 10, maybe 11). Not so much with 12 and up, I have found. Each class is different, too, as others have said.

    1. I still agree with my comments over a year later. Now that I’m teaching high school, I’ve retained the skittishness I gained about doing “normal” stories with actors because of my middle school kids. But guess what? Now it works in my classes, even with the freshmen. Amazes me every time. I don’t think it’s me that’s different, I think it’s developmental.
      I still don’t rely mainly on typical TPRS story creation because I like other CI and story-like activities, and I think providing visuals are great for every age (though the younger ones really seemed to require it for comprehension).

    1. Thank you for telling me that! I really had believed that he definitely had been working with 12-and-up students.
      It would have so helped me last fall (2012) to have avoided doing those kinds of stories with such young kids. True, it’s a bit easier to pull off with 8th graders, but why do something that needs to be “pulled off” against resistance (developmental and otherwise) instead of flows? Short scenes flow with them. I think that TPRS training needs to address this issue more than I’ve seen it do. Some kind of warning **do you teach children younger than 14?** then apply these principles with modifications. Maybe there just aren’t as many of us teaching elementary and middle school kids so it doesn’t come up as often?

      1. Angela Williams

        I also agree that full out stories with my elementary aged students are not very successfull. Because I only see each class once per week, I try to do more of Diane described as short scenes with 1 actor, 2 max. The students really like the “special attention” and are more apt to remember something about their classmates rather than just random facts about impersonal characters in a textbook.

  6. I don’t know if I can add much to the excellent comments from everyone above.
    It seems as if the younger the student the less they are able to converse, in the way that TPRS requires conversational skills. Since the young kids cannot fully express their thoughts in L2 they start to blurt in L1.
    Most kids much prefer talking to listening, and it’s a constant adjustment to sense when the group starts to go off track. I switch activities every 5 minutes or so to avoid overly chatty kids to highjack the conversation. Some kids speak in paragraphs -sometimes chapters-.

  7. Because of the short attention span in early elementary, we use a variety of ways to get the reps. Stories remain my main driving force, but I often spend more time on the extended activities than on the story itself. We might act out/ask a story for 15 mn, and spend 45 mins on activities related to the story.

      1. -Like many CI teachers I “recycle” the story while looking at a powerpoint slide-show of photos of our actors/ drawings made by the kids. I don’t add the text, but am considering doing that after seeing Leslie Davison’s iFLT video. I balance my laptop on my knees.
        -Sometimes the children draw the -details- of the story on a pre-drawn storyboard of 4-6 box grid. Jason Fritze demonstrated this at iFLT in Breckenridge. Fabulous idea with young kids.
        -A favorite of my students is retelling/asking using Playmobile/dollhouse furniture/action figures. The 3D visual effect, and miniature props is always a big hit. There is no touching until the -end- when each kid may help clean-up.
        -I use magnets to retell (like magic as 1 magnet is hidden)/ lots of velcro to add-remove pictures as we retell/draw the story /color in the details etc etc
        I find it easier to keep the children focused on the story through “activities”. I am still struggling with getting little kids to act. I am a terrible director. Love Jason Fritze’s idea of auditioning for the part. That’s been a huge hit. We use a director’s clapper board to get silence.The kids want me to get an Oscar, so we practice and practice. Their words, not mine.
        I don’t think you wanted me to be this detailed.(I could go on and on and on and drive everyone nuts.)

          1. Knowing -how- is key but -what- is important for my mental health. I will only walk into a room filled with 4 year olds knowing -what- we will talk about and -what- we will do. Only then can I relax, go with the flow and focus on -how-. I would love to challenge myself -even once- to walk in unprepared and see what happens. I’d probably panic, the kids would tie me to a chair and run amok.

          2. This is why you should receive a medal, you and Martha and Leslie and the others who work with that age group. It must be like herding cats, only mentally. Ouch.

          3. Catharina, I approach it so differently, but maybe it’s because I only have 6 at a time. I have all kinds of things I could do with them, none taking any prep. They come in we start and I listen to what they are saying, where they are excited, and that leads us in that direction. If they start to get antsy I change directions. I started to feel inadequate when I first read about your felt board stories. Then I let it go because they love acting and reading and talking about themselves. We all have to do what feels the best for us, and it is different for all of us. Only then when we’ve made a class that feels comfortable for us and the kids can we be free. My guess and experience is that it changes over time.

          4. I love reading your posts Martha. It sounds as if you are many years ahead of me on the TPRS journey. I am still learning to do more with less. When I mean prep, I mean pulling together pictures, maybe a slide-show of photos, some props for stories, pens etc I don’t have my own classroom and must plan ahead. I will think of your advice. I’ve heard that after enough years of practice it does become second nature. I am not there yet, and must still figure the -what- and the -how-. Acting has been tricky, it probably is “me” not directing properly the kids. And I don’t do any reading, only focus on listening and responding to questions.I will talk to Laurie this coming Friday, and maybe she could mentor me? Laurie?

          5. Catharina, I was trying to say that it is perfect that you do what makes you feel like they are not going to tie you up at the end of the day.I don’t think I am doing it right, only doing it right for me and my situation. I was thinking about the acting part, it is “acting” but so so so simple. Five little monkeys jumping on the bed. My kids make a bed, line up roll off one by one, jump on the bed, I call that acting. While I am reading, I stop talk about the pictures, ask questions until they force me to go on. I don’t know what I would do without books, they love them. I used to have a job like yours where I went room to room, I understand how hard that is.
            You are so lucky to be able to spend time with Laurie. She is so constant in encouraging us to be there for the kids and taking care and nurturing ourselves so we can do it well.

          6. As I understand it, there is no acting in CI. It’s just a word to describe propping up a kid to be someone or something in a story. Unless maybe it’s a silent story. But since they can’t speak, how can they act?

          7. Humm, maybe I’m calling it acting and it isn’t. I read the story and the class acts it out, doing what I am describing, what would that be? They aren’t talking, there is no dialog.

          8. Martha will be a great long-distance mentor and I’m happy to be the NYS one!!
            See you soon!
            with love,

          9. Martha it’s what you said:
            …I read the story and the class acts it out, doing what I am describing, what would that be? …
            That’s acting. They are props who do what you say happens in the story when you say it. I only wanted to make the point for new people that there is no theatrical acting, so sorry for the confusion.
            Now if you say he talks to the girl romantically, yeah. But they do what you say, not what they are thinking.

  8. I like the 14 and below warning Diane. Goes back to that thing about how they can pay attention for one minute for each year of life. Stories require, as Catharina said, the ability to interact in the back and forth human way and younger kids don’t have that piece down yet. Isn’t that what the whole Super Mini Stories discussion was about? It was about getting all levels primed for real stories in high school classes, yes, but I think there is an element to those mini-stories that they work just fine below 8th grade. I am happy that this group is starting to talk about the fine points of CI instruction at various levels. It needs to be discussed. What are best practices at what levels? Be specific. That kind of thing. We’re ready to discuss that now, mainly as a result of the initiative from Catharina and others who teach elementary like Martha to make it clear how worlds apart their work is from most of us. Really, they need a separate CI/TPRS national convention for elementary teachers. What Catharina has done that is so remarkable is to study CI so closely and then go in and make the adaptations necessary for the really young ones. So have others, of course, but in our group, since she contributes so much to the discussion here, we get to learn. Don’t forget, with every comment someone learns something, so that’s a hint.

    1. Matthew DuBroy

      I’ve also been using stories with 5th-8th graders. Sometimes I think the stories actually go better with the younger – say 5th and 6th than with the older kids – though it could certainly be personality or the “I’m too cool for this” attitude of the 7th and 8th graders. On the other hand the 5th and 6th graders are just excited about it and can get into it more. But I do struggle with the students blurting – especially English (I speak way too much English in class (but I’m improving)). I stop every time to alert them (I use rules that Bob Patrick came up with) and it does become difficult adding a new detail to the story. Often after adding the detail – half the class will be in an uproar about it (how could he eat that?! or he saw that person?!? no way!). I also agree that sometimes story-telling rather than story-asking might be easier especially at the beginning. These students don’t have the vocab to add things (we do use English for proper nouns sometimes).
      I’m very new at this – so take my experience above with a grain of salt – but with my more limited Latin ability stories seem to be a little bit easier for me because I can limit (through planning) more easily the words we use and even the forms we need. So maybe the other activities would be easier if I did them with these younger kids! But I’ve slowly moved from the stories to reading the stories and have just been talking about the stories (is that SOA?).

  9. What is of great importance here Matthew is that you are working with and through your own experience with these kids. Nothing in any book or that you can find here in the PLC can replace that.
    Since comprehension based teaching is alive, organic and ever-changing, there is no right way to do it. I am so proud to see you work through this, discovering, adjusting, monitoring, changing and growing. That is the nature of this work and why it takes so much courage to do it.
    I am excited to hear you say that about how the younger ones react to stories. In the eight years I spent doing this with middle school kids, the eighth graders were my most creative and responsive kids so I find it just great that you are able to get the younger ones to react as you describe above (those are great examples you gave like “How could he eat that?!).
    Now as you said and I certainly agree that the blurting is the biggest problem by far. Nothing new there, certainly.
    In the recent discussion here about how much L1 we allow ourselves to use in class, I have concluded that for me I need to be in the TL 99% of the time and the kids need to be prevented from any use of L1 whatsoever, except when we are just hanging out talking in limited amounts in L1, as all teachers do with their students because it’s fun and builds trust and a web of connectedness in the classroom.
    BUT can this be done, can 5th and 6th and 7th graders actually be kept from blurting? I know brain breaks would be a huge factor here. I would love to know what the group thinks about this for 11, 12 and 13 year olds. I think it can be done.

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