Real Time Story Writing

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28 thoughts on “Real Time Story Writing”

  1. For all I know the readings and writing gains piling up in the kids’ minds may be like snow in Colorado right now. That is a lot of snow hopefully turning into lots of acquisition.
    I cannot wait to hear/see more of this idea!

  2. It’s amazing that we didn’t think of it before, because it is such a simple idea. Linda said that Chinese teachers can’t do it, of course, but in only two days of testing I can’t see the down side. It’s easier because I only get up from the computer when I feel like it.

    I do have to put my desk much closer to the kids and ride herd on them a bit more. And I don’t know if this would work with large classes (more than 24 is my definition of a class that is too large). The classroom rules and a firm resolve to ALLOW NO ENGLISH must be in place. Today we had a 21 minute run of L2 only and then a later one of 15 minutes. That’s about as much as one can expect. It felt like huge gains were happening in those two runs.

    The coolest part of this is that when I say it, after about ten reps, I write it, and they are quietly looking as the language appears magically before them. It’s the best way I can imagine of teaching reading and writing, through speech that is interesting to them, in real time, not later.

    And another cool thing about this is that I can insert (MacBook Air) the French accents right there and when I learn the short cuts it’ll be even faster. Plus I always color code the newest sentence. It just feels so cool to do that. And they all put up ten fingers when I asked if this was working for them.

    I’ve heard about all the snow in Denver. Not good for those who clean up the creamsicles in the backyard after their dogs. I guess one could wait for the spring thaw and then pretend like you’re on a beach in Mumbai. Talk about crappy patties!

    1. One option for larger classes is to get a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse so you could put them on a podium or higher table somewhere in the classroom where you are closer to your students. I have a wireless mouse for when I want to use the computer and I really like being able to choose where I want to be in the room while also being able to access images, videos, presentations, etc. I haven’t tried out using a wireless keyboard, but I’m definitely going to look into it.

  3. I would love to see this. I still feel so new at story-asking and I know I am working too hard, moving around the room, gesturing wildly, trying to keep up the energy and the engagement. I love the idea of calmly sitting and writing it up, and I know that some of my visual learners would get a lot out of seeing the story in text. Question, do you still have your actors acting out the story as it is being told?

    1. …do you still have your actors acting out the story as it is being told?….

      Hey Carly. Great question. I don’t know yet. What happened today was that when I was sitting down at the computer the clear overarching need in those moments was to keep the rules enforced, keeping the students at all costs, at ALL costs, in the L2, and when there are two actors up they tend to draw attention to themselves. So I moved them way out to the sides on their stools but where they weren’t blocking the view of the screen. They were almost sitting with the students – they had to see the story being projected. I used them when I needed them. Then, I would briefly leave the computer to establish a new fact and, once I had a lot of reps on it, the next sentence would (via all the reps) become clear to me that it was THAT sentence that I wanted to write up, and so I would go back to the computer to write the sentence. I would say I conducted class from the computer about 70% and did the old storytelling thing of walking around about 30% of the time. I hope that makes sense. This will evolve, even if it only the two of us evolving it. So stay in touch on this. This is not a fly by night idea, neither is the Invisibles idea. These are profound and permanent changes for me in how I do TPRS. Maybe. Invisibles – yes. Writing it while making it – on va voir.

      1. Of course this obviates the use of the story writer. It may bring back the quiz writer but it will have to be the right kid as we know. I have dumped the artist. I have never found an artist who can hear me and draw at the same time, or be distracted by the bells and whistles in the iPad or just on the large paper with the markers. I’ll have to update the jobs category on the site.

        An aside: our tech person keeps coming in with new tech ideas, stupid programs of how to build characters using certain websites, characters that can talk, junk like that that has no ability to interface meaningfully in a CI classroom. It is so stupid. I want to puke. I don’t know how long I can keep up the fake smile and the thank yous for the new ideas. The truth is that tech has very little place in this work. And it’s just so obvious why that is true. We are dealing with HUMAN INTERACTION in this work. Machines don’t get to play. I wish all the tech people who think that TPRS can be married to some tech new idea/app whatever, with the exception of Textivate and a few others, would just take a hike. They just don’t get our work. Nobody does.

        1. More ranting – we had a meeting today from K-12, all ten WL teachers on our campus. We did a whip around about what we were doing in our classrooms. I shared about the invisibles, Linda about using more YouTube clips in her teaching. Both comments were about making kids more involved. Zach was the same. Every other teacher talked about assessment or something focused on materials and data collection, not the kids. OK rant over.

        2. Speaking of technicians, here is a bit of trivia.

          Do you know why the 100-point grading scale (i.e. percentages) is so widespread?

          It did not become widespread until the early 1990s with the increasing use of computer programs to do grading. What computer programs were available? Programs that used percentages. Why percentages? Because computer technicians love them, so they write programs that incorporate them. There was no valid pedagogical reason to use this scale. In fact, given a standard deviation of error, using a 100-point scale on a 20-question quiz can miscalculate a student’s true knowledge by as much as two letter grades. A 5-, 4-, or 3-numerical value scale will actually produce more accurate results.

          There are lots more reasons why percentages are bogus. I just sent Ben an essay on A Short History of Grades. When he puts it up, you can see just how arbitrary and unpedagogical the current system is. It is also NOT the “traditional grading system” since it came into widespread use only in the 1900s. Before that, the traditional grading system was writing a descriptive narrative about the student; some schools are returning to this.

      2. I would like to try writing it up. I can see students loving this visual aid. My problem is I still need to use my projector to display some words for students who are absent so much that they still haven’t acquired words like “he” “she” “is” “there is” “likes”. This is my 8th week with my level ones. So, I simply don’t have the board space to display everything. I also don’t want to post words everywhere because it becomes too much. I am probably using too many words…

  4. Thanks for bringing this up, Ben. I have been toying with this idea of working through a story from the computer, too. I have a lot of students who are find it difficult to do anything productive unless they have pencil and paper in front of them. I also have difficulty keeping my boards clean. (I never have that problem when we do coaching from the heart in Maine.) So I am picturing it as a way to keep students engaged, my boards clean, and easily review /read what we have done.

    Unlike you, I have not tried it yet. I was reticent because of the idea you mentioned of being removed from the students (with me sitting instead of standing, and also of being another 10 feet from them.) So this is important to me you are telling us about this. Otherwise, I might have ended up having a good idea pass unused into oblivion.

  5. We have a million ideas, it seems, that have passed into oblivion. But they haven’t. They have morphed into what we are doing now. Keep the faith and soldier on. When we get a blockbuster new idea (we get one or two here every year) you can be sure I will tout it first and test it later. If it fails, fine.

    Anyway, Nathaniel, how big are your classes? That might be THE factor that makes this idea work or not. And also another factor is how each teacher’s management is. I have gotten very brazen, almost silly, about keeping them in the L2. I feel like Dr. Evil shushing Scott:

  6. I do this — but not during step 1 or 2. I “live type” a co-created story with the students as part of step 3 reading, so it is all in characters. We do something else for step 2. Last week I did this with Intermediate. We’d asked a story for step 2 one day, then the next day I asked again for an alternative version and I typed it up as we settled on ideas. Then at the end, we read it aloud together. That was their first time seeing those words in characters, but they knew them all from sound, having worked with them for 2 days focused on auditory input.

    I think it’s awesome for Chinese, because as I type, they see the pinyin on screen briefly as the characters are being chosen, so there’s a real-time link from phonetics to appearance. It seems like they have stronger reading ability at the end than when I prepare the reading in advance and went through it with something like Read & Discuss.

    Another way to live type: use pictures (maybe from Look & Discuss earlier in the week), and then type up captions live in class with the students the next day.

  7. Just today I did something like this. I now have a rolling stand-up cart with my computer on it, so it’s easy to go back and forth to the computer during class. Today there was a little mini-story that happened. During a break, one boy squirted water from his water bottle into another boy’s mouth. Did not spill a drop. So when we started class again, I talked with the class about it and circled a little bit, then quickly made a new slide and wrote it up as a little five-sentence story. We chorally translated it and then moved on. It was almost like a little brain break, judging from the gentle laughter and feeling of surprise in the room. I felt like SEEING the little story made a big difference, although I can’t prove it. Of course, making a big deal over these kinds of student antics is part of the reason that I struggle with discipline issues. But I’m working on it. I’m going to believe that there is a way to let them be kids, allow for surprise, talk about their antics, and still rock hard with acquisition. I know it has a lot to do with my own back bone, which is growing stronger and more supple by the day.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Different but similar is live ‘find and replace’ . Once there is a reading – however you got there – you can ask for a different character name, type of animal, change from a girl to a man, etc, change places – from Sushi Palace to Target, etc., and change actions – from flipping pancakes to breaking crayons, all with the “find and replace” option in Word. Viola – you create a parallel story in no time while they watch. They love it cuz it looks like (and is!) magic.
    As for creating the story then typing it in sentence at a time – I can’t wait to try it!

    1. My middle schoolers didn’t have the patience for changing details “live” with a reading, either, Lance — tried it once with 8th grade. They didn’t get what I was doing or why.

      Sometimes live typing as captions on their drawings or on photos or clip art worked, though. Those are engaging images, so it caught their attention as we spoke and as I typed.

  9. An important thing to consider is that the Creatures Who Live In This Classroom (the Invisibles described here last week) support the Real Time Story Writing process. I’m not sure that in the old TPRS way of making a story out of a “girl” or a “boy” (gets boring) I could get away with sitting at my computer and asking the story right there in class. But with the creatures the interest is so high that I can get away with it. Does that make sense?

  10. OK busted….

    I busted myself today on the third day of testing the real time idea of writing while asking the story. My prayer was to be able to do it without getting up from my chair at all – that was my motivation on that. I literally didn’t want to have to get up from my computer to create a story. And I really wanted the kids to be able to focus on the language as writing at the same time they were hearing it. That makes things so alive in those moments of creation!

    So the test on three full block classes today revealed the following:

    1. Stories need a story teller who is in front of the listeners, moving, gesturing, doing what storytellers have done probably since the first story. The storyteller must put the story as it is happening/being created first. What I was doing was putting the writing first. Linda told me this and I had to agree with her (again!) today. She gets the research in a way I can’t. I have to try and stumble. She – well, we all know how Linda asks a story; it is pure poetry.
    2. I think the next level of testing (Linda and Zach are coming to my classroom to observe and help me figure this out next week) is going to be 80% standing and 20% at the computer. Like I say, bustead….
    3. A cool thing to try might be to have the kids copy the story from the screen as I write it during those little breaks from the story. Does anyone have any experience with that? I like it. But maybe I don’t. I’ll find out next week.
    3. A problem not figured out yet is that since I always ask stories in the past I will want to write them in the past as well, but I can’t because French is loaded with accents in the past tense forms where the present is relatively free of accents. I’ll just have to write the story in the present – it’s all I can do since I lack the necessary time to write it in the past with all those accent marks.

    1. I have written it up for my levels two and three, and I find that while it takes me another few moments to enter the accent, that gives students a moment to let the words sink in, or if they are writing it gives them enough time to write.

  11. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Do you actually have to write in the accents if you have your computer set on Tools>Language>French? Doesn’t it accent for you and underline if not correct?
    Also, I am looking into voice to text -turns out we can do this on our MacBooks. Yesterday a tech guy at work showed me: You go into system prefs; you click on “Dictation and Speech” (a microphone icon); you switch it ‘on.’ You go to ‘Use Enhanced dictation’ so that the process is offline. Then you select French ,open this and talk away – and the words appear onscreen. I haven’t tried it in class yet. Looks a lot like talk to text on the iPhone, if you have other languages downloaded.
    So maybe you wouldn’t really have to sit down if you had a mobile keyboard (I don’t but a colleague does and I think I may get one!)
    Let me fool around w/it a bit and report back. Has anyone done live voice to text in class?

  12. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I bumped into the main district tech guy after the above post and told him that I was looking for the easiest way to do voice to text in the classroom. He said definitely through Google docs. You simply open up a new doc, under the “file’ tab, select your language, go to ‘Tools” and click on “voice typing.” A microphone icon will appear on the left margin. It says click to record” – you can also say ‘period’ or ‘next line.’ You’d have to be within microphone distance of the c’ter. I’ll play w/it and let y’all know…

  13. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Alas, I tried out these tools with the students – they loved coming up to my c’ter and reading a part of a story into the google doc to see if it would spit out the correct Spanish text. It was pretty good but we can’t figure out how to get the punctuation in. It punctuates in English but not in Spanish, no matter what way we say ‘period’ or ‘exclamation point.’ So maybe this isn’t ready for classroom use yet…
    The tech guy said he’s look into it, but I googled around and it looks like google hasn’t fixed this for languages other than English yet….

  14. Whatever happens with this, Alisa, we must move forward and if necessary wait for the technology to appear in the form we need it. I am meeting with my tech director next week for an extensive session on making this work in my classroom. She is very strong at this kind of thing and I will report back to you.

    This could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in TPRS ever, saving vast amounts of instructional minutes, not to mention work at home preparing readings, while also offering the kids the incalculable benefit of instantly seeing what they just heard. I’m surprised no one has mentioned this either here or over on the moretprs list, or on some blog. They must have!

    Does anyone know if there is talk about this idea anywhere in the vast expanding CI solar system, where it seems like a new planet is being discovered every day?

  15. I do it with a whiteboard. Just write it as I go. I asked you about this maybe 8, 9 ,10 years ago when I was first starting. I asked you if it was OK to write the story on the board as I went along. You said you didn’t see why not. I don’t always do it with kids, but I always do it with my adults.

  16. I brought it up on the blog a while back. I haven’t seen/heard abt it anywhere else. So far it looks like the Mac’s internal “Dictation and Speech” on the System Preferences thingie does a better job than Google docs. Also if you use your iPad instead (which is a pain for me) you can dictate in Pages by using the microphone icon. Yes I agree that speech to text could totally up the fun and streamline our process. Plus it could help us work on slowing down our speech, clear articulation, and going back over the text for typos. In other words, authentic ways and reasons to engage with the text! Fingers crossed there’s a workable way…

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