Toni Kellen

Ben’s blog had a Toni Kellen story on it the other day (http://www.benslavic.com/blog/?p=8687) and I used it in two classes of mostly Russian 1 kids. It was fun, but here’s what I learned (again): first of all, any story will adapt to any level. Second, just because it will adapt, it doesn’t mean you can make it really long in level 1. I’m trying to remember that my Russian 1 kids are dealing with new language, and when a story gets long and unwieldy, it is too much for them to remember. They lose interest. They need shorter stories with more repetition. The second time I told it was a lot more successful because I didn’t get out on any limbs. I also limited my actors (who are way too funny) by putting them into chairs at the front of the class.

It’s been a while since I have used anyone else’s stories, and I have to say…it was fun to have a great story with a trick ending that was just perfect.

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7 responses to “Toni Kellen

  1. I’m looking for the “like” button for this post. Wrong social network. 🙂

    I second the “chair”, as you know. Really helps contain them–in a good way. The reminder about “keeping it short and repetitive” idea with beginners is an important one to think about daily. Memory is very tricky for a beginner. The task of holding so much in the brain is difficult. The positive benefits of “story” start to diminish as the load becomes too great. Good reminder.

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  2. I’m very appreciative for your chair idea!! It works for me–

    Have you been to see Jason? I got inspired to rev up my actors on the basis of his workshop this summer. With me the extra emotional acting tends to backfire. I think he has young kids now, but he’s also taught older kids. Maybe I have a different tolerance level?

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    • What did Jason suggest?

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      • Where to start (five wonderful days of Jason, some of the notes for which I posted under reading here)…

        He does a lot with actors, always getting more out of them for dramatic effect. He uses the “rewind button” and the “pause button” and the “slow motion” button to get more reps in. It’s very effective. Especially when I’ve gone too fast, as I did with the first group yesterday, those techniques are appealing to me. But what happens is that when I ask for more emotion, better acting, and so on, I can’t keep it all in the kind of control that kids need to be able to also hear the language. I do “fire” actors who are DISTRacting, and that’s good sometimes because it makes for more reps, but I sometimes then lose those disgruntled unemployed actors, who are talking about how they did it better as they sit down.

        Maybe it’s just that it’s almost a full moon?

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  3. Susie Gross taught me the art of whispering. She does it frequently to help kids who are disruptive. This is my take on it with actors

    When I need them to “up” the emotion, acting, etc., I get really close to them, whisper in their ear, and say something like, ” I notice that you’re doing exactly what I’ve said to do which means you are really focusing on understanding my Russian. Impressive. AND NOW (not BUT) I need you to use your hands more, increase the volume of your voice, make your face livelier, whatever instruction you want to give them.” I then ask them, “Do you think you will be able do that or should I choose someone else? I really believe you are the right actor to have up here. What do you think? Can you do it?” 100% of the kids, to whom I have asked the last question, say yes, and then proceed to improve.

    If I get an actor who just wants kids to laugh at them, is distracting, is making obnoxious sounds for attention, being vulgar, or doing things that I haven’t said to do, I have a similar whispered conversation: “I notice that you are “fill in the blank”.” (I am neutral and blunt with them.) “I need you to “fill in the blank” or I will have to replace you. That would be terrible because I really want you to stay up here. Maybe you forgot the rules for acting up here. This is the last reminder.” —all delivered in my kindest, most understanding, compassionate whisper. VERY rarely has it not worked. If I have to “fire”, it is with a silent look in their direction and a thank you for their participation.

    The conversations are super-private. Of course, everyone wants to know what we’re talking about, but I don’t say anything in front of the class. There is something about the intrigue of super-quiet whispering and no loss of face for the perpetrator which seems to keep the disgruntle factor low. I still get what I need–a more focused and compliant actor.

    Susie’s a genius–as we know.

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  4. You are SO right!! I have been forgetting to whisper. You explain both tacks beautifully, and now that I’ve remembered the basics about shorter stories and not expecting both complexity and high-level vocabulary, I think I might be able to remember to whisper again.

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  5. Here’s that posting (which I am pretty sure I asked Toni to use–or at least the story part of it):

    Toni Kellen

    by Ben Slavic on November 16, 2010

    Here is a cool example of an embedded reading from Toni Kellen. I like its simplicity and clarity:

    Day 1: Tell story

    Target Vocab: – meets

    Joe meets a girl. Joe thinks that the girl he meets is very pretty. Joe thinks that she is pretty because she has white hair and Joe likes girls with white hair. The girl’s name is Betty (White). When Joe meets Betty, he says, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” But Betty doesn’t like Joe, so she says “It is NOT nice to meet you.” Joe is very upset and runs to the bathroom.

    Unfortunately, Joe runs to the girls’ bathroom. Fortunately, in the girls’ bathroom, Joe meets another girl. The girl that Joe meets does not have white hair, but she is very pretty. She says to Joe, “Hi, my name is Megan (Fox).” He says, “Hi, my name is Joe.” “It’s nice to meet you,” she says. Joe is very happy to meet Megan.

    Day 2: Read and Story Expansion Assignment

    -Type up the story for students, with several spaces between each sentence. That leaves room for students to write their additions.

    -In italics below are some sample additions to the story.

    Assignment

    Directions: Add at least 5 of the following phrases to expand the story. Highlight each of the phrases from the list that you add to the story. *(If this were a real assignment, the list of terms would probably be longer, and students would be required to use a greater number of them.)

    · although
    · is embarrassed
    · turns red
    · brown hair
    · yells
    · I like you
    · nice
    · mean
    · smiles
    · ugly
    · old

    Joe meets a girl.

    Joe thinks that the girl he meets is very pretty.

    Joe thinks that she is pretty because she has white hair and Joe likes girls with white hair. Although Betty is very old, Joe thinks she is very pretty.

    The girl’s name is Betty (White).

    When Joe meets Betty, he says, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

    But Betty doesn’t like Joe, so she says “It is NOT nice to meet you.” Betty is very mean. Joe is very embarrassed and turns red.

    Joe is very upset and runs to the bathroom.

    Unfortunately, Joe runs to the girls’ bathroom.

    Fortunately, in the girls’ bathroom, Joe meets another girl.

    The girl that Joe meets does not have white hair, but she is very pretty. She has brown hair.

    She says to Joe, “Hi, my name is Megan (Fox).”

    He says, “Hi, my name is Joe.”

    “It’s nice to meet you,” she says. Megan is very nice to Joe. Although Joe is very embarrassed that he walked into the girls’ bathroom, he is very happy to meet Megan. Joe smiles at Megan and tells her, “I like you.”

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