Assigning phrases

I told you about how we went through the word list and then I read with my advanced kids, pointing out the things they’d wanted me to focus on. Well, today I left my tiny post-it with my lesson “plans” on it at home, so I was staring at the advanced group hoping to either remember what I’d planned or that I’d come up with something good.

All the other classes’ story note pages were up on the board, so I left them up in an attempt to tread water until something came to me. We are also reading one hint a day on how to live a more effective life (I saw it in English on my yahoo page, googled the expression in Russian, and realized it was perfect for their level), so we started with that. By the time we’d read through the other classes’ stories, two kids were asking why we don’t do stories “like that” any more.

I stared at them for what seemed an eternity trying to figure out what to do, then wrote seven of the structures they’d requested on a white board. I assigned each one to a student by request (which sometimes came out funny: “I want to eat!” but I momentarily didn’t understand it was the phrase she wanted and got her some crackers) and explained that they were responsible for working them into the story as often as possible. I’ve done this before with rejoinders. It’s fun, but I’d forgotten to try it recently.

Chaos ensued. There were way too many loud sentences in Russian raining down on me, much faster than I could type. The kids responsible for phrases were blurting them out, and all the others were just trying to move the story their way. I chose whatever I heard that seemed most appropriate. In 14 minutes, we had a story started with all seven phrases. I think they all got in at least twice. And then the bell rang. I love TPRS.


7 responses to “Assigning phrases

  1. So were the advanced students working those phrases into lower level stories? I’m not clear as to where the story being adapted came from. I’ve got a Level I story I just spent awhile dressing up with various pictures (and that could be easily “complexified” (I kept struggling with lack of learned vocabulary while writing it) and I want to get a bit more mileage out of it.


    • Nope…today they were creating a new story. When I keep them from doing stories because they’re the advanced group, they miss doing it.

      But I did continually ask them to step it up to advanced-level phrases. When we read, “Do you have any girls?” they had to turn it into “You don’t happen to have any girls?” in a sort of contrastive grammar exercise. And wherever we had the sorts of grammar they asked to play with, I ran them through changes in perspective. They are a bit surprised to realize that they know their stuff.

      They really wanted to create their own story, so we started off with a girl who was a tree, but then she wanted to be a squirrel instead, and she had lost her ball, so she went to Chip and Dale…you know how that goes.

      My intermediates had written a story into their notebooks, so when they came up with their ideas for using the structures we wanted to repeat, I had them write them on a facing page and circle the words so that I could find them easily. Then this afternoon, I went through each notebook and added at least one of the ideas from each kid to what turned out to be four layers of story. Luckily a bunch of kids had duplicate ideas, so it wasn’t any more than that. I will take a trick from Laurie and have them stomp their feet or cheer quietly whenever we come to an addition they made as we read tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day: song, reading, birthday cards!!


      • Just one more thing, since “Level 1” only came into my head now. Could you add a bunch of cognate stuff to it to make it more interesting? Or add some of those sentence smoothers that won’t really change the meaning, but make it more real language?


  2. Michele,
    I did a perspective change activity today and don’t know how well it went. What do you do to help them practice changing from she to I for example?


  3. I have a story up on the projector, and say, “Let’s tell it from the point of view of the… Here, instead of saying ‘he went,’ we’re going to say ‘I went.’ Where it’s ‘his bicycle,’ we have to say ‘my bicycle.’ Where we said ‘He fell,’ we’re going to say [pause, in case anyone is getting it] ‘I fell.’ Where do we next need to make a change?”

    Or something like that. I model the first three or four, and write them all up on a nearby board. If there’s an irregular verb, I don’t make too big a deal out of it. Then we practice telling as a group, then in pairs. Really, you’re getting more reps out of the first version, because they have to read it, then think it, then change it. After that I ask if anyone wants to do it alone, and after that if someone wants to do it without looking. I prompt and help so that no one gets stuck, and I am most enthusiastic on each correct or near-correct answer. My kids love to re-tell from perspective, probably because I get so excited when they do it right.

    Let me know if that’s what you meant. There are many ways to do this, so if you didn’t do it this way, it certainly doesn’t mean you did it wrong. You just want them to eventually be able to change perspective easily. I think Susie said that she would practice changing perspective over a month.

    The other day my level ones were able to change eats from “he eats (on yest)” to “I eat (ya yem)” and could also say “she ate (ona yela)” and “he ate up (on c’yel).” I was very enthusiastic, because they knew this verb better than I personally did before TPRS–this method has helped us all!


  4. Thanks Michele
    I had written up a very short (9 sentences) story with the structures from our last group. I asked them to change the perspective but had them do it in written form. Some said it was helpful but some were a little lost. Also I went over all of them orally with them telling the changes but I didn’t collect the papers as I already have too many papers! In French it is so easy because of the 9 or 10 verbs I used only 4 or 5 had any changes at all! In Spanish they seem to get the “o” at the end of the verb thing with first person.

    I appreciate hearing about what you did and think I can do better next time. Also I am amazed at what a great job you do with Russian with all of it’s unusual changes! I think I need a refresher! I’m thinking about Punta Cana???? Maybe?
    Thanks again


    • Oh Ruth…I would love to go to Punta Cana… Luckily I have a bunch of colleagues who are hanging in there coming regularly to TPRS meetings. I don’t know what I’d do without them. They (and the parent classes) keep me feeling solid. Tonight I tried a week’s worth of lessons on my parents from the “wrong side of the bed” story. (The video is here: They put up with a broad swath of attempts and make it really fun. You are a pioneer, bravely managing on your own.

      I’m almost certain to go to NTPRS though. I’ve always wanted to go to Las Vegas, and could never bring myself to say so as we planned visits.


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