Embedded reading

I’m in the midst of copying Laurie’s movie-notes embedded reading plan. I’m typing up what the kids wrote about a movie and, by going from less to more advanced in the class, am getting a lot of material for them to read. I started in present tense, and so the last of the pieces will be in past tense. It’s really interesting to see that as kids mature in their language acquisition, they move into past tense.


6 responses to “Embedded reading

  1. I love all the possibilities embedded readings have to offer. I noticed, though, that you mention going from the present tense in the first (easiest) version to the present tense in the final version. That makes perfect sense to me. However, I never really understood why we are supposed to ask the story in the past tense and then write it in the present tense for the kids to read (as per Ben). To me, it makes so much more sense to ask the story in the present tense (as – in the kids’ minds – the events are happening right now) and then write/read it in the past tense. What am I not getting here?


    • Hi Brigitte,

      I don’t really understand the rationale, but I have a feeling it has to do with French spelling. In my case, I follow Katya’s Russian example a little more. She has everything in present tense but for a few words in past at first. Then when the past pops up, she teaches about it. “Mike wants a sandwich. He goes to Toys R Us. He bought a sandwich at Toys R Us.”

      For absolute beginners, I start in one tense and stay there for a while for stories, but feel free to ask my PQA questions in whatever tense makes most sense, doing pop-up grammar and just a few underlinings of endings to help them visually distinguish the endings. As time goes on, I have them retell from perspective, often changing tense. And then I do try to be in different tenses for different stories or articles, but it seems like it doesn’t need to be so rigid.

      I just thought it was really curious and somehow affirming of the research that my very mixed-level class would have the gradation from present to past tense as the level of writing improved.


  2. Michele, thanks so much. What you said makes a lot of sense, and that’s essentially how I’ve been doing it also. It never occurred to me that Ben’s rationale might have to do with the fact that he teaches French. I just always look to him as the authority on all things TCI and never question his reasons for doing what he is doing. I’m so glad I asked you this question.
    Thanks again!


  3. As a French teacher, I don’t follow Ben’s pattern because I want to establish solid pronunciation of present. In French, many final consonants are silent, and I have to food them with correct versions in listening so they “get rid of” English interference. (in “il parle” = he speaks, “e” in “parle” is silent) This is also true for the students who (unfortunately) learned infinitives in middle school (parler = to talk) where the endings are pronounced. Once they have the present pronunciation settled firmly in their heads, I get to past a little bit at a time: little grammar pop-up, a few sentences in story, “It snowed” for daily weather, etc.

    For now, that’s my game plan. I may change it later. I think, doing what makes sense to you and the kids who are in from of you is the most important thing.


    • Natalia,
      I agree with you. I have not done much with the past tense yet (in first year) but when I do I will do stories in the present and re-tells and readings in the past. I am working to make sure they have a handle on having and going before we talk about using having (part of the past tense in French) done something in the past or going to do something in the near future. I don’t claim to be any authority so it’s just my thoughts. There are so many ideas out there. It’s great we inspire and share with each other but I think there is room for personal fit and making decisions that work best for you. (And to Brigitte, questioning is good. Trust in what you see as working for you.)

      I think kids really struggle to get the past tense. I communicated with Susie recently and she feels it takes them at least 2 years to really begin to get confident with the past tenses. My second year kids are doing O.K. I always feel it’s me that has not done enough for them. That’s my insecurities speaking! But I know they acquire, understand, read and speak more French than they ever did pre CI.


  4. I agree, Natalia. I think that part of Ben’s insistence was just so that we really did understand that we need to be using all the tenses, naturally, just as we would in talking with young children. The difference is, of course, that our students get so much less time with us and so much less language aimed directly at them. At least TPRS finds a happy medium–that of going with a class “flow” so that kids are motivated in a group.

    At the beginning of storytelling, it’s easy to fall into just one tense, and just that hard to conceive of switching tenses. We’re sure the kids aren’t going to understand, because the other tenses were formerly put off to the next year of study! Isn’t that crazy to even think about now! Switching between tenses as we go from telling to reading is a helpful way to remind ourselves to do this every day, but I felt that kids needed to see both tenses in writing.


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