Stealing story

This post is LONG because I wanted to tell about two different classes today (85 minutes each; I also teach two classes of English). It seems as though I’m learning some aspects of TPRS/CI in a deeper way.

Period 3: We have this ongoing story of the girl who has now stolen candy (played by a white board marker) from the Chevron station, and a banana (played by a plastic bear…who says you need real props) from Brad Pitt’s house. She went to jail for the candy offense and to Olive Garden for the banana offense. She escaped from jail with something metallic and from the restaurant with something tasty.

This morning, because I have my list of last quarter’s verbs up on the wall, I was able to look over and on second telling add in many structures: went to, saw, said, looks for, wants…and even got a chorus of “Oh my gosh!” into the telling, with one kid identified as the “Oh my gosh” blurter.

Things are much improved in this class, for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m finally cracking down on the kid who is so ADD that he disrupts continuously. I try to change activities and hand him extra jobs, but now I’m following up better on his behavior. It takes time to call and write mom, and keeps me from lots of things I’d rather do when I have to hold him in at lunch, but it seems as though the rest of the kids appreciate it, and now the class is going better. Yeah, I know. Discipline before instruction…I can hear Susie’s voice loud and clear. But for another positive piece, I got two new girls who are just awesome. They work well in the class, giggling when something is funny and showing that they understand things.

I finally felt like I could do a little acting coaching. We did a lot of repetitions, and one second-year kid was able to retell the story amazingly well. We had sound effects for “tasty,” because it was a new word, and we worked in a number of cognates.

To take a teacher break, I had the kids copy the vocabulary off the board before I erased it, and then we started drawing the story. Unfortunately the Smart board didn’t work, but it turned out that the kids were doing a great job of drawing anyway. The period ended before we could get to the third location.

SLOW. This is the first time I’ve ever had a story go over three days. I hope we can finish it tomorrow, when we will probably add personal information to it so that the kids can tell more about the girl. Then we’ll switch perspective. I think this story is going to be the source of reading and writing for at least another week to follow.


Now I just taught another class, and had an ah-ha moment. It’s the class that I posted the plans for yesterday, plans which are still not complete because of a few tangents. The first tangent was that the kids acted out the story that the previous class had on the board. (You want to do fun stuff in Russian? Wow. What a concept.)

Then there was a delay as the song wouldn’t load, so we talked about it a while instead of just singing.

Then the kids finally spent ten minutes reading and making their murals of whatever level of the embedded reading text they’d chosen. I had told them in advance that we were going to use it for retelling the story of the movie. As they finished, I wrote a few target structures on the board and asked them to make sure they had a drawing that would remind them to use those words. I had two lists…one for the level 2 kids and one for the level 3-4 kids. Then I told them that one person in the pair would be reading the text, ready to “spot” (like in weightlifting) the other if they needed help, while the other would be using the pictures in the mural to tell the story. After just a couple of minutes when they were all talking, I ran to get some stickers (Susie style) to be able to reward the great “spotters.” This was amazing. Embedded readings are obviously great for kids to stretch their reading, but now it gave me a way to differentiate easily. Some kids had done murals for version 3, and others were working on version 6. The partners were having to skim higher levels sometimes. Where they skimmed lower levels, I could hear them making grammar corrections. The whole class was telling stories and reading for about 20 minutes. I didn’t want to stop them!

I feel like I’m learning a bunch about how repetition strengthens output. Well duh! Honestly, it’s just so clear to me that I pushed through stuff too quickly last semester. These kids all surprised me by what they were able to do in the retelling of the story. But look at all these repetitions: pre-told the movie, watched the movie, wrote about the movie, read about the movie, read the piece to parents, re-read for a mural, then re-read as others told so as to spot. The vocabulary is getting into their heads!


2 responses to “Stealing story

  1. Michele, this sounds amazing! So thorough and well thought out. Can’t tell if I’m more in awe, jealous, or just wanting to be in your class 🙂 Thank you so much for blogging so diligently, you’re a gem.


    • Thanks, Diana! I must admit that it just happened, because I got more relaxed, or something. I’m not trying to push as hard as I was. It’s not really organization, more like thinking, “What could we do with this next?” One of the things I love about TPRS is that there is always another option and something else to do.


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