Using the lab for more reading/Movie Talk presentation

I am happy with the results of yesterday’s lab day. I put together multiple activities that encouraged kids to read the Alma story over and over. I set up a vocabulary quiz with the story above, and when they asked about word meanings, I said, “Just re-read the story, and I’m sure you’ll figure it out…but tell me if you still need help.” They would read and then they would smile. “Ohh…”

You may not know Russian, but you can understand the point of the quizzes and activities on this page.

Whenever a kid got an A on a quiz, I recorded that. It didn’t matter how many times they took the quiz.

In this posting, I’d also like to blow the MovieTalk horn a little. I am just home from our monthly TPRS/CI meeting, and I barged in and presented MovieTalk with a little video that I hadn’t actually prepared, because I’d left the one I’d intended to use at school. Luckily, I had used this one once, so I knew what was coming. (I also re-read MT directions for the millionth time.)

I explained that this is a technique ussed primarily for ESL, and that it hasn’t been tested much either in World Language classrooms, or indeed in levels below college. But it is perfect for our students, as very few of them rise above Intermediate Mid, the level to which MT is trying to bring students. I have been practicing with it this semester, and am still trying to work out how much time I can actually use it in a class period or over the course of a week, given that I also want a few of the alphabet skills to develop. I can absolutely say that I credit MovieTalk with the early strength my students show in Russian.

I felt very tentative, strutting my stuff without the usual support of vocabulary on the wall for the teachers, but as the time went by, I became more confident about how well the group was understanding.

The challenging part was the questions afterward. I definitely didn’t know all the answers. Do MovieTalk teachers also use reading? I didn’t think so. Do the students write? If they don’t, how is it that their reading skills improve so much while they’re doing MT? I was able to say that, at least in its “pure form,” MT doesn’t have an assessment piece. Still, when another teacher asked, I was able to give the group a mock T/F quiz, and it sounded as though they’d all have earned A’s.

There were some lights going off for people. One teacher has been trying to figure out how to teach a travel unit, and she said she would use a video. Others were talking about which movies they would use, and how they could show just pieces of them if other parts weren’t appropriate. I was able to share that the guidelilne is about 18 minutes of video in an hour of class. I had my own breakthrough, because I was able to add prediction into the video presentation. One teacher said that she’s been trying to figure out how to do this. She thought that kids would be totally bored by watching just moments of a video, but found herself completely interested in the little cartoon, wanting to know what happened next. She also said that it’s been hard in the past for her to learn Russian through TPRS, with the words on a page on the wall, but when she could see the video, the storyline was clear.

All that interest and feedback made me feel ever more certain that this is the right track. We can still personalize with MT. We may have to figure out how to keep HS kids from zoning, but on the other hand, we can help them have the picture in their minds in a much stronger way by using MovieTalk.

The group also suggested that we know who to invite next to present at the AFLA conference: Ashley Hastings! Since none of us is on the committee, we’re going to have to start making noise. Maybe the best thing would be to ask him first whether he’d be willing to come to Alaska in September or October.


2 responses to “Using the lab for more reading/Movie Talk presentation

  1. Thank you so much for the examples. You gave me ideas on how to use my lab with more focus on CI giving individual students processing time that they need for reading and vocabulary acquisition. Did you read this text with them beforehand or just threw them into it after verbal discussion of the Alma video?

    I also have been following your posts about the MovieTalk selfishly to see what comes out of it; I hope you’ll forgive me:) I have two questions. First question relates to the example on the web site: it uses narration only with simple yes/no questions. Do you also include a bit of circling here and there?

    The second question is much more important in my opinion – it is the same question that came up during your demonstration: how (if at all) does this method incorporate literacy. I can think of bunch of reading related activities related to the content of the video after the discussion is complete, but how do I transition to it if my students have never seen the words in print? This will be so much more difficult in your case with Cyrillic. I can think of one possibility that you graciously posted here sometime ago – a video example on teaching poetry demonstrated by a French teacher. One of the activities was to “read” the poem by pointing at the words on the board, but by then the students knew the poem by heart…

    For me this absence of print text is something that still bothersome – may be I’m just too used to it. However; young children acquire language completely without it but they do have more time to figure it all out. I guess, I’m too afraid that MovieTalk will not be comprehensible to some kids who will tune out and/or disrupt the class, especially if there’s not an accountability piece built into all this.

    Thank you again for sharing your experiences. And it seems like there’ll be a great gathering at ACTFL; I’m so jealous!


  2. Glad it helped! I always feel as though with examples from others, I can figure out what I want to do better. We did a parallel story first, and read that. Then we did very limited MT while Alma showed. I typed up three levels of the Alma story, and we read that (I can’t remember how much the beginners actually did as an entire group). Then we went to the lab and did those activities. I am finding that it takes way longer for real recognition to happen with some kids.

    So … yes … I am definitely including the printed part of the stories at this point. I can’t seem to convince myself that all will be well without it, especially because of the Cyrillic. It’s just different from ESL, where the students in question are surrounded by print in the same language that they’re learning. It may not really be as critical as I think, but like you, I think that older students might need the print more than young children. We just don’t have that much time.

    It would be fun to have some control groups and some experimental groups for a summer of three-hour days, wouldn’t it? I would have one group do just MT, and another group work with readings. In the notes on one of the articles about MT, I saw mention of a teacher who was going to report on results of what happened when MT was paired with pre-readings about the movie. I haven’t looked for that article, but that’s another thing to ask on the Focal Skills FB page. It’s an open group now, so everyone interested should join it.

    By the way, I appreciate your following the posts! It’s nice to know that there are others who are interested and wanting to experiment, as well as talk about how to help students acquire language most efficiently.


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