Category Archives: Visuals

A Picture is worth…

Just another classroom embedded reading story: we had been reading a piece about geography that grew every day in embedded reading style in Russian 1. One of my Russian Club volunteers dropped in to work on a project, so she made a Power Point of the geography piece. Up until now, we’ve been pointing at a map to explain what we’re talking about.

When I showed the Power Point, there was dead silence in the room. Suddenly the kids could visualize the places we were talking about. They want to go visit! I had forgotten that, to me, a map does it all. I can see the mountains, imagine the rivers, conjure the cities. A map is as dead as a piece of print to many kids, as it turns out.

Lesson 1 returns: use pictures!

iPevo document camera…new world!

I know some of you already have one of these, but I haven’t had one, and I do now. It took five minutes or less to open the disk, install it, and figure out how to work the camera, and I can see that my life is going to change…yee, haw!

It’s amazing to be able to slip a tiny picture that a kid drew under the camera and have it show up on the big screen. And then…I can take a picture of it and save it! We are going to be having even more fun now. I found some wonderful ads that I can show now, and there are pictures in old books, and …

That’s it for now! Our First Friday group is welcoming some Yupik instructors in half an hour, and I have to calm down.

PS If you haven’t been reading Laurie Clarcq lately, DO!! See the link on the right sidebar. You do not want to miss it.

Reading/Listening Comprehension Rubrics

Haiyun asked about rubrics for illustrations the other day, and now I’ve decided it’s an important topic to be able to find again, rather than getting lost in other posts.

Kara gave us the right wording for such a thing, reminding me at least that what we’re doing here is interpreting reading comprehension.

There are a number of different ways to assess reading, and doing it by means of a drawing is a little different. Here is a discussion that assesses reading fluency, mostly by speed. It gets back (without saying it) to that Ted Talk that Betsy sent about one-butt piano playing.

Here’s another rubric that talks about skills enhancing interpretation of reading, but it still won’t give us a way to assess drawings.

Here’s the rubric Haiyun found originally for drawings. I would use the “Words” and “Story Element” sections of the rubric. It’s pretty close to perfect, but as I mentioned, I don’t want a grade in my Russian class to reflect drawing ability. After reading Wormeli and Marzano, I also separate out issues of timeliness because they are behaviors, rather than demonstrations of language ability.

I looked on Bryce’s site for more, and I’ll scour a few other places in the next few days. If you find or develop something, I’d love to see it!

Here’s my adaptation of the rcampus rubric for a start.
Story-drawing rubric


GRRR!! Bryce made me post today!!

I am working on the final report for our NEA grant, and need a picture of Bryce, so I went to his website, and then I found that he’s posted some new stuff. You will want it. First, there’s the list of classroom jobs that I was going to share with you from my notes on his webinar, but hadn’t got around to it. That’s here.

Then I found his classroom posters. You’ll want them too.

I’m amazed by the TPRS community’s generosity. Bryce, you are AWESOME!

PS: Here’s one of my documents on that NEA grant. If you need to procrastinate, please go view the Prezi and let me know if it works. I’m afraid to push the “finalize” button.

Storytelling in Language Classrooms;
an NEA Learning and Leadership Grant


We collected pictures and responses to grant activities on one Prezi. The address for the Prezi is

Click on the link, and wait until the presentation is loaded. Then look for a faint “More” button on the bottom right of your screen. Hold it down and choose “Full screen.”

From there you can click on the forward arrow at the bottom of the screen to follow the presentation.

Thank you so much for making this grant possible!

More on poetry

We had our local TPRS meeting today.

The plan was to discuss out how to work teaching poetry into a TPRS classroom. It ended up being more about some of the nuts and bolts of teaching poems to kids who need to memorize them for a purpose. I Flip-videod our speaker, a former TPR textbook writer and current university mentor for student teachers in world language, not to mention a TPRS and CI supporter (and school-board member hopeful), as she gave us a great demo of introducing a poem through gestures. The links to the videos are in comments below. She asked why we like to teach poems; her main two of three ideas were culture, and confidence: kids like having something that can roll off their lips, and it doesn’t take too long to teach them.

She taught us the first couplet of a French poem very quickly through TPR. It was fun to see how easy that made the learning, even on a Friday afternoon.

We talked briefly about how gestures seem to really nail in meaning, but that the best thing is to use every possible way to assure comprehension and recall: pictures, gestures, stories, questions, jokes, general silliness. Nick mentioned how use of gestures goes down as fluency goes up.

I was planning to talk about adding the TPRS twist to poem instruction, but then others started adding truly awesome ideas. Kristin shared a Laurie-inspired drawing-fill-in. Kids listen to the poem being read, and fill in the blanks with pictures. They could also go through the initial stages of learning the poem and do this exercise later. There is a word/picture bank on the left side of the page. Laurie had shown that to us two AFLA conferences ago; part of what she demonstrated was playing a song and having kids fill in the blanks as they listened to it. It’s very powerful. As usual, Kristin jumps on these ideas and makes them her own. I’m glad for the reminder.

Kristin's poem fill-in

Then Sophie (or Virginie…someone can correct me; I’m depending on Betsy’s retelling of this because I was sitting too far away) shared how she creates a four-column page (landscape view) with the poem in the middle two columns, and with rows marked off by couplet. In the outer two columns, kids draw pictures so that they can use them to tell the poem, having folded the paper so that they can’t see the poem if they’re ready to use just pictures as support, but they can then still open and get a sneak peek at the poem as needed. I think that we could use that technique with critical structures on the inside and drawings on the outside for any story as well!

I must break in here and say that Karen’s little boy was getting passed from person to person as well so everyone could get a baby fix. He put up with it admirably! He only started to cry when she told us that she had to leave. What, you want your son to lose time with language input???

Tam then shared how, when kids have learned a poem through gestures but haven’t seen it yet, she puts all the words for a poem randomly on a grid to project onto her screen. The kids have heard that the class is going to be completely silent. She starts by pointing at the first word in the poem somewhere in the grid, then the next one, and keeps going until she’s pointed out the first line. Then she holds out the pointer to the kids, some of whom are already wanting to do the next line. Pretty soon the entire class has helped point out the poem and she can hand them a copy of the grid and they can “write” the poem. Tam says it’s a terrific way to fool the brain so that the brain thinks the activity is to put the poem in order, when really it’s a reading activity.

It was great to see everyone. I wish I could have been able to hear what the ideas were for assessment, since a couple of people were oohing and aahing on the other side of the table, but maybe someone will send me a summary of the ideas. I love our little community.

K. leaned way across the table to explain that I still hadn’t answered her question in the following letter. I left my explanations, thinking they might help someone, but it turned out that she was talking about what to do once having asked kids to draw pictures after a weekend, for example. I said that we would talk about them, circle information on the drawings, work them into a story, use them for later assessments, and so on. Maybe other people have more specific answers for her.

Here’s her original note:


A quick question. When you have students draw pictures, how do you use the pictures?
I am feeling very uninspired right now, or rather a failure at this TPRS thing this year. Good thing there is a lot of year left for improvement :o)

Hi K,

I use pictures in a number of ways.

I like to quote Laurie Clarcq: she says that the purpose of language is to form a picture in someone’s mind. Drawing pictures helps remind kids that they should have a mental picture whenever they hear or read something.

That being said, sometimes pictures are a way that I get to repeat the information more often. After we’ve done a story, I might have one kid draw at the board, and everyone else draws at their seat while I repeat the story. We might number four-six pictures and then retell the story out of order; they have to say which picture represents each part of the story. Then I might start pieces of the story and have kids finish or embellish a given picture. I might do a dictation with short sentences from the story and then have them identify which pictures went with which sentence.

Once the language is falling out of their mouths, they can get into groups and retell the story: if there are four kids, they retell it once with each one telling about one picture. Then they switch and a different kid starts, or they all try to add as much as they can to picture #2.

Sometimes I hand out a reading and ask them to do a mural with all the pieces there.

If someone has a phone, they take pictures for me and send them so that I can post them on our website (here’s an example, if it works.)

If you do embedded readings, here’s a post about another idea for using drawings

Don’t feel discouraged. You’re awesome for trying it! New stuff is always hard to implement, especially when we’ve taught and learned for so many years in other ways, and the kids have too.


(Note: I’m tagging this under “songs” because that way people can find it if they want to use the idea for teaching songs. Usually we don’t talk so much about teaching poetry in TPRS.)

Pictures are worth a lot

Today I started putting into practice the pre-reading that Carol Gaab demonstrated; it goes perfectly with the Scaffolding Literacy pre-reading phase. I used pictures to help show the meanings of words, and then talked about them with the kids. For “washes up,” I had a very comical morning guy, and it cracked the kids up. Here were third- and fourth-year kids who wanted to discuss how many legs it looked like he had (one, with two feet), and how many fingers (looked like six). We got a huge amount of mileage out of that picture, from using the target phrase about the kids’ habits to all the specifics of his appearance. Tomorrow I’m going to pull it up again and use it for kindergarten day somehow. I’m going to remember to throw in these silly pictures.

Now it has been kindergarten day; having written this yesterday, I forgot completely. Instead, we were doing many other kindergarten day activities and got kind of lost in them. One that might be of help to those who want to practice the “I” form is the same game we’ve mentioned earlier…everyone is in a circle with one chair too few. A kid stands in the middle and makes a personal statement. Everyone for whom that is true has to move. Whoever is left standing makes the next statement. I absolutely LOVE doing that game, and my kids had been begging for it since the beginning of the year. It’s a good once-a-quarter game.

Surfing dogs

I was searching for a good set of pictures to go with my intended structure for first year (he/she has), and found this funny set of photographs.

Maybe someone else will enjoy it too!

What’s working

Trying to stick to ten minutes again! I forgot that “rule” I set myself last year.

In the advanced class today, I led a discussion about two sentences from the short story that we’ve been reading in Scaffolding Literacy style. I managed to have a conversation about the sentences with only three words in English the whole period. Example of a part of the discussion: “This part of the sentence shows us what happened. It was sets up what happened. Class, which two words tell us what happened?” Oh my gosh. I couldn’t believe that I could simplify the language enough to do that. Then I went on to the part where the kids cut off the morphemes.

“There is an “o” here because it was. Class, why is there an o?” It turns out to be actually somewhat easy to do this with an advanced group. I need to videotape it. I could not believe how excited high school kids were to cut letters off. We finished discussing the grammar, in Russian, about two sentences. Then we went on and read another part of the story. Tomorrow, we’ll see whether kids can recombine the sentence. And they’ll do the modeling. It’s surprising to see how engaged they are. My grammar brain is happy because I’m actually teaching grammar, but all the kids are getting a big flow of comprehensible input. Guess what…when the bell rang (for an 85 minute class), they all gasped.

If I didn’t know how to do TPRS, I could not possibly do SL and stay in the target language. And if the kids hadn’t had TPRS, they couldn’t have understood what we were talking about for that time. This is positively thrilling.

In my intermediate class, we did the drawings in the top boxes/lower boxes as I’ve explained earlier for reporting a story, and that worked really well too, especially when I explained how the top row is what I want them all to be able to say/read/understand/write, and the stuff underneath is the details.

Out of time!

Pictures and assessment

Last week, Laurie and I came up with a new tweak in the drawing-pictures category as we taught embedded readings. I was trying to give people a visual of embedded stories, but Laurie immediately figured out the assessment and success potential of the system. Have I mentioned that Laurie is the most brilliant teacher I know?

Usually I have kids draw a picture across the board as we’re telling a story or reading one. That means all the events and additions are in consecutive order as we’ve added them…an important point. Laurie says her kids often do murals, which are an improvement on the consecutive pictures, so I will try them. The problem with consecutive pictures for the concrete thinkers is that if they run into something they don’t know, they stop instead of leaping over the picture and getting to something they can talk about.

With a mural, students point at the parts of the picture they can talk about, so they don’t get stumped by missing something. But then, given the reality of a classroom full of kids to assess, the teacher might have problems remembering what the target structures were and whether the kid hit them. If part of the assessment is demonstrating use of those structures, it’s also not obvious to the kid what they’re supposed to nail and what is cream on top.

Here’s a snapshot of what a consecutive set of pictures might look like for the story that follows:

So here goes. Set up in your mind a table with as many columns across as there are required structures. Let’s say the base/skeleton story with the critical structures is, “Laurie likes pizza. Michele looks at the pizza. Where did the pizza go?”

Your artist draws pictures across the top of three columns: one picture for each sentence so that when it comes to identifying the sentences as you read them or (later) the student is going to retell the story, the three structures are there on top like a rubric for both teacher and student: this is the required content.

Now, as you continue through the next level of the embedded reading, you add the details as they relate to each sentence underneath that picture. If your next sentence were “Michele also likes pizza,” the drawing would go in the first column, second box down. If another one were, “Laurie looks at Michele,” it could go in the middle column. Then you might add that “Michele likes chocolate pizza with lima beans,” and those details would again go into the first column, into another box below the first two.

As you add details about the story, the pictures fill in more and more boxes underneath the original story outline. When you are re-reading the story with the students, they have to point at the pictures, or even at details within those pictures, but they can’t just move their pencils across the page. They have to look at the pictures and figure out which ones relate. And when it comes to oral (or written) assessment, the teacher can judge to what extent they are exceeding the goals of a simple retell just by watching how often they dip below the target structures at the top of the page.

Here’s what that might look like:

Let me know if this makes sense (especially if you weren’t in our session at NTPRS). I think it has enormous potential as a means of assessment, and I want it to be clear for others.