Fearless – step 2: Listen to advice

Hi everyone! I can’t believe that it’s finally Saturday – even with only 4 days this school week and two of those days where we were delayed for weather, I thought this week was the longest week EVER! Much like that first sentence.

Since my post last year about storytelling, I’ve gotten really into it. My students are still on the fence, but I think that as I continue to do it, they’ll get used to it. Plus, I’ll get better with each story and soon it won’t be so painful for them.

My third story attempt was awhile ago and it just seemed to fall flat. The kids were bored with the story, and I have one specifically crazy class that cannot function if they don’t know the meaning of a word in English. It’s maddening trying to work with some of them. Anyway, I knew something was off, other than my beginner status, and by my 4th attempt, I had found it.

Circling. Circling, circling, circling, where have you BEEN all my life?! Okay, that’s silly: I know where it’s been. Circling has been out in plain view and I just chose to ignore it. I initially read about it from Martina Bex, but questioning is mentioned multiple times over at Musicuentos too! (two of many sources here and here) And instead, I ignored it.

“The questions can’t be that important,” I said. “I definitely don’t need to script questions; that’s a waste of time,” I declared. “You can’t ask a question that many times and expect students to pay attention,” I scoffed. “There’s no pattern to questions that will help students when storytelling,” I boasted. And I was wrong.

The last time I told a story, I decided to script my questions. I followed the circling technique to a T. I asked:

  • A question to which students answer yes
  • An either/or question
  • A question to which students answer no
  • A question with a question word (who, what, when, etc)
  • A personalized question (using new vocab, students had to answer about their lives)

And man, did it work. Did student pay better attention? Yes. Did students hear infinitely more repetitions of the target structures? Yes. Did I know if students understand what was happening as it was happening? Yes. And did student get a chance to interact with new vocabulary and structures? YES YES YES.

I’m actually really amazed at how simple it is to ask a series of questions, and how much better retention students had of those target structures than before. It was amazing, and I recommend it to anyone looking to either tell stories, or to increase the language they use with their students.

Monday, I’ll be telling a story to my level 3s about a magic statue that walks around an art museum. It seems silly, but I hope that they like it. Maybe when I finish the script, I’ll post it here (please encourage me to do so, or I’ll be too “scared” to do so)

Now my challenge to myself is to find great activities to work with after the story is over. I need extension activities, retelling activities, etc. What are your favorite activities for after stories? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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2 thoughts on “Fearless – step 2: Listen to advice

  1. I do retells, extended versions of the story (readings), t/f quizzes, and listening comprehension in which the students draw the story (usually a story slightly different from the class version). My French II class recently read a story (two levels of the same story so the advanced kid were challenged). Then I spilt the kids into groups (or partners) and they had whiteboards (plastic plates bc I’m not buying whiteboards). I made a statement and they had to be one of the first three groups to write vrai or faux. I picked one of the groups to explain their answer (in French for upper levels or advanced kids). They really loved it. It is more ‘fun’ than anything, but it was a good break from day to day class. I had student volunteers keep score, bc I cheat for the slower groups if I keep score.

    Thanks for writing your blog. I’m a fifth year teacher in my second year of comprehensible input teaching. It’s great to read the steps other people are taking to become better at CI.

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