Intro to passé composé: film story

As a new teacher to comprehensible input, I always wonder how much I’m impacting my students. Clearly, I am not doing a perfect job, but I hope that the strides I am making will help my students each day. One day, I’ll be totally 90%, but this first transition year is hard.

That’s one of the reasons I love stories so much. I worry that students aren’y getting the “grammar” they need, and that the vocabulary we’ve been working with this year has been a lot of the same. I look at my traditional-styled colleagues, who are well into preterite vs. imperfect in level two, and I wonder, “am I doing this wrong?” I have to constantly battle my “old” ways of thinking to remember what’s better for my students.

So, this week, as we head through a unit on entertainment, I’m hoping to talk about the Oscars, but before we do that, my students need to be exposed to a little bit of the past tense. What better way to intro with a story? And, what better introduction to past tense? On a Monday, students always want to share a) where they went, or b) what they watched/listened to/ate over the weekend, so I think this is the perfect combination of the two.

For this story, I’ve incorporated a short review of question words (in general) because we spent last week (two 2-hour delays, one full day, and mardi gras) reviewing questions words explicitly. I hope to just incorporate them from now on, and that students will catch on, and eventually be able to ask and answer a variety of questions on familiar and unfamiliar topics (one of my only memorized Ohio FL standards, and a great push into the murkiness that is the intermediate level.)

I’ve also included a review of “plus ______ (que)” a way to compare two things, since we’ll hopefully be comparing movies using the Oscars this week. I’m also looking into comparing the artists and winners from the Grammys, if I can find the appropriate resources (and who doesn’t want to talk about how Kanye insulted another artist this year?!)

Hopefully I can pool all of those resources in the coming week, and actually post my first mini-unit, a totally #fearless thing of me to do!

In this particular story, I’ll be using a boy from my class as the main character, Henri. I’m hoping that this will keep students intrigued, and I may even use a celebrity as the girl, Rosalie. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ve included the story script here, and as always, I’d love your feedback if you want to offer it! I always worry about the key structures; one day I’ll get the hang of choosing them!

Advertisements

Fearless – step 3: Post a story for all to see

Okay, so I said that I’d post my story here. And even though I’m still nervous to do so, I’m going to post it anyway. Constructive criticism is the best kind, right?! Right.

So, please remember that I’m a non-native speaker, and that I’m not perfect in any sense of the word. And that while TPRS does a great job of giving three completely random structures, I do not yet possess the same abilities.

This story is intended for year three, intermediate low speakers of French.

La sculpture magique! 

Structures:

Ca me fascine
J’ai déjà vu cette pièce d’art
Ca me fait sentir ____________

Un jour, Bob et Angélique sont allés au musée d’art avec leur classe de français. Ils sont allés au Louvre à Paris ! Pendant le tour du musée, Bob a vu une sculpture très célèbre : La Venus de Milo. « Oh la la, » dit Bob, « Ca me fascine. » « Vraiment ?! » dit Angélique, « Ca ne me fascine pas ! » « Pourquoi pas ? » dit Bob. « Parce que ca me fait sentir triste. »

Dans la prochaine salle, Bob et Angélique voient une peinture très célèbre : La Joconde ! « Ca me fascine » dit Angélique. « Je ne l’aime pas » dit Bob «  Ca me fait sentir étrange. Elle me regarde. » Et puis, quelqu’un dit, « Bonjour ! » Bob tourne, et Bob voit encore la Venus de Milo ! « Angélique, » dit Bob, « J’ai déjà vu cette pièce d’art … » Mais, quand Angelique tourne, la Venus de Milo n’est plus là. Angélique et Bob courent a une autre salle.

Dans la prochaine salle, Bob et Angélique voit des pièces d’art très grands « Ces pièces me fascinent » dit Bob. « Bonjour ! » quelqu’un dit. Puis, Angélique voit la sculpture, La Venus de Milo, derrière une autre pièce d’art. « BOB ! » dit Angélique, « J’ai déjà vue cette pièce d’art. » Mais, quand Bob tourne, la sculpture n’est pas la. « La sculpture est magique ! » dit Angélique. « Ca me fait sentir étrange. »

Bob et Angélique vont partir le musée après le tour. Ils montent le bus pour aller a la maison. « Le musée me fascine » dit Angélique. « Moi aussi. » dit Bob. Et tout en arrière du bus, Bob voit La Venus de Milo ! « Angélique ! La sculpture magique est dans le bus ! » Et Angélique voit la sculpture. « Bonjour » dit la Venus de Milo. « Ca va ? » …

There is intentionally no ending to the story because I plan to have my students make their own endings to tell who the statue is/why the statue is here. We will vote on the best one.

One of my biggest fears is that I write my stories too easy for my students, but I want to make sure that the language is accessible. I think I heard once that you should use 90% of known language, 10% new structures or cognates. Is there validity in that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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!

My first storytelling experience!

Whew. Today was a day of a lot of target language for me. This has me excited about the potential for storytelling in my classroom. Here are my immediate reflections:

  • I’m not very good at answering my own questions … maybe I should script fake answers?
  • Not sure on the best way to have students draw. Should they draw in frames, or on a whole sheet of paper with arrows?
  • Next time, they definitely need coloring supplies. I don’t know why I didn’t get them out today.
  • I need to review a list of cognates. Thinking of them on the spot is hard.
  • Today was a trial run, but I immediately see the need to have structures that are repetitive/new/intriguing for students.
  • How were kids STILL NOT paying attention to this?!

Okay! So the first story I told was with my French III class, who are more likely than not still novice high after two years of grammar-based instruction. We’re on a “Help Me!” unit about going to the doctor, etc. I want students to be able to narrate a story, in this case, what happened to you before you went to the doctor. So, Bob and his friend Jeff (who had no eyes or hair, btw) went to the movies with their friend Sylvestre who was a penguin. They ate tons of White Castle hamburgers, (apparently they sell those at the movie theatre in town?! GROSS!) getting sick, and throwing up, prompting a visit to the hospital. As was the pattern in most of my stories today, someone died.

In both of my novice French I classes, we’re in a “What do you like to do?!” unit. So we told a story about a guy named Pierre who didn’t like to go outside, was lazy, and only did inside activities. Then he met another girl and she loves to go outside! What should they do together?! In both stories, Pierre dies. In one story from being allergic to cats, in another for going outside to an amusement park. When he died in the second class, one of my kids who thinks my class is boring (see my last post) said “This is AWESOME.”

Things I learned from this experience:

  • I need to be clear that suggestions should be given in French
  • These kids, who think that they can’t understand anything spoken to them in French, did REALLY well.
  • Questioning is key. I don’t know what to do when there are lulls in the story, but questioning might fill those.
  • I definitely need to have a better outline in my head/drawn out before we go. It went much better with the second story that I did because I knew what should be coming next.

I’m still amazed by how many students talked to the person next to them, didn’t draw, stopped drawing and started reading, etc. How was telling a story where a guy dies STILL NOT ENGAGING for them? Is this my fault?

The last thing I’m really unsure about is how to stop extraneous talking during the story. It seems that everyone (ESPECIALLY my novices) needed to translate out loud, or say if they like that, or comment on my (terrible) drawing, or talk to their friend right now. How do I stop that? It’s probably my classroom management, working against me, once again.

Today was a scary day, but I didn’t chicken out, and my students seemed to respond well for the most part. This looks like it’s going to be the start of a great journey into storytelling. Plus, when I finalllllllllllllllllllly get my AppleTV for my classroom, I’ll be able to record my stories on an iPad app, so students that weren’t there can hear them fresh the first time, and I’ll be able to reflect and hear myself (bleck) and the things I needed to improve!

Do you have any advice for telling stories in class? What do you like to do for follow-up activities? How do you get those kids to stop commenting on everything, at least in English? I’d love to hear your input or advice … and I’ll be updating you on the storytelling process again soon.