Once upon a time there was a teacher who knew that the textbook just wasn’t fostering proficiency in her students but she didn’t know what to do differently.
One day, she attended a short workshop on storytelling that changed her life. Jeffrey the martian penguin and Garfield and Paco the cowboy who bought the horse from the clown became a common presence in her classroom. And students loved it. And students remembered it.
So, textbooks are flashy and boastful but they aren’t great, but they’re done. Someone else has done all the work and they’re just so easy to open and talk out of. Creating your own curriculum is hard. Recently I blogged about ways and more ways and still more ways you can make creating curriculum a little easier.
Still, ending up without a textbook is a big job that most teachers take a little at a time. What’s a baby step you can take outside your textbook? I think I’ll end up addressing that whole question in an e-book or at least a blog series but for now, here’s a big important one: Tell a story.
Recently on Twitter a teacher who had taken a workshop on TPRS and had the concept wanted to know what a first step could be for her to actually implement storytelling in the class. Here are my baby-step tips for telling your first story in class:
- Ask yourself what are we learning now? I encourage you to frame it as a proficiency task rather than a grammatical function. Studying past tenses? Refocus to narrating a story. Uses of ser? Refocus to describing myself and my friend.
- Think of a frame to a story that you could use to highlight your target features. Narrating a story? How about kids at a party when the lights went out from a big storm? Sketch the frame on paper.
- Leave lots of details not related to the target, or that fit in well with the target, that students could add themselves. Who was at the party? Let the students decide. Why did the lights go out? Maybe they’ll decide the ice cream truck crashed into a pole instead of using a storm. What were kids doing when the lights went out? Let them decide. When you tell the story, it will 1) keep them involved, 2) keep them motivated, and 3) give you lots of instant feedback on comprehension.
- Think about how you will draw the story. My students have to draw whatever I draw. You don’t have to be an artist – I have become an expert at stick figures! But illustrations help cement long-term memory and help avoid English use.
- Think about how you will highlight features. I often write vocabulary or, in particular, verb endings in a different color or in a different location on the timeline or with a shape drawn around it to get students to access patterns faster.
- Decide what supplemental activities will go with your story. A good storyline can last 4 or 5 class periods. Some ideas:
– Consider breaking the story into two parts to recycle or divide information
– Give a quiz asking for short answers in the TL and allowing students to use their vocabulary and their drawing. This will get students used to 1) paying attention and making sure they draw/write and 2) using and reusing and using more and more vocabulary.
– Look for a song you can use to work with the target even more. Ask me or @sraslb if you can’t think of one.
– Consider using a commercial to get students talking on the task even more.
– What about a game?
– What about a related corporate website?
– In the end, how can students use interpersonal, presentational, and/or interpretive communication to build accuracy and proficiency with this target?
Good luck with your baby steps. Before you know it, you’ll be running. El fin.
Foto credit: Fundación Cerezales