Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
First, I identify "helpful" words (words that will increase story comprehension, but there is no goal to master/learn these specific words - the goal is to comprehend the overall story) and do TPR with them before the story. I don't mind having a large list - some of these words are review and most of the words will be easily understood in context with the story, actions, drawing, and writing on the board to help. This just breaks down some of that process so that students can focus more on the story while it's being told. I plan on doing TPR with these words a day before I actually tell the story (and they're high frequency, so I'll be using them anyway) and then reviewing right before the story to help prevent students getting mentally exhausted. I really want them to focus on enjoying the story when I tell it.
Prior to telling the story, I briefly discuss the title, setting, main characters, and basic conflict to students in English. This was an explicit recommendation from my ELA colleague. Not only does it build anticipation for what the story is about, but it scaffolds the story for students who might have more difficulty with listening comprehension (in general, not just in their second language). When students have a general idea of what they're listening for and what the story is generally about, I believe they're able to feel more confident (and therefore motivated) about understanding the story as well as hone in on important details without getting caught up on what they might be a little confused about. Remember, we're mainly talking about those kids that really, really struggle with reading and listening comprehension here no matter what language it's in.
Some students will benefit from graphic organizers for various reasons. This was another explicit recommendation from my ELA colleague. Some students who struggle with listening comprehension will benefit from having a concrete item to keep track of what they're comprehending and how it fits together. Other students simply feel better having it. As long as it doesn't interfere with comprehending the story, why should I deny them this resource? Of course, that means I need to be REALLY clear about what the graphic organizer is for and what I expect them to do because putting a paper in students' hands may lead them to treat the story like traditional school and focus on mastery rather than simply comprehending and enjoying the story. Here is my STORY graphic organizer that I use, inspired by this one developed for fiction story texts in ELA. I plan on telling students that comprehending and enjoying is the goal, so eventually I would like to help everyone get to the point that they don't need the graphic organizer. However, it's there just in case you feel like you need it. If you're understanding the story just fine, though, leave it alone. I will probably show students the reaction questions (below) so they know how they're being "evaluated" - or rather, how they're evaluating me and the story. I should note, too, that I plan on handing this out to everyone before the story in order to avoid calling attention to students who need it to help them follow the story. (An added benefit of using this particular graphic organizer is that it was inspired by ELA fiction text structure organizers, so you can check off the "Connections" standard box for the day!).
Next, I tell the story! For my novice and beginner stories, I divide my board up into squares that match the reading (below) and draw each scene in the square that corresponds with the reading. Like Dr. Mason, I write the Spanish and English on the board, but erase the English immediately and just leave the Spanish. Also like Dr. Mason, I elaborate and add details as needed to reinforce an illustrate the ideas - you will see this best by comparing the video of me telling the story to the reading afterward. The basic idea is that you communicate the same idea a number of ways, giving students more opportunities to understand what is happening while also providing rich and varied input. I draw my pictures (mine aren't very good, but they get the job done) and do a lot of acting with my body to illustrate what I am telling students. One of my own adaptations is the idea of "recycling", from TPRS, where I retell the entire story up to the current moment at certain points (where those points are depend on the story and the class). I may also ask for a thumbs up or down midway through to make sure I'm being comprehensible - sometimes I think I am but I'm not, so this gives me a chance to reset and salvage the story if needed. As I get more confident in my SL skills, I may eliminate this check.
Immediately after the story, I have students write a reaction. Their reaction is very open and could be any of the following - this year, I'm going to as for a one-paragraph response (5 sentences) and let my students choose which question(s) they want to respond to based on their experience: What was your favorite part of the story? What is something you would change about the story? What would you add to the story? What is something that helped you understand the story? What is something that made it hard to understand the story? (I may add/change this list over time). This is a quick exit ticket and achieves a few things: First, it gives me a quick glimpse into how I did. Thoughtful responses to the first three questions show me that students comprehended the story enough to evaluate it. That's pretty high up there on Bloom's taxonomy and shows evidence of higher level thinking. If students are answering these questions well, then we're doing great! The last two questions explicitly give students the opportunity to tell me what I'm doing well or need to improve on. If these are the questions that resonate with students, particularly if there's something that made it hard to understand the story, I know that I need to make some adjustments and even have some recommendations on what those adjustments should be. Finally, I am going to ask students to rate the story itself on a scale of 1-5. Was it one they enjoyed? Should I tell more stories like this? Should I use it for future students? Assuming students understood the story, this will help me know which types of stories resonate with particular classes and assist me in choosing future stories.
Then, I'm going to let the story rest for a day. A friend of mine is using the Waldorf method for homeschooling her children, which also uses story methods, and told me about how the method emphasizes incubation. Tell a story, and then let it sit and process for a day or two. From my own education and experience, this makes a lot of sense and has a lot of other benefits - by just telling the story, students can focus on enjoying it and not having to worry about what they're going to do with it later. It also gives me a chance to repeat the story and show students what they did learn. Finally, it ultimately gives me more time to work with a story since we're doing it in shorter chunks spread out over time. My plan this year is to let the story rest and move on to something else after completing the above steps. Then, a day or two later, I will put up our visual of the story (don't forget to take a picture of your board! This is a student job in my class) and retell it in a simple, straightforward way while pointing to the images students are already familiar with (I'm a big believer in using the same pictures for this particular retell, even if better ones are available. It will help students recall the details better since they're associated with those particular images). After retelling the story, I'll have students do a verbal retell in English (particularly helpful if a student was gone during the original story). Then, we can move to reading the story. I use a this format for reading so that students can connect what they're reading with the images we drew on the board. It also allows me to use the boxes for a variety of activities - what do I want students to put in the boxes - drawings, text, or...? Also, we can cut these apart and use them for ordering and matching activities.
At this point, I can do whatever activities I would typically do with a One Word Image, Super Mini Story, or a TPRS story. Are we going to act it out? Read it? How? There are so many options here, and what we do will depend on the individual class and story. But, now we've got a new resource!
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