Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A tale of two stories

Every once in a while, I go a little crazy and decide that output is important, valuable and worthwhile.  Yeah, I know. But like I said, I get that way sometimes.  I have shared many stories with you--I thought I would share a story of my defeat with you, too.

Vocab: nunca deja de jugar, le quitó, se divierte  (he never stops playing, took it away from him, he has fun).

I decided to start giving my students speaking grades (spur of the moment).  I decided to start the grades by telling a story and then having them retell it.

Neither one of those decisions were terribly bad in and of themselves.  Ready?

I decided to teach them the vocabulary without any circling or any PQA.

Yeah, I know.  Dumb.

My problem was that I felt pressed for time and didn't feel that I had the time to devote to all parts of TPRS.

I've been teaching with TPRS since 2000. You'd think I'd know better.

So I made a storyboard that showed a kid having fun with a WII.  He never stopped playing with his WII.  He stopped talking to his family, stopped studying, and stopped visiting his friends because he was having fun playing with his Wii.  His mom came to his dad's house and talked to him about the problem.  The dad said, "Take away his Wii."  The mom came home and took away his Wii.  He got very mad, but he started to study, started to talk with his mom, and started to visit his friends again.  He came to his mom and asked for his Wii.  His mom said "no".  Now John doesn't play with his Wii because his mom never stops playing with the Wii.

Okay, so yesterday (the day all my other classes did this), I went through the story section by section.  I would tell the box, ask questions about what I said, had them fill in the blanks about what I said, and then went one student at a time up the rows.  The first several students would say something that happened in the box and the last student would sum up.  It's actually not a bad way to introduce (or reinforce) retells.  But it didn't work at all--all day long.  Why?  The kids had no buy-in.  The story was completely mine, it wasn't a fable or other sort of story, and they were having to do too much work.  It just didn't work.  I hated the whole day and was exhausted at the end of it.

Today, I worked with my last class.  For some reason, they are one day behind everyone else, so today was their day.  I used the same idea, but with a big difference.  I let them embellish the skeleton.

There was a boy named Ray.  Clase, where did the boy live?  Did he have a girlfriend?  Why not?  etc. Ray had fun playing Wii.  What was his favorite game?  Mario Carts.  Zapatito (his name is Brogan and he wanted the Spanish equivalent of his name), what is your favorite game.  Class, did Ray play Mario Cart or 2K10 (or something like that.  When it comes to sports, I immediately go into brain freeze, and the students get a big kick out of it.)

Anyway, as you can see, the skeleton stayed the same and the students embellished it.  They had a much better time, so did I, and we still finished in about the same time.

Moral of the story--TPRS works, but only when you follow the rules.  Don't try to go off without the essential elements.  Otherwise, you create headaches for yourself, boredom for you kids, and an all around sorry atmosphere.  Who needs that?


  1. I enjoyed this story idea, thanks! I'll be teaching a university-level 101 class online this summer, so I'm trying to collect stories that work well w/certain chapters. This one was definitely an inspiration. :)


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