Now that I have been using Adriana Ramírez’ Learning Spanish With Comprehensible Input Storytelling for 10 weeks I thought I’d show how I use the text. At any point, if there is extra time, or we are bored, we take out our novel– Berto y sus Buenas Ideas, or whatever, and we read– guided and questioned by me– for 5-15 min.
Adriana’s teacher book has the historia básica– the story version we ask– and the preguntas personalizadas, along with a short list of the grammar “points” introduced in each story.
A) Photocopy the historia básica and the preguntas personalizadas and give the kids each a copy. I give my kids the historia básica in photocopy form because I want them to re-read a simple version of the story. The historia extendida and the comprehension questions are in the student book.
B) establish meaning– have kids write down Spanish words and English meanings in the student books.
C) ask the story, sticking fairly close to the historia básica. Add 1-2 parallel characters. Have 1-2 actors for the main story and have the parallel characters sit at their desks (with one prop each) to identify them. The beginning is always establishing lots of details about the characters.
D) Personalised questions and answers (PQA): ask the faster processors in class (just regular kids sitting there) the questions you ask the actors. Do this AFTER each actor has said his/her answer. E.g. If you narrate “the boy wants to speak Spanish,” ask the actor “do you want to speak Spanish?” Then ask the kids “do YOU want to speak ____?” For this I use whatever I ask actors plus the preguntas personalizadas in the teacher’s book (the kids also have copies of these).
E) When done, ask a thousand comp questions. Does the boy want to own a Ferrari? Does the girl want 10 blue cats or 20? I read sentences from the historia básica aloud and ask questions, and I also throw a TON of PQA into this. I will generally do the comp questions around the historia básica that I’ve copied and given them– I have found that another, very simple, re-reading of more or less exactly what was asked helps a lot.
F) Spend one block (75 min) reading the historia extendida aloud, asking zillions of questions, doing PQA, etc. This takes awhile, as the historia extendida typically has a bunch of new vocab (typically 15 or so words not in the asked/básica version of the story).
G) Do ping-pong reading of the historia extendida for about 15 min. Then give them 20 min to write the answers to the comprehension questions in the student book. I collect these and mark 3 questions/student for comprehension.
H) at this point, Adriana gives them one period to practise and perform the story– changing only names and places– but I have ditched this because the kids give me crappy output and retells do not seem to boost acquisition. Adriana is convinced it works– it definitely works for her and her kids– but I have not figured this out yet. I’ll keep ppl posted as hopefully Adriana can walk me through this for the 37th time (I am not a smurt guyy).
This is where I do MovieTalk and PictureTalk (Ben Slavic’s “Look and Discuss”). I will picturetalk 1-3 images that support the vocab from our story, and I’ll movietalk one video that does the same.
I) for homework, they have to either draw a 12-panel comic of the story, or copy and translate the story (the historia extendida). This is “deep reading” that really focuses them in on the story.
J) I sometimes “re-ask” the basic story super-quickly at some point (much less circling).
K) Test. First, speedwrite: they must write as many words as they can in 5 min. The topic will be either 1. describe yourself or 2. describe a picture I put on the overhead (this picture will be of a person who has possessions or characteristics of a character in the story).
Then we have a 5-min brain break.
Second, relaxed write. They have 35 min to re-write the story. They need 2 characters minimum, 4 dialogues central to the story, and they have to “twist” the story after our 3rd story. For the first two, they can just re-write the story. After that, they have to substantially change the story details.
L) I then give them the vocab etc (see A) for our next story.
Test and introducing new vocab takes 1 block.
1. If the kids like whatever we are doing, or reading,nand/or PQA takes off, I’ll spend as long as I can on this. If they are in the target language, and they understand, and there are zillions of reps, they are learning. Remember what Papa Blaine said: “My goal is to never finish a story.”
2. Another AWESOME thing to throw in are fake texts– easy to generate and personalise/customise for each story– kids like the visuals and you get loads more reps on the dialogue (this is the hardest thing to do– reps on dialogue). Just google “fake text generator” or try this one for iPhone texts.
3. Each class begins with me circling date, day, month, time and weather for about 1 min. This means that by end of five-month semester kids will know all weather, #s 1-30, days of the week, etc.
4. It’s crucially important to remember that you must do what works for you and your kids. Adriana and I and Natalia and everyone I know who uses this book (and T.P.R.S. in general) uses it differently. T.P.R.S. itself is now different than what Blaine Ray created– he himself continues to modify the method– so do your thing. As I told Adriana, her excellent book is a platform from which Spanish teaching launches. Adriana does retells; I don’t; both of us do assessment slightly differently, etc.
Ok there you have it, what I do.