I’ve been using my colleague Adriana Ramírez’ Learning Spanish With Comprehensible Input Theough Stroytelling. We are now 16 weeks into the semester and finals will be in 2 days. We just finished asking and reading the 8th story– a story which I asked in present tense but whose reading is in full mixed past tenses (totally unsheltered grammar).
Here are the stats from most recent exam:
A) speedwrite: wordcount down slightly to around 75 and grammar down slightly to around 2.2/3.
B) relaxed write– retell most recent story, with variation– wordcount average around 450 and grammar around 2.5
First, I was anticipating a total mess with the verbs, as all stories till now have been in present. However, this was not nearly as bad as I had expected. The slower processors had problems oscillating between tenses, but 2/3 of kids did fine. The dialogues in the stories were fine too– most dialogue is in present tense anyway so no big changes.
This year because of the strike, our semester was two weeks shorter. I went reasonably quickly but I think with two more weeks I could have gotten through at least one more story (and more reading) = more exposure to past tenses and other grammar stuff.
Second, wordcount and grammar for the speedwrite (they had 5 mins to describe a picture of a girl waking up to an alarm clock) went down. This is because a picture is somewhat more ambiguous than a story and I felt like for a lot of kids the new vocab (past tense verbs) was freshest in their minds and so they just kind of threw it in there. I am not super-worried about this, as with time– and a lot of pop-ups– things will clarify.
Third, wordcount stopped going up for relaxed writes. This was I think mostly to do with processing with new grammar (past tense). There were a lot of crossed-out verbs etc on the faster processors’ papers– their conscious minds were kicking in– while with the slower ones there were more mistakes.
The book has worked pretty well. The stories are generally good (though I can’t make some of them work e.g. the Hawaian Genie…which ironically Adriana tells me is her kids’ favorite– go figure) and the vocab is nicely organised to recycle. Adriana tells me the next step is to publish a second edition with past tense (and other verb tense) versions but that’s a ways off.
Overall the book is pretty good. Unlike the Blaine Ray books, this one seems better organised (Look, I Can Talk have great ideas but I have not been able to make them work for me). Gaab’s Cuéntame series is also good but to me the exercsises seem overkill (However, this is what a lot of beginning TPRS teachers need– structure).
Honestly the only thing I think Adriana’s book needs is slightly more variety (and dialogue) in readings. To me, the basic story and the extended reading are too similar…but this is also the book’s strength: it recycles vocab. I would have included more dialogue (in written-out form) but Adriana ran into limits like space, and printing costs. These are minor quibbles– it’s a great program and she is working on her Level 2 book. If ppl wanna order it, you can contact Adriana via Twitter, where she is @veganadri, or get it off Amazon.
Next semester I have a Spanish 1 and 2 split and so I am going to do Adriana’s stories but in full mix (totally unsheltered grammar) from Day 1. I am doing this because
A) I want to see what works best: full unsheltered grammar, or sheltered grammar
B) my 2nd years have already had past tense (and subjunctive) exposure
C) If I have a focused curriculum that restricts vocab and I do lots of pop-ups, and we do a lot of reading, and I make a real effort to do a TON of PQA and actor questions, I think my last year’s problem– verb tense muddles– should be lesser.
This is te great pleasure of T.P.R.S.: I can never step twice into the same story.