This past school year, I taught two small groups of Elementary children. I had never taught this age group before so the learning curve was rather steep, especially since I only saw them once a week. I quickly noticed a few recurring themes:
- Both groups loved TPR (Total Physical Response)
- Both groups loved creating story characters
- Both groups loved stories
But here is the big twist: I have tried to use some circling as a way to get in more repetitions of language structures. But both Elementary groups resisted circling: I could not get passed the yes/no or either/or stage without them losing interest. My lack of experience with this age group? Possibly. But consider this: my own 7-yo daughter will tell me very clearly “please keep reading maman !” at bedtime if I dare interrupt a good story with too many questions. For younger children, the story trumps anything else, especially if it is a good story. They don’t want to “play school” by answering questions, no matter how sneaky you are 🙂
So, I have switched to Story-Listening, an approach developed by Dr. Mason. Each week, I select a folk tale, fairy tale, or any other children story. I base my choice on:
- Student interest
- Familiarity of the story or settings/characters
- Natural repetition of language
I rewrite the story in a way that is comprehensible for the students but not necessarily 100% word-for-word transparent, in order to provide i+1. And then, I simply tell the story to my students, drawing on the board, gesturing, and making sound effects as I go. I may write a few words on the board too and use a quick translation. Read more about how to prepare for a Story-Listening lesson here.
Click on the image to watch the story
Listening has gotten such a bad rap in classrooms because often time it is associated with a “boring lecture”. But if you teach or have children, you know what a good story will do to them! They are so engaged, they are truly listening. My daughter would feverishly listen to me reading Harry Potter until her bladder was ready to burst! Since I made the switch with my Elementary classroom, I am getting “ewww”, “wows”, “aaahhhs”, and all kinds of cute reactions. Also, because there is no accountability (students don’t have to answer questions), the Affective filter is the lowest I have ever seen.
So, will this lead to language acquisition? Well, Dr. Krashen’s two main conditions for Language Acquisition are met: lots comprehensible input at i+1 AND low Affective filter. And Dr. Mason’s research suggests that students acquire language at 0.15 word per minute (wpm) when Story-Listening is implemented in the classroom.
Want to give it a try? Here is a story-based lesson plan for you to try with your Novice learners:
• An editable story script for “La Petite Grenouille”. Feel free to modify the script
to fit your students’ needs.
• A video demonstrating how to tell this particular story using drawings, gestures, and sound effects in order to convey meaning.
• Accompanying PowerPoint materials, ready to print and use in class
• Suggested post listening activities
I will be posting more story-based lesson plan ideas. In the meantime, read more about Story-Listening, join the Story-Listening FB group and enjoy your summer!