What I am trying to make happen in the proficiency-based classroom is to create opportunities for communication. Some teachers do this talking with students about the basketball game last night or the dance on Friday evening. Unfortunately talking about our students’ lives doesn’t get you through the year and I have realized that I can create communicative contexts through stories found in picture books and cartoons.
TPRS has modeled a way to generate communication around a story. Over the years I have appreciated the “circling” that happens as a story is created, i.e. “Is there a girl or a boy?”, “Oh, a boy. What is his name, Patrick or Julius?” “Ok, Julius. What is he like, serious or funny?” In this way the teacher develops a story with the class. I enjoyed teaching like that, but recently I have adopted authentic stories and put aside TPRS. As much as I loved them, after years of teaching stories written intentionally for language learners I was bored.
When using stories, I create the communicative context through a version of Movie Talk, a TPRS technique that employs circling while playing a video without sound. Lisa Shepard spells this technique out on her blog Madame’s Musings and thanks to her I had a eureka moment. She has some excellent resources with children’s cartoons that I have added to my curriculum. Then, I read online about how some teachers do the same technique with pictures instead of video and have called it Picture Talk. Soon I was taking short cartoons and picture books and doing screenshots of what was happening in the story and introducing vocabulary by talking about the pictures, circling as I asked students to predict what the story would be about.
In the unit I am currently developing on “What do young people do in summer?” I am going to use a video from the television show Les Sisters. The episode is about the younger sister wanting to do everything the older sister does, but I am not going to ask questions about the themes that are presented in the show. Instead I am going to use the show’s setting by having students comment on what is happening when the girls go to a pool. The input they will receive will be the vocabulary I want to include about how students feel about their summer plans.
Here are my steps, following Lisa Shepard’s lead, but making the technique my own:
- Take screen shots to do a picture talk
- Show the video
- Have students match the pictures with sentences describing them
- Go back to the slides and do a choral retell of the story with the pictures
- Students watch the video and answer questions on EdPuzzle.
- Have students do a group retell of the story
For novices, frequently for this technique the input is not the words in the video, but a description of what is happening in the video. For example, with the Les Sisters video it is at the point in the unit “What do young people do in summer?” where I want students to learn words for saying how they feel about their summer plans. So while the video does not have our vocabulary words, in the activity I ask the student how the girl in the video feels using the vocabulary we want to teach.
You will see in my stories resources folder another video and two sets of slides from pictures books. You can access the picture books for free through an educator’s account on Epic Books. This new-to-me technique has created a communicative context where my class makes up silly possibilities of what the story is going to be about. As we predict the story, we communicate and I introduce students to new vocabulary for the unit.