Friday, January 20, 2017

Story Listening: You may already be doing this!

In the last few months, there has been a lot of discussions on social media about Story Listening. Teachers that are using the Storytelling method (aka Storyasking*) in their classrooms, are discovering that Story Listening can be an effective tool in second language acquisition and are sharing their experiences with others on Facebook, on YouTube, and on Twitter.

Many teachers are now asking each other, "What is Story Listening?" and want to learn about it so they can experiment with it in their classrooms. They want to try something new, but...wait.., is it new? It could be new for you, but I believe that many teachers are already doing "story listening" in their classrooms but haven't labeled it as such.

Do you use felt boards and felt objects/characters to tell stories? That falls under the category of story listening.  I love Stephanie Campbell's book "Cuentos de Ensalada" and my students enjoy listening to the stories about the characters in the story.  Who wouldn't like listening to a story that involves scenes such as shown in the pictures below?

(check THIS BLOG POST from 2011 and later ones in 2012 to find out more about S. Campbell's cool story!)

So, you may already be doing "story listening".

Below are two additional examples of "Story Listening", even if you don't specifically call it that.

1. Retelling events from a newspaper article is one form of "story listening"

In February 2012, I wrote a blog post about using the news article (pictured on the right) with my Spanish students. (The post is linked HERE.)
It is a sad short news article about an 8-year old boy that survived for over a week after his mother died. When I read it, I knew it was an article that I could use in class to tell to my students and to introduce and reinforce vocabulary and structures.  It keeps the students' attention because they want to know why the boy was living with the cadaver of his mother and how he survived.

Sharing articles (or "stories") from newspapers, is likely something that many world language teachers do now, or have done in the past.  That, my friends, is one form of storytelling.  You are not asking the students to create the details, you are not asking them to act it out, and you're not asking them to finish the story. You're simply telling them the information in language that they can understand.

I've been telling this story to my Spanish 4 as a first week activity even before I wrote the blog post in 2012. Without fail, it keeps the students attention. If you are doing something similar with news articles, you are not completely new to "story listening". 

2. Sharing past personal experiences is a form of "story listening"
Hasn't every world language teacher at one point shared a past experience with their students, in the target language, using vocabulary that is comprehensible at their level, introducing a few new words as needed throughout the story?  When I discuss "fears" with my students, I always tell them about one particular trip to Washington DC with my family. We visited the normal site-seeing spots in the city, and then took the metro to one area on the outskirts of the city. We did not know before planning our destination that the area was considered less safe. We ascended the staircase out of the metro station and things definitely looked different than other areas of the city. I was with my husband, and three young children, one which was in a stroller.  Almost immediately after we headed toward our destination, a motorist pulled up next to us, rolled down the window, and asked where we were going and then cautioned us that it was not a safe neighborhood. Students listen intently to that story because they want to know what happened next: did we continue or head straight back to the metro?

Sharing your experiences is sharing your stories. Since you are not asking them to add details, it falls in the category of "story listening". Teachers have been using stories in class for years. 

Not everything about story listening is new, and there are a lot of similarities to story listening and story telling: you need to use language appropriate for the level; you need to make yourself comprehensible throughout the story by drawing, actions, or writing the word on the board with it's translation when necessary; and it has to be interesting to the students.  There's not any language acquisition happening with students that are tuned out.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of teachers that are helping to guide others in how to use story listening with their students. They are gracious enough to give us a peek into their classroom by recording themselves telling a story to their students.  Ask to join the group CI Liftoff on Facebook for a wealth of information and great discussions.

One thing I really like about the newly-labeled "story listening" is that it encourages the use of legends and tales from countries throughout the world. It has been my experience that if I tell a legend to the students before we read the legend, the students encounter less problems when reading the legend, especially if it is an authentic resource. When I tell the legend beforehand, I am able to introduce the new vocabulary, the plot and the characters in language I'm sure the students understand. With that pre-knowledge, the students are more prepared to delve into reading the authentic resource.

I love that the community of world language teachers are eager and willing to work towards improving instruction with the goal of helping our students to improve their proficiency of the language.  Thank you to all those that are fine tuning story listening and the skills needed in order to best provide comprehensible input for our students! I plan to continue reading and learn from what you share.  :-)

*Note for clarification: Traditionally, when people talk about TPRS the "S" stands for Storytelling that they actually mean storyasking. (In fact a few years ago some teachers were saying it should be called storyasking instead of storytelling.) In TPRS the teachers ASK for information from the students, and therefore the students help create or build the story.
Storytelling, as I use it in this post, is telling a story, not asking as story as in TPRS. As in the examples above, Cuentos de Ensalada, sharing personal stories, telling the students about a news article, that is not the same as TPRS. Keep in mind the terminology may not be what you are accustomed to and when I mention Storytelling, it is telling information and not asking for information.