Thursday, September 2, 2010

Día 11 - parallel storylines

One of the most interesting parts of TPRS is the ability to create parallel storylines.

I'll write the examples in English for you in case you want to translate them to some other language.

Let's just say that I started out the class with a student volunteering.

Statement 1:
Class, there was a boy.  (Class: "Ooooooooooh")
Class, was there a boy or an elephant?  ("A boy")
Class, was there an elephant? ("no!!!")
No class, there was not an elephant.  There was a boy. ("Yes!")

Statement 2:
Class, the boy's name was Jim("Oooooooh")
Was the boy's name Jim or Trevor? ("The boy's name was Jim")
Was the boy's or the elephant's name Jim? ("the boy's / the boy")
Was the elephant's name Jim? ("no")

Possible parallel storyline:
Now, because I've already mentioned an elephant AND a name of a person, I could already start a parallel story with the elephant or with a student named Trevor.  Or I could make up a parallel story about an elephant named Trevor.

Statement 3:
Class, Jim liked penguins. ("Ooooh")
Did Jim or Trevor like penguins?  ("Jim")
Did an elephant or Jim like penguins? ("Jim")
Did Jim like elephants? ("no")
No.  Jim did not like elephants.  Jim liked penguins. ("Yes")

Possible parallel storyline:

Since we're talking about liking something, I could now have my elephant named Trevor that likes something else to compare and contrast.  Or I could have Trevor like elephants.  Or I could ask another student if they like elephants.  Or I could ask the open ended question to the class to let a volunteer answer the question: "Who likes elephants?"

Then as you add details to the story, you can add more people with other details about them.  Sometimes, you will find that through fishing for details about people that are being added to the story, you can use that later as fuel for a different story.  This also helps learn about things that the students might find funny or lame.

I'll now give two examples of parallel storylines in from the last few days. 

Example 1:
In one of my examples, a class did not have the other half of the class and one of the people that we had made a silly storyline with was still in class.  Because we are practicing structures and not worrying as much about the vocabulary, I decided that we could use a little more practice on the same structures that day so that it wouldn't be a wasted day.  I used to just give free days.  But if you do TPRS, you're playing around with your students anyway and it's a lot like hanging out with them when you do it right.

So as far as classroom management, if your class is helping you make a story instead of whatever else they might do on a free day, you've already taken care of any classroom management problems and they're more than likely excited that they're still working on something in class.  We had established the day before that the girl liked tall African American boys.  The main character of our story (who was absent) liked green cats.  Thanks to the parallel story we had fished for the day before, we had a new story to work with until our hero was back to resolve his dilemma.  The students had their heroine leave where she was (Sonic) because there were giant squirrels there.  She went to St. Louis in search of tall African American boys.  Sadly, she only found the president of cats in St. Louis and ended up going to Church's Chicken.  In Church's Chicken she came across President Barack Obama and he was accompanied by African American boys for our heroine to be with.

*Side note* Depending on your school environment, this storyline might not be as politically correct for some students as others.  I teach in a rural school in Missouri where the students were suggesting these things.  But the purpose of these things was to help the students learn the language.  Every class will look different.  Yesterday, I noticed some students loosing interest and when I asked where the hero went, someone suggested "Hooter's".  I looked at him with a sly grin and asked "How did you know?!"  Then I said, "Yes class.  He went to Hooter's."  And all of their eyes lit up and they were back in the story.  Sometimes we have to throw in details but we're doing it to teach the language.  I am not addressing what goes on at Hooter's.  He just went  there to look for some cats.  Sadly, there were no cats in Hooters.

Example 2:
The second example occurred today in my Spanish classes who are the farthest.  Once we finished our first story this week, I gave the first reading from the book Look I Can Talk by Blaine Ray.  The first Mini-Story is about a boy who lives in California that wants cats and not elephants.  The story is in the present tense.  In order to get the students to talk a little in the present tense, (or past) you use the story and translate the story as a class and offer any words they don't understand.  You can do five-second grammar* explanations if there are any problems.  The story on the paper is really a springboard for more storytelling.  You want to work a little bit on their reading abilities as well as introduce the present tense to the students after you've gone over things in the past.

It makes things easier because since the boy liked cats in the story, I was able to start asking my class about who likes elephants (because the boy in the story does not like elephants).  Then you can start getting your students to tell you how many elephants they have or how many they want to have.  You can talk about size, color, actions the elephants do.  It's always good to compare and contrast with the students.  It's up to the teacher to help this happen.  So one student had an ginormous (huge) pink elephant that was in 'Toilet Town'.  Another student had a microscopic purple and brown elephant that was in his house.  Another student had a giant black cat that was in the teacher's pants!

The idea is to start the students off with reading and then you can start making up stories.  As long as it is in the language and they are getting comprehensible input, you're doing great.

*five-second grammar explanations are just that.  Keep it simple and don't over-complicate answers to questions when the student most likely is not a grammar nerd like most language classes try to prepare us to be.  Stick to five seconds or less when explaining something about the grammar of the foreign language.  Sometimes, it's also just ok to say "I don't know!" , "It just is!", or "You know, Spanish is just different than English."

No comments:

Post a Comment