I am in the process of doing two things: (1) sorting through old files and finding things that I’ve never posted, and (2) adding featured images to old blog posts. Because of this, you’re going to see a lot of automatic post notifications pop up on Facebook and Twitter–just know that only a few of them are actually new, so please check the date of each new post you come across. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter, but you might get confused by time markers within the posts (“today”, “last week”, etc.). I’m still home full-time with my kids and just living la vida blog to keep my brain from turning to mush.
So I dug out this gem on my flight home from Seattle home to Anchorage…you know, the one in which my TV screen wasn’t functional, I had already finished reading Terry Waltz’s book TPRS with Chinese Characteristics (again), I was seated in front of an exit row in a seat that doesn’t recline but the seat in front of me was aaaaaallll the way back, and my 22-week belly was jammed up in my ribs. You know, that flight. I’m sure you can relate.
I don’t remember if I originally created this in my former life as a Cooperative Learning teacher or whether I made it to use as a fun activity after I made the switch to TCI. Either way, the activity works well in a CI classroom if you take lots of time to share, compare, and contrast everyone’s monsters after they are created. There is some repetition during the creative process (and good review of TPR vocabulary–body parts), but the true value lies in the repetitions that you will get of high frequency structures like “is named”, “lives”, and “likes”. This is an activity to do AFTER students have already been introduced to those target structures. If students were to see all of those verbs for the first time in this single activity, it would be too much for students to process. Always limit vocabulary and introduce new words slowly!
Another quick but important note–many of the activities that I share on this blog are not TPRS®. TPRS® is a specific instructional method that consists of three phases: (1) Establish Meaning, (2) Ask Questions, and (3) Read and Discuss. When I share activities like this monster Round Robin/Mad Libs, they fall into the category of “CI-adaptable activities”: activities that can provide comprehensible input if the teacher has good TCI skills. How does one develop said skills? By practicing TPRS®. Terry Waltz made an excellent point toward the end of her book–many teachers are overwhelmed when they first jump into TPRS® and do not end up doing it well because they try a little bit of everything CI (MovieTalk, Embedded Reading, content based instruction, etc.). After I read that, I took a minute to think back on my experience. I spent almost a full year and a half doing ONLY story asking and follow-up story activities before I tried anything else. I even kept my same old gradebook for most of that time so that I wasn’t stressed out with changing my method of instruction AND my method of assessment. After a year and a half (and even now), my essential TPRS® skills left much to be desired, but I felt confident in my ability to provide my students with quality, truly comprehensible input. If you are new to TPRS®/CI, I am going to echo Terry’s recommendation. Instead of trying out EVERYTHING that you read about on the blogs and websites of TPRS®/CI teachers and see at big conferences like iFLT and NTPRS, spend a semester…or two…or three…with story asking (either with scripts or spun out of PQA). I think you will find that limiting yourself to the practice of one instructional method; one skill set; will give you the freedom to find your way to success within it. Then, once you’ve got a good handle on the essential skills, you can branch out into other methods.
Other experienced TPRS®/CI teachers, what do you think? Is that a solid recommendation, or do you think that it is more beneficial to dabble in everything? Please share your thoughts in the kind and encouraging way that makes me love our professional community!