October 31, 2016

Story Listening and Listening Assessment

So, when someone comes all the way from Japan to be in your classroom and then agrees at the last minute to demonstrate a technique that you are curious about, it is bound to make an impression. I am determined to test out Beniko Mason Nanki‘s Story Listening approach. She is passionate about it as it has given her students gains in English abilities that she finds impressive, and she has done a lot of research into the topic, so if she – a born skeptic – finds the gains impressive, then I want to check it out.

So, I started in my second year French class, telling them (not asking a story, just telling a story) three stories that they had written themselves. This class tends to be subdued and even a slight bit jaded. I had put them on a diet of teacher-written readings and Read and Discuss lessons, but I thought, why not try Beniko’s technique with them? So I told them three of their classmates’ stories. They seemed more relaxed, like they did not have to bring any enthusiasm…which it would seem is hard for them to muster.

This morning Beniko sent me a link to her website www.beniko-mason.net.  Her story of the Wine Well was engaging and fun to listen to, and she seemed so relaxed telling it. So, then I tried her approach today. As it is Halloween, I chose a scary take from Québécois folklore – Rose Latulipe. I wondered if the story would hold their attention. It did. Now I am very intrigued.
Part One

In Spanish One, Rhea told them a scary and funny tale about a poor woman making a hairy toe soup.  She gave them a pep talk about SLA by way of reviewing the SLA Talk Show from last week, before the story.
Part One

Beniko maintains that story listening is easy to learn, quick to become proficient at, and portable, able to be taken into any setting. I am not 100% sure that it is all I want to do with my CI time (which is all the class time, duh) because I do enjoy the class bonding and group creativity that I am finding in creating images with my class. But it is certainly attractive to me, being that I struggle with seasonal depression and have suffered full-blown depressive episodes in the past and even now, at the end of October, I feel that sweet, sweet summer seratonin slipping from my brain.

I see this technique as a way for the more risk-averse or shyer or less dramatic or simply tired or struggling teacher to still deliver comprehensible language. I fully intend to keep experimenting with it, especially as we head into the darker months when getting out of bed and getting to school and staying halfway positive and cheerful is enough work for me so much of the time.

Why is it that everyone is not doing this? I see a few reasons: 1. People do not know about it and there has been little training on it 2. People think it sounds boring because they like the humor of co-creating stories together 3. People cannot see that you can still deliver perfectly fine input without following some grammar-based or wordlist-based Scope and Sequence or curriculum.

Ben recently said, “Just talk to them.” Beniko is saying, “Just tell them a well-crafted tale that has stood the test of time.” I guess I am saying, “When the going gets tough, go easy on yourself and your classes. Let someone else provide the plot. Enjoy the ride.”

Last year I finally shifted away from using grammar and word lists as my guide. I predict that I will not go back that route ever again. I will likely never give up the wonder and fun and bonding and laffs we get from the One Word Images and the stories based on them and the Invisibles. But I am starting to see a lot of potential in sprinkling in (more or less liberally depending on the needs of the group – including me!) story listening. I plan to try it in class at least once a week. Thank you Beniko Mason Nanki for teaching me a new tool!

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