November 16, 2016

Stories as a Vehicle for Required Vocabulary, But Not Targeting

In French today we just debriefed my visit to the high school.  I told my students what I had observed and that they would be using a different skill set at the high school, more like a traditional class where they would be using conscious study habits and skills like they do in science or history or math, to learn and take a test to apply the rules and show that they learned the vocab.

So after my trip to the high school, I realized that my students’ future classmates are focusing on a lot of the textbook vocabulary (thematic units) such as, in French One, school supplies and shopping, and school subjects and teachers.  In an effort to align with the high school and still remain true to best practices in language acquisition, I decided to see how Story Listening can support thematic vocabulary.

My hypothesis is that if we use story listening, we can pre-plan the stories to include the required vocabulary, and give students exposure to these words in different contexts across the two years that we have the kids, so that they will effortlessly remember the words from the distributed exposures.  I hypothesize that this will actually lead to more durable memory and longer-term retention than providing massed practice through traditional memorization or traditional TPRS circling in one week or unit.  I got this idea from Drs. Beniko Mason and Stephen Krashen.

In Spanish, I decided to write up a story of my own that had vocab words in it from the book.  You might ask, “What is the difference between putting the vocab in the stories and targeting?  I thought we were trying to move away from targeting words and structures.”  The difference is in the intent, I think.  If we want to expose the students to required vocabulary without targeting, what we can do is intentionally plan to incorporate that vocab in stories and other input activities over the course of the year.  Story Listening makes it possible to pre-plan multiple exposures to that pesky required vocabulary in a way that does not require us to target words in a single session or two.  My students will thus have repeated, distributed exposures within an engaging context (stories), over the course of the two years before high school.  It is my hypothesis that this kind of exposure will be just as effective, or maybe even moreso, than either the traditional approach or the targeted, massed practice/massed exposure approach.  With a lot less stress for me!

This story of Juli0 I wrote up this morning, quickly, to incorporate vocab from the textbook about school subjects and science vocabulary.  Actually I found that just looking at the vocab in the textbook gave me ideas.  And I just added a good dose of middle school drama – bad grades, angry parents, crushes, bad smells, and mean kids are usually good ingredients!

Part One
Part Two

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About Lanny Ball

For more than 23 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy and reading consultant in Northwestern Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on Twitter @LannyBall, as well as his literacy blog: lannyball.com or lannyball.blog.

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