When we teach children, in the beginning, they often lack some knowledge to start speaking. Young students need enough time to comprehend the input that we give and transform it into output. Thus, a Spanish teacher Blaine Ray created a method, which is called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling or shortly TPRS. The idea is that we need to use stories and interactive books to pre-teach enough lexical and grammatical units in the context to let student communicate more easily. So, below in the article, you will find some information about the method and how to use it.
Blaine Ray discovered that students learned new words and collocations quicker with TPR. Thus, he started writing and using short funny stories, which he applied to his lessons. What did he do?
- He chose target language (no more than 3 words or phrases with beginner students).
- When children were listening to the stories, they were performing some gestures (taken from the American Sign Language). It is not necessary to do the same, you can invent and use your own gestures that you should pre-teach.
- As Blaine Ray read the story again, he added more words.
- He told the story again, making some mistakes so that children could correct him.
- Children retold stories in pairs and small groups.
- After such practice, the children were able to reproduce the story without any word lists, just from their heads or invent a new one using key vocabulary. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
A teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling lesson traditionally has some important parts, which are:
- Storytelling or reading, with numerous questions on the content, and questions that help to recycle the vocabulary (e.g. What does he do on Tuesday? – Dance. What does he do at home? – Dance. – if one of the new words is ‘dance’). Don’t forget to adapt the material to your students’ level and age and ask some personal questions (e.g. Do you like to dance? Do you dance at home? etc.).
- Using TPR. Make students show what is happening in the story when you read it for the second, third, etc. time. The more they move, the deeper they will remember the language input and the easier it will be to reproduce it.
- Highlighting important features of the story. Attract children’s attention not only to the language features but also to the educational and cultural values addressed in the story.
- If necessary, translating the story. Of course, it has nothing in common with the communicative approach, but it could help to teach some grammar from the context.
- Retelling and writing. The students can retell the stories they have read at home or in class, or write an essay based on some story.
- Acting out. In case it is possible, act out the part of the book or story you read with children.
- Reading aloud other students’ stories. These could be stories created by other classes, groups, or just stories made in the same class. Moreover, children’s books, fairytales, and authentic articles (for instance, from some children’s’ newspapers or magazines) are welcome on TPRS lessons.
- Watching videos related to the curriculum. In case you read a story about Robin Hood, you may watch the cartoon later to recycle the vocabulary learned and to immerse into the foreign language.
If you are interested in teaching by the method, you can find TPRS books on the website. And if you want to know more about using TPRS, you can read the books The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, TPRS in a Year!, Fluency Through TPR Storytelling.
Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling can be an amazing supplement to your traditional classes!