Make sure your ears and eyes are with me. Relax and enjoy."
But before I talk about all the things I like about it, here is a simple description of what it is that I recently posted on Ben Slavic's PLC:
The student’s’ job is to follow the story as a whole. It is NOT to teach anything to mastery. The goal is to tell the story so the students can understand and follow the major events and details. You can follow this up with reading the story or activities but you don’t have to.
What I found most baffling was how well my ESL beginners listened. These kids have the hardest job in the whole school. They have just arrived in Germany and have to learn German and English at the same time. The bridge we try to build with giving translations in L1, is a crumbly, badly built construction for these kids. It's useless. In fact, it adds another layer of stress to kids, who are in a very stressful setting already. During story listening, I speak hardly any English, maybe a word, maybe two, mostly none. I translate some words on the board, but a lot is explained through the drawings and the gestures and my mimic as I tell the story to them. This method has brought smiles to the kids, who are used to not understanding. It has allowed them to relax. To enjoy the story, not focus on every single word.
Beniko Mason, who is a German learner herself, has watched my videos and after the first one, she wrote to me: "You have Japanese kids in your class. I can hear them talking about the story, they are saying the Japanese words for 'cat' and 'dog' when you tell the story." This feedback is amazing to me, because I don't understand Japanese and when they talk to each other, you often wonder, are they talking about lunch or are they following? Add to my specific circumstance the layer of being completely aware how overwhelming this class must be when you already don't understand much all day.
I have fallen in love with this for the effect it has on my ESL students, for the richness of input for all of my students. For the drawing and dramatics that I get to play with (Fact: I love acting and my first degree is in Graphic Design, but fear not, both are not prerequisites). For the excitement I see. For the low stress for both me and my students. For searching and finding all these great stories with all their happy and unhappy endings, that make us laugh, ponder or just say "What? That was so weird!"
This school year has been the year of trying things. If I think it's interesting and will work well, I will try it. That has brought me a lot of enjoyment this year. First with the Invisibles (Ben Slavic) and now with Story Listening (Beniko Mason). I had almost gone to complete PQA before this because the repetition of vocabulary happens so much more natural in that than in the stories. I see now that this is the biggest change this year: I am not teaching for mastery of any given phrase, I am teaching for quality and richness of input. And the best thing? Every kid takes what they can handle and need at that moment from that particular story. There is something for everyone. Differentiation in both directions is a given here and if we're honest, don't most of us differentiate down, but not up? This has also inspired my comprehension checks, which I will post here as well. I am always inspired by Claire Walter as well, so she had some influence on this and I am using one of her rubrics to rate the work of my students.
Story listening has been an enrichment to my classroom and I am thankful I jumped in and tried it. It's love y'all!