Rewind to me three years ago sitting in my first Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling® (TPRS) workshop. I was learning about great reading and storytelling techniques but I couldn't wrap my mind around one thing: how does this work in the elementary classroom? How do I make reading an integral part of my curriculum when half of my students are preliterate? How are my squirmy first graders going to be able to listen to a story for a thirty minute class?
One of the reasons I started writing this blog was because I felt there was a lack of resources for Teaching with Comprehensible Input (T/CI) at the elementary level. Of course you can always take materials that are created for the upper grades and modify them for younger learners, but what do these modifications look like? Below are some of the ways that I have adapted T/CI to keep my elementary-aged students engaged and my class comprehensible.
My students love storytelling! Often when my students enter my classroom the first thing they ask me is "Are we acting out a story today?" They love having their voices heard and playing an active role in their learning. I have found the general guidelines of storytelling are the same at the elementary levels as the upper levels with a few key exceptions...
Change it up
The first time I tried telling/acting out a story with my first graders it was a complete disaster. Not only did I spend too long establishing details, I also tried to tell the story for the entire thirty minute period. One of the most valuable adaptations that I have made to my T/CI practice is the inclusion of activities to break up the listening and allow my students to get up and move around. In general, I think that incorporating movement and brain breaks into your lessons is important at all levels, but since younger learners have shorter attention spans movement is even more important in the younger grades.
Here are some simple ways I incorporate movement in my class:
I work in a district that has a play-based kindergarten program (I am so lucky to work in a place that values social emotional learning!). Having said that, most of my first graders start the year at very basic reading levels. When I started TPRS and T/CI I got hung up on "R" (reading) of TPRS--how much language should I be posting for my young learners? Am I harming them by posting words that they can't read? By not posting written language am I depriving them of valuable comprehensible input that they need? I now post our target structures on the front white board with their english translations, and when we are first learning the word I will pause and point at the structure just like I do with my older students. I also write out short dialogues on white board thought bubbles that I hold above my student actors. Sometimes I also write a summary of the story on our storyboard for them to read along with me if they are ready. After talking to my colleagues I realized that providing written language for pre-literate students is still extremely powerful because they are starting to make connections between sounds and letters. I never force them to read until they are able to, but it is important to provide the written language for the students that are ready to read it (and know that the other students will follow suit when they are ready).
These adaptations are simple, but can go a long way in keeping younger learners engaged and actively listening. What are some of your tricks for using T/CI in the elementary grades?