(Originally posted 6/16/12)
I’m not as familiar with the IB exam as others, but I can tell you about the kinds of reading,speaking and writing that you referred to.
Embedding reading has been our number one ally in the transition from reading totally comprehensible stories to deciphering articles and literature beyond their comfort zone. I hope to get out a number of posts about that on my blog during August.
PQA is the key to conversational ability about a number of topics. By carefully choosing topics, questions and focus structures,and incorporating regular PQA provides them with the skills and practice to hold their own in any situation.
We have a debate element in the Level 4 program where we start by defending “favorite things”. (thanks to an idea from another TPRSer!!) We build skills and then utilize them to have debates on a variety of topics. Building debates or arguments into conversations in stories is an easy thing to do as well.
Our juniors and seniors do very little “story “writing compared to our 8th-10th graders. Here are examples of what they have done this last marking period:
* Read this article about “the monolith on Mars” and summarize. Then add a paragraph stating your opinion. Is it natural or manmade? Substantiate your belief.
* Now that we have seen the movie Vantage Point, and you have read the accompanying Embedded Reading, tell me which character was the most naive and how his/her behavior reflected that.
* In the movie, the Secret Service used a body double for the president. Do you think that in real life body doubles are used? What are your thoughts/opinions on this?
As for writing using a variety of documents, it is not a problem. They have been writing DBQ’s in Social Studies for years. Spend some time with a SS teacher reviewing how they teach students to do that. Then, what the students need, is the vocabulary necessary to write. This vocabulary is usually an active part of a TPRS curriculum ( while, since, although, according to, despite, next,etc.) These can be developed via storytelling.
Storytelling does NOT have to be silly or goofy all of the time. The silly and goofy obviously has educational benefits for the brain to help build acquisition, however, it is important at the upper levels to have stories that appeal to their growing maturity and natural cynicism. Incorporate characters that don’t believe anything and always need to be convinced. Characters that learn a valuable lesson. Use fables and fairy tales with a moral for reading or as a basis for storyasking.
The ability to think critically was so obvious to me this year in their final exam writing. The juniors had two pieces to write about: The Perfect Vacation and a “story” from a picture. I anticipated that many of them would write “fluffy” pieces, but I was very wrong. The vacation pieces were very personal, describing a past vacation that was important to them. They nearly all wrote about WHY the vacation meant a lot: the connection with family/friends, the break from stress, the appreciation of a new place, etc. A number of them compared a good vacation with a bad one. The interesting thing? I gave them no prompts…just the title.
The pictures were even more interesting. The pictures were faces of people expressing different emotions. I read about recovering from a death in the family, achieving goals, being lonely, learning how to lose a friend, being afraid to be a senior, a family’s reaction to a gay marriage. Very eye-opening.
Lastly, a junior brought in the movie “The Way” and asked if we could watch it. It is in English so I really hesitated. But this student rarely offers this kind of input, the setting is real, the background and history are compelling, and the message is powerful. So we watched it in English with Spanish subtitles.
As a culminating assignment I gave the students the lyrics to four songs that we had done and asked them to pick two that had lyrics that connected to the things that characters in the movie might say or do. Then they had to choose one of the four main characters and write a letter,in Spanish, as if they were that character. (see the PS if you are familiar with the movie) I WAS BLOWN AWAY by the insight of these pieces. The students incorporated many details from the film, and were deeply perceptive. Imagine a letter from a dead son to his father (and vice versa)….I needed a box of kleenex to get through them.
Finally, several of our highest achieving students wrote fictional pieces that are highly publishable. These are students who obviously read a lot in English on their own time. They also take full advantage of free reading opportunities in Spanish class, and are very creative souls. But their level of skill was mind-blowing. and their writing was BEAUTIFUL. Publishable, really.
I’ll let you know one other thing…we didn’t have time to give them to go back and edit anything. This was writing that they just sat down, thought for a minute, put pen to paper and let it spill out. Because we had to give our final during class time, they only had 20 minutes to write per piece…and still, the quality was astounding.
I haven’t yet sat down to analyze exactly what might have helped these kids get to this point, but, since the ONLY WAY they have ever been taught is through TPRS, I can tell you that yes, by all means, TPRS will prepare students for the types of tasks you are talking about.
P.S. Students wrote letters from the following perspectives to the following recipients (on their own, I made no suggestions)
Joost to Tom
Joost to Sarah
Joost to his wife
Sarah to Tom
Jack to Tom
Jack to his publisher
Tom to Sarah
Tom to Joost
Tom to Daniel
Daniel to Tom
If I get to it, I will post a few to my blog this summer, they were so beautiful….
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