Synonyms, Antonyms, and Asides

Watch the first 3 minutes of this intermediate Story Listening demonstration.  In it, Dr. Beniko Mason makes use of the antonyms, synonyms, and asides, or explanations off to the side.  (See what I did there?)

A man “was poor, not rich…he had little”

“He longed for , wished for, wanted to have”

“a small house, a tiny hut”

“He lived a lonely life; he lived alone…He lived a quiet life.”

Something fell in a bush. “A bush is a small true, not a tall tree…like a rose bush.”

It was “wounded,” “hurt,”  “injured”

 

In the Story Listening Toolkit, Dr. Krashen and Dr. Mason suggest building on words students already know as you introduce new, rich and unfamiliar words. antonyms, synonyms, and asides builds the schematic constructs linking new messages and language to language we already understand.

The following diagram visually represents this strategy, but if this diagram seems confusing, ignore it and just follow Dr. Mason’s example above.  The end result should be natural, not formulaic.

 

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, low frequency)

synonym X X X
antonym X X X

 

Example 

 

Story 1:  Turandot  (English / French)

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, not high frequency)

romance love (they aren’t ready for harder words)
detest hate (they aren’t ready for harder words)

“Turandot wants love… she wants romance.  (Romance is the same in Spanish).”

“Turandot hates the princes…she detests them.  (Detest is the same Spanish)

…She does not love the princes.  The princes say they love her, but she hates them.”

 

Story 2:  Sweetheart Roland

Easiest

(ex. cognate)

Moderate

(not a cognate but high frequency)

Hardest

(not a cognate, not high frequency)

romance love sweetheart
detest hate loath

“She loves Roland.  Roland loves her.  It’s a serious romance. (serious and romance are the same in Spanish).  They are sweethearts.”

“The witch hates her.  She loathes her!  She wants her to die.”


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Extra Activities: Simplify, Simplify

At the end of class just before Labor Day vacation, my students reflected on how much they had learned in just 8 class periods.  They knew words like “says,” “go” and “goes away forever,” “love,” “feels sad or happy,” and their favorite “die!”  The students spontaneously decided they wanted to list the words they knew on the board for the last few minutes of class.  They felt empowered watching the list grow.

Did this or any skill-building or vocabulary activity help them acquire language?  No, but it felt fun and generated interest in hearing more stories. Story Listening may be used with occasional fun, low-accountability activities, but when the story itself becomes just an “extra activity” it is no longer Story Listening.

Story Listening is telling stories in a comprehensible way, sometimes using targeting 2 to clarify.  According to Dr. Beniko Mason, “A story-listening lesson should not include dictation exercises, should not be accompanied with fill-in-the-blanks, or match-the–short-dialogs-and-the-pictures exercises. It’s the story that counts.”

This method was developed over many decades of research showing that “stories plus activities” contributes to second language acquisition less efficiently than stories alone (Mason 2013, 2007, 2004).  Yes, telling stories in any form will provide the input needed to show growth, but choosing to cut out “extra activities” for time’s sake is more efficient.

c69c3cc204072652dcf5c19a7436e79d--coco-chanel-little-black-dresses

Craftsman who create something elegantly simple and streamlined would be frustrated to then see the clutter re-appear.  They would want to distance their work from those who seek to add back in the unnecessary extras.

Some “educational consultants” are no doubt hoping to use Story Listening as the latest buzzword activity at their next conference, but Story Listening is more about what we chose not to do than what we are doing.  Story Listening is unburdening teachers from too many extra activities, and finding time for stories.  Story Listening is simply reminding ourselves that although it is not as flashy as the latest Breakout activity and it won’t get you as many re-tweets: “It’s the story that counts.”

 

“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way anyone ever became a reader.”

-Nancie Atwell


 

Cited:

Mason, B. (2013). Efficient use of literature in second language education: Free reading and listening to stories. In J. Bland and C. Lutge (Eds.), Children’s literature in second language education (pp. 25-32). London: Bloomsbury.  Available at: http://www.benikomason.net/content/articles/the_efficient_use_of_literature_in_second_language_education.pdf

Mason, B. (2004). The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program.  The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching (IJFLT), 2(2): 12-15.

Mason, B.  (2007). The Efficiency of Self-Selected Reading and Hearing Stories on Adult Second Language Acquisition s, more efficient.  “Selected Papers from the sixteenth international symposium on English Teaching.” English Teachers’ Association / ROC, Taipei: 630-633.  Accessed at: http://beniko-mason.net/content/articles/the_efficiency_of_self-selected_reading_and_hearing_stories_on_adult_second_language_acquisition.pdf

Reluctant Pleasure Readers

Pandora_by_Arthur_Rackham
Pandora by Arthur Rackham

Dr. Beniko Mason tells her students to “just enjoy the story” to provide low-affective-filter, low-accountability comprehensible input.  Most students won’t need convincing to “just enjoy stories” and books.  But how do you convince that rare skeptic teen, or the studious, over-achiever to keep an open mind when they hear their first story?  How do you convince students accustomed to a textbook to simply read for pleasure?

The answer is to empower them with what they crave: knowledge.

  1. Inform students about the SLA process.  Beniko Mason has created this great resource explaining SLA for parents, but you can explain the same ideas to students too.
  2. Use books and stories that give students special world knowledge.   Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. are just as engaging for adults as for the very young.  These stories never lose their charm.  But stories like Prometheus Brings Man Fire or Pandora’s Box (especially if told as a series) may catch the attention of those students who are reluctant to enjoy less “academic” stories.  Similarly, students who turn their nose up at Diary of a Wimpy Kid may enjoy high-interest nonfiction or historical fiction.  My favorite are Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales or the I Survived series.
  3. Offer feedback on their growth.  Periodically show students the assessments you have done and how you are monitoring their progress.  This kind of student may want to know how many words per minute they are reading.
  4. Give in a little. If “practicing language” really makes them feel better, let them. Dr. Beniko Mason suggests allowing students to take notes in class if they want; or send home a prompter or word list with them to “practice” on their own time.

 

 

Avoiding Reader’s Conference Hell

In self-selected reading, “teachers holding regular conferences with students to discuss what was read” is a primary form of formative assessment (Krashen, 1993, p. 2).  A common mistake is to make reader’s conferences so formal students feel put-on-the-spot.  Beniko Mason avoids the word “conference” and thinks of these exchanges as “story talks.”  Here are some ways to avoid stressful readers conferences and inspire more genuine and joyful “talks.”

  1. Don’t grade readers conferences.
  2. Avoid “factual” questions.  Ask students  how they felt about books.
  3. Use Post-its while reading. As they read, students may use a post-it to bookmark their favorite part(s). Afterwards, use the flagged passage as a talking point.  Students may write on the post-it or let you write an important reflection for them.
  4. Don’t over-do the Post-its while reading.  Gallagher and Allington explain, “…no student ever achieved reading flow from placing a blizzard of sticky notes in a book” (65).   Allow students to stay lost in a book during reading,  then later add a Post-it or two afterwards.  Encourage students to simply record ideas at natural pauses in reading- at times they would have turned to a friend to exclaim “Wow, look at what just happened!”
  5. Chat in a natural setting.  Don’t march students across the room to conference at the teacher’s desk.  Keep it casual by going to where they are; sit on the reading rug with them or pull up a beanbag as needed.  If you can catch a confused student browsing the shelves, go to them and chat informally as you browse books.  Make it a natural part of the lesson to circulate around the room discussing books.
  6. Don’t use rigid timetables. You may have set “check in” times for the class, especially at the end of the class period.  But don’t mark your calendar for individual student “conference days.”  That is nerve-wracking, inauthentic, and not responsive enough to support students when they need help.
  7. Allow non-response as a response. Some days they will have less to say.  This may tell you they are not inspired by their book.  Don’t press them to talk, but do use this to decide how to guide them to books.
  8. Less paper. The less paper in front of you, the more relaxed and genuine the discussion.  After the conference, you may record notes to show parents or administrators, but not while talking with students.

 


Cited:

Allington, R. & Gallagher, K. (2009).  Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it.  Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, ME.

Krashen, S. (1993).  The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (1st edn.).

Gross-Out Books

Why are blood and guts, gross out humor, and enormous spiders so endlessly fascinating?  Because they’re cool, that’s why.  And the idea of pursuing your curiosity despite it being taboo or displeasing to adults is empowering.  

As students gain knowledge about the gross and weird, they proudly think, “‘Listen to me.  I know what adults know too, and I am brave enough to speak of the unspeakable!’ They are pushing the edges of their knowledge as they push the edges of acceptability,” according to Jobe and Dayton-Sakari (73).

Students feel empowered as they build a special knowledge base through narrow reading.  When possible, encourage students to find a single subject to read narrowly on (yes, even if that subject is the later stages of digestion).  

Single-Topic Gross-Out Books

  • Gross-Out Animals That Do Disguisting Things by Ginjer Clarke 
  • Bugopedia by Discovery Kids
  • That’s Disgusting series by Connie Colwell Miller
  • Poop: a Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies
  • Sanitation Investigation Series by Capstone
  • Icky, Sticky Gross Stuff series by Pam Rosenberg (warning, the Icky, Sticky, Gross Stuff in Your Food book is in fact quite gross)
  • Real Scary Spiders by Animal Planet

 

*The following books jump from subject to subject.  They don’t have the same effect as true narrow reading in a content area, however, they allow students to browse until they find exactly what they are interested in reading.

  • Grossology by Sylvia Branzei
  • Almanac of the Gross Disgusting and Totally Repulsive by Eric Elfman*
  • National Geographic’s Ultimate Weird but True series*
  • The “Guiness Book of World Records” series*
  • Oh, Yikes! History’s Grosses Moments by Joy Masoff

 

 

Free Voluntary Websurfing:

 


Cited

Jobe, R. & Dayton-Sakari, M. (2002). Info-Kids: How to use nonfiction to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic learners.  Ontario, Canada: Pembroke.

Struggling-With-Life Readers

img_1905
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Llama Llama refuses to read with friends because he misses Mama.

Marco* was a challenging 6th grader with a chip on his shoulder.  He was resentful and rude with most teachers and students.  When I read aloud and shared book suggestions, he tried hard not to care.  When it was Marco’s turn to conference, he felt empowered stating “I hate reading.”  I replied confidently that he just hasn’t found the right book yet. No power struggle or blaming?  Marco was confused.

The nurturing, motherly thing that reading with children can be hurt Marco: his mother was in Honduras.  Marco’s father worked very long hours, always promising to bring his family together with the next paycheck.  Dealing with the setback of having to learn to read all over again on top of everything else he was dealing with– it was easier to just not read.

Eventually, his friend’s enthusiasm chipped away at him.  They roped him into a literary circle where he found his favorite series: Dragon Ball Z.  He toned down his earlier defiance with “I hate reading –except comics, I like comics.”  Soon this act wore thin too. He read enthusiastically and shared books with his friends. The last week of school, Marco embraced his reading identity and admitted what I already knew: “I love reading.”  With this statement, he accepted a lot more than just books.  Grumpy, aloof, or hostile feels easier at first.   Yet, given time, books help us accept what is good and joyful, even as we struggle with what is unfair and painful.

 


*I changed Marco’s name for his privacy.  However, Dragon Ball Z is a real manga series that my kids are really addicted to.

Effortless Reading: Free Voluntary Web-surfing

Free Voluntary Web-surfing is great source of comprehensible input (Krashen 2011, 64; Krashen 2005). There are many ways to adapt this to suit your classroom, but use these guidelines to protect children.

  •  Surf with a plan. Conference with students to create small group or individual web-surfing plans.   Use student interests to offer a list of safe sites and resources. The American Library Association has over 800 amazing kid-friendly sites, or you can talk to your school librarian.
  • Monitor use of social media and online interaction and never allow students to give identifying information (their name, their school, etc.).
  • Use settings to block inappropriate content.  Make sure your school filters block inappropriate content, use safe search, and consider blocking images for very young students.

 


Two simple approaches to Free Voluntary Web-surfing

1.  Read in a content-area or genre.

Shared reading and discussion about text in a genre or content-area can provide background knowledge, as well as set a purpose for Free Voluntary Web-surfing.  For example, to enhance a Sheltered Literature study in lyrics, my students surfed the web for lyrics and contributed to a class’s blog of their favorite songs.

blog

2. Create a Digital Magazine

Web-surfing and then contributing to a class magazine allows students to share enthusiasm for reading and creates a finished product students take pride in. Instapaper allows students to bookmark articles they love with one click.  Their bookmarks compile to create a beautifully visual “magazine” of articles, blog posts, and websites.

I allow students to sign up for roles like “sports editor,” “fashion columnist,” or “celebrity news reporter.”  Students familiarize themselves with online resources and then read narrowly in an area of personal interest.

 


Cited:

Krashen, S. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.  Also available at: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/2011_free_voluntary_surfing.pdf

Krashen, S. (2005). “The ‘Decline’ of Reading in America, Poverty and Access to Books, and the use of Comics in Encouraging Reading.” Teachers College Record.

Serafini, F. (2015).  Reading Workshop 2.0: Supporting Readers in the Digital Age.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.