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.

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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

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Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

One thought on “Extra Activities: Simplify, Simplify”

  1. Well-stated, Claire. Classroom observers have to be trained in the power and value of the story. Not being able to observe the internal workings of the reader/story listener we can easily look for a flurry of activity and mistake participation for engagement. We have to trust the process and not be distracted by the extra activities, aka, How many ways can you ruin a good story?

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