When it falls apart

Unfortunately, not all TPRS stories work in class as they do in my head.  Yesterday, we were working with these structures:

Soy el rey – I am the king

La gente grita – the people yell

Tiene miedo – he/she is afraid

The story I had in mind was of a king who was feared by his people.  Out of fear, the people of his kingdom would shout of his greatness until the day the king was faced by the one person he feared – his own mother.  Maybe there is a way to make this story idea work, but it sure did not yesterday.  The plot was not engaging enough.  I rushed through parts.  I didn’t circle enough.   The students did well to stay with me for the most part, but I was disappointed afterward.

Yesterday was not the first time I’ve had a story fall flat.   My TPRS experience has taught me that a bad story is not the end of the world.  There are ways to get back on track.  I thought I’d share a few here.

My two main concerns after a weak story are:

1. The vocabulary from the lesson will not stick

2. Bad stories cause students to lose interest and faith in story telling in general

The first issue is pretty easy to address. The key is to find new ways to use the target structures.  This can be accomplished with extra readings, alternate stories, in-class activities or by inserting the structures into future stories.  Fortunately, all of my structures from yesterday can easily become a part of future lessons.  I just need to be deliberate about finding ways to insert them.

The second issue is a bit more tricky to overcome.  Student engagement in the story process is vital.  A few ideas that can help:

1. Take a short break from story telling: A break can allow a teacher to regather himself and come back as a better teller.  It also allows students enough time to get the bad experience out of their minds.  Embedded readings, cultural activities, games, music or Movie Talk can be used in place of a story.  Even reading, writing or grammar exercises can offer a nice break.

2. Guarantee success in the next story: Go back to something simple.  Use simple structures and a plot that can’t miss.  Worry less about the concepts that need covered and more about the actual story itself.  Getting students back into it will pay off for future stories in which difficult structures need tackled.

3. Tell a different type of story:  My favorite is to switch from a story with two actors to a story in which everyone is involved.  Give every student some type of role and require that they be involved.

The key is to be aware and proactive.  Sometimes pushing on with another story about purple elephants can do more harm than good.

Any other ideas?

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