Asking questions in Storytelling

I read this post on Ben Slavic’s blog and it really communicates the importance of asking questions in storytelling. I have to remember that this is more important than the actual story. I must learn how to ask the right questions when and where and let the kids dictate the story. This is what will engage the kids and help them to learn more L2, when they are able to decide where the story is going. Here is what Ben said:

Who Drives the Bus?

I got the following email today from Dirk, who is only in his second month of TPRS. What he said is so wise. He reminds us to give up control and listen to the kids’ suggestions in a real way. Our job is to ask the questions and theirs is to answer them. Dirk said:

For all my worries and stresses about the method since March, I realize now that it is something one must just do for awhile and let it happen. Let the kids drive the bus.

Of course, this echoes what Blaine has said about the method, something I read and reread all the time:

I believe people who are the most effective at TPRS don’t tell stories. They ask questions, pause, and listen for cute answers from the students. The magic is in the interaction between the student and teacher. TPRS is searching for something interesting to talk about. That is done by questioning. Interesting comprehensible input is the goal of every class. If we are there to tell a story, we will probably not make the class interesting. We will be so focused on getting the story out that we won’t let the input from the kids happen.

I really like this quote from Blaine Ray as he reveals the secret to TPRS. If there is any doubt as to what we are suppose to do when we tell stories, here it is crystal clear. The magic that happens in the classroom does not come from the TPRS materials that we purchase, it comes from the interaction between the student and the teacher. The materials get us started. They give us an initial idea of what to do, but they are not the magic and neither is the home run story. It is the interaction between the teacher and the students. It is the web of connection that is established from the first day when I circle with props.

Teachers trust too much in the materials. I know, it is a bad habit that we have learned over the years. We feel that if we could just get the right book of stories then we will be able to have success in TPRS. I really don’t think the materials matter all that much. It is what the students do with the story that makes it interesting to them as well as the teacher going slow, circling, pausing and pointing, and teaching to the eyes. When the students are driving the bus they can take any story and turn it into their own masterpiece. What a fun way to learn a language. Besides, at the end of the day we can give all the credit to the students which is incredibly rewarding to us as teachers.

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Filed under PQA, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

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