Backward Planning, a missing element that was needed

This year I have been doing a lot more backward planning from the novels and it has really boosted my stories. I have basically been picking out some of the important phrases from the novel and putting it into the story. This has freed me from using a script all the time and has really made the class a lot more focused. I used to [and sometimes still] put so much pressure on myself to think of a story or to come up with something interesting. Now I can sit back and just ask questions.

One thing that Krashen has mentioned is the need to acquire a language because of a need. The brain will acquire language a lot more easily when the L2 comes at a necessary time. Backward planning has really jump stared this for me. As I am going along in the story I have my backward plan template in front of me and I can insert words when a need arises and it is acquired a lot quicker because it makes sense in the story, rather than me trying to get something in that doesn’t fit into the story. The thing is, we have so little time in class that we need to be careful how we spend our time. We must make every part of the period as meaningful as possible. The backward plan helps to do that. It keeps the story moving with interesting details which the students can choose from.

The stories so far have been interesting and keep the pace moving. There is also more to the plot and it helps me to have more of a structure on the fly. Also I can still tell stories in the past with reading in the present because the novels will provide me with the reading that I need, as well as the extended dictation on the days following the story. I am curious to see where it will go this semester, but I have a good feeling about it.



Filed under Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

6 responses to “Backward Planning, a missing element that was needed

  1. So could you be a little more precise in how exactly you do the backward planning, Thomas?
    This is great stuff.

    • thomasyoung

      Thanks for the comment. See the recent blog, Backward Planning Clarification and let me know if you have more questions, ideas or advice.

  2. Rita

    I’m into backward planning, too. I found my kids had such a hard time with the novel if they didn’t know almost all the words. I’m not sure about the rule of 75% comprehensible to read in class. I think they need more than that to be able to enjoy reading. I go through each chapter and pick out the words the kids don’t know and use them as my vocabulary words. The important structures we can turn into stories; others I do with TPR or just teach through any method I can think of. They won’t really acquire all the vocabulary before reading, but at least the words will be familiar.

    Despite the push for spontanaeity, I still really like having a plan for what I’m going to hold myself responsible to teach during the year. We can add extra vocab as the “gravy,” but I think I need to know the meat and potatoes will be served. (Actually, I’m a vegetarian, so maybe I need another analogy…)

    • thomasyoung


      Thanks for the comment! That is so great that you do backward planning. I identify very much with everything you wrote. My students also had a hard time with the novels before, but now are doing a lot better. As you mentioned, I feel like I need a bit of a plan with the words. I can be spontaneous with the words and that bring the gravy, like you mentioned. I shoot for 90-95% knowledge on the reading comprehension. I know they won’t know all of the words, but this gives them the confidence they need to keep going with the novel.

      I feel confident basing my structures off the novels because I know that Blaine was very intentional about using high frequency, fluency structures. One challenge I have been having lately is to get as many repetitions on the structures as I can. I tend to loose some of the specificity, but I think that it can get better if I am a little more conscious.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  3. Ruth

    Hi Thomas,
    Just discovered your blog through Ben’s blog. Do you have your backward planning template available to share and somewhere we can access?

    • thomasyoung

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for taking a look at the blog. I made the template on a word document and I pasted the template on the blog entitled, Backward Planning Clarification. The key words from the chapter are arranged by question word. I will put here, too. Let me know if you need anything else.

      Pobre Ana – palabras importantes

      PA capítulo 1 – palabras importantes antes de leer

      come pone quiere camisa ayuda ropa comida le gusta busca encuentra contesta compra

      le dice tiene chocolate fruta se ríe toma le da va a

      ¿Cómo? / ¿Cómo es?:
      alta pelo largo[castaño, rubio] azul se llama

      toda hermano se ríe está triste
      vive centro comercial

      ¿Cuántos? / ¿Por cuánto tiempo? / ¿A qué hora?
      tiene __ años


      después de
      otras palabras
      también con siempre/nunca su

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