A TK-8 inquiry-based, multilingual school. Schedule a tour to visit our campus for 2023-2024.

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Language learning through storytelling

How can teachers increase language fluency in a way that’s effective, but also engaging and fun?  One way is a tool Oasis’s Spanish and Mandarin teachers have started incorporating into their lessons: TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling).balada-dos-abuelos-wordle

A more holistic approach to language teaching, TPRS teaches vocabulary and grammar structures through interactive storytelling.

First, to ensure understanding, the teacher takes a simple sentence that uses the vocabulary or grammar being taught, and asks a variety of questions about that sentence in the target language.

The teacher and the students then work together to create a story that utilizes the vocabulary and/or grammar concepts.  After the teacher starts with a basic structure for the story, the students pitch in by becoming characters in the story, providing personal (and sometimes humorous) details that flesh out the action and the dialogue.

As the teacher circles back through story’s details and prompts the class to respond to questions about the story, the students internalize not just the new vocabulary, but also the grammatical components of the language in a contextualized, natural way.

Making students active collaborators in creating the story provides a fun way for them to want to speak and participate in class.  And because of their personal connection to it, the resulting story is something far more memorable than the usual textbook stories used to teach language concepts.

Subsequently, students work on their verbal fluency by listening to a teacher recording of the story and practicing speaking it.

Oasis teachers receiving TPRS training

“Because the substance of the story is about them, their family and friends, it really helps students retain that vocabulary and grammar,” explains TPRS trainer Teresa Solis.  “I’ve seen how effective this approach is at getting the language deep into their long-term memory.”  A veteran Spanish teacher with 30 years of experience, Solis recently trained Oasis’s teachers in TPRS techniques.

TPRS also utilizes physical movements to aid learning.  “It gets them up and out of their desks,” Solis notes.  “We act out stories, or when we teach vocabulary, we add physical gestures to help with comprehension.  So the body remembers, not just the brain.”  This aspect of TPRS is grounded in research showing that pairing physical, large body movement with academic content can improve student learning.

“TPRS fits perfectly into Oasis’s philosophy of teaching the whole child,” says Solis.  “It’s a method that produces successful acquisition, but that also considers the children’s emotional and physical needs.  They go hand in hand.”

A Visit with Our New Program Director

Oasis Trilingual Community School is pleased to announce that Rachel Chadwick has joined its staff.  As the Program Director, Rachel will work on professional development, curriculum alignment, and the development of students’ Individual Learning Plans.

Prior to coming to Oasis, Rachel spent six years at Aveson School of Leaders, a Pasadena-area charter school, where she taught middle school history, English and science, K-2 literacy, and served on the Aveson Cooperative Leadership Board.  

What first attracted you to Oasis?

From my time at a start-up at Aveson, I knew that I loved the autonomy of a start-up school– the freedom to come up with curriculum that you enjoy as a teacher, and that students enjoy.  I also loved the trilingual approach.  I speak Spanish and have traveled a lot, and want those experiences for my own children.  I respect the ambition of this model.  It’s very exciting!

Can you describe your current work at Oasis?

After serving as a consultant to Oasis earlier this year, I recently started working on campus more regularly.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of literacy coaching– individually assessing students to personalize where they are in Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop and Words Their Way, two of the main English language arts curricula that we use.

I’ve also been working a lot with the teachers, brainstorming strategies to help students feel warm and welcome in the classroom but to also have boundaries.  The teachers here have a very open spirit.  They want to learn!  They’re eager to try out different models, to observe and explore new approaches.  It’s a lot of collaboration and professional development in a very constructive environment, which I love.

What will you be focusing on next?

Refining the way we assess the students and individualize their instruction.  We want to do a few assessments, not too many, that give really valuable information about where each student is in his/her learning.  There should always be a plan for addressing each student’s individual levels.  For example, if a third grader has exceeded third grade benchmarks in a particular area, and is now using fourth grade benchmarks, everyone should understand how we tailor the curriculum to meet that need.  Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop is really built for differentiating, so it’s great for students progressing at their own pace.

What makes a huge difference here is the way teachers really know the students.  The class sizes are so small, each kid is deeply known.

Looking ahead, what excites you about being part of Oasis?

I’m excited about the role it can play in the community.  An affordable school with project-based learning, social-emotional learning, and a language focus that starts at a young age– there’s a lot of power in that.  Applying Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop to Spanish and Mandarin is also very pioneering.

Finally, looking back to where they started, the kids have grown so much over the year in their language skills.  It’s amazing to see that happening, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

A School Where Students Use Their Voice

Many visitors to our school have commented on how comfortable our students are with speaking up.

This is one of the driving principles behind Oasis.  Our founding parents noticed that in language immersion programs with larger class sizes, students had relatively few opportunities to practice speaking at length in their target language, making it harder to develop fluency.

In the small classes at Oasis, students have many more chances to speak up.  Teachers have them ask and answer questions, offer opinions, and engage in group discussions everyday in Mandarin, Spanish and English.Monthly Hot Chocolate Meeting

And in monthly Student Hot Chocolate meetings, students meet with school administrators to discuss school-wide issues and propose their ideas.  They are not shy about providing their input! For Oasis students, speaking up is as much a part of their school day as is listening.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 4.04.39 PMTo build on these speaking skills, we recently launched an exciting new partnership with Toastmasters. Through Toastmasters’ Youth Leadership Program, students learn how to introduce themselves, how to speak confidently before a group, how to present ideas convincingly, and how to listen carefully and provide thoughtful feedback to others’ ideas.  This program takes place once a week as part of the regular school day, and incorporates all three languages.

Our prIMG_0033ogram also extends the concept of “voice” beyond the classroom to the community at large.  In a December 2014 trip to Temple City City Hall, students not only made a presentation to City staff about their school, they learned how local issues and projects are presented and discussed, and even voted on a matter before the City Council!

Our second and third graders recently put these skills to use as they ran for class offices. Each candidate made a speech about why he/she should be elected, while the kindergarten and first grade students got practice evaluating and voting for candidates.IMG_2244

Whether it’s in the local community, school-wide, or in the classroom, developing a strong sense of voice is a big part of the student experience at Oasis.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://oasistrilingualschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Oasis-School-Calendar-2016.pdf” title=”Oasis School Calendar 2016″]