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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.”

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