Waaaaay back in October, I had the great pleasure of attending TCI Maine, New England, and Beyond (I’ll be there this October, too–come join me!). One of the reasons that I was particularly excited about this conference was because Anne Matava was going to be presenting. Anne Matava–aka the inventor/author of Matava scripts (she has published three volumes to date)! When I first made the switch to TPRS–back when it was JUST TPRS–I lived and breathed her story scripts. The only reason that I was able to make a successful transition out of textbook teaching was because I had her first volume of story scripts to choose from when planning lessons for my classes. So if Michele Whaley is my CI mama, Anne Matava is my CI fairy godmother!
Truly, Anne’s session did not disappoint. I left with two big takeaways and one GIANT takeaway.
Big Takeaway #1: It is
okay necessary to draw a hard line on discipline.
DON’T permit disrespect. Anne is fun loving and personable, and she is very clear about her expectations. Asking stories with your students does not mean that you need to loosen up your class rules; in fact, it is quite the opposite. If you want your class storyasking experiences to be positive and fruitful, you must tighten up your classroom management. (Of course–aiming to do so is one thing; implementation is quite another! Bryce Hedstrom trainings have been most helpful to me in learning how to manage interactive classes.)
Big Takeaway #2: Never stop learning.
Anne is a long-time member of Ben Slavic’s PLC, and although she has been doing this TPRS thing for a long time and literally wrote the book on story scripts, she is still stretching herself. Instead of demonstrating a traditional TPRS story (working from one of her scripts, a character looking to solve a problem and going to multiple locations to that end), she tried out a One Word Image with us! Can you believe it?? In her workshop–where she was the teacher–she tried something new! I thought that that was just the best thing ever. Yes, we want to see teachers doing demonstrations of things that they already do well–we like to see good examples of what we are aiming for. But isn’t it also a wonderful idea to see leaders in our profession doing risky things? Of course, Anne has mastered many of the transferrable CI skills that allow her to deliver any kind of input comprehensibly and successfully. Teachers that are new to this way of teaching won’t have that, but I think that her humility and risk-taking did much to empower us participants! “Yes I can!” was the overwhelming sentiment that we felt leaving her session. We will never “master” this thing we call language teaching, but man it feels good to keep moving in that direction anyway!
Giant Takeaway #3: Don’t give up on stories.
There was this moment during the create of our One Word Image in which the actor was trying to demonstrate big lips like Angelina Jolie while frowning at the same time. Try it!! It is IMPOSSIBLE to do it without laughing!! In an instant, I was connected forever in that eruption of laughter with the 40-odd participants in that room and with Anne. In that moment, I felt like a shooting star left my brain and flew off into the universe. There is NO SUBSTITUTE for co created stories–NONE!! I love storytelling forms of input as much as the next guy–news stories, classic fairytales, cultural content, MovieTalk, Picture Talk–but none of them come anywhere close to achieving the same level of connection between you and your students and your students and each other as creating a story will. Whether you spin a story out of a personalized question, create a One Word Image, work from a Matava Style script, or spin a story from some other starting point–don’t give up on storyasking. Yes–classroom management is more difficult with the interaction and idea sharing (and possibly acting) that accompanies storyasking. Yes–it’s a different skill and it’s uncomfortable and you’ll probably fail a lot at first. And it is worth it to figure it out. Miriam wrote today about #failingforward, and that is a high frequency vocab in the Bex family. We talk about failing forward in our businesses, in our parenting, in our relationships. Fail forward with your storyasking–it is worth it.
So…what’s your plan? How are you going to get better at creating stories with your students? You’re going to fail…how are you going to #failforward?