Volume XII - December 1, 2004

Welcome to the E-Comp!, a complimentary monthly newsletter for language educators brought to you by Prolinguistica.com.


Featured Article
By James J. Asher, Ph.D
Originator of the Total Physical Response, known worldwide as TPR

Storytelling:  How to apply TPRS for best results
A high school teacher of Spanish asked me recently, “I was at a TPRS storytelling workshop and the presenter advised us to jump right into storytelling without TPR. I was surprised. What do you think?”

There is no research that I am aware of supporting storytelling without at least three weeks of student preparation with classical TPR. After that, make a transition into storytelling but continue to use TPR for new vocabulary and grammar. This strategy applies to students of all ages and all languages.

After about three weeks, I recommend a variety of activities using the vocabulary the students have internalized with TPR. These include role reversal, sotrytelling, skits created and acted out by students, games such as TPR Bingo, pattern drills, and dialogues. All of these activities will ease students into speaking, reading, and writing, but remember to TPR the words first. As you know from your own experience, variety is essential to keep students interested day after day. There is no one magical all-purpose technique that will work for everything.

Running a successful language classroom is like a Ringling Brothers Circus. A “one-trick pony” is not enough to attract and keep the audience’s rapt attention. A successful language classroom needs many different acts.

Heather Fairbanks, who is working to preserve native languages in North America, explains storytelling this way: “I think that students of all ages will get tired of sitting day-after-day going over-and-over a short story, but I think the approach would be good to use part of the time as a follow-up to classical TPR.”

Here is what professional linguists and some outstanding language teachers have to say about TPR Storytelling:

Dr. James J. Davidheiser
Professor of German at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee

“For over five years I have been teaching TPR for the first three weeks of the term in Elementary German to college students…They love it and learn rapidly.

“After about three weeks we make the transition to TPR storytelling and students are able to do this with only minor, normal adjustments as would be the case when doing anything new. As students advance, I continue to use TPR for new vocabulary. At the end of the term, many students rate the first three weeks, the TPR phase, as their favorite part of the class.” 

Mark Vinson Jones
EFL Instructor at Chonnam National University, Gwangju, South Korea

“Day 1: An enjoyable learning experience for me and my students works like this: I TPR the words and grammatical structures that will appear in a short story I will introduce on Day 2.

“Day 2: I review the vocabulary with a variety of fun right brain activities such as a picture-word concentration game, a picture bingo game, a picture crossword puzzle, or a picture “Go Fish” game. Even a traditional left brain pattern drill is exciting to students if they have first assimilated the vocabulary with TPR which, as you know, has the bonus of zero stress and long-term retention. Now, when I tell the short story for the first time, my students are impressed that they understand every word I am saying in the target language. Understanding the story is a thrilling revelation to them. And when they are excited, I am rewarded for being ‘the world’s best instructor.’

“The secret of success I believe is the skillful orchestration of material that plays back and forth to the right and left brain. The alternation between both sides of the brain neutralizes ad-aptation, boredom and stress. TPR is a powerful tool in your tool box, but it is not the only tool. Label every technique you have ever tried as either a right or a left brain tool. Then you are ready to assemble a successful day after day learning experience for all your students.”

Dr. David Wolfe
Supervisor of Foreign Languages in the Moorestown Township of the New Jersey Public Schools
and Professor at Temple University

“…We believe that one should do classical TPR for about three weeks; then begin storytelling. One should apply TPR to internalize any concrete vocabulary that will appear later in the story.

There needs to be a silent period of several weeks before students begin speaking; premature storytelling is a violation of this principle. I’ve yet to see any long-term research on the effects of storytelling…”

Dr. Francisco Cabello
Associate Professor of Modern Languages at Concordia College and author of “The Total Physical Response in First Year Spanish, French or English

“…there is no substitute for fast vocabulary acquisition with TPR…Now, I have observed that when the TPR students begin role reversal and try speaking for the first time, they tend to use the imperative for everything because that is what they have heard most. However, after telling a few stories in the target language, they make the transition to other verbal structures.”  

Stephen M. Silvers
Professor of Modern Languages at the University of the Amazons in Brazil and author of the “Listen and Perform books” and the “Command Book: How to TPR 2,000 words in any language

“I have three comments:
“First, after 30 years of teaching English successfully here in the Amazon to students of all ages, I find that grammatical structures learned with classical TPR facilitate the learning of more advanced structures.
“Secondly, storytelling without TPR is like writing an essay using a typewriter. It can be done, but there is a better ‘tool’ available. As we all know, storytelling is older than the Bible, and has long been used as a technique in language teaching. What makes TPRS unique and more effective for second language learning is Asher’s TPR component—a powerful tool for getting students ready to understand a story when they hear it for the first time.

“Thirdly, telling a story with hand gestures (to help students retrieve words in the story) may work if the gestures have an integral connection to the meaning of a vocabulary item. If the connection is too deviant, we may be burdening students with still another system of symbols to be learned. Clarifying this issue would be a worthwhile research project for all those graduate students looking for something exciting to explore for a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.”

Laura Zink de Diaz
Prize-winning teacher of Spanish, French and Russian for more than 20 years in the Seattle area and publisher of "E-Comp!" the cutting-edge newsletter for FL/ESL teachers

“…The beauty of TPR is its fluidity, its adaptability. I think that TPR, properly applied, is far less likely to produce ‘ingrained’ structures (a fixation on the imperative) than following any text, even a TPR storytelling book, because classical TPR enables the teacher to work so much variety into the use of the structures.

“Any time you rely on a textbook, you run the risk of students becoming stuck in the patterns taught in the text. Focusing exclusively on stories can have the same result. In the end, texts don’t create good instruction—all texts can lead you down the ‘garden path.’

“With any textbook, even a TPRS textbook, it’s easy for the teacher’s approach to become mechanical—dependent on the book, rather than on her creativity. A beginning class is precisely where one should never skip TPR…”  

For additional articles,
click on www.tpr-world.com and then click on About TPR and TPRS.
For a free subscription to the newsletter by Laura Zink de Diaz, subscribe by sending an email to: e-comp@prolinguistica.com or by clicking on www.prolinguistica.com

Asher, James J. (2003). Learning Another Language through Actions (6th edition).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Asher, James.J. (2002). Brainswitching: Learning on the right side of the brain.
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Asher, James J. (2000). The Super School: Teaching on the right side of the brain.
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Cabello, Francisco (2004).TPR in First Year English. (Also available in Spanish and French).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Garcia, Ramiro. (2001). Instructor’s Notebook: How to apply TPR for best results
(4th edition). Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
McKay, Todd. (2004). TPRS Storytelling: Especially for students in elementary and middle school. (English, Spanish or French).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Ray, Blaine. (2004). Look, I Can Talk series (Available in English, Spanish, French or German).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Schessler, Eric.(1999). English Grammar through Actions: How to TPR 50 Grammatical Features in English. (Also available in Spanish or French).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Seely, Contee and Elizabeth Romijn. (2002) TPR is More than Commands —At All Levels.
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.
Silver, Stephen. (2003). Listen and Perform series (Available in English, Spanish or French).
Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O.Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031.

Sky Oaks Productions, Inc.
TPR World Headquarters
P.O. Box 1102 • Los Gatos, CA, USA 95031
Tel: (408) 395-7600
Fax: (408) 395-8440
e-mail: tprworld@aol.com
To order from our full-color
TPR Catalog, click on:
FREE TPR Catalog upon request.


For Your Reading Pleasure

Language skills could mean extra pay
Knowing a foreign language could earn federal civilian and military employees more money under a provision of the 2005 Defense Authorization Act…The authorization act, which became law Oct. 28, approves increases in financial incentives for federal employees with foreign language proficiency.
Read more about it at: http://federaltimes.com/index.php?S=511839

High Schools to Provide EU Language Passport
zaman.com (Turkish online newspaper)
High School principles will issue "language passports" to students next year. The Language Passport will apply in 2005 in schools across Europe according to an agreement signed by the education ministers of European Commission member countries. From now on, anyone who wants to work and live in a European Country will need a language passport. People who are not fluent in the foreign country they wish to work will not be given a work or residential permit. After it is enforced, restrictions will be implemented.
Read more about this plan at: http://www.zaman.com/?bl=national&alt=&trh=20041120&hn=14040

"What are 5 things you wish you'd known when you started teaching?"
To read Steven Krashen’s answers to this question visit:
Must the Whole World Speak English?
Commentary by Paul Johnson, Forbes.com
The French educational world is convulsed by a report on the future of its school system. A commission headed by education expert Claude Thélot has recommended that the teaching of English be mandatory in all French schools and that it be accorded the same importance as the French language and mathematics. The commission takes the position that English is now the "language of international communication" and that French young people must be taught to speak and write it fluently. Paul Johnson’s answer to the question is yes. If you’d like to read his opinion, you’ll find it at:

Workers fighting English-only rules
While still rare, cases brought against employers who limit language have grown 612% since 1996.
By Jeremy Meyer - Denver Post Staff Writer
Aurora - Luz Ornelas and Guadelupe Coronado say they were humiliated and degraded when their boss forbade them from speaking their native Spanish while working at a Family Dollar store on East Colfax Avenue.Not long after, they say, they were fired along with five other Spanish-speaking employees and replaced with workers who spoke only English. The women recently filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying their civil rights were violated and asking for unspecified damages. You can read more about language discrimination at: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~2541943,00.html#

We’re apparently not the only ones transgressing in this way…
Mcdonald's Facing Probe over 'English Language Only' Rule
By Pat Hurst, PA

Fast food giant McDonald’s could be in trouble with race watchdogs for asking its staff to speak English, it was revealed today. An outlet in Manchester put up a sign ordering employees to use English at all times in the store ? including the staff room. But experts now believe they could have infringed workers’ human rights and European employment law. Read more about this issue in Europe at:

Tone Language Translates To Perfect Pitch: Mandarin Speakers More Likely To Acquire Rare Musical Ability
University Of California San Diego

Could it be that cellist Yo-Yo Ma owes his perfect musical pitch to his Chinese parents? While we may never know the definitive answer, new research from the University of California, San Diego has found a strong link between speaking a tone language - such as Mandarin - and having perfect pitch, the ability once thought to be the rare province of super-talented musicians.
Read more about this intriguing research at:

Laura's Picking on Chicago this month...
Chicago gets C+ in 'language ambush'
BY GARY WISBY Chicago Sun-Times
I am proudly trilingual. OK, two of the languages are Pig Latin and Urtig. Urtig is just as simple as Pig Latin but harder to translate. Consonants are followed by "urtig." Cat is curtigat, feel is furtigeel, punish is purtigunurtigish.  Despite my language skills, I didn't do any better than pedestrians quizzed Wednesday at Water Tower Place. They were asked, "Excuse me, what time is it?" in one of four languages and their answers -- or lack of same -- were recorded and scored.
The "language ambush" publicized the convention of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, which has drawn more than 5,000 teachers and other language professionals here to promote language learning in the United States. Read how the citizens did in the “language ambush” at:

Schools Beef Up Emphasis on Teaching Kids to Speak Chinese
Gary Wisby - Chicago Sun-Times
By the time they graduate, more than 80 percent of the kids at all-Hispanic McCormick Elementary School will be speaking Spanish, English -- and Chinese. Read this “good news” piece and then explain to me how a gift of textbooks is going to produce Chinese-speaking elementary students all over Chicago ? and where Chicago has found sufficient Chinese teachers to “replicate” the program for all of Chicago’s children…

Dual-language school lauded as national model
By Sanjay Bhatt - Seattle Times staff reporter
When Principal Karen Kodama enters a kindergarten classroom in Seattle's John Stanford International School, the students pause from learning numerals, greet her in Japanese and enthusiastically bow to her as a "sensei," or teacher. And on Friday, the school's newest kids on the block — Bantu refugees from Somalia — joyfully sang a poem in their native Maay tongue. They weren't in harmony, but they were a hit. The Latona neighborhood school, now in its fifth year, requires students to learn math and science in Spanish or Japanese as well as study reading, writing and social studies in English — an approach called "dual-language immersion." Today the public school is being recognized by the nonprofit Asia Society and the Goldman Sachs Foundation in a national report, "Schools for the Global Age: Promising Practices in International Education." The two groups hope to inspire others to replicate the school's model. Read more about the school at:

Tests of Youngest English-Learners Spark Controversy
By Mary Ann Zehr ? Education Week
At a time when many states are poised to roll out new standardized tests to evaluate English-language proficiency in unprecedented depth, California is balking at carrying out a federal requirement to test the literacy of young children who are learning English. In a unanimous vote last week, the California board of education decided to ask the U.S. Department of Education to exempt the state’s English-language learners in kindergarten and 1st grade from being tested in reading and writing, as required under the No Child Left Behind Act. If you sign in (free), you can read more at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/11/17/12test.h24.html

Syria launches program to save Aramaic language
In Syria, the government has launched a program to save one of the world's oldest and most important languages from dying out.
Aramaic is believed to have been first spoken in ancient Mesopotamia about 3000 years ago. And scholars say it was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. But it's now only spoken in three villages in central Syria and even these communities need help to pass it on to their children. Read the transcript of the report from Australian Broadcast Corporation at: http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2004/s1226140.htm]

Germans prefer belongings to love when it comes to language
LOVE lost out to property when Germany chose its most beautiful word from a list of 22,000 entries.  "Habseligkeiten", meaning "belongings", was chosen by the Goethe Institute and the German Language Council in a competition that resulted in suggestions coming from 111 countries. Read more about the search for the coolest German word at: http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1238932004

Music mirrors tone patterns in our speech
Classic English and French composers influenced by their language.
Composers' mother tongue helps to shape their work.
Would Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance or Debussy's Clair de Lune have sounded the same if the composers had been born in different countries? Probably not, according to researchers who have found that the melodies composers write are influenced by the language they speak.The team's analysis shows that fluctuations in pitch in music written by classic French composers vary much less than in British music. The difference mirrors the patterns of pitch found in the corresponding languages. Read the rest of the article at:

Diversity in Dialects
The Enquirer
Students at Hoop and Frost elementaries in Mount Healthy, Ohio, have been learning about diversity in regional and cultural dialects. Six classrooms of fourth, fifth and sixth graders have used an experimental curriculum to teach students about how and why people speak differently in different regions and situations. Read more about it at: http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/11/05/loc_dialect.html

ELLs as Class Journalists
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
English language learners at Glenwood Springs Elementary in Glenwood, Colorado are learning how to be journalists while honing their English reading and writing skills. In October, ELL teacher Kim Kappeli started a class newsletter called the ELL Times to encourage her students to practice reading and writing in English. Read the article at: http://www.glenwoodindependent.com/article/20041105/VALLEYNEWS/111050021

For Babies, Social Interaction With Other Languages Boosts Language Skills
WebMD Medical News
Infants who play and interact with people who speak foreign languages may learn and develop better language skills. A recent study shows that even brief social interaction with foreign speakers can help children overcome the natural declines in their ability to distinguish different phonetic sounds that commonly occur between 6 and 12 months of age. Researchers say the findings also suggest that social interaction may play a key role in language learning. Read the article at:


Resources you might be interested in….

Six Games for Reading
Give familiar games like "Old Maid" and "Go Fish" a reading twist. This article describes how six games can be fun for kids while practicing their reading skills.
Check out the website at: http://www.readingrockets.org/

Researchers Target Natural Speech
The Guardian
The development of a new 'language' to describe the way we talk could help overseas students develop a more natural command of English. The new approach to looking at speech - "the grammar of talk" - was published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in October to help improve the teaching of "speaking and listening" English. The booklet provides a new grammatical description of spoken English, based on patterns observed from more than 5 million words of real conversations compiled by researchers at the universities of Nottingham and Cambridge in Great Britain. Read the entire article at: http://education.guardian.co.uk/tefl/story/0,5500,1337057,00.html
Phi Delta Kappan Resources and Articles on FL Programs
Posted at Phi Delta Kapan's website is an "International Studies Resource Guide" containing a LONG list of resources for World Languages and international education in general.
The November 2004 print issue of Phi Delta Kappan contains an article with information for those interested in building their FL programs, or those facing cutbacks. The title of the article is "Improving Students' Capacity in Foreign Languages" by Miriam Met. The issue also contains 9 other articles on international education:
"International Education in the Schools: The State of the Field"
"Raising a World-Wise Child and the Power of Media: The Impact of Television on Children's Intercultural Knowledge"
"How Americans Think About International Education and Why It Matters"
"Preparing Urban Youths to Succeed in the Interconnected World of the 21st Century"
"International Education: From Community Innovation to National Policy"
"Preparing Our Students for Work and Citizenship in the Global Age"
"Harnessing Information Technology for International Education
These articles are not available on line, but perhaps you can borrow the magazine from someone in your school who takes PDKappan
You can view the Resource Guide at:

Justo Lamas
Ever heard of Justo? Justo is an Argentine rock musician who has been working with American teachers for quite some time, helping them motivate and improve  their students' Spanish through music. He puts out an occasional  newsletter for teachers, and has a couple of websites, one for teachers and his own site for fans. He also comes to the US and performs for schools. Check him out at:
and at:


Thinking about it...

A little more on spelling, and the use of stories. This strategy sneaks spelling in under the radar of your students. Create a list of about ten words you want to focus on. Make up a very short story (ten to twelve lines) that incorporates all of the words on your list. Make the story funny or silly, even wacky, and you want it to engage your students' attention. Make sure you also control the vocabulary, keeping it within the scope of what you know your students can understand. Next, write the story on sentence strips. Post the story in a pocket chart, or put magnetic tape on the back of the strips and post the story on your white board for the duration of the "unit." Now you're ready to engage your students in a series of activities.

Step 1 - With the story posted, read it to your students and check for comprehension.
Step 2 - Call for volunteers, and have each one read just one sentence strip out loud, in order, so that the class hears the story again. 
Step 3 - Each day ask if there are any volunteers to read the story aloud to the class. (This provides reading practice for the student reading, but also reading- and listening-comprehension input for the rest of the class. Most can't help but read along silently.)
Step 4 - Before students come into the room, scatter the sentence strips around the room. The students' task is to find the strips and bring them back to the white board or pocket chart.  Have volunteers put the story back together again, discussing what the correct order should be. Inevitably, there will be some discussion about whether the elements of the story can be arranged differently – and whether those changes will affect how much sense the story makes, or change the outcome or implications… all good stuff for students to consider.
Step 5 - Another day post the story as usual, but place the sentences out of order. Ask for volunteers to come to the board, choose a sentence, read it aloud, and place it in the order they feel is most appropriate. Sometimes there will be arguments over what order is best… also good stuff.  (A nice variation is to put the disordered strips on the floor and have the class stand around in a circle to volunteer to re-order them.)
Step 6 - Ask students to copy the story and illustrate each sentence. And since they are copying, their spelling has to be perfect. For most, it will be.  When this task is complete, have students volunteer to come to the board to illustrate one sentence until there is a picture to associate with each sentence. Keep the illustrations - you'll need them! (If you collect this work, you can also photocopy the illustrations and turn them into transparencies that you can use in a variety of games on the overhead projector. Kids love seeing their pics on the overhead... and that way students who are too shy to draw on the board get a little glory too!)
Step 7 - Remove the sentence strips, but leave the illustrations. Call for volunteers to "read" you the story from the illustrations, one volunteer for each line of the story. (If you really can't leave the illustrations up on the board, this is a good example of how you might use transparencies of kids' pics.)
Step 8 Print out a version of the story in a relatively large font - 18 to 24 point, for example - but with the sentences again out of order, and run off enough copies for the class.  Students are to cut out sentence strips from this handout. Now they have a desk top version of the story, out of order. Call out the sentences and have students place them in "your" order. Alternatively, have students call out the sentences (one sentence per student) so that all place their strips in "their" order.
Step 9 - On a subsequent day, have students pull out their sentence strips, order them and then copy the story in the right order onto a sheet of lined paper. Again, they are copying, so no spelling errors are allowed.
Step 10 - Remove the sentence strips from the board or pocket chart, but leave up the illustrations. Ask students to write the story from the illustrations. When they have finished, put the sentence strips back up so that students can check and correct their spelling. But by then most students will be making very few spelling errors. Why? Because:

1. they have received much input - both verbal and visual - of all the words

2. they have moved gradually from simple to complex, from listening and speaking to reading and writing

3. they have been allowed to absorb the spelling of the words with scaffolding – visual clues, both in writing and picture; they have been permitted to work with a reference at hand for quite a while before being asked to perform without a net

4. the affective filter is low – no one feels on the spot, indeed most students won't even realize there was any focus on spelling, though they'll all realize as they complete the work that their spelling is pretty good.

You'll notice that I make a point of asking students to read only one line aloud when they volunteer. You can use your own judgement as to when to increase that. Your volunteers may want to read two lines, three, half the story or the whole story. You may have pairs of kids who want to read the story aloud in unison, or two who want to work together to order the story in front of the class. Fine and dandy! -- as long as the students are volunteers, because it's important to keep the affective filter low throughout.

I've found that variations on this series of exercises lead my students to good syntax, good grammar and good spelling in a pretty painless way. Don't be mechanical - it's not necessary to use all the steps, all the time. This isn't a formula, and if you use it all the time the same way, students will get bored.  It's simply another way to provide enough input so that students' internalize the material. And it's good preparation for students to write their own stories, which you can then use in class in a variety of ways. With stories the students have generated themselves, you have REALLY motivating material!

If you have a strategy that works, a "tip", or suggestion, submit it, and we'll see to it that everyone gets the benefit of your expertise!

Happy Holidays!


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