It’s baaaack

I’m afraid I do not see sufficient elemental differences between “story-listening” and anything else to consider story-listening an independent method. It’s TPRS 1.0 coming back, like the miniskirt, and has the same disadvantage: that all the varied bodies in question have to happen to fit the skirt for it to work, because like very early TPRS, its shape is unforgiving and imposed from outside. The TPRS of the late 1980s was not the personalized/customized method we see today, and there are very good reasons why TPRS has developed in the way it has, toward personalization, abandoning the attempt to impose stories on kids.

It confuses me that people who are great supporters of FVR — the key word being “free”, meaning choice and variation between student interests — would also espouse a one-size-fits-all selection of a story by the teacher. In Asian ESL (been there, taught that, BTW) this may go over better since conformity is much more valued, but in US public school teaching, I think in the majority of cases it’s very difficult to find a single story that would really compel the entire class. What teachers find compelling is rarely what all the kids find compelling.

Telling stories, rather than asking them, assumes the teacher can judge that a story (characters, details, ending) will be compelling to every student in the class. I can’t even imagine anyone being able to do that consistently throughout a school year, dealing with 30 or more students in a class. Having a class organically reveal what interests it avoids the pressure on the teacher to choose well, and also reveals a lot about the students. It’s also far easier to naturally repeat language that has been brought into comprehensibility, since everything grows as a whole, instead of being a series of stories that have no relationship to each other, stitched together (or not). Language acquisition in a school setting requires far more repetition than just what is available from natural frequency. TPRS provides high-density, high-quality comprehensible input, while most other “CI methods” provide mostly comprehensible input (depending on the willingness of the program to establish meaning through a shared fluent language) that is not particularly high-density.

It is also far more difficult to develop personal relationships with students when they are recipients of, rather than participants in, in a story. Asian classroom management is far simpler than that in the US (again, been there, taught that) but in the US public school system, most teachers find that building relationships with students is extremely important for classroom management if nothing else.

Telling a story occasionally is fine. But there’s no substitute for being able to ask stories reliably, in terms of flexibility, personalization and customization, for repetition of language, and in terms of compelling engagement for all, not just some.

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