Saturday, February 1, 2014

That's How I Roll - Storytelling

I've been trying to incorporate more storytelling and books in my classes this year. I've used an A to Z Reading book in my School Supplies unit, read Sombrero Rojo, Sombrero Verde to my kindergartners and I've tried my hand at my own interactive stories with the after school enrichment class and now with my 4th & 5th graders. The students have responded really well, but the trick is finding something relevant to what I'm teaching and is comprehensible enough to hold the kids' attention.

Here is what I am doing with descriptions...

I start by teaching the vocab using my Whole Brain Teaching techniques with gestures, pictures and having students teach other. Right now we are focused on the verb tener with eye color, hair type and other descriptions like bigote, barba, pecas and gafas. We very briefly go over how to conjugate tener, emphasizing the difference between Yo tengo and Él tiene/Ella tiene.

Students then write the words into their dictionaries. Our dictionaries are booklets we made at the beginning of the year where they write any new vocabulary I give them plus if they have free time after finishing a project they can look up words in my picture dictionaries and add them to their own.

Finally we read together a story I wrote about how someone has stolen their teacher's favorite pencils with special erasers (this circles back to our school supply unit.) As we go along I ask yes/no questions and then for words/full sentence answers to make sure they are understanding the story. Words that are familiar and/or I'm trying to emphasize are in a different color so students read those with me. Since it is a mystery whenever I shake my hands at the class they respond with a "dun, dun, dunnnn!" (That's their favorite part!)

Within the story are descriptions of the suspected thief. After we read each description, I change the screen to what looks like a Guess Who game board. Students work in pairs to decide which person was described. After we finish the story we write our own description together as a group on the board and then they split into pairs to write their own. Once they finish, they read them aloud for their classmates to guess.

For reference, this whole process takes about 2 rotations or 4 classes to get done although with some classes more time is needed. I've also done stories where students help "tell" the story by filling in the blanks. Then they illustrated the story we told together.

I've not been trained in TPRS so I'm not sure if what I'm doing qualifies. I do know that I don't have translations of the key words in English on the board to refer to. Students can refer to their dictionaries if they need help.  I'm not really "teaching" them the vocabulary using this method but taking the vocabulary we've learned, practicing it and solidifying it in their brains by seeing it in context.  Both ways, I use the TPRS style circling (as I understand it from videos and blogs I've found,) which I think works very well and helps me to make sure students are understanding.

Do you tell stories in other ways in your classrooms? Share your strategies in the comments below! I would love advice!


  1. Is that picture an app that you use during your story?

    1. Actually no - here is a link to the picture I used, though you could certainly use that app as well, maybe have kids play on computers if you have them. I prefer the picture in the link because it has more differences and the names are Hispanic.

  2. Wow, what a fantastic idea!!! Do you have acopy of the story? I would love to see it. We do the same unit in 1st grade at my school right after the school supplies unit so it would work so nicely for me. My email is