TPRS Step 3: Reading

Our Inaugural SA TPRS conference has just finished. It was 3 days full of information, explanations, demos and coaching. My brain is full to bursting and my body is absolutely shattered (note to self: participating in a language class is a physically and mentally exhausting brain workout) I am now in a particularly weird emotive state where I would just love to be heading back again this morning for another day of listening to Terry & Lizette and yet on the other hand, I am so excited to have some time to start thinking about the ways in which I can incorporate the skills that were demonstrated over the past 3 days into my teaching.

What an outstanding team Terry Waltz & Lizette Liebold are! They work together seamlessly and complement each other beautifully. Terry skills as a presenter dovetailed nicely with Lizette’s coaching skills. Combined they have countless years of TPRS teaching, in fact Lizette is one of the original pioneer TPRS language teachers who hopped on the TPRS train right back when it first began and has consequently attended all NTPRS conferences bar one!

Terry’s skills as a presenter are remarkable. While this was her 3rd consecutive Australian conference, delivering (I assume) exactly the same program, at no time did I feel that it was rehearsed or a repeat of a previous presentation. Terry’s manner assured us that she was genuinely enjoying her time with us and that we in no way compared poorly against previous cohorts. Which is exactly what happens in a TPRS classroom! While the target structure may be the same with consecutive classes, each class provides different details which lead us in different directions each and every time.

My brain is reeling with all that I heard throughout the conference and thank goodness I took notes, because right now it is still aching and overwhelmed. If I reflect on the biggest take away for me from my 3 days at the conference, it would without a doubt be the clarification of the 3 steps of TPRS. I now understand that the stories I’ve been using for the story asking are in fact the final reading text.

Terry demonstrated this with two very different languages; Hawaiian firstly and then on day 3 with Mandarin. Being unfamiliar with both languages, I was incredibly fortunate to experience the 3 steps of TPRS as a student twice. This really helped me consolidate my understanding and appreciation of the 3 steps which are:

  1. Establish meaning
  2. Story asking
  3. Reading.

Prior to the conference, step 3 for my classes was the story the class had created and revolved around various TCI activities to keep it engaging while achieving repetitions within that one story. I completely understand now the value of reading a different story (the original story or maybe another modified class’s story) for step 3.This enables students to consolidate the acquired language in a totally new setting. Depending on the level of your students, this final step also has the potential to provide your student with longer stories with a variety of the newly acquired target structures in it, each targeted separately prior to the final reading in steps one and two. This understanding is going to turn the way I plan upside down and I am sooo excited. Can’t wait to get started to experience it!

To clarify:

If the story is this one with the Lucy wants a jacket story
(credit Judith Dubois):

Ada perempuan.

Nama perempuan Lucy.

Lucy dingin.

Lucy mau jaket.

Lucy tidak pakai jaket.

Lucy lihat laki laki kecil.

Nama laki laki kecil Will.

Will punya jaket tetapi jaket Will terlalu kecil.

Lucy lihat Pak Hudson. (principal’s name)

Pak Hudson punya jaket tetapi jaket Pak Hudson terlalu besar.

Lucy lihat Jane.

Jane punya jaket dan jaket Jane pas.

Jane kasih Lucy jaket.

Lucy pakai jaket.

Lucy berkata, “Terima kasih Jane.”

Jane berkata, “Sama sama.”

The first task is identify the target structures your students will need to acquire to read and comprehend this story. When I do this story, the target structures are grouped and ordered like this:

Group One

  1. topi
  2. sepatu
  3. jaket

Group Two

  1. dingin
  2. panas

Group Three

  1. terlalu besar
  2. terlalu kecil
  3. pas.

Because my students have acquired the remaining language from previous stories, I can incorporate it into fun songs and TPR activities to target each group of target structures one by one. I usually begin with panas/dingin which is easily incorporated into the roll call if the weather is extreme and the students come in hot and sweaty or conversely wet and cold! My lessons generally begin with a roll call asking “Apa kabar?” This in itself is an awesome opportunity for circling. Kelas, Joe panas! Joe dingin atau joe panas? Joe dan Mary panas dan Betty dingin!

If you look back through this blog, you’ll find various songs that I’ve made up which my students have enjoyed singing and then acting out. The one I love the most is sung to the tune of baa baa black sheep:

Lucy dingin.

Lucy mau jaket.

Will panas.

Tidak mau jaket.

Will kasih Lucy.

Lucy pakai jaket.

Lucy berkata, “Terima kasih Will.”

(NB names are substituted with the names of the actors)

These type of activities are then repeated for each list of target structures. which are each targeted separately because each set may take several weeks till acquisition.  For target structures like the ones in group 3, I love looking for weird and wacky pictures on google images that incorporate familiar and popular characters from recent films/books/tv programs and then use them to create a powerpoint. Harry Potter is reliably popular and easily identifiable by all year levels at my school so one powerpoint had a page with harry potter wearing a tiny hat, the next page with him wearing an enormous hat and the following page showed Harry wearing a hat the perfect size! Thus I was able to consolidate ‘topi’ while introducing new structures! The following pages were pictures of familiar characters or cognate animals (orangutan, komodo) wearing oversized, undersized or perfectly sized jackets, hats or shoes. My students are generally riveted to the screen, wondering what kooky picture will be next. It also provides opportunities to circle using mau and punya. Billy punya topi pizza besar? Billy mau punya topi pizza besar?

After the structures have been acquired to my satisfaction, I move on to step 2 – story asking – using actors. The actors help in a variety of ways; they make the story engaging for the class (& me), they help me circle each part of the story (especially if the acting requires more expression – I love OTT acting – sneaky way to get reps), they can also be a tool for me to measure class acquisition. Story asking is incredibly important as it allow classes to create unique stories through collaboration, its how students buy into the story. Afterwards, the class story can be written up to be used in a variety of ways as listed on the TCI activities page.

Then finally step 3 (the one I will work on this year) is reading together the original story as printed above. I loved how Terry did this. She had a powerpoint ‘book’ that the class could read together and each page had a line of text with a quirky picture that provided opportunities for circling, popup grammar, funny stories/gestures to help students remember conjunction words (eg. tetapi = point to your but) or other useful words that need a boost. (imagine the ‘cultural’ story you could create for bercakap-cakap!!).

For me as a student, this final step was incredibly powerful. It made me feel super confident that I could read it and understand the story even though the characters and setting were not familiar. With those changes, the story felt foreign yet still achievable. Soo cool. It truly demonstrated for me the concept of  i+1. Fully comprehensible yet stretching my acquisition just the right amount.

With this text, there are a variety of reading activities that can be done with students to further consolidate acquisition. With Terry, we choral read the book on the tv screen, firstly in pinyin and then with Chinese characters. Boy, did this hit home for me how fortunate both my students & I are that Indonesian is a roman alphabetic language!!

Here are a list of the reading activities & games  that Terry shared with us:

  • kindergarten reading
  • whole class choral reading
  • group reading
  • Echo reading (teacher reads in TL and students read in English)
  • volley ball reading
  • paired repeated reading
  • readers theatre

Reading games:

  • Musical readings – students in pairs each reading a sentence each one by one with each student double checking the sentence was read correctly & if not, the sentence is reread. The teacher plays music and when the music stops, whoever is not reading gets a point.
  • Reading Bingo – each student has a 3×3 =grid. In each box, the student writes a different word from the story in each square. Students cross out the word when they hear it.
  • Stupid Teacher (Guru Gila?) teacher reads the story and deliberately says a word not in the story or changes one word. Students in pairs, competing against each other, tally up the mistakes and compare tally at end of reading.
  • Comprehension Questions – to measure comprehension, ask the questions in English. They could include true/false questions, short answer questions, multiple choice questions, cloze from story with multiple choice options for each cloze empty space.

Now all I have to do is decide which story I want to begin with this term!! What story are you using?

7 thoughts on “TPRS Step 3: Reading

  1. Tanya Harrison says:

    Terima kasih Bu Kathy.
    Thanks for listing the reading activities so clearly.
    Below are a few story skeletons I have tried to write. I have never written story skeletons before and I am finding it very difficult to move away from using words from a theme as the details for the story (ie. feelings or family members). I feel like it helps me to know what we have/haven’t covered. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that and any reactions to the stories. They are for young primary students. Terima kasih lagi.
    Bu Tanya

    “Family Member Feels…”
    “Ibu Merasa…” Story Skeleton.
    Containing: Family members, feelings, and verbs – merasa, perlu, pergi ke, punya, memberi.
    Using: Family Poster and Feelings Poster for ideas and words to point at.

    Who shall we talk about today?
    Family member feels/merasa….(sad/upset/tired).
    Family member needs/perlu….. (Fish for an exciting object!)
    Family member asks other members of the family if they have it.
    Ie. Ibu pergi ke Bapak. Bapak punya….? Tidak. Bapak tidak punya itu.
    The 3rd family member gives/memberi kepada ibu. Astaga! Akhirnya!
    Family member merasa senang/baik (happy/good).

    “Saya Perlu Dokter.”
    “Need a Doctor” Story Skeleton.
    Containing Family member, feelings and occupations.

    Family member feels sick/merasa sakit.
    Family member needs/perlu dokter (atau dokter gigi).
    Family member finds a student/murid, teacher/guru, polisi, etc. Use student participation to be the characters.
    Dia tidak perlu student/murid, teacher/guru, polisi, tukang kayu/carpenter, pilot etc.
    Dia masih merasa sakit.
    The 4th or 5th person: the family member finds/menemukan seorang dokter.
    Dokter memberi Family member obat/medicine so he/she feels sehat/healthy.
    Astaga! Dia senang!

    “The Secret Box” or “Hadiah Istemewa” (The Special Gift)
    ‘Story’ Skeleton
    Containing: dia melihat, buka, tidak merasa feelings and chosen objects.

    One of the students (Name) melihat secret box. Dia buka secret box.
    Dia melihat ______________. (Student holds box with lid and pulls out the picture with the Indonesian word and shows the class.) (Name) merasa _____________! (Student encouraged to act how they feel.)
    Another student (Name) melihat secret box. Dia buka secret box.
    Dia melihat apa? Dia melihat _____________. (Student pulls out the picture with the Indonesian word and shows the class.) (Name) merasa ______________! Dia tidak merasa ________.
    Another student (Name) melihat secret box. Dia buka secret box.
    Dia melihat apa? Dia melihat _____________. (Student pulls out the picture with the Indonesian word and shows the class.) (Name) merasa _______________! Dia tidak merasa _________.
    Another student (Name) melihat secret box. Dia buka secret box.
    Dia melihat apa? Dia melihat _____________. (Student pulls out the picture with the Indonesian word and shows the class.) (Name) merasa _______________! Dia tidak merasa __________.
    Teacher (Name) melihat secret box. Dia buka secret box.
    Dia melihat apa? Dia melihat _______________. (Teacher pulls out the pre-chosen picture at the bottom of the pack.) (Name) merasa _________________! Dia tidak merasa __________.

    You could ask students beforehand to write something that they would put into the secret box – or what until they have seen it once.


    • bucathy says:

      Some excellent story ideas! Wow.
      Are you familiar with Terry’s super 7? Off the top of my head I can only remember 5 – mau, punya, di, ke, ada, kasih/ memberi. How many of those to your students know very well? My advice for your first story is to choose just one and focus on that. Are your students primary or secondary? If primary, for your very first story I would do as Terry did and have cognates and familiar characters in the story so that the only thing new is the structure you are focusing on. Which ever story you choose, it should have no more than 3 unfamiliar structures.
      With your first story, I would stay away from family vocabulary for now. I would use characters that are familiar to the students. Spongebob appeals to all ages. How about:
      Spongebob kurang baik.
      Spongebob mau hotdog (have props that are cognates)
      Spongebob ke MacDonald s.
      Tidak ada hotdog di MacDonalds.
      Spongebob ke KFC.
      Tidak ada hotdog do KFC.
      Spongebob kurang baik.
      Spongebob ke port Elliot primary school.
      Ada hotdog Di PEPS’s.
      Spongebob senang sekali.

      This would be the story your class uses for step 3 (reading) but the who and the what and the where will be different in every class.

      Is that ok? I hope it is clear. You can email me for more detail on the TCIaSA address and I can share with you some of our stories.

      Just remember
      – baby steps
      – keep it VERY simple (for you and the students)

      Please stay in contact. I’d like to keep helping if I can.


  2. Kristy Kranz says:

    Hi Bu Cathy, thanks for your comprehensive notes. Can you please explain what kindergarten reading is? I don’t recall Terry mentioning that strategy at the Brisbane conference. Thanks.


  3. buannesblog says:

    Bu Cathy, how did you group the vocab into 1,2,3 -, at first I thought it was nouns, adjectives, then I realised that besar and kecil were adjectives too! I am curious.


    • bucathy says:

      Grouped them because I felt that they went together. Easier to circle because they are related in some way. Does that make sense? It’s purely a personal judgement!! How would you have grouped them?


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