5 Things Your College Storytelling Classroom Needs

1. Giant Sticky Notes for Easel 

This is by far the most useful thing you can get for your classroom.

Whenever my students and I co-create a story, I like to have a classroom artist draw out what we make up. This student is a volunteer, and I usually give them extra credit. When we are finished telling a story, I save the artwork for the next day to review.

I used to have students draw on a piece of notebook paper and use the document camera, but last school year there was an easel and giant sticky notes in my classroom.

What a glorious happenstance. Behold some pristine examples:

These peel off the pad (they are literally giant sticky notes) and you can post them to any wall in the classroom. Reviewing the story just got way more engaging! Extra highly comprehensible and engaging repetitions!

Even if your department won’t order these up for you, it still might be worth your while to pick some up. Some of my best comprehensible input has come from students making art on these stickies and us reviewing stories as a class. This original artwork is one of my favorite vehicles for more discussion and mental processing.

You might want to pick up some colored sharpies to go with these stickies to avoid using your dry erase markers.

2. Double-Sided, Dual-Color, Dry Erase Markers (adjectives)

Speaking of dry erase markers, I got tired of wielding two of them just to use two colors to separate Spanish and English/different parts of the sentence. These nifty markers let you get the benefit of two markers while only having to carry one. Now where did I put the cap…

3. Laser Pointer/Presentation Clicker Combo

This is an inexpensive, versatile clicker/laser pointer. It lets you stay with your class and avoid the trip back to the laptop to change slides.

4. Giant World Map

Your room probably already has a big map, but if it doesn’t you probably need one. It’s great for walking over and pointing out countries (Which one is Paraguay again?) during class. I like to think my students leave my class knowing a little more about geography because of how often I walk over to the map. I prefer this laminated style because I can draw on it with whiteboard markers.

5. These Desk/Chairs “Node Chairs”

At a community college I’ve worked at in the past I discovered these chairs. You’re more likely to get them in your classroom if your school is getting a new  building, but hey, you never know. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask. Think of the possibilities!

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My Story

My name is Andrew, and I am a husband, father, friend, teacher and author. I am drawn to excellence and love to explore new ways of doing things. I have been teaching Spanish at the college level since 2010, but I got my start in the language way back in high school. I wasn’t the best student in the world, and that’s why I believe I am living proof that comprehensible input is the way to acquire a language.

I started taking high school Spanish in 2001, and for an entire year I learned in a traditional way. We used the textbook, listened to CDs I couldn’t understand, took grammar tests — all the usual suspects. I did okay in the class, but didn’t really learn all that much Spanish.

In 2002 everything changed for me. I got into a Spanish 2 class with a different teacher who used stories and daily comprehensible input to drive acquisition, rather than the textbook (although we did use the textbook). For the next two years I acquired tons of Spanish by hearing, reading, and retelling stories. I didn’t know it at the time, but my teacher made a lifelong impact on me by using highly comprehensible language in his classroom.

In college Spanish was my easiest subject, mainly because of my strong CI-backed base. Since then, I studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and earned an M.A. in Spanish Language and Culture from Washington State University (Go Cougs!).

In 2012, I stumbled across TPRS© (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) by accident. I was looking for information on TPR (Total Physical Response), a technique my brilliant high school teacher used to help us acquire vocabulary. I was floored by the elegance of it all. I spent the next couple years reading as much as I could and I was able to attend intensive workshops (do this, by the way).

Taking the plunge into Storytelling at the college was frightening for me, but it was 100% the right move. My students now benefit from a comprehensible, low-stress environment. This atmosphere lowers their affective filters and allows them to mentally process the language at their own pace.

Now that I am raising my own children to be bilingual, I am floored at how Storytelling and other CI delivery methods mimic the natural process.

I have seen firsthand the power of comprehensible language both as a student and as a teacher. Because of these experiences, I now use stories as my main CI delivery vehicle in the classroom.

I am convinced that hearing, reading and retelling stories is the best way to acquire language. Reading and storytelling really work as a method of acquisition, and they work really well.