Stepping stones to stories – Ben Slavic’s #PLC

The first part is in English – the second part in Dutch (like the days before)

The coming weeks I’ll be writing about Ben Slavic’s newest book: Stepping stones to stories! Ben’s system of Starting the Year with Comprehensible Input – the book is available at his site: follow the link. Ben shows in his new book how to start out the new schoolyear using comprehensible input.

Ben Slavic's war room at NTPRS14. Picture by Brian Peck

Ben Slavic’s war room at NTPRS14. Picture by Brian Peck

What I did not yet mention is that Ben has a Professional Learning Community (PLC) of which you can become a (paying) member. In his book he also mentions links to his PLC website for his members.

BTW, I’m not a member of this community, nor does Ben ask me to write about his book: I want to read it and write about it to see if it’s interesting to add to my CI teaching skills. So I try not to comment on it too much; you as a reader have to try it out in your own CI lessons and decide if it’s helpful for your lessons or not.

During iFLT14 and NTPRS14 Ben had a “War room” for his PLC and the group always met in the evening and they practiced CI teaching with coaching until late at night. The term War room looks a bit strange to me; the translation tells that it’s a place where strategic decisions are made, especially for military and political campaigns.

Here you can read what Ben wrote about the War room experiences of iFLT14 and NTPRS14 and the comments from a lot of the War room participants.

The picture above of Ben in his War Room at NTPRS14 is made by Brian Peck; he tweeted it with @bcpeck23. I saw Brian perform in Von’s & Blaine’s workshop. He was amazing! On Ben’s blog I read he only started TPRS in October! On the picture to the right are Pilar Reyes and César Gonzalez, English teachers from South-West Spain, who have their own language institute. I met them when we were getting out of the train when I arrived in Chicago Sunday evening. I was just wondering how to get to the hotel and then suddenly I heard someone say my name and it was Pilar! We also met last year in Dallas. Together we travelled to the hotel with the shuttle to the hotel in front of ours. The second person on the left is Jason Bond (no, not James 😉 . He’s American but he teaches Gaelic in Scotland, on the Isle of  Islay! Here you can see where Ben’s PLC members are situated.

And tomorrow I’ll write about Stepping stone #1 Word Associations.


De komende weken schrijf ik hier over Ben Slavic’s nieuwste boek: Stepping stones to stories! Ben’s system of Starting the Year with Comprehensible Input – het boek is verkrijgbaar via zijn site: volg de link. Ben laat in dit boek zien hoe je het schooljaar kunt beginnen door te werken met begrijpelijke input.

Wat ik nog niet genoemd heb, is het feit dat Ben een Professionele Leer Gemeenschap (PLC) heeft waarvan je (betalend) lid kunt worden. In zijn boek geeft Ben ook links naar zijn PLC website voor zijn leden.

Overigens ben ik geen lid van Ben’s PLC en ook betaalt Ben mij niet om over zijn boek te schrijven: ik wil het lezen en erover schrijven om te zien of ik er dingen uit kan halen voor mijn eigen Begrijpelijke input vaardigheden. Dus ik probeer om niet teveel commentaar erop te geven, want ik vind dat je als lezer het zelf in je eigen lessen uit moet proberen en beslissen of het nuttig is voor jouw lessen.

Tijdens iFLT14 en NTPRS14 had ben een “Oorlogskamer”; ik vind het een beetje vreemde term, omdat het een ruimte is waar strategische beslissingen worden genomen, m.n. voor politieke en militaire campagnes.

Hier kun je lezen wat Ben geschreven heeft over zijn ervaringen in de War room tijdens  iFLT14 en NTPRS14 en het commentaar van zijn deelnemers.

Bovenstaande foto is gemaakt door Briuan Peck ; hij heeft de foto getweet via @bcpeck23. I zag hem een les doen tijdens de workshop van Von en Blaine en hij was geweldig. Op Ben’s blog las ik dat hij pas in oktober is begonnen met TPRS. Een natuurtalent! Op de foto aan de rechterkant zitten Pilar Reyes en César Gonzalez, Engelse docenten uit Zuid-West Spanje die hun eigen taalinstituut hebben. Ik ontmoette hen toen ik zondagavond voordat NTPRS14 begon uit de trein stapte in Chicago. Ik sotnd mee net af te vragen hoe ik naar het hotel zou komen toen ik opeens iemand mijn naam hoorde zeggen en dat was Pilar! We waren elkaar vorig jaar ook in Dallas tegengekomen. We zijn samen met de shuttle gereisd naar het hotel dat tegenover dat van ons lag. De tweede persoon aan de linkerkant is Jason Bond – niet niet James 😉 Hij is een Amerikaan uit Maine, maar hij doceert Gaelic in Schotland op het Isle of Islay! Hier kun je zien waar Ben’s PLC-leden zitten.

En morgen ga ik dan echt schrijven over Stapsteen 1, actitviteit 1, Woord associaties.



NTPRS14 Chicago – The fifth day – Friday the 25th of July

And again time flew! Already the last day! The last day is always a half day up to and including lunch.

Betsy PaskvanFrom 8.15 – 9.45 I went to Storytelling to Reading Japanese in an Hour (or so): Learn to read with the hit film Frozen! by Betsy Paskvan. As ever I’m the barometer, but Betsy knows how to repeat so often in a not-boring way, that I get what I need. And it makes me remember very well to takes this into account when I’m teaching myself: to give my students what they need!

From 10-11.30 I hesitated going to Raising Enrollment and Achievement by Focusing on Comprehensible Input: One District’s Journey to Transform Language Education by Grant Boulanger or to Navigating Novels: Plundering Literacy Treasures by Mira Mira CanionCanion. I went to the last one. I alwasy get the idea that Mira wants to tell us so much, that it’s in fact too much. Her speed is very high because of that, but it’s for me as an imageformer too fast; it does not stick. I think it’s beter to do less, but deeper and a next time give your next points. Her slides are also very filled. Compare it to Grant Boulanger. He wants things to be simple. His slides contain little text.

NTPRS14 closing luncheonAnd then from 11.45-1.30 already the closing luncheon!

Carol GaabThe keynote speech was by Carol Gaab. Unfortunately I had to go to the airport to catch my flight and I had to leave at the beginning of her interesting story how she got into TPRS. Hope I an read or see it still somewhere!

I went with the shuttle to the Chicago metra, but the train was too late because of works. I was afraid I would miss my plane, so I took a taxi ($40…). The taxidriver happened to come from Congo and so we spoke French. He happened to have had Leslie Davison also in his taxi the day before (he showed me her cart). He already spoke English quite well, but he had asked her how to improve his English. She had told him to watch television with subtitles. He told me he did not agree with her and that it was a bad idea. I asked him why. He said that the subtitles went so fast, they already disappeared before he could read them entirely. I told him that this happened to me too when I was young. In the Netherlands all foreign television programms, films, series etc. were subtitled. In the beginning I could not read all, because the subtitles disappeared to fast. But with practice my reading got faster and faster; so I told him this would happen to him too if he persevered. With my explanation he could agree. Fate first brought him Leslie and because he did not agree I was brought to complete the details ;-).

NTPRS14 conference programmWhen walking to my gate I happened to meet Bernard, native French teacher and one of the coaches. He told me we also went to the airport before (I had forgotten, but yes, we did); so it was bizarre we now met again at the airport before leaving. And if we had known: he also took a cab to go to the airport on his own ($40…).

Well, and then my flight from Chicago left with an hour delay, so we got in 10 minutes after the last departure to Albany (from Minneapolis – I had to fly from Minneapolis). So I had to stay in a hotel and the next morning to get up at 3.45 to get the shuttle of 4.00 and have a plane to Atlanta (!) at 6.30 and then a plane to Albany from there. All planes for Albany or near Albany were completely (over)booked! This was the only possibility in the daytime… With a direct flight I would’ve had to wait until 7 pm…

And then I sat next to someone in the plane twice or three times my size. You should have seen my face: there he was sitting in the seat next to mine, partly sitting on my seat and half in the pathway. I thought it would not fit with the three of us ont those three seats, but somehow we managed, but I could not avoid ‘getting in touch with him’ (literally). How I was happy when we arrived! But I had Dave Burgess’ book “Teach like a pirate” to entertain me, so I managed to forget (mostly).

Here you can find all the downloads for NTPRS14.


NTPRS14 Chicago – The fourth day – Thursday the 24th of July

Karen LichtmanThursday the 24ht of July, the fourth day. The beginning workshop with Katya Paukova and Donna Tatum-Johns continued until 12 o’clock. The workshops carrousel for the advanced was over and now we could choose for a lot of other sessions: always difficult!

From 8.30 – 10.00 there were 5 sessions and I wanted to attend three…
How not to commit readicide – Bryce Hedstrom
Milking the story with tech tools – Leslie Davison
Research on TPR Storytelling – Karen Lichtman

I decided to go to Karen’s Research on TPRS. What a wonderful presentation! Karen knows how to present stuff that might be boring in a dynamic and interactive way, using all kind of didactic trics, to make us think and react and also remember. She also mentioned a recent TPRS study from the Netherlands by De Vlaming, which Karen translated with Google. Tip: give also a summary of the research and it’s conclusions in English!

Janice Holter KittokThere was a preview of a new research by Janice Holrt Kittok and Barbara Ann Cartford and Karen Lichtman : measuring fluency development in content-based Storytelling elementary Spanish instruction.

Then sessions from 10.15 – 11.45. Now I wanted to go to two of the 5 sessions (I had already heard about La persona especial by Bryce Hedstrom in Denver)
– Deeper reading, Mira Canion
The art of engaging beginners, Grant Boulanger Grant Boulanger

Because Mira’s was also more about the common core, which is not something we use in Europe, so this made my choice easier. So I went to Grant’s. The room was packed! I already met Grant a few days earlier and I told him I liked the ideas of “Teach like a pirate” Dave Burgess. Grant told me – and this was also an item in his presentation, that he always tries to keep things as simple as possible, e.g. only using one prop like a set of glasses. For me it’s more, how can I stick to the ideas of Dave Burgess, who very much works from the idea of Multiple Intelligences, like I do in my lessons and yet still keep it simple?!


In the afternoon I think I skipped the session of 1.45 – 3.15 and had a long talk with Jim Tripp outside in the sun. We Jim Wooldridge (Señor Wooly)talked about his book Tripp’s scripts (which has scripts & structures in English). We laready talked about this last time we met, about having the scripts also available in other languages, like Spanish. French, German etc. and how this could be realized.

The last session from 3.30-5.15 I went to Finding the story: How Sr. Wooly learned to create engaging stories with the simplest Spanish by Jim Wooldridge. It was a personal story about how he used to teach and how this changed and how he started using songs and clips with the songs. Karen Rowan and Jason Fritze

Afterwards I shortly looked at the showcase of Karen Rowan and Jason Fritze and in the coaching room, but I was too tired! IMG_2889 NTPRS14 coaches singing about ChicagoI ate my Wholefoods dinner outside the hotel with my French colleague from Turkey and then I went to the open Mic night until the batteries of my camera were empty (as were mine).


Keep calm we know science

NTPRS14 Chicago – The third day – Wednesday the 23rd of July

Workshop Blaine and Von Ray The power of going deep - NTPRS14Wednesday I first went to the advanced workshop by Blaine & Von Ray: The power of going deep. This year the advanced workshops were from 8.30 -11.30, then a break of two hours and then the workshops continue for two more hours from 1.30-3.30 p.m. Then a short break of a quarter of an hour and then sessions from 3.45-5.15 or open coaching & exhibitors. Then a break of a quarter of an hour and then showcases by masterteachers, like Blaine Ray, Michael Miller, Mira Canion, Laruie Clarcq, Bryce Hedstrom, Karen Rowan and Jason Fritze.

In The power of going deep we had to work in small groups and work out ideas for stories. Blaine stressed again how imporatn it is to try to find out where the students break down through: hesitancy, comprehension, lack of confidence.

Bryan KandelDuring lunchtime = Wholefoods time; we go there with a small group of TPRS-teachers (only female…). It’s nice to have such a long brak in between, to having some time for yourself, to go outside in the sun, to talk to each other.

In the afternoon I went to the sesson by Bryan Kandel “Student-driven Curriculum”. Here you can find his slideshow as pdf. It was in fact all about PQA. His image of a little devil whispering bad things about his deficiencies in his ears and a little saint (Blaine) giving him positive advice was very funny.

Afterwards to Mira Canion’s showcase; it’s amazing how she can Mira Canionthink on her feet and react always so quickly! BTW, very hard to make a picture of her, because she hardly stands still (like a lot of TPRS teachers..)

In the evening were the immersion dinners, but somehow I did miss where the French teachers would meet and when I returned from Mira’s session and dropping my things in my room, everybody had gone. So I decided to walk to Wholefoods, along a busy street with lot’s of cars because it was rush hour. On my way I met one of the Turkey’s military language teachers who was already going back and on my way back when it was already getting dark, Betsy Paskvan was walking behind me – at first I did not recogize her and I thought “Why is this woman walking faster and faster towards me?” . She also happened to have been at Wholefoods and we went back walking & talking and like this time flew and we arrived at the hotel when it had become dark.

My roommate and French teacher Michele Kindt returned very late and I heard from her that the French teachers went to a restaurant in Naperville, where they had been singing all evening and that the aother guests had also been singing, so they had a great French evening. What a pity I missed it all!





NTPRS14 Chicago – The second day – Tuesday the 22nd of July

Betsy PaskvanToday I went to the advanced workshop by Betsy Paskvan: TPRS Strategies. She learned us Japanes and this way she showed us all kind of strategies she uses. Bess Hales wrote about it at her blog “Mme Hayles and the TPRS Experiment” and it’s a very good description of the workshop and I do not have much to adjust to it, so do read it here. What I have to adjust is that Betsy uses 8 embedded readings and this way she builds the text gradually up. Betsy sacrifices language time for the social-emotional learning – in order that the students get to know each other & bond.

The first thing Betsy does in the morning is play a song and show a slideshow with explanation with pictures. With us she used a very well known song and gave cultural information about it.

Betsy’s workshop was very practical and inspiring! Here you can find her PowerPoint: TPRS Strategies at Work and Play : Sequencing TPRS Activities for Optimal Learning

Jason FritzeIn the afternoon I went to Jason Fritze’s workshop session: Tools for thriving. Because Bryce had written on the white board with an unerasable marker, Jason learned one of the first person’s entering how to erase it with an erasable marker by writing over the unerasable text and then it was possible to erase. And this person had to learn to a new person entering who did not know this trick how to do it and so forth, like an erasing chain.

Jason’s workshop had a few of the same points of his workshop at iFLT, but also a lot of new information. He had us form groups of three or four and made us do all kind of group works every once and a while and before doing this he had us point at all the participants of the group. When I met the two ladies of my group the next day I felt that we really were somehow closer because of this pointing and working together.

At the end of the afternoon was the exhibitor’s reception. Everybody could have a look at the books and dvd’s and buy them and there was a buffet and drinks. There Judy Dubois introduced me to Alparslan, the french teacher of the Turkish delegation. We contacted each other a while ago on Linkedin, but we did not know of each other we were going to iFLT and NTPRS! We talked for hours and that’s one of the nice thing of these conferences: meeting your colleagues and talking with them.

Monday evening I got lost when trying to find Wholefoods and Tuesday I went there during the lunch break with a  group of colleagues in the shuttle of the Sheraton hotel.  I bought a warm lunch at Wholecheckbook as Jason called it and a big salad for later on and the most expensive tarte au citron (or in fact: lime tart) I’ve ever bought… I could not resist…

Lime tart Wholefoods



NTPRS14 Chicago – The First Day – Monday the 21rst of July

Blaine Ray, Lisa ReyesThis morning at 8 o’clock started NTPRS14 in the Sheraton in Lisle, Illinois. We gathered in the ballroom and Lisa Reyes opened NTPRS14. Blaine did a few words and Lisa presented all the teams and all countries and US-regions had to stand up in order to show with how many they were. The big group from Turkey is also present at NTPRS.

This year NTPRS has special workshops for :

  • the beginning TPRS teachers,
  • The intermediate TPRS teachers
  • the advanced TPRS teachers

So there is one level more: the intermediate TPRS teachers. The advanced workshop has, unlike last year, one presenter and the intermediates also have one presenter, one of which is my roommate Michelle Kindt. The workshops are longer now: there’s a part in the morning and a part in the afternoon.

Carol GaabI first went to the workshop by Carol Gaab: Reading, an advanced workshop. Carol’s workshops are always a delight to attend. They have a lot of variation, you learn a lot of interesting tips and tricks and they’re fun. I made a lot of notes and hope to use it all the coming schoolyear. See the link for her hand-out.

Diana NoonanDuring the lunch, Diana Noonan held her keynote speech. She told that she’s not the type for speeching and that she didn’t want to do it, but finally she gave in. She told us how she got into contact with TPRS and how she introduced it in her district. She started small, one teacher at a time. She invited a lot of TPRS presenters.  The teachers can choose if they come to the professional or not. The next piece was assessment, because you have to prove that you are improving the students. They had funds and the teachers came together and started writing.  They have the data: thousands of students did the tests. Diana filmed 9 teachers and put it on Schooltube. Teachers ahve to be able to observe each other. At the end Diana gave the message: Do what you know what is best for kids. If  you meet roadblocks, remember (she finished with a cute video): “don’t stop, don’t give up, keep trying, keep trying (sung by of a cute little girl).

After lunch Carol’s workshop continued and besides new tips and tricks she also gave us pages from TPRS novels in order to prepare a readers theater lesson.

Gary DiBiancaAfter Carol’s session I went to Gary DiBianca: Big picture planning: how to use CI to make meaningful; units filled with content and culture. He gave an overview of backward planning, how to reflect on personal and professional passions to engage students, how to present so that students acquire, learn and manipulate language. He gave the ACTFL 5 C’s: Communication, Connections, Culture, Community, Comparisons. He adviced to make cross connections within your lessons and units – do not isolate them.

What’s your students base knowledge in and with the target language? How do you adapt or retool your in-class target language usage? Is it all comprehensible? How do you organize instruction/content/language?

What is your passion that you could share as a teacher? CONNECTIONS. Think about “Teach like a pirate” by Dave Burgess, who mentions 3 passions.

At 6 there were two showcases by Blaine Ray and Michael Miller and after it a research masterclass, I’d have loved to attend to them, but I was too tired to attend.  It was a long day already…