Thursday, March 6, 2014

Didn't Prepare a Simplified Version? Don't Sweat..

Embedded readings are increasingly complicated texts that eventually build up to an "authentic" or "original" version. For more information, see the website of its founders:

Basically, embedded readings are used to help students read an advanced text by gradually adding on levels of detail. I also like to simplify the language as well as deleting unnecessary details, especially in the earlier stages of the process. I call these "simplified versions" of a reading. Several of them may be needed before the class is able to read the "original version" fluently. The early simplified edition may not look much like the original version, but there will be some new vocabulary for the students to master and the major plot-points will all be present, even if they are expressed in simpler language.

The problem with simplified versions is that the teacher has to create them. On a typical day, if I am wanting the class to read a new story, I will provide them a simplified version (or two or three, maybe over several days) which I have prepared ahead of time. We will then read the text together with the laser-pointer and discuss it in the target language.

So what happens if I don't have the time to sift through a reading and create a simplified version? Actually, this can end up being more engaging for the students. If I don't have a simplified version prepared, I create it on-the-fly with the class using actors and a story-writer. There are essentially three things going on at once during this procedure:

1) I am looking at the original version of the text, the version which I am simplifying. Only I am looking at this text. The students are just listening (and watching actors; more on that in a second). I tell the students in simple language what happens in the story and they just listen. We of course circle any new vocabulary which I need for this first simplified version.

2) There are actors for each character (and maybe even for some interesting objects) in the story. While I tell out the simplified version of the passage the actors act out the action. If an actor does a bad job, we all ask him or her in all humor please to do it again!

3) The story-writer types out what I am saying on the computer. I like to project what the story-writer is writing on the screen while he or she is working. So there is me telling the simplified version, actors helping everyone to visualize, and a gradually-emerging written version of passage up on the screen for all to see.

When we are done and the story-writer has finished, I can clean it up and presto! a nice simplified version, which every student has just seen being written and acted out. We can now proceed with our normal procedure of laser-pointer reading and discussion in the target language.