Communication Rubric

This Communication Rubric is something I use to grade students’ participation. I first heard of the idea on Ben Slavic’s PLC (where it is known as jGR for Jen’s Great Rubric), and though I haven’t used it this year until now, I wish I had used it sooner!

Now that it is October, I have found that my students are getting tired and are not putting the effort into storytelling. I have been very frustrated with this, especially because as a TPRS teacher, you put so much effort and enthusiasm into storytelling – at least I do! So yesterday, for the first time this year, I pulled out my communication rubric and told the students they would be graded during storytelling time. We went over the rubric (though I have taught most of them before and they have seen it before) and then we started storytelling. All of a sudden, the ideas were flowing, and we came up with a GREAT story!

I was really happy with how the class went yesterday. Now the real question is if they can keep up the great participation for a second day! We’ll see how it goes.

I modified this rubric slightly to fit my personal standards-based grading system and it works well for me. Feel free to use it if it will help you. I hand it out the the students and go over it at the beginning of the class, at least the first time we use it. I stress the part that describes what being “attentive” means. Then in the last 5 minutes of class, I have them put a check in the box at the level they believe they deserve. I go around and just double check that they put themselves at the right level. Most are fairly accurate, but there are always a couple that I bump up or down, depending on their effort that day.

Writing Scripts

I am happy to say that I am finally at the point in my TPRS career where I feel like I can write a story script! Surprisingly, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. Up until now, I have mostly been using Anne Matava and Jim Tripp scripts with my class. While there are some hilarious scripts, I started to feel like I was using a random collection of stories as my curriculum, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to have some sort of reason for choosing the structures I do. Of course I choose a lot of high frequency structures, but that didn’t narrow it down enough for me. After some emails back and forth with Martina Bex and some tweeting with Carrie Toth and Kristy Placido, I realized that I could backwards plan my lessons from the novel I want to study with my students. So this semester, I want to do Mira Canion’s La France en Danger et les secrets de Picasso with my French 10/20/30 split class. I started planning by going through the novel and picking out high-frequency structures or structures that were repeated throughout the novel that I thought my students would not already know. Sometimes I thought they would know “he/she wants” but not “they want” so I wrote down “they want” as a structure. They would likely recognize it, but I want them to be able to produce it so that when we read the novel, they can easily write about it and talk about it. Then when I had my list of structures, I looked it over and started picking phrases that I thought would go together well. It was partly random, but I was also trying to see which structures I could put together to create a story. Since it is getting close to Halloween, these are the structures I chose for the story we started today.

  • s/he is no longer
  • s/he is disguised as
  • they want
  • s/he does not see well

They may seem random, but 3/4 of them are very high-frequency structures. The other one (s/he is disguised as) adds some humour to the story, is relevant to the kids, and appears multiple times in the novel! Then I tried to think about how I could make this into a story. I also kept in mind structures that we had studied recently and thought about whether I could work them in somehow (ie. takes, gives, fortunately/unfortunately). This is is (somewhat boring) script I came up with. The great thing is, it doesn’t matter how bad your story is, because the students will change it into another story altogether! Here is what I came up with (in English). Email me if you would like a copy of the French version! I have written the script with all of the specific details are underlined – these are the things that your students can change when you “ask” the story. I generally write scripts and ask stories in the present tense and do readings in the past tense.

Jamie and Juliana want a cat. So they go to the pet store. But the salesman does not see well. He takes a shark and gives it to the girls. Jamie and Juliana do not want a shark. They are depressed. Fortunately, it is not a real shark, it is Chuck Norris disguised as a shark. Jamie and Juliana are no longer depressed.

Monica and Vahbiz want a unicorn. So they go to Disneyland. But Mickey Mouse does not see well. He takes a horse and it gives it to the girls. Vahbiz and Monica do not want a horse. They are angry. Fortunately, it is not a real horse, it is a penguin disguised as a horse. Monica and Vahbiz are no longer angry.

Jaemin and Alex want a leprechaun. So they go to the Lucky Charms factory. But the factory worker does not see well. He takes a pot of gold and gives it to the boys. Jaemin and Alex want a pot of gold. They are delighted. Unfortunately, it is not a real pot of gold. It is chocolate disguised as a pot of gold. Jaemin and Alex are no longer delighted.

The students never saw the original script, I just asked questions to get the answers I wanted. I started with, “There was a person. Who was it?” At first they were general. One person said, “A boy.” I asked for a name and we decided on Max. Sometimes I let the students decide, sometimes I decided arbitrarily, and sometimes I just picked the funniest answer. Then I asked if Max was tall or short. They said short and one girl suggested that he was a dwarf. I hadn’t done much circling at this point as these were all known structures and not what I was focusing on. I wanted there to be two people in the story, so next I said, “I have a secret!” When I say that, they all cup their ears, stomp a foot on the ground, and lean forward simultaneously. I told them he has a brother, and one kid called out that it was Shaquille O’Neal! We couldn’t go wrong from there. Here is the whole first location of the story that we came up with in the end. We still have lots left to create today!

There was a boy named Max . Max was a dwarf. He was charming , rich, and good-looking. His brother was Shaquille O’Neal. Max and Shaq wanted a dog. They did not want a normal dog , they wanted the dog Barack Obama. They wanted his dog because his dog was an amazing chihuahua. His dog was a big rainbow-coloured chihuahua. It was as big as a horse. So they went to the White House by magic carpet . Barack Obama was at the White House , but Miley Cyrus was also there. Miley Cyrus could not see well. She was nearly blind and she needed glasses. She had no glasses because a wrecking ball struck her glasses and now they are broken into pieces. So, because Miley Cyrus could not see well , she took Barack Obama’s cat and gave it to the boys. Max and Shaq did not want a cat. They were sad, but they did not cry . Instead of crying , they took Barack Obama’s big chihuahua secretly . Unfortunately, it was not a real dog , but Michelle Obama disguised as a dog. Max and Shaq were no longer sad, they were completely depressed.

Teach Like A Pirate

This summer at NTPRS in Dallas, I was introduced to a new book that I just had to read as soon as I heard about it! Dave Burgess is the author of Teach LIke  A Pirate and I highly recommend reading it. Amazon says that this book “offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator”, and it is all true. I can’t say I’ve dressed up in a pirate costume (or any other costume for that matter) in front of my classes yet, but maybe one day!

I also found this printable PDF of all the hooks Dave Burgess talks about in his book on the 2 Smart Wenches website. These flashcards would be a great resource to have handy when lesson planning.