There is an interesting Blaine Ray story published in his book “Mini-stories for Look, I Can Talk!” about a restaurant that always surprises its customers. He posted a video of himself teaching the story, which you can watch by clicking here .
The first eight and a half minutes of this video is choral translation. I used to not understand why teachers would lead choral translations. It just felt so old school; didn’t I give that all up when I switched to TPRS?! Perhaps, also, the old output teacher in me was thinking, “if they all read aloud, then how am I going to know who actually understands the reading?” As I watch this video now it is clear to me that choral reading is not a gotcha moment for the teacher to catch students… it is a respectful moment that allows students to confirm to themselves that they understand. I tried it in my own classes and realized that students really appreciated it. Better yet, it is a really efficient way to verify meaning. While I do not spend too much time on choral translations, I have come to appreciate them as an early step to developing the processing speed of my students.
In the twelve minutes that follow the choral translation you can see the way Blaine weaves past and present tenses together as he asks questions. He introduces a perfect tense structure and he is working with the word le as well. In these twelve minutes he speaks the most English of the entire class, as he is first introducing and verifying the meaning of these structures. Look how carefully he prods to make sure that the student actors understand exactly what he is saying. He goes into English quickly to correct.
Finally, after having established meaning thoroughly, the last forty minutes of questions have very little English as Blaine keeps playing with the structures until his student actors respond confidently, accurately and without hesitation. There are no brilliant moments of hilarity, and that reassures me. It is very repetitive, and in the end those student actors are responding much faster. In my own practice, when I wonder if the other students are getting something out of being spectators to the live theater that is TPRS, I have everyone complete a ten minute fluency write and inevitably I find that the spectators are acquiring the structures just like the student actors. This method is not about asking kids questions that they cannot answer. It is about getting them to process the target language fast enough to respond like native speakers.
Here is a link if you would like to download my own version of this story , which I just finished reading with my level one students. My students already know the story, but now I need to go back, pull up a few new student actors, and get their processing speed up to somewhere near lightning.
Just to be clear, I have posted my version of Blaine´s copyrighted material with his permission.