Reading Option A – Complete Description – Updated

Reading Option A
[Note: When preparing this reading class from the story, embed about 10%-15% new vocabulary. The text thus generating becomes a gold mine for the spin off actvitites listed below. There are too many to do, so pick and choose.
The process called ROA is a complex taxonomy that can lead to massive langauge gains.
Steps indicated with an asterisk are the heavy hitters:
*1. Silent reading of the projected story.
*2. Instructor reads aloud in L2
3. Pair work to translate. (I only do this if being observed, to get the box checked.)
*4. Choral translation using laser pointer. This must be done with loud voices. Usually a student steps up – the Reader Leader – to guide the class along with their strong measured voice. If not, the instructor leads and everybody else follows.
*5. Discussion of grammar in L1. Finally, this is when closet grammar teachers get to do what they want. They can point out spellings on verb endings, comparing, for example, a first person singular ending with a plural form, whether it can be seen in the reading or not. They can laser point to their favorite grammatical details and share them with the four percenters in the classroom who also love grammar. They can ask students what certain words mean. They can even point out adjective agreement and even spelling changes in boot verbs! This is the time to go for the grammar! What a great way to explain possessive adjectives! Use English! Just keep the grammar explanations down to under four seconds and never mention the actual grammar terms – the kids don’t want to even hear terms like adverbs. Most kids intensely dislike grammar terminology. They just want to know what it means. And never test them on the grammar. What use does that serve? Just point things out, as they observe. Over time, many stories, they will see patterns. This is true acquisition of grammar, not the fake kind where they memorize and fill in blanks on work sheets, which doesn’t bring any gains.
*6. Reading from the Back of the Classroom – [NOTE: this step occurs simultaneously with Step 7 – Reader’s Theatre.] It is clear so far that each of these steps in ROA have significant pedagogical value. But this step has the most. This is where you get the most bang for your buck from the reading. In this Step 6 work, we keep the story projected but physically turn the kids away from it to where you are sitting in the back of the classroom. They have to turn away from the text. Their bodies and eyes have to be facing me. Then, starting from the first paragraph of the reading, I start an in depth repetition of the entire story (i.e. intensely circled with very clear and slow yes/no questioning of individual students during the group discussion). I stop at the end of each paragraph to let them turn and face the text for a moment to “reload” their knowledge of the text in order to get ready for the coming R and D on that new paragraph.
This process can take 90 minutes. But it works! It piles repetition upon repetition. We can play with each line in many ways, asking direct content questions about the text but also creating parallel questions by bringing in discussion of how a student in our class may compare or not with the characters in the story. Slowly we work our way through the text. This is big work, a great new addition to ROA. I feel that when I am doing this step of ROA I am doing the best job of teaching my language that is possible. The students look at me providing answers to what are some very sophisticated questions in the TL. I hold each kid accountable and have super contact with my barometers. Bam!
There is an entirely different dynamic when they face you and not the projected text. When they read it they interact with the text but when they can’t see it they are forced into interacting with you verbally in the language. This is real conversation in the TL, set up beautifully by all the narrow and deep reps gotten up to this point in the ROA process. When they face you and discuss the text that is right behind them it is the real deal.
In Step 5 above the students are looking at the text and interacting with you verbally and in terms of the grammar, whereas in Step 6 you have switched from being in front to the rear of the classroom as per the above. The difference in what is learned is huge. Step 5 sets up Step 6. In Step 6 you teach for real output. It’s thrilling!
*7. You can go through the text before the class and pick the best scenes out (do this with novels as well). This sets up Reader’s Theatre and is done during Step 6, in fact. The instructor directs the action. This is one of the best parts of ROA and will make you glad you are a teacher. Classroom Rule #8 must be fully observed in this step. This is your chance to use the Director’s Cut technique I leave the story projected on this because the kids refer to it when acting. The kids like to try to outdo each other with their lines. So if Marc has a line where he says, “You are fired! Leave this place. NOW!”, tell them, just like a director of a play would, to say their line using different adverbs that you can remember if you put them up on the wall. After a student delivers a line, see if anyone else can say the line with more gusto, more romantically, more quietly, more to the left, more to the right, more with one foot off the ground, with head more forward, with head more back, whispering, etc.” Even the shiest kids want in on this and it can be marvelously entertaining. I have a list on my wall above the projected text to refer to when doing the Director’s Cut work.** When you do this, when the kids’ focus is on the fun of saying it in different ways, the reps are piling up! The emotions allow those many extra reps. It can get a little loud, though, so you have to be the one in charge. I like to sit in one of the big armchairs in my room and pretend I am a director. Once, a student next to me said, “Now that is going to be going around in my head all day!” So this is a Din-creator! This is output with a purpose (building a culture of fun in the classroom, not to mention the reps.)
8. Jump into the Space! – This is another technique for encouraging speech output without force and can be lots of fun IF the class tendency to blurt is fully controlled by you in a kind yet aggressive and complete way:
With the story up, as you are proceeding along with Steps 6 and 7 above, instead of accepting one word answers (which currently in TPRS is largely the rule) invite the students to answer in fuller sentences, as they wish. Ask them to respond with good mimicking sentences in the TL as per:
Teacher: Class, does Ann have a very small light blue castle in Italy, in the suburbs of Rome?
Student: (knowing that in the text we are reading the castle is indeed in Italy, some creative student yells out plaintively, No! It’s in France!
Teacher: You think it’s in France?
Student: Yes!
Another student: It’s in Germany!
Teacher: You think it’s in Germany! It says here (pointing to Italy in the text) that it’s in Italy!
The kids know that the castle is in Italy but you have trained them to say untrue things in a spirit of play with the words as in the above example.
How to invite such interaction? I use the expression, said in English, “Jump into the space!” and hold out my hands to the common open space in front of me there in class and invite them to fill it and then I wait.
Don’t forget to wait, sometimes for up to ten seconds or more because the kids need time to formulate what they are going to say.
Some play, some don’t. Those who do often rock the house. Far from thinking about accent or proper construction of the language, they just try to communicate for meaning. I ask them to put style and swagger into their sentences and feel as if they are French and make that pout thing with their mouth and spit R’s from the back of their throats all over the place.
The kids like it because they finally see the payoff of all the listening and because kids have a natural desire and inclination to express themselves in class.
This may be new thinking for some of us. It is for me because in the past I thought that the comprehensible input theory should dominate all activity in a foreign language classroom but now I realize that in schools that is impossible.
So we need to start developing an initiative for output in our work, an initiative that has been muted up to this point. As long as there is no forced output and it is fun there is no harm and plenty of benefit, even if only on an affective (still very important!) level. The affective aspect of our work is huge and cannot be underestimated.
I highly recommend doing the following set up activity before doing the actual Jump into the Space! activity. It is a counting game that most of us probably do in our classrooms in some form already. It has the effect of tuning kids into each other so that they know that they can’t blurt. This game is an excellent brain break activity as well. How does it work?
The students try to count to ten as a class, but according to strict rules. One person starts by saying the number one. There is a pause in which no two students can say the number two – only one person can say it. Usually what happens is that the kids can’t past the number five.
They enjoy trying to get to ten in this way but naturally get frustrated. When two or three kids all say “three” together at the same time of course they have to go back to the beginning. In the general frustration, usually a dominant student takes over and tries to point to kids to say the next number, or get an order going around the classroom, or somehow directing things. This of course is not allowed.
Use the failure at this game to challenge the class to apply the lesson learned in the counting game to the Jump into the Space! game (some of my classes think it is a real game). I have found that it works wonderfully in that regard.
The big caution, as usual, is English blurting. Only teachers who have the intestinal fortitude to simply not allow blurting in their CI classes will be able to make the Jump into the Space! activity work.
9. Running Dictation
Here’s the process:
Take five sentences from the completed story and cut them into strips, putting each sentence up around the room in random places on the walls. The font should be fairly large to make them easy to read.
Next, pair up the students. One student writes and one runs. The runner finds a sentence on the wall and runs back to tell the writer what the sentence is, who then writes it.
Once the students have found and recorded all the sentences, they try to arrange them in the proper order. The game is not over until both students have been both scribe and runner.
(Drawing Dictation is similar. A copy of a simple drawing is handed out to each student. An artist goes to the whiteboard. The students as a class describe the drawing to the artist. When done, the students and artist compare notes. This is a good activity to teach prepositions. Since this drawing activity, and running dictation as well, require some degree of output, it is best to avoid using them too much in first year classes.)
10. French choral and individual work on accent – Just read to the kids and let them repeat word chunks. This can be a very special time as we finally are able to hear, after a lot of constant input and relatively little verbal output, how our students’ brains have organized the language in the now emergent output. It is too early to expect anything exact in terms of their accents, but they love reading a text that they already know aloud in the TL so that is enough reason to do it. Be sure to not make this feel like a forced activity. They love to read out loud in this way.
11. 5 Minute Write of the story, in which the students answer the questions: title, who, where, what happens, what is the problem. I give them the following template in the TL to fill in each time:
This is the ________ story (fourth, tenth, etc. – teaches them to write ordinal numbers). The name of the story is ________. The main character is ________. The story takes place ________. What happens in this story? ________________________________________. At the end of the story, ________________.
*12. Process the work of the class artist. This does not require much time. We pretty much just enjoy the drawings and I use this time to get more reps on the structures, but in a different context. Fun!
13. Dictée
Here is the dictée process:
First, I give the students a half sheet of paper with groupings of three blank lines on them. Then:
On line 1, I read chunks of sentences and give the students time to write each chunk. I read each sentence chunk three times. The first time I read at a normal pace and they listen. The second time I read very slowly as they write. The third time I read at a normal pace while they check what they have written. I do not read it a fourth time. You will learn how to pace this. I simply do not allow a student to ask for a repetition of anything at any time.
Next, I show the students the correct version of the text, phrase by phrase, or chunk by chunk, and not sentence by sentence, which is too complex. They look at it and make their corrections on line 2 as I successively reveal each new correctly written chunk on the LCD or document camera.
The students bring down onto line 2 any corrections of the text only if any are needed, but the teacher may want to require that they copy the entire correct text on the second line. I grade both lines, whatever is correct from line 1 as well as any corrections made on line 2. In this way, the students are graded on what is correct, and not on what is wrong. They are graded on how well they can copy!
Line 3 is just a line space to make everything clearer and easier to read, but the teacher can opt to make them write the English version of the text on that third line as well.
The dictated version of the story doesn’t have to align perfectly with the story passage it came from. In fact, intentional inaccuracies as you recreate the story force deeper thinking by the students, and allow you to perhaps introduce a limited amount of new vocabulary.
*14. Textivate. Download this program for $40 – it’s worth it – from the internet to work more deeply with the written story – it plugs right in from Word and you can eat up lots of class minutes with the cute things Textivate offers for us to do with any reading we create from a story.
*15. Sacred Reading of the text. After all the opportunities they have had to both listen to and now read the same basic text, the students know the material. So, to conclude the Reading Option A process, and this is a most special time with your students in class, I read it to them slowly with meaning, dramatic tone, artistry, in a quiet, sacred kind of setting, as if I am gently reciting poetry. I was told by one teacher that one day she read with such drama and emotion that her students told her that she should have been an actress. I generally do this step without the text in front of the students, turning off the LCD or document camera so that they can just listen and not be distracted by the words on the screen. The students are really pleased when they can understand a foreign language read to them in this way. (highly recommended because you and the students will enjoy it so much)
*16. Translation Quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade.
*17. Content Quiz – have ten yes/no questions prepared before class. I no longer employ quiz writers. They just couldn’t make good enough tests.
*18. Free Write based on completed story – student write for ten minutes for ten minutes as per the Free Write Rules posted on this site. They enjoy making up their own stories based on the structures and plot of the story just completed.
*19. Processing the Artist’s Work. In the past, we would do this at the end of the story (Step 1), but why not do it after the kids have benefitted from reading/discussing/writing/talking about the story for one or more class periods. I wait until ROA is over to go back and do some Listen and Discuss with the artist’s work and then, the big celebration when on or more kids are bale to retell the entire as they look at the depiction of the story in a four or six frame panel setting.
20. Process the work of the L2 story writer if there is one in your class. Project it up and see how fast the class can fix the grammar, having done all the steps above.
21. Student Retells – paired or to the class.
avec enthousiasme
d’une façon romantique
en play-back
à droite
à gauche
en haut
en bas
en riant
en hochant la tête
avec pudeur
un pied dans l’air
la tête an avant
la tête an arrière
les bras dans l’air
en chuchotant
à haute voix
à voix basse
avec de grandes dents
les yeux fermés
le nez fermé
d’un ton sévère
tout à coup
très rapidement
très lentement
en mangeant
en buvant
en se tournant
les mains sur les genoux
les mains sur la tête
comme un roi
comme une mitrailleuse
comme un robot
dans une voix élevée
dans une voix profonde
six fois
quinze fois, etc.
en touchant la couleur jaune, etc.
en courant sur place
avec peur
avec remerciements et inclinations
d’une façon embarrassée
qui gratte
d’une façon mystérieuse
en train de s’endormir
avec du calme
avec douceur
avec de petites mains
à petite bouche mais les yeux grands
comme un lapin, une vache, un serpent, etc.
les mains sure les épaules
with gusto
like a Munchkin
to the left
to the right
looking above
looking below
with one foot off the ground
with head forward
with head back
with arms in the air
while whispering
with face scrunched
with eyes closed
really fast
really slow
while eating
while drinking
whiile turning around
with hands on hips
with hands on head
like a king
like a clown
with certainty
in a staccato voice
in a high voice
in a low voice
in a legato voice
six times
fifteen times, etc.
while touching something yellow, etc.
in an embarrassed way
in a silly way
with tiny hands
with big mouth but small eyes
like a bunny, cow, snake, etc.
hands on shoulders
Summary of ROA Steps:
1. Silent reading
2. Instructor reads aloud
3. Pair work
4. Choral translation using laser pointer
5. Discussion of grammar in L1
6. Read from the Back of the Room
7. Readers Theatre
8. Jump into the Space!
9. Running Dictation
10. Accent Work
11. 5 minute write
12. Class artist
13. Dictée
14. Textivate
15. Reader’s Theatre
16. Translation quiz
17. Content quiz
18. Free Write
19. Process Artist’s Work (it will sound like L1 to them by now.)
20. Process Work of Story Writer
21. Student Retells



6 thoughts on “Reading Option A – Complete Description – Updated”

  1. Ben — so helpful– we might try reading a bit more and see if the students can play along…
    I am looking for a magic bullet… maybe reading option A can work for us next week. We are reviewing all of our texts from Matava stories — once before winter break, and one more time before Final Exams in mid-January. Or I could do ‘French — 18 Ways’ over the course of a couple of weeks…
    I could do Step 6 next week and Step 7 after Three Kings’ Day. Hmmmm…. you always give me something to think about — a challenge to not give up.
    Thank you, Ben!

    1. Of course there is my “Fast Fourward” activity that I haven’t shared here yet as an activity. This is for when I really need to eat up minutes because I just really don’t want to teach. To repeat, it’s for eating up minutes and making the class fly by when I don’t feel like teaching:
      1. SSR 10′ plus 5-10′ of follow up translation discussion (we read where the slower kids are, in that chapter – the fast readers can go as far forward as they want, into another book maybe, but I don’t care. I’m just starting where the slower people are, that chapter. Once you get into a TL discussion of an SSR chapter, the kids have to use another part of their brain than the one they use in reading so fast readers are challenged.)
      2. Have them translate a random sentence you make up – in their composition books. You can stretch this out to where you are half way through class or more by the end of this second step of my Fast Forward activity. Write the correct version on the board in the TL. They fix what they wrote, you walk around the room. Fake teaching.
      3. Sabrina’s greetings activity. Cake. Eats up more minutes.
      4. Go to the Word Wall and have them say each word. More cake. Eat those minutes up without actually having to think.
      And then if there is more time not eaten up I just play the Old Reliable Cake Maker cared – Dictee. It can be of any text you have read recently. One from the SSR that day is great. More cake.
      It’s all cake. And they think they are learning. Easy peasey. Think I’ll do it tomorrow. And then I’ll do ROA with a recent story. The only work I ever do is in writing up the stories for each class. That’s it. Time to say it one more time – cake.

  2. Leigh Anne I updated the above a bit more for clarity since you commented, just FYI. ROA is a monster and could take you fully up to Christmas bread on just one story! It’s my mental health insurance policy. It’s my favorite layer of the CI onion. It is the wind beneath my CI wings.

  3. Oh I love watching this. It’s just lovely! I know “lovely” is not what the portfolio peeps are looking for. But oh well.
    Here is just one specific thing that I was moved by re: the new student.
    From 35 sec – 2:40 you invited her into the community by talking her through the “ñ / no ingles” sign. AND…the class invited her into the community by showing respect for the student, calmly, and warmly respecting the silence and the “review of protocol” even though they clearly know how to act…they showed the enormous responsibility to the group without getting impatient or fidgety or emitting any vibe of “sigh…do we have to go over this…I already know it…” etc that can instantly derail and toxify the experience. The group is so calm and accepting. This is energetic, so I don’t know how to put that into “schoolspeak”. Hope this is remotely helpful.
    I want to know how you do this. I don’t even know if this verbal description can even capture what I feel when seeing it. Thank you Grant. I will keep watching and learning 😀

  4. OOPS I didn’t list the specifics from your list:
    the clip I refer to showed:
    TL 90+
    high engagement, classroom management
    communication (authentic, purposeful)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben