Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Picture Story Retells

This is an activity which I learned at NTPRS this summer in my session with Betsy Paskvan, where she taught us Japanese. The idea is simple: using pictures, students completely retell a story (which they have been going over in class) to each other in the target language. So yes, it means that students are speaking Latin!

I can absolutely tell you that this activity works, because I myself experienced it as a student with Betsy - i was absolutely shocked that after just 4 1/2 hours of learning Japanese using CI, I was able to retell quite a lengthy story in Japanese which we had been going over during that time. Moreoever, I have seen this activity work with my own Latin students. In addition, you can do three different activities in a row with it, each one scaffolded and building upon the former. One caveat: do not rush too quickly to get students to do this activity, because it is focuses on output; LOTS of input needs to occur first.

This activity does take quite a bit of prep.
  1. Create a powerpoint of a very comprehensible story, with one sentence per slide. No more than 18 slides - I will explain why in a bit.
  2. On each slide along with the text, have a pictoral representation of the sentence. It can be an actual picture representing the sentence or a bunch of pictures representing the different words.
  3. Use this powerpoint when doing a choral reading so that students become familiar with the text and pictures
  4. Make a copy of the powerpoint, and remove the text from the slides so that all remains are the pictures,
  5. Print up the powerpoint slides. 18 slides allows for 9 slides per page, therefore, 2 pages. I also print them in color since the original slides which students saw were in color.
  6. Place the printed page(s) in plastic sleeves or laminate them. If the story is two pages, then place the pages so that the pictures face outwards on both sides of the plastic sleeve
Activity #1
  1. Pair students - Student #1 has the pictures, Student #2 has a copy of the story
  2. Student #2 reads the story aloud slowly to Student #1. Student #1 simply points to different parts of each picture as the words are read aloud. NOTE - the student is not just pointing to the picture itself but to the various parts of the picture which correspond to the Latin words as they are said aloud.
  3. When the story has been through, students switch roles.
Activity #2
  1. Following activity #1, ONLY using the picture, Student #1 will retell the story to Student #2 in Latin.
  2. Student #2 has the story and will help Student #1 with vocabulary words if Student #1 needs help, Student #2 is NOT to correct grammar but only to give words.
  3. Students switch roles after Student #1 retells the story
Activity #3
  1. Following Activity #2, give everyone a copy of the pictures and now do a 5-minute timed write, where students write the story down in Latin using the pictures. 
  2. If students finish before the end of the 5 minutes, they are to write in Latin what they think happens next
  1. I do a Picture Story Retell activities probably only once a month and at the end of a unit. By the time students do this, they have reviewed the story at least 6-7 times in 6-7 completely different ways. I do not do Picture Story Retells too often in order to preserve the novelty of the activity.
  2. In activities #1 and #2, students are still getting in necessary repetitions of the language in the story in different ways. In activity #1, the student who is reading the story aloud visually is seeing the story (and hearing himself/herself say it), while the student with the picture is hearing the story and is pointing to visual clues in the pictures. In activity #2, the student who is listening to the story being told is hearing the story while also reading it silently
  3. Usually by the time i do these activities, so much input has occurred for students with this particular story that output seems natural
  4. There are probably going to be grammatical errors when students retell the story aloud - it is OKAY! That just means that they need more comprehensible messages and repetition of the language for grammar refinement.
  5. The timed write seems like a natural follow up after the first two activities. I have found that students' writing processing skills in the language increase following the oral retell.
Story Example

Target words
dies natalis
ego + do vs. (3rd sing) + dat

Tom est laetus. hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. Tom dicit, “ego elephantum, infantem et leonem volo.”

Jack dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego elephantum do!" Jack elephantum dat. Tom est laetus

Ian dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat. ego infantem do!" Ian infantem dat. Tom est laetus.

Matt dicit, "hodie Tom diem natalem celebrat, sed ego elephantum non do. ego infantem non do. ego leonem non do. ego measles do!" Matt measles dat. Tom non est laetus!



  1. I wanted to add something that might allow one to use/adapt this with less prep time. Using a video clip from movie talk, take a series of stills using screen capture, then drag those images into a PPT. Then, you can print out, say 6 or 9 images per page.

  2. Ok I never did this before (although I've used your blog for years) because I always prep at the last second and it seemed like too much work. This is the first time I've done this and it's GREAT! They are really learning the text thoroughly! Thanks!