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Yup'ik RavenStorytelling in the Yup’ik Immersion Classroom

General Steps of TPR Storytelling

I wanted to apply TPR Storytelling correctly so I was eager to learn everything I could possibly know. As I spoke to experts in the field, I discovered that there was more than one way to apply TPR Storytelling. In Fluency Through TPR Storytelling, Ray and Seely (2001) provide recommended steps and weekly schedules with high school language classrooms in mind. They list three levels of stories in TPR Storytelling: the shortest, personalized mini-situations (PMS), the mini-story and the final level, the main story (Ray & Seely, 2001). Personalized mini-situations provide comprehensible input by using student’s names. In the beginning of the year student’s names can be used to teach vocabulary (Ray & Seely, 2001). The teacher chooses a student and makes up a short story using her/his name (Ray & Seely, 2001). For example, Kegluneq kaigtuq. ‘Wolf is hungry.’ Keglunrem tangrraa nasaurluq. ‘Wolf sees the girl.’ Nutagalria qalervagtuq! ‘Nutagalria bawls!’ TPR Storytelling recommends two to four mini-stories for the final main story (Ray & Seely, 2001). Because of my student’s age level, telling one mini-story per week was ideal.

Fluency Through TPR Storytelling is a useful resource because it gives a clear background and description along with detailed steps on applying TPR Storytelling. However, as Ray and Seely (2001, p. x) note “some elements of it maybe altered and others may be added.” I have found that a mini-story with my first and second grade is perfect for a week’s time of practice and a performance at the end of the week. Sources I have found particularly useful for this are listed in the Additional Resources section at the end of this handbook. Both Susan Gross’s (2005) The 3 Steps of TPR Storytelling and Valeri Marsh’s (1997) Total Physcial Response storytelling: A communicative approach to language learning are especially useful. Both are available on line.

The three steps identified by Ray and Seely (2001) are: Show, Tell, Read/Sing/Play; each will be described below.

Step One: SHOW (Identify key vocabulary).

First, the teacher introduces each of the new vocabulary using gestures, props and pictures to convey the meaning of the new words (TPRS Publishing, 2006). I seldom resort to translation but when the students take extra time guessing and if a student uses English, I’ll react to his/her answer delighted with their correct guess. Once students have an understanding of the new vocabulary, I begin teaching the associated gestures (TPRS Publishing, 2006). For example, one of a number of stories that I have adapted from Marsh and Anderson (1998) is about a hungry wolf. The wolf sees a little bird, wants to grab the little bird, and wants to eat the little bird. The little bird gives him a sandwich. I wrote the story as follows:

Una qanemciuguq: Kegluneq Kailria.

This is a story: The Hungry Wolf.


Outside, there is a wolf.

Kegluneq kaigtuq.

Wolf is hungry.

Kegluneq tangertuq yaquleyagarmek.

Wolf sees a little bird.

Keglunrem teguleraa yaquleyagaq!

Wolf grabs the little bird!

Yaquleyagaam cikiraa kegluneq sandwich-aamek!

The little birds gives the wolf a sandwich!

“Quyana!” kegluneq qanertuq.

“Thank you!” The wolf says.

Kegluneq Kailria.
Kegluneq kaigtuq.
Wolf is hungry.
There is a little bird.


To introduce the new vocabulary, I make a motion for each new word while I am saying the word. I have the students guess what word I’m trying to convey. For the above example, I make my hands like claws and make a mean looking face depicting a kegluneq ‘wolf’. For kaigtuq ‘hungry’, I use a circular motion with my hand on my abdomen. For tangertuq ‘sees’, I use my pointer and middle finger pointing away from my eyes. For teguleraa ‘grabs’, I make a grabbing motion with both arms. For yaquleyagaq ‘little bird’, I make a wing flapping motion with my arms held in to depict a little bird. For the wolf saying “quyana” ‘thank you’, I make an outward motion from my mouth. When I feel the students are ready, I have them act out the gestures while I tell the story.

Step Two: Tell (Vocabulary Practice using the Story)

The teacher gives the students time to dramatize the story. In my classroom the selection of role-players is determined by whether or not their names get drawn randomly from a plastic cup full of tongue depressors with each of the student’s names. I have found that this alleviates the notion of favoritism and helps me to avoid selecting the more outgoing students eager to play parts over the inhibited students. I respond enthusiastically to each one whose name gets drawn. This seems to give them the extra confidence to play a role in front of their classmates and at the end of the week in front of the other first grade class and two kindergarten classes.

In this step, repetition of vocabulary structures is emphasized. Gross (2005) states learners must hear them over and over in order to acquire the vocabulary structures. One option for more practice is to divide students into pairs to practice producing the words (Marsh, 1997). Another practice for repetition is called circling. Circling is a systematic way of repeating the vocabulary structures through a simple question and answer routine (TPR Storytelling, 2006). For example:

The teacher begins with a statement from the story:
Kegluneq kaigtuq. The wolf is hungry.
The teacher then asks a “Yes” question:
Kegluneq-qaa kaigtuq? Is the wolf hungry?
The students respond:
Ii-i, kegluneq kaigtuq. Yes, the wolf is hungry.
The teacher asks a “No” question
Kegluneq-qaa meqsugtuq? Is the wolf thirsty?
The students respond:
Qang’a, kegluneq meqsunrituq. No, the wolf is not thirsty.
The teacher asks an either/or question:
Kegluneq-qaa aqsiuq wall’u kaigtuq? Is the wolf full or hungry?
The students respond:
Kegluneq kaigtuq. The wolf is hungry.
The teacher asks a “No” question:
Kegluneq-qaa aqsiuq? Is the wolf full?
The teacher completes the circle by confirming the “no” and restating the affirmative:
Qang’a, kegluneq aqsinrituq. Kegluneq kaigtuq!
No, the wolf is not full. The wolf is hungry!

As suggested by Blaine Ray, I hung a poster up in my room as a reminder of the order of questions following the pattern:

Ii-i Yes
Qang’a No
Wall’u Either/or
Ii-i / Qang’a YES/no
-qaa? Interrogative
-qaa? Interrogative

Step Three: Read (for literate students) Sing/Play (for pre-literate students)

In step three, literate students are given a printed story that they can translate into English and discuss the reading in the language (Susan Gross, 2005). This step would not apply for our primary students at Ayaprun Elitnaurvik. For pre-literate students, Carol Gaab (2006) recommends using gestures, hands-on activities, rhythm, songs and chants and partner activities to practice the vocabulary and sentences.

With my students we practice the mini-story of the week every day until Friday. Initially I gave titles to the stories but found that after telling the story a few times, the students were able to come up with appropriate titles on their own. By Thursday they are able to tell and perform on their own with minimal help. I usually make my gesturing motions on the side while the students tell the story and the actors play out their roles. There are times when I make up scenes for phrases that the students seem to have difficulty learning to pronounce. Ipegcaricugngaavnga-qaa? ‘Would you sharpen a pencil for me?’ would be an example. At that time my students were having a difficult time correctly pronouncing the request to have their pencil sharpened. With this particular expression, I made the gesturing motion of sharpening a pencil. After I felt like most of them grasped the correct pronunciation, I hung up the written request near the pencil sharpener for a reminder. Here is how the story went:

Una qanemciuguq: Ipegcaricugngaavnga-qaa Igarcuutemnek?
This is a story about: Would you Sharpen My Pencil?
Elitnaurviim iluani elitnaurartangqertuq.
Inside the school there are students.
Elitnaurvigmi elitnauristetangqertuq.
Inside the school there is a teacher.
Elitnauram aptaa elitnaurista “Ipegcaricugngaavnga-qaa igarcuutemnek?”
The student asked his teacher, “Would you please sharpen my pencil for me?”
Cuqcissuutekun-qaa ipegcarillamken?
Should I sharpen for you with a ruler?
Qang’a! Ipegcarissuutekun!
No! With a sharpener!
Perririssuutekun-qaa ipegcarillamken?
Should I sharpen for you with an eraser?
Qang’a! Ipegcarissuutekun!
No! With a sharpener!
What about this one?
Ii-i tuaggun ipegcarissuutekun!
Yes, with that sharpener!

For elitnaurviim iluani ‘inside the schoolhouse’, I make a roof over my head with my arms. For elitnaurartangqertut ‘there are students’, I show my mid-torso height. For elitnauristetangqertuq ‘there is a teacher’, I show my own height. For elitnauram ‘the student’, I show my mid-torso height again. For the student asking to have his pencil sharpened, I make a motion like I am sharpening a pencil. For the teacher responding with cuqcissuutekun-qaa? ‘with a ruler?’ I show the length of a foot ruler. For the student responding with Qang’a! Ipegcarissuutekun! ‘No! With a sharpener!’ I nod my head for no and make a motion like I’m sharpening a pencil. For perririssutekun-qaa? ‘with an eraser?’ I motion like I’m erasing on the dry-erase board. For Uuggun-mi? ‘What about this one?’ I hold up a small pencil sharper. For Ii-i, tuaggun ipegcarissuutekun! ‘Yes, with that sharpener!’ I nod my head yes and make a motion like I am sharpening a pencil.







Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction What is TPR Storytelling?
Total Physical Response The Natural Approach General Steps of TPR Storytelling
My Classroom: First and Second Grade Sample Mini-Stories References
Additional Resources Project (pdf)  



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Last modified April 7, 2011