Natural Language Stories
Natural language stories are texts composed of the student’s own words.
1. The helper writes or types what the student says.
The 'story' can be:
- a sentence
- a caption for a picture
- a joke
- a whole story
- The helper turns phrases into complete sentences.
- The helper shortens sentences that may be too long for the beginner to read.
- The helper assists the student in thinking of what to say.
2. The helper reads the story to the student.
- During the writing, the helper reads back to the student what has been written so far.
- After each additional bit of writing, the helper reads the whole thing back again. (This is a normal process in writing, as we think of the next thing to say.)
- The helper reads the finished story to the student.
- The helper points to the words, and reads in a natural-sounding manner, but more slowly than usual.
Reading and re-reading to the student, makes the student very familiar with his story before he ever tries to read it himself.
3. Then the student reads the story, with help as needed.
At first, the student may be ‘just remembering.’
This is okay. (But do teach him to point to the word he is saying--and without covering it with his finger!)
Over the days, the link between the ‘look’ and the spoken ‘name’ of each word gets stronger and stronger.
Over the days, you help your student to notice familiar Phonics details in the words, even if he only knows a few consonants at first.
Gradually, he is learning to mix two streams of thought:
his Phonics skills, and his meaningful sentences. Excellent!
Natural Language Stories help with Jiffy Words--words to know on sight, without sounding out.
As he rehearses his stories, he will name these words over and over again--words such as ‘the,’ ‘is,’ ‘to,’ ‘one,’ ‘of’--words that often do not particularly follow the Phonics rules anyway.
From ‘just remembering’ to reading:
When he can read his old stories days and weeks after writing them, and when he has collected a stack of them so thick that neither of you can remember them exactly, you will finally be convinced that he is reading.
By reading the story over and over, the student is practicing Rapid-Accurate Naming, fluency, and comprehension.
Natural Language Stories help students to put all the skills together
as a system.
Natural Language Stories give the message that reading is familiar language, written down.
Some students, particularly those who have struggled, do not expect what they read to make sense.
They may start making guesses that do not fit in the sentence, or they may even guess non-words.
But a student who is reading her own words, will really understand that the written version is supposed to make sense.
Natural Language Stories help students to make the connection between the mechanics of reading, and their own language system.
Natural Language Stories are more like ‘real language’ for beginners.
The language in early Phonics stories does not sound very natural.
Children do need these Phonic stories as part of their Phonics program.
But Natural Language Stories give students the opportunity to see their Phonics in action within language that is richer and more familiar to them.
Students are successful with Natural Language Stories.
For students who are struggling to learn Phonics, Natural Language Stories provide a worthwhile, satisfying and successful reading experience that can protect their ‘can-do’ attitude.
For older students whose reading is labored or worse, Natural Language Stories provide rehearsal material that is automatically high-interest and age-appropriate.
Students can be fluent at a level which might take them much longer to achieve with unfamiliar text.
As they practice reading fluently, they are learning how to read fluently.
Natural Language Stories demonstrate the writing process for students.
- Students have to assist their helper by going more slowly or by backing up and repeating an idea from time to time--just as they might if they were writing it down on their own.
- Student and helper brainstorm ideas together.
- The helper demonstrates the process of putting an idea into words (with the student’s approval).
“Should I write . . . ‘None of the aliens bothered the boy?’ . . . or . . . ‘The aliens were not interested in the boy?’ . . . Or . . ."
By watching how the writing process works, students are better prepared to write their own ideas.
Short Cut Through the Treehouse ~ The Whole Treehouse
More on this topic: How to Write Natural Language Stories