[Note: If you are doing GPA, I recommend reading the GPA Phase 2 Manual for yourself. It has a lot more detail, and examples. This post is meant to be an easy-to-read summary of how to do the P2A activity if you are self-coaching. This post also aims to describe P2A in a way that helps a language teacher understand what the activity is trying to achieve. In this post I use Chinese as the example language, since that’s what I’m learning.]
Using Wordless Picture Books
Why picture stories? To quote from the GPA Manual:
- Using visual support makes it possible to interact with increasing depth. This type of storytelling provides a pleasant and interesting basis for interaction. People naturally enjoy stories—they spice up life!
- Using a picture story allows continuity in your study from one day to the next. The activities have built-in repetition, which allow us “go from the known to unknown.”
- Using story-building techniques allows us to learn new words and word patterns in a meaningful, memorable and personal context and to go back and hear recordings that put those words and word patterns into their remembered context of our experience.
- Review becomes as simple as re-listening occasionally to the stories that were built earlier.
- During story-building activities, you continue to increase in your ability to interact socially with your language helper (nurturer) and by extension, with others.
In other words: visual stories are fun, memorable, and relaxing. All of which makes a great learning environment! Also, using wordless picture books means there is no language to distract you. You simply make your own story, and it works in any language or country.
Download & Print
These books are all available free to download & print, since they are out-of-print.
- 11 easy stories to begin with (My own Dropbox), prepared as ready-to-print PDFs
- All 29 available free stories (Official GPA Dropbox), images only
Overview of the Activity
Goals for the Student
- Start speaking lots, and “loosen” their tongue.
- Learn 8 or more new words per hour (on average)
- Practice the skill of negotiating meaning – finding a way to communicate only in Chinese, without resorting to using English.
Example 1 hour class
|30 mins||Discuss the story (Chinese only). Student describes the pictures in the story, and tries to learn new words. Write down any new words learnt. If you get stuck trying to learn a word, make a note to discuss when the 30 minutes is up.|
|5 mins||Quick debrief if needed. Discuss in English the words which you couldn’t explain and write them down as well.|
|15-20 mins||Record homework for the student:|
1. Record all the new words with example sentences. (Vocab recording)
2. Record what the student said, page by page. (Story V1 recording)
Also, when you finish the book, record one extra recording:
3. Close the book and have the teacher record themselves telling the story from memory (Story V2 recording)
Note: The GPA manual recommends recording a ‘dirty dozen’ style quiz for new words, which I have skipped over in my instructions here. Personally, I tried this and found it a bit confusing to do, so I gave up and just did sample sentences. However, I think I did struggle to remember words sometimes. If I had an experienced GPA coach to help me, perhaps I might have persisted. So, up to you whether you try this or not! I think this extra step is probably helpful, but not necessary. If you haven’t done Phase 1, this will probably be confusing for you.]
Guidelines for the Teacher
- During the story time, Chinese only – no English!
- Correcting mistakes is different from textbook classes
- Typical textbook method – The goal is to be 100% correct. Any mistakes in a sentence are corrected instantly. Students repeat many times until correct. Students are often interrupted when speaking.
- GPA method – The goal is to speak lots in a relaxed environment. For pronunciation and grammar, the goal is to be about 60% correct. Each time the student speaks, gently repeat back to them what they said, correcting any mistakes. Teachers should wait until the end of the sentence to speak, and avoid interrupting the student.
- The Student learns new words by asking questions, using Chinese only.
- Sometimes the new words will be easy (e.g. What is this called?)
- Sometimes the ideas will be hard (e.g. He is feeling… )
- Teacher should write down the character and Zhuyin or Pinyin for word on the page.
Tips / FAQ
- If you’re new to GPA, then the student should know how to ask the following questions:
- What is this? (zhege donxi shi shenme?)
- What is he doing? (ta zai zuo shenme?)
- That is a new word. (zhe shi yi ge shengci)
- Please write that down. (qing xie xia lai)
- Please give me some examples (qing ju lizi, bifangshou?)
- The student should try to describe as much as they possibly can with their existing language – e.g. the boy is standing, the boy is wearing shorts, there are 2 things here, etc.
- The teacher can remind the student of language he already knows, but shouldn’t do this frequently, and shouldn’t interrupt.
- Overall – have fun! As long as you talk lots, all in your target language, and try to learn 8+ new words per hour, you’re doing well.