The Three Steps and Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

by Ben Slavic on April 13, 2011
I organized the recently suggested weekly schedule into one text for our Denver Public Schools TCI group. I share it here for anyone who might like to have that information – edited down a bit – in one place:
An entire week of comprehensible input can grow organically from just three words. When the week is organized in this way, if the “plant” that is to be the week’s instruction starts with and is limited to just those three words, it’s root, then the students are able to experience a more streamlined and focused period of instruction over the five days – the instruction has a more simple quality. What does this organic instruction look like?
Monday – PQA of just the three structures. This is the planting of the seed of the plant that will emerge during the week of instruction. The root of the plant becomes strong and grows deeply into the ground. By focusing only on the three structures on Monday, the instructor is able to personalize and get lots of repetitions on them. This provides the difference. When this kind of focused PQA is done, the seed sprouts and the root goes narrow and deep. The growth of the plant through the week is assured. It is the delivery of knowledge and content and the checking of its comprehension in the form of spirited discussion in the target language that characterizes Monday.
Whenever possible, we “piggyback” two of the structures into the same sentences in the PQA. It may even happen that all three structures be used in the same PQA sentence. Doing this saves time. Besides using the three structures to personalize the instruction, it is the very goal of all PQA to get as many possible repetitions of the structures as possible to make the storytelling in Step 2 of TPRS that much smoother.
Just to be clear, PQA has three parts and we are not trying to change that. First we establish meaning of the three structures by quickly telling our students what they mean, then we gesture them to help them get a physical hold in our students bodies, then we PQA those that lend themselves to PQA, then we go to Step 2 of TPRS by doing the story.
By stretching out the PQA to be Monday’s sole focus, we get many many more repetitions and deeper levels of personalization than would have been possible had the PQA lasted only ten minutes or so before, as we did in the past.
Monday is therefore a big energy day for us because doing PQA for an entire class period is hard work, but it’s worth it because the entire week will in some way tag on and relate back to the PQA we do on Monday, By working hard on Monday we assure a successful week.
Some teachers who don’t want to commit to an entire class period of PQA just yet can begin Monday’s class with ten minutes of Free Voluntary Reading. I personally do fifteen minutes of FVR on Wednesday to start the reading class.
Tuesday – On Tuesday we apply the knowledge and comprehension of simple information – the three structures – into the construction and illustration of a story. As stated, the story is so much easier for the kids to understand because of the extensive PQA done the day before. If Monday provides the seed and root of the plant, then Tuesday, the story, represents the growth of the shoot into a very real plant. Whether it is an attractive one or a scrawny one doesn’t matter – our job is to provide the reps on Monday and the questions on Tuesday and whether the story is wonderful or not depends on the creativity of the kids – I blame it all on them.
I always start class with a five to ten minute review of some of the personalized facts gleaned on Monday. This gives even more PQA repetitions of the target structures, but, more importantly, it sets a personalized tone for the story. If Lydon and Mark’s love for each other was the subject of the PQA on Monday, and had lots of energy because those two kids know how to play the game, I just start with it and extend it on into the story, letting the story dictate the flexing of the facts gained from Lydon and Mark the day before. I like to start stories that grow from PQA – it helps so much.
Note that in this schedule, Tuesday actively engages the Story Writer, the Artist, and the Quiz Writer – this is their big day of work. We must therefore remember to stop the story about ten to twelve minutes before the end of class to enable time for
- superstar retells of the artist’s work (I give them the laser pointer to point to the details of what the artist has drawn while they speak)
- the quick quiz which is the students’ exit paper out of class
- the story writer to remember to physically hand me the notes about the story, which are absolutely necessary because I must have them to prepare the next day’s reading classes. This requires work after school but is well worth it. The readings are written as per information given below describing the W/Th classes.
Wednesday/Thursday – on Wednesday and Thursday we do the reading class. This growing of the root and stem into a plant goes beyond mere application of the knowledge and content gained on Monday and Tuesday to the analysis of the story in the form of reading, discussion of grammar and accent, etc. There are two options, one focusing more on the reading of a prepared text (Option A), the other focusing more on the writing of a text (Option B).
Option A for the W/Th class:
1. Silent reading, decoding of the first page of the three page prepared text (usually a generic version of five classes’ stories). This sequence begins again with step one for the second and third pages but I prefer going page by page through the sequence.
2. Choral translation
3. Discussion of text in L2. This includes discussion in L2 on spinouts from the text, but this is also when we teach grammar.
4. French choral and individual work on accent – this can be a very special time as we finally are able to hear, after a year and a half of constant input and relatively little verbal output, how our students’ brains have organized the language in the now emergent output. We notice how well they pronounce the language (as long as there wasn’t any forced output too early.)
5. Sacred reading of the text – this is a particularly fine thing. Toward the end of class, when the kids have been working with the same structures since Monday and they know it, I take the opportunity to read the text to the kids without their being able to see it. But I don’t read it like a teacher. I read it like it is a secret that I want to share with them. With a tone that is dramatic. I try to lend a kind of sacred feel to the words. They are as people attending a play, the dramatic moment of a play. One DPS teacher told me that she recently did that and that the kids were blown away that the understood it. The told her she should have been an actress.7. Translation quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade.
Option B for the W/Th class:
I do this when I haven’t had time to write up a story for the reading class or if I am in a lazy mood. I just ask the class to help me remember the story from their class and I do a retell with them refreshing my memory. While I am doing the retell (this is at the start of class), a superstar is writing the story out quickly in English. Once I get the gist of the story into English in this way, I proceed directly into the dictation format for the first 15 minutes. Then, I write the correct text out and the kids make their corrections as per the dictation format described on the resource page of Once the dictées have been corrected and handed in, we read the text (still on the board from the dictation) in English, discussing grammar, and then we work on accent as per Option A above. Thus, the format for a W/Th using Option B is:
1. Dictée and correction of same (35 min.)
2. Reading of text and discussion of grammar (25 min.)
3. Accent work (30 min.)
4. Translation quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade.
Friday – 10 min. of FVR – optional. Discussion of paintings, poetry, songs. The reward for the hard work week happens here.
I like this new schedule. My desire to design my week as described above was motivated by practicality – I really wanted to be able to include everything we have learned to do in CI into one week of instruction without leaving stuff out.
Trying to do PQA and a story on Monday and then a reading based on the story on Tuesday and then repeating that process on W/Th and then doing all of these other important CI activities:
free writes
was too crazy. I never could find the proper balance of auditory CI with reading CI. I always gave short shrift to the reading, to be exact. This lack of balance between listening and reading CI is addressed successfully in the above schedule. Now I can say that in one week I am able to present to my students the maximum amount possible of both auditory and reading comprehensible input.
It’s nice now to feel in control with my CI instruction. I am able to go slower because I know that I don’t have to get through the PQA into the story and then into the reading and have that all done in just two days. Not to mention the testing piece*. I was going narrow and wide with my stories when I tried to cram two of them into a week.
The way to express what this schedule means to me as basically a lazy person is that when I think about the upcoming week, I know that I won’t have to spend any part of my weekend even thinking about what I am going to do with my students. Everything is planned and will roll along very nicely.
It is as if, when I go in on Monday morning without even a story, I can just pick up one of Anne’s story books, pick out a story, put its structures up on the board, and turn the plane on autopilot. It will take off by itself and fly through the week, with sufficient test grades coming in, lots and lots of listening CI on M/T, and an equal amount of reading on W/T. This brings piece of mind.
*See the following links for information on the assessment piece:
The individual blog entries describing the above schedule in more detail are: