Edcamp Lake County Experience

The Edcamp organized by a group of Chicagoland educators back in December had all the wonders! I felt so inspired and stimulated and I felt like a sponge to soak up my new learning experience. Now, I’m excited to share some with you.

That morning was snowing. The dense, drizzling and fine snow made the feasibility to be very low. On a 70 miles per hour speed limit freeway, I could only drive between 45 – 50 miles per hour. I knew I would be late. My thought didn’t dwell on the road condition at all, I simply kept on driving and reminded myself to see God in everything. As it turned out, the drive was as beautiful as on a sunny day.

I was there for the first TCI session on time. Elaine Winer, a season TPRS Spanish teacher, demonstrated the whole process on how to ask for a story within 45 minutes. She started with TPRS step 1: Establish meaning. She used TPR, illustrations, props and realia during her establishing meaning process. Then, she called an actor up front and started TPRS step 2: ask a story. For Elaine, she prefers to have a storyline developed before she starts a new lesson. This technique is called “story-telling”. For me, if we are creating a new story, I often select few essential phases I’d like to weave into a story, I then start to ask for details, often, students provide details to drive the story. This technique is called “story-asking”. If I use a legend or an existing story, then often I use story-telling technique.

Elaine’s storyline was simple: There is a man. His name is Muhammad. He wants to have dinner with a woman. He enters a restaurant, sees a woman there and asks her whether she would be interested. She rejects him because he has 11 fingers. He goes to another restaurant and experiences the same rejection, until he finds a woman with 12 fingers who accepts him wholeheartedly.

That was a typical TPRS story which meant to be funny, entertaining and comical. In recent years, a group of TCI teachers have also become conscious about expressing equity and inner qualities in our stories. The shift is to focus on characters and values instead of physical treats. The leading figures are Anna Giltch and Rochelle Adams. If you have time to attend NTPRS18 this year, please make sure you check out their session.

The second Edcamp session I attended was on “A teacher’s journey through Ben Slavic’s Invisibles and One Word Image- No stress storytelling” by Greg Schwab.
I am familiar with Ben Slavic’s One Word Image, however, in recent years, Ben and Tina have developed a new technique called “Invisibles”, which I have not had an opportunity to learn about. I was very happy that Greg presented on this topic.
From One Word Image to Invisible has a total of three simple steps.
Step 1: create a character by using One Word Image.
You start with a one word: What is there? (有一个…?) And then you start to create a character from there by asking the following treats:

Size: Big Small

Height: Tall Short (if applicable)


Mood: Happy Sad

Cheerful Depressed (add on later, you don’t need to use the same ones)

Excited Nervous (add on later)

Wealth: Rich Poor

IQ level: Intelligent Stupid

Characters: Friendly Mean

Often, as Gregg has said, the character is an animated cartoon like object or talking food. Once your character is created, then it would be time for step 2.

Step 2: Develop a character. Students take a total of 30 minutes to finish step 1 above and step 2 here. The following information are included in step 2.








Favorite phrase in the target language:

Favorite greetings in the target language:

Date of Birth:

Step 3: Ask for a story. Creating a story for an invisible involves 7 steps.

Town Hall Meeting – choose a character from students’ drawing collection

Who? –






1. Town Hall meeting is held in English. Because the class needs to agree on what the main character would be and whose storyline is most appealing to them. This is a process which needs to be dealt with efficiency and clarity. Teacher selects the best creation from step 1 and shows to the class. Students discuss and choose one out of the samples.

2. Who?
Even though the character has been created. This is a process for everyone truly understand and develop a deep bond for the character. Teachers don’t spend too much time on circling.

3. Where?
This is a step where students’ imagination at work. Teacher makes many suggestions, from a desert to an island, a mountain top to a farm house, a evil forest to a disco place, students stay in the target language and make their argument. Teacher personalizes it and circles.

4. W/whom?
This is another creative step when students suggest another character to be in the story. During Greg’s demo, participants cleverly brought all the 3 characters into the story. Or it could be a totally unrelated person for a good reason to be there.

5. Problem
This step has already been established by the author. Teacher doesn’t spend too much time here. It helps to get to the solution party quickly. For many people who really need a closure for a story, this could be a good strategy.

6. Solution
This is another creative step. It takes time and patiences to reach a satisfying conclusion.

7. Retell
Wait, wait!!! Retell right away? Don’t panic! Here, let me reveal one extra set-up during the Invisible process.

Illustration. Greg had a big poster size post-it ready. He has the illustrator to divide the paper into half. The upper half is a scene focusing on “problems”. When the character starts to have problems, with whom he’s having problems, what are the problems, where they are…

The bottom half is a scene focusing on “solutions”. How the problems have been solved.

By the time he finishes the Invisible, the illustration is ready to use. Students could look at the illustration and retell.

The third session I attended was presented by Meg Grossnitz. She is an elementary teacher, fun and dynamic. Meg’s presentation was on “Special Person Interview”.
Meg was intended to interview Greg, however, being a busy organizer, he was not there when her session started. Meg selected me to be her “special person”.

I am a quiet introvert who prefers to live behind the scene. I am also a unique person who is into meditation and nature. Not a common type who enjoys social, party or sports. I was feeling self-conscious about my answers to her questions. While I felt the needs to stay true, I was concerned about that I might sound off-putting to others. It was an interesting insight to gain through this whole process. I have done this activity many times in class, only when I was pushed under the spotlight, I realized that how stress this could be for some people. Meg’s handout is here.

The biggest takeaway for me is that Meg has created a quiz templet by using Google Form, she asked a fast processor student to fill out the form (with my answers) while she was interviewing me. When the interview was over, Meg was ready to launch a Quizlet Live game for us. We got to play a game and review the interview. I LOVED it!

The last session was presented by Sean Lawler, the title was Asking Stories with Anne Matava Scripts.
Sean used chalks and a chalkboard. Along with a stuffed animal (dragon) and an actress, very low tech! Then started a mesmerizing story! The basic storyline is typical TPRS style: a dragon is hungry/thirsty, he goes to location #1, #2 & #3, then…

What I LOVED about Sean’s session is how charmingly he infused his personality treats into the class. Sean seems to be very musical and he incorporates rhythm into his lessons. Would you like to get a glimpse of Sean’s rhythmical raps? Here is a sample.

Each Edcamp session is 45 minutes in length, then there is 10 minutes Q & A session followed immediately after the presentation. I love how efficient this organization can be to introduce new ideas and expose participants with new tools.

Certainly, I was feeling very grateful for this learning opportunity.

By Haiyun

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