Here is a post from 2008:
I just need to write this out for myself, so I can see it in writing and read it before each of my classes. It describes the mental preparation I need to consciously do before each class comes in.
Luckily, I don’t feel the need to think about circling, pointing and pausing, and teaching to the eyes. That is becoming second nature by now.
However, SLOW is definitely not second nature, and I see over and over and over how going too fast loses kids and ruins classes. So SLOW is the first thing I want to remember as each class comes in. Thank you, Jody, for that unforgettable text you wrote (on this blog as “Jody on SLOW 1”) on going slowly. I read it everyday.
So, Thing to Remember #1 is SLOW.
The next thing is, believe it or not, PQA. I often just plain forget it. I think that may be unconscious, because I know that I only have 53 minutes for the story, and I want to get it going so I don’t have to hurry through it.
However, by leaving out PQA, the kids get a lot less practice with the three phrases just presented when establishing meaning at the very beginning of class. Not getting those repetitions on the target structures during PQA really makes the story harder to understand for the kids. In fact, besides giving a personalized feel to the class, PQA has the specific purpose, exactly, of giving those needed repetitions of the structures to the kids before the story starts so that the story goes smoother. The more that I study this method, the more I realize what a finely tuned machine it really is.
So, Thing to Remember #2 is to make sure I do the PQA. Even five minutes accomplishes the main purpose of getting those repetitions in so that the story flows (a lot!) more easily.
The third area I am trying to improve in and put into my conscious mind on at the beginning of each class is to use and stick to simpler stories. For years now, I have, in cavalier fashion, just taken off in whatever direction I felt like, often leaving story scripts completely behind after only a few sentences.
By leaving the script entirely behind early, I often ended up without the three locations, which have authentic value in storytelling, because, and this is so important, not returning to the three structures results in the need to introduce many new expressions. When we stay to our three locations, at least to some extent, we can repeat the original structures of the story a lot more, resulting in much greater clarity of the CI for the kids. I would rather have that and a slightly more boring story than a really creative story that confuses my kids.
Of coures, this is not a formula – a story without three locations can work just fine. Even one location works – it is not the amount of locations, it is the amount of comprehensible input, but I do find that when I follow through three locations in a story, the kids seem to understand more because, as mentioned, of the repeated structures that tend to occur more frequently in that format.
So, Thing to Remember #3 is to use simpler stories, especially ones with threes in them.
The next thing I want to remember is simple. I want to put more space between the chunks of CI that I use in my sentences. Just a few extra seconds of such little spaces allows the neurology to develop more strongly in the deeper minds, the language acquisition devices, of my kids. It just makes sense, and such pausing, creating more spaces between chunks of words, reflects, as well, the key skills of SLOW and Pointing and Pausing.
So, Thing to Remember #4 is more space between utterances (word chunks).
I recently blogged (October 21) on “Professional Distance” – that is the next thing I want to keep in mind. I just read that blog, as well as Jody’s on SLOW (October 17), before every class, if I can remember. The thought is simple – if I feel like I want to have fun and get into side conversations that reduce the distance between me and the kids, the learning will suffer. I can enjoy the kids and personalize my classroom to a very high degree, but I don’t have to be their friend. In fact, if I try to be their friend, I may as well go find another job, because TPRS is never going to work that way, for me at least.
So, Thing to Remember #5 is to remember to keep my Professional Distance.
The last thing is an old friend. It is something that, whenever I remember it in class, elevates everything. It is beauty. Specifically, the beauty, the great euphonic beauty, of the delicate French language. If I were a Spanish teacher, it would be the same. Both are equally beautiful. If it were German, the same. Isn’t it interesting that, although a common vehicle of communication used by even the most crass of people, languages in general carry within them sounds of transcendent beauty? Consciously bringing this beauty into our classrooms surely will do no harm in increasing interest in the languages that we teach. When we make a conscious effort to speak the language in a beautiful way, it then becomes beautiful. We make it beautiful through our efforts. Up until now, we haven’t been able to do that, but now we can!
So, Thing to Remember #6 is to remember to try to reflect the beauty of the language each time I try to speak it to my kids.
Of course, what is said here about the beauty of the language can be applied to the beauty of the method. So misunderstood, so judged, so poorly practiced, TPRS continues to fascinate me, and always will. It is almost like a meditation. Hell, it IS a meditation. I have never been more challenged in my life by anything on a professional level. There must be something really great in any method that could do that.
So, there are the Things to Remember, just in time with a class coming in right now. It is like a herd of animals coming down the hallway, putting a sure end to my reveries, as classes begin to change. I better print this out and hold it with my story script. Only six things. I can do it.
P.S. (written later) I did it. Plus, strangely, I got into using Professeur/Experto a LOT just now. I love that skill. We did the great Anne Lambert story called Oprah’s Package (on this blog click on Good Story Scripts or just do a search). Valery got a large star shaped package from a teacher (who happened to drop in just now and stayed for the class), but Valerie was afraid of the package because she was afraid of the teacher (physically present there!) so she called the police who refused to help her open the package on the grounds that the package was too purple, so she called her friend, who really wanted to help, but I said no to that (It’s My Story!), so then she called someone else who came and helped her open up the package, which contained a picture of Dr. Phil. Then Valerie was really afraid! But I
1. went very slowly
2. did the PQA!
3. used a simpler story
4. forgot the pause thing
5. definitely kept my professional distance
6. really tried to speak in L2 with as much beauty as I could