Dirk Frewing

This bio is from Dirk. It contains some radical thoughts, even for us. I agree fully with every single point he makes. Dirk is a freestyle expert. Read why:
I just had a chance to go through the last month or of the blog entries. I apologize for not sending a bio sooner and not contributing to the blog lately but in the summers I really and seriously unplug from work.  Plus I have a 3 and a 5 year old which doesn’t leave me much time for reflecting and writing at the end of a work day.
Having said that, I must say that I thought I was “doing CI and TPRS” for the past three years.  I devoured all I could read, woke up in the middle of the night, endured criticism from colleagues, wrote to you a lot, and also spent a lot of time and energy bitching about how my school is too small and it just doesn’t work there.
This is the first year I have really done it.  After 10 years of forcing output – never using a book thanks to a killer mentor I had – but just the same teaching grammar rules and forcing different kinds of output – and three years worrying about which words to use in TPRS and what order to follow – I finally get it.  And I am having fun every day in every class.
3 things have been huge this year.  These 2 things have made more of a difference than I ever imagined.
1. I push myself really hard and the kids really hard on the rules.  I used to think you overstated this idea that there must be order before acquisition can occur.  I used to try at the beginning and just give up, really.  If acquisition is so unconscious, they will just “get it.”  Bullshit.  This is school in the U S of A full of teenagers.  This year, I have called parents in class on speakerphone the first time people really screwed up with interruptions or comments.  I called a kid’s mom down to the room from where she was volunteering and talked to her right there.  I made a couple people stay in my room with me for lunch.  Forget all the paperwork and clueless administrators.  I take care of it immediately.  Much much better.
2.  The whole name circle in English time spent at the beginning pays off big time.  I took a full week to complete the circles in each class.  I always went last, I made mistakes, and I always laughed about it.  But it paid off big time.  Learning names gives the teacher both positive bonding / connecting power and very quick redirect power on the second week of school.  Well worth the time “lost to content” in any subject.  I never used to get this initial, low-stress interaction at the beginning of the year when I spoke only Spanish.
These two simple things – both based upon human connections, interaction, and respect – trump any sort of method for TPRS or CI.  Whether or not one uses with PQA, stories, reading, drawing, or acting – the most important components are that the language be about the kids or their ideas and that they have space to absorb it that is orderly and focused.  The rules and the research make this happen.  If students are engaged to a point where they are most invested in the characters or events in the story / image / discussion then one is doing it right.  That is the only real test.  Today there was a near fight over a question over whether there were two big or one big rock in a shoe.
I declare that it doesn’t matter which M T W schedule one follows, which novel is read first, how many questions are on a test or any of that other stuff.  We teach kids a language.  We do not teach a language to kids.  I am currently leading a general hodgepodge of one word images that get sewn together after a couple of days into a reading which can be read or dictated to them.   Then we still do name cards and so we will move to bigger stories.   But I think one good word or phrase is as good as three.  Today we did “rock” and had a rock, paper, scissors tourney before creating a family of rocks traveling in a shoe.
3.  A single list of the 135 or so wall  words – I chose mine from the different topical categories in the Routledge Frequency Dictionary – which I laminated and shoot at with a Nerf dart gun.  They all look to see where the dart will land.   The same words show up over and over in the one word images, games, and anything I write.  I can just shoot some darts and connect the words to make a skeleton of a story.  No more monthly word lists that change and have low-frequency words.  I can give the list to study hall teachers and email them to parents when they ask for homework or assignments.
Anyway I am tired and I gotta go.   I wanted to check in and say hello and thank the collective on the blog for their continued wisdom and courage.
Take care.  And thank you once again.



40 thoughts on “Dirk Frewing”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this bio. Thank you for sharing. I think I’m going to make a laminated word wall too and invest in a nerf gun, I’ll have to check with an admin though since we have strict weapon rules. Does the word wall only consist of the most frequent word then? I noticed that “se” is included as a word on the frequency lists…I’m not sure how I would CI that in a level one class if the dart landed on it.
    Any suggestions on quickly recommending names? That’s my weakness, I’m really bad at remembering names although I’ve been better this year than last thanks to Circling with Balls.

    1. On the first or second day of class, I use my flip-video to record the students saying “I am _____” in Spanish and the rest of the class says “Hola, __________” back at them. I explain that this is so that I can study their names at home and try to learn them faster. It works pretty well and I am absolutely horrible at remembering names. I memorize according to physical location in the classroom so I don’t dare move people around (well, I’ll remember the trouble-makers no matter where they sit!) for about 3 weeks.

  2. Thank you. Your post was really helpful. I can feel the relaxed nature of your classes just by reading your message. I want to feel that way again, too. There is no better place than here to include a quote I just read over again for the first time in a long while:
    “It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden
    I believe the ways of the book-centered teachers bares no truth. The success of students in a TPRS class seem proof enough.

    1. Melanie when I said radical I meant exactly what Grant says below about the targeting of vocabulary. That IS radical even in TPRS/CI terms. It means complete alignment with Krashen and his radical notion that no vocabulary need be targeted in order for perfectly good acquisition to occur. Just read what Grant wrote, that is what I meant. The nerf gun – fricking brilliant – is a symbol for a certain group of people even within this group which would rather not once think about their jobs, planning shit, etc. until class starts, then start riffing and CI-ing with whatever comes up, then leave the building after lots of laughter, have a much fuller life away from school, and thereby turn work into what it should be, a way to earn a living and not an all-consuming study in nervousness and caring what people think. At some point we have to figure out, with Krashen’s help, how we really do in fact interface with him. We haven’t done that yet, and he knows it and we know it. Is there or is there not a Krashen 1.0 and then, for TPRS/CI teachers, a Krashen 2.0? The dart gunners think not. There’s just Krashen 1.0, the radical kind sans formules, and it’s good enough for them even if they do work in schools.

  3. I think one of the most radical notions is that language class be based on high frequency words rather than predetermined lists of vocabulary randomly chosen or thematically driven.
    This scares the shit out of people. By people, I’m referring primarily to those who inherit CI kids. They simply don’t know how to teach them if they don’t come having memorized that which was to be memorized. It really is scary. I get that and can empathize. There’s no clear answer yet out there that I know of to the question, “If not the book’s pacing guide, then what?” Suggesting, like the DPS pacing guides for years 1 and 2, that the first two years cover topics of interest to self – i.e. school, home, family, activities, etc plus X quantity of high frequency verbs shakes the very foundation of language teaching tradition in the country. How many times do you see upper level teachers inadvertently stacking their deck by counseling out kids that don’t fit their mold, teaching in a way that is hard for most people, etc. only to be left with the best and brightest that have memorized everything and have somehow managed to be able to use a little bit of it and who also bleat on command… One can’t overlook the fact that this situation is like that of a private, non-tax payer funded school that refuses to service kids that “just don’t fit here”.
    The notion that upper level teachers be asked to teach kids that have a wide variety of unpredictable, seemingly random vocabulary (one of my level I class’s favorite words last year was ‘to caress'(??)) is actually quite radical. It’s asking them to be in the same spot as an English teacher who has to differentiate for kids reading at all levels or a Science teacher who has to modify assignments for English Learners. They would actually have to teach kids language rather than teaching language to kids, as Dirk so eloquently put it. Upper level language teachers have insulated themselves from this type of thing successfully, perhaps not altogether knowingly, for decades.

    1. Grant, I finally chucked traditional methods and the textbook when I realized I could not submit another “recommended for level 3 list” to the guidance dept. I will not do it. You are so right. I have colleagues who moan and groan about not having the “right audience” in front of them. How arrogant! Upper level kids in AP Spanish who never take the test. What you said resonated with me.

  4. Funny you should write this, Grant and Dirk–another Russian teacher just wrote me today to ask how TPRS fits my curriculum. She’s in Ukraine, so I was totally honest (this after she watched a video I sent and complimented my kids’ level) and I told her that I keep ratcheting down the number of structures I want out of my first-year kids (it’s really down to about 10-15) and that the next three years are just a focus on increasingly skillfully being able to manipulate all the other words on the list of about 200. On the one hand, kids stay with me. They learn. And they frequently do very well once they get to college Russian. But on the other, I feel at times like the Emperor, because at least I know I have no clothes. They learn the numbers and colors and rooms and animals and buildings and classroom items and clothing that come up in stories, as well as lots of words that are of personal interest. They are pretty good at verbal aspects by the end of their third year. They start to write fluently around the end of their third year. They can hold up their end of a real conversation or an argument by the end of year three or four. And they can tell stories from right now in the beginning of year one. But try as I might, I can’t quite describe exactly what they should be able to do by the end of a particular year. I am trying to re-work my proficiency guidelines right now so that kids and I can easily recognize their status at semester time, but I find myself putting labels like “End of year 1 through year 2.” Or “Third and fourth-year.”
    I personally don’t care too much who is where when, as long as we’re all spending the period in Russian and as long as they’re comprehending. Some of my weakest Russian 2 kids from last year are suddenly very strong Russian 3 students. In a normal (traditional) course of events, these kids would have dropped out, and I would have been relieved. But now, they’re on top of things and they’re answering in complete sentences. I don’t know when it happened, but by sticking around and hearing the same stuff over and over, they’re learning it. How can I explain that to someone who wants to know how I’m following the curriculum.
    Did I mention that I’m the one who wrote the curriculum for my language in our district a decade or more ago, and that it stinks? I sincerely hope no one is trying to follow it. I truly do not know how I would re-write it, except by copying Diana, and I’m not really brave enough to suggest that.
    By the way, I do have students who bleat on command, because I followed Ben’s “mais” (I think that’s how it’s spelled) idea. And I can tell you that just because of that bleating, I was able to speak my first French sentence in a coaching session, connecting it only because I had heard that bleat so many times in videos.
    It’s radical. And it does match what’s happening in English language arts classrooms–where I, at least, have one kid who can’t write a paragraph to save his soul (we’re not even talking punctuation here), and have another whose writing moves me to tears. They’re both in “reluctant reader” English. Guess what…I’m speaking English that is comprehensible to them both, scaffolding the reading where I need to, and cheering on their efforts to be understood, even as I help make that more likely.
    So glad this blog is private.
    And so glad that we can be radical together.

  5. …try as I might, I can’t quite describe exactly what they should be able to do by the end of a particular year….
    Good for you, Michele. I have been thinking long and hard about Dirk’s use of the dart gun and have concluded after knocking it around in my mind driving up and down Federal Boulevard in Denver for two days now that it is brilliant in many many ways. Yet 99% or more of language teachers would think it insane. I declare that it is so far out there that it is masterful curriculum design, thank you very much. People who have all of Krashen’s ideas neatly categorized in little compartments which describe how and when they present material to the kids are not aligning with Krashen at all. Either we are going to go with the Net Hypothesis and the key Krashen principle that it is the mind that does the organizing of the freestyled language that it heard that day in a rockin’ CI class, or we are not going to go with Krashen. In the one, when we try to fit Krashen’s radical yet entirely spot on ideas into our work, we immediately label ourselves as radicals. In the other, where we try to fit Krashen into a school curriculum, a good argument can be made that we are stupid. I would rather be radical than stupid. Play the game to get a paycheck? Yes. Believe that CI is something that can be fit into some generic curriculum model given to me by people who don’t know anything about languages? No, thanks. Just no.

  6. I don’t think there’s much radical here, either. I would be bored to tears if I did this any other way. At the giant comprehensive high school where I used to work – and force a lot of spoken output – I had the year arranged around language functions and there was lots of individual oral testing, singing, acting, etc. But there was a non-stop stalemate trench war with the enemy. They would smile at me condescendingly and ask which chapter my activity or task was in. I was the only male in a group of very traditional, older female teachers. They constantly told me not to make fun of the district-adopted textbook because they all used it. I even remember one Stanford-educated Grammar Matron (as I called them) tell me that my activities were fine for “first year” but by “third year we don’t need to worry about the relationships with the students. It’s about the serious language.” Ooooooo! I am absoutely sure that the students are indeed going to sit up straighter and listen more because you are now talking about INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS instead of DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS! Total crap. At least the 25 white girls who made it to AP Spanish V IB or whatever the hell acronym was attached to it might but they would have anyway.
    I am always thinking about the phrases and words that kids seem to remember automatically and the ones that they never can remember. Sometimes I stop and ask them why they remember something – what makes that word different than the one right below it? Before I found CI teaching, I was struck daily by how little they seemed to retain from all that I had put out there with my sweat equity in the form of monkey puppets, songs, stories, games, yelling, acting or whatever else came to mind in my frustration. I still wonder at how little they get but when I do notice the things which they DO remember they are words and phrases with an emotional or personal connection. For example, If someone nods off or droops sideways in their seat this year, I have already noticed kids – who if they were trapped in the choreographed and mimeographed hell of the Spanish classroom down the hall would be grinding out solid F’s and probably lots of discipline referrals as well – leaning forward and whispering to me in an urgent hiss, “¡NO DORMIR, PROFE. NO DORMIR” so I will launch into the crazy-ass fake-pseudo country song I sing to wake people up. It’s like what you might have seen on Hee-Haw if it were from a community college in a Soviet-era autocracy and simply repeats the phrase “No dormir, no dormir, no no no no no dormir”as I slap my knee in time or bang on the table.
    And just over a month in, these are kids who have never had a Spanish class and will pass only mine this year because all they are given are simple 10 question quizzes at the end and YET they have automatically internalized the word for sleep. And spoken to me in Spanish! These kids are told to sit up and not talk unless it is to respond to my questions. I think the firm classroom rules show them that we give a shit and have some kind of expectation for them. If we let them sleep in the corner it’s like saying we don’t care.
    We talk about them in class and use what they have to offer. We meet them where they are. In the old days, everyone knew the words for “hat” and “gum” as there were sayings and chants and I would put all captured gum in a giant clear 5 gallon plastic water jug for the world to admire. People were visibly disturbed by the technicolor mass in that bottle. But every kid knew the word for “gum” and “goodbye.” They also always remember the word “leche” as I am prone to long rants with simultaneous cartoon drawings on why milk is gross.
    It seems that to organize language instruction – first, second, or third – around anything other than the words that occur most often is ridiculous. Thanks for the Brits and their academic frequency dictionary.
    I have to recommend the Nerf single shot pistol with the laser sight. The six shooter has a high failure rate and is a couple of dollars more. I also would suggest smearing the suction cups of the darts in Purell – unless you want to lick them to get them to stick. The beauty of the Nerf word hunt is the acknowledged collective anticipation – I don’t have to tell a single student to sit up and look at the word wall because whatever natural instinct we as humans have for games of chance and probability kicks right in and soothes the teenage hormone tsunami flooding their brains on that day at that moment. I make a big deal of loading the gun and squirting a drop of Purell on the end. I sing out loud to myself in Spanish while doing so. You want to see a room of hands go up to answer when you are getting repetitions of “has” and “wants” in Spanish? Ask who has the Nerf gun and who wants it. And never give it out. Except perhaps to the nicest, quietest little girl who never asks anything of you. In May.
    I think the Nerf gun and the words the kids seem to remember effortlessly from the songs and such are both connected to emotion and some subconscious mechanism that sucks up the words that have meaning in the moment. We put them out there, make them clear, make an example that causes the brain to pause and analyze and it will do the rest. I dunno.
    This idea of the brain and language fascinates me endlessly. I think because I watched my own children learn to talk and use words and that sure looks nothing like what Prentice-Hall and the Grammar Matrons tried to impose. I am going to keep trying to improve. Spanish is not some elective that can be interchanged for ceramics or band. For many of my students it is a practical skill like carpentry that will serve them in the world of work right after high school.
    By the way, I do not work in some dream school with a loving, supportive boss and free coffee. I am not immune from the yoke of measurable outcomes or district benchmarks or whatever you want to call them. They are there. I just smile and say yes and point to the edu-speak on the document. I email and hand out the word wall list over and over to satisfy mom and dad that there is indeed “homework.” And then the class and I go back to our story about someone not wanting to eat cheese made from cat milk. And everyone is happy.

  7. Thank you, Dirk, for posting so much inspiring and helpful information for us. The Grammar Matrons (and Patrons) who say it’s not about the kids are so dead wrong, and their classes reflect that anti-human perspective that generations of kids had to suffer through, and still do. At least I take some comfort knowing Latin isn’t the only “dead” language being treated like a fossil or corpse to dissect in our nation’s schools.
    The dart gun really is pure Krashen, in the sense of compelling input. I think most adults would qualify as attention deficit if they were forced to sit quietly and listen to a series of boring teachers all day, 5 days a week, for YEARS. Please, get out a nerf gun, sing a song, not in order to be a clown, but in order to wake them from this stupor we call education, at least for one period.
    Word wall as “official” homework–brilliant! Perfect way to placate parents, and still keep things loose and creative in the classroom. I put up my first word wall last week, and didn’t even talk about it. Kids immediately started rattling off words, and asking me about connections with English words. After 3 days, students were using the wall to construct their own Latin questions and sentences, spontaneously. A story will definitely grow out of that random list.
    Regarding the phenomenon of our language class being the only class that some kids will pass: I am finding that I will be the only one at faculty meetings not complaining about the academic and behavior difficulties of students X and Y, who have been diagnosed with some sort of deficit, or who simply won’t do the work in most of their classes. I worry that I am simply perceived as the teacher who doesn’t demand much of his students, so almost all of them get As and Bs, but, thanks to this blog, I have a very different definition of rigor from that of my colleagues.

  8. I so love the idea of the word wall but don’t know how I could make it happen in my classrooms. I travel between two buildings and share several different rooms with teachers of all subjects. Since I am in each room for only one period, I am also VERY limited when it comes to available wall space for me. What little bit they give me, I have used for the question words (they are right below the ceiling, in the back of the room). Not ideal but it’s something.
    So, I was thinking of using a Smartboard page as my word wall. This way, the wall could travel with me. Plus, we could use a koosh ball to throw at the board to choose the words as per Dirk’s suggestion. My question to you is: how do you decide which words to put on the word wall and how many? I can’t imagine putting 200 words on it since nobody would be able to decipher them (size limitation).

    1. Brigitte, I travel and am in other teachers’ rooms, too. But I wonder if you would ask for a spot on the wall for a word wall, if they wouldn’t give it to you. Also, if you have a cart, you could hang a big poster on the end of the cart, or you could have a poster with magnets that you stick to the whiteboard when you get there or have over sized individual whiteboards that you put on the whiteboard ledge and keep on your cart. I don’t have a word wall, but this discussion makes me want to get one, too and a nerf gun.

  9. Melanie, I did ask for wall space – that’s the only reason I am able to have my question words up on the wall. Sometimes, you’re being made to feel like an intruder if you are in a classroom for only one period a day. Plus, I can’t really get into the various rooms before classes start, so I dart in, log into my Smartboard and the bell already rings. But the poster idea with magnets is definitely feasable. Thanks for the suggestions! There is sooooo much I want to do (especially after reading what everybody else on here does) and sometimes I just don’t see the forest for the trees.

    1. It’s natural right? Only seeing the trees is what we all do all the time. It is the very model of a modern general education. But, what I am reflecting on now personally is that the forest image is nothing more than an accurate mimicking of that normal relaxed process that young kids go through in learning their first languages – they hear it and then they read it then they start to speak and write it later. That’s all it is. That’s the order of it, not the Realidades order. We can do that with anything. Even a t-shirt some kid has on. In fact, that would be a great thing to work with, since it’s about the kid! They hear it, it’s about them, they read it, it’s about them, or they conjugate verbs. Hmmm.

  10. aaaahahahahahaaaaaa: “Grammar Matron!” hahahaaaaaaa!!!!!!
    OMG! brilliant! I want a nerf gun NOW! I am going to get one over the weekend come hell or high water or even both. This is such a great post / thread!!! Thankyouthanyouthankyou!
    John said:
    “I worry that I am simply perceived as the teacher who doesn’t demand much of his students, so almost all of them get As and Bs, but, thanks to this blog, I have a very different definition of rigor from that of my colleagues.”
    I am also in this situation, but really the worry only kicks in when I’m in a meeting. And frankly I’m starting not to give a damn. Just 45 minutes ago I was in a meeting where I was so excited to talk about student x who is always on ppl’s radar screens due to a generally disruptive tendency. The kid’s life is pretty chaotic and he was also diagnosed with ADD 4 years ago. He is also smart as a whip and a fast processor (so he’s probably just plain bored when he gets wiggly). Anyhoo… I put him in charge of the class last week, when I was away at a workshop!!! He was le prof for the day, in charge of getting the class through a couple of simple reading activities. When I picked up the bucket o’ books from the librarian (yes, there was an adult present!) and asked her how it went, she gushed: “He was sooooo good with them. I heard him say things like ‘ we’ve done this in class before.’ ‘You can do it’ and ‘Do the best you can'” So of course I used that “material” in class that day to honor his great leadership skills and his encouraging attitude!!!!! It was the best! This guy has such a pattern of negative self talk. I know it will take a long time to change these patterns, but that has to be our #1 priority: honoring the light within each child. This blog is such a gift because it’s the only place where there are a bunch of people who actually recognize this priority and search for ways to keep it at the forefront 🙂

  11. I have also seen, I think it was in Ramon Garcia’s book on TPR, the idea of using a pull down shade as a word wall.
    In my last year in my last district I was made to cart it too. I had 5 classes in 4 rooms. 3 of the rooms had word walls up. It’s academically necessary. They can’t deny you the space, even if you have to ask the principal and especially if all they have up there now are posters like “No Whining” or “Be Responsible” or other crap like that. Decide what you need and demand it.
    Nerf gun. Buying it this weekend.
    Word wall – I have lists of top 25 words separated by part of speech from Mark Davies’ book, A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish, Core Vocabulary for Learners. Is this the source others use?

    1. OK that is not my word wall. That is a way too busy list that I made up years ago and never updated. My actual word wall is somewhere in my computer and not that great but I will update it in the next month. Actually I should update with a really good one from someone in the group. Pls. don’t use that link – I just get busy and have yet to update.

  12. Dirk- I can’t wait to see a video of your class. And to read your book. Thanks for this post! And thanks to everyone for contributing to this blog. Reading this makes me want a word wall (but only if it comes with the nerf gun)!

  13. I just went through the Routledge Frequency dictionary (referenced on this site) and chose the most commonly occurring words in the topical categories – but I did skip a few that I knew lacked potential based upon previous experience. The title page:
    “A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish
    A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish is an invaluable tool for all learners of Spanish, providing a list of the 5,000 most frequently used words in the language. Based on a 20-million word corpus which is evenly divided between spoken, fiction and non-fiction texts from both Spain and Latin America, the dictionary provides the user with a detailed frequency-based list plus alphabetical and part of speech indexes.
    All entries in the rank frequency list feature the English equivalent, a sample sentence plus an indication of major register variation. The dictionary also contains 30 thematically organized lists of frequently used words on a variety of topics.
    A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish aims to enable students of all levels to maximize their study of Spanish vocabulary in an efficient and engaging way.
    Mark Davies is Associate Professor at the Department of Linguistics, Brigham Young University at Provo in Utah.”
    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
    Davies, Mark, 1963 Apr. 22–
    ISBN10: 0–415–33428–4 (hbk) ISBN10: 0–415–33429–2 (pbk) ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–33428–0 (hbk) ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–33429–7 (pbk)
    In the previous years I aimed for about 5 required words each day. I presented the words at the beginning – drew them (as I love to cartoon) – and asked for what I call “mind Post-its” or association tricks that students use based upon the sound or appearance of the word. Each month students took the daily listening quiz by drawing 10 words from a hat (a fez) and get 8/10 correct. If they did not they could do the quiz again with 24 hours in between attempts. No cheating and never the same test twice. The problem became that there were:
    a: simply too many words
    b: students who otherwise would have passed did not earn credit for the class if they were unable to pass all these monthly lists. They did well on all the listening quizzes but couldn’t or didn’t study at home.
    I think a shorter, more efficient list on the wall all year is much better. It satisfies the “homework” requirement and is always there. No more hunting for past lists. Just point and shoot. Almost every word can be interpreted to apply to one of our district “Learning Targets” for Spanish.

  14. But the problem with these kinds of lists – found in Blaine Ray’s books and elsewhere as you say:
    is that many of those most frequent little words are just not that interesting.
    For example:
    Are not very sexy or good to build with. Compared to things kids like – pets, foods, and sports. The Routledge book groups some words into topical categories – connecting words and articles and prepositions can be put on a separate chart so they don’t get in the way during reading or questions. I just say “el means the” and move on.

  15. Dirk, I just wanted to mention that if you look in the Acknowledgments of the Routledge Frequency Dictionary by Mark Davies you will find my name. I spent an enormous amount of time helping with the research on this book as a grad student.
    The research experience on this project really led me away from textbook centered teaching and Dr. Davies mentions that textbooks use words that are sometimes so infrequent that students will never encounter them in the real world of language. It also points out that the grammar sequence used in textbooks makes no sense.

  16. Oh man, oh man I could really use a good example of a word wall. I’ll keep checking back frequently as I know that I’ll be jumping back into TPRS soon. I just can’t stand the “old way”.

  17. If I can’t use a nerf gun (no guns of any kind in our school) what could I use that might be almost as cool? Any ideas?? Seriously, I really need something cool like this to do… my kiddos would LOVE it…

    1. you could also get a ball that has little suction cups all around it. Then you can throw it at a laminated word wall, and it will stick. Maybe you can designate a tall student to get it back down. If you decide to do a google search for a “suction cup ball toy” just be careful which links you open, trust me.

  18. I’m planning on getting a nerf gun very soon (like this weekend). But, I don’t have a word wall yet. Can anybody suggest or send me a good Spanish word wall? I’d hate to go buy a frequency dictionary to come up with a word wall when there are probably plenty of word walls out there already.
    My email is: christopherroberts9@gmail.com if anybody is able to share their word wall.

    1. I don’t have a word wall but I share the room with a spanish teacher and hers is awesome. She has a large bulletin board covered with all the letters of the alphabet scattered in random order. Every time a word comes up in class she/the kids deem high frequency/high interest, she adds it right below that letter. We are now 10 weeks into the school year and her wall is growing really nicely.
      I like her idea since it is tailored specifically to her class not to what somebody else thinks should be up there.

      1. Carol Gaab told me yesterday that she also personalizes her word wall to what comes up in class. There is so much to discuss about what sounds like a relatively simple thing. There are so many possibilities. Kevin asked me last night (he has visited my classroom) why I don’t translate the words and Carol and Kristy asked me the same thing yesterday. I don’t know the answer. So what I would love is for someone to come up with a set of Word Wall rules, or suggestions at least. Big topic.

  19. Ben, would you say that the word walls you have posted on your site are still good for me to post and put in the room? I’m talking about the Spanish one, so I guess other Spanish teachers would have to check it out and let me know what you think. I feel like there could be more but I’m too insecure to make my own from scratch. (How’s that for honesty?)

  20. No don’t use them. They are way weird. I just can’t seem, because of time, to get to the new lists, and now Carol and Kristy and Diana got on my case about the ones I am currently working on. Plus, then Bryce reminded us that the system we use is very verb heavy, so I want to throw everything out and reconsider everything about what that wall should look like and consist of. But don’t use those lists. For now, I would just put up a lot of blank paper on a wall and then every time you and the kids agree that a word is important, you write it up there with its translation and it will be your own personalized wall. I think that if the kids come up with the wall, there will be a lot more buy in. Just my thinking currently. But those three super experts yesterday clearly didn’t like my word wall. Maybe we can solve this word wall thing together this year.

    1. The only word wall that has ever worked for my students (and me) is the Connector Word Wall. It covers an entire wall and is alphabetized in target language w/English translation in another color underneath the word and a little off to the side–half of a sideways sheet of copy paper. (I noticed a mini-version of this wall in the guy Spanish teacher photo that Carol took.)
      When I do the end-of-the-year survey (which consists of one question: What are the five things that most helped you to acquire Spanish this year?), the Connector/Transition Word Wall always comes out close to the top–after stories, of course. My kids vie for the “Vanna White” job of finding and pointing to the words that come up naturally (or planned) during our work in class. The students use these words all the time during writing. At the end of the year(s), we run through them all and realize that the students know them well and can use them naturally and appropriately in speech and writing. I never teach them outright. Don’t need to.
      The other posters in my room are the small word posters, which contain the structures we’re working on, written on chart paper. These eventually get moved from “front and center” to the back wall for continued reference until we just don’t need them anymore because the structures on them are totally acquired.
      I believe that what goes on a word wall needs to be useful ALL the time, be easy and very fast to access, . My two cents.

  21. Wow! Some great ideas abounding here about word walls. I have a shared classroom space with a kindergarten-first grade class to teach in. They have a typical word wall. But again, the teacher uses the concept of putting up the words that come through their frequency in student’s writing. So they are words that everyone uses all the time spelled correctly. she started out with their names and has added each week. She also posts a target word daily on her classroom door so as they enter and exit (many times a day) they see it.
    Since I share space, I have been putting my words on big desktop project display boards. I have the words in black 72pt type in the Mvskoke and a picture (I teach k-8 at same time so have non-readers in English or Mvskoke). They are stuck on the board with blue tac so I can use them in sentance pocket charts that I hang. They become our target structures. I use them on 3 different colored display boards so that verbs are on one, questions and their phrases on another, and nouns & such on the third. I have a 10 minutes setup.
    I can see that I will run out of board space at some point, but walking over to retrieve a word from the board gives me that pause and point time. And when they come up with new words, I add them. I had one boy actually draw a picture for his added word. He was one of my out-of-compliance kids and reluctant to learn a “dead” language. He’s on board now.

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