Elissa's Question

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11 thoughts on “Elissa's Question”

  1. The last time I was on “vacation” in Germany, I tried to keep in mind what my basic conversations involved. I greeted people, asked how it was going, asked for directions, gave directions, ordered food, asked how much something costs, asked about means of transportation and explained how it is that I speak such good German. There were in general no deep philosophical discussions, no thoroughgoing explorations of politics, and no religious debates; those were with my friends, not people I met as a tourist.
    So, how do I get words like “bus”, “train station”, “hotel”, “street”, etc. into TPRS? If nothing else, they are the boring, mundane alternatives to what the class has chosen. “Did she fly on a big purple penguin with a red beak, or did she ride the bus?” “Did he go to play tennis with Fifi the goldfish in Tahiti, or did he go to the swimming pool at the park?” “How far did she walk on her hands? 1,247 streets/blocks!” “Did he turn left or right at Saturn?” “How much does it cost to play soccer in the Penguin League?” Voila – we still have BEP but are bootlegging those pesky tourist terms in as well.

  2. Elissa,
    I have used Beth Skelton’s ESL book, Putting it Together. A lot of English as a Second Language teachers stay away from the bizarre, and go for exaggerated instead. (ESL students tend to be more motivated and for a lot of them their lives are varied enough that bizarre can have the opposite effect.) I don’t think TPRS has to be bizarre to be effective. The first story is of a guy who takes his girlfriend to a restaurant for her birthday but doesn’t have enough money. His girlfriend has to sell her shoes to pay for the bill. There is a lot of of BEPing you can do here, including bizarre if your students choose.
    In Linda Li’s Mandarin DVD she had her character who wants to buy pizza go to pizza shops and for various reasons (too expensive, not good pizza, the shop is closed) doesn’t buy one. I think if you can think of a very simple storyline and let the kids add the details, it can work very well.

  3. It works but it gets boring fast. It is like a dip in the story when you specifically target a travel or food expression. The trick for me is to get the travel expression in and out fast. But I agree with both answers above. In the end, the kids learn them, proving that by just exposing them to the constant CI we do a lot more than we think and a lot more than those who go wide and narrow with English all the time, targeting lists in books and translating them, which is the old way.

  4. I think that either way you are going to have to do more work than you would with LICT. Which kind of stinks, but at least your students will be more prepared. I would suggest taking the vocabulary that you think the students will use and grouping them with interesting problems. Sometimes the students will come up with a more interesting problem, but if you have one, that gives you an anchor.
    For example, say you are teaching some of the foods. Maybe an interesting problem would be that one of the characters is really hungry, but he can’t find a Mc Donalds [or whatever your students like to eat]. After searching all over the the character finally finds a restaurant and tries it and likes it better than McDonalds. On paper it sounds boring, but this is the bare bones scaffold of the story. Each class adds in their own bizarre details to make it interesting to them.
    You will want to be careful with the problems, though. They shouldn’t cast a negative view of the country but rather enhance it and make the students excited about Costa Rica.
    Just some thoughts.

  5. It is problematic. Crafting a story around a target vocabulary that has to do with travel or food expressions is not easy, as Thomas says. They are like lead weights. The three structures need to have a certain level of lightness, of inspiration, and of autonomy to a central interesting idea/plot. The kids are more apt to get into “threw himself on the ground in Hot Topic” than “eggplant”.

  6. When Susie taught our group in December, the teacher who wanted to be coached decided to use a question as a structure. I think it was, “How much does it cost?” It was interesting to hear the story start when the circling questions were around that question. I thought it had a lot of potential for just the situation we describe–“Did she ask how much it costs or where to get it?” It would take some creative kids, but I bet they would come up with some interesting questions if the initial story were staged in one of those places and the only structure were the useful question. Or you could pull the trick I do on tired days: give the kids the “boring” structures you want and ask them to come up with stories that include those words. Then you get to ask the stories. If they have a two-minute time limit and tiny pieces of paper to write (not in TL), they come up with very funny scenarios.

  7. So, right after teaching the structures, before signing and gesturing them and before the PQA (the rest of step one), you ask for two minute scenarios to serve as story scripts. Then you collect them, go through the rest of step one and start the story with one of the scenarios that has energy. I really like this.

  8. Hey Everyone-
    Thanks so much for your thoughts. It’s been fun checking the blog throughout the day to see what new comments are coming!
    I’m glad I didn’t instigate discussions on why we end up talking about things like albino lepricons. (If anyone reading this is making that argument against TPRS I’ll just say that in order to get to the albino lepricon we had to ask what kind of animal it was, how big it was, what color it was, how many eyes it had, and what color the eyes were… all very useful words!)
    I need to keep reminding myself to trust in this process more. I’m sure if we wrote down all the words I used today (maybe aside from “boogers”) there would be lots of words that will help when trying to communicate with a host family. And more than the words used, kids just following the flow of the language and understanding it is huge.
    Jody helped me see recently is that through TPRS kids are learning how to learn another language— paying attention, making eye contact, listening, asking when they don’t understand… Which of course will come in handy while traveling.
    Keep comments coming! They are very helpful!

  9. Elissa,
    My suggestion is to take a look at their itinerary. Will they be on a group tour? Will the meals be pre-ordered or will they have to do this themselves? The same for shopping. If they will be bartering, it may be a good idea to have a story about that, you can include tips on how to barter and what to expect. Most students would be interested in this so it doesn’t necessarily have to be funny. It doesn’t even have to last the whole lesson. I teach a crash English course. As per most Japanese trips abroad, most things are done as a group with a guide so most things like asking for directions, checking into a hotel, getting a taxi, going through customs are not really an issue. However I teach phrases like “want to buy” “need” “enough” “too much” “Is it OK if,~” “Thank you for~” “next/this/last week, ” and words for ailments like (stomachache, feel sick) etc for them to use to communicate with their host families.
    In this particular course, I often use Japanese to explain cultural things, and I bring in realia like menus, newspapers, advertisements, etc. I tell them things like if you want something offered to you, say yes from the beginning. Don’t assume that your host will ask you 2-3 times as per Japanese custom. I tell them some families may prepare hot breakfasts with 2-3 dishes but that cornflakes, toast and fruit for breakfast is normal. etc etc You have to decided what kinds of things would be helpful for their trip.

  10. I have been thinking about this quite a bit…it’s a dilemma for many people. I haven’t sorted all of my thoughts out yet, but this morning I woke up with an idea for a story about a student who learned Spanish with TPRS and was very good at giving all kinds of funny (but imagined) details. When his host family ask about his family and hometown , he answers a la TPRS because that is what he is used to….and his host family (because he speaks so confidently) starts to believe his story about his brother with six eyes ( 4 brown 1 blue 1 green) and his pet leprechaun (who is really from Spain and wears a Real Madrid shirt). ……
    with love,

  11. I love Laurie’s idea–when we were practicing for our spoken district orals last year, we had a class alter ego, so all the kids would say something like, “My name is Bob. I live in a box. My 12 sisters also live in the box. They all like to play the trumpet at three in the morning…” I told the kids that, with the exception of living in the box, they could adapt almost any of the information to their finals. The folks listening were not going to know their true lives anyway.
    I have another suggestion for travel vocab, which I tested in three classes of varying ability today. It comes from the cooperative learning structures session that I was dissing the other day, so it’s also a bit of an apology; I did learn something there. (But it’s still output and still required more English to set up than I like.) We practiced forward, back, to the right, to the left, numbers of steps, small, big, etc. Then we added turn, go (as command forms, which I’ve avoided for TPRS, liking the 3rd person singular better as starting points) and stop/stand. The CL structure had us playing a control-tower game. Airplanes had their wings extended. The control tower person directed them around the room. I changed it so that I had a kid in the center following my directions to move around, then another kid with closed eyes being directed to a seat (I have a small room with a lot of furniture and big kids), and then everyone had to practice the sayings together in pairs, and then they got to direct their buddies around the room. I warned them they had to be careful with their partners–no sitting on the floor unexpectedly or bumping into other partners. I can see that we will be able to use it as a brain break once a week or so. I like the twist of directing a partner to a chair. I hope we’ll get really good at being organized to do it, and that everyone will understand directions.
    We worked all the versions of being sick into a story last week, because one of my kids was leaving for an exchange, and I remembered that was something a former kid had complained about not knowing how to explain or understand. Besides, it was really fun to have them do the sounds and faces for various woes (constipation and worse) and they’re all revved up to make them when a parent comes to visit.

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