Jennifer Sparano

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8 thoughts on “Jennifer Sparano”

  1. Hey, everyone!
    I’m so happy to have received such a warm welcome. I must say that things have gone a little south with TPRS (and I don’t mean south Jersey, chill). I took a survey of all my students last week because I was feeling scattered all over and out of control with planning and structure of the phrases I was teaching. Of course, I’ve recognized a lot of positive benefits but when I began to see a decline in student attention I began to wonder what was up. I asked them to give me one thing they liked about class, one thing they did not, what they felt their learning style is, one thing they do that makes them a “good student” and one thing upon which they could improve.
    Sadly, most students feel that the story-telling has become too much to tolerate. Many kids spoke candidly about enjoying the stories but needing something more. (I don’t get it because we’ve had reading classes, SSR) but they feel like the ONLY thing they’ve been doing is listening to me and they’re feeling frustrated. I really did not want to do TPRS half-assed, if you’ll forgive me. I really did not want to combine various methods. I just don’t know what to do. This week was shortened due to the holiday and I find myself making traditional lesson plans again for the next four days.
    I am sad….. 🙁

  2. Dear Jen,
    First of all, you are the teacher and YOU get to decide what the students do and how much they are acquiring. If you believe that TPRS is the right thing to do, then do it. We can help you to find ways to demonstrate to students that they are acquiring!! Do not let your students determine how you teach.
    Having said that, it shows compassion and concern and respect that you asked for their opinion and want to honor it. What they have told you is that they don’t “feel” the burn that they are accustomed to in a language classroom. As I said, we can help you with ways to show them that the No Pain,, No Gain mindset isn’t necessarily the most helpful. But…there are times when, as teachers, it is in our students best interest to Feed the Need and plan in some more “traditional” activities so that students feel validated.
    My suggestion is to try to strive for a balance. That is not being half-assed. That is meeting our students where they are and giving them the skills they need to be successful in a CI classroom. They haven’t been to a workshop or conference. They don’t belong to this forum.
    While our goal is as much CI as possible, it is our GOAL. We teach for June.
    Without having been in your classroom, I’m going to hazard a guess that that students don’t realize that a CI classroom is an INTERACTIVE classroom. They aren’t just sitting around listening to you. They are constantly interacting via the language. You speak, they respond with gestures or sound effects or responses. You question, they answer. You elicit details, they provide. Together you read and translate, read and illustrate, read and discuss.
    In addition, as you continue, you will get better at creating and maintaining this interaction, giving them even MORE opportunities to be an active part of the process.
    The last “secret” that I’ll offer is pure Susan Gross: Compliment, Compliment, Compliment. Sincerely. Frequently. Specifically. Then say Thank you.
    Don’t give up yet!!
    with love,

  3. P.S. The truth is, this is a process…for us and for the kids. It is not a “program” that can be purchased, handed out and utilized. It is a new way of thinking, a new way of being. It will take time. It will always be possible to be better. That is the beauty of it. It is helpful to focus on, and celebrate, the journey rather than strive for the destination, whenever you can.
    with love,

  4. It’s o.k. because we are where we are. No doubt the good people of this blog will write good things about this situation. I suggest we all comment a lot on what you wrote. I know that, when journaling, it takes like a few pages of writing to even get to true things in that form of self-reflection. So maybe we can write enough here so that something might emerge for you. What affects you affects us all. Just taking a stab at it, really, with no plan – it’s just that this blog exists just for this kind of thing, to try to help you address the critical and bravely expressed things you wrote.
    So, it’s not working, and you asked your kids to voice their opinions. In my view, that was an error. I stopped doing that years ago. They don’t know. Frankly, I think that what they said to you was based in ignorance and and a certain kind of pride and what they hear from their (I am guessing) rich parents.
    They say that they are frustrated because “the only thing they’ve been doing is listening” to you. Cry like Dwight Schroot. Well, tell them to get over it. Ask them how many years of simple listening it took them before they spoke English.
    Honestly, Jennifer, I see in-between the lines in what you wrote a kind of old echo of the outdated idea that the teacher is a kind of entertainer, wanna be winner of some kind of popularity contest, who dotes on the marvelous talents the kids have, none of which works in Krashen based methods.
    I am suggesting (all of this strictly my opinion) that all you need is a little more practice with the method and in the meantime go ahead and do the traditional but don’t neither abandon what you believe in it. What do you want out of teaching, the hells of the old way or the fun of the new way?
    You can do it. This is very important to me as the moderator of this blog. It becomes focus #1 for me now, because don’t you know that we all have the fears you have? Of course we do. Posting video for me is a total freakout. Will they like it? Will it help them? Will they like ME?
    This is scary stuff for all but those who don’t have feelings. That is why we have this private venue. This comment is going to resonate deeply with a number of people, as it has with me and my own fears about the method.
    What we need are specifics for you, concrete suggestions that you might be able to pull off while using the book for part of class as well. We all come to mastery in our different ways, our own ways. I suggest that we find a number of activities that are CI but are not as hard as what you may be doing now.
    I have two immediate suggestions. The little Fauntleroys sound like they would be very happy with daily dictees. They can write to their heart’s content. If you don’t do those already, they are described on the resources page of this site. One word images may work, as well, as a way to extend some relatively low key PQA into something that might grab their attention.
    I feel a rant coming on so I better stop with the mini-rant, which has been long enough already. Speaking of long, October is a long and hard month. The weather is changing, the wrapping is off the gifts for everybody, and many, I bet, are slumping.
    So this is real and we need to address it on this blog in a real way. I will take what we have so far and turn it into a new blog post just to make it searchable, because I know that we are going to get a ton of really great ideas for you to try out Jen. You ain’t done with the CI just yet.

  5. That is perfect. The whole time I was writing the above rant, I kept thinking that the only person who can really address this is Laurie, and she posted on this twice while I was writing. Thank you Laurie, for the equipoise you bring to this profession, and for the guidance, straight from the heart, as well.

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