L – Blog Entry 3

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8 thoughts on “L – Blog Entry 3”

  1. Ben’s book is titled “TPRS in a Year” for a reason. :o) Learning to teach a la TPRS is a process….a journey.
    Even getting ready to try TPRS is a process: Getting Interested, Getting Inspired, Getting Motivated, Getting Trained, Getting Practice, Getting Planning Down, Getting Classroom Management Set Up, Getting Admin/Colleagues On Board, etc.
    The hardest part? Being willing and/or able to admit that we have to start at the bottom. The very bottom. As a beginner. As a novice. Unskilled. Unprepared.
    The second hardest part? Honoring the time and effort it takes to stay there, at the bottom, and work through REALLY getting it down.
    The third hardest part? Remembering that no matter how much experience we have, there is always a need to go back to the basics. Always.
    L, you are in the best place. It’s the place where the skills and strategies acquired will result in the greatest benefits for our students.
    All of the “upper” level stuff that you saw at Los Alamitos…..Reader’s Theater, Games as CI, Contrastive Grammar, Embedded Readings…it looks really cool….in fact, it looks like it is just a hop, skip and a jump from what we are already doing…a little tweak here, a little tweak there and boom! We are TPRSers.
    The truth is….those “tricks” only work if we have mastered the basics: questioning w/ PQA and circling, meshing the curriculum with the students, identifying strong structures, adding interesting details, high levels of student/teacher interaction.
    It’s okay if Los Alamitos didn’t totally prepare you. It lit you up and now look where you are….in very good hands here with Ben….and a slew of others willing and able to help.
    with love,

  2. L, I think that the complicated parts of the process naturally developed as people started to become masters at communicating through CI as Ben described in “A Real Ramble.” For example, Laurie’s embedded readings, the way I see it, teach us all to be curriculum developers to meet the individual needs of our classes, rather than using prepackaged things that naturally can’t be as personalized. But you don’t have to start there. I think it doesn’t have to be that complicated. It’s still not easy, but at least it can be simple… There are premade curricula such as Look I Can Talk and CuentaMe/Raconte Moi that put all the pieces together for you. They provide skeleton stories, developmental readings, ideas for teaching, assessments… the freer you are to use something like that as a starting point, the more guidance you have and the less work you have to do yourself. I personally have not been so free… but I have read whatever I could get my hands on… Amy Catania’s, Anne Matava’s and Bryce Hedstrom’s stories; LICT, Michael Miller’s Charo y Lee. I have gotten a lot of insight from them, even though at times I have felt as if I were banging my head against the wall trying to make things work with my textbook.
    I love what Laurie says about starting at the bottom! It’s so encouraging, because it describes my journey. I have had to make things work with my textbook (as many of us do) and I have struggled with needing incredibly advanced skill and insight to do the basics of TPRS… I have fallen on my face a lot because of it. The first year, I taught mostly the textbook because I was new to teaching and thought I had to. I tried to work TPRS into the class in a supplemental way. I saw that my rebel student, who was succeeding in taking down my class because I was new, was drawn in by personalized stories. That image gave me the courage to redesign everything the following year. So that year (last year), I did bad TPRS — because there was so much to juggle, and I kept dropping balls. Hardly any stories or personalized readings, no freewrites or dictation, a couple of chapters of Pobre Ana, some weak free reading, but lots of PQA (some of it what Ben has called fake PQA and some real) and pictures and gestures of vocab. I guess you could say I learned to do step 1. But here’s the shocker: at the beginning of this year my principal told me that my students learned a lot of Spanish last year, more than he ever thought possible, especially with 8th grade. This year, my third year both with foreign language and TPRS, I feel the difference. Things are starting to come together.
    So L, be encouraged. It seems that what they say about bad TPRS being better than no TPRS is true. If you can use something prepackaged, it will take a lot of the burden off of you and you can tweak it as you feel comfortable. But if you can’t, I would just focus on 1. adding CI to your classes, focusing on circling and reps and SLOW, and 2. connecting with kids, making things interactive and personal. Slow and personalized CI is the heart of it all. (CI + P = Acquisition –susan gross. I think I have finally internalized/acquired that little formula, because I didn’t realize I was quoting it until rereading before posting!)
    I don’t know if you’re up against a textbook, but this NTPRS podcast was really encouraging to me (Thank you, Carol Gaab!): http://www.charoylee.com/Charo_y_Lee/NTPRS_Video_Podcast/Entries/2010/7/22_Covering_the_textbook.html
    Another bit of advice… it’s good to start with the parts of TPRS that you have the most confidence about. The messages students get from your body language and attitude will help set the atmosphere in the classroom. So if you are confident that an activity/process will has worked for others, confident that you can do it, confident that it will make students successful if they stick with it, confident that failing sometimes is part of the process like learning to walk and it doesn’t make you failure, it helps a lot. Part of the confidence comes from everything that’s causing you to want to make TPRS work. Some of that comes from the experience of trying and succeeding sometimes; thus, it develops over time. Isn’t it good to know you’re starting at the bottom and the only direction you can go is up? And the potential for “up” is far greater than with the old method, if Ben, Susie, Michele, Donna TJ, Jason, etc. are any indication.

  3. Dear L:
    Lean on this community and the lists. Take baby steps and do as many workshops as you can. I have heard people say they have seen TPRS demonstrated 7,8,9,10 or more times before the basics finally kicked in. After several years of reading, practicing, observing and workshopping, I finally went back to school feeling empowered with a feeling of – not expertise – rather a feeling of having a good grasp of what I needed to do to be doing to implement CI in my classroom. It’s helped me to relax in the classroom and stay in the moment with the kids. Moving from a traditional to a CI classroom is a “big think”, but your kids will thank you for it. Ask them at the end of the year or semester to tell you what you did that helped them learn. Their answers will surprise and encourage you. You are on the right track.

  4. Los Alamitos was a blast and I’m still raving about it. The teacher in question was Jan Cogan (Préparez les canons!) One of my students has volunteered his art skills to draw a poster of La Perle Blanche. I’ve got a couple of wigs already.
    I’m already asking students for donations in regard to pirate regalia. My son has already said he’d donate some of his. I’m looking for a dead parrot…preferably a Norwegian Blue, if any of you Python fans have one handy.

  5. Thanks Will! In Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance there is a line
    “[we will love each other]…till we are dead, and even after…”.
    I think I will remember Gayle’s orchestration/direction of Chapter 5 with Jan (thank you!) and with you and (what was the other pirate’s name?) up there with your pirate hats and such until I am dead and even after. There was such humor packed into those scenes. If you and those teachers could do it, our kids can do it. Except for Jan – hers was a line for the ages.
    In this thread about the teaching of history/culture using comprehensible input I would personally like to keep a log about how the teaching of the book unfolds for me and my kids this year. It might be interesting to look back at in a year to see what worked and what didn’t. We have already started to personalize the story so that Mira’s characters are blended with aspects of my own kids. We’ll see what develops. We may not get a Jan Cogan when we get to Chapter 5, but we can at least try. And thanks for the idea, Will – I was about to hit the antique/costumes shops in Denver for pirate stuff but why not ask the kids first? Hello!

  6. I’m planning to use the story as a medium of content delivery in a couple weeks. Am still building up to that, using mostly the internet and e-mail (students e-mail you a photo as an assignment, usually from their parents’ accounts…opens up a great line of communication with them) as a source of highly personalized visuals, as well as songs.
    I’m realizing now that it almost makes sense for me to plan a certain amount of time to practice all 5 skills, beginning with listening and reading (PQA with visuals via the internet), teach a song inbetween, and finish with reading the dialogs in the textbook. (We use Komm mit!…the Holt Series.) As a personalized writing piece we will follow the examples already given in the text.I’m the kind of person who needs a broad general outline like that, from which I can stray…which I love to do anyway.
    Mal sehen wie das wird! (We’ll see how that goes!)

  7. C’est pas mon problème, c’est ton problème…
    That was Sean Edwards from Long Beach.
    The kids are a great source of goodies. One thing Diamond Ranch does on registration day is “Adopt-a-Teacher.” Parents are asked to adopt a teacher and help out with classroom needs. I am fortunate enough to have had several parents adopt me. Some parents have already “made” their kids clean out their closets and I’m getting bags of stuffed animals, two new wigs (no purple, yet, but I can dream!) I’ve got some funky (looking, not smelling) trenchcoats, so I’m working on an idea for my advance classes about a detective novel using passé composé (preterite)/imparfait “I was sitting at my desk when the dame walked in…” I’ve also received a new three-hole punch, boxes of tissue, and a few bottles of hand sanitizer! God bless the parents!
    And on a side note, one of the French I kids noticed I was brewing a cup of my own coffee in the morning. He asked if he could have a cup; I cleared it with his folks and his Mom asked if there was anything I needed. Today, I had five students in my room at 6:45am, sharing coffee and learning words such as: freshly brewed coffee, boil, cup, cream, sugar, grind, grinder. Relaxed, informal…I love this job! Now they want to start a coffee club on campus!
    Any suggestions for names? Club de Café? Obey The Bean? O bouille, O bouille!
    Can’t wait until tomorrow…I taught them “Je peux aller aux toilettes” (May I go to the bathroom) and promised a little extra credit to those who could remember it and say it correctly when they got to class 🙂

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