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19 thoughts on “Question”

  1. …should I attempt to do more stories with more “complex” structures?….

    I say no to that, for two reasons:

    It’s very difficult to try to inject certain grammar into a story. It’s a real pain and it doesn’t work because it is very hard to remember to do that when stories are basically being asked in the simple past tenses. We don’t teach them 24/7 so the few times we would successfully inject “if” clauses in compound tenses (pluperfect/past conditional) wouldn’t stick in the minds of the kids anyway – no way you can get enough reps.

    It sounds to me like you are in a grammar factory and not appreciated. I’m not sure but my gut tells me to hang up the TPRS and give them what they want. I want to slap people who tell TPRS teachers things like they “lost a year” due to the stories.

    1. Oh, I see what you mean…what I meant is that the kids that are in level 4 now are coming back to me saying that they feel that they list all the Spanish they had becuse now, in their “traditional” setting, they just conjugate verb…

  2. …what if students in my level 3 ask me “Are we doing the same things as level 2?”….

    I am advocating that we drop Step 1 of TPRS and go targetless. If you do that, the word won’t get out. You may want to consider doing stories with them and don’t have targets.

    I really don’t see the need for a TPRS curriculum. That’s not what it is. We got into this right before iFLT and I decided to apologize to Martina for some things I said here about that new kind of TPRS based on lesson plans being not really TPRS. So I did and she accepted it but now I am wondering. Let’s leave that dog lying though. There are too many other things to discuss here. People will use what works for them. But in my own TPRS world it’s now fully all about freedom from targets, freedom from boredom by allowing the story to go wherever it wants as long as I stay in bounds (i.e. using words that I know my students already know plus a few new unpredictable structures that might happen during the story), and flying my freak flag, and no planning.

  3. …is it best to just target present and past (of course some commands and subjunctive, too) as the structures in all levels 1-6 and just sprinkle in constantly the future, conditional, pluperfect, as needed or would anyone suggest that at a certain level we should begin to target more complex structures?….

    This is an easy one for me. I would put on the grammar hat that I love (my greatest passion in teaching is French grammar, I just found a much more effective way to teach it) and give those self righteous teachers what they want from you – old style grammar. Just do it. Personally, I would teach the grammar and worksheets 70-80% of the time. Then I would do some stories at the end of class or just take a month, like March, to do the stories.

    It’s just getting stupid. From what I can read into what you wrote above, and I may be reading it wrong, you need to just give those high priestesses what they want in certain classes. Pick your battles. Sneak in stories, but don’t think that you can use stories to prepare kids for worksheets. It doesn’t work that way.

    1. Thank you so much for all your replies. To be honest, no one ever bothers me here and I do whatever I want. I have complete support from all administration and they really love what I do. The only ones, unfortunately, that don’t understand it are the other World Language Teachers. I know they realize that I teach ” differently” and they hear it constantly from the kids. One Spanish teacher did say in the beginning of the year that she would like to teach “TPRS style” but has never once asked me for input or to come watch a class. So, it’s really not bad at all here at all. In fact, it’s great because I know that the others know that I’m doing something valuable. I’ve had two English teachers come in a few times this year to observe my classes and they have implemented different techniques that they saw. The other language teachers know that the kids love my class and I know they don’t like that…but no one ever says anything…I think it’s because they know deep inside that they kids really are learning. For example, there is a teacher here (in my opinion a bit immature) that has been in the profession for about 4 years now. She actually asked one of my students in my Spanish 3 class this year that she had last year “Who do you like better as a teacher, me or Ms. Biron?” Well, first of all, you don’t go around asking kids that. Anyway, the student said to her “Well…I’ve had you longer but I learn more from her “. Well, I guess she got what she asked for…anyway the point is that the kids are learning and the teachers see that so they are not complaining at all…

  4. What is your goal?
    What do the kids have to be able to do at the end of a level?
    What does acquisition research suggest can be expected?
    If you choose specific linguistic items, why those specific items? What are their communicative value?

    Personally, I advocate the “strong” form of communication – organizing curriculum around meaning, not form. That is our mantra: meaning, not form. It’s time we aligned our approach. It is conflictive to have your focus in your lessons be on meaning and then have a structural syllabus. You list the videos you MovieTalk, the personalized conversation topics, the stories, etc. You don’t list the textbook grammar rules or vocabulary, unless you do it a posteriori. Death to the structural syllabus!

    Targeting is a way to stay comprehensible, like going slow, like gesturing, etc. Decide your content or activity first. Then, the more beginner they are, the more you will have to shelter new sounds. You can predetermine those new sounds or let them emerge organically. Then, record afterwards which items your students were exposed to. But also remember that exposure and comprehension of the message does not ensure acquisition. And even if they acquired it, it does not mean they can use it.

    All this may not be an option to you. But it’s where our profession will eventually go. The Can Dos are one way to get you there. It doesn’t matter what structures or vocabulary are used when completing the task. It’s about your ability to complete the task. That’s also the mantra of “task-based language teaching.” This principle fits so much better with SLA.

    1. Thanks Eric. I appreciate your response. That definitely makes sense and I agree. I will take those questions in consideration when thinking of each level. I feel a little better now overall and not so overwhelmed. I think I got a bit anxious when I realized that I may be teaching anywhere from levels 3 to 6 and that I, in my opinion, really shouldn’t be doing anything much different than I would do even in a level 1. They need so much time and exposure to each structure…so much more than we could possibly give them. It’s frustrating when I overhear my colleagues complain that they have students in Spanish 4 that “can’t use direct object pronouns”…Well, of course not, they’ve been taught to memorize the pronoun chart and then never seen them again…at least not in a meaningful way. I’ve been using pronouns with my ones since the first week of class and they still need tons more practice. However, they are more comfortable with them than my level 3’s were when my 3’s started this year.

      Thanks again for the replies!

      I will continue doing what I’m doing now…take the conversation wherever it goes. It’s more fun that way and more interesting to the kids…

          1. I inherited two level 2 classes that had a traditional teacher for first year and now I have them along with a couple other first year classes. I told them basically what Eric said above, that I’d meet them where they are and just assume that they have never heard a word of Spanish before. They inevitably have a bit more complex stories because they can suggest more details because they learned some vocabulary their first year. I use the same script, but when we read together, I usually can’t read the level 2 story with the level 1’s because they are too incomprehensible, but vice versa works great.

            Also, it may only be anecdotal, but I share the story about DPS’s experience with a multi-level class and the kids who made the biggest gains were the level 4’s (not the level 1-3’s in that same class). I think saying this made the higher achievers relax a bit and feel better that if it’s easy for them they’ll acquire more.

          2. Jim you are one of the real gentlemen in our group. See how you put a positive spin on inheriting kids who have previous years of traditional instruction? I can’t do that. I find kids who have even one year of traditional instruction annoying, overbearing, and somewhat ridiculous in their claims that they need more grammar instruction and not stories. You are a much better man than I am. It’s all I can do to keep from scowling at those kids, such is my history of bringing donuts and going the extra mile to meet them, and always failing. Good on you, my brother!

      1. I’m kind of figuring out that providing interesting context is probably the most important thing I can do. Sometimes we’ll look at two or three different stories in a day with a movie talk or a ppt story I just find a way to talk to Ss about the context not always using the exact words we’re working on, just trying to make the speech as natural as possible. I’ve found this week that the students surprise me by remembering the meaning of a word we haven’t used since first trimester.

        1. ….providing interesting context is probably the most important thing I can do….

          Yup! You can do everything right, all the skills and strategies, everything. If it’s not interesting they won’t learn it. That is why I use invisible creatures in my classroom.

  5. I remember that Ben referred to 10,000 hours exposure to a language before they can acquire. If I were you, have the necessary documentation to “cover yourself” and go low-prep. Go simpler and like Eric says “shelter” more often in the lower levels.

  6. Totally Off Topic

    I simply had nowhere really to put this, but I really wanted to share it.

    My fifth period got totally off track today, but I have decided not to stress about it. You see, it’s the last day before a four-day weekend, so that (very immature) class was absolutely unable to maintain focus. Beyond that, though, partway through the class, one of the girls raised her hand, obviously agitated. The guy next to her was also agitated. The girl explained that he had gotten his tongue caught in the wire of his braces and couldn’t talk to ask me if he could go to the office, so she had to ask. Somehow the guy had gotten both the front and the back of his tongue caught in the wire. I said “Go”, and the guy ran out of the room. Naturally we all lost it.

    Then a girl and a couple of guys got into an argument. On the wall I have one of those alphabet strips in which each letter is formed from something that begins with the letter, e.g. “A” is an Auto and has the word written beneath the letter. The letter that had sparked the controversy was the ess-tset – ? – in the word Strau?. The girl said that the figure was a flamingo because of the way it was standing, but the guys said it was an ostrich. It was an ostrich. (The word Strau? means “ostrich”.) So, we went through the alphabet together for the very first time and even talked about why “X” can’t stand for “X-ray” in German. (It’s because they are called “Röntgen Strahlen” [Röntgen Rays] after the German scientist who discovered them.)

    Our tongue-tied young man returned with a report about how he got his tongue loose, and the class heard the German words for tongue and braces as part of the conversation.

    Finally, one of the guys was leaning back in his chair and fell over. After reminding him that I ask students not to lean back because it is genuinely a safety issue, I gave up, collected the book we were supposed to be reading, and showed a music video of “What does the Fox say?” It was nearly time for the end of class, anyway.

    On the other hand, during the day I did learn that my students plan to sleep, do homework, go to a Black Sabbath concert, go to Disneyland, babysit, clean their room, go to Las Vegas, fix dinner for their boyfriend, and several other things during the four-day weekend. I can live with that.

    1. My attempt to copy and paste an ess-tset was spectacularly unsuccessful. Now that I’m on my Mac rather than a PC, let’s see if it works:

      ess-tset – ß – looks like a Greek Beta or the English capital letter B with a tail.

      Strauß is an ostrich.

  7. It might depend on your students. I have level 3’s this year that had two years of grammar-conjugation in Spanish and they don’t mind at all doing the same TPR gestures (I use 70 of them; we have just finished 5 of the 6 groups) and the memorizing the kids’ songs that I used with level 1’s last year. We also do cloze lyrics of Spanish pop songs and that is where some of that more complex grammar shows up.

    They do have trouble understanding spoken Spanish (even though their teacher spoke to them almost entirely in Spanish, it wasn’t comprehensible, I guess.) I need to remember that even though they are juniors, I need to slow it down. They complain about having to read books, but they go out of bounds too easily with stories. I haven’t had to threaten them with grammar, though!

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