TPR to Begin the Year

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24 thoughts on “TPR to Begin the Year”

  1. Ben,
    Do you distinguish between your reflexive verbs? Take “se lève” and “lève” for example. Do you do those on the same day or do you spread those two out?

    (Also, in Spanish the reflexive pronoun is attached to verbs in the imperative mood, are they attached in French?)

    1. Drew– I teach Spanish and I just point. If it’s “me lavo la cara” I point at myself (or if they are just learning, I do the action and I point at myself). If I say “lavo mi perra,” I do the action and point at my imaginary dog. I also do a pop-up with this: I ask “class, what is the diff between “me lavo” and “lavo a la perra.” This has not been a problem.

      Ben prolly has some ideas about imperatives etc.

  2. I have no schedule to teach anything. I know that that is sacrilege, but my district doesn’t pay me enough money to actually plan my lessons, and, much more importantly, why should I plan when the deeper mind is just going to let into the growing language system what it chooses when it chooses?

    So when I use “stands up”, I use the French for that, and when I use “lifts”, I use the French for that. Then, the students’ deeper minds will have gotten one rep on each, at random times and not connected to any one “lesson”. That is fine. After tens of thousands of such reps, the difference will have been established. And I didn’t have to do a thing. All I had to do was deliver the CI.

    I am not a teacher. I am a delivery man. I’m going to get a truck with CI on the side and some overalls and a hat with CI on them. That is to distinguish me from Deliverers of Instruction Services. I don’t deliver instructional services. I deliver language.

    To be continued over a beer, perhaps, gentlemen, in a few short weeks?

    1. Hello,
      I am new to CI and TPRS and I don’t quite understand how to deliver these verbs via TPR. Do you use the imprative tense? For instance, do I say stand up and the stand up? Also, there were a lot of verbs listed. Do you practice them all each day? Should you do it in the beginning of class? Do you initually teach the verbs through motion or through pictures or through word translation?
      Sorry, I know this is a lot but I am very interesting knowing more!

  3. Rachel! You’ve finally posted!! I’ll let Rachel introduce herself, but I’ll take the liberty of letting you know that she’s a Spanish teacher and an amazing superwoman. As a great friend of mine, I had to tell her about this blog. And I am STOKED that she’s on here. Rachel, I forgot to tell you to buy Ben’s books (links above). Those are helping me incredibly to conceptualize how to do this stuff minute by minute in the classroom. Input from anyone else? I have my own scouring of the blog to do myself. I know lots of you are taking a break right now and/or at the conferences, but just wanted to get on here to give a shout out to Rachel. Can’t wait to hear about iflt. Hope everyone’s having a great summer.

    P.S., Rachel’s looking for a Spanish job in Connecticut. Anyone have any leads? (Hope you don’t mind me sharing that Rachel…)

    1. Rachel, did you find a job? We were looking for elementary Spanish in Region 12 (Washington CT). It was a one year position and we couldn’t fill it, so the other Spanish teacher is being spread more thin. This is getting ahead of things, but feel free to send me your info in case we need someone in the future (may well be the case next summer). TPRS teachers are hard to come by and we just switched to 100% TPRS in 6-12.
      My school e-mail =

  4. A) Don’t use imperative forms to model verbs, use 3rd person sing. This is what shows up later in stories.

    B) don’t overdo TPR. 5-6 verbs per class is LOADS. TPR gets boring fast.

    C) Keep gestures consistent across classes or you’ll get confused.

    D) i think best gestures “look” like their action…but some people swear by odd ones.

    E) Ideally gestures should be one-handed so the ofher hand can hold scripts, do person/tense gesturing etc.

    Just my two cents. Search the “gestures” tag for more.

    1. I think this is one of those points where I respect other’s opinions on using “3rd person” forms…

      But can’t I just use a quick 5 second or less explanation between “lávate” (wash yourself) and “se lava” (s/he washes her/himself)?

      I wouldn’t tell my 1 and a half year old daughter:
      “Julia sits down!”

      That’s just silly. I would tell her, “Julia, sit down!”

      Shouldn’t I do the same service to my students to give them (sheltered) structures but in the correct context?

      The key is that they are paying attention to the meaning in the beginning but I want them to hear in the first year:
      “¡Baila!” (command)
      “baila” (s/he dances)
      “¿Bailas?” (do you dance?)
      “No bailo bien.” (I don’t dance well.)
      “Bailan” (they dance)
      “bailó” (s/he danced)
      “bailaron” (they danced)
      “bailaba” (s/he was dancing)

      I want them to hear “baila” in the word and understand the general meaning and then be able to decode the rest as we slowly go over through lots of pop-ups what those endings mean.


      1. It works for four percent of the students. But remember, for the average student, they aren’t going to process that because you are changing the venue of their language processing when you do pop up grammar.

        When you point out things about person and other grammatical points, you are asking them to pry the unconscious focus of their minds away from the comprehensible input, which occurs in the unconscious part of their mind, and then quickly for a few seconds think it through in their conscious mind. So their mind has to jump a fence, as it were, right there in class.

        I don’t think any of us have any idea what we do when we do that, when we go back and forth from one language to another in class – it is completely against what Krashen says, for starters.

        I am the worst at this, by the way. I know it and still do it. Overexplaining things is just a legacy from my days as an AP teacher when I was working with four percenters. Each year I get better at it, though.

        The kids don’t care. They just want to focus on meaning in the TL. That’s the bottom line here. It’s a real hard one for us to learn because we were all four percenters in school. We like to explain. But the average secondary school student could simply care less. They want to know if Justin found the cat behind the school cafeteria and what he did with it. That’s all they care about.

        And when we say that about Justin in L2, their deeper minds organize all points about person, object pronoun agreement, verb tense issues, etc. and we don’t have to do a thing except speak in the L2 to them correctly, which is what grammar is – properly spoken speech. We speak the language and stay in it.

        That’s what I have learned in my 13 years at this stuff.

          1. That’s called pop up grammar and I think it depends on the school and the clientele. What I have learned is very few kids bother to hear them.

            But some do, so the answer to your question is it depends. In my current school only a few have English as a first language so I have stopped doing pop ups. I might still be using them for those few who care if I were in a different school.

            I think the thing I have learned about pop ups in my own experience is that they carry far less gains than originally thought ten years ago. But that impression could have been influenced by where I have been teaching lately.

            So we really need to keep in mind that this is an opinion forum where we come to share ideas and knock around possibilities. There is no right way or wrong way to do this work, as long as we speak in L2 in interesting and meaningful and dare I say compelling ways to our students so that their unconscious minds receive the input.

            People still don’t get this, in my opinion, to the great detriment of their students. When I say that our students’ unconscious minds should be the target of all our efforts in the classroom, I say something that, again, in my opinion, and also Krashen’s, is largely ignored by a ton of people who claim to do TPRS/CI, which means they’re not doing TPRS/CI.

            But to answer your question Jennifer, and I have tried to make this point over and over here on the PLC, we all have to decide what works best for our kids in our own settings. We have to grow up and create for ourselves, each of us individually, a way of teaching using comprehensible input that is not formulaic. There is and should not be a TPRS “curriculum” in my view.

            I got this email from a teacher yesterday:

            Ben –

            There really isn’t any organized, comprehensive TPRS curriculum available for preview on the net. I can only buy materials online or at conferences (which I can’t afford on my own because of the travel involved). I just don’t know WHAT to buy.

            This is the beginning of another year teaching French to high school students. I have three years under my belt, and I’m so burned out teaching grammar-based, output expected, project oriented, non-useful French.

            Enough whining! Please tell me what curriculum I need to buy to start TPRS right NOW! I finally get that when you use TPRS, it doesn’t have to sequence the way grammar-based instruction does. We don’t sequence language when we teach babies, or in real-life situations where we are immersed.

            So, FLUENCY FAST or Look! I Can Talk! Or, something else? If I don’t change, I won’t be able to force myself to go back another day!

            I answered:

            I am not the person to give advice on this question as I don’t believe that the TPRS curricula out there are helpful. They take us away from the fluidity and majesty of an animal that is far too beautiful to be crudely reigned in by targeted outcomes, which eviscerate the language (language is something much finer than we make of it).

            The existing TPRS curricula may be useful to new people as training wheels but I think that they generate in new people a false idea about what this work is really about. What I teach and share in my PLC and in my books is the opposite – how to contact and engage the students in a sharing of language that is much more free form, so that the kids just swim in the language and learn it that way.

            But be careful, in this work of TPRS/CI when I say that kids swim in the language I mean that they listen to and understand the language – that is swimming. It is not immersion, where they drown because they don’t understand. This is another great misconception out there about our work in TPRS/CI. People think it is immersion (drowning) but it is far from that. But as far as a curriculum goes. there is none in my opinion.

            Yes I did use Cuentame for a year at the beginning of my work with TPRS, but I found it limiting. I’m not sure whom to ask about the curriculum honestly. It’s not what TPRS is to me. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

          2. Eventually students will start noticing grammatical items in the language and ask about them. That is the time to do pop-up grammar. In German, for example, gender and case affect meaning. At some point a student will ask about the endings they are hearing and seeing. Then I do a pop-up explanation. I may explain the same thing 20 times to a class because different students are ready to hear it at different times. When I finally understood this, it lifted a big load from my shoulders.

            Think of the difference between
            1. a grammar-driven curriculum in which one or more class periods are spent explaining the difference between nominative and dative forms of the the definite article only to have students misuse the forms


            2. a CI-driven curriculum in which a student asks, “Why is it ‘die Toilette’ but you say ‘zu der Toilette?” and you reply, “Because the word ‘zu’ makes the ‘die’ change to ‘der’. If you want to know more, see me individually, and I’ll be glad to explain it further.” (BTW, I have had students take me up on the offer, and I have spent as much out-of-class time with them as they wished.)

            I once had a class “pester” me with grammar questions for an entire period. Sure, I lost the CI that day, but this was an entirely student-driven set of short grammar lessons, and there were no glazed eyes in the classroom. (Yes, that was an extremely unusual class.)

            As to the other question, I see most “TPRS curricula” as training wheels. I used Michael Miller’s “Sabine und Michael” books for a couple of years, and they were very helpful. Eventually, though, I found them too limiting but still use bits and pieces from them as the basis for stories. A number of other CI teachers have had the same experience, though some never feel comfortable without a book of some sort to guide them. To me, though, having a “TPRS curriculum” that comes out of a book is a contradiction because CI instruction is so student centered. The Matava and Tripp Scripts might be an ideal “curriculum” as long as you don’t think that you go through the books sequentially.

            If you absolutely require the “training wheels”, I suggest looking for something that spells everything out for you as much as possible so you have a solid support. But expect to start removing the training wheels as soon as you can.

            This fall I will have a student teacher for the very first time ever, and I am thinking of going back to “Sabine und Michael” so that she has that support and can provide her supervisor with the paperwork that is expected of student teachers (i.e. “lesson plans”). Anyone have experience and advice about working with a student teacher in a CI-based classroom? Thanks.

          3. I used “Sabine und Michael” in my first year with TPRS but only to get an idea of what structures to use. Otherwise, I would have been all over the place. It was a good way to help me focus on the HF words/structures (as in the beginning, I didn’t even realize which structures might be more HF than others).
            I think that is the biggest challenge for teachers new to TPRS/CI – how/when to choose which structures.

    1. Welcome Rachel!
      I agree with Chris’s advice and will also second Greg’s suggestion to get Ben’s books. I can’t remember which one, but one of them has a great description of the “3 ring circus” that is a TPR thing where you get 3 diff kids up–each one acts out one verb and then you can milk that for a long time, use various tenses, etc. I bet you can just look that up separately even if you don’t have the books. Search the website or blog. I am not very good at keeping TPR going, because I tend to think of it as boring, because I have such limited experience and have only really done basics. But you really can TPR a lot more than “walks to the door” and boring stuff like that. If you want more detailed info try searching “Berty Segal.” She is the master of TPR!

  5. Hey, has anybody here tried Ben’s “TPRS In The Realm” idea? Where you tie a bunch of stories– and class members– together into a network of stories set in a mythical kingdom.

  6. This is my first year (trying) to use TPRS. I am trying to start off with TPR but am struggling with what to do the rest of the hour before I feel like students (and myself) are ready to start stories. You can’t do CWB or word walls the entire hour… so what else do you do before stories?

    1. I would suggest “Look and Discuss” using pictures of things that relate to words already introduced. You can see more about this idea from the link in the categories at right — “Look and Discuss” is simple and has been really helpful for me. This way you can get more reps with new content but give the students some novelty.

      But some people do spend a full class on CWB. I think that takes practice to do well, like doing PQA well takes practice to sustain in an interesting way.

    2. You are right that when you first start with CWB it seems limiting and I concur that you should go to another activity or a bail out move as we have discussed here.

      Eventually, however, and this can only come with time, you will learn how to extend some of the facts you learn about your students in CWB into extended scenes and even into stories. But I don’t think it is possible to get the feel of that right away.

      So Diane mentioned Look and Discuss. Those links are here:

      There are other options too numerous to mention. You may want to look here for some of them:

    3. Remember to give a nice brain break (or two) in that hour long class. You might find that the class was feeling slow after a little while of CWB, but then after the brain break you can get some more cards in with lots more energy. The brain needs that break.

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