TPRS vs. Georgia 9

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5 thoughts on “TPRS vs. Georgia 9”

  1. Ben, you so often touch on the all-too-evident-but-taboo-to -actually-talk-about in education. Why is it that we educators, the apparently nobel, selfless, and seekers-of-truth, are willing to let the King walk by buck naked without even a smirk on our faces? Your comments on language issues in schools are just as apt for any issue in education today.
    Just yesterday in the teacher’s lounge, I made an off hand comment that one of my students said she was bored. A colleague offered an unsolicited perscription for “differentiation”, full of jargon and cliche. She is a dear lady, and a hardworker, but I simply couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. The answer is so much simpler and universal than her rhetoric: I simply need to get back in their and teach to that student’s eyes, and bring her into the lesson. Don’t need curruculum coordinators, assistant principals, and a binder of photocopies to do that…
    Thanks for all you do.

  2. Robert Harrell

    Like so many of the statements from Georgia, there is a good idea hidden in there that then gets totally botched. The more connections students make among the various subjects they study, the better they will remember them because there is a larger meaningful context. The problem is in creating such artificial, non-meaningful activities in order to meet an abstract goal.

    It’s much more significant when these connections occur spontaneously. Whenever our discussions take us into something that relates “across the curriculum” (how’s that for using buzzwords), I am happy to reinforce the connection; I just don’t see a need to introduce it artificially. For example, we will inevitably come across in Celsius how hot the weather is. At that point I’ll take a moment to do the conversion to Fahrenheit – very useful in science. To “differentiate instruction”, I’ll put up the formulae for C to F and F to C. (That’s for my science and math geeks.) Then I’ll show them a rule of thumb: 0C is freezing; 04C is 40F; 28C is 82F. That means for a Californian: anything in the single digits is cold; anything anything in the teens is pleasant; anything in the 20s is warm; anything in the 30s is hot; anything over 40 – stay out of the sun! But I don’t create a lesson just to teach that; I know it will happen sometime when someone wants to know how hot 25C “really is”. I also have a meter chart on my wall, and when the question of height arises, I have students go over and measure themselves in meters. If anyone is interested I’ll give them the conversion factor as well. We have never graphed hair color. (What a waste of time!)

    Also, in AP I teach an extended unit on the Middle Ages. A colleague teaches history of literature with significant reading from the Middle Ages. Occasionally our students read the same material in English and German. (Without necessarily setting out to do so, we “collaborate” across the curriculum. How nice is that?) Just this week a graduate came by to visit. She told us how easy a couple of her classes at university have been because she had had a lot of it in high school. One class was on the Middle Ages; the other was on German fairy tales. (Her instructor asked how she knew all of the fairy tales, and she smugly replied, “Oh, we read them in high school German class.”)

    BTW, my program has a 70% RETENTION rate over four years, and my students regularly talk to me in German outside of class, and teachers and parents tell me that my students use the language regularly outside of class. Are they perfect? By no means, but they are “using the material outside the school setting” and “becoming life-long learners” – which just happen to be two of our school’s Expected Student Learning Results. And I don’t even emphasize those two.

  3. I’d bet that any TPRS teacher makes “connections,” which are part of the 5 Cs of the ACTFL standards. Just as Robert said, you end up teaching things that connect, whether it’s a unit on Middle Ages, or like yesterday when I did a culture pop-up about what Magadan meant to Russians during the Stalin years. Literature, science, history, math, music, art–all these will eventually come up because every subject does, in real life (and TPRS life). But forcing it into the TPRS classroom does feel weird. I have inadvertently introduced culture through songs, pictures, cultural realia and postcards I happen to have around. Just as Ben mentions in his books about putting out a kid’s drawing of a family, a new picture on the board will get kids’ attention and work its way into their stories, whether or not I plan it. There are some “cultural elements” I feel they should recognize if they’ve been in Russian a couple of years, but I’m changing the way that I incorporate them. It’s a bit sneaky, but if the pictures are up there, the kids will
    ask questions, and I can follow their questions in very brief moments.

    Lately I’ve also had to use the (history/lit/music) readings for the dratted contest I keep bringing up–but now that my approach is to make sure everyone can understand them, the texts are far less poisonous, and the kids are actually enjoying doing the reading. Now, instead of trying to figure out what they don’t know in the text, I am asking their opinions about the information, and comparing it to them. It’s way more interesting. I thought it was funny the other day, when one of the kids complained that we had stopped reading our novelette, and that we had stopped concentrating on reading at all. A group started to agree, and then said, “But we’re reading every day, all this history and culture.” They realized that reading was no longer difficult–what a huge change for them!

    Sometime I’d like to hear about whether that’s the way you read all the German fairy tales, Robert–in Russian, fairy tale language is often very complex, so it’s hard to read. I’d love to know whether that was just what you did then, or how it came about. And–do you do the Realm, to get into the Middle Ages?

  4. Now that I have taken the plunge into TPRS and feeling my way along with the levels 1 and 2, where can I find some ideas about upper levels? I do a film the during the last marking period in level 4. I am going to introduce Film Aerobics vocab, but instead of answering the comp questions, I am going to circle the content of the 10 minute segments. I will probably stop and start during the segment, but we can re-watch again w/o interruption. Re the retention remarks: I have been very troubled over the years with the retention rate in French. Our German program is suffering with low numbers too. Spanish is overflowing, but at the upper levels, the percentage they retain is not that great. What should be the most fun class, language, becomes a real chore. It is a shame to see their smiles turn upside down as the material gets harder and the traditional methods begin to weigh the kids and me down. I just remember Susie Gross describing the hours she spent making up learning games and realizing that none of the work led to aquisition. I see TPRS as a way for more students to have a chance at success. It kills me every year to make up the dreaded recommended list for levels 3 and 4. It’s like saying to them “only the best and the brightest need apply”. It is so liberating to be out of the adversarial role and into a more cooperative partnership. Loving Ben’s CDs which arrived yesterday. All this learning is great!!!

  5. I was so saddened recently when talking to a student’s mother. This kid is so smart, and so funny, but he doesn’t know it. And apparently neither do his parents. That aside, the mom had come in to get my signature for Spanish II in high school next year. I happily signed it, and then told her that it will be very hard for him. High school Spanish focuses on grammar and spelling and memorization three skills he is lacking. He has dyslexia and other learning disabilities. It breaks my heart that this kid who loves Spanish will probably stop taking it after meeting his graduation requirements. Forget that he loves it, he speaks it! And he will probably barely pass next year, even with all the “differentiation” his teacher will use.

    But, back to the original comment – I think we should and do use connect our language to what is going on in other classes. I don’t think it is a sham to say we do – we just have to ackowledge the little things are really big. My students were studying Africa in the social studies class, and our stories all took place in Djibouti for a week or two. It may sound like nothing, but just like CI every time they hear something in a new context, it enhances their acquisition of the material. Our stories incorporate characters from the Illiad, and they discuss the significance of 3,14… All while sailing on a little boat and letting pirates eat their french fries. Everything we do reinforces the skills they are learning in other classes.

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