Real-World Application

One of my favorite things to do in class is use target language in realistic contexts. I think it’s important for students to find out what it’s really like to be a second-language user, both as a tourist and for the workplace, and I also enjoy the personal touch that students will add to this kind of work. Our French program gives students several opportunities to apply these skills — from roleplaying situations in a store or restaurant with realistic props and money to creating presentations and documents for clients. Read More »

Living Latin

It’s almost time for the Summer Language Institute, so I thought I’d do a little throwback to my first TPR- and TPRS-based Latin class. I was very lucky to have such a motivated and creative group of students, but I also have to give credit to the TPR and TPRS themselves. Can you imagine, a whole group of high school students voluntarily studying Latin, not for the credit but just for fun, and mainly because they knew what the methodology would be like? What a great testament to brain-based teaching! The students made the class outstanding, and the methodology empowered them to do so.

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Pop-Up Power

One of the first things I liked about TPR was the potential for immersion. And for the first few years, using TPR to build an immersive classroom worked well for me. But that was when students only took my class because they wanted to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were spending a lot of time at home clarifying meaning on their own.

Things are different now. Every student takes a foreign language, but not all of them are self-motivated to do anything at home. For some, if it doesn’t happen in class, it simply doesn’t happen. Add in the fact that these same students have a low tolerance for ambiguity — they want exact, straightforward meaning — and issue start to develop.

What I’ve learned to accept is the idea that a non-immersive class can be even better than an immersive one. I want my students to get all the input they can get, but it only matters if it’s comprehensible. A lot of my students made great turnarounds as soon as I stopped worrying about the French-to-English ratio and started focusing on 100% comprehension.

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Is there room for tradition in TPR?

A lot of what we do in a TPR classroom is non-traditional. I’ve seen and taught numerous TPR lessons that spent little or no time on activities that are now considered the “great traditions” of a foreign language curriculum, such as InfoGaps and situational conversations. And I’ve seen students achieve more than in courses where those textbook-perfect activities are commonplace.

The question that I hear is, “But what if I want to use these activities in my class? What if I’m required to use them as part of my curriculum or assessments?” Well, the good news is that you can incorporate all kinds of traditional activities as part of a TPR lesson. The better news is that the results are often impressive.Read More »

Lessons from the Weight Room

I remember my first trip to Paris. As I stepped off the plane and passed through security, one of the officers suddenly said to me, “Sit down quickly and put this book on your head! A mean boy has stolen a cat from a young blonde girl, and we need to ask you some questions.”

Obviously, that never happens. Why, then, do we spend so much time doing goofy actions and telling bizarre stories in class? Why can’t I just tell my students that a chair is une chaise and move on?Read More »