China was an incredible experience. It was my first trip to Asia and our kids’ first trip abroad. Our host families were extraordinarily warm and generous, and I was excited to see Chinese culture first hand. But as a self-proclaimed professional language-learner, I have to admit that the biggest thrill was the chance to use the Chinese skills I’d been working on for the past two months or so. And as a language teacher, I firmly believe some of our best professional development comes from the act of continually learning unfamiliar language and culture. There’s no better way to understand students’ minds than to put ourselves in their shoes.Read More »
One of the biggest challenges in teaching through TPR and TPRS is finding harmony between an existing curriculum and TPRS methodology. The few textbook sets that come with TPRS materials will bombard you with low-quality TPRS experiences, so you’re often left to do the work on your own. There’s a process to the madness, though, and once you get the hang of it, you can transform nearly any textbook unit or chapter into a series of TPR and TPRS lessons.Read More »
For me, an extended reading is a crowning achievement in a TPRS unit. It’s a chance to bring together all the different words and structures students have learned, and it’s amazing how much reapplication you can get out of one extended reading. Best of all, it’s content that students have already mastered, so they get the reward of reading an extended passage with ease. Read More »
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.
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.
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 »