Thursday, March 15, 2012

"We're Going on a Bear Hunt"
Do you remember the children's activity, "We're going on a bear hunt"? It is a story for children and as you tell the story, the children do actions with you. I did something similar to this with my Spanish 3 students today.

This week our juniors are taking high stake state tests in the morning. By the time I see them in the afternoon, the second to last period of the day, they don't have much left to give. Today, they were taking the second part of a test and by the time they were finished, there was only 22 minutes remaining in class. My lesson plans called for a TPRS story. However, after taking a quick inventory of their body language - slouching, droopy eyelids, wiped out expressions - I was afraid I wouldn't get quality participation because they were so worn out. Just then a thought crossed my mind and my plans were diverted.

I took the story I was going to use for TPRS and wrote 20 of the words on the board. Some were vocabulary words they had just learned, and others were new or ones we hadn't focused on. I told the students to stand up, (the first crucial step to help breathe life into them again). We went over the list of words for their meaning and then I asked them to come up with motions for each word - and they didn't disappoint me - the motions were fun and energizing. After 7 words we stopped and practiced them; then did the same thing with 6 more words; reviewed all; and decided on motions for the last set. I told them we were ready to start the story, and I quickly got a protest that we hadn't practiced all of the words together. No problem, more repetitions.

Now that we had the motions down, I told them that I was going to read the story and when they heard one of the words that we had made motions for (they were in the correct order of the story), they should make the motions. I read three sentences and they did the motions. One student asked for clarification, so then we started from the top again. The second time I got through the first paragraph, the phone rang - a counselor wanted to talk to one of the students. So, we started from the top...again. This was the 3rd time so they had the motions down perfectly.

We made it to the end of the story. I then asked them to tell me in English what happened in the story. Three students, that always participate raised their hands, but then I saw another student that doesn't participate as much as the others, with his hand raised and I knew the English translation was his. He did a great job, and when he missed the part about the fast food, others were quick to add it, and when he had a few questions about some parts, others helped him with the details.

We finished with 4 minutes left. No way was I going to lose those precious 4 minutes. I asked for 2 volunteers and they picked a partner to work with them. They went to the front and I told them that I was going to read the story again and the class would vote on which group did the best job with the motions. The class enjoyed watching the 4 students and I liked the fact that they were hearing the story AGAIN.

When the bell rang, I watched and listened as an energized, chattering, smiling group of students left my class. What a difference from 22 minutes ago when they were ready to slump over their desks and call it a day. Another plus - THEY energized ME!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Using Videos with TPRS - 3

My Spanish 5 students have been working on a short story by Miguel Unamuno, Spanish modismos, and a global collaborative project. After a week of those types of activities, I knew it was time to include another opportunity to learn through the use of videos.

I've had the following commercials clips on file waiting for the right moment and that was on Thursday. First, the video clips...

Here are several ideas of how to encourage conversation... the main reason I use videos.
In my opinion, the best way to work with these 3 short clips is to hit pause right before the twist is revealed, then...
- Describe the setting
- Identify objects
- Teacher asks sts true/false or short answer questions
- Decide as a class additional bits of information that have led up to the event or develop the characters:
What is the person's occupation?
What is the romantic dinner celebrating? What dinner is he preparing?
Where does he/she live?
Why is the man in the hospital? Was he in an accident? Did he have a surgery?
Is the man walking the dog single or married?
Does he have children? Why didn't the children walk the dog?
How old is the girl at the park?
- and, the obvious, ask the sts to guess what will happen next. By now, my students know that if I'm showing them a video it's most likely because there is a surprise ending. I tell them to be creative in their answers, and I repeated "sean creativos" enough times on Thursday that the students guessed some of the endings.

I'm sure there are some other activities that my students and I could do with these advertisements, so please feel free to share your thoughts with me if you have been inspired.

This video actually has five different clips. I used the website: to crop the video to contain only 3 segments.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

ipads in Language Classes

This is not the usual type of post because I would like information from YOU...

If you are a language teacher that uses an ipad in your teaching specifically with TPRS or in the upper levels with CI (Comprehensible Input) methods, could you please share with me how you use the ipad?

Or, if you don't use an ipad in your language class because you don't have one, but have ideas for its use, please feel free to share those ideas with me also.

I look forward to hearing from YOU!

image from:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

THANK YOU from a past student - the Best Part of my Week

In January, the first semester of the school year ended, bringing a close to the pilot program of TPRS instruction-based Spanish 1 level class. I rarely see the students from that class because (1) I do not teach Spanish 2, and (2) my classroom is in a separate short hallway that students do not pass unless they are specifically coming to my class.

However, on Friday after the bell rang to signal the end of the school day, I was returning to my room from the library when I saw a student from my Spanish 1 class. I greeted her with a "hola" (& her name). She stopped me and said that she had wanted to stop in my room to say thank you for teaching her Spanish last semester with "all the stories". She said that now that she is in Spanish 2, she realizes how much she learned through the stories that we created in class and from reading the additional stories. But to me, the best part about talking to her was not specifically her words, even though hearing her remarks certainly affirmed for me the benefits and necessity for language instruction with TPRS. But rather, the best part was . . . her smile. Her sincerity was unmistakable, along with the evidence of a growing appreciation and enjoyment of the Spanish language. BINGO! Can you think of any better way to end the week?

There you have it - a student that after just one semester of TPRS, sees the value and benefits of acquiring the language through the use of stories. This is exactly why I will continue to seek out workshops and materials that will help me improve my instruction using TPRS. I readily admit that I need more training on TPRS and welcome the opportunity to listen to advice of others with more experience and knowledge with TPRS.

Last Saturday, the other members of my department and I went to a TPRS workshop led by Michelle Kindt at Hershey Middle School--which was absolutely fabulous, Thank You, Michelle! This month I'm looking forward to attending a workshop led by Susan Gross. In the summer, I plan to attend other workshops or conferences. By the time fall rolls around again, I hope to have a solid foundation of how to teach with TPRS so I can give my students the best chance for success with a language.

Note: I have had fewer posts the last few months due to the fact that (1) I have a student teacher this semester and very soon she will be teaching all of my classes, and (2) I have one class of level 3 and the other 3 classes are levels 4 and 5. While I have used stories in levels 4 and 5, those levels tend to lean more toward class discussions, short stories by Spanish authors, and similar activities. Since my student teacher picked up the level 3 class early in the semester, I have requested 1 day a week to do TPRS with them. I also volunteered to work with four Spanish 3 students that are taking the class online at school because they couldn't schedule the class this year and they want to take Spanish 4 next year. I work with them a minimum of 1 time a week and they help create stories with me in addition to completing their online work. In this way, I can keep practicing TPRS while helping to prepare them for the next level of Spanish.
I look forward to professional development in the next few months and starting again in the fall with TPRS based instruction for lower levels and CI instruction in the advanced levels.