Authentic resources versus TPRS? Or a happy marriage of the two?

This week’s #langchat was a particularly lively discussion. The topic was about choosing texts that best promote proficiency. However, it seemed that there was a debate forming about the value of authentic resources (#authres) and whether or not TPRS teachers would use them.

I am usually considered a “TPRS teacher.”  Makes sense considering that I present at the National TPRS Conference as well as at TPRS Publishing’s summer conferences and have even co-authored some TPRS curriculum. However, for the past couple of years I have been calling my self a “CI teacher.” CI, or Comprehensible Input, refers to Dr. Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. I use many of the elements of TPRS every day, but since I do not specifically focus on storytelling all of the time, or adhere to all of the steps of TPRS, I feel that “CI teacher” is a better descriptor of my methodology.

Personally, I also really enjoy finding, sharing, and using authentic resources in my classroom. On Thursday, during #langchat, I felt like there were some attempts to pin down the exact role of #authres in the classroom. I would like to share my view on this as well as I how I treat #authres in my own classes.

First of all, I do believe that my classes should be VERY comprehensible. I don’t like a lot of ambiguity. And as a general rule, the less interesting something is, the less ambiguity high schoolers are going to tolerate. So, in selecting an #authres I am looking for something that is readily comprehensible, or at least comprehensible enough that I can exploit it for some teacher-provided comprehensible input.

For instance, if I want to discuss a news story, I might show my students an article or a short video about it (in Spanish). However, if the items are incomprehensible, I might use them primarily as a visual and speak about them myself in simpler language, focusing on a small amount of new vocabulary, relying on cognates, visuals, and previously-acquired vocabulary, and using very natural grammar and syntax. For higher-level classes, I might even type up an “embedded reading” in which I simplify the story for reading/discussion prior to delving in to the authentic resource.

Secondly, I believe that my classroom should be robust with language. I want to narrow the focus onto a handful of structures at a time (for instance, on Friday in Spanish 1 my students worked with the phrases “eats with good/bad manners; takes the food; doesn’t see that X happens) while recycling previous high-frequency structures (I was recycling puts, wants, likes–among others). While authentic resources are beautiful and look impressive, I cannot get as deep into conversation with my class by focusing on #authres. Storytelling–relating and comparing ideas and events to students own experiences, asking questions, making inferences, expressing opinions–all of these things are rich and lovely and so valuable to the acquisition process. EVEN IF I AM NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER I can provide my students with a rich, deep and authentic language experience.

In terms of reading, many people criticize the use of non-authentic level-appropriate readers. First of all, as a community we have yet to even agree on what the word authentic even means. Second of all, I will put my leveled reader-raised kids up against kids with a pure “#authres” reading experience any day of the week. Those readers are teen-engaging, real language, edited by multiple native speakers, and written by fluent users of the respective target languages. They focus on repeated use of high-frequency language structures in the context of a fun story. Full-disclosure: Yes, I have written a couple of these readers. I wrote them because I needed reading material my students would enjoy. I am not getting rich, so please don’t accuse me of promoting these readers to pad my own pockets! My full-time teaching job is MUCH more lucrative than writing novels for Spanish students, believe me!

Anyway, the bottom line I am try to arrive at is don’t knock it until you try it. Don’t worry about what “looks good” or what others might think (yes, even ACTFL or #langchat). Try new things and when something works well and helps language stick inside your students’ brains, repeat it often! When you find something else that works better, do that.

 

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Unidad: Lo sobrenatural (Spanish 3)

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image courtesy of I’m Fantastic

I needed something light, fun, and engaging to take us through the last 8 weeks of school. This is what I came up with! A unit on the supernatural! Kids love it, and I with a little help from my twitter PLN I was able to gather/create a ton of resources! A very special thanks to  Caitlin Hudgins, Carrie Toth, Carol Gaab, Martina Bex, and Cynthia Hitz for all of their help with this, whether they realized it or not!

Essential questions

  • What is “supernatural?”
  • What are some examples of different types of supernatural creatures/events that occur in movies and stories?
  • How do people react when faced with a supernatural occurrence?
  • Why are we fascinated by the supernatural?
  • Do different cultures have different ways of portraying/explaining/relating to supernatural events?
  • Why do some people believe and others don’t believe?
  • Is belief in the supernatural a cultural thing?
  • How do our religious beliefs affect our reaction or ability to process something that appears supernatural?
  • Are there supernatural phenomena that YOU believe in?

Learning targets

  • I can identify vocabulary used to discuss the supernatural.
  • I can compare and contrast various supernatural phenomena from the stories we learned about in class.
  • I can make inferences and predictions about unknown elements of a story.
  • I can recall main events as well as details from and understandably re-tell a story about a supernatural phenomenon.
  • I can describe my own beliefs about the supernatural.
  • I can inquire about the beliefs of others in the supernatural.
  • I can create my own supernatural story using vocabulary and concepts from the various resources we studied.

Please view my entire unit on the supernatural here.

Addition 5/29/13:

To assess this unit my students are doing an interpersonal conversation as well as an in-class essay.

For the interpersonal conversation, I made a set of picture cards (download sobrenatural_pics) of various supernatural creatures/phenomena from the unit, and also a set of question cards (download speaking assessment questions). Students selected their own groups of 3.

Each student will select a picture card randomly, as well as 3 question cards randomly. They will then discuss the cards they chose and ask each other the questions. I will encourage them to make up their own additional questions as well! I will let you know how it goes after they do this next week!

Essay for Lo Sobrenatural “Los Cucos” (gracias to @senoraCMT for this!)

  1. Select 3 of the pieces we looked at – Explain how they have a common thread.
  2. Compare 2 of the “cucos” with your own childhood cuco.
  3. Compare 2 of the “cucos” with a favorite cuco from a movie or book.
  4. Why is it sometimes scarier when you can’t SEE the scary thing? Use the film/videos/novels/stories to explain your point.

Top 10 reasons your TPRS story just bombed

storybombed
¡Ay, ay, ay! The story bombed!

This is such a great question! When you first start TPRS, it is such a high! The kids like it, they participate, you feel like you are entertaining them, it is great! But then…one day…you fall so completely on your face that you can’t even remember what you did the other times that made it so magical.

So, first of all, let’s just have a reality check. Does the geometry teacher get upset if class is boring one day? Or the chemistry teacher? Or the American history teacher? Most other teachers just accept that class is what it is. Students are there to work, not to be entertained. Most teachers don’t even consider entertainment part of their job! So, don’t get upset because you had a bunch of good days and then you have an off day (or a bunch of off days!).

Ok, so now that we are feeling a little more grounded in reality, let’s face it, most of us sought out TPRS because we like our students and we like teaching and we want our students to think learning to speak another language is FUN! We strive for those “home run” lessons when everyone is so into it that the bell cuts you off and the kids say “Awwww, I was having fun!”

What are some possible causes of a story that bombs? Believe me when I tell you that I speak from experience! I have had a lot of success but only through lots and lots of failure with this method did I get pretty good at it!

Here is my official “Placido’s Top 10 Reasons Your Story Just Bombed”:

10. Focusing on the curriculum more than the kids.

When you stress because you didn’t include the 3rd sturcture you had planned to teach today, you start trying to “force” the story and it shows. If some of the vocab isn’t gelling, maybe just come back to those words another day. The important part of all of this is providing Compelling, Contextualize, Comprehensible Input (Not just CI, CCCI is even better! This is a Carol Gaab term and I love it!).

9. Trying to get to “cute” and making the story complicated.

Most of my best stories are completely NOT plot-driven. They are lazy little vignettes, scenarios, or character descriptions. It is ridiculous how entertaining these little scenarios can get and they have no plot whatsoever. Forget trying to create a bestseller. It isn’t happening. A better bet is to type up a cute little story based on what you and your students chatted about and use it the next day as a reading.

8. Trying to control the story too much.

If you go in to the story with it all planned out, you will end up driving the story forward too quickly. If you are new, however, this is super scary territory. One thing you might try is scripting the story out “Mad libs” style. This reminds you to let the kids create the details, while you eliminate the stress of having to be creative on the spot.

7. Not controlling the story enough.

Most inexperienced TPRS teachers cannot successfully wing it completely. I can but usually because I have taught those words many many times and I can remember what worked in the past! I recommend at least having a skeleton idea of a story in mind!

6. Allowing kids to be passive.

Coach the kids on the behavior you want to see. Make them verbally reply to your questions. Give them a signal that means “I don’t understand.” (In my class the signal is hitting your open hand with the opposite fist.) Get the kids to respond with ooohs, ahhhs, and fun catch-phrases. Perhaps designate certain kids to use certain phrases at key moments. Designate a kid to knock on the table to simulate the sound of knocking at the door, or cry like a baby, or howl like a wolf. It gives that one goofy off-task kid a job and makes the class more entertaining!

5. Getting into a rut.

Another phrase my good buddy Carol Gaab always says is “Brains crave novelty.” As a teacher I believe that. Be surprising! Do off-beat and unexpected things. Pull out ONE really weird or funny prop and plan to use it that day. Joe Neilson at Salpointe Catholic High in Tucson teaches a story about a bad baby. He has a totally creepy and disgusting looking old baby doll that he uses. It has a bit of shock value and it produces results! When my classes read “Los Baker van a Peru” I have a plastic onion that a student doodled a face on (he was being a little naughty but it was ok) that we use as a shrunken head! It gets a laugh! Try showing a quick video clip, a neat authentic resource (search #authres on twitter), or use a fun online resource like JibJab or Photopeach to create something fun really quickly.

4. Being too repetitive with structures the kids already know.

You shouldn’t be circling “There is a boy” unless it is day one of level 1. Circle the NEW structures only! Make sure you are circling ALL parts of the sentence too!

3. Failure to personalize.

Personalization is key. Talk to the kids about THEM and their friends and things they like. All day, everyday. Repeat 180 times and you’ve got happy fluent kids.

2. Not suspending your own disbelief.

You have to act like all of this crazy stuff is true. Act surprised, scared, etc. Be melodramatic. How will the kids believe it or be into it if you are not?

and the NUMBER ONE REASON YOUR STORY MIGHT BOMB IS…

1.  Going too fast

Slow down and then slow down even more. Speak slowly and clearly. Pause and point. Do comprehension checks. Remind kids of the signal for “I don’t understand.” Did I mention you should slow down?

Hopefully that helps? If you are reading this and think of other factors in a story bombing, please leave me a comment!

TPRS Mad libs

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Remember the fun of Mad Libs?

People often wonder how TPRS teachers can maintain the creativity and stamina required to use such a method.  The teacher tends to be a major source of comprehensible input for the students and it is sometimes a challenge to be cute, funny, engaging, 90% in the target language AND comprehensible!

When I first started using TPRS, I used to script out my stories, leaving room for a few personalized details.  Now, after having used the method for over 15 years, I am capable of “winging it” most of the time.  However, there are days when it falls flat or certain classes that just don’t really get into it.  I am also now mentoring a fantastic intern teacher from Michigan State University who is openly embracing the concept of teaching with comprehensible input, and I am trying to find ways of making the whole process easier for her.

In reality, the storytelling process (or “storyasking” process as it is often affectionately known by TPRS practitioners) is quite a bit like the concept of Mad Libs.  You have the skeleton of a plot and then fill in the details.  Once you start filling in those details, you “circle” the details with questions.  Here are some videos of Carol Gaab teaching with great examples of TPRS if you are interested!

Today, in Spanish 1, we literally made a Mad Lib for students to complete with a partner.  After that, we asked students to share some of their stories.  We then verbally circled those stories.  Great comprehensible input! And it was fantastic for those couple of reluctant groups to see how fun storytelling can be!

Here is a Mad Lib that I created and a second Mad Lib I created, feel free to use, adapt, steal!

Up the odds of student engagement with TPRS

Thanks to Kelly Ferguson for allowing me to publish her writing on my blog.  This was originally a post on the MoreTPRS listserv on June 15, 2012.  If you’d like to become part of the MoreTPRS community, please visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/moretprs/.

____________________________________________________________

When I was in high school, my algebra class every day we went in, went
through the homework, the teacher drew on the overhead the new stuff, we
did examples, got the homework, and went on our way.  I was not
“entertained” by that teacher.  It was just the way that algebra class was.
In English class, we would read our lit out loud, the teacher would talk
about symbols, themes, and iambic pentameter.  Then we would get homework,
which usually meant writing.  Some of the books I liked.  Some I didn’t
find even remotely engaging.  That was just what we did in English class.

TPRS needs to be just the way Spanish (or French, or Russian, or whatever)
class is.  My Spanish 1 kids do not have any trouble with this format.  My
level 3 classes take a while to adjust, since they have often never had
TPRS before. We are probably the only department that puts such pressure on
ourselves to have kids LIKE our class.  And that isn’t bad, but the truth
is that you can’t always make everyone happy.  Even kids who like your
class will have days that they don’t enjoy in your room.  There are some
things that we can do that up the odds of student engagement and enjoyment.
As with everything in life, your mileage may vary, and these are not
ranked in order.

1. Make it personal to the class.  I have purchased materials from Blaine
and Michael Miller.  And I use some of each.  After 12-13 years of getting
into this method, I have discovered which ones work well with kids
typically,and which don’t.  But in general what I have found tends to work
more consistently is when I take the structures from the book and build a
story with my class, then use the pre-written one as the reading afterward.
Sometimes I write my own reading, sometime I tell the story in the book.

2. The story isn’t actually the point. It is a prop we use to give us a
reason and structure for. “repetitive comprehensible input”.  Blaine has
said he spent four months in a class on background knowledge of the
character and never even started the actual story.  That can be the danger
of using a story that was written beforehand.  We get into the story and we
want to finish it and make that plot fun for the kids.  We tend to think
all the repetition gets repetitive.  I know myself I start out the story
really well, then get this nagging feeling that I ned to get the plot
moving. RESIST THIS. Just keep doing it slowly and if you finish the story,
great.  (Sometimes my kids are upset the bell rang and we didn’t finish the
story and the next day they want to know how it ends, but because I am
SOOOO old I need to review the story to where we left off, thus giving even
MORE repetitions!)

3.  They are way more interesting to themselves than anything you can come
up with.  Find out who they like.  A story about how dreamy Ben Affleck or
Paul Newman is and how you drool over them doesn’t hold any interest to
them.  But talking about Savannah who wants a date with Trey Songz or
Steven who loves the Black Veil Brides is fascinating.  I think that one of
the absolute best things in the recent incarnation of the method is the
emphasis on making everything personalized.  I am pretty sure the biology
teacher thinks Steven is just plain weird, with his skinny pants, long

Can you engage this kid?

hair, and black eyeliner.  Where else can a goofy kid like him be honored
in the class with his interests totally the center of the moment?  He still
comes to my room to show me his dance video on line or his new skateboard
stuff.  And I don’t even have to fake interest. I really get to bond with
and love my kids, and I really do know all about them!

4. Observe other TPRS teachers.  The first few workshops I went to were put
on by Blaine, with demos by Blaine.  I hesitated to get involved and take
the plunge because that is a tough act to follow.  And that was the only
style I ever saw.  But as I went to more workshops and conferences (there
was nobody local I knew of to observe) I saw Carmen, Joe, Susan, Linda,
Bryce, Ben, Carol, Scott, Katya, Donna, and others.  And I started to
realize that there are as many ways to do TPRS as there are teachers.  I
just need to find the Kelly way of doing it.  Keep going to workshops.
Even experienced teachers get a lot out of beginning workshops.  The thing
is, you are not ever bad enough to break TPRS. (“TPRS done poorly is still
pretty good”). But you will never be perfect at it.  The method is always
evolving, and we can never stop refining our skills.  NBA players still
practice free throws.

5.  Do other things.  If you start feeling stagnant, that will show, and
the kids will almost never be more excited than you are.  Sing songs, do
TPR, show comprehensible videos, do culture projects, try some
content-based instruction via TPRS, read books as a class or in an SSR
format, play games, learn a dance, do yoga, or whatever for a change of
pace.  I do this a lot, because I have a 90-minute block period to fill up,
and kids need to move or take a brain break.  But use these as a break,
don’t “do other things” for six weeks.

Kelly

Playing the game when you have to cram information

An e-mail I got today:

Hello,

My name is ********* ********* and I use your books to teach my Spanish classes. I have a question to ask and because I use your books, I chose you – lucky you. If you have the time to answer, I would appreciate your help.

Do you worry about covering thematic vocabulary? If you do, how and when do you do this? Do you try to make it fit in with your chapters or do you teach it separately? I’m scared that I’m not getting in the vocabulary that I should teach. Is there a guide somewhere that says how many words a student should learn in a semester or year? Thank you so much.

My reply:

Dear ********* *********,

I don’t believe there is any such guide telling you how much vocab students must learn in a year, and I do believe that major textbook publishers like EMC, etc would have you believe it is a MUCH higher number than is generally comfortable processing for a student.  They do that because they want teachers to feel like they are getting a “good deal.”

You need to look at your district’s curriculum guide and if you do not have one, are your students taking a common assessment with another class that is “learning” more vocab?

Personally, I do have a couple of thematic topical vocab units that I am forced to cram onto opt to teach my students whenever I am sharing sections of the same course with another teacher who is heavily thematic topical.  (I am a thematic teacher, however my themes are things such as “Immigration,” and “Traveling as an exchange student” and “living during a civil war.” We are talking here about topics such as “adjectives, home furnishings, animals, and the dreaded much anticipated amusement park rides unit.”)

What I generally do in this situation is use quizlet.com and make lots of flashcards (I shell out the extra $10 a year to be able to upload pictures of the vocab).  Here is my account: http://quizlet.com/user/placido/

Quizlet offers several study or game options!

I go through the flashcards with the whole class for about 5 minutes a day on my projector, and also have them take a day and play the quizlet games in the computer lab. They then have to practice at home (wow, I think I invented the flipped classroom!). Once each student feels he or she knows all of the words well, he or she comes to my desk and takes a quick assessment (I allow the students to decide when they are ready).  I randomly show them 10 different flashcards and they have to say the word.

So, ask yourself…what or who is making you scared?  If it is just your internal voice, tell it to stop and keep doing comprehensible input with small chunks of vocabulary every day.  If it is an external pressure, ask yourself if it has the power to do harm to you if you don’t give in.  If it has that power, play the little game and cram some vocab every now and then.  If it has no power, keep doing comprehensible input with small chunks of vocabulary every day.

Best of luck to you!
Kristy

What I do in each of my classes

I received this in an e-mail recently and thought it might be useful for others so I decided to blog about it:

I have been reading the more TPRS site regularly now for about a year and I see you posting often and I can usually relate to your comments.

Therefore, I was wondering if you could share for each level you teach, the major units you do to help the kids achieve fluency.  For example, you mentioned that in level 2 your focus is on novels, culture, etc.

Can you list the novels you have been using most recently in the order you do them?  Also for the other levels, which movies are standard and about how long do you study them?  I am fine with knowing which grammar pop ups to highlight and can figure out the most important vocab, but I struggle with knowing the most interesting and effective units to teach and would love to know what has worked for you.

So, here is what I do in a nutshell which I do change from year-to-year as well as adjust according to who else is teaching the same course at my school and what we decide together:

Level 1:

I begin the year by spending a couple of weeks teaching basic sports and activities and build fun, personal, totally TL class discussions about the students in the class and what they do.  I integrate tons of adjectives, adverbs, some family vocab, girl/boy, friend/gf/bf, etc.  Maybe some animals.  It is not structured and totally student-driven.  Even the assessments are based on their knowledge of each other.  I make up little readings early on based on what they tell me about themselves.  My favorite and most magical time of my teaching process.

I use anywhere from 2-4 chapters of Cuéntame Más (spread out over the course of the whole year).  After all that personalized comprehensible input they are ready for the stories from this book.  I continue to HIGHLY personalize and have lots of fun!

By about October, they are ready for some heavier reading than just a little paragraph a day that I type up (we also read from the Mini-lecturas that go with Cuéntame Más.).  We read 3-4 novels throughout the year.  Last year, we read:

El nuevo Houdini

Noches misteriosas en Granada

Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto

Robo en la noche 

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.  I also have my students listen to the audio books and they actually really enjoy this!

I also teach a new song about every 1-2 weeks.  The students get the lyrics, the English translation, some assigned vocab to learn, we do cloze listening, and finally a cloze quiz with some vocabulary matching.  They love learning the songs, the quizzes are easy for them, and many download the music on their ipods!  Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn.  We also learn a lot of Justo Lamas songs and have fun with the karaoke on his website.

Another fun resource to use is the BBC’s Mi Vida Loca.  There are 22 episodes of an adventure/mystery filmed in Spain and it is wonderful!  The kids really like it!

Level 2:

Novels:

Esperanza (I show the film La misma luna with this)

Los Baker van a Perú

La maldición de la cabeza reducida

Problemas en paraíso

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.

Video series:

Extr@! Available through Discovery Education streaming or on DVD from Discovery Education.  We watch episodes 1-4.  I have made packets up of the transcripts and some little readings/questions for each episode.

Aventuras Vascas Available through Discovery Education streaming or on DVD through Amazon.com (currently unavailable).

I teach a couple of mini-units also.  In 1st semester, we do myths and legends, and in 2nd semester we learn about Frida Kahlo and Mexican exvotos as artwork.  I sometimes do a larger art unit as well if I have time.  (See my handout from ACTFL 2011 for some info about these.)

Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn in level 2.

Levels 3-4:

I have not taught these classes enough to say I have a “set curriculum.” However, I have tended to focus heavily on “social justice” issues and global awareness.

We still do tons of songs (Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn in level 3-4.) and lots of class discussions.  They do more independent reading at these levels and we incorporate more non-fiction at this point too.

Novels/stories:

Esperanza, Cajas de cartón

Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha

La Guerra Sucia

I am going to pilot a new unpublished novel this year which is set during the Spanish Civil War.

Films:

Al otro lado; El norte (with Esperanza)

Viva la causa (from Teaching Tolerance)

Voces inocentes; Sin nombre (with Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha)

La historia oficial, Cautiva (with La Guerra Sucia)

La lengua de las mariposas, El laberinto del fauno (during study of Spanish Civil War)

Music:

In addition to popular music, we often study songs that are related to a unit we study.  For example, when we watch Voces Inocentes we also learn the song “Casas de cartón.”  When we study the Spanish Civil War, we learn some period songs and discuss which point of view is represented.

Poetry:

We study some Pablo Neruda, his work is pretty accessible for intermediate learners.

We also look at some Machado and García Lorca when we talk about the Spanish Civil War.

Video Series:

We watch episodes 5-13 during Spanish 3-4 of Extr@!  In level 3 the kids make a parody video of the series as well which is really fun.

It is important to note that the main thread that runs through all of my teaching is Comprehensible Input.  The work of Stephen Krashen is the most important work ever done to advance the acquisition of languages and the eradication of monolingualism.  If you are a language teacher you need to become more familiar with his work and rely less on the ineffective ways in which you were “taught.”  Languages are not learned; they are acquired.

The missing link for me in Krashen’s work was TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling.).  Even though I don’t teach a lot of “silly stories,” I use TPRS methodology to promote language acquisition in my classes.  Pre-teaching key structures and vocabulary, personalization, repetition in novel and fun ways,  and asking circling questions are key elements in all of what I do.

I hope you found this post useful!  Please leave me your comments!

MiWLA Handouts and Links

Rejoinder List  we dicussed in Carol Gaab’s workshop on Friday

Transforming the World Language Classroom With Formative Assessment 1:00-4:30 pm University 1

Formative Assessment MiWLA 2011

Angry Birds Article

Robo en la noche Choice Board Projects

Formative Assessment Teacher Tools

Reading Comprehension Assessment

Writing Rubric

Cute “Secret Message” Activity

Formative Assessment Card Sorting Activity (if you are a coach feel free to borrow and use!)

Online Resources for Maximum Learning Impact  2:30-3:20 pm Ballroom F

Handout

Leave your impressions of these resources here! http://willyou.typewith.me/p/miwla


Is translation a bad thing?

I use TPRS amongst other “Comprehensible Input” methods in teaching Spanish.  One thing that seems to really be controversial about TPRS is the use of translation.  Admittedly, I do use translation, especially in level 1.  It serves a couple of purposes: comprehension checking and clarification.

Comprehension check:

When using a word that is new or unfamiliar, I may ask “¿Cómo se dice ____ en inglés?” just to make sure the class understands what I am saying.  In TPRS, we strive to make the class as close to 100% comprehensible as we can.

When reading, I do have kids translate out loud in the beginning.  This allows me to have a clear view of their level of comprehension. After we read in translation, we go back and have a Spanish discussion of what we just read.  However, by the latter part of semester one, we are moving away from this model and more frequently just reading and discussing in Spanish.

Clarification:

I write words on the board frequently and write the English equivalent as well.  When comprehension breaks down, I can point to the board to alleviate the confusion.  I also will answer any student who asks what something means.  Once students are able, I can define words in Spanish whenever possible.

Deciding to use or not use translation is a personal choice for the teacher.  My philosophy personally is that I’d rather use translation when and if it expedites learning, thus allowing the class to quickly get back to more comprehensible input faster.  I also view it as one of many tools available to increase comprehension.  Furthermore, use of translation should decrease over time as students become more proficient.

If anyone knows of research studies that correlate incidental use of translation in the ways I have described here (I am not referring to the “grammar translation method” nor am I referring to teaching translation as a skill), I would be most interested in learning more!

MiWLA Conference October 20-21

Are you coming to MiWLA this year?  I will be presenting a 3 hour workshop on using formative assessment in the world language classroom on Thursday afternoon, and I will be presenting a 50 minute session on online resources on Friday afternoon.

Also, don’t miss Carol Gaab’s 2 workshops on TPRS and other comprehensible input-based teaching methods/techniques on both Thursday and Friday.  Carol’s website is www.tprstorytelling.com.

Hope to see you there!