Monday, January 16, 2012

year 2 - TPRS - Native / Heritage speakers

There are two terms I am familiar with when talking about students in class who come from Spanish speaking families.  I believe the terms are: Native speakers and Heritage speakers.

From my understanding, Native speakers are those students who will be fluent in the language (most likely first generation; moved to US) while Heritage speakers would be students who can speak the language but in a more limited context due to their parents speaking the language but they have been raised in Gringo-land.  If my definitions are off, please correct me! :-)

The following is what I do with Native / Heritage speakers in my classroom.

So I teach at his rural school that has seen a huge increase in the Hispanic population in the last fifteen or so years. As a result there are many students that are first or second generation Spanish speakers who are forced to take Spanish since no other foreign languages are offered here. Since teachers at this school tend to leave after every two or so years (what I saw at the last school I taught too) it's hard to establish any good curriculum or sense of stability for the schedule.

Consequently I have at least a few native speaking students in my classes who must feel insulted in their intelligence at times because obviously their needs in language instruction would be more like our high school English classes for Americans. Yet at my school there haven't been any incredibly talented teachers who have stuck around for long enough to change things.  Students sometimes have been rubbed the wrong way by a Spanish teacher telling them that words that they use are wrong (because the teacher is too ignorant to know any better).

As you probably know from this blog, I've pretty much converted my teaching style of Spanish to TPRS.  At my previous school I was able to teach students high frequency structures and more about the language in a digestible and interesting way.  But my students last year were all non-Spanish speaking students.  So they were all starting from about the same place.

TPRS is neat even for multi-level learning like I tried in my ESL classes with adults.  But with the huge discrepancy of Native / Heritage speakers and native English speakers, I wasn't sure what to do.

So I haven't required a lot out of my native/heritage speakers. They can pretend like they are students learning Spanish like everyone else or they can read books in Spanish during class and write summaries. Most opt to participate in the stories. Now I have tried to talk to the native/heritage speakers outside of class and many of them have said that they enjoy class. Probably because TPRS makes class seem a lot more like playtime in the language with acting and compelling input activities.

Assuming that my school decides to keep me on next year, there has been talk about me teaching a Spanish class in the style of language arts to help the native/ heritage speakers learn how to read more as well as function better in their language. It's exciting but daunting because I am not sure if my Spanish abilities are quite up to par to accomplish this feat.


  1. Hola de nuevo. Me imagino lo dificil que debe ser para usted programar las clases, mas todos los videos que ha hecho. Realmente es admirable. Leyendo su respuesta a mis preguntas iniciales puedo deducir que realmente le interesan sus estudiantes. Estoy de acuerdo con lo que dice sobre "algunos profesores" que no tienen tacto para tratar con alumnos que ya conocen algo de la lengua. Un buen profesor puede cambiar vidas, pero un mal profesor puede hacer mucho dano.
    Me gustaria saber como trata el tema de la gramatica con los nativos, pues se por experiencia que aunque hablen la lengua muchas veces les cuesta mucho escribir bien. Estoy segura que los chicos en su clase se la pasan fenomenal. Gracias por compartir su "craft" y por tomarse el tiempo de contestar a mis preguntas. Me encanta su diario! Es una forma excelente de reflexionar y mejorar cada dia como profesor. Enhorabuena!

  2. Wow, I am so happy to hear that I am not the only educator experiencing this. I read your blog and I felt like it was me expressing my concerns. I too have changed my style of teaching and have embraced TPRS. I too wonder how to integrate the heritage speakers and the native speakers into the TPRS stories I use with the Spanish beginners. I feel like I don't give them the attention they need and am really not helping them excel into the next level. Sometimes I have them read stories and they write summaries, or give them writing prompts but I am still trying to figure out a way I can include them into the TPRS stories I am doing so they can feel part of the class and not just get an assignement to complete while I work with the beginners. It will also help me with the amount of work load to grade. If you have any other suggestions, please post them. Muchas Gracias

  3. Hi there, I just read your blog and can definitely relate. I am a first year high school Spanish teacher in Houston, just finished my first semester. I teach Spanish II and it is rather challenging because in every classroom, about 80% of my students are Heritage and Native speakers who are conversationally fluent, and the other 20% are completely new to Spanish. I still have no idea what is the "right" way to approach this type of classroom dynamic. Planning has been rather difficult. I need some advice about how to teach each level. Should I have reading material available for every level? I know that reading is the best way to improve fluency in any language, and therefore I am a big fan. Or do I teach grammar mostly? The principal said we cannot divide the class, unfortunately. Any suggestions would help! =)