Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TPRS year 4 - likening TPRS & CI to music

I was thinking about explaining TPRS and CI teaching to the Spanish teachers in the department at my new school. 

It occurred to me that if we can compare learning a language to learning how to play music, the parallels are quite striking. 

So there are different ways to go about learning how to play an instrument. I remember being in band when I was younger, and learned how to play guitar in college.

When I was in band, we might so scales every once in awhile, but we would spend most of our time playing songs and parts of songs.  We would continually play the songs over and over and over again. 

The scales were used to help us in our accuracy of the notes as well as speed.  But after simply playing different songs over and over, we would slowly get better. 

When I learned guitar, I would take songs I wanted to know how to play and I would play them over and over. 

I never became a professional musician doing this but I can play a number of songs and slowly developed more rhythm. As I listen to music, I tend to listen to how a song is played and I can always add that in to my style.  

Imagine going to a class where the teacher only taught you about the instrument and all the pieces to it and what each individual piece is used for.  Then a few times they showed you how to play one or two notes on it and expected that you would be able to figure out three notes more even an entire song!

I would think that's how many view traditional (grammar-based) instruction in the foreign language classroom.  We do very little for our students in modeling the actual language being used in context, but instead give them the isolated parts, and then maybe give them drills to do. But our hope is that they will produce more than we have taught them in the language.

So I liked this metaphor or the instrument and band because it's how I learned guitar.  I learned first how to use the language through the whole (a song) and then later added music theory to my understanding as I was interested in why (grammar).  In this way, I am not paralyzed with fear to play the guitar because strumming just for fun comes naturally since that is the way I learned.  I didn't just learn scales and constant drills first,...

And as far as teaching Spanish, I really enjoy using TPRS and CI as this other way of giving the kids all the language possible (in context and simplified as needed) to help slowly build them up.  

And I've found that when they're ready, they "make music". 


  1. I am also at a new school this year, I brought up TPRS and had some push back from another new (to the school, not to teaching) teacher. Strangely TPRS seems to threaten most Spanish teachers. It puzzles me as why some teachers are so resistant to change, it's practically in our job description to change with the times and learn new skills and adapt to what our students need.

    1. Oh my goodness! You have echoed my sentiments over the last few days as I've talked to a teacher or two in my new department. But I would also agree that it is hard for many people to change (especially a way of thinking), unless their mind is already going in that direction from self-drawn conclusions.

      So I will do my best to be patient with those in my new school and hope to model with my kids what I believe to be the best fit for language acquisition in a classroom environment!