Thursday, September 19, 2013

TPRS year 4 - why PQA is worth it in the long run

The following is something that happened in class today, which proves why I believe so strongly in PQA as a vessel to start the year, especially with Spanish 1 students.

We have been talking about students and what they like to do.  We add details that are interesting and sometimes details that the kids agree to.  Sometimes they are silly while at other times they are not.

Regardless, we are in the language and we are constantly reviewing and recycling the words to talk about the kids.

The language is our limit.  While we might make sure we keep the language relatively simplified with high frequency verbs and circumlocution (Ex: "under the ground" instead of "sewer"), the students are constantly working on learning the words and negotiating meaning.

There's nothing quite like it to me.  A student recently compared my class to improv class.  I can see it.  As we are constantly improving this ongoing narrative of who we are and we continue to build it and tweak it as the year goes on, in Spanish.

Today though, I wanted to brag about my Spanish 1 students.  They had been doing some standardized testing all day and probably needed a break/release.

I always try to suspend disbelief and practice saying things with them for different learning goals throughout the year.  I believe that the pronunication of "black" in Spanish is very important because if they don't get it, they will say something potentially offensive.

The way I do this might not work in every class or at every school.  But as we are talking in Spanish, I might remind the kids how "the teacher is black".  The class of course listens, looks at the colors, and then they start arguing with me.  I am working in these moments to train them to argue with me in Spanish, and to accept the unexpected in Spanish class.

They rarely agree and we cover some other colors that we will revisit all year.  But I insist that I am "black" every now and then.  In some classes, I start comparing my level of blackness to the "night".  Or something else that is a simple enough term for the kids.

Today though, a student caught me off guard.  I haven't laughed so hard all year.  One my word wall, I have the phrase "ya no" for "not anymore" or "no longer".  As I was talking about being "black" the student said in Spanish, "the teacher is 'no longer' black like Michael Jackson."

This was so completely unexpected that I didn't know what to do.  The rest of the class as they saw me laughing also laughed and it completely brightened the classroom and the mood of the class and we established a new race... "ya no negro".  So now as kids tell me, "the teacher is white" I can respond, "No. The teacher is 'no longer' black."

Just wanted to share because this was the result of a lot of language with the kids as well as their creating their own novel sentences that they can construct resulting from lots of playing around with the language.


  1. Hi Jeremy
    Sounds like you are really connecting with your students. :-)

    I'm interested in hearing more about your word wall. Would you consider writing a post about it with a photo? Or...are you willing to share the list of words and phrases you have on your word wall?


    1. Hi Cynthia! Well it depends on the day. Haha.

      But the word wall (which is missing some of my favorite words I have discovered) is in this post at the bottom: