Saturday, September 22, 2012

TPRS year 3 - going back to the book!

This is my third year implementing TPRS in my classroom.  Previously I taught for about 4 years with traditional isntruction slowly moving farther and farther away from the textbook.  I find that even with teaching Spanish "traditionally", the textbook is horrible.

When I found TPRS, I had this moment of "this is it" ("This is what I have wanted to do with my students but didn't know I was allowed!").  So I tried it for two years and noticed quite a few things about my students.  To name a few, they:
  1. spoke more Spanish outside of class
  2. spoke more Spanish in class
  3. enjoyed class (more than before)
  4. could write more in Spanish
  5. could create more novel (original) sentences in Spanish to express themselves
But the other day one of my Spanish one classes, the students simply weren't doing their job. Since the first week or so I've explained my expectations to them.  I borrowed them from Ben Slavic's site basically and will probably slowly hone them as time goes on.   Basically they are required to sit up straight, offer ideas in class, allow others to talk without having to raise their hands and listen to others' ideas all the while avoiding English. 

My job is to go slow, point, make gestures, use the students' ideas to make class interesting and anything else that can make what I am saying comprehensible.  

I can honestly say in one class I was doing my job.  I was going slow, pointing, even jumping up and down with a smile on my face.  The class was completely quiet.  There was no laughter, there was no one enjoying himself or herself.  They weren't making class more enjoyable.

Now you might be thinking (as my wife said to me):  Wait a minute!  You are complaining because your students were all sitting down, doing nothing to distract one another and were quiet.  That sounds like the dream class!  

If you're thinking that you're missing something vital (like my students).  They weren't engaged.  They weren't making the lesson interesting to themselves.  I (left to my own devices) will bore the class.  I need them to add things that are interesting to them.  I need them to interact with me during class so we can create something meaningful.  

I reminded them of my expectations and told them that I was very disappointed.  I need them to help me make class fun.  I do recognize retrospectively that we all have bad days, even classes.  But I wanted this class to understand how much of it was their job to make sure class was enjoyable.

The following day, I decided to have the Spanish 1 textbooks underneath every desk.  At the beginning of that class, I explained that every day with me is a new day.  If they have a bad day, I understand we all do and I can forgive them of that.  However, the previous day I was very disappointed by what happened (or didn't happen) in class and I wanted to let them know that if they didn't like how I taught, then they did have another option.  I told them to get the books from underneath their desks because we would be doing a lesson out of the book.  I then proceeded to give them a lesson about the Spanish language through the textbook  We talked about standard greetings, and usted with some practice pages.  I thought they might stop me but they were very well behaved during this time actually.  After about 30 minutes of lecture-style instruction, I was getting ready to give them their pages of homework practice.  As I was doing that, one student asked me if we could go back to how things were.

This prompted a discussion that the class pretty much lead about what we should do.  I explained they had both options and I would be fine with either because I used to teach via the textbook.  They unanimously chose storytelling.  They explained why they chose it with arguments like, "Class is more fun.", "We learn more in class!", "Class before was more engaging!", etc.  I explained then to them that if we were to go back to storytelling, they must remember my expectations of them.  

They listed those off for me and came to the conclusion that they would do it.  I think this was an important class period for that class because they were able to choose their learning style as a class and determine which was better for their brains and learning.


  1. Good for you! Hopefully the class will be more responsive now, making it an enjoyable learning experience for everyone.

  2. You sound like a good Spanish teacher last year was awesome, and let's just say I miss her a LOT. Este año, mi maestro no es bueno para mí y no me gusta sus clases. Yo no hablo español tan bueno con mi maestro como mi maestra anterior. Espero que, este año, mis clases serán más buenas y divertidas.

  3. Jeremy,
    Very interesting blog! And educational!! I am a first year Spanish teacher and find some, well most, of what you say to be right on target. I do, however, have one question...WHEN do you find time to blog???

    1. Hello there! That's exciting that you're in your first year! I hope it's going well for you! I don't really blog too much lately. I think I have like 3-4 entries that I started but never finished for last semester due to time constraints!