Sunday, August 21, 2016

NTPRS - my own private conference with Bryce Hedstrom!

So I lucked out in leaving the hotel super early that morning.  Some strange antics ensued at the airport as my socially awkward self tried to get through security:

And it turned out Bryce Hedstrom and I were on the same flight!  

I had missed all of his sessions unfortunately, since I was on the beginner’s track. 

But I’ve been implementing some of his stuff for years and really had wanted a chance to talk to him and pick his brain. We had already met earlier in the week when we ate BBQ with Señor Wooly and Mike Coxon.  And we had also corresponded via email once in awhile over the years.  But while emailing back and forth can be great, I find that I also prefer face-to-face interaction and to hear something.

So here’s my conclusion about Bryce: he is an awesome listener and I can see how he is so successful in his teaching. He radiates positivity, thoughtfulness, compassion, empathy, & of course Spanish.

The conversation jumped all over the place, but here were some of the big ideas:

1. I had heard how we can play around with genre during the week and something we often do (which gets old quickly) in storytelling is the idea of someone wants something and they go and get it.  But how about maybe they have something they DON’T want!  Bryce pointed out that is the entire premise of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  I hadn’t even thought of that.  They are getting RID of the ring. Interesting. 

2. Something else that we talked about was killing off bad actors. If a student is a terrible actor, add into the storyline that they die suddenly, and get someone else

3. We talked about creativity.  Bryce told me that “creativity comes from constantly trying even if idea fails”.  I concur that creativity is something we have to work at constantly

4. A big chunk of time was spent talking about an activity I had been wanting to try because I see that Bryce and I are so similar in various areas of our classroom management, that I thought his “persona especial” activity would be great to try sometime. But I still needed to hear it explained in a way that convinced me.
    • He told me that the task is to learn about each other
    • He only asks questions as long as the students want to talk
    • he only interviews as long as it is interesting
    • Follow-up questions are crucial
    • He’s not focused on an agenda
    • When he needs to add more words, he says, “Oh thanks for helping me do my job better. I can’t believe I haven’t done that yet.”
    • By the end of the semester, get through everyone
    • Don’t force kids to talk
    • “Tells them, “Make sure you don’t share something we shouldn’t know. Just stuff you’re comfortable with us knowing”. Because some kids might not think about consequences of airing dirty laundry. (NO FAMILY SECRETS)
    • Dunbar’s Number is the idea that we can remember about 150 people. This is something I hadn’t heard of, so I’ll have to look into it.
    • If the class loses Mojo, go to story or TPR.

5. Bryce also does Free Voluntary Reading from day 1! I loved this idea. I went ahead and purchased some super low readers from in Spanish at the kindergarten and first grade level. These are so simple and repetitive. They are better than a lot of children’s books that I have purchased over the years because they are simpler. Children’s books typically are for children after they have already had thousands of hours of their first language to read it in. So if I want to get kids reading on day 1 in Spanish 1, then I have to find super simple books. Maybe I’ll buy some Pre-K books at some point too that just deal with the word level. He trains them from day 1 that they are going to read in class for 3-5 minutes quietly. I loved this. I need to do this more. I also have tried to build up the classroom library a little bit with 4-5 copies of various TPRS novels. The ultimate goal is to get them reading at home.

6. All in all, a great conversation with Bryce that really made the plane ride very enjoyable. Time sure flew in that plane!

And I really want to take the plunge this year and try “La persona especial” in my classes even if I fall flat on my face.  I guess I just have to do it.

To see Bryce's site, go here:


  1. Hmm, what about a story genre/pattern where the characters are killed off one after another on their way through a hostile environment... like Oregon Trail.

    1. Wow, that would be a bummer. But definitely not the typical TPRS formula. I once told a story about the huge wave of unaccompanied minors a few years back and at the end of the presentation a girl said in English, "Well that's depressing."

      But it's always good to mess with genre and do new things in class so I say go for it! ;-)