Hello! I have decided to change the name of my blog. Don’t worry…I have moved all of the blogs from this site to my new blog. That way you can just use the new blog and not have to worry about coming back here. My new site will be languagethoughts.wordpress.com.
Why did I change the name?
Well, I am still just as much of TPRS® teacher as I was before and it continues to be the main method that I use to facilitate language acquisition. After thinking about the purpose of my blog, I realized that I talk about more topics than just TPRS® and I didn’t want to limit the purpose of the blog to just TPRS®.
I chose the name language thoughts because the focus of the blog is really about my reflections on language acquisition which includes: TPRS®, Reading, Assessments, Classroom Management, Encouragement for Hard Days, Good Books, Teaching Discoveries, and anything else that helps me to assist others in picking up a new language.
I hope you enjoy the new website and stop by as often as you like!
I continue to find so much in what Kendall Haven has written in his book, Story Proof: the science behind the startling power of story. This is so important to what we do because we invite our students to enter into story every day. If we don’t even know what we are getting in to, how can we effectively lead or facilitate others? We must deepen our understanding of what story is so that we can know what we are getting into when we invite our students to enter in. What Kendall Haven says will help us understand story a little more and take us to a new level. He states:
“Stories uniquely contain and present both our beliefs and our knowledge about the world…the similarity of store and story is not a coincidence…stories our universal storehouse of knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, passions, dreams, imagination, and vision…we live in stories like fish live in water –breathing them in and out…taking from them or sustenance, but rarely conscious of the element in which we live.”
This says it all right here. I would add that if we are rarely conscious of the stories that are happening, then maybe story is the missing key to acquisition. I also find myself asking the question of how can we create more story in class and tap into the storehouse of our students? Maybe when we open the doors we will encounter a new level acquisition that inspires people. What a cool job we have!
I have a profound question that applies to us. Do we know what a story is? I think that many of us would be surprised that the definition is not so clear. The reason why this is so important to us is because in all it’s many forms, storytelling [or story-asking] has an incredible potential to improve how people acquire a language. On page 19 and 20, Kendall Haven states in his book, Story Proof: the science behind the startling power of story:
First learn what the word story does and does not mean. Then you will be equipped to evaluate and successfully use the research to support your own purposes…[So far in the book]We still do not have a working definition of story. I propose using a different approach. If stories are uniquely effective inside the human mind, then let’s use recent advances in cognitive sciences, developmental psychology and neural biology to understand the specifics of how the human mind processes, understands, creates meaning from, and remembers incoming narrative information. We will then use the elements of that process as the foundation of our definition of story.
A lot of people say that there is not enough evidence to support the input based methods, like TPRS. My reaction is that there is a wealth of research that supports the cognitive processes which are present in TPRS students. If we can find the research that proves how these cognitive processes are effective, we have found the research that supports input based methods. But first, we need to know what story is and what it is not.
I also want to say that what we are talking about is so much bigger than a language acquisition method. We are talking about how the brain creates meaning from information presented in a narrative form. This is so huge that it could transform education as we know it. The transformation begins with us. If you get a chance, check out this book. It may change your fundamental understanding of what you do every day.
If anyone has ever spent time teaching in a middle school and high school, they know that they are two different worlds. It still amazes me how much changes between those years and what a teacher needs to do differently in order to be successful in each world.
I was chatting with Ben Slavic the other day and this year he has made the switch from one world to the other, from middle school to high school. As we were chatting he asked me the question, Are 8th graders still more creative than ninth graders? It made me smile because I knew exactly what he was talking about. The jump between 8th grade and 9th grade is huge! I responded:
8th graders are very creative, but so are are the 9th graders. It just happens in a different way. They don’t explode with ideas like the 8th graders. They still have the creative ideas, but it needs to be drawn out of them more with questions. They like being more clever and sneaky. I am learning more and more that your success with tprs in high school is dependent on how well you play the game at the high school level. In middle school, they will do anything for you. In 7th and 8th grade almost every story is a home run. In high school I have to work for it a little more and relationships take more time to establish, but it’s still there if I get them to play the game.
It’s funny, at the high school I am way more crazy. At the middle school, I don’t need to be crazy because they have so much energy. Here’s a good analogy. At the high school I spray them with water for fun and it makes the classroom alive, although they pretend not to like it. The look in their eyes and the smile on their face can’t hide their enjoyment. I can’t do this every day because it would lose it’s novelty. In the middle school, they ask me if I have my water sprayer every day. Kids run up to me and open their mouth because they want to be sprayed. I have to put the water away so that they are always wanting more. It’s a different world and there are different rules to playing the game in each world.
If we can learn the game rules for the world in which we teach, our students will acquire vast amounts of the target language, tprs will become much more easy, and we will make meaningful connections with our students. I have begun my study on how to play the game in previous blogs and there is more coming. As I learn more, I will continue to post.
Here is a short animation that I made online. I think this took me 10 min. Take a look when you get a chance. It is a good way for students to show off what they have been acquiring lately.
There is a sense of connection in PQA that is hard to achieve with other components of tprs. I have seen that PQA is a time when you get inside the hearts of the kids and talk about what they really like in the target language. PQA is not about us and what we like, it’s totally about them. We interact with them and ask them questions as well as look fascinated. I am still amazed that they let me in and allow me to learn so much about them. It’s a pretty cool thing.
There are lots of ways to assess our students, but eventually we need to have a test in the grade book to establish some credibility. I wish that I didn’t even have to give grades, but it is apart of the educational system and in order to keep my job I must.
Today, I decided to give my students a test today. I don’t know what to call it, so I am going to call it a Living Test. Basically, it is like storytelling only they are taking a test. Here is what I did.
- Students get out a piece of paper and a pencil.
- I grab the last few stories that I have been working on with my students.
- I look at the stories and on the spot I write a sentence from the story or similar words in Spanish on my laptop. [I let the class choose what font and color they want] This appears on my smartboard [or is projected from an LCD]
- The students then a) Write the sentence in Spanish on the first line, b) Write the English translation on the second line, c) leave a space on the third line. We could also have the students draw a picture of the sentence I wrote, with captions.
- We repeat number 3 as I continue to add sentences to the test. I try to keep the sentences of the test close to an interesting storyline.
- During the test as I am writing the examples, I ask the students for details. This makes them apart of the test and changes the test from strictly being regurgitation to a creative process.
- We go over it together and they grade their own paper with a blue pen. [If they “forget” the mark one wrong, it’s double off]
- It requires no prep time.
- Each test is customized to each class, making the process more fun.
- Involves meaningful reading and writing in the target language.
- I have a copy saved for any students that were absent.
- It is a test that gives them choices in the details.
- They grade them.
- I am still giving the authorities what they want without sacrificing my personal time and creative energy.
- It makes test taking a whole lot more fun, which is the bottom line.
I wish that we could get to a point where tests are celebrations of acquisition and knowledge rather than something that students dread. Maybe this will help students to get to this point.