I am always thinking about where I can go next in my tprs journey. It has been quite the wild ride and slowly I feel more confident and less like I am surviving all the time. I am still nowhere even close to where I want to be and that is why I am thinking about my next step.
For me, I want to get really good at getting my students to “play the game.” What does this mean? Well, it’s hard to describe, but basically the tprs game is a competition between the students to come up with the most clever details. This is another tool that leads to engagement. Also if the students are playing the game well, they almost forget that they are in class, learning a language. This leads to acquisition because they are not consciously learning the language, it is sort of just happening. As always, the teacher plays too. However, the most creative answers usually come from the students.
If a story is dying or falling flat, usually it is because the students have decided that they do not want to play the game. If playing the game can lead to increased acquisition, well I would have to say that the opposite is also true. Lack of playing the game will not only make the story dull, but also not lead to acquisition and decrease the amount of buy in that the students have for your class. Trust me, it’s in our best interests to get the students to play the game.
Some may say, “Thomas, this is one of the first things that you learn in tprs!” Well, that may be true, but here I am. I still feel that I need to grow in it.
We’ll see where this leads. So if anyone out there has any suggestions, I am all ears. I am sure a book could be written on all the ideas that people have. I’ll post what I find out.
Lately, I have introduced a new classroom management tool that is quite effective and also adds fun to the classroom. No, I’m not talking about Fred Jones or Love and Logic, which are both great. My new classroom management tool is simply a squirt bottle.
It is amazing what a little water will do for a class. It adds instant attention, especially if someone decides to put their head down for 2 seconds or if you just want to randomly squirt people. Of course I avoid nice clothes and faces, as well as the obvious places, but it really can be quite fun. It creates an environment of fun in the class as well as takes care of unwanted behaviors, like speaking English. Now, I still use other classroom management skills, which are vital to success in tprs. But this was a nice addition to the classroom that gets students to do what we need to do and have fun at the same time.
One student even donated a super soaker to class that sprays 3 different directions and also has an option that creates a pleasant mist. Pleasant to me, of course. The next day another student brought in a different type of super soaker. Who could have thought that a water gun would be such an effective management tool that leads directly to acquisition and lowers the affective filter. Why don’t they teach this stuff in college?
I am sure we all have students who have a little bit of attitude. Sometimes this is hard to deal with, especially when the teacher is trying so hard. I feel that many times it best to not give attention to the attitude or rather to respond with empathy, but I have been experimenting with another way as well.
When students give me attitude, I give it back. I just mirror exactly what they do and they see what they look like. When they see what they look like, they almost always lighten up and realize that they are being a bit disrespectful. Again, probably not a best practice idea, but it seems to work with some students without giving them a lecture or yelling at them.
I have gotten used to the fact that I teach Freshman. This can be a wonderfully exciting task and at the same time very frustrating. Just like everything else, they come in all shapes and sizes, but most importantly they come with different personalities. I have experienced that it is during this time that you can really see the differences.
Well, one particular type of freshman comes across as being very immature and they really like to joke around a lot. At first glance a teacher may see this as a problem, since the clever little guys are always keeping the teacher on their toes. I finally figured out, after having them for 3 months, that when they get this way they really just want to play. They love playing! But more importantly they want somebody to play with them. It is important to keep your professional distance, but I found that I am way more successful with them if I play with them at their level. Sometimes, I am better at being more annoying than they are, and all of a sudden it’s not as cool to be annoying because the teacher does it better. It may seem strange, but it helps to curb their behavior.
None of this may be right and it probably doesn’t align with any research or best practice teaching. But as far as figuring out my freshman, it seems to be a key into their complex little minds. You see, they are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Will I get offended by that or will I just learn to play with them? A good thought to meditate on.
One thing that I have noticed lately is that the PAT time on Friday is actually building the community in the class. I didn’t know this was going to happen, but I am very pleased about. Now, I did mention something about being a good sport and encouraging the other team, but I didn’t know that they would take it to a new level. Some teams even encourage the other team when they don’t get it by saying things like, “That’s okay, that was a hard one or You’ll get it next time.”
Since the classes are getting to know each other better through these games, the stories are actually getting better. More classes are participating and offering more creative answers because they know that they will earn more PAT points for Friday. More classes are being possitive during the week because they know that negativity looses points. Also, there is almost no aural English, which is damaging to any classroom based on aural acquisition — like tprs.
I have really been pleased with what PAT has done for our classroom and I am curious to see where it will continue to go. It is nice to be able to increase my expectations because the students always want to earn more points. So far it has worked in all the levels I teach, which is 7th – 11th grade.
Today, I took another page out of the Bryce Hedstrom handbook and used el bebé malo for my PAT game. I still gave them a choice between different games, but all the classes chose el bebé malo, except one. I didn’t actually have a baby, so I had the classes choose a prop. They kept choosing this little monkey that a student brought in as a prop for class and it stuck. The name of the game was changed to el mono loco.
How did it go? What can I say, it was a total hit. It is hard to describe the amount of energy coming from 20 screaming middle schoolers/high schoolers. Wow. The best part is that they were learning their numbers because they were all counting in Spanish
I added a few elements to make it more competitive. Instead of one person looking for el mono loco, it was two teams competing against each other. That gave the game an even greater competition edge. I also added that the team with the fastest time would earn an additional three points which gave even more urgency.
I think a lot of teachers know that numbers are something that students do not learn easily in L2. It is not that numbers are hard to learn, I just think that there is not enough repetition. This game really helps that, but the best part is that the kids love it and since they love it they will want it again. Which means they will want to earn PAT points to get it. Which means they will do anything to get those PAT points.
At this point, I can honestly say that I look forward to teaching and I love it… not very common for a second year teacher. I have a lot to be thankful for.
This week my kids earned a ridiculous amount of PAT points. They were really good and it is so interesting to see how the English has pretty much vanished. I am glad that I can tighten the leash a little to make it more challenging for next week.
The thing that I have noticed the most is that the students have risen to every demand that is placed on them. They all have their materials. They all are in their seat when the bell rings and are working. They monitor who is talking during the Repasito and now I can hear a pin drop. I really hope that this continues because it is making my life way easier and my classes continue to have a positive vibe.
I am going to tighten the leash next week by increasing my expectations. I will expect more participation from the students and see if they will rise to the new challenge. It’s nice to have the problem of trying to challenge students rather than feeling like they aren’t meeting my expectations.