Category Archives: Teaching Discoveries

I’ve Moved!

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!

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two different worlds

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.

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Filed under Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

dealing with oposition in tprs

Ben Slavic posted a question from Grant on his site today that really strikes a chord with me.

Grant said:

I need reminders that the best way to lead others to the light is through making my own teaching better and my own students outstanding rather than being evangelical, boisterous or confrontational. I battle with this on the inside. I know I can’t force boring teachers to change, but we can’t just keep being forced out of districts by thick-headed status quo mongers. A lot of TPRSers I know have this lonewolf facade that they’ve developed to counter the criticism and that seems to detract from TPRS’ credibility somehow. I think we need more Pams to help show beginning teachers the possibilities. Do you have any good anecdotes that will help me dissipate my frustrations during department meetings?

What Grant has written is so important because somewhere along the way we are going to have to work or visit with people that have: never heard of tprs, worked with tprs and don’t like it, may be open to tprs and need more information, have heard of tprs but don’t really know what it is, or any other combination of experiences that I haven’t mentioned. What do we do with people like this?

Well, how we work with these people may be a factor in the future and success of tprs. I was thinking today while I was I asking a story with my 7th graders that this is such a cool way to teach. I mean, how many teachers can successfully do what we do and have fun at the same time? Wouldn’t it be great if this was the way that languages were taught in our country? Could you imagine what the developments would be? That is why it is so important that we deal with our colleagues in a possitive way. Below is the response that I sent to Grant. It’s not the total answer, but it’s a start.

I commented:

This is such a great question! People in the past have mentioned the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie as a good way to learn how to relate to the students. I know that this has worked for me in tremendous ways. But I think that the book can also be used to work with our colleagues, especially when they may be less than excited to hear about tprs. We don’t have to be a lone wolf and if we ever expect people to change, we definitely can’t afford to be a lone wolf. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Remember that it is impossible to defeat an ignorant person by an argument, so it is simply just best to avoid an argument.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions and never tell them that they are wrong.
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying, “Yes.” immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking and simply ask them questions.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is theirs.
8. Try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge to people who have spirit and desire to excel.

Some of this may seem kind of corny, but we are not going to win people over by constantly criticizing and picking at the flaws of them or the system they use. It doesn’t matter how right we are, we are not preparing them and making them want to search for other alternatives. If they feel that you respect them and are in working with them for increased acquisition, they will probably be a whole lot more likely to consider CI based teaching.

Some of the items from the list above will help with the smaller battles of tprs and others will be good things to keep in mind with the larger issues of tprs [ex. CI based teaching].

We need to become people that are respected in our schools for the amount of language that our excited/motivated students acquire, rather than teachers that just use weird stories to teach a language. This will help us to establish more credibility and once the ball starts rolling, we may be surprised what happens in our districts.

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other tprs blogs

I started a new page that you can find at the top. It is a list of other tprs blogs. So if you would like to be added to the list, please let me know where your blog can be found and I will add it to the list.

Thanks!

Thomas

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my next tprs endeavor– playing the game

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.

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Lomb Kató

One of the greatest DVD’s I ever saw on second language acquisition was the Krashen Seminar. It was produced by Blaine Ray in the late 90’s and on the DVD Krashen, in a very light and informative manner, outlines how we learn languages. If you want a copy of the DVD let me know and I’ll get one to you.

Anyway, on the DVD Krashen mentions a woman from Hungary by the name of Lomb Kató. [In English her name would be Katherine Lomb] She was a woman that learned 16 languages, mostly by self effort. I find myself asking the question, “What can I learn from Lomb Kató?”

Well, here are a few things that I gathered. She mentions that she drove three autos in World Languages: autolexia [reading for myself], autographia [writing for myself], and autologia [speaking with myself]. When thinking about my own language learning , it makes me feel better to know that she mentioned these three tools because I wasn’t sure if I was normal.

I also think about whether I am providing this for my students. Do we have a time where they can read what they want? This is basically FVR. I wish I did it more often and I think it would be good for the students. I am still getting my act together for a grant for some money.

Do we also have a time where the students have a time where they write for themselves? The closest I come to this is freewrites. I wish that they could do more free journaling in L2 and I wonder if my students are at a level where they can express themselves this way. It is a good thing to think about.

While I am not sure that autologia leads to acquisition, I do think that it leads to feeling like you are part of a club of language learners, which is very important. This is especially important for teenagers who are so locked into social approval. This happens in my room when I give a brain break and have them do mini-retells with each other. To be honest, it could happen more. I also think that this is something that can be encouraged to do on their own.

Other comments that she made was that when learning a language, we focus on the essence of the grammar and the important words. How true this is! I don’t know why so many programs use grammar to teach the language. Grammar will not win over the majority and will deprive the learner of the joy of natural language.

She also mentions that we need to cling to the enjoyable side of language study. Am I really providing this for my students? I really think so because we have stories that are all about their life and we are reading things that bring up real life situations. Reading can be a very enjoyable side of language study if we get kids into good stories and books!

These are just a few things that I learned from Lomb Kató. I find myself asking the question, “What good does all the Spanish I am teaching the students do if they never take charge of their own language learning?” I think that we need to help our students to acquire the language, but also to know how to acquire a language so that when they leave they can continue this language acquisition journey.

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Filed under Encouragement for hard days, Reading, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries, teaching grammar

Email subscription

Hello! I added an email subscription if you want to be updated when I make a post. You can find it on the right side. Thanks go to Maria for suggesting this!

Thomas

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