Diary of My Journey With TPRS
Ok, as you know (or you do now), as well as being a wife and mom I am a teacher. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher. When I was a little girl we would play school and I always had to be the one up front. I don’t know if it is just that I liked being in charge, I liked to boss others around (haha) or I just liked how it felt to help other people, but I just “knew” deep down teaching was the profession for me. I have been teaching for quite awhile now and as teachers know sometimes you need to try something “new” to reach your students. I work with high school students in Spanish III and AP Spanish, so sometimes I have to get a little “creative” with my approach. Lately, to be honest, I have been feeling a little stagnant as a teacher. I have been wondering if the traditional methodologies I was utilizing were really the most effective with my students. So, like any good teacher would do, I re-evaluated what I was doing. Other foreign language teachers I know utilize a strategy called TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling). For a long time I have steered clear of TPRS. I have tried it a few times, but never felt incredibly comfortable with the teaching method as a whole. to be fully honest it was the storytelling part I always felt uncomfortable with. I have liked pieces of TPRS, such as PQA (personal question & answer) and circling (a strategy of using yes/no, either/or and who/what/when/where/why/how comprehension questions), but always felt discouraged after telling a story. Recently, however, I came to the realization it really was time to look in to TPRS a little further and with that came my decision to dive in head first.
At the start of our new semester I decided to utilize TPRS strategies, storytelling and all, to teach my students the Spanish language. So far, I have taught a few lessons with TPRS that incorporated all 3 of the traditional TPRS steps and I am proud to say I have survived so far. A few years ago I would have probably been eaten alive by students if I tried to tell a story. I just didn’t have the confidence in myself that I have now to keep plugging away and moving forward. I guess you could say “now is my time”. This is what I’m noticing so far:
- There always seems to be students who become disengaged in what I’m doing now matter what methodology I use.
- A class that creates an original, fun and interesting story one day might not do the same the next day.
- If something isn’t going well, then it is ok to say so and admit it.
- Asking the students how I can improve the lesson the next time is scary, but I can learn a lot from their ideas.
- Calling on the student who appears to be “slipping away” WILL get them drawn back in to what is happening in class.
- It is ok to give a student a “choice” to leave class every now and again. The hallway or the office might just be the better solution for a disruptive student.
- Just because I am letting the students have some control in terms of the “story” and their responses to PQA it doesn’t mean I don’t have control on my classroom.
- My students can surprise me with how quickly they pick up new vocabulary if they hear it enough times & see it in readings.
- My students are much more curious about the grammar rules when they hear words in context and want to know WHY I’ve said it that way. MUCH more effective then note taking or fill in the blank activities
- TPRS allows for constant checks for understanding and wonderful opportunities for Assessing for Learning!
So, there you have it. Why I have decided to say adios to my “traditional” methods and give TPRS a try. Now, that isn’t to say my students will never do a worksheet again and I will avoid all activities I have done previously like the plague. Rather, this just means I am adding more tools to my tool box and for the first time in a long time I’m excited about the results I’m already getting.
Are you a foreign language teacher? What methods do you use to keep your students engaged? Have you ever tried TPRS or have you been running the other way? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!