Monday, October 13, 2014

What's Working

I made it through my first six weeks of teaching with TPRS. I'm loving it! It is definitely a learning experience. I've struggled with my lower elementary classes. We have good days and I have had many lessons I've had to change, but the students and I will figure it out eventually. Upper elementary is going great! Many of the students are more engaged and I am much closer to 90% TL than I ever was in the past. In this post, I wanted to share what is working and some areas that I could use suggestions.

What's Working

  • Rules: For lower elementary, I borrowed my rules from Kristel Saxon (@KristelSaxon). We say the in English, then in Spanish. Eventually I will take away the English. I have noticed better behavior now that we say the rules ever class. I never did that in the past. I'm trying to be better about consistency and procedures this year. The rules are:
    • Speak in Spanish.
    • Raise your hand.
    • No touching.
    • Be respectful.
    • Listen.
  • Partner Talk: I taught all grades a few greetings and to ask, "How are you?" I have them greet 3-5 people in the beginning of class. Eventually, when they know more structures, I am going to ask them to have more conversations. I using greetings so they get used to the routine.
  • Oso: I played Oso (Bear) with upper elementary to practice "se llama". A student holds a teddy bear and stands in the middle of a circle of students. I start the game by saying, "Se llama _____." Oso tries to tag that student before he/she can say, "Se llama _____." If the student is tagged, he/she is the next oso. I learned how to play Oso at the NTPRS conference from Leslie  Davison (@lesliedavison). You can play with any vocabulary.
  • Circling: Circling is going really well with upper elementary. The three structures we are practicing are se llama, le gusta, and tiene. I let students choose character names. After the story, we create story boards together. I haven't had students do retells yet, but we have played games like the flyswatter game and students can very easily pick out each picture when described in Spanish. Retells will begin during my next rotation. Here is the story I used:
    • La chica se llama ______. El chico se llama ________. La chica le gusta pastel. El chico le gusta lechuga. Hay un problema. La chica tiene lechuga. No le gusta lechuga. El chico tiene pastel. No le gusta paste. El chico le da el pastel a la chica. La chica no le da la lechuga al chico. El chico llora.

Help please!

  • Circling with Kindergarten: I've been searching Blogs and Twitter and it seems like this is a common problem. I try to use puppets or have lots of students involved. I keep the vocabulary very simple. I don't add any words we have not already practiced. I have them use hand signals and movements to answer questions instead of shouting out. I only circle for five minutes at a time, some times less if they're really antsy. They just don't seem engaged.
  • Reluctant Students: While most of the students are engaged, I have a few that choose not to participate. I try different activities and I usually have the same response. I can't force them to learn. The is especially a problem in upper elementary.
  • Games: I have a few games that the students really like, but I could use more ideas. Many games I find in blogs are for high school or for students with more vocabulary. My students only have three structures right now and not much extra vocabulary.

I hope you find something useful and I appreciate any suggestions you can offer.


  1. I don't use TPRS (although I really really want to learn more after reading your blog) but I have a few thoughts...for my reluctant students I have found that giving praise to those who do participate encourages others to try. We do "diez dedos whooos" in my class (stolen from Whole Brain Teaching's 10 finger whoo - for my younger ones we switch it up based on what number we are practicing. Right now we have tres dedos whoos.) I also will call on students but let them have the option to pass if they aren't comfortable talking right that second. I will call on a few other people and then come back to them - that way they can take the time to think but they aren't allowed to opt out completely.

    For the kindergartners - it might just be a matter of what they are cognitively able to produce at the moment. We do lots of choral practice before I ask them to produce on their own. We've been doing Me llamo ____ since the beginning of the school year and only in the last two weeks or so have they actually done that in a conversation with another person.

    It sounds like it's going great. I've started incorporating more stories and books into my lessons but I know I could be doing a lot more. I'm going to be on the look out for workshops in my area but keep up the blog posts!

  2. Rock star, Lisa! Thanks again for sharing your process with us all. It’s super helpful for other teachers getting started with CI and TPRS. I’ll take a stab at your “issues” but it appears you are doing awesome.

    Games: UNO-DOS-TRES--It’s like ‘Simon Dice’ but kids have to get to their certain spot or do the action before you get to the number TRES. You can reinforce a ton of vocab: Run to the wall and touch something blue. Swim to a chair and sing to it. Sleep under a table with 1 eye open. Then, have a few super star kids play the teacher. I usually have to help the “teachers” a bit. Also, I used to watch a few PE classes. Lots of game ideas there that can be adapted to World Languages.

    Reluctant Students: I bet you have fewer of these kids than most teachers. We have to remember that as long as kids are hearing repetitive, compelling and interesting CI, they are acquiring. Sometimes our more timid kids are acquiring quite a bit but it is more difficult to assess and the don’t appear to be “in to it”. Another idea is to give these reluctant kids certain jobs. You tell your student--Today you are “crece” and everytime I say the word “crece/creces” etc. you’ll raise this card, touch this word, do this action, track the number of times I say it, make this noise, etc. Also, they may enjoy the job of the photographer.

    Circling with Kinder: Don’t sweat it. They are a squirly bunch wherever you teach. Yes, keep circling short and get right to the story. Have 5 pigs, 5 countries, 5 friends, etc. to get them all involved. They can draw/color some basic stories, too, which allows them to stay in their seat (for a few minutes) and allows you to keep repeating the story (from scene to scence) and moving around to ask them questions about the story and about them. You could also grab an iPad or camera and get some cool pics of them acting out their story. Put it all up in a google presentation, and retell/ask the story again while they watch themselves on the screen. Little kids love to see each other. They’ll also find it funny if you include a few images not in the story. You’ll get to sneak in a bunch of questions that will elicit a negative response and slowdown the story--getting more reps. Lastly, your preschool room has lots of props and those teachers will surely let you borrow some cool stuff. Keep those little ones on their toes all while using the same high frequency language. I’m sure they are getting it. Suerte and keep sharing.