The Sheraton Diamond Ballroom was packed at 8:00 am with 350 professionals from all over the world who had gathered as TPRS inventor Blaine Ray heartily welcomed us to the 2015 NTPRS conference. He quoted John Dewey: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”
I stood in the back and scanned the massive hall, as my eyes welled up with tears of joy at the monumental space filled with educators who felt TPRS was worth a week out of their summer vacation and a sizable sum out of their pockets. Some came paying their own way, while others came with financial backing. Some were fresh out of college, and others have taught for decades. Some were poised to experience TPRS for the very first time, still others have been practicing it for years. Some seek to improve, while others want to learn how to share it with others. All of us were caught up together in one a glorious moment, anxious to take it all in this week, not to miss anything.
And yet, there is so much more available now, as the number of workshops offered has multiplied exponentially since I attended my last National Conference in San Antonio five years ago.
As I looked around, I saw the familiar faces of so many who have begun to make contributions to the method, each in their own way. Some have become coaches, others presenters, still others authors, researchers, bloggers and organizers. Some who used to serve in one area may now have graduated to another, and still others have shifted to fill the positions left behind. We greeted one another as though we were family, the passage of time having done nothing to erase our bonds.
Now that I am once again working in my beloved field of elementary Spanish, I joined Jason Fritze’s Elementary TPRS track. I had taken the Experienced Track under Jason while at the Ixtapa Multicultural Conference four years ago, so I knew his training would be stellar and also innovative, with Jason having had four more years of experience and study under his belt.
I was gratefully surprised when he began by focusing in on TPR, an often overlooked skill with new practitioners busily honing the tenets of TPRS, and one that I have been practicing more carefully over the past year. Jason said that TPR is necessary for classroom management and is also a needed Brain Break to be conducted at every other interval throughout what you are doing with TPRS, such as in between PQA and Storyasking. He also confirmed my suspicion that you can Circle TPR at any point, which links it back to TPRS.
While carefully going over all of the basic tenets of TPR, Jason also added many new observations:
In Elementary TPRS, all of the students want to be the actor and may even cry if they do not get to be. Jason addressed the need by having half of the class playing one character, and the other half playing the other, al estilo “All the World’s a Stage.” The skill was both hilarious and effective, meeting the elementary student’s need to be the actor. Plus, it is not necessary to run verbal Comprehension Checks when you can watch all of the students’ actions to confirm that they are comprehending.
New gestures have been added, in addition to the seeking of meaning: asking the teacher to “write it out,” permission to speak in English (raise your hand), students “watch and listen,” and a signal to “slow down.”
For TPRS, Jason recommended Backwards Planning for elementary reader novels Brandon Brown Wants a Dog and Las aventuras de Isabela.
During Storyasking, if an actor appears too weak, thank them and ask them to sit down. If an actor gets too distracting, whisper the phrase instead of saying it in front of the class: “I need actors, not distractors.”
New noises were employed for when the teacher tells them, “Hay [there is] un problema:” the class gasps or even hums the suspenseful “dum da dum dum…dum da dum dum dummmmmm!”
Wait for the class to chorally fill in cognate blanks…then say it back to them to confirm they are right, or have them turn to their neighbor and say it.
When redirecting from small groups back to whole group, hum “Shave and a haircut” and wait for the rest of the class to respond by humming “two bits.”
We were invited to Google Jason’s Language Ideas at http://jasonslanguageideas.wikispaces.com/?responseToken=564444724631a89078351dc5a5409384 .
Jason encouraged interludes of chanting from time to time in our Storyasking, such as “¿Dónde, dónde, dónde está, dónde está?”[Where is it?], in order to build student excitement and anticipation of what is coming next in the story.
Model and say what you are asking students to do; if they don’t do it, simply start over by modeling and saying it again.
Ask the whole school to send you an email of their pets, and create a Powerpoint of the ones you do receive. Ask the classes about whose pet it is and what the animal’s name is.
Animate objects, such that backpacks are eating teachers, and chairs are walking across the room.
Never accept weak choral responses, or they will grow weaker across the year. Solicit answers again until they are big enough.
Use pets to teach High Frequency structures, saving the most popular pets for last in order to build student anticipation.
Jason posts the colors equally and separately, with the color word underneath so that each may be signaled while used. Be sure to Point and Pause at blanco [white] so that students get that it does not mean black.
Add “¿Qué tipo?” [What kind?] to your question words.
Whisper aloud to the native Spanish speakers to ask what a certain student’s pet’s name is.
Our homework was to illustrate the Bad Baby story onto a storyboard folded onto an 8 ½” by 11” piece of paper, as we would learn by doing.
I can’t wait to see what we learn tomorrow from Jason and all of the other presenters.