Posted by: Michel Baker | July 21, 2015

NTPRS 2015 Day 2: Jason, Carol, Brian and Albemarle County Schools Lead the Way to Best Practices

While sitting at breakfast this morning, four teachers from Albemarle County Public Schools in Charlottesville, VA told me that they have each recently converted to TPRS because a German teacher in their district has been using it.  I asked them what the German teacher did in order to persuade them to make the switch, and they responded that she had done nothing.  Instead, it was her high test scores and a growing German program full of happy students that wooed them.

This evening, I interviewed Jason Fritze briefly, mainly just to catch up.  He, too, said that results are what sell methodologies.

In class, Jason also cautioned us not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and mentioned that older methods can and really must be peppered in as Brain Breaks throughout TPRS in order to keep the TPRS fresh, as long as the activities are conducted with Comprehensible Input, rather than forced output.

For example, he demonstrated Carol Ann Pesola-Dahlberg and Helena Curtain’s Fly Swatting Game, their Monster Drawing Activity and the Magic Box, while each was conducted in totally 100% comprehensible TL that had already been acquired through TPRS.  Students were asked to swat the correct picture that the teacher describes in full sentences that contain only previously targeted language, take a surprise out of the Magic Box while the teacher Circles it through PQA and draw a monster on a piece of paper as the teacher draws it with them up front on the board while talking them through it via Circling…all using previously acquired language only, nothing new and currently incomprehensible.

Jason told us that in a 45 minute class, activities should totally change every 10 minutes, and the changes should include TPR or other such Brain Break activities as older methods offer…just keep it in the form of Comprehensible Input.

Jason also reminded us elementary teachers to choose what words we target very carefully because of our limited instructional time, going for the highest frequency words first.  Because of the limited time, he also targets his verbs in present tense only, just not to confuse the children; verbs can (and, in my opinion, should) be used contextually in other tenses, but he always targets them in the present tense so that students can assume that the present tense is the default.

This evening after taking a 5 minute dip in the pool, I changed clothes and headed over to “The War and Peace Room” to see some Reality Coaching in action.  There was a growing number of approximately 60 teachers, and I got to watch a delightful Creole teacher named Carol Mears get up and have a go at Storyasking for her very first time…a job well done…I applaud her for getting up!  Next, a young fellow named Brian Peck from Michigan got up to be coached.  He has been practicing TPRS for one year after having attended last year’s iFLT Conference.   Brian reasked a story from the night before in Belizean Kriol and demonstrated such talent in Personalization and Flow that everyone was laughing at the actors and the language, riveted by the cutesy story of a man who has lost his wife and needs another one.  I must ask you, where else can you find 60 plus teachers gathering at 10:00 at night to continue working the method about which they just sat in class all day for seven hours on the second day of a week long conference?  That’s the beauty of TPRS…we just can’t stop talking about it and seeking to hone its skills.  As Jason Fritze alluded, it really is theater.

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