From time to time I invite other teachers to write a guest post for this blog. There are so many dedicated, caring and brilliant people in the classroom that I would like to share with you. I met Piedad Gutierrez of New Jersey at an NTPRS National Conference in Las Vegas well over a decade ago and she has continued to be a wise friend and insightful colleague. She had so many things to say last weekend at the conference in NJ that I offered her a venue here. I’m so happy to be able to share her thoughts!! When you are finished, check out her website at TPRS Of New Jersey. with love, Laurie
Something really good is happening in NJ. When the state world language teachers conference invites Dr, Steven Krashen as his keynote speaker, one of the day-long workshops is facilitated by Laurie Clarcq, and three of the one-hour workshops are presented by TCI and TPRS teachers, something really interesting is evident. There is a shift, a shift for the best.
Dr. Krashen said the obvious, what we already know he thinks: acquisition is different from learning. It is all about the story, the compelling desire to know about something. It is never about learning the language. However he said something I have not heard that clearly before, the vocabulary and the grammar come within the narrative. May be we do not need to pre-teach the vocabulary nor we need to explain the grammar. It is all about meaning, not rules. We read, listen to, and watch stories; therefore those should be our means of communication. All those eclectic activities, all those boring dittos and cloze activities should be replaced with the stories, the narratives, the legends, the comics, the videos, the poems, the songs. The language is just a tool, not the subject.
The subject is the audience. The students are the subjects of our classes. We teach them, not the books. If we focus in what drives our students’ interest, we win. With or without a curriculum, topics or themes, a list of words, a sequence of structures; as long as we are able to identify what our students care for, we can conduct classes that lead to acquiring the language.
Lauire Clarcq, a master TPRS teacher, shared that Embedded Reading strategy that she and Michele Whaley developed. Six hours were not enough to get closer to the brilliance and clarity of the techniques she developed with Michele. Story within story within story, like the Russian dolls. Keep the repetitions going while recycling known language and adding new information to the story. Keep the interest of the students by twisting just a little where the story is going. Magic! Step by step, Laurie guided us, explained to us how reading sentences is different from reading paragraphs, used cognates, embellished and enriched the story and kept it simple and funny. Ah! Humor and compassion, Laurie’s middle names.
Less is more goes not only for lesson planning, it goes also for presenting. When you have only one hour to convey a message, it is very difficult to select what to say and how to explain to an audience of teachers eager to learn new tricks. That would be my only concern. TCI and TPRS are not collections of activities, the narrative is the activity. Asking the story, the movie, the poem, the song IS the activity. The authentic communication developed between the teacher and the students, is core of CI. The students comprehend what the teacher is presenting and the teacher comprehends what the students are interested in. There is no need for pre, during, and post movie talk activities; the movie talk IS the activity! There is no need for pre, during, and post reading activities, the embedded reading IS the activity!
TPRS and CI are defined methods with clear steps to follow. The students get to know the routine; the students know when to listen and when to talk, when to write and when to read. You, the teacher train them.