For the last several years, I have participated in an annual event at a local college. I have used more or less the same TPRS style lesson plan each year, and you can read through it in detail and download the materials that I use for it here.
This year, I had taught two 55 minute classes. In the first class, my first volunteer immediately assumed the identity of Selena Gomez. It was one of those cool classes that started answering my questions with ‘fake’ answers before I even told them that they could. I asked, “Who is this person?” and the first answer that I heard–even before the student’s real name–was “Justin Bieber”. The class voted that down, but they eventually settled on Selena. The next volunteer quickly became Bruno Mars, and the rest was storyasking history. Isn’t it nice when things just fall into place? They don’t always 😉
Anywho, my second volunteer was really fantastic. He was super animated, eager to repeat his character’s dialogue any time that it was appropriate, and just fun. Well, for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, even a Brain Break could not revive his dying energy. He pulled over a stool and lost all of his previous animation. I guess he wore himself out 😉 I gave him the opportunity to ‘tap out’, and we replaced him (Bruno Mars #1) with a classmate (Bruno Mars #2), which is the student that you’ll see in the video. Bruno Mars #1 got a little energy boost after he sat back down and thought that it would be hilarious to videotape his friends. He pulled out a camera (you know, one of those things that can only take pictures and videos and has this zoomy lens things that pops out of the front? An ancient relic, truly) and I asked him if he would like to be the videographer. Of course he obliged, so I passed him my phone and he took a short video for me.
So…I now have the first video of me teaching since the Spring of 2013! And guess what? I’m still pregnant! Ha! Well, not still, I mean, I had the baby that I was carrying in 2013. This is the 2017 model.
I watched the video afterward and I thought, “No way am I sharing this!” You’ll always be able to think of reasons to not share a video of yourself teaching with colleagues. First of all, does anyone like seeing themself on film? Then there’s the students. They’re not stellar actors in this clip, and I don’t make any attempts to get them to engage in their roles. They don’t seem to be having the best, most fun of their entire lives. And hello if I am going to share a video of me teaching, I want it to seem like my students are having the best and most fun of their entire lives 😉 Who doesn’t?!
Then we’ve got the story itself: nothing special here, folks! This five minute clip is almost entirely of the verb “dice” (says). And beyond that, I didn’t use a wide range of questions. I pretty much asked “¿Selena Gomez/Bruno Mars dice “ay ay ay”?” over and over again through the entire thing–some changes in intonation; but still. Not much variety there. I didn’t do a bunch of comprehension checks by-the-book, and these students were new to me so I can’t excuse my lack of comprehension checks by saying that I ‘just know my students, and I can tell when they’re not understanding’ (which can definitely be a valid statement). I asked a lot of whole-class questions, but few individualized ones to ensure that every student in the class was with me. Heck, I didn’t even have a barometer student to keep an eye on!
But then again, what harm can there be? (The students all signed release forms to be photographed/videotaped during the event, so I had that covered.) So, here you have it! This is a video of me imperfectly teaching a demo lesson (a stand-alone, 55 minute class, filled with students that I will never see again–much easier than teaching students that I am responsible for and see every day!). I was able to get in a ton of repetitions of my target structures (I had a student count how many times I said ‘camina’ using this handy dandy lap counter, and he counted 131 repetitions in 45 minutes), the students had fun (which was really the point of this class–to have a positive experience in a Spanish class and in a ‘[fake] college class’), and the students understood me throughout the entire lesson. (The lesson consisted of storyasking – reading – flyswatter game.) This video clip was filmed right at the end of the storyasking session…so after about 30 minutes of instruction. I hope that you will see by watching it that you don’t need to do anything fancy to have a successful TPRS® lesson. Storyasking that gets results is simple, although there are many skills involved in making and keeping input comprehensible for students that take time to develop–whether you are asking a story, reading with your students, MovieTalking, or even just telling them a story. It takes time to learn how to ensure that they are pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down….that they’re smellin’ what you’re steppin’ in…that they’re catchin’ what you’re throwin’….you know….that they understand you.
If you are just learning about TPRS® and the concept of storyasking, I encourage you to attend a formal training and to connect with trained teachers near you! There are some fantastic conferences this summer all across the country and even abroad (Agen, holla!). I have attended iFLT and NTPRS in the past and I’ve learned much at each of them. (iFLT has sold out in each of the last three years, so if you would like to get trained in Denver, I’d recommend registering NOW! NTPRS will be in San Antonio.) You can check this list of formally trained TPRS® teachers to see if there is one near you to connect with (click here to add yourself to the list).
Since I am having a baby in late May/early June, I won’t be at any of the big summer conferences (waaaaaaaaah!). I am, however, offering a 2-day workshop in Chittenango, NY at the end of July. It’s my hometown and I am forced to fly cross-country with the new baby and the rest of my crew for my brother’s wedding, so I figured that I might as well take advantage of grandparent babysitters and do a training! It is just $50 for two days and ALL proceeds are going to Dollars for Scholars, a local non-profit that helped me realize my dream of becoming a language teacher by offering me a scholarship upon graduation from high school. With no expenses (the school is donating use of their space), I am excited to be able to offer this training SUPER CHEAP to allow teachers to attend that don’t get funding from their schools and are usually priced out of this sort of thing. Get more information and register for the workshop here! It will be nowhere near as intensive as the big summer conferences, so please don’t view this as a cheaper alternative to to iFLT or NTPRS. Read about the sessions that I will be offering and decide whether or not it would be a good boost for your instructional practice!
And in the meantime, check out the (incomplete) series of TPRS® 101 posts to learn how you can get started on the journey to comprehensibility.