I have recently returned from the National TPRS Conference (NTPRS), and wow, my mind is overflowing with so much good stuff.
I will write up a post here in a bit about NTPRS, but I wanted to write a quick post about something which I learned at the daylong Coaching for Coaches workshop the day before NTPRS began: After telling a story aloud a’ la CI/TPRS style in the target language, ask students “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” What a simple, upfront way to get feedback from students! This question can be asked aloud, but probably it would be best to do as a written “ticket out the door” type of activity. Notice, the question is not “What can I do better to make the story more comprehensible for you?” Although this is an important question, the idea is to focus on the positive, because so many times even if positives are given, we tend to focus on the negatives. I also view it as if certain things are not mentioned as having made the story comprehensible, then most likely, it was because I did not do it.
Some possible answers to look for (students will probably not use these exact CI/TPRS terms:
- Body language created inviting atmosphere
- Spoke slowly
- Created a safety net
- Wrote target vocabulary on the board with English definitions in order to establish meaning
- Assigned gestures to vocabulary words
- Established expectations (choral response, choral gestures, etc.)
- LOTS of repetitions of vocabulary
- Pointed and Paused
- Used student actors to act out the story during its telling
- Varied ways of circling
- Gave lots of comprehension checks in English
- Did grammar timeouts
- Asked Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs)
At NTPRS, I gave a presentation where I demonstrated what Day 1 of my Latin 1 class is like where I actually begin to tell a story in Latin. My goal is to incorporate every one of the above CI/TPRS techniques, even though on Day 1 none of my students know any Latin (let alone have heard it as a spoken, communicative language). Less than half of the participants who attended my presentation knew any Latin, so the conditions were perfect. After I finished telling the story (I only got through six sentences of the entire story), I asked the participants “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” Now I was not fishing for compliments, because I truly wanted to know what I was doing correct. I was absolutely blown away by what folks had to say! Even though I had deliberately built the above techniques into the lesson, and granted these participants were at an NTPRS conference so they knew what kinds of strategies to look for, it still felt so good to hear that it was obvious to them what I was doing.
So I challenge to ask your students every once in awhile “What did I do to make this story comprehensible for you?” They may tell you something which you did not know what you were doing!