For the last 6 years or so, I’ve been asked to demonstrate TPRS and Teaching with Comprehensible Input to graduate level methods courses taught at private universities in the Twin Cities area. One of the classes I’ve been to most is Lisa Bekemeyer’s Methods in Teaching World Languages (and TESOL) course that is part of the Master’s of Arts in Teaching program in the graduate school at Bethel University.

Most of the students are seeking an initial license.  Some are changing careers while others are getting back to school after having a family. Others are adding a license while still others are needing an official license after teaching abroad for many years.

The presentation has consisted of about 60 minutes of a demo in German with another 30 minutes of debrief.

This year Lisa has asked her students to send me a note reflecting on my visit and to come observe my classes at Skyview as part of their assignment. Lisa’s pretty smart.

Over the next few days, and with their permission, I’ll share their reflections here. Their reflections reinforce for me that we are on the right path. While their experience is limited to only a 2 hour presentation, the way this approach resonates with new teachers is astounding. Here’s a taste.

They see the value of TPRS as a seriously engaging approach:

Though there are many languages I’m eager to discover, German has never been one. Yet as a beginning German student, I found myself drawn in and very eager to keep learning!

We all share the goal of getting our kids talking, but TCI folks don’t push the output too fast. Yet, one person viewed her experience in that regard this way:

What excited me the most about the TPRS way of teaching is that students are already using real language.

We all want as many kids as possible to be successful in our classes. Several people have been able to articulate what it feels like to be a student in this type of class and how success is virtually assured.

It makes me wonder how many other students in my high school would have taken a language class if it had as many engaging techniques that you presented.

One gentleman recognized that TCI creates a happier learning and teaching environment.

I loved the atmosphere that was created and think that this in and of itself goes a long way to assure learning takes place.  It’s definitely different than the “no pain/no gain” school of thought, which seems to think there’s something redeeming in suffering needlessly through things that bore oneself silly.

One woman noted how she could envision a class like this to unite students as one community of learners:

It seems like a great way to build a classroom community where there is care for and interest in one another, rather than simply a roomful of disconnected individual learners.

Some of her students have even had the insight to grasp the power of this approach on a deeper level.

I love that this teaching method is built around stories, and that this harmonizes with a central desire of humans… This content is driven by the undying rich pool of human experience, a continuing fountain of story ideas that can charge up a classroom and motivate students.

But don’t think it was all sunshine and flowers. There were lots of tough, thought-provoking questions as well:

Are the L2 culture(s) or authentic materials introduced in TPRS classrooms?   If one ends up teaching in a more traditional language curriculum, how does one show that TPRS addresses the ACTFL Standards for World Languages?  How do your students typically do when they get to High School language classes that don’t use TPRS and are more geared to toward meeting ACTFL Proficiency guidelines?  Are your students likely to be prepared for study abroad?  Even though students are involved in creating the story, the method still seems a bit teacher-centered in that the students do not seem to have many opportunities to interact linguistically with each other. How is their ability for spontaneous conversational interaction developed?

So, over the next while I’ll present one of these reflections at a time and add my comments to it. I also encourage those of you watching at home to add your own comment when you find something that resonates with you or if it sparks a question in your mind.

I’ll say that reading their reflections has been both inspiring and humbling. If you’re a TPRS trainer and are not presenting at methods classes at colleges and universities around where you live, please look into it!

Feedback from Grad Level Methods Class Demo
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3 thoughts on “Feedback from Grad Level Methods Class Demo

  • December 3, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    What I love about this post is that while the focus was TPRS, what these teachers are getting to see is how proficiency is being developed rather than the teacher teaching “about” the language. I am so glad that they are getting to see techniques that engage students, involve students and require students to communicate, even if that is initially just to show comprehension. I know this will be a great journey. Best of luck to you and your “students”!

    • December 3, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Amy! Thanks for taking time to read this post. I really like the way you phrased that!

      techniques that engage students, involve students and require students to communicate

      You’re absolutely right. Students are interpreting real, meaningful language and responding to it. I especially love that they all respond at their own level. Some non-verbally (for now), some with one word, some with phrases and some with sentences. Then, when I pause the lesson and use the same language to ask students direct questions, those who are ready, engage and take ownership of that language through those personal connections. It’s so fun and so incredibly empowering for them.
      Thanks again for your comment!
      I think you’ll like the full emails when they come out! First one’s dropping tomorrow!

  • December 4, 2015 at 7:36 am

    The last comment seems to bring up legitamite concerns. . It seems to come from someone that is conflicted about the goals of the class. If one does not believe that immersion-like envirnoments with high levels of comprehensibilty and interest drive acquisition then it might be appropriate to jump in on day one with introducing culture and something authentic. From my perspective TPRS is the best approach out for classroom language teaching.

    Yes culture is important and authentic resources have a place in language classes, however, second language acquisition happens in one way…through exposure to language data. The exposure to L2 in an interesting way (whatever interests the students) must precede all other information for most effective language learning or internalization of L2.

    The comment about a teacher-centered method leads me to look at ACTFL modes of communication. If an individual does not know German at all, how much instruction time should be spent…

    1. Negotiating meaning with the learners
    2. Allowing students to interpret German on their own with no help
    3. Presenting/speaking German

    Negotiating meaning with new learners should be the overwhelmingly dominate mode of communication because of the obvious effectiveness for students to internalize the L2. Putting the cart before the horse and pushing students to interact or produce in a day one class does not have a long term benefit. Pushing students to interact with something “authentic” too early only leads to frustration and disinterest. There are decades of evidence that reflect that there is harm in doing so.

    The ideas brought up in the last observer’s comments are good ones. There are responses for all of them. How do students spontaneously end up speaking? It’s through varied, consistent, contextualized, and concentrated exposure to language they understand.

    I would love to know how a practitioner of grammar-translation would respond to the same concerns.

    Sorry for the rant…happy Friday!

    Mike Coxon

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