Dear Grant Boulanger,

… It is highly elucidating to see TPRS in action, the embodiment of so many powerpoint slides of previous learning. This clarifies the lesson and gives me an actual experience to associate with this teaching method. Besides all of this, it was effective! So I should probably figure out how to do it well. Thank you for helping me initiate this process.

My favorite part of your lesson was when you “asked a story.” I love that this teaching method is built around stories, and that this harmonizes with a central desire of humans. The ability to manage the story will simultaneously giving students to take ownership of the story is simple yet beautiful in its intuition. It is exciting to think about the range of discussion that could result from different stories, from humor to serious themes. 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. I very much appreciate the way you managed the story, highlighting the key vocabulary yet keeping each turn in the plot entertaining for the whole class. I plan to dual license, the other content area being communication arts and literature, and it is heartening to know that both of these areas can focus around stories and life experience to guide learners in language growth, whether it be the first or second language. By basing the content in stories, this also has the potential to develop students as critical thinkers, harmonizing beautifully with the more broad purpose of education.

I was somewhat surprised at the strategy of introducing only small amounts of new vocabulary at a time. It is easy, maybe even natural, for me to assume that the memorization of a nice hefty list of words will enable language to flow smoother. However, I realize through your presentation, that you do not need a very hefty list to practice the flow of language. It seems that building fluency from the onset is even more important than building the lexicon of language learner. I was left looking for clarification about how much vocabulary is too much? And how is it possible to insert mini grammar lessons, when certain grammar concepts take significant explanation to grasp?

I am thankful for your easy going and quick wit which really provided the “grease” to make the mood of the class more easy-going and flexible with a wider range of things you asked of them. It was an exciting lesson and it left me with a much more tangible idea of what a good language learning classroom could look like. I look forward to potentially observing you at you workplace and will be in touch about this potential. Thank you Grant!



My thoughts:

N’s response has grasped the underlying power of this approach – the reason it works (even on bad days) better than anything else I’ve ever seen. He said:

this harmonizes with a central desire of humans

This is it. The human brain craves story, is specifically evolved to view life through story. All things cognitive are enhanced when embedded in story.
Tapping in to what N references as the undying rich pool of human experience for me means harnessing attention, energy, emotion, action in ways that ultimately help students be present in the moment.
N notes that we can build fluency without massive amounts of vocabulary. This is preferred because we’re focusing on fluency with the target structures. We limit vocabulary intentionally so that students’ ears can be tuned in acutely to the sounds of those structures. We can keep things in working memory best in sets of 3-5. thus 3-5 target structures. All other vocab should be known or otherwise clear. Yet the 3-5 are often presented as language chunks. This focuses the brain on their meaning, more so than their form. Thus, you might teach “me lo dijo” as “he told me” or “No me lo creo” as “I can’t believe it” instead of teaching the linguistic units in isolation.
I appreciate N’s comment about grammar concepts that take “significant explanation to grasp”. Grammar concepts take significant explanation if you assume understanding the explanation is required or somehow improves a person’s ability to use them. If language acquisition is the goal, it doesn’t. In fact, N engaged in complex grammar in the German demo story without realizing it and it didn’t bother him or any other participant one bit.
Story – A Central Desire of Humans – Methods Class Feedback – 5 of 6 – “N”

Leave a Reply