I’ve certainly been aware of the concept of using Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) in teaching a second language but, to tell the truth, I’ve never really explored it much, though a couple of years ago I did create a short “A Quasi “The Best” List On TPRS (TPR Storytelling) For Teaching ESL.” It’s just a link to a number of links I’ve collected on Delicious.
I’d love to invite teachers experienced with it — in either teaching English or another language — to write some short guest posts on this blog.
Please leave a comment if you’re interested.
I’ve been using TPRS to teach English in France since 2005. By the way, it is now called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling in order to express the way the method has evolved since its conception as a branch of TPR, Many teachers call what they do TPRS/CI, since often we do things that are not technically TPRS, but still fit within Krashen’s definition of Comprehensible Input. I’ve blogged about my experiences at TPRS Witch http://tprswitch.jimdo.com.
In 2013 I organized a workshop for teachers interested in the method in Agen, France and had an interesting mix of European and American teachers. We repeated the experience last year and are happy to announce that the third annual TPRS Workshop in Agen will take place this summer July 27th-August 1st.
I would be glad to write an article explaining how I discovered the method and why I encourage language teachers to use it.
TPRS remains– to my knowledge– the only “complete” 2nd language teaching method which actually aligns with modern research– not “beliefs”– about second-language acquisition. TPRS correctly emphasises that languages are learned when people hear masses of comprehensible input (messages they understand) in the target language. In order to maintain students’ interest, TPRS teachers use stories, which they personalise. Research also clearly indicates that speaking is both uncomfortable for many students as well as unnecessary for acquisition, so students speak only when they are ready. Research also indicates that grammar cannot be taught via worksheets or direct instruction, and that loads of reading is necessary, so TPRS classrooms feature lots of novel and story reading, and the only grammar lessons are ten-second “pop-ups”– e.g. “Class, we use -an or -en in Spanish action words to say they or you guys.”
TPRS– and its complementary method, Ashely Hastings’ narrative paraphrase (a.k.a. MovieTalk)– are
A) MUCH easier than the legacy methods– e.g. “communicative,” audiolingual, etc– for students
B) much more fun than legacy methods for both teachers and students
C) fully supported by lots of modern research
D) much less expensive than traditional programs with their $120 textbooks and $1,000 “teaching materials” kits (and testing packages)– a TPRS classroom needs only a couple of class sets of novels ($200) and most stories are available free online.
I have used TPRS® in a variety of classroom situations. Some might see me as a high school Spanish teacher. I have been seen that way for over 32 years. However, I see myself as a person who helps students to learn about and navigate life using the Spanish language. (or if I am teaching English to local farmworkers..English) TPRS® (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) has been my primary approach to teaching for over 15 years.
I know that working through of lens of teaching via TPRS® has allowed me to improve my interactions with students on a daily basis, thereby increasing their abilities to comprehend and communicate in the language.
How? There is a more detailed explanation below, however, here is basically what is happening:
A. The teacher interacts (as a role model and guide) with students on a topic that students are connected to.
B. The teacher’s job is to structure the interaction so that students will acquire new language, successfully contribute to the interaction, feel valued, and ultimately have a high level of comprehension of the material.
C. The teacher believes that LANGUAGES ARE ACQUIRED through comprehensible input rather than “learned” through lessons. Because the human brain has a natural ability to understand and to develop language, teachers should make classroom conditions as ideal as possible for acquisition to occur.
On the surface, there are three “basic” steps to TPRS® :
1. Introduce any new language in context.
2. Interact verbally with students using the new language in context so that all language communication is completely comprehensible.
3. Incorporate the new language into a literacy-based activity.
Below the surface are multiple layers of understanding, interpreting and integrating:
1. The unconscious and conscious functions of the brain in the area of language acquisition.
2. How a student’s emotional state affects interaction, attitude and memory.
3. How a student’s levels of social, emotional, physical and cognitive development affect nearly everything.
4. The value of relationships in any setting, particularly educational.
5. The relationship between emotion and language.
And much more…
Keeping these layers of knowledge in mind, TPRS® teachers plan lessons using one or more of the steps and deliberately incorporate any number of specific teaching skills that most stellar teachers incorporate. It is not a big mystery; it’s simply good teaching.
Skills such as:
1. Eye contact
2. Appropriate pacing
3. Checking for comprehension
4. Constant interaction with students as a means of formative assessment
5. High-quality questioning strategies
6. Repeating, reusing and recycling information and skills
7. Asking for and encouraging responses that use higher-order thinking
8. Creating situations where students interact with each other
9. Connecting curriculum with the interests and needs of the students
10. Personalizing and differentiating instruction
I believe that TPRS® is less about “learning a language” and more about Life’s natural growth processes in the classroom, for the teacher and the students. I have been involved with the training, coaching and mentoring of teachers for over 20 years. The knowledge and skills that I work to develop as a TPRS® teacher help me to work with teachers of all disciplines.
True TPRS® instruction is about knowing what is going on below the surface, not just planning what activities are occurring on the surface.
Good TPRS® training is ongoing. No one incorporates TPRS® well after a two hour presentation, just as no one becomes a good teacher after one Intro to Education course. Each teacher using TPRS® will come to the concept, acquire the knowledge, and work on the skills in his or her own way and time.
TPRS® teaching is about being part of the educational community. TPRS® was originally developed by classroom teachers and shared by classroom teachers. It continues to evolve through the contributions of classroom teachers. TPRS® belong to coaching groups, listservs, Facebook groups, Twitter, wikispaces and more. They write numerous blogs, host websites and continually invite teachers into their classrooms to observe and to give feedback.
Every teacher using TPRS® has his/her own challenges. In an ELL/ESL classroom there is often not one native language to rely on for comprehension checks so additional teacher skills are required. Languages that do not use the same alphabet as English have different approaches to incorporating literacy in order to address that challenge. Some languages rely heavily on cognates in early instruction, while others, such as Chinese, cannot. The more that we communicate with each other, the more we help each other address our challenges.
Despite the variety of challenges, certain things remain constant:
1. Clearly comprehensible language in context
2. Scaffolded student interaction
3. Oral/aural confidence tied to literacy-based activities
4. Positive classroom relationships
5. Continued growth and development for teacher and students
Thank you for asking for input. We believe strongly in what we do. We see it change the lives of teachers and students every single day.
I reacted on the post you mentioned at the beginning of your article. I’m from the Netherlands and I introduced TPRS over there in 2007. I organized several TPRS workshops for Blaine Ray and one for Susan Gross in our country. Together with Iris Maas and Kirstin Plante we started a non-profit foundation over here (mentioned: TPRS Platform) to make TPRS more known to our colleagues in the Netherlands (and also Belgium) and to have a place where teachers who work with TPRS can meet. (http://www.tprsplatform.nl/over-tprs/)
I’m a french teacher and I use TPRS in my french lessons. Because I’m so enthousiastic about how well it works and how great it is to work with TPRS I’m also a teacher trainer and I’m training WL- teachers as well as teachers who teach Dutch as a second language. I have a blog “Alike in TPRS wonderland” , mostly in Dutch, but I wrote a.o. about the NTPRS 14 conference and the IFLT14 conference in English. https://alikestprsblog.wordpress.com/
As Chris mentioned above, I’m also using Movie Talk. This is great when combined with TPRS/CI methods!
I would be glad to share my experiences using TPRS in my Spanish classes. I explored the option at my school several years ago, followed by an official pilot supported by the Superintendent, and eventually a few students accompanied me to the School Board meeting to explain the method and the benefits to the School Board members. Today, all of our World Language department teaches employ this method in class.
The benefits are:
1. The students acquire the language and their communication skills are far beyond what I used to see when I did not use the method, such as beginning students creating their own narration for a story or the advanced students using the subjunctive in their casual conversations about the topic on hand.
2. The numbers in the language classes continue to increase to which I credit TPRS because students see their growth in the language.
3. The growing variety of techniques to implement TPRS such as MovieTalk, creating a story from one photo, “circling with balls”, or using 3 objects in a bag to create a story.
4. The supportive community of TPRS/TCI teachers. I continue to be amazed by the willingness of the teachers in this community to share their ideas, materials and resources through blogs and workshops. There is a group of Ohio teachers that offer monthly workshops, free of charge, to educate, support, and train teachers about the methods. There are also clusters of teachers in different areas throughout the United States in which they plan monthly meetings to share classroom activities and teach about the method, such as the Tri-State TCI group near Philadelphia, PA.
I have been blogging about my journey in TPRS at Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input
Thank you for this opportunity for teachers using TPRS to share their experiences on your blog.
Last year I was hired to teach Spanish at the first private, college bound high school for students with learning differences in Chicago BECAUSE I teach using TPRS. My students have been told they could not learn another language. TPRS is magical for everyone because the teaching aligns with everything we know about how the brain learns. Movement, repetition, social engagement, visuals, just to mention a few. For their final exam they will create a story using the vocabulary we have learned (many of the most frequently used Spanish words), create a visual to support their story and tell it to the class. They are speaking Spanish which is what most people want to do with another language!
I was first introduced to TPRS back in 2003 and started using TPRS materials in 2004. I had been trying to make learning Spanish fun and understandable for my students but it wasn’t until a few summers ago when I attended the National TPRS conference that I made a huge shift. Ten semesters and over 600 students later, TPRS allowed me to change the way I interact with my students (for the better).
The results of student learning that first year were remarkable. Students understood so much language and were able to show it in a variety of ways. Students are now able to access what they have learned (grammar/vocabulary) based on hours and hours of understanding class discussions in the TL. TPRS represents the process for acquiring language in an immersion-like classroom. This is much different than learning a language through drill and study. It is challenging to fully understand this shift in pedagogy unless one learns a language this way. I have attended several workshops and trainings and I recommend interested language teachers to do the same.
The great thing about adopting this form of instruction is that ever teacher will express TPRS in their own way. As mentioned in other posts here, there are steps and procedures but also flexibility. Since the demographics and motivations of our students are so diverse so can be the ways teachers use TPRS.
Another thing to mention is the ever evolving pursuit of following the results of learning that TPRS allows. Originally adopted from Asher’s TPR (Total Physical Response) TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) is somewhat different than it was just 5 years ago even. This is important to me as a teacher because my students of the “selfie nation” generation are different today than they were when I started teaching. Students will continue to change and as they do, so does this type of instruction. Thanks to TPRS/TCI, I too will evolve with the needs of my students.
Thanks for starting this conversation on your blog!
I migrated to comprehensible input strategies (including TPRS) after 20+ years of teaching grades 1-4 Spanish.
To my mind the greatest benefit so far has been broader student engagement. Gone are the days that I rely upon my most verbal students to negotiate meaning or translate for the rest of the class. An assumption of Krashen’s theory is that all students can learn another language, evidenced by the fact that they did indeed pick up their native language. Our job is to optimize the conditions for it:
Compelling, comprehensible and contextualized input, with purposeful and adequate repetition of the highest frequency vocabulary – or what I call the connective tissue of the language. Our challenge is to make the banter repetitive without feeling repetitious, to keep the conversation fresh through many great and pedagogically sound strategies, and to reinforce this language with reading.
My favorite aspects of the story-asking platform are personalization and teacher/student collaboration. In order for students to internalize and acquire new vocabulary, the teacher may ask a series of personal questions using the targeted structures, collecting information about each student along the way. A pleasant, friendly community is built while the teacher seeks story details from students, layers them into the story, thereby constructing a group creation in which all are invested. I feel I get to know my students better (and they get to know me as I also weigh in on the questioning!) and our stories are filled with meaningful and authentic information which differs from group to group!
I use TPRS one period a day and I’ve used it off and on since 2009. There are special work-around for ESL, particularly for diverse L1s. I notice the comments above are each by foreign language teachers who do not understand the hinderences ESL teachers face. It’s an uphill battle to get Newcomers into their own class. The only students and who can benefit from this method are beginning ELLs who do not read or speak BICS fluently. After a year or two, the majority of ELLs can not use TPRS; gradually FVR becomes the focus instead of shared stories. If you are like many ESL teachers, making time to learn this method and then setting aside one period a day dedicated only to Newcomers is very hard. It takes a well-developed curriculum and lots of work to convince administrators. But when it works, it works beautifully.