Getting Started

Starting with TCI pedagogy in the Languages classroom is extremely challenging. It can start off well with everything progressing smoothly and then suddenly it falters. It is a tough transition and it takes a bucket load of resilience to continue on the TCI track. If you are one of the many just beginning your journey, it is important to know that an up and down track is completely normal. Everyone has experienced it. PLease don’t give up – the TCI community is like a huge family and there are many places you can go for  help when you hit a rough patch. 

On the moretprs listserve, there was a thread recently called ‘Then What?’ Here are two contributions which hopefully will help you continue past your next roadblock:

New teachers are still concentrating on keeping the many ping-pong balls of TPRS or TCI in the air. Going slow, three-fers, shadow items, checking comprehension, adding a detail, managing behavior, leaving time for assessment, teaching to the eyes…They do not need to have to think about what to teach next; they are still working on how to teach next. This is why I recommend learning classic TPRS and learning it well before “branching out” to other forms of TCI, and why I recommend that new teachers use an existing TPRS textbook if one is available. It is enough to have to worry about maintaining 100% comprehensibility while also managing a roomful of students and dealing with teaching in today’s public schools. Just my opinion, though. 

Terry Waltz

For me, the biggest hurdle to overcome was how to sustain it and how to connect everything that we learned in the series of class stories, and I have often heard the same sentiment echoed by other newbies. Helping teachers to find and work with high frequency word lists is a good starting point; so is connecting them with existing curriculum for those languages for which it exists. A lot of us started out doing random stories and then invested in a curriculum to help guide us before eventually abandoning it as we found our own style and became comfortable working with our own students to create content. As Terry said, just learning and practicing the basic skills is enough to fill a teacher’s plate; so trying to figure out what to do and when and for how long can be REALLY overwhelming and can distract from the road to mastery of those skills. Eventually they too might toss aside the curriculum, and that’s great. It’s important to tell them that they aren’t going to become Master TPRS teachers overnight. I’ve often heard the time period ‘3 years’ tossed around as the amount of time it takes for you to really feel like you’ve got your feet under you (if not longer!). Don’t be too hard on yourself! And expect to feel frustrated and like a failure at times. And when you do, reach out to your PLN to get back on your feet 🙂

Martina E. Bex

World Languages Curriculum Consultant

The Comprehensible Classroom

As Martina stated, your PLN (in my case, my hub group), should be the first place to turn to. For me, my  hub group have been wonderful. When I hit road blocks, Annie & Sharon gave me ideas and encouragement which enabled me to see where to go next. If you don’t have a TCI PLN/Hub Group, then I recommend joining an online PLN. The moretprs listserve is a great place to start but beware, you will be inundated with emails. The trick is to be very selective and delete anything that is not relevant. I  have picked up many ideas through this listserve, even if it seems I am the only Indonesian teacher out of the 7000 members! Most times, if you have a question/comment, long time members are very happy to  help you get started. Another point to be aware of is that almost all members are based in the States, so their needs are 6 months ahead or behind us here in Australia. At the moment they are all focused on starting a new school year and all that entails. 

Another excellent online option, particularly for high school teachers, is Ben Slavic’s website for a small monthly fee. Again based in the States (& now India) and thus can be very quiet over their summer holidays or when their school  year is about to start or finish.

If these options don’t appeal to you, feel free to contact me here on my blog. I am more than happy to help you with aspects of TCI if I can, and if beyond me, I will seek guidance from other experienced TCI practicioners on your behalf.

The most important thing to remember on your TCI journey is that it will be very challenging and it is not a methodolgy that comes easily to us all. Yet, it is such a powerful way to teach languages that it is well worth the rocky, bumpy road. 

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