Wow TPRS Sounds Awesome But Where do I Start? 

Over the past 2 years that I’ve been using TPRS in my Indonesian classroom, I’ve used many different stories, most of which have been suggested by Catharina, our wonderful mentor. We are so fortunate to have been introduced to such a highly experienced Early Years TPRS mentor who has a wealth of story recommendations focusing on any given target structure! Any story recommended by Catharina is a guaranteed ‘home run’!

After all the workshops or the conference I attended or presented at, the inevitable question from interested participants was always; “Where do we start?” This was where Catharina was initially extremely helpful for us when we first began TPRS. Each time we reached a road block and became puzzled about our future direction, she would gently and positively guide and nudge us back on track with constructive feedback, sharing ideas and activities from her own classroom practise.

This post hopefully will give you an idea of where to start if you are at the beginning of your TPRS journey. I teach students from Reception (Prep/Transition) to year 7 and as most TPRS stories are written for middle years students, the cohort we initially had the greatest difficulty adapting TPRS to were the junior primary students, hence my focus in this post. However, don’t change the channel just yet, because first time learners are largely the same regardless of their age. The major difference, I’m sure you will all agree,  is their attention span! Everything else remains identical. 

My stories are in Indonesian (what a surpise) however they can easily be translated (back) into other languages using google translate. We received them in a variety of languages before translating them into Indonesian incorporating high frequency vocabulary where possible and eliminating any language we felt our students were not ready for or that did not work in Indonesian. Also, if the story is too simplified for your cohort, add detail and language to ensure it is more suitable yet remember to always keep it comprehensible with no more than 1 – 3 (unfamiliar) target structures. NO MORE THAN 3!

The first ever story we started with is Catharina’s adaptation of Jim Tripp’s, “Nice to Meet You.” This story is without doubt, in my humble opinion, the best place to begin a CI journey for either students for whom this is their first ever contact with the language you are teaching OR for a teacher who lacks confidence in his/her CI skills &/or language skills & is about to begin their first ever CI unit of work.

The original story:

Target structures: 

-meets

-My name is ______ 

-gets really nervous 

-nice to meet you 

Lindsey meets Channing Tatum. Lindsey says to him, “Hi, my name is Lindsey.” Channing Tatum says nervously, “Nice to meet you.” He gets more nervous and says, “My name is Luke Skywalker.” Lindsey says to him, “Nice to meet you Luke.”

The simplified adapted version:

Target Structures;

  • berkata,
  • nama saya,
  • siapa nama?

Other: di, dari, astaga (point & pause only)

Taylor Swift di MacDonald’s.

Bu Cathy di MacDonald’s

Tayor Swift berkata, “Nama saya Taylor Swift. Siapa nama?”

Bu Cathy berkata, “Nama saya Bu Cathy.”

Taylor Swift berkata,”Bu Cathy? Bu Cathy dari PEPS?”

Astaga!

Autograf!!

(Taylor Swift faints)

Suggested sightly more difficult version:

Kemarin, Taylor Swift di Macdonald’s.

Kemarin, Bu Cathy di Macdonald’s juga.

Tayor Swift berkata, “Nama saya Taylor Swift. Siapa nama?”

Bu Cathy berkata, “Nama saya Bu Cathy.”

Taylor Swift berkata,”Bu Cathy? Bu Cathy dari PEPS?”

Astaga!

Autograf!!

(Taylor Swift faints)

As you can see the original version is not suitable for young learners because there are significantly more than 3 target structures for students to acquire. I also like the way Catharina has tweaked it to make it more appealing. Adding a faint at the end is ingenious! I have story asked this story with staff too at a staff meeting! It is such an awesome story for beginner learners and appeals to all ages with its simple language and unexpected ending!

Once you have chosen your new story and identified the target structures, you are ready to start. At the conference, Terry began by story asking mini stories based on each of the target structures, focusing on one at a time. I personally prefer a technique I read about on Ben Slavic’s website called Visual Personalised Questions and Answers (VPQA).  This has been very engaging for my students and is also helpful for teachers new to circling and story asking because VPQA provides teachers with our own personal brain break!! It relieves some of the stress by giving a tiny breather in which we can regroup and get the TPRS juggling balls back in the air again. 

If the target structure is ‘berkata,’ I start by  creating a powerpoint. I begin with a google image search for quirky images that will appeal to my students and give me opportunities to ask my students personalised questions and answers. This upcoming week, my reception students will be revising Nama saya (my name is) & Siapa nama? (what’s your name?) while introducing ‘berkata’ (said/say/says). Using Ibu Sharon’s awesome idea, I have found pictures of characters familiar to my young students (Elsa, Pikachu, Donkey, Bob the Builder – to name a few) all of whom have a phrase that they are known for saying. E.g. Elsa berkata, “Let it go.” On each page is a picture of the character with his/her/its given phrase. This allows me to ask, “Siapa nama?” and then circle the name (Nama saya Elsa? Nama saya Bob the builder atau/or Nama saya Elsa?) I can then circle the target structure; “Dory berkata, ‘Keep on swimming” atau Elsa berkata, “Keep on swimming”? Because each picture is different, VPQA keeps them on the edge of their seat wondering what the next picture will be! While PQA & VPQA is technically personalised questions about the students, at this early stage, to keep the language in bounds it may be necessary to restrict the circling just for now to just ask about the characters on the screen. I would definitely not recommend using any new question words this early in their learning! The language used must, must, must be in bounds. To ask, “Pak Taylor berkata apa?” will immediately raise their affective filter and could potentially derail that lovely calm, comprehensible atmosphere you have created. If Pak Taylor does have a phrase that he is well known for, then ask, Pak Taylor berkata, “Let it go?” atau Pak Taylor berkata, “Howzat?” Ya, Pak Taylor berkata, “Howzat!” (Does Mr Taylor says, “Let it go” or does Mr Taylor say, “Howzat?”) Stick to the language they know!! It is too early (especially for very young learners) to toss them new and unfamiliar vocabulary. 

Once I feel that students have  largely acquired the target structures, I move to story asking. I don’t worry too much if there are students who have not fully acquired the target structures yet for several reasons. Firstly we will hit them (oops – the target structures!) repeatedly during the story asking process and secondly most target structures will be repeated over and over in future stories. This would have to be the single best factor of TPRS and is why it triumphs over the way I used to teach. The structures we target now are specifically chosen for communication in a classroom context (and hopefully useful on their next family holiday to Bali) and thus will be used often unlike previously where from term to term, my thematic vocabulary was rarely revisited.
The above stories are the skeleton and all the words underlined are the words you can ask for student input depending on their age. Usually I ask for an ‘aktor’  and then ask the class, “Laki laki atau perempuan?” before asking, “Siapa nama?” However for my young (brand new to school)  reception students, I have planned to tell their first ever  story to them using cut out pictures with magnets on the back moving them around on my mobile white board. Then, once they are more familiar with me and my teaching style, I will ask for their input — usually they’ll be ready by the next story!

When planning for young students, the best advice I ever received was to plan activities so that the students move up, down, up, down throughout the lesson. The younger they are, the more frequently the teacher changes the activity. Thus, once the story has been asked (a ‘down’ activity), it is time for the students to stand up and do an ‘up’ activity. This can either be a brain break, TPR or could be an activity based on the story. My favourite activity post story asking is called ‘all the worlds a stage”. Students get into pairs and duduk (sit). I then explain (in English for now but soon will be in Indonesian) that one of them is Pak Hudson (our school principal) and one of them is Superman (the 2 characters in our story). I will then say, “Superman berdiri. Superman duduk. Pak Hudson berdiri. Pak Hudson duduk.” This incorporates TPR and also ensures that each pair has agreed on who is each character. At this point there will inevitably be a pair who both want to be the same character. At this point I promise the whole class that we will be doing this activity twice and the second time they will be changing characters. I then allocate characters to the pair who need help, reassuring the one who compromised, their turn is coming next! Depending on their level of compliance with my decision, I distract them totally by choosing them to be my demo pair which is usually a highly successful tactic! I then say the first  line from the story and ask them to act it out, giving them pandai points for great acting, for only acting out what I said and for not going ahead or adding in their own details. All very important information that needs to be clarified right from the beginning. If my demo pair demonstrated that they understood the task, I invite all the Superman’s and Pak Hudson’s to berdiri and then we begin again right from the beginning. It will probably be chaotic the first time we do this activity, but it is well worth persevering because later in the year with practise it becomes smoother and is such an excellent ‘up’ activity while getting in heaps of repetitions of the story and with comprehension checks!

One final note: If you absolutely need to say a word students have yet to acquire, say it in English for this first story. This is how I tackle the ‘other’ word list. I need these words for the story but they are not target structures. The first time I story ask, I say the ‘other’ words in English. Then slowly introduce them in Indonesian, quickly followed by a comprehension check. If the comprehension check is met with blank confused looks, I know immediately they are not ready for it yet – the students need more repetitions of the story – and I’ll try again later. 

This is the very first TPRS story I started with and initially taught it to all year levels. It worked with all my classes. Now, though, I just use it with my reception classes. I still remain totally convinced that it is the best story to start with, regardless of the age of the students.

Do you have a favourite story you begin with? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to write it below in the comments!

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Coaching Students ala Alina Filipescu

It’s a fact! I love watching Alina Filipescu’s TCI  YouTube videos. When I discover a new one, I watch it repeatedly, picking up new ideas each time. She is a true master in my eyes. I am in awe of her TCI skills and the rapport she has with her students. 

This is my latest favourite video as it clears up the mystery for me of how she coaches her students to respond to her various cues. I’ve always wondered how she did that. 

Enjoy….

Kursi Luar Biasa – Jawaban Benar atau Kreatif? (True or Creative Answers?)

Usually in Kursi Luar Biasa, (literally – the amazing chair [special student interviews]), I ask students personal questions about themselves (age, likes, pets etc) followed by a quiz. The quiz is a benar/salah style quiz. I began at first by asking students to stand if the statement I said about the ‘amazing student’ was true or sit if it was false, however I soon discovered that this became a sheep following exercise; if one stood/ sat then the majority followed suit without any thought. So the quiz became, stand if it is true for you and sit if it is false for you – as this requires greater focused listening & personal accountability. So if I say, ‘Susan tinggal di Victor Harbor’ (repeating one fact that Susan had told us about herself), the students who also live in Victor, stand. If I say, ‘Susan tidak tinggal di Mount Compass’, then all the students who don’t live in Mount Compass would stand, while those who do, sit!

As Kursi Luar Biasa (KLB) is largely a short one on one conversation with just the occasional questions addressing or about other students (to ensure comprehensibility and/or to encourage listening), engagement levels from the older students have decreased noticeably this semester. I have racked my brain for ways to ramp it up. I scoured Bryce Hedstrom’s Persona Especial posts for suggestions appropriate for this age level as well as being suitable for Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language) and tried those that had potential (see past posts) but there were still students using this session as a zone out time. As they are generally quiet, I’ve accepted it because it has allowed me to focus on the ‘awesome’ person and to keep the spotlight right on the student who chose to sit in the chair! I also justify it to myself with the thought that while they are not listening with the intent to understand, they are still being exposed to Indonesian.

Yesterday, a year 7 boy, J, changed all that! He had us all following closely his hilarious answers and the entire class was 100% engaged and following the discussion closely! After The interview  had finished (stopped by the recess bell), I asked the class for a rating out of 5 (using their fingers) and 98%  rated it 5/5 while 2-3 rated it 4/5. I got exactly the same score for overall comprehension of the entire conversation!  J began by telling us where he lived and about the people in his family (great opportunity to revise one of the new target structures from the story that lesson) and then when I asked him about the sport he plays, we learned that he plays centre forward for Goolwa Hockey Club and is the leading goal scorer (dua juta gol!). A student who actually does play for Goolwa, was shaking her head and making it clear with body language that J does NOT play hockey for Goolwa!!  He started wildly embellishing (when asked what team he plays in, he stated the under 18’s – a grade that doesn’t exist in our local association), he had everyone’s attention.  We also learned that he plays in the AFL for Port Power and after pulang sekolah (another target structure from the earlier story – go home from school), he eats and then goes to Adelaide to train! He also claimed that he was a talented surfer, almost as good as Mal (a fellow student who is an extremely talented surfer and has participated at the national level). This last claim had his friends rolling on the floor with laughter!! He also made ridiculous claims about playing in the NBL! It was the most enjoyable KLB interview I’ve had in a long time and one I encouraged the students in that class try again!

Previously, I have discouraged students from stating fictitious information about themselves because I’ve always considered this part of the lesson as an awesome way for me to get to know my students better. However, my brain is generally on overload and I am finding, I’m embarrassed to admit, that unless a student tells me something really unusual or moving, my back to back lessons all merge into a vague hodgepopdge and I forget who said what. Yet I still see a value in beginning this way, especially with the middle primary year levels. It is a safe way in which to support students with repetitions of the vocabulary and language structures needed to answer personal questions or to talk about themselves to others. It provides them with a solid foundation upon which, when they are older, they can start being creative and quirky!!

I am so looking forward to next week when I can encourage the other year 67 classes to be wild and wacky.

Bop! From TPRS Teacher (Keith Toda)

The students and I had fun this week trying a new game called Word Bop and a link to it can be found in the TPRS/TCI activities link in the header of this blog. 

I did play it slightly differently and in hindsight this variation was a good way to familiarise them with the game before we play the version as is found on Keith’s blog. I picked about 20 words from our upcoming story (Troy talks too much/ Troy bercakap-cakap terus) and put them into a wordle. We began by playing Martina Bex’s word race stories – a favourite with my students. 

I next asked them to choose one word from the wordle and write it on a folded A5 piece of paper. This probably isn’t that important a step yet it did give the students a visual prompt during the game when their minds went blank! As there were only 20 words and in most classes there are 30 students, there was naturally some doubles but as this was purely a task to get as many reps, it didn’t matter. When the students were ready to start, they had to put everything away except for their piece of paper and then arrange themselves into a circle.  I then asked them to practise saying their word very quickly, then asked them to say it quickly followed by the English translation. I next asked them to say both words faster followed by the name of a student sitting on the opposite side of the circle. By this time they were ready to start the game. Here is where the fun began. I asked one student to put their paper on their chair/pillowpet, take hold of the large stuffed gajah (elephant) and stand in the centre of the circle. I began the game by saying a students name. The student named had to say their 3 words very fast before the middle student holding gajah located them & threw gajah at them. If they achieved the task of saying their 3 words before being bopped by gajah, the student whose name had been said had to say their 3 words too before the gajah landed on them. So it went something like this:

Sam: berkata, said, Tom

Tom: astaga,OMG, Lilly

Lilly: pergi, went, Bobby

Meanwhile the gajah is flying around the room trying to catch up with the speakers. When it eventually does, the thrower sits back in their chair/pillowpet and the person to their immediate right (or left!) stands and takes their place. This last idea came from one of my students who noticed that the fast speakers didn’t get a go throwing the gajah otherwise! No one is allowed to touch the gajah except the thrower, which added a nice twist when it was accidently thrown outside the circle giving the next participant welcome thinking time. A few students (years 6/7) asked about being allowed to dodge the gajah which allowed a new level of hilarity as they toyed with the thrower only to move out of the way at the last moment! 

Week one back at school was uncharacteristically exhausting with unusually restless and chatty students. This game required them to listen closely as well as the opportunity for lively and entertaining movement.  It saved my sanity! Who knows what next week has in store for us all with both swimming for years R – 4 and NAPLAN! Yikes! 

Paper Airplane Reading

The following screen shot comes from a video which was shared a couple of weeks ago on the Ohio TCI Facebook page and seems not available anywhere else! 

image
As soon as I watched it, I was determined to give it a go. I love trying new TCI activities!

The first time I tried it (week 5), it became quickly apparent that I had not prepared my students well enough by providing them with sufficient reading opportunities because for this activity to succeed, students must know the story very well. So, to achieve this, students did a listen and draw and played strip bingo which provided students opportunities to hear the story repeatedly.

Then this week we attempted paper plane reading once again and it was a hoot. Giving the instructions was largely done in English, which was frustrating, however one class did not give me permission to speak in English, and we didn’t do too badly, even though with the final instructions and clarifications, we did use English!

The two best things about paper airplane reading, is that movement is interspersed with reading and that students are asked to make paper planes; something which has never been encouraged in my lessons befre!!

Here are the instructions that I used in my year 3 – 7 lessons:

Hand out a sheet of paper to each student with the class story printed on one side, as well as a clipboard & a lead pencil.

1. We first chorale translated the story together. My instructions to students were: Bu Cathy membaca pakai Bahasa Indonesia dan murid murid membaca pakai Bahasa Indonesia.  Murid murid ekho Bu Cathy. (Ekho – one of the new words I learned this week from our visitors Yoedha, Dian & Zvana!!) I then read the sentences one by one and asked the students to choral read once I paused. If we came to a word I knew would be tricky or if students were skipping a word then I broke that sentence up into a phrase.

2. I then asked the students to read the story and choose one sentence from the story that they could translate easily but not to mark in any way the location of that sentence on the sheet of paper. They then had to turn the sheet over and at the top, write in ENGLISH the translation for that sentence. I then gave an example using the first sentence in their story. I chose the first sentence (Ada perempuan dan nama perempuan Harry Potter) because students are often muddling up the word ‘ada’ (there is) with ‘apa’ (what?) and we translated it together. I then gave everyone time to choose a sentence and write its translation on the blank side of the sheet of paper.

3. While students were finishing step 2, I explained, “Kalau sudah, clip board dan pensil dibawah kursi” (clipboards & pencil under you chair) and then asked them to make a paper airplane from their sheet. It was surprising both the variation of paper airplane designs we got and that there were a few in every class who did not know how to make a paper airplane. It worked well to encourage those who knew how to make a paper airplane to help those who didn’t by demonstrating the steps with their own paper so that their friend could do the same with theirs. This way, we all finished about the same time.image

4. “Murid murid, berdiri kalau sudah punya airplane.” (Stand if you have a plane) I decided not to teach the word for plane as it is not a cognate and these days, the word plane would be largely understood in Indonesia anyway. While we waited for everyone to finish up and stand, I explained the next step in English to ensure that students understood completely and every lesson, there were a few who did not. I drew their attention to the loud speaker outlet in the ceiling which is in the very centre of the classroom ceiling. I explained that I would count to tiga and on tiga, students would launch their planes at the speaker and that we needed to do it together for safety. I pointed out that only those wearing glasses had eye protection (which chuffed those students!) so we needed to ensure we aimed upwards. Then, students had to find an airplane that was not their own. They had to buka kertas (open the page) and read the English sentence on the back before turning over the sheet and locating the Indonesian translation in the story. They then had to translate into English the very next sentence of the story before recreating the plane and launching again. image Continue reading

Kursi Luar Biasa Update…

A few posts ago, I shared with you my adaptation of Bryce Hedstroms special person idea. Here is an update on how this has been going so far this term:

The kursi luar biasa (special chair) is definitely the most popular chair in my room! Students make a bee line to it when they arrive. They sit their expectantly, waiting for the spot light to shine on them and the 2 times I got carried away with other things and didn’t get around to interviewing them, they were soooo disappointed! However their frowns turned upside down when I promised them in front of the class that they would have first choice of sitting in the kursi next lesson!  

This week my questions finally began to gell and my peseverence is beginning to pay off. While the students in the kursi luar biasa love the attention, it remains tricky trying to keep the others engaged. Occasionally we get a student who has quirky answers to which we all listen avidly and intently but this doesn’t happen often mainly because I am still learning how to ask the right questions in the way that facilitates this! Then this week, I discovered that asking students to raise their arm instead of stand up keeps the discussion moving a lot smoother. Some students enjoy zoning out and regard it as passive defiance when I ask a question like, berdiri kalau tinggal di Port Elliot (stand if you live in PE) and then remain seated enjoying the quizzical looks of classmates. However asking questions like; angkat tangan kalau tinggal di Port Elliot, angkat tangan kalau tinggal di Goolwa etc (raaise your hand if you live in PE), has increased student focus while getting in multiple repetitions on key structures and has more students responding. Is this because I am trying something different or is it because it requires less effort from the students? For me too, it just flows so much better.  Try it!! 

Another positive has come with the introduction of the word ‘tahun’. This week I decided to have a subtle focus on the word tahun during kursi luar biasa when asking the student how old they were. I put it up on the board, and after asking the question, berapa umur? (How old are you) I repeated what the student said adding the word tahun. Using ‘tahun’ wasn’t a requirement for the student, I just wanted to put the word out there in case it came up in future coversations with Indonesian  (native speaker) visitors. Then I had a brain wave! With the word tahun, I could ask students a follow up question to tinggal dimana? (Where do you live?) with “Sudah berapa tahun tinggal di _______?” (How many years have you lived in ____)  With the older students, these questions that are a bit more challenging really keep them all focused. You  can almost hear the cogs turning in their heads and the satisfaction that comes with comprehension. 

I just love the way that kursi luar biasa covers so much of the Australian Curriulum requirements regarding student interests, family, pets, hobbies, etc.  It is such a great way to cover those topics in a personlised and meaningful way for students and also in a way that is narrow and deep! When I think of all the years I used to teach “kenalkan” (let me introduce myself) as my term 1 theme and then feel disheartened with how little my students retained from year to year,  it confirms for me the benefits made from making the switch to TPRS in my classroom.  

PQA, My Way; By Alina Filepescu

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Here is an amazing post and video by Alina Filipescu. While the post is specifically talking about how she does PQA in her classrooms, there is actually sooo much more in it that we Indonesian teachers here in the southern hemisphere can learn about. Not only has she included an amazing video of herself brilliantly and seamlessly PQA-ing with a primary aged class but she has also included an explanation of what she does to cue her students when she wants them to respond. It is a truly amazing video and post and I highly recommend that you read/watch it to appreciate where we are all heading with our TPRS skills!! I look forward to the day when  my students participate to that extent and are so engaged in my lessons!