Tea With BVP with Blaine Ray

Yesterday, I headed into Adelaide for the first time in months and as usual for my hour long drive, I listened to a BVP podcast

However instead of listening to episode 53, I skipped ahead to episode 57; featuring Blaine Ray.  I have been looking forward to hearing this episode ever since I heard that he had been a special guest on Tea With BVP!

It was fantastic listening to Blaine Ray again and what he had to say totally resonated with me and helped to consolidate my understandings of TPRS! My only grumble is that Bill told Blaine Ray that he hasn’t spoken to anyone from Australia yet!! How could he possibly have forgotten my call in January when we spoke about Terry Waltz presenting at the inaugural Australian TPRS conference?😜

I loved listening to this episode so much, that I listened to it again later at home so I could take notes to consolidate what I learned and to share with you all. However my notes have run to several pages, so instead I will just pull out the major points that I believe are particularly worthwhile and encourage you to listen to the full podcast yourself to fill in the gaps!!

After talking generally about the steps leading to Blaine’s discovery of Stephen Krashen’s book, The Natural Approach and the light bulb moment Blaine had reading the sentence,

Language is acquired by comprehensible input.’,

Bill made a profound statement;

Teachers not using TCI are teaching language teachers out of existence.

Isn’t that a powerful statement? It truly resonates with me because evidence shows that this is exactly what’s happening. My students move firstly to a local high school where the numbers of students choosing to continue with Indonesian are not many.  They then may choose to enrol at one of our state universities where again students are generally not choosing to continue with languages beyond semesters 1 & 2. This information was provided by an Adelaide University French lecturer, John Sooby-West, at a recent training and development meeting earlier this year specifically for language teachers. He spoke frankly about the heavy load that his beginning French language students have which has lead to significant student drop out rates. Their language work load (one that at times is equivalent to the combined work load of all their other subjects) are so onerous and unappealing that drop out rates have led to language program cut backs and in some Australian universities, whole courses have been abolished. So sad to think that all this could easily be addressed through CI. I look forward to the day when Australian language students discover how language learning can be fun, engaging and considerably less onerous.

SLA Question: This weeks SLA question was about intake which according to Corder (1967)  is the amount of input/communication that learners attach form and meaning to. It’s important to realise that while CI and TPRS maximise intake, it is not always 100% comprehensible. Student intake increases with repetition and by minimising noise (going out of bounds). Bill added that you can’t throw input at learners and hope it sticks. Teachers must manage learning time to ensure that learners gain the maximum amount of intake.

A further point of Blaine’s is timely for me, even though I’ve heard it several times; “The goal of TPRS is not to finish anything!” Blaine clarifies that the biggest enemy for teachers is teacher type thinking. Teachers have been trained to cover the curriculum – to finish chapter 10 by the end of term 2. This encourages a focus on ticking curriculum checklists off rather than truly catering for student needs. We must think more like our learners who are saying to us, “I can’t get enough repetitions & I can’t hear that sentence too many times.” I personally am sooo guilty of this. I will write this into each of my lesson plans in big bold lettering!! It’s sad how finishing a story becomes the goal of a lesson rather than teaching to the eyes and checking in with the barometer student to measure if they have ‘soooo got it’. As Blaine rightly reminds me here; the goal of a lesson is not to finish a chapter, a book or a story. Our goal is teach a sentence by focusing on that sentence by circling and adding characters to give students maximum opportunity to experience the feeling that ‘I am sooo getting this’ which is much better than just, ‘I am getting this.’

When Bill asked Blaine about the relationship between CI and TPRS, I was keen to hear the answer. Blaine believes that the main difference is that TPRS teachers focus on one sentence so that students feel that ‘I’m soooo getting it’ unlike CI teachers who go from sentence to sentence with minimal repetition. TPRS is one of the ways teachers can provide their students with CI.  CI is successful for some students and its highly likely that for those students, they will be successful regardless of the method! TPRS, however, is successful for everybody because of the emphasis on the sentence. The teacher doesn’t have to worry about individual differences because the net is cast so wide and so broad that every learner type, visual, auditory, kinetic, etc is successful. TPRS really is one of the most broad based and student based approaches. Everybody is getting it and everyone is engaged!

Bill rightly then makes an important point regarding watching very experienced presenters demonstrating techniques & skills that appear easy. This happened to me after the January Fleurieu conference where we were incredibly fortunate to watch Terry Waltz demonstrating circling! While she spoke to us later about the dialogue going through her head during the demos, all we saw at the time was a flawless and effortless demonstration of circling which to this day, I have yet to replicate. We have to accept that we aren’t like Terry YET! (Acknowledgment – Carol Dwek)

Tea With BVP finished with Blaine asking Bill 2?great questions. The first was about timed writes which from a teachers perspective are invaluable because they provide teachers with an insight into student proficiency through a simple word count.

Did you know that by the end of:

-Spanish 1, students can do about 70-80 words in 10 minutes.

-Spanish 2 – students can do about 100 words in 10 minutes.

Bill then clarified that timed writes don’t violate the input hypothesis because the teacher is not using the timed writes to teach language; they are an assessment tool useful to demonstrate improving levels of language fluency to leaders, parents and students themselves.

The second question Blaine asked Bill was regarding ”forcing output” in reply to the recent criticism of Blaine & other TPRS teachers encouraging actors to answer teacher circling questions in complete sentences. According to Krashen’s theory, second language students should not be forced to produce language until they are ready to do so. Blaine ask Bill to clarify how asking student actors to speak during role playing (e.g. asking, “Are you a boy/ Am I a boy?”) fits in with Krashen’s hypothesis.  Blaine explained that he expects full sentence responses from his actors for 2 compelling reasons. Firstly, to provide fellow students with ‘I/you’ input and secondly to assist teachers recognise when more repetition/input is necessary should actor responses be hesitant thus easily matching the required quality and quantity of input students receive with what is required.

Bill’s answer to this question clarified that this practise is not ‘forced output’ as defined by Krashen. Firstly, it’s the difference between talking at students and talking with students. TPRS exemplifies teaching with students. Secondly, because the teacher is not forcing the student to create language; they are merely reproducing a heavily scaffolded sentence that is visually available to them either on a sheet of paper or on the board, it is not forced output. The important distinction to make is that asking actors to speak in complete sentences is not making students talk to learn, but rather students are talking to show teachers what they’ve learned. It is an assessment tool that informs their teacher about whether to move on or to work further on that sentence.

One final point I enjoyed and would like to add from this episode was:

Irony = novice TPRS teachers need TPRS input to comprehend TPRS! 

A picture is worth a thousand words. Feeling the method as a student is the key.

Hosting The State Education Minister – The Honorable Susan Close – in The Indonesian Classroom

What an experience it was teaching with the state education minister, her entourage, both our PEPS school leaders and several SRC representatives in my classroom!

Before the arrival of Susan Close (SA’s education minister), to the Indonesian room, I pre-warned my 5/6 class that during their Indonesian lesson, the education minister would be visiting to observe them learning Indonesian via TPRS/CI. With Marg’s (their teacher) help, we provided the ketua kelas & the tukang foto time to practice their jobs. The ketua kelas needed to ensure that he addressed the minister correctly incorporating an Indonesian twist: “Murid- murid berdiri dan kasih hormat kepada The Honorable Bu Susan Close”. The tukang foto’s job included taking photographs of the minister chatting with Lincoln – our host (pemandu)  and then ensuring the visit finished with a class selfie. The whole class then practised all of this a few times which was lots of fun.

We then returned to our current story, ‘Dua Mulut’ (2 Mouths)  beginning with a PowerPoint reading ala Terry Waltz as she demonstrated at the SA 2017 Fleurieu Conference. Unfortunately the minister missed this and arrived just after we began the post story activity.

The activity I taught was one that I had read recently on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook PLN group. Students listened to and then illustrated 3 sentences read to them 1 by 1, from the story. They then swapped their clearboard with a friend. I repeated these 3 sentences many times incorporating reps and circling while students double checked that everything I’d said was included into the illustration given them by their friend. If the illustration was incomplete, they had to add the missing details. I then slowly read to them 1 by 1 three new sentences (that followed on from the previous sentences). Students listened to each sentence and added the new detail to the clearboard before swapping again with a new friend. I then repeated all the sentences, starting with the initial sentences getting as many reps as possible while students double checked again and added any missing detail to the illustration.

As Susan Close stepped through the doorway, the ketua kelas led the class greeting which appeared to blow her away.  Lincoln then stepped up and introduced himself and explained his role as host and translator. 

The lesson then continued with Lincoln translating and explaining to my left and the entourage standing along one side of my room and overflowing out the door!

While I was teaching, I was able to focus on my students and block out the fact that there were many extra bodies in our room. However as soon as the activity finished, I looked up and without intending to, made eye contact with the onlookers.  My mind instantly went blank!! That terrifying moment when self doubt creeps in and the could’ve/ should’ve list begins. Did the activity demonstrate #TPRS well? Should I have demonstrated kursi luar biasa? Did I incorporate enough circling? Etc etc All I could process was that the tukang foto had yet to arrange the class selfie which in hindsight was a good idea because Susan Close must have been in the Indonesian for way longer than the tight schedule had originally set out!! 

Later at recess when I thanked her for spending so much time in my room, she confessed that the TPRS observation had been what she’d been looking forward to the most!! What diplomacy. One of her comments that I loved was how amazed she was with the almost entire lesson being conducted in Indonesian. I truly hope that she appreciated the amount of communication in Indonesian that was happening as opposed to lots of talking about Indonesian in English as used to happen in my room!!

I would also like to acknowledge Margaret Roberts (back left in class selfie) for staying with me during the observation (her non- contact time) and supporting not just one of her colleagues, but also the TPRS Indonesian program.  After the minister left, Marg provided us all with a much appreciated brainbreak leading her students and me all in a quirky chant. Just what we needed. Terima kasih Ibu Marg; you are luar biasa!

Teaching Songs through TCI – Lupa Lupa Ingat

Lupa, Lupa Ingat (also know as Lupa Lupa tapi Ingat) is a brilliant song for using in the Indonesian Language classroom because of the minimal number of words in the lyrics as well as the constant repetition. The two main target structures are ‘lupa’ (forget) & ‘ingat’ (remember) – two very useful words!!

The song is sung by a band originally called Kuburan (The Grave – as in cemetery grave) however in 2011, they changed their name to The Kubs. They are a Gothic band and were originally  heavily influenced by Kiss which is very obvious when you watch their official clip! While the song itself would be appropriate for all year levels, I tend to use it only with year 6/7’s because the clip could be a little too confronting for younger students.

Teaching this song using TCI/TPRS has been heaps of fun. Whereas previously I relied on the quirkiness of the clip to engage students, it hasn’t been at all necessary this time. In fact, most classes have yet to see the clip! I am planning to save that for the finale. Instead of the song clip, I’ve been using a karaoke clip that just has the lyrics written up on the screen. The beauty of this, is that the focus is purely on the lyrics with no visual distractions. There are quite a few posts around with activity/lesson ideas and here are a few of the suggestions I have trialed successfully after pre-teaching the 2 main target structures. I decided to do this using tongue twisters as they are good fun and yet tricky to remember! It was awesome too, providing opportunities to those clever 4%-ers to shine!!

The tongue twisters I chose were:

and

I chose these 3 because they were short, quirky and each contained at least one familiar word. The final one in particular was chosen because it could be expanded to include the word ‘kunci’ which is one of the words from the song lyrics!

The above images are from a PowerPoint I  made using images from Google images. I then incorporated a slow fade for the text, so that when students felt that they could ‘remember’ the tongue twister well enough to repeat it, I tapped the board and the text vanished slowly giving them the opportunity to restate the tongue twister from memory!

After this, I found a few blogs that had ideas for teaching songs. The best (as usual) was Martina Bex‘s The Comprehensible Classroom, I found this post with heaps of ideas. Admittedly the majority of the ideas in this post are aimed at more complex song lyrics and also for older students, but none the less, I still got quite a few terrific ideas here.

Following are some of the successful ideas I used for teaching this song:

  1. Group singing: Put the students into groups of 4. In their groups they had to nominate one part of the song. (I divided up the song into 3 parts – firstly the verse about lupa, secondly the verse about ingat and finally the chorus) I then played the song and asked each group to focus on just singing their verse lyrics. We did that a few times and then I ramped it up by asking each group to stand and sing when it was their verse! If there was a verse/chorus that no one chose, then we all sang together! This song is so catchy that it is impossible not to join in!!
  2. Song Cloze: I did this today and it was very successful for getting heaps of repetitions. The cloze was handed out to individual students. They were asked to each fill in as many of the blanks as possible by themselves without asking for help from anyone. When they had done as much as they could, they had to turn their sheet over and doodle. This showed me who was finished and also kept the noise level down! I then asked them to get into pairs to compare their answers and then when they had all agreed on the correct answers, to turn their sheet over and doodle again. Finally I asked pairs to combine with another pair and again go through the lyrics and check their answers. When this was finished, I then played the first verse of the song. I asked students to circle the incorrect words and tick the line if they got all the words correct. Each group then had to reconvene and erase the incorrect words and replace it with the correct word, again from memory!  This part was awesome. I loved listening to the discussions – talk about focused debate!! I played the verse once more and each group listened again and by this time they had all lines correct. We then repeated this process again for the second verse and then the chorus.
  3. Divide the students into teams. Play the song and stop at a random spot. Groups have to confer and agree on what the next line is in the song. The first team where everyone puts up their hand gets to sing the next line. After they had sung it to the class, we listened to the next line and decided if they were correct. If so, they got a point. With the 3 classes I did this with, I was gobsmacked at how well the boys did with this activity. Whether it was the added level of competition or just that they were less shy about singing, I’m not sure, but it was delightful to see boys fist pumping when they got the song line correct!!

 

Here are a few more of the ideas from Martina Bex’s blog that I hope to try next:

  • Give students a list of lines from the song with a few imposters, and have them mark off lines as they hear them. The end goal is to identify lines that DON’T appear in the song.
  • Give students a lyrics sheet with mistakes in it, and have students correct the errors as they listen.
  • Give students a brief list of words that may or may not be in the song, and have them skim the lyrics to see how quickly they can identify which ones appear and which ones do not.
  • Draw a mural while you listen–draw any concept that you hear and can illustrate!
  • Physically arrange cut-up lines from the song on desks to put them in the correct order.
  • Cross off words from a sheet as they hear them sung in the song. (As the word count in this song is very low, a word cloud wouldn’t work!)
  • Do a dictation with lines from the song.

 

PS: A great tip for avoiding pesky/ inappropriate advertising that we get when using YouTube clips in class – ViewPure is your answer. I have a ‘purify’ tab bookmarked and it is awesome. When I find a video I want to show in class, I just purify it, save to the appropriate folder and then its ready to go. The other bonus of this, is that I can load it up at the beginning of the day, and it sits waiting for me to push play. After showing, it also stops right there – it doesn’t go on to play another clip which is another potential hazard with You Tube!

 

Where Am I Going Wrong?

I had a truly tough week the week before last – one of those weeks where every day was a struggle. After nights of tossing and turning in bed, I woke each morning, dreading the day ahead feeling little motivation or excitement for what I’d planned. Each afternoon, as the final bell rang, I’d sigh with relief and head home as quickly as possible to collapse on my bed. Why? All due to a horrible combination of back pain and sleep deprivation! Incredibly debilitating.

The final straw for me was when the last class of that week (year 6/7’s) arrived into my room pleading not to ‘do any more stories’. That statement gutted me. However, I deftly avoided any discussion about it because I wasn’t in the right place to deal with it rationally and instead asked them what they would prefer to do, insisting that all suggestions had to be language orientated. It came down to a vote between grudge ball and Bop! & grudge ball won. I couldn’t find their story, so instead used another class’ story (same target structures based on the same movie talk) asking for translations of random sentences into correct English. It was still worthwhile and enjoyable, although in hindsight I should have also randomly awarded points to various groups for behaviours such as having a go, working as a team, staying positive etc. because as soon as one group appeared to be too far in the lead, several students found it difficult to remain positive!

Since that lesson, I have been self-evaluating to try to understand why stories have become boring &/or unappealing. Now that the pain and lack of sleep fog have reduced (thanks to my wonderful physio and remedial masseuse – you both rock) there are several issues that I have to address in order to get myself and my students back on the fun and enjoyable TPRS train.

 

Student Motivation

While this is the start of their 3rd year of TPRS, older students have just as much need for up/down based lessons as do the younger students. Expecting them to sit for the majority of their lesson (movie talks, story asking) has been unrealistic. I honestly believed that student performances would be sufficiently compelling and engaging to counter balance this but it just isn’t the case. My students would benefit from and appreciate a variety of frequent activities incorporating movement and unpredictability that provide more repetitions of the target structures. Whereas brain breaks provide learners with time out from heavy duty concentration, active tasks provide students with kinesthetic ways in which to consolidate language acquisition. These tasks need to become an integral part of my lessons. My aim now is to search for suitable activities that would serve this purpose and if you look back on the home page, you’ll see that I’ve added a new page titled ‘Target Structure CI Activities’ and as I find them, I’ll add new ones to the collection (any help building up this collection will be greatly appreciated).

 

Classroom Management

My classroom management system has relied up till now on students and has been in place with minimal changes for 2 years. I offer a variety of jobs that students can try out for and these include sekretaris, polisi, mendistribusi kertas, pensil dan clipboard, menghitung waktu, tukang foto, menghitung kata just to name a few. The polisi is tasked with monitoring the blurting yet this is not happening consistently across all classes. I need to incorporate a few more classroom management ideas to ramp it up. I really like Annabelle Allen’s idea of having a competition between teacher & class. I am definitely going to trial it next week. However, do I offer a reward if the students win? If so, what could it be? Or do I save this for later in the term/year in case once again, I need to ramp things up again to increase student engagement?

Another idea I have used in the past (I’m sorry that I can’t remember where I read this and thus can’t credit them) is to have an object (soft toy/prop) that is passed around the class to the person who blurted last. The idea being that whoever is holding it when the lesson finishes has a consequence. When I first used this idea, I struggled with the consequence but not anymore. I am going to bite the bullet, be tough and insist on output from that student! If that student has so much to say, then they can do a 5/10 minute free write or even better, record their voice reading/retelling the class story in their own time. Hopefully this will give me a sneaky insight into their level of acquisition in a way that also gives me the opportunity to speak to them about their behaviour and how it impacts on other students.

One further aspect that requires immediate action is ensuring that job holders understand that they play a vital role in our lessons. They are there to help us to be successful in Indonesian lessons (both teachers and students!) and if they are not able to do that, then there are plenty of others who would happily replace them. This would require me to be firmer and clearer with the expectation of those interested in filling these roles with the ultimate consequence being that students will be sacked if they are not consistently fulfilling their obligations. (By the way, how do I say in Indonesian, “You’re fired!”?)

 

Brain Breaks

I also must incorporate more brain breaks into my lessons for a variety reasons. Not only will this increase student activity but also give students a chance to relax, take a break and have fun. All students appreciate fun, regardless of their age! There is no good reason why brain breaks are an important component of my junior primary lessons and yet not for my older students. Up till now, I have tended to include a list of brain break ideas at the bottom of each lesson plan just in case students need one. The main reason (I think) that I have avoided incorporating more brain breaks into my older students lessons is that I worry about ‘wasting’ their precious lesson time. Some classes only get one 50 minute lesson per week and therefore each minute is precious. I need to turn that thinking around and acknowledge the value of frequent & short brain breaks and be prepared to relinquish class time in order for students to learn the skills necessary for seamlessly moving into and out of brain breaks. Surely the benefits in the long run outweigh the negatives. Maybe I could tie it in with Annabelle Allen’s classroom behaviour management technique? Adding tally points to me if they are too slow or for the students if they regroup quickly and quietly afterwards. I now understand her comment that brain breaks should be done before they are needed and if you wait till students need the break, you waited too long.

 

Setting Class Expectations

As usual during week one, the specialist teachers at my school all combined and addressed this as one team to students via games and activities in the gym. In week 2, I jumped straight into a movie talk, which I continued over the next few weeks, in between various absences due to my back. It was a hodgepodge start to the year. Some classes didn’t have an Indonesian lesson until week 4! While we are always wiser in hindsight, I realise now that this was a shabby start to the new school year especially considering I attended a TPRS conference during the holidays! I should have known better. One should never assume anything and as a consequence, I will need to go right back to basics starting next week. I plan to do that by reminding them of how they can become successful language learners  and then regularly asking them to show me a quick honest self-assessment using their fingers (out of 5) to show how many of the questions below were ya.  This will also include the reminder to job holders of their responsibilities and the possible consequences should they be failing this.

Student Success

I’ve just finished a webinar with Terry Waltz which for me mid-way through writing this post, was very timely! I did feel guilty at first for taking one of the very limited spots, but now I am very grateful that I did. One point she raised which fits perfectly into this post is about students feeling successful with their language acquisition. Terry suggested this could be done through exit quizzes, quick quizzes etc where the students always do well because for TPRS, its all about setting our students up for success. There is never a focus on incorrect answers, incorrect pronunciation, incorrect word order etc. It’s all about positive reinforcement and student high fives and it’s the major reason I heart TPRS. Students are never asked to revisit mistakes, never made to feel ‘dumb’ unlike in other subject areas where students are asked to walk through back their mistakes to understand where they went wrong! This is reflected in our class ‘bell curves’ when plotting data, because they are never ‘normal’. TPRS bell curves are heavily weighted towards the higher end of available grades/percentages unlike other subjects where it is more central.

 

Deconstructing Student Plea of ‘No More Stories Today!’

While spending quite a few hours trawling through fantastic TPRS blogs this morning (including those by Martina Bex & Keith Toda) looking for novel activities to get reps on target structures, it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t the story itself that the students were objecting to! It was all of the above issues that together created endless & predictable lessons with minimal spontaneity. Martina mentioned in one of her posts that all CI activities should not last more than 10 minutes, Terry Waltz also mentioned it yesterday in her webinar – I’ve heard and read this many times yet why do I feel compelled to keep going even when all the signs are telling me to STOP? It’s for a multitude of reasons yet the best thing of all is that I’ve finally realised what I believe was the unspoken message underlying my students plea.  I can now begin to address improving my effectiveness as an Indonesian teacher through incorporating more variety and movement into my lessons and thus re-engage my students.

 

NB: New goal – Overhaul lesson plans to incorporate all of the above points.

 

One Off Reduced Class Lesson Ideas- Silent Movies

Anne Cedeno shared this on the CI Liftoff Facebook page today for those days when class sizes are drastically reduced due to inexplicable school events:

This idea came from Sr. Wooly’s workshop at NTPRS last summer, and might be fun and better managed with the reduced group size: Each team of 3 kids needs one video recording device (smart phone or iPad will work well); one student will film and the other two will be actors. Focus on basic verbs (super 7, sweet 16, etc.) student plan a simple, school appropriate plot for a SILENT MOVIE they can film at school during your class, using features of the school (stairway, cafeteria, window, etc) and simple props that you might provide or they can bring in if they plan one day and film the next. Filming happens in short (max 6-10 second) clips (using iMovie or AdobeClip). plot needs to focus on simple things like where the actor is, what they have, what they want (the problem) and where they go (to try to solve the problem). Since no voices are recorded, it totally eliminates bad pronunciation, and puts the emphasis on the kids to show emotion and plot through facial expression and gestures. Then the video clips need to get shortened down to the essence of what shows the essential plot and the product is a 1-2 minute silent movie for you use for movie talk, staring your own students – My kids recently got iPads, so I’m planning on doing this soon. School-appropriate humor, unexpected surprises/plot twists will be encouraged:) In years past, when my students filmed each other acting out scenes from a novel, etc. the downside was always the pressure they felt about their pronunciation in L2, which lead to many many retakes – but Sr. Wooly’s idea to make it a silent movie eliminates that pressure and lets the kids focus on the fun/teamwork to create the movie and then as a whole class we can Movie Talk 🙂

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!

Brain Breaks – Ide Kreatif

This year I have decided to return to a  3 day week instead of the 4 day week I have done for the past few years. Thus, here I sit at my dining room table on a Monday morning after a physically active weekend, throughly enjoy a calm and relaxed start to my week. It is the perfect way to mentally prepare me for my upcoming teaching week.

I scrolled through my WordPress reader this morning (something I don’t do often enough) and discovered a few great posts about brain breaks. Last week, upon reflection, I realised I didn’t incorporate anywhere near enough brain breaks into my lessons, especially for my younger students. It is always tough at the beginning of a new year remembering that all the classes are new and that the year 2/3 class is still really only a 1/2 class and will need a lot more movement and action in their lessons to keep them engaged and focused.

Brainbreaks are so important for a variety of reasons, not least because they give the poor brain a rest. Annabelle Allen has a terrific blog worth exploring and in it are quite a few posts about brain breaks. She recommends that they are done often and before students get restless, not as a result of restless students!! Looks like I will have to change my ideas about my 50 min lesson plans. Up until now, my priority has always been the class story however I think I need to rethink that and consider that student engagement should be the higher priority. If students are engaged and having fun (in Indonesian), everything else should fall sweetly into place! Do you agree? 

The key though is coaching students that brainbreaks are a quick break (like a commercial) and when it’s finished, they all return to their seats and we resume from where we were with no talking or discussion. 

I’ve got a brain break word document saved to my USB that I’ve been compiling over the past 2 years. Each time I read of a brain break that I think would work with my students, I add it to the list (if you’d like a copy send me your email address). The beauty of this is that when I am planning, I can just open the document and then scroll through all my ideas and pick out the ones that best supports the target structure, the time of year &/or the student cohort. I then add the ideas to my lesson plan so that I can quickly run my eyes over the suggestions and go with what is best for that moment. If I don’t do this, I’ve discovered that my brain goes on auto pilot and all I can think  of are; Bu Cathy berkata & satu kaki which may lead to these brainbreak activities loosing their novelty if I’m not careful.

Here are a few new brain breaks I have just read about and am now looking forward to using in my classroom:

Class Selfie (Annabelle Allen) – using your phone/ipad, say, “Ayo, selfie!” then count backwards from sepuluh to satu, and then take a class selfie. These photos would be awesome in school newsletters, on class blogs and Annabelle also suggests using these photos to crop student faces for using in power points!! Isn’t this idea just ingenious!

Manikin Challenge – (Annabelle Allen) – 

During a scene reconstruction for a story retell  incorporate as many students as possible from the class and then the teacher walks around the tableau who are frozen and not speaking or moving one little bit to record it. Any students who can’t have their image uploaded, need to have creative ways in which to obscure their faces.

Double this, Double that – 

I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks now ever since discovering this awesome hand clapping rhyme for an Indonesian phrase that work. Here is what I came up with this morning as I think ahead to this weeks target structure of ‘sayang’:

Sayang, sayang I, I

Sayang, sayang bu, bu.

Sayang i, sayang bu

Sayang, sayang ibu.

And it could also be then done with other family members including bapak/ayah, and adik/kakak:

Sayang, sayang a, a

Sayang, sayang dik, dik.

sayang a, sayang dik,

Sayang, sayang adik.

and the best one to finish with :

Sayang, sayang, kak, kak

Sayang sayang kak, kak

Sayang kak, sayang kak

Sayang sayang kakak!!

Binatang – (still searching for where I found this) students in groups/rows each choose an animal. Students can not talk, they can only make the noise of their chosen animal. Then when they each have an animal, they have to arrange themselves in a line from largest to smallest, again not saying a word, only making the noise of the animal!! Finish by choosing one line and having the students sound off down the line with their animal sound!

Charades – ask for 3 students to come out the front. Show them a word/phrase in the target language. They then have to act it out so that the rest of the class can guess what it is. Class then votes on whose acting was the funniest.