I recently did presentations on TPRS at two regional universities. This is a journal response from AshLee Pray, a Spanish student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. The reflections of a teacher-in-training are valuable because they give us glimpses into the thought processes of the next generation of teachers. AshLee’s observations show that she understands many of the goals of comprehensible input-based teaching. Acquisition versus learning, meaningful language versus focusing on grammar rules, no forced speech beyond the level of acquisition, the need for repetition, and using high frequency words are all mentioned here. Makes me hopeful for the future of our profession!
AshLee’s thoughts on observing my classroom will be posted tomorrow.
I chose to do my Journal response on TPRS because I really enjoyed learning about it. When I first read Bryce’s handout on TPRS, “The Basics of TPRS”, I definitely resonated with what I was reading. As I think about how my own son, who is 2 years old, has begun learning language it only makes sense to use TPRS in the classroom. I believe this to be true because TPRS taps into acquisition, which is easier, implicit, informal, instinctive, contextualized, meaningful, etc. In comparison, simply being “taught” a language is more difficult, one must follow grammatical rules, there is error correction, and it is mainly a bottoms-up approach.
For me, learning Spanish was very hard, I started when I was 15 years old and it was a grammar-based, formal, intellectual environment with little to no authentic or meaningful interactions. I really hated it, and the only reason I stayed was to go on the trips to Spain and Mexico. Once I entered college at CSU I stopped taking courses completely, and it wasn’t until I started working at IHOP that I began learning Spanish again. The cooks at my work taught me more Spanish than all of my high school years combined. So what I take away from that experience is that we have to make language learning MEANINGFUL, we have to have a purpose, and if we don’t, we have to at least provide comprehensible input that is interesting and engaging through things like TPRS.
The other major turn on to this methodology was the whole idea of WORD FREQUENCY. I am so excited by this because it makes absolute and total sense. Why in the world would anyone waste precious time teaching meaningless vocabulary?? Why not focus on what is needed, the frequency words!! “The 100 most common Spanish words make up 50% of all speech. The 1,000 most common Spanish words make up 80% of all speech” (From Bryce’s “The Basics of TPRS” handout, p. 5) [http://www.brycehedstrom.com/free-stuff, look under Workshop Downloads]. I am absolutely fascinated with this fact and plan on applying it in my classroom, I want to teach high frequency verbs and minimize the forceful memorization of meaningless nouns. After 12 years of learning Spanish I still lack some necessary vocabulary, but I can certainly circumlocute anything I want to express, that should be the point. Teach kids how to speak in the TL, no need for meaningless vocab, that will come naturally. Describing words, and frequency verbs, yes yes yes!
One final thing that I want to mention that really sunk in while learning this method was the need for REPETITION, I know that even with my son, he has to hear a word various times before he himself can produce it, if I try to force him to say it or have him repeat me, he often cannot, but within a day or two he is saying the word perfectly on his own with no prompt. And although my son is in his critical period for language development, if the goal is language acquisition, then we should be repeating and repeating. This article states that most students need to hear a word in interesting, contextualized speech at least 100 times!!!
As one can see, I very much appreciated learning a little more in depth about this method. I plan on applying it when I am a teacher and I would love to do more research into it.