I have presented about TPRS in the Methods of Teaching Foreign Languages classes at two large regional universities lately where I have met some sharp students that make me hopeful for the future of our profession.  Their professors seem to be doing a good job with them, judging by the interaction in class.  Several of the college students have also been observing my classes lately and have had some good questions about TPRS.

Here is a question by a university student that came to observe and is wondering how students why the students in the Spanish 2 class he saw knew their verbs so well.

Feel free to add your input to my answers. 

Todd asks:

I noticed that when your students were answering questions and commenting they used the preterit and imperfect right every time. How are they doing that so well already in Spanish 2?

The don’t get it right every time and they don’t know all the forms of every verb in the preterit yet.  The students that were answering were volunteering, so they were more confident.  But the main reason is that I have been using the most high frequency words in the past tenses a lot.  Students have heard the most common uses in all of our class stories, class discussions about novels and in class conversations.  They have heard them used as we talked about their summer vacations and as I asked them questions and they have heard them as we talked about their weekends every Monday morning.  Here is a breakdown of the most high frequency verbs and their tenses: http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/VERBS-IN-THE-TOP-505-SPANISH-WORDS.pdf  I look over this list often and try to focus on those words as I speak and ask questions in class.

The Spanish 2’s have also done a fair amount of light reading and they are picking up past tense verbs from the novels too.

I would say that most students know and can use the following words fairly fluently now: did, went, arrived, saw, thought, said, was talking, there was, could, had, knew, wanted, needed, read and watched. Those are all high frequency verbs. They are very useful and I want my students to know them so I work them into what they hear in class.

It is something of an illusion that all of the students know and can use all verbs in all forms of the preterit and imperfect right now, but the verbs they know, they are getting to know well. This is having an effect on their confidence and they are using the correct forms in wider and wider ways that we have not even studied yet.