Rachel is a recent graduate of Colorado State University. She will be teaching English in France for a year, and plans on using TPRS, but before she leaves, she wanted to spend several days observing the beginning of the year in my classes. I thought her observations might be useful to those new to TPRS and experienced alike, since I am always changing things up.
Bryce Hedstrom has been nothing but supportive of my interest in and even commitment to TPRS®. That being said, before getting my license to teach and potentially a Masters in education, I am moving to Lunel, France for a year to teach English. In preparation for this undertaking I am observing Bryce and the creation of a TPRS® Classroom from Day 1.
Right off the bat Bryce demonstrated the absolute need to have a welcoming, open, and healthy classroom culture. Bryce stands at the door as and greets students and either shakes hands or gives an affirming pat on the shoulder as they enter the classroom. He demonstrated the importance of body language and being open, but avoiding fidgeting by holding a coffee cup. This serves two purposes. Not only does it give his hands something to do, but it also shows the students that, “. . . he has things to do in addition to warmly greeting them.” This also establishes that Bryce has human needs and is going to meet those needs, while still being respectful and happy to see each student.
When the bell rang Bryce did not do the “typical intro speech” teachers do on the first day, but jumped into expectations (which he did NOT preface with “now class, these are my expectations. . .”). Right after the bell rang he went over the tardy policy and used a tardy student to help him with a demonstration of what not to do (demonstrated by himself) contrasted by the late student quietly coming in and apologizing to no one in particular. I loved this, as one minute into class the students learn how to apologize in Spanish and are exposed to the truth that they are in a Spanish class and are expected to speak Spanish. Life-lessons also have a way of sneaking into Bryce’s teaching. “We are all late occasionally, and when we quickly recognize that and apologize, it’s no big deal.” After covering other administrative information, like where to put bags he began to dole out jobs. If someone had sneezed in his classroom a student had a job of standing up and yelling out, “clase, uno, dos, tres. . .” and the class responded with a “salud.” Other jobs like changing the date, day of the week, and weather were given out.
Next the class went through the assigned portion of the student code of conduct, or the equivalent, at RHS. At first I was taken aback as Bryce seemed to make fun of the regulations, but with his clarification, I understood that he was showing the students that he believed some of the rules and stipulations in the handbook to be unnecessary, as the mandates about things like cheating, bullying, or bringing a firearm to school were totally over the top and obvious, especially for the intelligent young adults sitting in his classroom.
As a “Brain Break” the students paired up and came up with five different classroom procedures (being late, sneezes. . .) followed by the students sharing what they had come up with. This was followed by classical TPR. In at least two classes we went back to going over some other expectation or job, but ended up doing TPR again, but also expanding on it by adding new commands.
The last class of the day was the most enjoyable for me as those students were level 2 and already understood how to “play the game” and that learning this way works. Bryce was able to jump right into circling one of the three structures he put on the board. It is also worth noting that the fact that the structures were in past tense did not faze the kids at all.
It was a busy, fun, long day and at the same time, I am just as in love with TPRS® as ever.