Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
I did a TPRS story with my Begging/Middle School Spanish class this week. Let me begin by saying I had the BEST training possible for TPRS - student teaching for an entire semester with a TPRS workshop leader. I've seen it work and I'm a believer. If done correctly, it can produce incredible results. It is amazing.
It is also exhausting to "perform" a TPRS story.
Maybe I've just become spoiled lately with implementing Kagan, but I've been really enjoying piecing together engaging activities with minimal direct instruction and then sending my students off on some engaging task while my primary role becomes that of a facilitator, answering questions and managing student behavior while they work cooperatively. Moreover, I know that I'm reaching each and every student on an individual level with a quick glance across the room. The level of excitement, focus, and work is pleasantly surprising (although I've come to expect it). Kagan makes my job easy. And, I still have energy at the end of the day. With TPRS, sometimes I'm out of energy by the end of the period. I'm center stage during the entire story. I'm constantly checking the WHOLE class for understanding, and it's easy to miss a few students that aren't responding. Yet, I can't individually help that student they way I'd like to, especially since the rest of the class would be paying attention to that, too. My students this year are all very sweet and try very hard - if they're not participating, it's usually because I could be doing something more engaging or better structured.
My engagement levels were less than what I've come to expect with Kagan. I think it's a combination of the type of activity as well as my ability to adequately address engagement and assess comprehension. I did have all students looking at me and responding, but the energy and enthusiasm that is usually there disappeared after the first five minutes or so. My students have short attention spans and like to see products come from their work as well as work one-on-one rather than the whole class working with me.
On the plus side, the majority of my class had great comprehension, I got strong responses, I didn't have a lot of behavioral issues, and the story went over better with some classes than others. However, I think I've gotten better results in all of these areas using Kagan strategies.
This doesn't mean it'll be the same for everyone. I can't imagine my supervising teacher during student teaching would be very content if he didn't get to tell a story or two each week. As for me, I just don't think it fits who I am as a teacher and what my students need at this time.
It's worth noting that I did not experience these issues with PQA, and I think I could capitalize on the PQA experience to get my students the repetitious Comprehensible Input that they need (I once had a discussion where I realized that PQA is where the students LEARN the structures anyway, the stories are just where they apply what they've learned to new contexts). The students like talking about each other. And, maybe even more importantly, PQA can be done in short bursts "whole class" and then I can use a quick Kagan structure to have students converse one-on-one with their partners or groups using the structures we just practiced. I think this is the approach I'm going to take in the future. It would be interesting to introduce a structure, model the structure thoroughly with one student, have students use the structure in first and second person with a partner, and then have them report to the class in third person. We could even transition this to plural conjugations (we, you all, they) by having them discuss with their groups of four and then report back on what "we", "you all" and "they" say. Of course, I would then bring it back to whole-class discussion to model correct usage and provide more comprehensible input. The potential for repetitions would be drastically increased (even unavoidable) and every student has the opportunity to "own" the structure in a way that is impossible with storytelling. The one-on-one interaction is hugely motivating for them, and I can ensure that each individual feels successful (part of my philosophy is that nothing motivates like success). The more I think about this, the more excited I get about doing it. I am going to build this activity into my next unit and will report back.
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