I am in Agen, France, attending my very first TPRS workshop. I blogged about my expectations for this workshop here. This afternoon, I had my first TPRS lesson in Breton. After 90 min, I was able to do the following:
- I can comprehend basic spoken information about someone such as “He is Daniel”, “He has a house”, “He is tall”
- I can comprehend when someone is asking me for my name, if I have a house, if I am tall, etc. and I can respond with yes/no, words, and sometimes phrases
- I can read and comprehend a text of roughly 100 words. (Note: The text had been prepared by the teacher.)
I am absolutely blown away by the fact that I can read and comprehend Breton! First, Daniel, who teaches Breton to primary school children, had us look at a text in Breton. We could barely decode 2-3 words (cognates)… Then, he taught us fundamental structures (I am /I am not / I have / I have not) and some vocabulary using Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA- which was super fun!) and circling. Finally, we went back to the text and after looking at it again, suddenly I knew exactly what the text was talking about. I felt so proud of my accomplishment!
It was very clever on the part of the workshop organizers to let us experiment the methodology as students first, teaching us a language no one knew. As a French teacher, I am always concerned that if I show printed words too soon to my novice learners, before the sound is firmly established in their ears, they will be saying them incorrectly. But I was reminded today that the main goal of reading is comprehension (duh!) and this can be achieved with the right amount of comprehensible input prior to reading the text. We are not asking novice learners to read out loud since they are not ready. Rather, they read silently, recognize the words and make meaning out of it. Additional benefits to reading early in the school year: linking sound to print, recognizing sentence syntax, and becoming better writers down the road.
Next step in my classroom: I will expose my beginners to comprehensible texts much sooner in the year. Right now, I am thinking within 2-3 weeks of school start, after I have gotten to know them and established some basic structures.
When do you expose your beginner learners to comprehensible texts?