I have been wanting to write this post for a long time! After I came back from my TPRS workshop in Agen in 2014, I was eager to incorporate the new methodology I had observed into my own classroom instruction and teaching style. But like any significant PD you attend, once you come back to your classroom, you face several major questions:
- Do I toss everything I have done before or do I blend? What is the right mix?
- How in the world do I start this TPRS gig with my very beginners? They don’t have any language, they don’t know any of the basic storytelling components like “there is”, “goes”, “sees”, “says”, etc. All the story scripts I had been exposed to required some prior language.
- Being the only one who learned this method in my school, there is no one to exchange with face-to-face, how do I continue to get support?
- How do I convince my admins (and colleagues?) that this method is very compelling? Fortunately, I did not have to worry too much about this one because my school gives us a lot of instructional freedom but I know some educators have to justify/document any change to their curriculum.
Question #2 was my biggest barrier and where I had the biggest AHA! moment and growth. So I am going to share what worked for me and my students, hoping you can either re-apply or adapt.
In the 2014-15 school year, I was pretty successful at incorporating Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA), and story asking in my French 1b and French 3 classes. These students already had some language at their disposal so I did not have to establish super basic story structures. I used TPRS mostly to front load major structures for each of my unit (BTW that is my personal answer to question #1).
My first French 1b story (Adapted from “Report Card Day” by Anne Matava)
My first French 3 story (Adapted from “The Tent Story” also by Anne Matava. I highly recommend you by her scripts: her stories are fun and easy to adapt to any level. She rocks!! ) BTW if you ever want to run the tent story with High Schoolers, do not, I repeat: DO NOT bring a tent to school thinking it will be a good prop. I learned a valuable lesson about tents and teenagers.
However, I completely failed doing TPRS with my very beginners. I simply did not know how to start. I ended up starting in the second semester and it all felt clumsy and disconnected. Yikes!
Finally, in April 2015, Martina Bex wrote this AMAZING post called “A simple story for beginning language students” and that post changed my world. She lays it all out for us newbies. I am not even going to paraphrase that post because YOU JUST HAVE TO READ IT if you want to do your first TPRS story right. I fell in love with “el secreto de Ramón” and immediately translated it into French for my 7th graders. I added just a few twists for which I will gladly take credit since honestly I can’t take credit for anything else: 1. I updated the characters’ names and places to reflect French culture (I love using my parents’ names: Claude et Monique) AND 2. I made the female character my secret ninja.
Here it is: Le Secret de Monique
It worked like magic: I ran the pre-story at the beginning of week 3 (of my 7th graders’ first ever year of French!). My principal actually walked in on that story and spur of the moment, I turned her into a dragon. Imagine: new principal and new students. That was a huge risk but my principal is a good sport and the kids had a riot. In fact, I suspect she got sold on TPRS that day seeing how engaged the kids were (BTW that partially answers question #4).
That same week, when we read “Le Secret de Monique” together, you should have heard the ROAR when they found out Monique was a ninja!
After that, not only my students had the basic structures necessary to launch into more story telling / asking, they loved story telling, and I had gained the momentum I had so desperately needed the year before.
If you are thinking about using TPRS in your classroom, I know you will find Martina’s post helpful and if you are a French teacher, feel free to use “le secret de Monique”. I promise you won’t regret it!
Students sequencing “Le Secret de Monique”