≡ Menu

NTPRS 2012 -Las Vegas


Early Monday morning on July 23rd I took off from Salt Lake International on SouthWest Airlines.  The flight was smooth and relaxing.  While on the flight I overheard a couple of other TPRS Teachers chatting.  It was obviously was on the right plane.  They were talking about Spanish and Stories and Circling etc.  I introduced myself and I met Heidi and Tawnee from the Davis School District. Here was the view from the plane.

I Got there just in time for the opening remarks by Blaine Ray. The first sessions were going to begin and I knew that I was in for a great experience. The highlight of the conference was the key note speaker Susan Gross. While she was being introduced, I came to find out this was her last year. She would be retiring from TPRS. I was so glad that I was there to learn from her and and hear her final testimony of the power of TPRS. Her keynote was titled TPRS Saves the Day.

While she was speaking I said to myself “This is where I belong.  TPRS is my passion. What an amazing thing to be a part of.” Susan gave great examples of teachers who had overcome all odds. If you would like to get a copy of Susan’s talk you can order it through Blaine’s Site.

I experienced so many wonderful workshops while at the conference.  I can’t list all I learned on this post but I figure I will do it in a series of posts focusing on each skill or concept.  But let me say that NTPRS conference is one of the best things you can do as a second language teacher.  Next year it will be in Dallas Texas.  One of the best things they offered at the conference was coaching.  In the afternoon, after the first evening class, you can spend a few hours working on your TPRS skills with a coach there to help you and give you feedback on things you are missing. I learned so much in these coaching sessions either teaching others or being taught.  That is one great thing you will find in all the workshop is a demo of the teaching principle usually in a language you are unfamiliar with.  TPRS is an art-form and there is only so much things you can learn about it before you have to just get out there and do it.  I found it very helpful that I had a couple years experience trying out the theory and now after this conference I feel I can fine tune it and maximize on it’s power.

On Thursday night of the NTPRS conference there is a tradition to have an open mic night where anyone attending the conference can share one of their talents.  We had an outstanding night of talent from comedians, jugglers, musicians and more.  I decided to step out of my comfort zone and sing a song.

What an great experience the whole conference was!  I made new friends and gain a lot of insights on what it takes to be an effective teacher using TPRS.  Those post are soon to follow.

Word OK written using jigsaw puzzle pieces

Communication is two-sided – vital and profound communication makes demands also on those who are to receive it… demands in the sense of concentration, of genuine effort to receive what is being communicated.
-Roger Sessions

Good Communication could possibly be the most important characteristic of a successful classroom.  Teach – Ok is a tool that ensures what you teach is being practiced by each student. It extends and magnifies communication through out the class. It helps transfer core standards, essential questions, and vital class concepts and information.

There are a few suggestions for implementing Teach – OK.  First, don’t talk too much.  If you talk too much you will lose the students’ attention. Talking time should be from 30 seconds to one minute. Students can’t handle much more than that.  Their ability to remember what was taught is not very long.

Second, use good gestures and require kids to use and mirror gestures while teaching or listening. You will know that your kids are talking about the course material if they are doing the gestures.  This works well to see from across the room who is on task.

Third, don’t give students too much time to teach their neighbor.  For those super speedy students tell the them to repeat what you taught until you hear the call for a switch. Try to average the time by looking at one of your slower kids and give them enough time to teach it once. This may mean the super speedies will teach it three times but that’s ok.

Fourth, use variety when calling out your Teach -OK.  Students become quickly habituated if we use the same call for teach – ok. Be creative, silly, and always switch it up.

Last, incorporate student leaders to say “teach” for the teacher.  Many times students will think of their own creative ways to cue the class to teach. This is a great idea for those students who act out or need to come out of their shells.


It’s all about Scoreboards


A great classroom management tool offered by www.wholebrainteaching.com is called the scoreboard.  Once you try it you will soon find out how powerful it can be.  You will soon be saying “It’s all about scoreboards“.
I have used the scoreboard for the past two years and I have got a lot of mileage out of it. It really works. Even though the scoreboard has been an effective tool for me, it still has eventually lost its appeal in my class. If feel that there were several things mentioned in this webcast that can support me in making the scoreboard a stronger technique in my classroom. Here are somethings that I plan to focus on.

Variety / Levels

To keep students interested and to give them a feeling of progression and movement, variety and levels are necessary. Whether you want to have girls against boys, double points, instant games, a path or a journey to a certain goal, reaching these different levels really help students to buy in to the scoreboard. They are always curious what the next level will be. Sometimes the simplest things can keep students interested and motivated.

Ping Pong

A Ping Pong is a powerful technique that maintains momentum in the classroom and captures students’ full attention. The key to ping ponging is to find or make up something the students didn’t do and then immediately make up the point by focusing on something positive. This will make students feel a sense of alarm then elation or visa-verse in just a matter of seconds. By doing this you have activated their limbic system in the brain. However if students are not trained to respond quickly to the one minute party and the might groan, you could quickly loose momentum. Whole Brain Teaching is an art form and requires practice with trial and error.

Class Energy Captains

This is probably something I have never done. I can see the benefit of having energy captains, especially for those rowdy kids that need to always be doing something. Some initial questions I have are: Do I elect the captains publicly or privately? Do I ask the class “who wants to be a class leader?” Should I change the leaders? If so, how often? I feel that I haven’t used class leaders in the past because I just haven’t thought about it or I tend to not want kids to feel that I am favoring others or I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable to where they stop participating. Regardless of the reason, student leaders can be a powerful tool in my classroom. Maybe I could use the super improvers wall to elect leaders. For example: To become a student leader you have to be a level 3 on the student improvers wall. This could motivate certain students even more to be constantly improving.


“When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely – the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears- when you give your whole attention to it.”. Jiddu Krishnamurti

Class – Yes is a powerful tool. Over the past two years class – Yes has been the attention getter for my students. I would have to say that it has been very effective. But I am curious how much more effective it would be if I just focused more on some of the details of my class – yes procedures.

During the Honeymoon stage at the beginning of the year, class – Yes worked on 100% of my students. As Coach B mentions in his webcast, if we stimulate students the same way over and over again, they become habituated to that prompting to the point where it has no effect. Sometimes my student wouldn’t say anything or keep talking to their friend but our students won’t learn until we have their whole attention.

Getting our students’ whole attention is a process, as stated on the webcast. Class – Yes is the procedure that initiates the process. If Class – Yes isn’t working, we need to make adjustments. Just like a car, it doesn’t move very far until the engine starts. Once we get the motor started we will be rolling soon.

If Class – Yes cranks, fires, but doesn’t start. We may need a tune up. What are some things we can do to tune up our Class – Yes? New spark plugs perhaps? Something to give it some spark? Well as coach B says we need some variety. We need to create a sense of surprise and spontaneity. Once students can predict what will happen with Class – Yes, we have lost their whole attention. Even if their eyes look attentive, the whole brain is not present.

Here are somethings that will help give class – yes some variety: Voice Inflection, Voice Pitch, Gestures, Claps, Content Knowledge (call and respond), Repetition, Sound Effects, impersonations, Whispering, Accents, Dance Moves. The key factor is that it is FUN!

Well I hope to spend more time on my class yes for this coming school year. Just a little prep and a lot of confidence goes a long way to help all our students to become students that give us their whole attention. The more we use this great attention getter to get their attention the more they will learn.


Súper Velocidad 100


In the past I have used Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) as my classroom management system.  It has done wonders for me.  The best teaching I have done is because of the engagement WBT has brought to my classroom.

Much of the WBT lingo I have adapted into Spanish.  It has been trial and error but a great journey.  “Class-Yes” has become “Clase – Sí.  “Teach-OK” has become “Enseña-Bien” and my favorite “oh yeah!” has become “¡Es verdad!  To see my class in action with these WBT Spanish conversions, go to www.tprsteachers.com/power-teaching

As I learn about teaching each year, I see more and more the importance of two things:  First, (my current focus for next year) keeping the class in the target language and second, making the language comprehensible.  Many of the games like Super-speed 100 are focused on decoding and literacy.  This is important, but if I just had them read the 100 most frequent words in Spanish without understanding them, I would be doing my kids a disfavor.

So I present to you Súper Velocidad 100.  It works the same as classic Super-speed 100 but instead of reading the students are translating from English to Spanish.  There are several advantages: Students are speaking in the target language, they are learning grammatical features, double meanings, and they get in a lot of repetitions which is natively inherent in Super-speed games.

I’m not finished yet but here is a taste of what it will look like.  Here is super velocidad levels 1-30.  The notional features will need a key.  But if you have any questions about super velocidad,I can explain them.

Thanks to Chris Biffle for such an awesome method and program.

Check out Whole Brain Teaching!  It is one of the best resources out their for any teacher.




Featured image by John Talbot


1000 Unique TPRS Visitors


It may be pocket change to most websites out there but I just wanted to celebrate a 1000 unique visitors to TPRS Teachers.com if you have visited before thanks for your support and I hope to provide quality resources and interesting content.


Finding TPRS Materials


While starting to prepare for next year I have looked through many of the TPRS materials that are online.  I visited TPRS publishing and found leveled text books.  I was going to try to use them for next year but after I saw Bryce Hedstroms materials for Spanish I really liked how he organized his conversational course.  The objectives and pacing of the curriculum seem to flow with the way I imaged my class to be.  I wish I could order my French teacher his same materials.  One great and affordable option is that Bryce offers ebook downloadable versions of his materials at half price.  Being at a title one school we don’t have a lot of funs for teachers to buy support materials.  I really appreciate this option for those departments that have little or no budget to work with.  Bryce has a lot of background in creating materials.  He has a MA in Curriculum and has continued to colaborate with the TPRS community to create his materials.

With TPRS still growing and developing, there are not a lot of materials for the more obscure languages.  I haven’t seen any arabic TPRS materials or much of Korean, Japanese, and many of the poloneasian languages.  Once people realize the great potential of language learning using TPRS, I feel many of the text book companys will try to get their piece.  I hope TPRS continues to be grassroots based and anti-textbook.  Because we all know that it has nothing to do with the textbook but the teacher and the method he or she implements.  If you have any great comments about TPRS materials please let me know.


How do I create an immersion classroom


Being the end of the school year I am seeing how much more my students would learn if I made my classroom an immersion classroom.  I read a good article at Calico Spanish called “Making Kids Comfortable with the Immersion Classroom” In this article it gave some really good tips to get started with making your classroom an immersion environment.  Here are a few things that I took away from the article.  Sometimes many teachers, including myself, have great desire to have an immersion class but are missing some of the skills needed to make all their dealings in the classroom 100% comprehensible. First when a person comes into an completely different linguistical environment they don’t feel as if they belong and also they feel lost, alone or frustrated not being able to express themselves or communicate with others.  This is the journey of a language classroom is to build a community of learns that respect and help eachother and value of speaking in the target language.  That is why it would be my goal for next year to take the time in the beginning of the year to make the classroom a safe and colabrative place.  This is easily said but not easily done!  Middle school kids are extremely self-concious, judgemental, and egocentric.  Having these factors can pose a challenge.  What are the characteristics of a safe and colabrative class?  What does it look like and sound like?  And what are the underlying and non-visable problems that we find while teaching?

Another tip is to give kids multiple forms of input.  Learning styles vary and kids learn in different ways.  I believe a teacher who is aware of this spends a lot more time preparing and adjusting lessons to meet the needs of their students.  Also getting the teacher and student to know and value eachother is important but something I lack to do at a deeper level to where each care about eachother and value eachothers needs.  I guess this is when the magic happens.  The article mentions to make your classroom a magic place via the target language.  One of the French classes in the article has “la ligne magique” at the door to her classroom. It says “Once students cross the line, they can only speak in French. If students slip up and speak English, they have to recross the line. She also gives tickets to reward students who only speak French.  I think that rewards are key.  Many times students don’t have it within them to motivate themselves and this is where the teacher must intervine in behalf of the student.

I like how honest the article states that it is very difficult to implement a immersion based curriculum.  The problem is that historically we have never had a top down push for immersion based classrooms.  This is changing of course but not at the rate that I would like to see. Regardless of the specific curriculum, teachers can help their students communicate in the target language by having the target language displayed around the room. Teachers also have the gran task of making all communication to be easy to understand. “Kids rebel against immersion methods when they don’t understand.” But the article mentions to not force kids to speak the language, but I feel that we should use the principles of dale carnagie as Blaine suggests. If you win the kids hearts they will follow you and your example.  It is not easy you have to be very strong because kids want to speak English.  Even the native speakers want to speak English.  If you have on any suggestions on how to preserve your immersion class just as if it was your own personal sancuary.  Some will try to defile it and we must fight to protect it and convince other students to going you in this battle.  WBT has many techniques to have the students on your side and not against you.  I will be taking a look at those and how they can be used in the target language.  Please leave a comment and let us know about your opinon.

One last thing.  I just found a great document  called “Check your English at the Door” that talks about just this very topic.  It was made by Cherice Montgomery.  Thank you Cherice you are a great advocate for immersion.



Blaine Ray’s visit to my class

Blaine Ray Teaching

Last week I had the opportunity to have Blaine Ray come teach my class. I have been actively doing TPRS in my classes for about two years and I was curious how my students would react with Blaine as their teacher. Well they did great. They knew how to play the game of TPRS with me and the did well playing this game with Blaine. There were several things that I learned from Blaine.

First of all Blaine actively used many of my students in his story. He was active in having students mirror the actions with the story and I loved how he was looking to see what the students knew and didn’t know. He was trying to break them down linguistically and finding out what the next thing they needed to learn was. This was a skill that I needed to learn personally. I know that the Authentic Language Assessments that we give do this very thing but I didn’t think about doing it while I present my stories in TPRS. He controlled his story very well when my students wanted to change it or had doubts. One thing I noticed is that he is very good on how he uses proximity and teaches to the eyes to make sure students are actively listening.

Also one thing thing I noticed is that he wanted responses to be instant with hardly any wait time. I was allowing tons of wait time and I think this was not helping me. In education they always talk about the benefits of wait time for questions but I think that wait time just gives students time for their minds to wander and they’re gone. So don’t get me wrong I think “Teacher Talk” is important. “Teacher Talk” as I understand it is where the teacher slows down their speech and also try to avoid slang and idiomatic expressions however I don’t think teacher talk should shelter grammar in any way. Blaine used the Subjunctive freely with my students their was no grammar sheltering going on. This didn’t phase my students comprehension. Blaine started to build relationships with students and the students ate it up.

One thing I respect about Blaine Ray and many other top tprs teachers is that they make themselves very available and accessible to the normal teacher. How many originators of teaching methods volunteer their time and email you back within hours of your inquiry? How many originators of methods could feel that they are too good to teach a class at a title one middle school. Anyhow I feel that the TPRS community is lucky to have the leaders that it has and it was a great opportunity and privilege to have Blaine come to my class.

Blaine and Me


Preliterate Students using TPRS?


So do any of you have students who are quite not on reading level?  I have.  I am wondering how these preliterate students might not be getting the support they need in my class.  Last year I had a student who was in 7th grade but on a 2nd grade reading level.  I never thought of any Differentiation besides possibly making the already simplified readings more simple.  The student didn’t know how to decode very well in English so learning new words in a foreign language seemed overwhelming to him.  I really like the idea of doing embedded reading.  I just haven’t had the time or knowledge to create my reading in three different levels.  I hope to have this available to me for next year.  So if I simply the reading as much as possible it would serve my preliterate students well.  The best part about it is that students are all studying the same general theme but just at different levels of linguistic proficiency.  As for the oral part of class, the student did ok.  He was able to understand and process the words like any other students.  The only disadvantage is that in TPRS students use the board as a crutch for understanding.  But this crutch is not much of a crutch for kids who can’t read. 

 I recently watched a great video of one of Krashen’s lectures on the best practices of teaching reading.  He found that it was strange how much phonics is pushed in curriculum but research shows that phonimic awareness does not help students read better.  The phonimic awareness is a product of knowing how to read.  The only parts of phonics that are useful are the ones we can remember and explain.  He say that if you have to look it up yourself don’t teach it.  This made complete sense to me. So what produces better readers if phonics is not the answer?  Well he says that what we understand we will acquire.  This points toward the importance of comprehensible input.  If phonics make the text more comprehensible then it will be benefical to increasing a students ability to read.  The other thing is that kids will get better at reading according to their access to books.  If students have access to interesting material that they like.  Chances are reading ability will increase.  They did a study of reading scores of students from BeverlyHills california and students from Watts.  Students from Beverly Hills had an average of 200 books in their homes and the kids from Watts had 0.4 books at home.  School was not the great equalizer either.  Beverly Hills adverage 400 books in school librarys.  Watts adveraged 50.  There are better access to book stores, libraries etc.  If we want to increase literacy we need to invest in our libraries and also to get books in the home.  This is what will produce more and better readers.  Anyhow this was an excellent lecture.  Check it out sometime and give me your thoughts about it.  This brings me to think about how much access do our kids have to texts in our target language?