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July TPRS Meeting

Well we held our second meeting and I guess we are moving toward making it a habit. I think one of the best things about our group has been creating a network of teachers that we can collaborate with.  Especially for teachers who are the only language teacher at their school or work with teachers that don’t share the same philosophy.  We missed a couple of our members today but we also gain a couple new faces.  Ryan, Paul and my own High School Spanish teacher Señora Beus were great additions to our meeting.  We specifically talked about circling when using PQA and then searching for the students who give the class some fun and interesting input.  This helps us make a transition from doing PQA into a story.

One idea I have is to talk with some students in the class to create some outlandish answers to your PQA.  If students don’t know how you want them to participate, many times your conversation will fall flat on it’s face due to the lack of student interest.  In our meeting today Paul suggested a interesting / silly answer that caught all of our attention and filled the room with more energy.  Teaching by feeling is the key.  It is important to feel that energy and use it and follow it and support it when we are teaching.  It is very common to feel afraid to do TPRS because we don’t know what to do or say next but if we find students like Paul that will “play the game of TPRS ” with us, we will feel more success and energy to carry on.


El Profesor


Paul mentioned a book that Ben Slavic had just finished revising that we all should look into.  It is called “Stepping Stones To Stories”.  This book addresses why jumping right into stories fails us and that there needs to be some front loading and preparation before starting to “Ask a Story” with our students.  I plan on getting myself a copy.

I really enjoyed Matty and Ladonna’s participation.  They did really well and having these coaching sessions is a great place to practice.  We will have some other teachers practice next time and maybe we can get into two small coaching sessions and learn from each other.  I feel the best way to get better is by practicing in coaching sessions.

I will follow up on the August meeting with Davis District and get back to you as soon as possible.

Here is a link for the Spanish/English Frequency Dictionary many of you asked for.

Next meeting we will either be replaced with the Davis District Training or we will meet on Wednesday August 6th.  I will keep you posted.

Weither we meet in August or September here are a couple topics we will be focusing on.

-More Coaching Sessions  (practice circling, PQA, and Transition into a Story) (Bring your own skill you want to practice.)

-Classroom Management

-Classroom Design and building a reading library

– Other topics of your choice (Please email me for ideas)


Well until next time




Salt Lake TPRS Group


Recently, I have wanted to create a collaboration group of TPRS teachers in the Salt Lake City area.  I know in Colorado they have a power house team of TPRS teachers.  They have some top TPRS sluggers like Ben Slavic, Karen Rowan, Michael Miller, Bryce Hedstrom and Susan Gross. Well today we started our own team.  Introducing our new Salt Lake TPRS Group.  What a great looking group!

TPRS Salt Lake

It really is a great thing to meet together with educators who share the same passion and philosophy.  Today we talked about step one in TPRS “Establishing Meaning”.  We talked about the importance of linking gestures with key vocabulary and structures.  We had a quick overview of how well whole brain teaching procedures help to establish meaning.  Check out this High School Math teacher using WBT (Whole Brain Teaching)  You will want to adapt this system so it fits your style of teaching.  Here is a video of me using mirrors and voices to review / teach vocabulary.  We also talked about gesture battles.

I introduced the Super Speed self starter that we did in Japanese.  Click Here to get the word doc format so you can edit it to fit in your vocabulary.  Remember to use the Find and Advanced Find and Replace feature to make it less time consuming.

After I did a short Japanese Demo of PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) We circled some of the grammar around the following words:

1.  Tabetai    食べたい

2. Men 麺

3. Watashi  私

私はを食べたいです    Watashi wa men o tabetai desu

Lisa wa sushi o tabetai desu ka

Try to guess the answer in the comments:   Doko Lisa wa sushi o tabetai desu ka

We didn’t have time or felt ready to start with coaching sessions but plan to do this in the future.  We talked about the importance to have passion and enthusiasm in your class to build interest and motivate students.  Our book study will be teach like a pirate and we will devote some time in our next meeting on what we learned from the book.  I mentioned for you guys to check out Professor Rassias in China video.  The Rassias in China Video is 50 minutes so don’t start it until you have some time to watch it.  If you don’t have that much time you should watch his TEDX and his video about language teaching.  Next meeting I can share some of the drill techniques that he uses which are useful and can be great to use in the classroom.

We also didn’t have a ton of time to talk about curriculum development and Backwards Design but we did have some great discussions about self starters and short activities to do in our classes.  At the end I mentioned the FLR method which seeks to help you start having conversations with native speakers as quickly as possible and also using connecting words to increase your “fluency” or sense of fluency in the language.  Moses McCormick is a really inspiring language learner and teacher and has some great principles to add into our language teaching.

Last thing we didn’t have time to cover but was really important was FVR (Free, Voluntary, Reading)  Ladonna asked about TPRS in a level 3 class and I think this is a really good thing to get your kids involved in.  There is an awesome TPRS teacher that is starting a colaborative online class library.  His name is Mike Peto.  Here is the link and the instructions for writing your own story this summer and then we will share all our stories with each other to develop our class libraries.  We will talk about it more in our July meeting.

Our next Meeting will be on Monday July 14th from 9:00am – 12:00pm.  Look for the flyer through email for location and agenda.  If you weren’t able to come to our meeting we would like to invite anyone who is interested.  I have also thought of doing some free language classes as practice sessions for TPRS teachers to practice their skills.


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.