Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stepping Out of My Comfortable Rut

Try to find pleasure in the speed that you're not used to. 
Changing the way you do routine things allows 
a new person to grow inside of you. 
But when all is said and done, you're the one 
who must decide how you handle it.
~ Paulo Coelho

I've taught my ESL class for four years now and, to be honest (or "TBH" - am I hip, or what?  Don't answer that!)  I've felt a little stale this last year.  So, I did some research on the internet and stumbled across this method of teaching someone a second language called the "Total Physical Response Storytelling" (or TPRS) method.  

I'm still learning about it, but the basic idea is to expose the students to a large amount of language that they can understand - using two primary devices.  First, associate phrases with physical gestures or movements and second, embed those phrases into stories that you and your students jointly create.  

I'm following the lessons in a guide book called "Putting it Together: TPRS for English Language Learners - Teacher's Guide" by Elizabeth Skelton and Denise Milligan and the first lesson was designed around four vocabulary targets:

  1. Food
  2. Enough money
  3. Check, please!
  4. Sell

We spent 10-15 minutes on each vocabulary target - playing with the Big Jar 'O Plastic Food...  

...and the Small Jar 'O Fake Money...

I gave commands like, "Point to some red food" and "Sell some food to your classmate for $10."

I asked questions like, "Is $10 enough money to buy a house?" and "Do you say 'Check, please!' in a bank?"  

Finally, I used a MadLib approach to let the students tailor the lesson story.  Among other things, I solicited three types of food, two beverages, a large number, a small number and an article of women's clothing.  Our final story went something like this:
Carlos took his wife to a restaurant for her birthday.  Carlos's wife had new pants on.  They ate a lot of shrimp, rice and tacos.  They drank a lot of orange juice and tequila.  Carlos said, "Check, please!"  The waitress gave him the check.  It was $1,000.  Carlos only had $1 in his wallet.  Carlos did not have enough money.  Carlos's wife sold her pants to the waitress for $999.  Carlos had enough money to pay for dinner.  Carlos was happy.  Carlos's wife was angry.  Now she does not have any pants.  
This approach is very different from how I usually teach and I was a bit nervous going in - but I was really happy with how it turned out!  The students seemed to love it - they were very engaged, listened carefully, willingly tried to speak, etc.  I'm feeling a lot more optimistic now and looking forward to working more with this approach.  :)


  1. That sounds like fun! So clever and mostly fun!!!

    1. Hey Resa! So far, it is really fun - my students seem to enjoy it a lot. Now we just have to see how it works in the long run...