Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The First Ten - TPR in Two Weeks

I am often asked how I start a level I class (or any level) using Comprehensible Input and using no textbook. Certainly the beginning of the year is overwhelming, even ignoring the question of what your curriculum/vocabulary list may be, so my hope is that this post provides some insight into what I do, and why I do it, as well as an easy to follow lesson plan for those who with to make use of it.

The What

TPR stands for Total Physical Response. There are a variety of ways this is employed, but the key components of this technique involve spoken language and/or commands in the target language and a physical response, usually involving the entire body. The benefits of this technique vary, depending on the way you do it. For this post, I am going to talk about a basic version that involves giving commands and completing actions in various ways (whole body response). Other ways of doing this include:

  • using American Sign Language or another form of sign language to communicate while speaking in the target language.* 
  • assigning gestures and signs (often made up by the class) to teach vocabulary and communicate.*
  • assigning gestures and signs to help students connect with grammar while communicating in the target language.* 
  • assigning gestures and whole body responses for key words to help tell a story
There are probably more ways to employ this technique, so feel free to share them in the comments! 

*I distinguish between ASL and gestures. ASL is a language and I treat it as such, employing communication using Latin and ASL. Gestures are non-ASL signs often made by particular teachers, groups, and/or students to serve a unique purpose. 

The Why

I love this technique. It is the first thing I did when I started teaching on the recommendation of my father because it was an easy way to give Comprehensible Input, builds community, and is a very easy way to quickly assess understanding. In addition to these reasons, I start every year with a little TPR because:

  • It give students quick and easy success, building language confidence and skill.
  • It serves to remind students of what they already know and our daily processes.
  • It sets the expectation for time in the target language. 
  • It allows first time students (whether you have a level I class, or some new additions) to quickly build vocabulary and early success (which I think is key for setting the tone for the year). 
  • It is easily changeable based on class size, ability, etc on a moment to moment basis. 
This is why I love TPR and use if often. It is a great activity for a day when I am feeling tired, or want to review vocabulary quickly. 

The How

To begin, I take stock of what's in my room and use this list that Bob Patrick shares to help form the vocabulary we'll learn during the two weeks (roughly 10 hours). There are some things I bear in mind when choosing which vocabulary to teach and focus on:

Is it high frequency AND/OR will we use it frequently in class? 

We base our vocabulary choices, in writing novellas, stories, and our lesson plans based on a few high frequency lists:
  1. Dickenson's Frequency List
  2. 50 Most Important Verbs
  3. Super Set Vocabulary (I developed this based on the frequency lists above AND on the Super Seven set that languages like Spanish and French have)
  4. Essential Latin Vocabulary
The second piece of this is to consider if we'll use it frequently in class. This will vary from class to class (e.g. if you have a window or separate chairs from desks), but the 50 Most Important Verbs can be very helpful here ask well. If it is high frequency and/or will be used often in class, I will teach it in the TPR session as an important word to know, rather than an icing word. 

Are there other words that go hand in hand?

This can be very useful when building which 4-5 words you will focus on in a day and can help with making connections. These can be verbs that work together or opposite each other, nouns and verbs that go together, etc. Some obvious pairs are:

  • open - close (door - window)
  • hit/knock - touch - demonstrate
  • draw - write - erase
  • marker - pen - pencil
  •  sit - stand (desk - chair)
  • floor - ceiling
  • walk - run

I may then teach these pairs on the same day or on subsequent days, which allows for review on a daily basis.

In what order will I teach these words?

If I bear in mind the goals of: being in Latin 90%+ of the day, giving kids easy and quick successes, and showing students they can understand Latin from the beginning, I will start with the very basics:

  • sit
  • stand
  • chair
  • desk
Already this builds for a very easy, and fun day. Especially if you add the icing words (words that you are using, but that kids don't need to know yet): quickly, slowly (more on this below). 

I will then build off that list and slowly add things so that each day I can review a little and introduce new things. 

The Plan

Below I link to and detail two lesson plans (Latin I and Latin II). I have left each document open to comments, so feel free to leave any comments or questions and I'll answer them on the document. Each lesson plan contains:
  1. key words in Latin
  2. icing words in Latin
  3. notes and sample scripts

Level I Class

Here is a link to the lesson plans I used last year when teaching Latin I using this TPR method for the first ten days (approximately 10 hours). I have left it so that anyone can comment on it. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. A few caveats to this link:
  • You'll notice the first day has more than 4-5 words. What we discovered was that this particular group of ones was ready that day for more and we improvised and then edited the list. You may find your students are also the same, OR that they need more limiting of vocabulary. 
  • We also required students to complete a picture dictionary that had to include: the Latin word, the English word, a picture defining the word. I maintained this the entire year. 
  • These words reflect the objects in my room. You may wish to edit the Bob Patrick's list (linked above) to make your own list. 
  • At the end of these two weeks, we did a TPR quiz. I took role this day (and, was also observed this day surprisingly) and when I called a student's name, I asked them to stand up and do something like open the door, demonstrate their pen, etc. 
Student progressed very quickly this year using this method. By the end, they knew a lot of words that were easily accessible to them and were used fairly regularly. 

During these two weeks, we also used "Circling with Balls" to teach words like to have, to want, to give, etc. You can see more on this below in the Latin II Class description. I like Circling with Balls (even though I don't use balls, but rather stuffed animals) because it lets individual students shine as well as allows for one on one interaction. I also like this because it forces me to learn student names actively, rather than looking at pictures, lists, or alphabetical things (which I'm not super at anyways). 

Here are some nifty things that I do to liven up class:
  • use adverbs to describe how students should sit/stand/run/walk/etc.
  • make students sit or stand VERY slowly or VERY quickly and scold if they do not follow exactly.
  • have students walk outside the room while people say goodbye
  • have students turn in circles while touching a desk or chair

Latin II Class

Here is a guide to the TPR I am doing currently with my IIs this year. Please note that this will update this and next week as I teach and add my notes. I have left it so that anyone can comment on it. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. I will answer them as I see them. I am really relying on circling this year, partially because I have new students whose names I want to learn and partially because I want to really drive home the idea of doing specific actions repeatedly in various contexts with students. Some caveats to these lessons:
  • I am working with my former students, students I inherited from my colleague, and a handful of students from other schools who have varying degrees of ability with CI, oral practice, etc. 
  • I am working with students who have a variety of vocabulary. For example, I usually use "sic" to mean yes, while some of my colleagues use "certe" or "ita". So, students are gaining some icing knowledge in how words are used differently. 
  • My colleagues this year are using a variety of ways to teach and review this vocabulary via my lessons. While I love TPR and circling, Rachel prefers TPRS, which works great for her and her students. We work together and collaborate, but still maintain freedom to work in a way best for us. 
This year relies heavily on Circling with Balls and uses TPR as an introduction and reinforcement of what we are doing. Students indicated one of their goals this year was to have more daily Latin and use Latin more often in our daily routine. To this end, I'm targeting words I know I will need to deliver instruction, help students get materials and complete assignments, etc. 


What you will find, in both years, is that certain students will lend themselves to being the "stars" of the day while others take a back seat and ride along This is okay! What this means is that some days will be really rich with circling and other days will rely on TPR and teacher direction. This may even vary from class to class. 

Some classes will move slowly and require some more prompting, and some classes will move quickly and may want more words or may be able to have a deeper discussion. This may also vary from day to day or student to student. Personally, I use those high flyers to deepen the discussion and provide more repetitions. 

Students LOVE stuffed animals. They like to hold them, play with them, tell stories with them, trade them, no matter the students' age. Use this to your advantage. 

If you use TPR in a different way or have other reflections, I'd love to hear them! I'd also love to see some discussions on the documents on how we can use this and expand this! 

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