Here is a very long blog entry (with permission) that a department head (not in my school, more’s the pity) posted about her leap of faith into TPRStorytelling. If it doesn’t make you want to go teach in her school, you must have an excellent situation.

Angie’s Blog
TPRS Fall 2010

Thursday, August 19- (COLLABORATION) I talked with Cara for about an hour.  She helped me pare down the story that I plan to present tomorrow.  I still have a tendency to want to add too much, especially for my level 1 students.  She reminded me to make sure I have different types of questions (yes/no, either/or and fishing).  She also gave me some websites to check out (Scott Benedict’s and Susan Gross, also links to Podcasts del Profe-a personal favorite!)

One of the other things we discussed was the need to not expect the kids to learn all of the traditional information (ie numbers, colors, days of week, etc).  It is more important for them to recognize them than to master them.  I have a few issues with this, but am working on it.  This whole thing is tough to someone who has and has always believed in a strong work ethic and that everything presented must be learned.  Dang!  Change is tough!

I found some great resources on these sites, as well as links to several other good sites.

I am still very overwhelmed by all this.  I thought I had a finger hold on the process, but it seems that I had no clue.  I’m sure it will all fall together eventually.  I am still puzzled about PQA.  I thought that was something you do with every story, but it seems like something you only do at the beginning of the year.

Friday, August 20- (REFLECTION) I did my first story today!  It went OK.  My first period class wasn’t really into it (but I think they just aren’t awake yet).  Fifth period liked the whole thing.  I told a goofy story about an elephant and his friends the giraffe and penguin who wanted to escape the zoo.  They had a Maserati, but couldn’t drive it because their legs were too short to work the pedals.  We had just enough time to finish (to my surprise), so I had them write a resolution to the problem in the last 2 minutes of class.  Best resolution got chocolate on Monday.  I didn’t do anything more with this story because of the weekend, but I wanted them to have the experience and get to know the way this works (slap hand when don’t understand, ooh, ay carramba, etc).

Monday, August 23 (REFLECTION) I did another story today.  A boy has (tiene) a backpack with a pencil, book and paper.  He has a pet bunny.  He has a mean friend who steals the backpack and buries it.  The bunny finds it and returns it so the boy can turn in his homework in.   Ironically, I did better with period 1 and they were more into the story.  I was losing lots of kids in period 5.

I started with some informal PQA about the kids in order to introduce them to the class and review old vocab. I realize I have the yes/no and either/or questions down.  I really need to work on fishing questions.  I am pretty good at recycling the vocab, but often lose focus and get lost.  I also need to do more frequent checks of comprehension.

Monday, August 23 (COLLABORATION)  We spent all of lunch sharing stories and successes.  All of us are trying TPRS and are committed to mastering it.    We are going to spend a couple of hours tomorrow coming up with a department plan for rubrics and how to grade our classes.  This will help kids when they switch between classes at semester and have a better transition from one year to the next.

Tuesday, August 24 (COLLABORATION) Lunch collaboration goes on.  We all shared the stories we are teaching and ideas for what to do with them after they get told.  We all feel that a steady diet of only stories will create bored students.  We are coming up with various activities to mix things up a little.  Singing, games to reinforce what we’ve learned, maybe even a little grammar practice.   We are also trying to figure out when/ how to incorporate reading into our level 1 classes.   Pretty heady conversation over salads and sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 24 (COLLABORATION) We met for about an hour after school as a department to start the process of hammering out exactly what we want our rubrics to look like and how we want to grade on Zangle.  Our goal is to have workable rubrics, a letter to explain our grading system to parents and knowledge of how to put our weighted categories and letter grades into Zangle by next week.  We want to invite our principal and our curriculum principal to our classes after school and bring them up to speed and get their final blessing next Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 (REFLECTION)  I am still having a little trouble engaging all my kids.  It doesn’t help that my classroom is 85 degrees and it is totally sunny outside.  However, I need to do a better job keeping kids on task.  I need to try and incorporate students in acting roles.  I like this idea, but have to admit I’m a little intimidated by getting kids I don’t know well to do something crazy.  Yes, I ‘m a chicken.  This will be my goal next Monday when I start a new story.

Friday, August 27, 2010 (REFLECTION)    I still need to remember to get kids in acting roles.  I still need to slow down.  I still need to make sure all the kids are engaged.  That said, I feel like most of them can use “soy, es and tiene”.  They all know what a backpack, pencil, paper and book are.  They can give a rudimentary description of a person (bad, good, and lots others if they use the wall of cognates) and, just to have something completely useless in their arsenal, they know how to say bunny.  Not bad for a first week.

Next week I want to re-introduce “soy, es and tiene and add me/le gusta “with lots more nous.

Saturday, August 28 (REFLECTION)  OK, now I see that I really need to slow down!  The modeling that Allison did in class yesterday was eye opening.  I can only think that my students are brilliant beyond words because their heads didn’t explode with all the things I gave them last week!  I think I need to make a giant “SLOW” sign for the back of my class so I can see it and remind myself!  Maybe I’ll wait for another week to add me/le gusta.  I think more practice with “soy, es and tiene” with more  nouns might be better.  Those are some pretty fundamental verbs and I’d really like to see the kids get them into their active vocab.  Maybe if I get totally crazy I’ll add “tengo”

I’d also like to do a shout out to my pals at East.  Cara, Allison and Regina-thanks for your insights and patience.  It is really appreciated. And here I thought one could only fish for salmon! I’d still be circling if you hadn’t explained what that meant!  Megan, you rock for fearlessly giving this a try!

Monday, August 30 (REFLECTION)  I started a new story today.  It went OK, but I see that I am not reaching all the kids.  I can’t tell if they just don’t get it or are bored.  Grrrrr.

Tuesday, September 1 (REFLECTION)   I told the story again today.  I tried to go slowly and do plenty of circling.  I think I am putting too much added detail into my second telling.  I need to ask about horizontal story telling.  I know some kids are getting it, but many are still staring at me.  I asked the kids to summarize the story for me.  I read their summaries after school and graded them with the rubric.  I had a handful of A’s, a few more B’s and lots of C’s.  I also had some D’s.  Kids who totally missed the boat.

Thursday, September 3 (REFLECTION)  I showed the kids their summaries today.  I told them how many of them would give me looks during the story telling that say “Hey, I’m bored” or “I got it already”.  This demonstrated to many of them that they, in fact, do not get it.  I explained the grading scale (1-4) to them.  I explained the whole concept of performance based grading, how that it shows progress and that they should not be discouraged by a low grade right now, how that I was looking for trends in improvement, how I know what hard work it is to stay on task in a world that wants immediate rewards with little effort (OK, I didn’t exactly put it that way, but that was my point) and exactly how they could get the grade they were looking for.

I didn’t hide the expectations and I was blown away by their response.  They were really focused on the class activity that day.  They were all trying to  “kick it up a notch”, now that they knew what I was looking for.  They were really enthused and not at all bummed about their low grades.  Hmmmmm.  Maybe this stuff does work!

Friday, September 4 (COLLABORATION)  I have just finished writing the writing and speaking rubrics (the long forms).  These are the ones I will give to kids and parents to explain what we are looking for.  Obviously, we will need to create a shorter, more user friendly form for grading purposes.  I am a little stymied on what to put in the listening and reading rubrics.  I will have to think about that this weekend.

We have also been discussing input vs. output at our daily lunchtime debrief sessions and via email discussions.  I think we are all still trying to figure out how to evaluate kids without demanding output.  I can input until the cows come home, but without output how do I measure if it is sticking?  Do I even need to care?  According to Susan Gross, I don’t need to.  According to the ASD, I do.  Oh well, we’ll all eventually figure it out!

Tuesday, September (COLLABORATION)  We’ve been meeting as a department once a week for an hour or more since school started to discuss what we are doing and how we are feeling about TPRS and our activities.  Today we decided that we were going to choose a weekly target for assessment.  For example, next week we are going to choose reading.  This week we will come up with activities and run them by each other, hoping to tweak them into perfect plans.  After we do them next week, we will debrief with each other.  This is a very valuable process.  I have decided my peers are brilliant and I can definitely benefit from their advice and experience.  I think having all of us focus on one skill at a time will really help us “newbies” and we will have a bunch of creative and fun activities when we are done.

We have also decided to create a notebook with sample activities/assessments.  It doesn’t really matter what language they are in, we can look at the general idea and make it fit our needs.  For example, we were talking about taking one of the stories and instead of having the kids translate it, give them a list to complete first.
1.    Boy’s name
2.    Animal
3.    color
4.    Girl’s name, etc.
Then give the kids a cloze copy of the story with the blanks numbered.  Every time there is a blank numbered 1, the kids put in the boy’s name they had written down.  It is just like Madlibs.  Then have the kids translate that story.  They are still getting all the structure practice we want them to have, but it is personalized and more fun.

Gotta love the creative minds around here!


4 responses to “Angie

  1. Susie is coming up with Laurie in just a couple of weeks, and Abby will be in from Bethel, and I think that the EHS teachers are going to be in heaven. They’ve been doing a great job–now they’ll have additional input and inspiration. Whoo hoo!!


  2. It was so great to read her “process”!!!! Ah Alaska…we need to clone you…

    with love,


  3. Just reading the heading “Collaboration,” again and again, leaves me so hungry. What a great thing to be able to do as a department! These folks are inspiringly brave, open, and involved. Thanks for giving us a peek.


  4. Thanks for your kind words. This truly has been an adventure. After doing the same thing for 22 years, it is kind of scary to jump into something so totally different. I have to give TONS of credit to my department (yes, sadly I am the last one to join the fun), as well as the other teachers around Anchorage who have been doing TPRS for a while. Without their enthusiasm and inspiration I never would have tried this. There have been ups and downs, but the support I’ve found from the whole TPRS community here in Anchorage and from around the country has been amazing. Rock on, TPRS !


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