Ben Slavic’s blog has a thread going about gestures. TPR (total physical response) always included movement (“Jack walks to the table and puts the chair on his head”) but a lot of people modified TPR to include gestures. I love using gestures–I use them to define most words in new songs for my level one kids, and supplement the meaning on the board and sometimes a picture with a gesture if it’s appropriate. Like others on Ben’s blog, I occasionally go to an on-line ASL dictionary to look for signs for words that don’t immediately call a gesture out of the kids.
For a while though, gestures were somewhat downplayed in TPRS. I have always had the experience of students’ remembering words when I show them the gesture, so couldn’t leave that behind. And one of my observers last week mentioned that after watching me, she was going to do a whole lot more with gestures. She also added a note that she tried an activity she watched in my class and that it didn’t go very well.
Having done this TPRS stuff for three whole years now (I’m using this phrase to underscore that I’m still new at it and not at all an authority), I keep realizing how long it takes me to learn things. I don’t want people to come to my room and think that it’s going to be necessarily easy to change how they do things, or even that they should adopt everything they see. We are all talented in different ways, so what works in one room may not work in another. An example for me is that I always wanted to ask my kids the comprehension questions in Russian, but kept doing it in English. But this year, I’ve finally changed over to asking, “Shto znachit…” (What does … mean?) in Russian. My fear that it would be an incomprehensible phrase to the barometer kids has not been realized, and I’ve moved on to the “What did I just say?” in Russian as well, and “How will …be in English” (the literal translation of “How do you say … in English?”) — These phrases are extremely useful for kids, and they are beginning to ask them in appropriate places. But I’m not yet able to figure out how to use Betsy’s ticket out every day, despite my hope. I’ve been working on getting the comprehension questions into Russian for a couple of years now. Maybe the tickets out will come by 2014!
So on this Sunday, when I’m back from an amazing weekend with students, I am cautioning myself to remember that I don’t have to try to recreate myself in any way overnight and enjoying the gains I have made. Small steps toward a goal ensure that I move there steadily and that I can retain my gains for a longer period.