Laurie is right (of course)!

I just wanted to note that Laurie is right about pre-viewing (of course).

I ushered yesterday twice for Dream Girls. (I know: tough work, but someone’s got to do it.)

The first time, I was in the balcony. I couldn’t see well, and the music was loud enough that I put in earplugs, so I couldn’t hear everything. Add that to warmth and missing a few moments due to snooze factor and directing people to seats, and I was a perfect storm to duplicate what can go on for a language learner. I didn’t understand the show, and didn’t enjoy it as I’d expected!

I was not looking forward to the second time around, later that evening. This time, I missed the loud opening, but was seated on the orchestra floor. An overhang took the edge off the volume so I didn’t wear earplugs. I could see, and I had enough of the storyline from the first time that I was watching for details, and could enjoy the dancing and voices.

Guess what: I LOVED the show! It was amazing.

So…even though it’s probably true that we can be successful in TPRS and MovieTalk and everything else without knowing things in advance, Laurie’s right: seeing a clip first so that we can attend to the language and details is going to result in better acquisition. I’m going to guess that if we want to add subtitles to the mix, that should be a separate viewing, for another purpose, rather than using them the first time.

Hmm…kind of like how we vary the activities for Embedded Reading? Love how good teaching comes out to be all the same!


I want to add a little tiny piece of “Hurrah for TPRS” news from the other day. I was going to post this separately, but felt like I was bragging or something, and I’m not: I’m just saying that TPRS wins out in the end.

As many of you know, we just had a statewide Russian contest of oral speaking. I was particularly worried about one of our judges, because she was someone who had attended a TPRS class that I was in charge of and had openly shared her disdain for TPRS, both in the class and in a hour-long rebuke session in the parking lot one day several years ago. I have carried the scars of that conversation for some time, and have assumed that she would never have any respect for me. On top of that, this has been a rough year, so I haven’t taught as well as I could, and don’t even remember the last oral presentation the kids had to do. I was not confident about what they would demonstrate.

I respect this person as one of the most talented teachers I’ve ever watched. I get to talk with her students from time to time, and they always blow me away (one was in my room yesterday, wanting to use the computer; he told me that he knew his mother’s login and password on the system, and even though that turned out not to be true, the fact that a pint-sized American boy could respond to me with no hesitation in Russian blew me away again…he’s a former student, but I’m betting a lot of that comes from her). If you could be in her presence, you would agree that any student within fifty feet of her would gain just by being there. She’s awesome. My respect for her made the negative feedback all the harder to bear.

Anyway, at the competition yesterday, she was positively beaming. She told our curriculum coordinator how impressed she was, and she told me too. Granted, she was judging the upper levels, so she got to hear my very best students who have been with me for several years, but she still asked the question: “How do you get your students to be so good at Russian and to be so comfortable talking?”

I did not remind her that TPRS is my method. I thanked her instead of trying to answer, singing inside. I almost never make them do oral presentations. It’s a real weakness with me. I do talk with them. I ask them about their lives and their loves. We build stories and virtual realities together. I show them movie clips. We read. We sing. We laugh. We tease one another. We do CI as much as possible. I steal from Laurie, from Bryce, from Martina, from Kristy, from Betsy, Victoria, and Cara and more. On the other hand, we sometimes crawl in boring depths for days and days as I try to manage four years’ worth of kids with highly different levels of motivation in one room. And then…once in a while they pull it all together. I don’t know how. Thank you Blaine and Ashley and gurus and CI friends everywhere. Because of you, magic happens.


7 responses to “Laurie is right (of course)!

  1. Spanish Teacher

    I am SO scared to show the entire clip first. My students traditionally resist doing anything “twice.” I just feel like they are going to be negative and not really get good CI the second time around (due to not listening). Do I REALLY need to get over this fear and just dive in? Perhaps if I just show part of the video…I’m planning to start with Post It Love (wordless short movie) and in another class a short commercial (the one from the movie talk web site).


    • I honestly think that you can choose what’s best for your class. Laurie suggested showing the clip that you’re going to use, but not showing the punch line if there is one until the second time. I like that idea.


  2. Congratulations to you and your students! Since I moved to California my classes are literally twice the size of what they were back in Massachusetts… I definitely do not have enough time for oral presentations (a set of digital recorders allows me to record and hear more, but all of that listening takes time away from planning). Without TPRS my students simply were not talking (except during assessed prompts), and I felt like such a failure. With TPRS they volunteer in class and join the conversation… more authentic than any strategically-worded prompt!


  3. So happy to read about your encounter with your colleague…although it’s no surprise to me that your students were impressive.

    with love,


  4. I’m new to the blog but I’ll definitely be coming back. I loving hearing your ideas and stories! Thank you!


    • Hi Brent,

      Thanks for the kind words. I am always glad to hear others’ experiences and ideas, and hope that sharing my own will complete the circle.


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