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When my student came back from Exchange (the week before Spring break), she talked to me about her experience in Spanish class at the school that she was at in Pennsylvania. As she talked, I realized that, due to her unique experience of being in both a TPRS® Spanish class and a grammar Spanish class, her reflection would be worth writing down. I told her that some people were against teaching the way that I taught (TPRS® style) and that at one point in my career (this is really true) I had even been told that I was ruining students’ lives by not giving them explicit grammar explanations ;) This was not for a grade... I told her ultimately it was up to her if she wanted to write anything or not as it would be on her own time.

I told her that if she felt like she was learning with TPRS, then to make sure that she mentioned that, but above all it was important to be %100 honest in whatever she said. I also said that I would post her reflection on the TPRS list serve for future teachers that have doubts about whether teaching with TPRS is the right thing to do.

ENJOY! It is kind of long... but (in my opinion) worth the read!

From Michelle on the moreTPRS Yahoo list

From my student (a sophomore in high school):

TPRS® vs. Original Spanish Teaching

Spanish class is one of my favorite classes. In my Spanish II class, taught by Senorita Goliber, we tell stories, learn popular songs and traditional songs in Spanish, and have fun speaking and listening to the language. By listening and speaking each day during class, I have acquired a well-developed accent and I know many more vocabulary words than others who are in a regular Spanish class using books, quizzes, and conjugations to learn the language.

I had the unique opportunity to sit in on a class for a month that uses the traditional Spanish-teaching technique. I went to Pennsylvania for a student exchange for a month and went to all of the classes there. The Spanish class was much different than the class I was used to. The class used a work book, several worksheets, a textbook, and exercises from the textbook during class. We hardly spoke in Spanish and all explanations by the teacher were given in English. It was a shame that I had to sit in a Spanish class that wasn’t fun and where I believe little learning took place.

However, I appreciated the opportunity to see how other schools teach so that I could compare the different methods and apply those differences to show which method has worked best for me. The speaking skills and vocabulary skills vary between the two different teaching methods, and I firmly believe that the TPRS method has given me a stronger background in Spanish and a stronger desire to continue learning the language.

As I said, speaking in Spanish during the class I sat in on was rare. The students in the class asked questions in English, and the only time the students did speak in Spanish was to answer questions to work book problems or answers to worksheets that had been assigned as homework the night before. I could tell right away that the basic Spanish accent was missing from some students’ oration. The basic double L sounds and n with ~ were nowhere in their speech and it sounded like rudimentary students who had just begun speaking were in the class rather than level 2 Spanish students. This was shocking to me because I hear and speak Spanish every day in class and it seems almost like second nature to speak with the proper accent.

I didn’t only observe while I was in the class, I also participated. The teacher was pleasantly surprised when I first answered a question in Spanish. I explained why the answer was so in Spanish and she was extremely surprised. She also complemented me on my accent and had me read every time the opportunity presented itself during the class. The girls were surprised at how well I spoke, even though I had never thought of myself as a superb speaker. The students said that they hated speaking because it felt unnatural and that they also disliked the class in general because it was hard. I had never thought of Spanish as a hard class because the way we learn through telling stories and speaking lets me have lots of fun in class and having fun makes the class easy.

The way the students learned vocabulary was by going over it in class, learning how to conjugate the verbs, and then having a quiz or test. The vocabulary was directly out of the textbook and if a student went to a Spanish-speaking nation and wanted to say that she enjoyed climbing trees and playing with blocks when she was young, she would do perfectly fine. We learned words pertaining to musicals, plays, and instruments, but if one of the students needed to ask for directions, I’m afraid she would be out of luck. We learn practical skills in our Spanish class such as left, right, on top of, far away, close, and words that could actually help us if we needed to use Spanish. We learn these vocabulary words three or four words at a time and we have class discussions, in Spanish, to learn them. It is so easy to learn words when we can relate them to our own lives and share them with the class.

Then we go on to tell stories with the words that we come up with and that have unique twists that are memorable. When we are all done and ready to move on to new words, the old words have been imprinted in our minds. The girls from the school I went to studied hard for their tests and quizzes, but I feel like after they had a test, they forgot the words because they were never used again. We use the words over and over again in our stories so that we don’t forget them.

They also appear in the songs that we learn that are usually either children’s songs from Spanish-speaking countries or popular songs in those countries. The songs are actually good and I usually end up buying them from iTunes because I enjoy listening to them. I can guarantee that none of the girls from the school I went to download their listening exercises from the textbook onto their iPods.

I realize that fluency in Spanish can be achieved in several different ways, but the TPRS® system has helped me become more apt in the language than something like the traditional textbook method could have. After spending a month in a Spanish class that used quizzes, tests, and textbook exercises, I realized that the TPRS® way of learning has made a huge impact on the way I speak, listen, and write in Spanish. It has given me the complete package that I need to be successful in learning the language. I realized that when I was young and just learning to speak, I didn’t learn English through text books and by taking quizzes, I learned by listening and speaking with people who were already fluent. Now that I am older, with TPRS® I am learning Spanish the same way, by listening to Ms. Goliber and the students in my class and speaking in Spanish during class. I have found that TPRS® has given me the best opportunity to learn Spanish and I would have no other way of learning Spanish or any other language for that matter. TPRS® is the natural way to learn, so why force the unnatural way and practice for a long time just to receive results that are less than satisfactory results?

Emily Knott

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