Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My backstory and today, plans for future blogs

I am so incredibly lucky!  When I first started teaching high school, I was given a book called Dime.  I was told that this would be the book that my students would use.  I started looking through it and taking down vocab.  I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote.  And wrote.  And soon I decided that this was absolutely ridiculous!  I just felt that if my students had to learn Spanish using this book, they would be totally unsuccessful, and as a result, so would I.  I don't like that idea.  I got permission to find a different type of book, and so I went to Teacher's Discovery and found two books:  A book (whose name I forget) that taught TPR for one year and Look I Can Talk.  I started using LICT for second year (I swear that's what I read it was for) and the other book for first year.

By the end of one month, I had two very different types of classes.  My second years (who had come to class saying "Please don't expect much.  I really can't speak Spanish.) were having the time of their lives.  They were learning new things every day and having a wonderful time.

On the other hand, the first years were also doing well, but I was TPRed out of my mind!  I am not into TPR, and this was all day every day.  I was at my wits' end.  

One day, I was sitting at home and for some reason I looked at the inside of the book.  Blaine Ray was listed as author--and his address and phone number were on the book!  He lived in my city, not 5 miles away from me!  Well, I took my courage in my hands and called him.  Blaine was kind and understanding.  He listened to me cry for the longest time, then he offered me the world!  He trained me, observed my classes, let me see him teach my classes, provided us materials, straightened me out about what book was for what level, and just did a remarkable thing for a beginning Spanish teacher. 

I stayed at that school for six years, and in that time TPRS changed enormously.  It went from many rules to few rules.  Circling was introduced and clarified.  The idea of coaching was brought up and people began to be able to see first hand how to really be successful as a TPRS teacher.

In 2007, I moved to Tucson and began to work at Salpointe Catholic High School.  I wanted to work there specifically because Joe Neilson works there.  I have learned a lot, even though our styles are very different.  We have agreed that I teach a more modern TPRS (more like what all of us do today), while he teaches more of a classical TPRS.   We use the LICT and LICTM workbooks, but we don't use the teacher guides.  We have vocabulary lists that we use to make structures.  Teaching this way has made me be much more creative, since I don't use anyone's stories but my own. A week for me usually contains introduction of vocab (I try to stay with three structures per lesson, but sometimes I use four.  Never more than that.), PQA, oral story, and then writing that story in first person on the board with students providing the language.  The next day, the students read a story using the target vocab, and I often include one new word.  The next day, block, usually is the same as day one.  Friday is the same as day two.  In addition, I teach a song every week and the students also watch a movie for culture.  We read two books a year.

I wrote this to show you where I am.  Please let me know where you are.  I'm starting to get questions and comments, and I love that!  Please, though, include whether you would allow me to answer you in a blog post--by name or anonymously--and what you would like me to cover. 

These are some topics I'm considering:  

using TPRS when you have a lot of what I call "list" vocabulary--a set number of words that you have to get through and show student learning by the end of a unit.  

Teaching with songs:  why and how

Teaching on the block

What to do when you're sick

How do you keep your voice from going away  (by the way, did you know that voice lessons are tax deductible for you as a teacher?)

How to get the students ready for writing (not TPRS, but something I do at school, since we grade using rubrics).

Anything else you'd like to see?  Please drop me a line:

I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. I loved reading this Meg...and knowing that others are benefiting from all that you know!!

    with love,

  2. Thanks, Laurie! I'm getting really excited about this blog! Just wish someone could write for me so I could have other languages, too. Oh, well. Maybe someday.


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