- Listen to understand
- Enjoy the present moment
- Show me that you get it
- Show me when you don't
These were two questions swimming around my head for the past few weeks relating to my new Year 8 class (total beginners of Spanish, aged 11-12). Yes, maybe I had been comparing them to last year's class of high flyers... Yes, perhaps they were slightly more 'high maintenance' than last year's class... but really the difference was more down to me, my teaching and my desire, like many other teachers, to always do more! I was trying to go too fast. I was attempting to do more when I should've been doing L.E.S.S!
A key mantra for Comprehensible Input (CI) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) teachers, like myself, is slow down and repeat it again. I realised I had forgotten this. I was putting too many new vocabulary into my stories, I was over complicating them, I wasn't repeating the core structures enough and I was doing the unthinkable for us TPRS teachers... I was concentrating on their minor grammar errors rather than their communication, I was thinking "I need to do some verb tables" rather than I need to 'turn the tables' or remove the tables completely and just get them enjoying a story at their level that they understand, not a bit, but 100%. Really all I needed to do was slow down. Less is more.
We should be concentrating on ensuring the students are completely confident with those basic structures of the language before we go on and flood them with new vocabulary. If they can't say 'I have, it is, there are, he went' yet with total fluency and automation, why are we hellbent on pushing more and more lists of low frequency words like 'flowerpot' or 'wardrobe' on them? If you find yourself thinking the way I was, remember to just slow down and repeat again. Students at this level need complete mastery of those basic structures in the language to communicate, they need repetitions over and over again so it is automatic, they need a fun, engaging, compelling, simple, story to keep them excited. They can learn the word for lampshade or picture frame or disillusionment from the internet.