I am very lucky to work in a district that supports teaching a language using TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Storytelling) and CI (Comprehensible Input). In addition, my district has very supportive parents that I appreciate. Yesterday, as I prepared for the new school year (we don't start till after Labor Day), I received an e-mail from one of those parents.
While this is not something I would normally share, she encouraged me to share it with others. She is very supportive of the TPRS/CI method of teaching, and has powerful things to say about what it has done for her students. I am very flattered by her letter, but she gives me all the credit, when it is really due to the TPRS/CI method of teaching. I want to share it because support from parents is both powerful, and important. I hope that reading her words will help teachers new to the method that are unsure if it is right for them, and help validate teachers that have chosen this method of teaching but are still new to the "long game" (as it was recently well put in a Blog post, though I don't remember the author and can't credit them, please let me know if you know who wrote it)! Here without further rambling is the parent letter:
I have a first- and a third-grader who have been taking Spanish class with Señora Peplinski. She is teaching Spanish to them using methods that are quite different from the ones that were used when I was taught Spanish as a teenager. Instead of teaching "to them," she spends almost the entire class just speaking "with them" in Spanish, using props, photos, inflection, motions, etc, to help them understand what she is saying. The result is that my kids are spending a lot more time hearing and understanding Spanish rather than consciously trying to "learn" Spanish.
As a parent, what is really interesting to me is seeing what effects these new teaching methods are having on my children's learning. One of the most visible ones is that my kids think that Spanish is FUN. Spanish is one of the classes that my children both enjoy the most out of the five "specials classes" that are offered in our school. They really enjoy the games, the stories, the videos, the songs, getting to tell their classmates the weather, bringing home the class mascot, earning "puntos" for speaking Spanish in class, making music videos, and so on. She is one of their favorite teachers, and the way she is able to get them to understand and interact with the Spanish language makes it seem easy and fun. Instead of sending them home with vocabulary lists and flash cards, she has assembled a lot of online resources (games, songs, videos, apps, websites, etc) that are appropriate in age and material for them to play and watch at home. Unlike flash cards which require some amount of academic discipline, because she has sought out such varied resources to make the homework enjoyable for young children, it is also easy for me as a parent to encourage my kids to practice their Spanish on days when they don't have class.
Another neat effect of the methods she uses is that my children can UNDERSTAND so much Spanish. I was looking at one of the music videos on the class website ("No voy a levantarme"), and realized that both the audio and the subtitles were only in Spanish. I asked my third-grader if he wanted me to tell him what the video said, and I was so amazed that instead, he translated the entire song for me (as it played) by watching the video and reading the subtitles. I never would have imagined that a third grader could do that just through classes twice a week! I am so excited by what my children can do.
The last thing that I love about the method that Sra. Peplinski is using to teach Spanish is that, instead of focusing on quizzes (like I had when I was learning Spanish years ago), her method gives the kids CONFIDENCE to try to speak and understand Spanish. Even if there are conjugation or agreement errors in their speech, they want to try to speak Spanish, and they keep trying. She is so encouraging towards them, and as a result, they are able to make themselves understood without being afraid that they will say something wrong or make errors. In class, they write stories in Spanish and they are always so excited to come home and share the story with me, first in Spanish and then in English, so that I can see what they are capable of. She really makes the classroom a safe space for them to practice. And since I'm lucky enough to be a mom to two of her students, I love the occasions when they speak to each other in Spanish at home!
I have a Master's Degree in linguistics, so I know that on paper, her methods are sound and have science behind them. But this experience for me as a parent, to see that she is making Spanish fun, understandable, and confidence-inspiring for my children is so incredible. Thanks to her, they enjoy learning Spanish and are doing more than I would have thought they could. I can't even put into words how meaningful it is to me that their first exposure to a foreign language is such a positive experience. I am so grateful to Señora Peplinski for making their first exposure to Spanish so fun and accessible, and for having taught them so much that they have a solid foundation for continuing to learn Spanish in the future.
With continued gratitude,
Side note, her students are phenomenal!! I shared it in a different post, but am sharing one more time (because it is so awesome) a video her son and daughter made me. Her son is in third grade in the video and narrates it, her daughter is in first grade. This was not a required project, but something they did for fun when her daughter had the class pet (a llama) for the week. I LOVE this video, not only because it is adorable, but also because it shows active listening, and production of language, but also love of language. This was posted with permission from both parents and students.
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.