About Me

When I was a very young girl I loved listening to my great-grandmother speak Italian. How I longed to understand her words! Being exposed to another language as a young child made me eager to speak more than one language. As a result, I graduated from college having studied both French and Spanish and am now a teacher of both languages. 
I’ve been a teacher of both French and Spanish in a public school setting since 1995. For the majority of my teaching career, I was a traditionalist. I taught vocabulary lists and grammar rules and demanded perfect spelling and complete sentences at all times. Most students would score well on my tests but then a week later they could not remember 90% of information that had just recently been assessed. Even worse, they could hardly speak in the language in spite of all the paired activities and oral exercises we did in class, even in the upper levels.
I was working very hard, so when my students couldn’t perform I believed that it was mostly their fault. I said that they were lazy and “phoning it in.” I would tell their parents when they came for conferences that their child was “disengaged from the learning process.” I was frustrated and burnt out and my poor students were bored and miserable. Eager for new ideas, I started reading about Blaine Ray and his approach to language instruction, which is called TPRS. When I first heard about this approach, TPRS stood for Total Physical Response through Storytelling. These days, this approach has matured and changed somewhat, so now it stands for Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. 
Learning about TPRS and using it in my French and Spanish classes rejuvenated me as a teacher. Students loved it and I loved how much language they were using and acquiring. But I was hesitant to abandon my old methods of teaching, mainly because I still wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing and also because I didn’t want to anger my superiors, who did not approve of TPRS. So while I started telling stories and doing readings in class, I still adhered more or less to the textbook. I did the drills and taught vocabulary lists but from time to time we would do stories in class. Every time we did a story I could see that the students were acquiring language, but then their acquisition would come to a screeching halt once we went back to the textbook. So while things in my classroom were better than they had been, I still wasn’t happy.
Then in November of 2016 I went to the ACTFL conference in Boston, where I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation given by Stephen Krashen, who is an expert in the field of Second Language Acquisition. He presented research that showed that students made the most progress in language classes taught using comprehensible input (CI) methods, of which TPRS is one. Hearing him speak and seeing his data convinced me that, if I wanted my students to acquire a second language, it was time for me to reinvent myself as a teacher and embrace CI and TPRS. I will document my reinvention on this blog with the hopes that it may inspire others to do the same.

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