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Do not forget the target structures!

Repeating target structures provides focus

Chances are when you plan a movie talk which is only meant to last one class session, you probably choose a target structure. You found that cute clip of a dog begging for food because you want to use the verb rogar a lot, or you want an opportunity to say quiere que le den… so many times that your kids actually acquire that particular structure. Being cute makes the video compelling in the eyes of your students, but the reason you chose it is to expose your students to a massive amount of targeted comprehensible input. That is how we get enough repetitions so that the key phrases pass from being understood to fully acquired.

Why show El Internado to classes without planning target structures? Yes, the show is compelling, but we should still approach this with the intent of optimizing the immersion experience by focusing on target phrases for students to acquire. Lately I have been approaching the first view of a scene exactly as I would approach any other movie talk: with a very limited purpose and one key phrase that I am trying to hit home. Often times I stop the video to circle and PQA my related phrase. Afterwards we read a short description of the scene which fills in the plot points, but my first goal is to get lots of repetitions of a target structure.

Here is a video of me actually teaching a complex scene from Gran Hotel. I wish I were circling better and providing more comprehension checks. When I decided to release these videos it occurred to me that it is important to show that being effective (which I think I am) does not require that I be a perfect teacher (which I know I am not). My target phrase is quiere que sepa. I make little effort to actually explain the scene beyond the key fact that doña Teresa wants Cristina to know something. A deeper understanding of the scene can wait until we read the study guide. Instead I am focusing on using the target structure quiere que sepa so many times that students acquire it.

One of the major implications of this approach is that the teacher is not teaching a “scene” or the plot of the show; you are teaching students to quickly process the target structure. As a result, do not get tied down to explaining little plot details. I use the readings (both pre-readings and after readings) to verify major plot developments. My speaking, on the other hand, is focused on getting students to process the high-frequency target structures quickly. If you really narrow your target structures and circle them properly, then rather than simply being able to identify what Paula wants in episode 2 your students will acquire the language to talk about what anyone wants, wanted yesterday, and will want tomorrow.

Here is another example video from several days later, this time I have moved on to the structure “quiere que haga“. It cuts out towards the end when my camera ran out of batteries, but you will notice that I get a lot more student response towards the end indicating that my students are processing the phrase a lot quicker.

Finally, here is an example of the kind of readings that I am now developing for my latest study guides (episodes 3 and above of El Internado, all episodes of Gran Hotel). This particular example is for a scene from Gran Hotel, but the approach is the same. On the left side you see a possible target structure along with suggestions of how to apply it in class while watching the scene (you choose a target structure that is appropriate for your class). In the middle is a reading that we do together after having watched the scene:

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2 thoughts on “Do not forget the target structures!

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to make the videos. It is so helpful to see other teachers teaching TPRS. What level class is this?

    1. This is a level 3 class, whereas the video attached to the following link is from a level 1 class: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/nothing-is-a-stretch-for-your-students/

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