Reflections on a good year

A reminder list for me to consult at the beginning of next year

Peto(1) I had a very good year.  I would have had a truly great year if I had just followed the rules of TPRS the entire time. Everyone does it slightly differently, right? My original TPRS mentor, Donna Tatum-Johns, would write her two or three new target structures on the board, asking her students to copy those phrases down before class begins. Then I met Linda Li and Blaine Ray who both have word walls so that they can point to any phrase that they use in class. As a result I started the year doing both; I had a word wall and I had students copy down new structures. With my laser pointer in hand I could focus student attention on any of the structures, new or old, as I used them. That whole thing about slowly pointing while speaking is so much more effective when you have a bright red laser beaming out of your fingers.

Starting second semester, however, I stopped updating my word wall. My laser pointer was forgotten in a desk drawer. By the end of the semester (I didn´t even notice when) I had even stopped writing new structures on the board each day. Why Peto, WHY?!

Lesson to be learned: when done by an expert TPRS looks like “art”, but it is “science”. Respect the science of language acquisition!!  Although TPRS is not the only way to provide comprehensible input, it is the most efficient, mature methodology. Keep the three basic steps of TPRS in the forefront of my teaching.

(2) Don´t let El Internado take over my class. Yes, my students became obsessed fans of the show and developed a deep intrinsic motivation for studying Spanish that is, well… fabulous. Yes, enrollment in Spanish 3 spiked because we followed student interests. But here is another quantifiable fact: their acquired vocabulary (as seen in their free writes) comes principally from the first semester.  Almost entirely.  I circled and recycled effectively during the first semester. During the second semester I spent more time explaining what was going on in El Internado (remaining in Spanish, but focusing on making it comprehensible). Without the repetitive recycling of structures my students understood, but did not acquire.

Lesson to be learned: yes, entice students with El Internado, but follow Kristy Placido´s lead and limit it to once a week.  Perhaps let El Internado guide us in the structures we learn (¡Déjame en paz!  followed by ¡Déjame hablar! and ¡Déjame pensar! are all early acquired in my classroom because of El Internado). Nonetheless, allow enough time to learn, recycle and acquire those structures.

Okay Peto, time to go to the beach and decompress.


  1. Thanks for this. It’s so good to know I’m not alone. My year always starts out so great and then…. While the last quarter doesn’t completely suck, it is so easy to get lazy and succumb to what’s easier, but ultimately way less effective.

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