Sunday, February 10, 2013

Department Blog - Nothing Motivates Like Success

At times I read comments by teachers that are the only language teacher at their school, or they are the only one in their department that uses Comprehensible Input (CI) and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS).  I give a huge SHOUT-OUT to them. The French/Latin teacher at my school and I regularly discuss our ideas, our lessons, our successes, and frustrations.  We collaborate and discuss lessons throughout the day and in the evenings and weekends via texts. There are many supports available online that I also utilize, but nothing beats a colleague, in the same school setting, for on-the-spot advice and support!

In an effort to increase collaboration amoung all of the members in our department, our World Languages department started a blog in September. The blog is a way for us to share ideas without having to schedule more meeting times that suit all of us.  We have all benefited from the ideas and lessons that we share on the blog.  

Last week, one of the Spanish teachers posted on the blog, describing her lesson and materials that she made after hearing the students talk about the Super Bowl commercials.  Click HERE to find her great lesson. It was a success because she took the students' interest and then created a lesson around the vocabulary and structures they already knew, introduced a few new vocabulary words through PQA, then presented the information with CI and TPRS.

I talked with the teacher about her lesson and the pure enjoyment of being able to see language acquisition taking place in her students was evident in her enthusiasm as she talked about the lesson.   I have no doubt that success will be a solid motivation to plan additional lessons with CI/TPRS that are geared to the students. 

Susan Gross is noted for the phrase "nothing motivates like success".  Maybe she originally intended that phrase to refer to students' success, but today I had an "ah-ha" moment and I realized that it also pertains to teachers.  When teachers find success with the use of CI and TPRS, (their students begin acquiring the language due to the incredible amount of CI provided through TPRS and other CI activities), it is THAT SUCCESS that motivates them to continue to use CI and TPRS.

This happens with me on a regular basis. When I see the students successfully acquiring the language due to a lively storyasking/storytelling session, or after PQA that naturally flows for 40+ minutes, or after narrating a short film and watching how highly engaged the students are as they watch and listen, then I'm motivated to continue teaching with CI and TPRS.  That success motivates me and carries me through those other days that crop up when things don't go smoothly - when after 117 reps a student asks what the word means the next day, or when several students forget to put the "n" at the end of a verb to talk about more than one person in a timed writing.  

I also see Susan's keyed phrase "nothing motivates like success" played out with other members in my department. Our movement away from textbook-driven, grammar-intense, drill and kill instruction, didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen with everyone on-board at the same time.  It probably doesn't in other school districts either.  But as each of our members encounters success with their students' growth in their language abilities, that success motivates them to commit deeper to providing instruction with CI and TPRS, instruction that truly helps the students acquire the language, (even though throwing a worksheet at them would have been an easier, more familiar route).

Leave it to Susan Gross to coin the phrase, "Nothing motivates like success" that has several layers of meaning.


  1. You are such a connector! I love that your department has a blog to share ideas. What a great idea for a school district like ours in which there are multiple middle and high schools! Are you having any success getting a local TPRS group going?

  2. Thanks Martina! I agree - A blog would be a great way for your teachers in multiple schools to share.

    Regarding the local TPRS group...I haven't advanced past the "idea" stage yet, but I've heard from several teachers outside the district that are interested. If I were as organized as you and Michele, this wouldn't feel like such a daunting task.