Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Personal Connections when Pre-teaching Vocabulary - Susan Gross style

The insightful and master teacher, Susan Gross, told me something in an email a few years ago that clearly explains the core of what we, as teachers, should set as our goal:
We who advocate for teaching with TPRS are advocating that you teach the students, NOT the curriculum. Obviously you must use the things that are itemized in your curriculum while conducting class, but your thought process should be, "What can I find out about my kids today using the conditional mood?" Rather than "What is a good story for teaching the conditional? ....
Your real lesson plan every single day is figure out how to sincerely connect with the kids. That's it."
I used this approach today as I prepared my students to read Ana María Matute's story, "La consciencia".  I asked myself Susan's question, "What can I find out about my kids today as I introduce the vocabulary for this story?"

La Conciencia is an authentic text that can be challenging for my students so I wrote a statement, that consisted of several paragraphs, for each of the following characters: Mariana, Antonio, and Constantino. (I had planned to include statements from el vagabundo, but I only thought of this idea at 11:00 pm last night and by midnight I had only completed the above three characters, so I stopped typing and called it a night.)

The statements are written from the viewpoint of the characters in which they talk about their life in the past and compare it to their present life, based on the background information of each character in the story.  Students read the character statements as an introduction to the characters, the circumstances, and the plot of the story. (The statements did not give away details that woud ruin the suspense in the story.)

Two phrases in the statements are: 
 1. Estoy harto de... (I'm sick of..) 
 2. No puedo soportar... (I can't stand)

They are expressions that I thought high school students would find useful. To teach the expressions, I wanted to keep Susan Gross' advice in mind.  

1. First, I wrote the 2 expressions on the board and each student numbered a paper and wrote the expressions and finished the sentence.  They did NOT write their name on the paper.  They included a third item in which they wrote the name of a famous person (actor, singer, someone in the news, politics, etc.). Then I collected the papers.

2.  Then, I read the name of the famous people and the students had to answer the above statements in the way that the famous person would answer it.  

3. Finally, the students numbered their papers 1-9 (the number of students in class today), and I read the two completed statements of the first student.  By the information provided in the statement, students had to guess who wrote it and write their name after #1.  I read each paper and without their names on the papers, even I didn't know for sure who wrote each of the statements. Then we went over the answers together. The students and I found out more about each other while using Spanish as our means of communication. 

It sounds so simple, yet it was an enjoyable conversation and I now know my students a little better.  

How I wish I had started teaching with TPRS and CI years before Susan Gross retired from the speaker circuit.  I could listen to her wisdom from her years of teaching for a l-o-n-g time.  :)

My advice - if Susan Gross makes a suggestion, it's valuable advice and well worth your time to follow what she recommends  

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