Posted in #My500Words, Learning and Development

The Storytelling Teacher

On Thursday and Friday, I participated in a two-day workshop to learn about TPRS – Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling. The experience was intense, instructive and intellectually stimulating.  Which was very different from my first exposure to TPRS back in August of 2006, which was also a two-day workshop.  I don’t fault the workshop presenter; she did her job, and provided the information she was instructed to deliver.  The problem? At that time there was the prevailing belief that a teacher could attend just one TPRS workshop, and then, magically deliver crisp, clean, pure and inspiring TPRS with the materials that were included in the workshop fee. Not. true. at. all. I gave up within the first two weeks of the school year, vowing never to touch TPRS again, even with a ten-foot pole.

Two years ago, I began to dabble again with TPRS.  Training and support have come a very long way since 2006, and, so I felt encouraged. I joined and participated in chat groups, watched YouTube videos, and visited the blogs of teachers very proficient in the method.  Last summer, I purchased some resources, and, began to infuse my lessons with bite-size pieces of TPRS.  But, I lacked the skills and confidence to implement the method full throttle.  I needed to see TPRS live and in action: to watch and hear and learn from someone who has the method on lock – in real time.  This meant attending yet another TPRS workshop.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog post, my recent workshop experience was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The workshop presenter was excellent, and really knows her stuff. She not only provided the group with lots of demonstrations for the various components of TPRS, but she also provided many opportunities for us to practice, and simulate classroom teaching experiences.  The demonstrations also included lessons using German and Chinese.  So, I had the opportunity to learn some German, as well as some Chinese.

Several things struck me over the course of the two-day TPRS workshop experience.  The first was the empathy factor: Through learning, or, trying to learn, German and Chinese, I could relate directly to what many of my students regularly feel when they are learning Spanish. Learning a language is very hard work, and when one has been teaching a language for as long as I have, one tends to forget that fact.  Especially a language that is unfamiliar.  Not only did I have to keep up with the spoken German, but also the written German, at the same time.

The second thing that struck me was a quote that the workshop presenter used to open Day One of the TPRS workshop:

Many think learning a language is important, but many think learning a language is not possible.

Hmmm…that’s true.  But what I think makes learning a language possible is TPRS. It has the potential of leveling the proverbial playing field in the classroom, and, to generate success for all learners.

The third thing that struck me about TPRS is that it brings teacher and students into a whole new relationship, via the vehicle of story creation, which in TPRS parlance is known as story asking.  Along with reading, the storytelling aspect is the crux of TPRS.  Students and teacher work together to create a story.  In the process, students are actively involved. Not only are they contributing to the construction of the story, but they also must be fully engaged and on-task in order to acquire the vocabulary and grammar structures.  Students learn, and have fun in the process. Which is what we’re trying to achieve, right?

I encourage you to learn more about TPRS here.

I am eternally grateful to the workshop presenter, and my new colleagues, for an enriching professional development experience.  I plan to pursue additional opportunities to develop my skills.  Although I am nervous about trying things out in my classroom this fall own my own, I am motivated by the possibilities for learning that TPRS holds for my students.  I am looking forward to transforming from a language teacher to a storytelling teacher. I think TPRS will provide me with the learning curve I have been seeking for some time in my practice, as well as revitalization for my career.

Have you had an enriching professional development experience that has motivated you to  improve your skills? Please tell me about it in the Comments. Thank you!




I teach. I cook. I write. In that order. Along the way, I learn many things, especially about myself.

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