What goes on in a typical classroom reflects the mental stance of the teacher. If the teacher is uptight, the classroom will be uptight. If the teacher is spontaneous, the classroom will be spontaneous. If the class is heavily planned with all sorts of fragmented activities, the classroom will reflect that. If the teacher is happy, the students will learn. This is a heavy responsibility. But we must remember why we are in the classroom. We are in there to work kids and help them on their journey through life. We are here to make the language accessible to them, by making it relevant to them.  How do we make it relevant to them? I posted on this a few years ago on the listserve and reproduce it here in an expanded form:

If the tree branch is too high, the teacher must pull the branch down to the kids’ level so that they can reach the fruit.

Making them jump and flail for the fruit (using materials that are confusing or going too fast in stories) does not work. They won’t get any fruit. How do we choose which branches to pull down? We must pull the branches marked with the letter L down first. This is the listening skill. We acquire languages by listening to them.  Susan Gross has said, “If they aren’t hearing the language, they aren‘t learning the language.” This point cannot be repeated enough. It is my favorite Susie Gross quote, just as the “cute answer” passage is my favorite quote from Blaine Ray. Other branches can be pulled down later – the ones with the R’s on them – reading – can be pulled down very early, then writing, and, when it is ready, speaking.
If the branch representing any skill is too solid for the teacher to pull down, the teacher must get another, lighter, branch to pull down. This means going slower, pausing and pointing, circling properly, and generally exercising compassion for the fact that the students don’t know the language. The TPRS tree has so many branches, and we can pick. Just like when we were kids, we had trees with favorite branches. Now, mine is personalization.
So by pulling down the lighter branches when first learning, both teacher and children are happy. And then we get stronger and pull the bigger branches down, the ones that Blaine and Susie and Joe and Carmen pull down easily.

Some day we will all be very strong.


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