I have to start off with a bit of “reader discretion advised:” I’m not a solid believer in all of the logistics of TPRS. I think that as a method, it has pros and cons, and I went to this conference not being a “believer” in all of it. From explicit translation to an overabundance of PQA, I find myself in the same camp that Sara-Elizabeth was in last year in her “what I hate about TPRS” post. I also agree with what she says in its partner post, “what I love about TPRS.” I also think that it’s important to read Carol Gaab’s rebuttal to those posts.
Now that I’ve asked you to read three blog posts before finishing mine, I’d like to give an overview of my time at iFLT 15, organized by Carol Gaab and Grant Boulanger and sponsored by TPRS publishing.
WOW. This conference was the most amazing thing that I’ve done in my (short) teaching career. Here’s why:
1. Everyone was CI-centered. Whether participants were new to TPRS, old friends, or not so sure that TPRS was the way they wanted to go (it wasn’t just me!), everyone was on board with CI. That’s so amazing to me, as at previous conferences, or with colleagues, they want to make a list of “reasons this wouldn’t work for me.” Instead, participants were eager to hear about strategies they could put to use in their classrooms ASAP, and no one seemed to be there as a burden or obligation to a school.
2. Hands-on learning. What I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m actually a really good kinesthetic learner. I learn routes by driving them, I learn routines by practicing them, and I learned things in school by doing gestures (I still need the gestures I learned in 6th grade to tell the difference between longitude and latitude!) Couple that with me saying it out loud, and I will remember it forever. At IFLT, the beginning teachers were paired with language coaches to help you through things like storyasking, circling, and PQA. That practice was invaluable to me, as someone who just needs to get up and try things out.
3. Learning from the experts. In the mornings, we got a chance to watch really great TPRS teachers teach not us, but actual students. Some of them were brand new to language, but I also got to see relationships between Grant Boulanger and his Spanish 2s who he already knew. I was ridiculously impressed with both the amount that students learned if they were new, and the relationships that TPRS forged while still using the target language.
4. The networking was insane. Sometimes, 300 teachers at a conference can be rather trying, but the amount of teachers who were excited, positive, and ready to learn was overwhelming. It was great to talk to people from all over at various stages in their careers (w/ and w/o TPRS), and to network with the big names. I got to finally meet Kristy Placido, missed out on meeting Martina Bex and Stephen Krashen, also got to talk with Grant Boulanger, Bryce Hedstrom, Ben Slavic, Diana Noonan, and was excited to continue growing and learning with Carrie Toth and Carol Gaab.
5. I learned RUSSIAN. In the beginning session, we had a demo of Russian each day, and I left the conference confident in my ability to retell the story we had worked with. IN RUSSIAN. That was the biggest “wow” factor for me, where I was really confident that TPRS works, and I was so excited to share with my friends and family that I could understand Russian – this is what real students will feel like too, if we make the language accessible, fun, and exciting for them! I can’t explain enough how much that improved my view of TPRS.
My last takeaway is that I loved sharing via twitter. There were not many people tweeting at IFLT, and I guess I felt like I needed to pick up the slack. If you follow me on twitter, you might have even called my tweets “excessive.” But, by tweeting all of my conference notes, I could connect with everyone who missed out on a session to attend a different one, AND with people at home who couldn’t make it to IFLT. When I started teaching, no one shared with me. I felt alone, and was tired of reinventing wheels that I knew others had already invented. So, by sharing the learning at IFLT, I was excited to connect others with the learning I was doing. By the end of the conference, people recognized me as “the girl from twitter” and a couple people said, “Wendy, right?” or “Is this you?” while holding up my twitter profile on their device. I’m glad that I could connect so many people to the learning, and we found that few people were tweeting because not a whole lot of them were ON twitter. I’m hoping to see a ton more #langchat faces this fall.
So that’s my quick overview of #IFLT15, where I learned that TPRS is not explicit translation, like I thought that it was, and I learned about the real power of stories, reading, and caring learning environments. I’ll be posting again soon about the sessions I attended, too.