Kristin Duncan

Here is a bio from Kristin:

Hi Ben,

I wanted to send you my bio for the PLC, so here it is!

I’m Kristin Duncan, and I’m a new member of the PLC. I just returned to teaching in Canada after spending the last year in England, and I am so happy to be back! This year I am on a temporary contract until the end of the year teaching French at a school in Airdrie, Alberta (just outside Calgary, Alberta). I’m only teaching 1 French 20/30 split class (grade 11s and 12s) and 1 French 9/10 split class because the numbers of students choosing to study French is pretty low. I’m also teaching a French Immersion class (Social Studies 10) next semester, but those students are fluent in French so I won’t be using TPRS for that class. Right now I use TPRS 100% of the time in my second language classes, and I will never go back to the textbook method! This is only my second year of teaching full-time and I have used TPRS ever since my last teaching practicum.

I struggle with classroom management, especially with the older students (I think because I was too relaxed with them at the beginning of the year). Part of the problem with my upper level French class is that 4/18 students are past French Immersion students who are just plain bored, because they already speak the language. Their written skills are another story though, so they still have a lot to learn, but they don’t realize this and think they “know it all”. I wish they were not allowed to take the second language classes, but it is almost encouraged at my school so that they can have an “easy” course that gives them a good mark for when they are applying to universities.

Although I have been struggling this year, it is a breeze compared to teaching in England last year! England was not a fun place to teach, and the way language classes are set up is horrible. They do even more memorizing and less learning than I’ve seen in language classes in Canada, plus they “set” the students so that they are in different levels (1-6) according to their level of intelligence (as determined by the teachers). You can imagine how that makes the lower level students feel.

Since it’s been over a year since I last taught with TPRS (I was not allowed to in England and was substitute teaching for much of the time anyways), I have forgotten some things and am hoping this PLC will be a great resource and place of support for me. The other teachers at my school have never heard of TPRS (like most teachers in Canada) but the head of the language department and the administration are supportive of it and loved everything I discussed about it in my interview for the job. The language department head and I are even working together on a professional learning project on the use of novels in the L2 classroom (he teaches German), so that is great.

I was at NTPRS in St. Louis in 2011 and learned a lot there. I am hoping to attend this summer as well, and am looking forward to updates in this PLC to keep me going until then!






6 thoughts on “Kristin Duncan”

  1. Those kids must be separated out into a class of their own, even if it is in the back of the room, separated by space so they cannot possibly communicate with each other. They must be writing and reading. Your argument to the administration is that they are illiterate and that you cannot in good conscience ignore this part of their French education since they speak the language already. Get them out of your fluency class – they will ruin it. Anybody who has not responded to this crap scheduling knows what I mean. It just is a disaster. Find the people in the building who will help you makie this crucial change so that you can bring balance to your classroom. Those kids will ruin this class.

  2. Welcome, Kristin. I hope that you get the moral support you need from the PLC. Your comments on the British school system sheds a lot of light on why the Latin teachers here in the US who use CI have met with a lot of resistance from UK representatives of the Cambridge Latin Course. They want to shut down any teacher-created activity based on their textbook stories that does not promote their hundred-year-old model of language pedagogy. We have a few British colleagues who are very interested in teaching Latin using CI, but it is certainly an uphill battle for them.

  3. Thanks everyone! I am loving this group so far. So much good information. Getting those kids out of the class is not an option at this point, although I did convince the most annoying of the bunch to challenge the course instead. This is where they get to write the course final exam without having to the actual course. She actually stopped me at one point to explain a grammatical point to the class – in depth! I was so shocked that she would attempt it, that I didn’t know what to say. Needless to say, this is better for everyone. And the ones left in the class have been told they have to participate and do everything the others do. I am going to consider giving them a separate assignment – like reading a book and writing a book report or something, although I do think they can still benefit from the TPRS class. Their French is really not that good, they just THINK they know everything.

    1. Wow, that year went by fast – for me:) I last saw you in airport in St Louis! Glad you are back and hope to see you in Dallas. I have a level 2 student who speaks beautifully – well like a Quebecois teenager- but had to ask me how to spell de l’apres-midi.
      Carol Hill

  4. And especially when grammar teachers reward memorizer kids with an A, and all they did was memorize something, and then the kid encounters US at the next level, and we reveal what they really know and how truly misinformed they are about their actual abilities, and they turn it around on us. It’s kind of pathetic. Not kind of, it’s pathetic. That’s something nobody ever talks about – what an A means in a traditional classroom in terms of actual acquisition and mastery of the standards. It means nothing, because nothing was learned. And that is one reason traditional teachers are so resistant to discuss this stuff out in the open with us and why they hide. They have no numbers to show, they have absolutely zero research behind them – all they have are the textbook companies to prop them up. They know what their kids know and it ain’t pretty. Or they lie to themselves. The worst is when they and their kids get a visit from an open minded native speaker and the true colors of their program emerge. Nervous moments for them. Someone might find out. And we wonder why they don’t like us?

  5. Hi Kristin,
    nice to see another Canadian on the site, eh!
    My high school classes all have advanced students from a bilingual program in them. I do not want to lose my fluent speakers and have been rethinking how to engage everyone. We always start off together and have a discussion. For the large group time, we often watch a German music video or watch a German news of the day. We then split up with my advanced students moving into their novel studies and I remain with my regular students for TPRS. On Monday, I will have them write the story for me using present tense and narrative past. Subjunctive is next. They love to be in there with the storytelling, but they can also be distracting. It is not perfect, but I am experimenting. Good luck!

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