Report from the Field – Keri Biron

From Keri Biron in Connecticut:

Hi Ben,

I am writing because, if possible,  I would love to be able to observe another TPRS teacher in action!  I was talking about this with my assistant principal and he said that if I could find someone to observe then they would give me the time to do it.  I am hoping that there are other TPRS teachers in Connecticut that may have some great lessons to observe.  Would you be able to post this on the PLC for me?

On another note, this year has been fantastic!  I feel that I’ve improved a lot from last year to this year.  I had posted a question last summer about ways to incorporate more subjects instead of just heavily focusing on the 3rd person.  I’ve been very successful in doing so now thanks to many great ideas from the PLC!  During PQA, extended PQA, TPRS story telling, and reading, I constantly “interrogate” the “actors” using 1st and 2nd person…and I use the plural when applicable.  I find that the students are much more comfortable with those forms as opposed to last year.

Also, I have sort of a plan when it comes to the verb tenses.  We do PQA in whatever tense feels right, we use past for telling stories and we use present tense for reading the stories.  Then, when we actually review the content of  the written stories, we mix it up.  I ask the class questions about the story in the present and I  ask the actors similar questions but in the past.  (I have the target verb structures up and color coded on an easel during this time as a reference.)

For example:  “Class, where does Tim go after Taco Bell?”  (Someone answers the question:  “Tim goes to the park.”

Then I say to Tim :”Tim, did you go to the park?” (or some variation of the question) and he answers “Yes, I went to the park.”

Then I sprinkle in the conditional and future tenses all year…but only when it would start an interesting conversation…

Would you go to the park if you were Tim?”   or “Have you ever gone to the park…?”

My one’s this year are starting to recognize conditional and future tenses because they hear it often in context!  It’s great!

Oh, and one other thing…numbers.  I was so worried about how the one’s would learn their numbers…again, thanks to great suggestions on the PLC I had numbers 1-39 posted on a large white board…we use numbers so often and in context…the date, year, etc. that they know their numbers so well and into the millions and I’ve never once “gave a number lesson”!!!

Thanks again for all your help when I was starting this method of teaching and as I continue!

Looking forward to hearing from you and if there is anyone that I could come observe!




11 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Keri Biron”

  1. YAY! Can you give me some of you number non-lesson tips. I don’t angst about numbers, but I also tend to forget them. Would love to have some reminders for myself. Thanks!

    1. Sure! I actually used many tips from the members here last summer. In the beginning of most of my lessons, I have a white board with a template that says in the target language “Today is… Today… Yesterday was… Yesterday… Tomorrow will be… Tomorrow…” For the first sentence in each time frame, we fill in the day of the week as well as the date along with the year. Then we write a weather expression for the second sentence in each time frame. All my levels, 1-3, can very comfortably state the year by now. I do a lot of countdowns. So in another area of the classroom, I often write the same sentence and we fill in the correct number together. “There are 15 days left until…(the pep rally, Thanksgiving, winter vacation, spring, summer vacation,etc.) I also have a sentence written under that saying “We have been in school for…days.” This last sentence is great because it not only helps with numbers, but also with the tricky Spanish and Italian expression that we use. Then, of course, numbers always come up in our stories and in our conversations. For some reason, in my level one, we talk a lot about birthdays. They can comfortably say “I was born…” which is great and of course they need numbers to say their birthday.

      Hopefully this helps. If anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them too!

      1. Keri, I have a Day/Weather Person student job. I used to address that job daily, and I thought it was a really good addition to my classes. That was until I made a comment about it just before starting the same routine in my new job, and it turns out that the students HATED doing it with their previous teacher.

        I’m now thinking that unless there is something specifically awesome about the day (holiday, fun trivia, historic event?) to talk about, it’s best to just keep it a student job and not mention it ALL the time…almost like how Jen just explained that she doesn’t use her jGR daily. Maybe it’s best to include a day or weather expression as just one more detail in a story, and then you can acknowledge the actual day/weather during PQA, and then you can ask if anyone is looking forward to tomorrow, etc.

        I’m glad that your students are compliant, but there’s a chance they find the routine completely boring. If they do, or if you get the sense that they’re STARTING to get bored, Chris Stolz has written about teaching “the boring stuff.” It’s great:

        1. Thanks for the link. Yes, that is true…it is boring. I was doing it every single day for the first few months because even my level 3’s didn’t know how to say “it rained yesterday” but now I skip it every now and then. Hearing you say it, however, makes me think that maybe I should start skipping it a little more often…they do hear the weather and date enough in their stories. Thanks!

  2. Sounds like you are doing amazing work! Congratulations, Keri! I don’t know where you are in CT, but I am in Brattleboro in Southern Vermont. I cannot promise a “great” lesson, but i am doing CI instruction and you’re welcome to come and collaborate.

    1. Thank you! I will keep this in mind! I was hoping to stay in Ct but if nothing pops up, I may take you up on your offer! You are a little over 1.5 hours away…I guess that’s not too bad. What time does your school start? Also, if you don’t mind, which level(s) do you teach?

      ~Keri 🙂

    2. Thanks for all of your questions and comments, Keri. I did not realize you are here in CT. Near Hartford? I live in Thompson, CT, Northeast corner, although I teach just across the border in Dudley, MA…both are just south of Worcester. I am lying low RE CI/TPRS this year, waiting for the misoTPRSinist to retire. Everything went topsy-turvy on me last year. But still trying to do what I can and maintain /enlarge the CI network.

  3. I questioned the whole past/present order recently.

    When kids read a story, they’re reading what took place another day, so they always use the past when translating or negotiating meaning. When I ask a story, the actors synchronize what they do with what I say as I’m saying it, so it makes more sense in the present. Questions to the class during Storyasking are in the past as well…because something just happened.

    Am I crazy, or should we flip the order of when to use the tenses? Storyask present and read past?

    1. I think a lot of the decision is based on the language you teach and its conventions. German has a “narrative past” that is used to tell stories and thus used primarily in writing. It also has the “conversational past” when talking about not-necessarily-sequential things. My use of these two past tenses and the present tense looks something like this:
      Create a story and act out the story: present tense (It’s happening before our very eyes)
      Review the story: conversational past
      Re-tell the story (either verbally or in writing): narrative past

      Where appropriate, pluperfect, future, future perfect, subjunctive, etc. get thrown in as well.

      While some German stories are told in the present tense in writing, the “conversational past” would never be used to tell a written story, so all past-tense reading is with the “narrative past”.

  4. I’ve thought about this tense thing for 16 years. It always comes back to asking in past and reading in present. There are many articles here over the years to explicate the details on that so I won’t go into it here.

    I might add that in French, if you do the reading in the past, you are basically signing up for another half of hour of work per day because of all the accents in the past. That right there is reason enough to keep the story in the past and the reading in the present.

    Yeah, sometimes I write the story in the past, but only because it’s kind of cool.

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