By Fco. Javier “Cali” Calderón and Paulina Hidalgo, Spanish Teachers
One of our primary approaches to engaging our students in our Spanish language instruction is through the use of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), which is a best-practice methodology that emphasizes language acquisition through oral storytelling and active response from learners while providing comprehensible input. Students quickly become engaged in the process of story creation listening to and speaking en español (video).
This engaging, student centered and immersive approach mirrors the natural way that children acquired their primary language. For example, this is the same approach used by nationally recognized organizations such as the San Francisco Giants in the teaching of English to their Spanish speaking players (video).
Currently in our Spanish program this methodology can be seen in both the lower school and middle school classrooms with activities such as cartoon strip story writing, picture sequencing, group story creation incorporating total physical response (TPR) while using appropriate verb conjugation and topic-specific vocabulary. We continue to use this effective technique of natural language acquisition into middle school as a bridge to more elevated age appropriate content.
Recently in the middle school seventh graders created art inspired by their own written “Prompt Journals” as a means of improving their communicative practice through a controlled prompt of specific grammar concepts enhanced through their art. Eighth graders expressed their creativity after doing a poetry breakdown of renowned Argentine writer/poet Jorge Luis Borges’ poem “Instantes” (video).
Students were asked to write their own poems from the perspective of the 85-year-old in Borges’ work, while viewing an ordinary wall with extraordinary eyes. The wall served as a metaphor of the lives that these students have lived. This supported their studies of the pretérito (past) tense while spurring their own creative interpretations in a back to the future way.
This task-based approach is intended to support development of our students’ sense of self-efficacy in the process of acquiring a second language by refining their ear for the language whilst improving their reading and writing in the target language.