Teaching your Language Tutor to use TPRS

How did I teach my Korean tutor to TPRS?

I started out with WAYK

Before we did TPRS I introduced my tutor to WAYK (Where Are Your Keys?) which is a game that incorporates sign language and TPR. It’s made to be super adaptable. Basically the game evolves as you learn more and more. Any techniques that speed up the learning process get thrown into the game.

I love WAYK. I learned Kosraean from a good friend of mine by playing WAYK. He previously taught in Kosrae before coming to Korea to teach English.

WAYK is a great tool to have if you are traveling to different countries. The same friend went off to Thailand and then India doing volunteer work. He learned lots of Thai just by playing WAYK.

I also taught my Japanese tutor how to play WAYK. I learned a lot of different things that I hadn’t before. It gave me a completely different perspective on how the language is used.

If you haven’t heard about WAYK, I encourage you to check it out. It’s doing great work in reviving dying languages. The mission was to find out how you can produce lots of teachers of the language quickly. It’s really fascinating and a great way to teach your cousins languages at family gatherings.

WAYK is easy to teach, how about TPRS?

Okay, so WAYK was made to be taught to tutors and Native Speakers (They call them the fluent fools.) How do we teach our tutor TPRS?

We can do a few things here. Hopefully your tutor is proficient in your native language to some degree. Maybe you know another langauge?

In WAYK my two friends and I would go meet with a few native Korean speakers for coffee. We would teach the game by starting out with a language they probably haven’t learned before. My other friend had spent time in Germany and has been learning German through the years. So, we played German to start out!

You can try to learn how to teach TPRS and teach them a language they don’t know, or you can teach them your language by asking a story with TPRS. I had experience teaching TPRS lessons to Korean students, so I taught my tutor with some materials that I had prepared previously.

I didn’t explain too much to my tutor, and she knew a lot of the rules that are important for CI from learning WAYK. In WAYK we go slow and then eventually we speed up. You can gesture vocabulary to make it stick. Most importantly it has to be obvious.

WAYK is strict about being obvious. If we want to learn the word “cat”, we can’t have a picture of a cat. We can’t have a toy cat. We have to have a real breathing cat. We have to be this obvious because translation in WAYK is thought of as killing the magic of learning a langauge.

I understand this completely. Many native speakers you meat won’t be able to translate for you in the game. You are always testing out meanings by using the langauge. This really opened my senses and acquisition abilities.

That being said, in TPRS translations are a great tool. It’s quick and easy. Just use it and get it out of the way so you can go on making your story. It’s also a wonderful comprehension check! Quick and easy and it doesn’t waste time.

Demonstrating TPRS

You have your tutor. You have a piece of paper or a chalk board. Maybe your tutor is over Skype only, so you have a chat window.

Start out simple. Make sure you translate everything. Write a few words on the board or in the chat window:

Nouns 名詞
Cat 猫
Carrot 人参

Verbs 動詞
There is/exists (person or animals) 居る
To eat 食べる

Now ask your tutor to make some gestures for each word.

Then list the question words:

What 何?
Where 何処?
Why 何故/如何して?
Who 誰?
When 何時?
How  如何?

You can also make gestures for these.

And then start to ask the story. Start off simple and build. Build the list of words if the story needs more. Don’t start off with too much vocab. Let the story unfold naturally.

In this case we can start with “There was a cat” 「猫がいました」Make sure you circle with question words.

Then you might notice you’ll need more words. Write them down with the translation. ”Want to eat” 「食べたい」

And keep on slowly building the story that way. You should do some reading on how to ask a story and watch many videos on TPRS just so you can get a feel for what’s supposed to happen.

After your tutor gets a general idea, have them use those same words to build a story with you.

Emphasize the Rules

1. Circling – When you go over it with your tutor, just remind them to first say a statement, and then ask about each part of that statement with questions.

2. Go Slow – You and your tutor will try to race to the end of the story. Remember, it’s about the input and repetition of the questions that make TPRS so powerful. Not just finishing the story.

3. Comprehension – The questions are meant for comprehension as well as acquisition. But also, translate some things that the tutor says. This will tell your tutor if you understand or not. In WAYK we ask the fluent fool to correct all of our mistakes. If the translation is close, it’s no good. You want to be as correct as possible. Example: “She feels like eating.” and “She wants to eat.” Both sentences are very similar but the meaning is slightly different. Accuracy counts.

4. Gestures – Again, you can leave out the gestures or keep them. I like them. Even over Skype they are fun to use. But if I don’t make a gesture for every word, I’m not bent out of shape about it.

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9 thoughts on “Teaching your Language Tutor to use TPRS

  1. How did you learn TPR & TPRS to be able to teach it to a tutor? Just from the “big green book” (as you called it somewhere) or did you get (need) training? Does this have anything to do what you’re teaching?

    • Yep, good question. I learned not just by reading the big book, (reading it is a must) but I also watched a lot of videos. I did use TPRS in my winter camp classes as well. Finally I hired a tutor to teach me Chinese for about 12 lessons using TPRS. I would say just read the book and use it. It takes practice just like anything else.

      I’m not using it in the classroom now, because of silly reasons. If I had complete freedom to teach, of course I’d use TPRS all the time. However, I do incorporate many ideas from what I know works into the classroom. 🙂

      • You probably know this, but there are training videos in Ben Slavic’s PLC (professional learning community) and a few for free on his site. In one, he is demonstrating a TPRS French class to a visiting S.Krashen. Did you see those? Which were most helpful to you?

      • I’ve seen some of his videos, though not that one in particular. I ordered his TPRS guide as well which was extremely helpful. It really helps you to see the relationship between the students and the teacher. He’s a masterful teacher.

  2. Hi Zachary,
    My name is Rachel Anderle & I teach PreK-5 Spanish at a rural public school district in Michigan. Your former teacher Terry Waltz encouraged me to reach out to you after we connected through a TPRS Facebook group today. I have two ELL Kindergarten students that just started at my school from Micronesia. They are new to the U.S. & only speak Kosraean. Usually an L2 class like mine levels the playing field between ELL & native English speaking students, as most kids have little prior foundational knowledge & are learning Spanish basics. However, my colleagues and I (especially their two Kindergarten classroom teachers) would like to learn some basic Kosraean phrases to make the students feel welcome and more comfortable as they learn English and transition into a new school environment. Any basic greetings & phrases, words of praise, or classroom commands would be helpful. I found one online audio dictionary from Swarthmore, but it only has around 50 audio entries, many of which are seemingly random, medium/low frequency nouns. Do you know of any resources online we may be able to utilize? Thank you so much!

    • Rachel,
      Zachary notified me of your question. It just so turns out that I spent a year teaching in Kosrae and have dreamed of this moment. After learning Kosraean for a year (which is really a simple language), I put together a series of flashcards with native speakers recording most of the cards. These can be found here: http://www.byki.com/tag/kosraean
      In addition, I made a dictionary to go along with it here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1l3g_GLN52WF7rFEq-wYxcNYlXePPO0Di4iE-hngb8tY/edit?usp=sharing
      If you want to hear how a particular word is pronounced, the dictionary also lists which set of flashcards you can find the word.
      I would be happy to talk more with you. I still remember a lot of the language but have had little use for it these last 6 years. People often accuse me of inventing the language because they don’t believe Kosrae exists. I hope I can help you help your students.

    • I’ll try to ask my friend about it. He’s the expert. I only remember how to say the color black by playing WAYK. It’s been a while.

      I tried doing an internet search, but it looks like there isn’t too much out there It might be worth a shot to give your local library a try or a library near a major city. You might be able to find an older book out there.

      Is it possible to ask the parents? Sometimes that can be a good option if nothing else to get resources.

      I’ll let you know if my friend comes up with anything in the meantime.

      Sorry I can’t be as helpful firsthand.

      • Yeah. There aren’t really any resources out there for Kosraean, and some that claim to be are completely wrong. That’s why i made those flashcards and dictionary. There’s even a dictionary in print that I was given to use on the island, but it was archaic and useless.

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