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TPRS Step 3: Reading Comprehension focusing on target words

Reading comprehension plays the biggest part in the TPRS protocol in my opinion. Naturally, no step is superior to another, but step 1 and 2 can seem rather insignificant should the comprehension in part three fall short.

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Season 1, episode 24
11 min / Published

How much easier do you imagine it must be to “remember” something when you also understand it?

Even more so, understanding it within the context of the story and the sentence.

Reading comprehension underpins the ability to Re-tell the story, and what is retelling else than explaining?

In Step THREE, the students are compelled to further interact with their new phrases to help solidify the language-learning lesson.

Show notes

TPRS – Step 3: Reading Comprehension

As we continue on our TPRS journey, the process and more importantly, its sequence slowly should start making sense. We have started strong with identifying the target vocabulary and their meanings. The entire exercise is conducted in such a way that we stay on course or in-bounds as the technical term describes it. Once the meanings are understood, unambiguous and clearly recognizable within context, we dive into step 2.

Here of course we tell the story, however because engagement foremost in our minds, we actually “ask” the story. By doing this, we gain the students’ buy-in and the story becomes more relatable. Allowing the story to unfold in the way that the students deem appropriate, keeps things vibrant and flexible.

Once all the story-stakeholders are happy with the result, the time for reading comprehension, also known as step THREE rolls around. Reading comprehension plays the biggest part in the TPRS protocol in my opinion. Naturally, no step is superior to another, but step 1 and 2 can seem rather insignificant should the comprehension in part three fall short.

That is exactly why the final step in TPRS involves reading. The students are compelled to further interact with their new phrases to help solidify the language-learning lesson. I am reminded about the part of step 1 where we spoke of committing definitions and meanings not only to the short term, but to the long-term memory as well.

How much easier do you imagine it must be to “remember” something when you also understand it? Even more so, understanding it within the context of the story and the sentence. I firmly believe that one cannot fully claim to understand a concept if one cannot explain it to someone else. Reading comprehension underpins the ability to Re-tell the story, and what is retelling else than explaining? Reading comprehension increases the enjoyment and effectiveness of reading and helps not only academically, but also professionally, and in a person's personal life. We are chasing the joy of learning, if I am not mistaken…

You may recall what both Messrs. Kaufmann and Krashan advocate so passionately, in their promoting of TPRS – successful comprehensible input hinges heavily on a balance between subject matter that is neither too intricate nor too simple. I imagine this to be the reason that when it comes time for the comprehension phase, revision of steps 1 and 2 are done before the reading commences.

Re-establishing the meaning and ensuring the translation is fresh in the mind of your students, aids with understanding, no doubt, however it also helps to keep the teacher’s and the students’ expectations reasonable. Creating a solid platform for success (through additional revision) reinforces the students’ belief in themselves, but also in that of the process.

This step cannot be rushed and therefor it is important to remember that TPRS reading is not the same as conventional reading. Think of it more as translating, so be mindful of providing your students with a text at their level and chockablock full of the target vocabulary. Do not be concerned if you find yourself translating every word in the text, this is actually best practice. You ensure that your students appreciate how each phrase and line fit into the story and help the tale unfold.

We have hammered on the fact that engagement from the students is non-negotiable, so putting extra effort into making the applicable to the students and their frame of reference boost efforts tenfold.

Ask them some questions like:

  • Have they had similar experiences?
  • What happened in these situations?
  • What was the eventual outcome?
  • Did they learn something from their encounters?
  • Does it apply here?
  • Why do they think so?

Take the time to bring the important elements of the story into the conversation by inquiring which characters they liked and if they noticed parallels between the situations.

Culture plays a huge roll in identifying with a language. If there are ethnic or social elements that can make the target vocabulary and structures more concrete, try to include those for better comprehension. This practice of going looking for deeper connections is known as enriching. It is incorporated to establish memory anchors and personal association.

As a seasoned ESL teacher, I would be remiss not to at least touch on grammar. I was a bit cautious (or maybe cautiously excited) when I realized that comprehension was favoured to language rules and although I can totally understand the thought process, I was skeptical… My fears were quickly laid to rest when I learnt about pop-up grammar. See, the belief that TPRS does not teach grammar is not entirely true. What is true and refreshing, is that it forms a decidedly smaller part of the focus.

With the pop-up grammar approach makes use of very short (about twenty seconds or less), meaning-based grammar explanations. This means that true to in-bounds practices, the grammar is touched upon within the context of the word or phrase’s meaning and not simply the mechanics. With TPRS, you teach grammar as it comes up in the story. The grammar is therefor used exclusively to highlight further the meaning of the target-word or phrase.

To cap-off the practical application of the three steps inherent to the TPRS process, it makes sense to focus once again on some of its amazing benefits.

  • TPRS is tailored to exactly what your students need to learn.

You choose the exact vocabulary a lesson covers as well as the grammar points you include

When you use TPRS, you connect with multiple learning styles.

Of course you are talking, which brings in your aural learners. But you are also gesturing, asking students to participate and relying on their creativity to some degree as they make up the story

  • It involves students.

Not only are you asking students comprehension questions throughout the storytelling process, you are also asking them to create the story.

  • Grammar is taught contextually.

 

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