Saturday, November 21, 2015

Where are all the TPRS lesson plans?!

When I first started to look into TPRS, I was really frustrated at how difficult it was to find example lesson plans. All I could find was statements like, "It's hard to give a lesson plan for this since it was so specific to my class, but it went sort of like this..." If you've been looking for advice on TPRS, you probably have had this issue too. Or maybe you didn't because you're much better at googling than I am! :) Anyway, here's the deal.

TPRS lesson plans don't really exist as such because TPRS lesson plans look like this:

Target Structures: wants, has, is
Story structure: Someone wants something, but they don't have it. They go to three places to try to find it. Eventually they find it, or something surprising happens maybe.
Activities: Ask a story. Do PQA. Follow up with a Retell activity.

Well, okay, maybe they're not always that minimal, but they often are. The most "lesson planny" ones I've seen are the ones Keith Toda kindly did on his blog here and here. And those are AWESOME. But personally I am not that together. I tend to come up with a story by writing my target structures on the board and staring at them until something like a story structure emerges. This is not reliable, and I can assure you that doing it at 7:15 am when you're about to teach it at 7:40 is stressful.

The cool thing about TPRS though, the freeing thing which makes it so much less exhausting than some other approaches, is that you CAN plan a lesson with just your target structures in mind and see what happens. The key is that instead of having a Lesson Plan, capital L capital P, you have a menu of lesson options depending on how things are going. My mental lesson menu for the week looks like this:

Target Structures: wants, has, is (or whatever)

Day 1 Goal: Pre-teach/Introduce new structures
Day 1 Activities: Do a dictation, or a Wordle activity, or do some PQA or TPR, depending on how the individual class feels about those activities and whether they're feeling energetic or not.

Days 2 Goal: Storyask
Days 2 Activities: Ask a story. If there's time left over, do a retelling activity either orally in partners, or written as a timed write, or drawn as a comic, or with Draw 7, or similar.

Day 3 Goal: Retell
Day 3 Activities: Input like the Word Chunk game, Animal Hunt, Sentence Flyswatter, Mettius Fufetius (aka Pancho Cumacho) or similar. Retell the story with a Choral Reading in TL or English, and then do Reader Theater or Sound Effects Theater. For a lower energy class, do Sentence Puzzles or SSR. If they want, ask another story instead.

Day 4 Goal: Comprehension
Day 4 Activities: Review target structures with some kind of game or activity (examples in previous days), or something simple like Vocab Bingo or Vocab Puzzle. Finish with a comprehension check with a story told either orally or written on paper.

Day 5 Goal: Output
Day 5 Activities: Timed Write, Free Write, Puppet Show, or Read & Draw. Maybe a vocab quiz if you need a lot of grades. This is a good day to get some culture in, too, or have a chill singalong or Kindergarten Day.

I'm not saying that's a GOOD lesson menu. It's just an example of how mine looked one week, more or less. And for the most part, it worked okay. I ended up doing the Comprehension Check on Friday and the Timed Write on Thursday in some classes. By Thursday, I felt like we hadn't gotten enough reps in of my target structures, so I held off on the CC for another day.

So- where are the TPRS lesson plans?! You can't find them because it's a dynamic and organic teaching method, and one size fits exactly one-- not all. What you CAN find, however, are
tons of awesome ideas for activities, many of which are linked above. You can also look at my extremely user unfriendly and seldom updated excel sheet.

You can also get basic Story Scripts from Blaine Ray, Ann Matava, and others. The chances that you're going to find a Story Script that fits exactly the verbs you want for exactly that week, though, are kinda low. The most important lesson plan is the one that applies to your class: what structures do they need to learn right now? what actions will be most interesting for them? what kind of story can you tell that will meet both those requirements?

tl;dr: A TPRS lesson plan is fundamentally about what YOUR goals are for YOUR kids. CI is a big toolbox of great ideas- pick and choose what you need, as you need it.

(And when in doubt? Hey, ask someone if they have any ideas for a story with your target structures. We're all in this together, friend.)

(For that matter, why not pay it forward and share your own story ideas? However lousy they seem to you, they're still a godsend when I'm staring at my board at 7:15am...)


  1. This is great. Very helpful. I've resorted to going through the Cuentame books (everyone at my school uses TPRS; these are story books published by TPRS publishing for Spanish and French) and just adapting the stories and activities to my own target vocab. Maybe we should start an editable Google doc with story ideas for Latin? I'll share some of the stories I use to storyask that I've been using for several years. I could also share some stories I wrote for my 5th graders that I use as culminating activities after done the personalization orally in class. Great resource and blog - thanks!

    --Michelle Ramahlo

  2. Readers theater is something I've done a couple of times - but clearly could do more. Incidentally, it works well with straight history as well. I've written short, goofy scripts of great events in history and the class acts them out.

  3. Hey - enjoying reading this. I like reader's theater. I've done it a couple of times in Latin but probably could do more. I know you are looking for History cross over and this could be a good one. I've written short goofy plays for students to act out. It tends to make some events in history more memorable. (Jocelyn here by the way)