A Day in Grenoble

Today I’m in Grenoble, a lovely city in the valley of the Isère River overlooked by the majestic, snow-capped chaine de Belledonne. Teri Wiechart and I are the guests of Marie-Pierre Jouannaud, who teaches methods classes at the University of Grenoble. This morning we went to Pontcharra, a small town north of the city, where we met with Deirdre, an Irish girl who teaches in a middle school. We met several of her colleagues and talked with them about Comprehensible Input and TPRS. Then we sat in on two of Deirdre’s classes and watched Marie-Pierre demonstrate Movie Talk with a great video called The Black Hole. Marie-Pierre has been learning about TPRS since 2007, reading Krashen and watching videos on You-tube. She sometimes posts on moretprs which is how I first connected with her. We met for the first time face to face at TESOL’s 2012 Colluquium where she gave me much appreciated support for my first presentation. And last summer we got to know each other much better when she came to Agen’s TPRS Workshop. I appreciate her Gallic intellect combined with a gentle enthusiasm for a method she truly believes in.

Her Movie Talk demonstration was an excellent example of compelling comprehensible input and both classes were captivated. As Deidre said, Marie-Pierre has the teacher’s gift, able to communicate good-will, respect and positive appreciation, so that no student would ever want to challenge her. I admire her graceful hand gestures and her shy smile which tells you that she’s sincerely interested in what you have to say, whether you are a colleague or a fourteen year old student that she has never seen before. I’m definitely going to steal her ideas for the video and try them with my group of apprentices.

We ate lunch with Deirdre, who had many questions and was bubbling with energy, eager to try things out in her classes. She’s reading Ben Slavic’s books and hopes to be able to come to Agen this summer. I hope she can make it because the success of a workshop is often due to the warm, friendly atmosphere created by participants like her. I thought it was interesting to learn that she had originally studied to be a psychologist, and her enthusiasm for TPRS stems from the healthy atmosphere it creates in the class.

Then we went with Marie-Pierre to one of her methods classes. The students were eighteen or older and most of them think that one day they’ll be teachers. They had studied TPR and were able to give a good summary of the method’s strengths and weaknesses. Marie-Pierre explained that TPRS had originated as TPR Storytelling and then asked Teri to give a demonstration.

Teri gave them a 30 minute Czech lesson doing PQA and getting in over 50 repetitions of each of her three target structures. Then she handed out a reading of about 100 words and the students discovered that they were able to read and understand all of it. She then demonstrated Kindergarten Day by reading “Five little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” to them in English, their target language. Marie-Pierre had wanted the students to see something they would be able to do as teachers.

At the end of the class we asked the students to comment on what they had seen and the comments that were the most frequent were “efficient”, “fun”. One student said, “Those strange words now come naturally and my brain can immediately respond.” Another said, “I learned without realising it.” So there are now a few future teachers in France who have heard of TPRS and have a very favorable opinion of it, thanks to Teri and Marie-Pierre.

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