Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Look at Jobs in the TPRS Classroom

Ben Slavic is a great resource for information about student jobs. This post is largely inspired by his work. If you are serious about using these (and many more) jobs in your classes, you'll all least want to buy his books and will probably also want to subscribe to his online group.

Giving various students jobs to do during class can really help to drive your instruction to another level. It creates a great feeling of teamwork, provides the teacher with great instructional materials, and gives the teacher the opportunity to differentiate. (Yes, I said "great" twice and used a bunch of cliches. I'm trying to brief, y'all!)

Check out at what some jobs ended up looking like during two days of a level 1 class earlier this year:

I consider these jobs the "essential five." Numbers 1, 2, and 3, the red ones, are jobs that should be utilized starting with personalized-question-and-answer and then should continue into the asking of the story. Numbers 4 and 5, the blue ones, are added during the asking of the story.

The jobs are:

1) Repetition counters. These students (one for each new structure, so three in the picture above) tally how many times we use the target structures during the class periods. Normally this means how many times the teacher says the word. If you look closely, you'll notice there are two sections for each structure. This is because the rep counters work on both PQA and story days, so there is a total for the PQA day and a different total for the story day.

2) Quiz writer. This student complies a list of questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no." The questions must be based on what we discuss (during PQA) or the story (during the asking of the story). At the end of class (or to review the next day) the teacher chooses a few of the questions for a quick quiz. You'll notice, again, that there is a line drawn through the middle of the paper separating the PQA-day questions from the story-day questions.

3) Clacker guy. This student is responsible for "clacking," or making noise with whatever noise maker you prefer, whenever we start slipping into too much English. This keeps us in L2 in a funny way. Of course often times I, the teacher, am clacked more than the students. This is a permanent job done every day.

4) Story Artist. This job starts during the asking of the story. The student is responsible for listening to the story and drawing pictures of what happens. You can see in the example above that our story included two girls and a cat. It's great having this piece of paper! Just imagine all the opportunities to review the story in later classes, even several months after the story was created. Of course the discussion about the pictures can be entirely in L2, because the students were made so familiar with the relevant structures during PQA and the story.

5) Story Writer. This job also starts during the asking of the story. The student listens to the story and creates a written version of story. From this student's version I was able to create the extended reading for our reading day. Going back and forth between the student's handwritten paper and the pictures from the Story Artist is another option, all the while discussing and circling everything in L2.


  1. Are the questions on quick quizzes for PQA and stories in the target language? Are their varying opinions on this? Does this change depending on what year the students are?

    1. In my experience the opinion is unanimous that the quick quiz questions be given and answered in the target language. In that way the quick quiz itself is another opportunity for more reps of the target structures.

      I normally only have institute the quiz writer job after about a month of school. By then I have a good feel for who could handle the job and the quiz-writer-to-be has taken a few quizzes and knows the drill well enough to take another step and start writing questions.

      It is an amazing thing seeing level 1 students totally "ace" a quick quiz on the first day of class. It is possible, if the teacher is going slowly enough and if the questions are simple and just a reiteration of the personalized discussion from that same day.

      Upper level students can handle more complicated quick quiz questions with dependent clauses and all that.

      Remember, the questions are given orally (NOT IN WRITING) by the teacher in the target language, heard and processed by the students aurally, and then answered in the target language in writing. What a killer format!

  2. Thank you for your response. I agree with the oral questioning but I was unsure about which language to use because a student or two muttering they don't understand the questions. It's my first year using TPRS and I have a lot of things to work on for improvement...

    1. Do you have posters pasted to your wall with the question words (like who, where, etc.) in L2 with their English translations? I use a laser-pointer to point to my question posters whenever I ask a question. And the students know they can always look at them if they get confused.