I just corrected my Spanish 1 midterm exams and every student (except one) earned an A or an A+ on the exam. I actually brought them to a French classroom to take the test so that they could not read any words on the wall. Everything they wrote came from their own hearts. That one student who did not get an A was a student who often missed class and substituted the class experience for written “make-up work”… something that my district requires that I offer for all excused absences.
Before I made the switch to TPRS I used to brace myself each year for the inevitable dip in grades caused by final exams. I would console my highest-performing students explaining that, due to the comprehensive nature of the exam, it was “normal” to score a full letter grade worse than their class average. With the long lists of vocabulary and grammar concepts it was taken for granted that they would not remember everything I taught. I occasionally assigned projects to “pad” their grades, and despite the laughter and crazy moments that were always part of my classes I often wondered why many students ended the year disappointed and disparaging of the progress that they had made.
In contrast, this year my students left class giving me high-fives. I still have gathered realistic data about my students’ language abilities that will help me plan instruction for next semester. However, nowadays my class moves at the pace of acquisition, not at the pace of a textbook. There is no “teaching them to just get the gist of what I am saying” in my class because everything is comprehensible. I am constantly amazed at the power of comprehensible input. Here is how a middle-of-the-road student performed on my exam (click on the images to be able to read them):