The importance of teaching to the eyes

The start of the second week of this school year, was faced with a few classrooms lacking air conditioning. Luckily, classes had the option to move into the air conditioning of the school auditorium. I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate TPRS in a large group setting. I actually have had the thought…”If I can teach all 5 of my classes in one setting at one time… then I could have the rest of day for other things.

Ha…foolish man…I learned it does not work like that!

I asked my two colleagues if they would mind if I tell the classes a story. These other classes are not TPRS taught.  In total, there were 120 students for the first class (3 classes of 40 students) and a second session of 80 students (2 classes of 40). 

I have heard Blaine Ray talk of his fondness of teaching to large classes. As a high school teacher he had 49 students in one class. He calls it the “Theater Effect.” He has said that he prefers them to smaller classes because of the nature of the work with a larger audience. I was chomping at the bit to teach such a group. If it were planned I am sure I would have been nervous but this was so last minute and there was no time to be anxious. What a wonderful and humbling experience to teach 120 students. I love experimenting and I could say these classes were successful…


Teaching to the eyes of the students is crucial for mastery learning. I feel like I can do this fairly well in general but with 120 students it is virtually impossible to do this very well. On this day, this was a completely unplanned opportunity and I used student actors and some props to develop Personalized Mini Stories. I think it was comprehensible and repetitive and even interesting. My circling had to be creative because these were level one students and I did not have question words to point to in order to help me circle statements. The students had fun and at the end of the sessions I used a fingers comprehension check. With their eyes closed, students showed five fingers to represent they understood 90% or better — 4 fingers for 80% comprehension, 3 for 70% etc.

In the auditorium seating, guess which students showed the highest and lowest percentage of comprehension?

Overwhelmingly, the students in the front and middle showed 4’s and 5’s. The students in the back or on the edges showed 1’s, 2’s, 3’s. I could not effectively teach to the eyes of such a large group. When we teach to the eyes, we can see hesitation in student learning or understanding. I am reminded as to why I move around the classroom so much, why I arrange my room the way that I do, and why I prefer when students have nothing out to distract from teaching and learning. I want every student to feel as if they all have front row seat to my class.

Teaching for mastery means we teach to the eyes of our students. Teaching to the eyes of our student means we teach to the hearts of our students. When we do this… students internalize the language thus acquiring it.




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