Rebranding Our Product Within School Buildings

Here are three comments from a recent thread here:

First comment by Eric Herman:

The high school program I send my kids to is SUPER traditional. 4 years of “mastery” of a textbook syllabus. Disgustingly traditional. Painful. Embarrassing.

I have proposed to my principal that I rename my class and he is supportive! My report to him on our last HS & Elementary teacher meeting revealed classroom practices that even my principal called “disturbing.” I teach a different subject. I don’t want to get confused to be teaching the same subject as the high school, so no one thinks I’m trying to prepare kids for the high school. I don’t want any association with that.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Student Jobs Update

In my own CI world, certain jobs have become less and less important:

  1. Timer – not necessary if you get how the Two Strikes policy works. I time the class off the clock in the back of the classroom. No timeouts.  We go for 30 min. in the TL. They don’t blurt. Simple.
  2. Artist – has to draw it at home (otherwise gets wrapped up in the iPad)

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Agen 2016

From Judy Dubois in France:

There were about 40 teachers at the [TPRS] event in Utrecht and at least 10 of them told me they want to come to Agen. Kirstin and Iris* are lovely people, I so enjoyed meeting them.

They agreed to come to Paris in November for the TESOL conference where I’m speaking and help liven up my table. We are starting to make some noise in Europe.

I too am feeling great vibes about all these wonderful people getting together in Agen this summer, sitting around drinking great wine and eating fantastic food and talking about TPRS and CI.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

None Of This Will Change

From Eric Herman. This serious indictment concerns ESL teachers as well:

From the 5 elementary schools which feed to 1 high school, only 5 graduating 8th graders skipped level 1 HS Spanish. 4 from the same town. 1 from my school (Edg). Placement was decided by a 100-question discrete vocabulary test and 100-question discrete grammar test.

The complaint was voiced by an elementary teacher that last year’s placement exam included trick questions (on many questions, a 1 letter difference got you a wrong answer). The high school said that was purposeful. I guess, students have to be prepared to be “tricked” for 4 more years of high school instruction.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Report from the Field and Call for Proposals

From Tina Hargaden:

Hi Ben,

I am hoping that you can help me network on behalf of COFLT (the Coalition in Oregon for Foreign Language Teaching).

I just finished helping with the COFLT conference and we have opened our call for proposals for our 2016 fall conference.  I was appointed vice-president of COFLT and that means that in 2017-18, I will be serving as the president.  My mission as president is to get a more vibrant TPRS/CI community growing here in the Northwest.  I know there are small groups doing great things, but I want to bring them together to share ideas and inspiration.  My goal is to organize a CI Strand at the 2016 fall conference, so that a participant can go from one CI session to another and have a full two days of CI training and sharing.  This is a lofty goal, and I need presenters to make it a reality!

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Addams Family

From Angie. Big wonderful possibilities here to teach family relationships and body parts while keeping the kids totally focused on the message and not the words, which is how language acquisition works:

Angie shares:

“My newest discovery for dealing with the Family thematic unit is the Addams family. There’s a grandmother, uncle, a cousin, brother, sister, and mother and father. There are some great pictures of them from all different eras. Cousin It is so weird with all his hair. The family is wired, funny, and fun to circle, especially if you’re working on “description words” vocab unit :( at the same time.”

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Speed Reading

I know that many of us are just now beginning reading on a more serious level after all the auditory CI of the first few months of school, but I just have to post this again from Eric. I’ll post it again in the middle of winter when we are starting to crank things up for the big reading days of late winter and early spring, when the story genie kind of goes splat. It is another example of a fantastic new strategy that load up our CI carts with so many new strategies that we have trouble keeping them all on the cart. This is one you certainly don’t want to fall on the ground this year:

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Nathaniel Hardt on CI

This from Nathaniel is gold, a must read. I made it into a Primer article. Of particular value is this sentence:

…VP’s goal is communicative. The language is used to find out and share information about each other in the class. The goal of the legacy teacher is to teach vocabulary to demonstrate knowledge on the quiz and test…. [ed. note: bold letters are mine. ]

Here is the article, now a Primer:

The family tree. I was thinking about your question, Catharina. First, I am not sure what a legacy teacher might do with the family tree. But I can imagine someone have the kids repeat, review the words, and assign a family tree drawing with labels. So the tree in this scenario is student output.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

VP Opportunity

From Michele:

Martina just sent me a link: Thursday talk shows with BVP!!

I’m going to be listening. Late, since it’s the start of my advanced class just then in Anchorage, but I’m excited about this!

Two Strikes and You’re Out – A Plan for Blurting

We continuously allow blurting. Who among us can dispute that point? We have come up with, over many many years, all sorts of tricks – a million ideas it seems like – to win the battle. We keep losing it.

In my department, as a result of the success of our “community meetings” (we had two of them yesterday) in which Linda and Zach and I get our classes together to talk about the problem and demo what a CI class can look like when students don’t blurt, I have thought of something to try next week.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Something of an Emergency

Our Steven Ordiano in CA joins a long list over the years of teachers here who over the years have had to respond to administrators who – despite good intentions – cannot seem to understand the actual nature of comprehensible input instruction. Steven is not the first nor will he be the last to be asked to fit a square peg into a round hole.

However, this story has a silver lining as Steven describes below, and, as usual, Robert Harrell plays a part in it. It seems that even without his knowing it, in this case, Robert le Chevalier de l’Ouest can be seen swooping in on horseback to bring the dragons to the attention of his sword, the mighty pen, or as it is in this century, the mighty keyboard.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Trend Noted

Robert expresses something that has been about two years in the making. I feel it is true:

…I think there is a trend forming. I, too, used to stress over “bell-to-bell instruction”, making every minute count, and getting “enough” CI in. Now that I understand the time frame of acquisition better, I understand that “losing” a few minutes of CI to rapport building can ultimately lead to far greater gains in important areas including language acquisition. (Though we have to guard against allowing this to crowd out CI.)….

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Self Reflection Piece

Here is something that Linda and I do from time to time with our students:

Please address the following prompts:

1. What do you most enjoy about our class?
2. What activity do you feel is the most useful in learning French/Mandarin?
3. What is something that you struggle with in class?
4. Do you feel that you are observing the Classroom Rules and the AES Learning Habits in our class? Why or why not?
5. What is a goal you have in the class?
6. How can you achieve this goal?

Thank you for responding to the questions!

[Click To Continue Reading...]

A Collaborative Morning

This morning, Linda (Mandarin) and Zach (Spanish) and I (French) brought our three classes into one classroom (they are smaller classes) and talked about what it means to be a student in our classrooms, and to specifically address the blurting problem.

First, I asked the combined groups to get with an elbow partner and ask:

Why do you think you are in this big group meeting?

A few answered and then I told them why – because we teachers are concerned about blurting in our classes and we want to address it as an entire middle school department together to see what we could do to solve the problem.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Blurting Idea – 2

This discussion about blurting is the most important discussion of all with no exceptions. Why do all this work to learn how to teach like this and then have some kid ruin it all by blurting?

I am also going to work with Linda and Zach to bring all our students together to talk about blurting in a big combined 3-class meeting on Friday. We will tell them that blurting will derail everything and that we as a department are determined to not allow it.

After that meeting, we will go observe each other’s classes for ten minutes and then reconvene as a big group of three classes to process what the kids saw in the other (Chinese, French, Spanish) classes in terms of blurting.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Blurting Idea – 1

Such a big discussion we have been having this year so far on blurting! I would like to continue it with an untested suggestion.

I have a tripod in my classroom with big paper on it:


In addition to preventing my kids from saying one word of English during CI discussion, I am going to try to stop asking for time outs. The CI will be rolling along and then all of a sudden I get a cool idea and ask the timer for a time out and then it just unravels from there. All I have to do is write the cool idea on the tripod pad of paper and get back to the CI without any break in it.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Word Chunk Team Game

Strategy #4 – Word Chunk Team Game (WCTG):

It would be nice for teachers if communication via language could be done via single words only; their jobs would be much simpler. Unfortunately that is not the case. Languages require that words be grouped together in order for communication to occur.

So we definitely want to learn the art of grouping words together in chunks in our early year comprehension based instructional strategies. Doing this offers students a more robust version of language instead of mere word lists, which is what textbooks provide. Word chunking thus paves the way for more complex language in the future, eventually leading to stories and strong passing rates on exams like the AP.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Word Associations

If you are struggling with getting high energy at the start of class, this is definitely something you should look into. I have settled on starting my classes with this and it definitely works because it gets the kids thinking in their bodies. I am suggesting it for Lance for his new Spanish gig.

Strategy #1 – Word Associations:

Making associations with words by working with word walls is a powerful way to help beginning students dive into a foreign language. It also gives both teacher and students confidence, which is what both need most as they start their new year together.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Red Alert

Lance requests advice from the group:

Back in April I applied to a school expanding their language courses to 7th grade, and they hadn’t settled on whether to teach Latin, French, or Spanish. They went with Spanish. It turns out that things haven’t been working out this year for them, and I have an interview next week to teach 7th grade Spanish. I don’t know Spanish. Help.

Even though I tell people that I’m into SLA, and teach languages, I feel guilty about even considering this. Incidentally, I feel the same guilt about not knowing Italian, which is the main reason I don’t have dual citizenship…yet. Right now I know Latin and English. On the other hand, I have been learning Spanish on my own, reading TPRS novels and listening to the radio, etc., but am not very proficient. Even with that guilt, I learned that this middle school is going to kill the program and turn it into a study hall if they don’t find someone to step in. This is considered a “hardship,” so the school can get a waiver to have someone, me, teach despite not have the content certification. The principal has expressed that he needs a warm body in that room, and was initially impressed with my resume when they were tossing around which language to teach, so I am not the worst person for the job. It’d be possible to be 1 day ahead of the students with a traditional textbook program, but I think I can do better.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

ACTFL Survey

From Diane:

Hi Ben,

Got this from ACTFL’s Research Special Interest Group. Would you share the link and info with the PLC? ~ Diane


Please help us get a good response for this research study on second language teaching techniques! Anyone who is currently teaching a second/foreign language (K-12 or college/adult) can participate.  Thank you in advance for forwarding it widely!

Second Language Teaching Techniques survey

Help make connections between language teachers and research-based instructional techniques!

[Click To Continue Reading...]


Angie has a question:

Hi Ben,

I wrote this in an email to Eric but realized that I’d like to put this question before the group…

I had a good time with the video (The trailer from Frozen)  but but the activities really showed me that my classes have taken a wide split between students who are acquiring at my rate of instruction and a handful who suddenly started getting really lost.  One student was so overwhelmed by the reading that he just shook his head and said “I have no idea what this says”….not good.  Meanwhile, I have others who are bored because “it’s repetitive and I understand everything you say”….I guess that’s the life of a teacher.  I hope to talk with you and others up in Maine about strategies for working with those really slow acquirers…if I slowed down enough for them, I would lose everyone else, yet I obviously want to make sure they don’t get left behind.  I think I have 3 of them this semester, out of 61.  Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but I think of them as way slower than a barometer student.

[Click To Continue Reading...]


This script was shared here in past years. It is from Jim’s script book Tripp’s Scripts, which many of us have and use a lot and which has a lot of holiday stories in it besides a lot of really good – and simple – other scripts:

____ years ago
I want to be
you should be
this year

Two years ago, Hank wanted to be a dragon for Halloween. Hank said to his mom, “This year, I want to be a dragon for Halloween.” His mom said to him, “You shouldn’t be a dragon for Halloween this year, you should be Minnie Mouse.” (So Hank was Minnie Mouse for Halloween and was sad.)

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Rubric Wanted

Hi Ben,

From Keri:

I have a question.  I watched all of Adriana Ramirez’s videos and I really like the idea of the additional step she added in between the TPRS verbal story and the written.  She added the step of “skits”.  The students have a little class time to recreate the story and make it their own by adding in their own characters, details, etc but by maintaining the same plot.  She also has the students use the 1st and 2nd person in those presentations.  So, I am at that point and would like my students to create their own presentations.  (By the way, the student don’t write anything down…they should have acquired enough vocabulary through PQA and storytelling at this point).  My question is how should I grade those presentations?  I will not grade them on grammar…this much I know.  If anyone has any ideas or some kind of rubric, that would be great!

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Graduate Programs in TCI/TPRS

If you are thinking about a grad program in language acquisition that is Krashen-friendly, you may want to read this from Eric:

“Here is what Krashen told me last school year about graduate programs:

…I don’t know of ANY departments open to our point of view. The few that were (eg my old department, Arizona State) have changed direction or shut down. . . If you want a graduate degree to learn more, you will probably be disappointed, Just be a public intellectual and do real scholarship. Among the people I respect the most: Jim Crawford, Alfie Kohn, Jim Trelease (no graduate degrees), Susan Ohanian (MA in Comparative Lit). Just learn more statistics and experimental design and read the professional literature, and you will know more than at least 95% of the current professors….

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Gender Game

In the spirit of wasting time in class in favor of self care and fun with the kids, I offer this game, which is done entirely in English:

  1. With beginning kids, when explaining to kids that everything (in French at least) is either masculine or feminine, I tell them that I will say a word like “lake” or “pencil” and they will try to “feel out” if the word is masculine or feminine.
  2. (This game is done when the question comes up about how you can tell if a word is masculine or feminine – is there a way to tell which it is?* And of course we say that most words that end in “e” in French are feminine, etc. but that isn’t any fun. I ask them if they want to memorize lists of gender, 100 per week, and they groan, and so that sets up the game of appealing to their intuition to figure it out. They love to do this. They could do it for an entire 85 minute block.)
  3. Once I say the word, they have to “feel” whether it is masculine or feminine. Sometimes I add in adjectives or verbs, which really messes them up, making them think about the word being served up.
  4. They make their guess, saying “masculine” or “feminine” in a triumphant way usually, because they are kids.
  5. I usually do a little Regis Philbin move and wait before dramatically accepting their answer or rejecting it with a buzzer noise and the phrase, “Thanks for playing! Next!”
  6. If they get it right, they get another word. When a kid gets past three or four right in a row, the class tenses up and the excitement in the room is palpable. Today I told them that if anyone got fifteen in a row I would buy them a car.
  7. A million hands go up after each kid’s attempt. I pick the next hand. All the hands next to the hands of the hand that got picked groan that they didn’t get picked.
  8. Repeat the process.

What does this do for their French? Nothing. They don’t even hear the word they are guessing in French, but in English. So why do it? Because we need to stop riding so high in the saddle and being so nuts about CI. OK, CI is great. It’s a revolution in language instruction. It’s the baddest ass and only truly badass approach to teaching a language that I personally have ever come across, with the exception possibly of …  oops, there are no exceptions; nothing even comes close to TPRS. But let’s not let us forget why we are here. In my opinion, we are here to have fun and enjoy each other’s company, not be the best. Can anybody relate to that, or am I just going through some kind of phase? (Answer is that I’m not, and that I have been waiting to learn these things for almost four decades now. Yes, I’m a little slow on the uptake. It was my education that was at fault. Nobody ever told me to relax. I always thought it was a war.)

[Click To Continue Reading...]