I found this in my old files – don’t know who wrote it but it may have been me, I think it is. It’s a start in finding some common turf between ELA and CI instruction:
There are many terms used to describe ESL/ELL and EFL instruction. For now let’s just use the acronym ELA English Language Acquisition to make it simple.
In my experience, certainly in Denver Public Schools, the chasm between ELA training and TPRS has never been addressed. Both areas address second language acquisition. Why is there no bridge between them?
In most schools, ELA teachers have no inkling of what storytelling is. And yet, most students who are in storytelling classes are happy and feel like they are learning the language, whereas most ELA students are clearly not happy.
This is not to oversimplify things. The fact is that many English Language Learners have heard lots more English than FL students, and that many of their needs are related to poverty and their training is too output driven. They do not read nearly enough at a level that they can handle.
ELA students are asked to produce writing and speech too early. Their affective filters go up, and their learning goes down.
At the district level the ELA administrators train their teachers in the use of costly textbooks in a highly prescriptive output-driven approach, while CI teachers instruct very effectively with no textbooks, saving districts millions of dollars.
Nothing to bridge the gap between TPRS/CI and ELA has been done, no conclusions reached, no plan made. Teachers who use comprehensible input may as well be trying to find common ground with the Science departments in their schools.
Why is it a concern that we have found no common ground, no common ELA/TPRS/CI turf in our school buildings across the country? On the level of research, we share lots of common ground ñ the work of Dr. Krashen. Krashen’s original work was done in ELA. Why isn’t that common ground shared where it counts, in the classroom?
Things we need to address are:
1) Can stories be successfully used in multiple language classrooms with no common first language?
2) Can ELA teachers be encouraged to use less forced output in their work, and thus better align their classroom instruction with Krashen’s research, so that the ELA student’s affective filters can be lowered and so they not be submerged in incomprehensible input in class every day?
We know those things. But still, the question remains, can stories help them in their overall quest to learn English, no matter how many years they have been here? I believe they can.
Possible bridges from the TPRS/CI world to the ELA world include:
1. Stories build personalization. Personalization builds community. Being included in a classroom community builds confidence. Inclusion reduces isolation and shaming. Pleasure and inclusion are big players in this discussion, but are hard to measure. Nonetheless,
In literacy and language development…only the path of pleasure works. Those who are committed to increasing student suffering (for whatever reason) or who are committed to self-flagellation, will be disappointed in the research results. The research, in my view, points strongly in the direction of the Pleasure Hypothesis: What is good for language development and literacy development is perceived to be pleasant by the acquirer and the teacher. (Pleasure Reading, Young Learners SIG Spring Issue, 2006)
Language acquisition is a natural and enjoyable process for anyone as long as the right kind of input is provided (Krashen, 1985).
2. Stories can be minimized in terms of auditory input to create lots of time for reading of the stories, and esp. embedded reading. TPRS Step 3 can reign in an ELA classroom, but the first two steps would set that all up.
3. Stories that lead to lots of reading can lead to lots of writing. Writing could be like a fourth step in an ELA program based on TPRS.
4. Cell phones and online dictionaries can solve the problem of multi-languages in one classroom. The child need only look up the word in his own language dictionary.
5. Students should constantly read down. This produces more reading, and in an ELA classroom there is nothing more valuable than more reading.
My need is to ignore the jargon and return to what in my view is the only thing that counts, and that is the answer to the question, What is best for the child? Can’t we figure that out and do it? Does it have to be so complex?
If I am a Hmong kid in Denver Public Schools sitting in any classroom, my hierarchy of needs is first to be recognized as a human being. That is also where my first hope lies in solving the communication problem I have with my classmates. I want to be recognized as a human being first.
The seeds of change lie in the creation of community first. That’s what I will be looking at whenever I think about the ELA problem going forward, which at the level of the classroom is such a perfect microcosm of the larger problems facing our world right now of racism and hatred and greed.
Let’s say that in our WL level 1 class we have a class of 30, of whom 20 are ELL kids with limited English. One thing we could do would be to write the targets for a story in their languages with translation and give them that list of translations. Each ELL student would instantly know at the start of class what the three targets mean.
Then, during the establishing meaning/gesturing phase, as long as we stayed in the target language, we could get everyone moving forward into the story at the same pace. The class would stay together. The key would be in our staying in the TL and not going out of bounds. Then the ELL kids would have the same shot as the English speakers in understanding the story.
Another way to do establish meaning for such a group would be to let them look up the three structures on their phones. Either way would work. This idea is from Judy and is a game changer of sorts.
The real benefit here would be that we wouldnít be nearly as likely as usual to go out of bounds during our lesson. Having all those languages in our classroom would surely keep us in the TL the whole time because we would know that whenever we broke into English we would immediately confuse two thirds of our class. That is major.
So having a bunch of ELL students in our WL classes could be a stroke of good luck, a real incentive to do CI right and not keep sneaking English into our lesson. Those 20 kids would keep us honest, denying us all that nonsense in English.
We all know what Reuben Vyn was able to do in inner city Denver some years back. Reuben never used English in his French classes and on the district exit exam his inner city poverty kids destroyed the scores of the IB kids in the same building (George Washington High School) who were taking the same level of French.
We need to review why Reuben was so successful. It’s the Rebar image (see category). In the ideal CI class, we never use a word whose meaning has not been previously established. We never go out of bounds. We never point and pause to new words other than the target structures. Everything we say they already know. The only new sounds are the target structures.
On those few occasions when we do go out of bounds, since it is so hard not to, we would allow the 20 ELL kids the use of their cell phones to quickly and efficiently keep them in the loop of the story.
The idea that ELL kids could potentially keep a CI teacher in bounds is an exciting one that needs to be studied. The idea of ELL kids thriving in a WL class because the playing field for them is even with the English speaking kids is even more exciting.