Some Thoughts on the Change

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17 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Change”

  1. …I was thinking about possibly having my student take the National Spanish Exam and just hope and pray that they score above the national average to show results….
    Definitely do not do that. It is the wrong way to go. We should not measure TPRS kids with tests written by non-TPRS teachers. Just don’t do it. This is mixing apples and oranges and if you want to teach apples don’t test for the quality of the orange juice. I know, I know, I have given the National French Exam but only to use the scores as proof of TPRS, which was devious at best. The results never did make my department get a clue. I’ll tell you what, I’ll stop doing that exam for all the wrong reasons if you never start, Chris.

  2. I wonder Ben – you’ve written some excellent books that go into the details of TPRS as it looks now…do you know of anyone that is working on writing up a serious comparison of the old approach (is there a ‘proper’ name for it?) with CI-based methods? – one that pulls in Krashen’s research (and any others), persuasively, authoritatively leading one who is unaquainted with TPRS into a clear understanding of the how and why of this way that we have all chosen? I ask this, because my first mission (beyond my own teaching) is clear: to bring change to my own WL department. I wish I had a CI manifesto of sorts to help initiate a more serious dialogue with my colleagues – one that brings authority to this first-year TPRSer’s words.
    I know you once mentioned to me that research is not where your focus is. This is true, I am sure, for most of us teachers who are daily on the front lines of reaching children…I guess I say that just to be clear that I am not asking you to write this type of book!

    1. Brian- I think we do need a type of book like what you are referring to. I’ve said before that we are in the midst of a coup d’etat of the textbook, grammar-driven establishment. and I’m thinking to succeed we need to win over the minds of administrators and decision/policy-makers.

  3. Grant Boulanger

    A few things I’m doing to aid in this push:
    #1 I’m teaching my ass off in my own building. Teaching, reaching, loving as many of these kids as possible. Teaching them to love speaking in another language and love coming to school. If you’ve read the exchanges between Ben and K you know students are and will always be our best advocates.
    #2 I’ve requested data from the last 5 years that demonstrates the triangle of language matriculation into the upper grades. This data for most districts across the US will show massive dropout rates and retention for the most well academically trained and usually female students.
    #3 I’m writing up a survey to give to students at least twice during the year. I’ll ask key questions about their motivation to continue into upper levels, their feelings of competence and confidence in the language, their feeling of relaxed acquisition in class etc. I’ll have this data to demonstrate that I am producing kids who WANT more language.
    #4 I’m keeping work samples of all kids for at least a couple years.
    #5 I’m making kids keep and take their notebooks with them (I wish I had it all together enough to collect proper portfolios – I think that’s the way to go)
    #6 I’m collecting and printing all the readings we’re doing, including syntehsized readings from each One Word Image we’ve done from the beginning of the year. I’ll give it to them in a packet at the end of the year and will forward it to next year’s teachers.
    #7 I’ve invited anyone who’s curious into my room, including other staff members – teachers of other disciplines, administrators, parents so they can see I’m not hiding anything – they are welcome to come in to my room. Every last one of them marvels at how the kids are engaged and focused. Last year a secretary came in for 20 minutes every day over her lunch. This year a science teacher comes in on her prep every once ina while.
    #8 I’ve invited a local university methods teacher who I know teaches about TPRS into my classroom to observe. She’s asked me to talk to her grad level students in December about TPRS as it looks in my class.
    #9 I’ve committed my students to taking the oral portion of the MLPA at the end of the year. This oral proficiency exam is intended for upper levels and university entrance. I will be able to compare my kids results with other year 3s from our district and some year 2s.
    #10 I shamelessly let parents know that if they are happy with their child’s developing attitude toward world language study that it would be appreciated if they were to let my supervisor(s) know how happy they are and why.
    #11 I’ve forwarded Robert’s CBI vs Traditional doc, the ACTFL 90% doc, the Executive Summary of ACTFL standards, a few of Susie’s articles on to my principal. I engage her whenever I sense she’s able to listen to me talk shop. Last week she came in at the tail end of a One Word Image and was so blown away. She said, “Man, you just wouldn’t be able to script this stuff!” … BINGO!!!! When we frame “rigor” as “active listening” and show admins how engaged kids are and how “those kids” are not acting out in our classes they will take note.
    These are some of the things that I’m doing with the assumption that change happens from the bottom up. What are some ways you all are spreading the love?

    1. I admire what you are doing and saying. I like the way you are collecting real data – your kids’ work, and both talking the talk and walking the walk. I honestly would never want to wrap my mind around writing and then publishing such a comparison any more than I would want to be stuffed back up into a big monster’s nose to inspect the snot ball that I was trapped in for a quarter of a century and only sneezed out by the dust kicked up by Blaine and Susie over the past fifteen years. Trying to writing something like that, in my opinion, would put the argument where the traditionalists want it – in the realm of the intellect, where things can be bickered about forever. And such a book has already been written, in a way – Krashen’s 900 published articles, that contain a ton of convincing data that is hard to refute but is refuted every day by people whose minds are just too narrow for this entire change. Few have really cared to read those articles to a point of honest acceptance of their undeniable truths about how we learn languages. That tells me that we are in a nasty place with these people – they don’t WANT to hear what we are saying and they would never read anything we came up with. They would find a way to undermine it, cast doubt on it. It is too far out of the realm of pure mind and data collection for them. What we are about is not about robotic data collection, it is about something so big and literally mind blowing that it threatens them. I bet if Laurie reads this she would agree with me, maybe not, but I’ll take a chance here: our real work is in the classroom, in that growth that occurs there, and then, when the work of enough of us termites has been done, in five or fifty years (it is not our business to think about when), the Realidades buildings collapse.

  4. I teach in English in France and have a different outlook on the “battle” that I’d like to share. Firstly, school administrators in France are not allowed to tell teachers how to teach. They can’t even come into your room if you don’t invite them. And they don’t hire or fire teachers either. They can make your life very uncomfortable if they give you a lousy timetable, but they are there to administer the school and have no say in teaching methods. That is controlled by “inspectors” who come around once in a blue moon. I’ve been teaching here for over 15 years and have been inspected three times. A good inspection can help you get a higher salary, but a poor inspection does little harm, since it’s extremely rare for an inspector to lower a grade. The inspectors are looking for student output. We’re to “kill the teacher” and become invisible in our classes while our students jump through hoops and dazzle the spectators with their abilities.
    I first heard about TPRS through Jeff Moore in Macomb, Illinois. I’d been able to organize an exchange with him and I was interested in his ideas, although I wasn’t sure that my French lycée students would take to stories about blue chimpanzees. I ordered the green bible, and rather timidly tested the waters. Lynnette Lang came to our school and did a demonstration, and later Karen Rowan came, did another demonstration and coached me and a couple colleagues who were interested. One of my colleagues has done the research and uses TPRS quite a bit. Another picked up a few ideas, like circling, and used them during an inspection which went extremely well. Another colleague, after a bad inspection, tried to adopt “the method” but I think she had trouble with the bit about feeling some empathy for your students. During trips to the States, I’ve been able to get to a workshop and two NTPRS conventions. I’m still learning and adapting to my public, but I’m convinced this is how languages should be taught. I’ve been able to use it in primary school and had a blast.
    I discussed the method with an American friend who teaches in Switzerland and who asked me to come to her school to demonstrate it. With Karen Rowan’s blessing I went, and was given a very enthusiastic reception. I found the Swiss teachers much more open to new ideas than French ones and on the third day of my stay I watched them give their first TPRS lessons in their classes. A young teacher working on her professional “mémoire” decided to do it on TPRS.
    Back home, I wondered if I was the proverbial prophet, honored abroad but not at home. We have a large English department, 15 teachers at one point, plus six or seven Spanish teachers, so why haven’t they seen the light? When Lynnette came to us, she brought along a colleague who was a Spanish teacher and had had something like 20 hours of TPRS French and everyone was amazed at her French. Yet they are still talking about how important grammar is and how our students need more grammar. Last year we were asked to give catch up classes for weak students during the spring vacation. (A revolutionary idea in France) I did TPRS. My colleague taught grammar. The kids enjoyed my classes and told their friends to come, but they felt obliged to go to hers, because even they are convinced that you need grammar lessons to pass the baccalaureate. She’s a good teacher and she knows how to make grammar interesting, but I think she’d make a great TPRS teacher if she could just get her mind around it.
    I get along very well with my colleagues and they’re fond of me. TPRS is just something funny that Judy does. (She’s American, you know. She goes horse-riding too.) So I don’t think of this as a battle. If it is, I’ve lost it. And I understand how difficult it can be, how much courage it takes to let go of what seems to be a lifeline to grab something new and unproven. Several times I’ve read here and on the moretprs listserve that it’s difficult to take over a class that’s been taught with traditional, grammar-oriented methods. Well, people, that’s all we get to work with. Most of my students have had at least four years of traditional, grammar-oriented lessons when they come to me. And a good number of them would test out as beginners, maybe half would be level two. Because in France it’s okay to fail English if you’re passing math, you still go into the next year’s class. So some of the kids that come to me have been failing English for four years. I throw out the book, tell them not to buy it, and try to start where they’re at. It can be frustrating, but for some reason my kids don’t do too badly on the baccalaureate.
    And I’m starting to mark a few points with my colleagues. Some of them have noticed that kids that come from me do rather well in writing. Which seems strange since they think TPRS is all oral work. A colleague took over a class I had last year in a post baccalaureate section that she’s been teaching longer than I have. After her first written test of the year she told me that she was pleasantly surprised. And asked me about fluency writing and decided she’s going to try it. then a couple of days later she asked me to loan her “the big book about TPRS”. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I took her both Ben’s “TPRS in a year” and Fred Jones’ book. She’s reading both of them.
    Recently we’ve been asked to give English lessons to our non-English teacher colleagues. I volunteered to take on the beginners and am giving them straight TPRS. Of course, this being France, most of my beginners had at least seven years of English, and sometimes ask me to stop to explain the grammar. While I’m standing there with my mouth hanging open, another student gives the explanation and if everybody looks happy and it’s not too horribly wrong, I go on. But I had two students for the first lesson and seven at the next and word is getting around that my lessons are fun. And one of my “students” is a Spanish teacher from Spain who is a true beginner. She was delighted that she could go home and tell her daughter the story and be understood after one hour of English.
    So I don’t think I’m going to win any battles over here, but maybe, just maybe, the TPRS virus will gradually infect my colleagues, and all the chimpanzees will be blue!

    1. For years I knew you were there Judy and I have always wanted to hear your story. Anytime we think we are in a rigid system, all we need to do to get off of our pity pots is read this comment which I will turn into a blog post for easier access. Thank you for this! I will place it in the Group Members category unless you object.

  5. Melanie Bruyers

    I can somewhat understand older teachers being resistant to change, but what frustrates me is brand new teachers out of college who don’t know about TPRS or Comprehensible Input.

  6. That point, Melanie, illustrates something particularly dastardly about all of this. Why did these teachers even enter the profession? Out of a love for everthing that teaching can be, or because they were good at it (4%ers) and saw it as a way to find employment in a setting where they could command respect and be in charge in a teaching model that is on its way out and in a way that we know can never reach kids?

  7. The best thing about those teachers is that WE can be the ones who turn out the 96%ers who lead the charge to the Tipping Point. I believe that we are already there. It is just a matter of time until these students go out and become language teachers who teach as they were taught.
    We had Parent-Teacher Conferences last week. To a parent, the comment was something like this: ‘Wow, this is great. I am so happy that you are teaching in Spanish like this. What a great opportunity for ________ to be able to use their Spanish.’ If students are with us, parents are with us and (some) administrators are now with us, the point of change is not far behind.
    College Preparatory Programs need to hear the hoofbeats of change and bring it on. Some are. Some aren’t. I no longer hire from those who aren’t opening up great methodology to their students. If a teacher begins their career soundly grounded in the latest language-acquisition research and proven methodologies, they will continue to strive (or at least accept) the adaptations that come along throughout their career.

  8. We had parent-teacher conference last week and they went very well. Being an Exploratory teacher, last year parents NEVER came to see me. I maybe talked to one parent during one conference last year. Last week, I had about 5 or 6 parents come in telling me how much their child loves my Spanish class and how impressed they are about how much they’ve learned in such a short amount of time. A few weeks ago, I had students read a legend from Peru to their parents for homework. This was about the 4th week into the school year and parents were very impressed that their children had learned so much so quickly. Best parent-teacher conference night ever!

  9. A thought here regarding useful data in the battle:
    The most powerful form of data we could provide would be a study examining long-term language retention. In ten years, do a nationally representative study of students who have gone through CI-based courses and traditional-methods courses and see who says “I had two years of high school Spanish but don’t remember a stinkin’ thing” most often (Any guesses on those results, folks?). Of course, there would be problems designing the study since students in CI-based settings take more years of language (since they like it better, but that’s part of the story). The new paradigm hasn’t been around all that long, but this sounds like a tailor-made dissertation for some professor or doctoral student down the road!

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