This is from Diane Neubauer:
Mimi Met recently came up in conversation there, and I heard interesting news on Saturday evening about her and ACTFL types more generally. This relates to an apparent turn towards CI (with some degree accuracy of what they mean by that). If ACTFL has this kind of talk at a StarTalk leaders’ conference, I think it is likely the next thing ACTFL in general will emphasize. (But at the conference at least, without reference to those who’ve advocated this means of acquiring another language or those who have worked for so many years to teach that way. That seems unscrupulous.) Nonetheless, perhaps it means some improvement in ACTFL is indeed happening.
So, last Saturday, 5 of us Chinese types were out to dinner together. (May I just say here that CI teachers are really great people to hang around with. Really fun evening. I’m looking forward to spending time with people at iFLT…) Reed Riggs had been in town for a conference for people who lead StarTalk programs for “critical languages” teachers and students. (For the sake of the PLC members who don’t know: Reed is in a PhD program in Hawaii related to SLA and Chinese language and pedagogy, and is Terry Waltz’s assistant in the TPRS summer training there.) There were a lot of speakers, including Mimi Met. Here’s a link to all the presentations:
What Reed said about her talk really surprised me: except for apparently nothing on the need for compellingly interesting and personalized language use, Mimi Met gave a quite persuasive and clear description of what Comprehensible Input is and examples of how to provide it. I wrote to Reed again to check details because it’s not at all her message from past years. He said it was not just her speaking of the value of Comprehensible Input though, but a more general trend, and noticeably different from previous years at that same conference.
To save myself some trouble, that email is below. My comments are in italics:
[Mimi Met’s] document doesn’t have any of the videos or pictures or stories she showed at the presentation, and she was also giving a lot of examples of what is not comprehensible (like a cartoon of an old grandpa sleeping on an armchair, and we had to guess the vocab word). She was also open to lots of feedback from the audience, including when someone said they didn’t comprehend a “comprehensible” (yet 100% Chinese language) video, and she asked if we were comfortable talking to each other in groups, because previous audiences had complained about the frequent peer interaction, hoping to just hear her lecture. The document itself is mostly useless (she can keep getting hired to speak everywhere), but it outlines the main themes of the talk.
Am I getting it right to say that she advocated CI as target language use in student-comprehended ways, and gave the example of using a story for content instead of lists of semantically-related words?
Yes, but she also showed how a vocab list can be semantic pairs (1. green 2. blue 3. under 4. over 5. hot 6 cold) or a story (1. the 2. boy 3. went 4. to 5. his 6. dad’s 7. shop) (I’m paraphrasing both of these). She kept emphasizing that all language taught needs to be meaningful to students.
That she actually did a story in Spanish that was repetitive enough and cognate-enough to be comprehensible? Did she seriously advocate against topic lists of semantically-related vocabulary?
It was a story in German, with multiple photos on each page, about two to four reps per word, and arrows to help indicate motion and where to direct attention. She did not directly state “semantically-related” was bad, nor did she directly state use of the student’s own language was bad. It just never came up (and I felt was assumed).
It looks to me like the only things she’s missing are the compelling and personalization aspects – involving students in the story and message.
Mm yeah. Personalization never came up, to my memory. I think she was saying that stories are naturally more compelling than a lot of other forms of comprehensible-input delivery. She also showed how we should wait to use songs or chants, if ever, until after lots of thought-provoking and repetitive input has been given, otherwise students will rely on the chant stuck in their head, instead of paying attention to the meaning. She showed us cartoons of Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner, with many examples of “kinetic energy” and “potential energy” (in English…she had us write what we could about these two concepts first, asked who wrote much, announced that no one was raising their hands, and then showed us these videos). The final video was a song about kinetic energy versus potential energy, and then she said “notice how I played the song last” and then she explained why it’s best if it doesn’t come first.
CI and the Research (cont.)
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could
22 thoughts on “Mimi Met and CI”
Ha! Yeah, ACTFL too is all about CI. And CO. And about everything else under the moon (5Cs). The Oct/Nov Language Educator was dedicated to CI & CO.
I looked at those presentation topics from Met that you linked us. I got this nice quote from that presentation on CI: “Learners need multiple, varied opportunities for students to hear new words/expressions used in familiar contexts that make meaning transparent.”
But then she had a presentation on output, titled “Getting Students to Talk: Strategies for Oral Interaction.” It was all about pair and group output activities. Many of the examples given are based on semantic sets. It is noted by researchers that the negative effects of semantic sets can be counteracted with a meaningful context. But there are other problems to emphasizing these words (e.g. frequency).
You see, this is the trend right now: TBLT – task-based language teaching. At the least it is all about communication – expressing, interpreting, and negotiating MEANING. Focus on form is integrated and accuracy takes a backseat. A large role is given to student output. We discussed some of this recently in the articles on Long.
Problem is still that these presentations for CI or for TBLT are not going to change a damn thing. I still don’t think teachers will give up their present-practice-communicate model. They’ll just start adding in some interaction and maybe some storytelling activities in the communication step, but the purpose will still be to practice the rules and vocabulary list presented and practiced in the first and second step. The logical end to a presentation on CI would be to recommend teachers get TPRS training and say how TPRS offers a comprehensive set of CI strategies and a fluid 3-step process for maximizing repetitions.
It’s a few weeks after I wrote this, I’m still thinking it’s good news, Eric. I used to attend ACTFL-based training and they never talked like that. They were all about evaluating students based on the 3 modes and how to make them speak and present more in the target language. Those conferences also stressed teacher target language use, but they never talked how to include repetitions and ensure student comprehension at anything I’ve attended.
So I hope this kind of (to me still surprising) theme by some of the well-known ACTFL people means there’s greater opening for those of us who teach based on student comprehension (AND interest and engagement) to keep sharing what we know works better for happy language acquisition. That there’s no ACTFL-based excuse to shut out teachers like us from the discussion and direction of language teaching. That there’s another trickle of change happening.
I agree that ending a presentation with how to get trained in CI instruction would be the right finish to something like this. It bothers me that no connection to people and training is provided. (My big pet peeve about any training is if there’s no info on resources & what to do next if you’re interested.)
I didn’t read the other presentation info, just that one by Mimi, and the file doesn’t really say much.
And HC had a presentation listed and I glanced at it. Painful.
They don’t get the part about it being an unconscious process.
True. I think it’s related to why they also don’t consider student involvement in creating content; the idea that the teacher can control the outcome more than is how language acquisition works.
Hmmm, this sounds familiar. I just can’t stop myself, Ben:
Diane, I noticed more use of SLA-friendly terminology in one of HC’s presentations that Eric and I were perusing online a while back, and I too grew hopeful. My recent correspondence w/her didn’t bear any of it out, though. Mimi isn’t Helena, but I do believe they’re from the same camp.
What’s really happening? I think they’re grasping to stay relevant. They’re weaving in cool linguistics terms (like ‘CI’), but the substance of their presentations & teachings is not changing.
They do not ‘get’ preselecting & restricting quantity of new structures & input; nor the goal of numerous reps on targets; nor hi frequency words for coverage & practicality; nor student generated /collaboration for compelling. I’ve never heard HC mention independent reading (FVR)…. Nor do they really wanna hear about any of it. I’ve tried to describe it to no avail.
Instead they are totally stuck on thematic unit planning with an ‘eclectic toolbox of communicative activities.’ It’s their prison – and they’re so sure it’s the best way that they aren’t curious or open to listen to our alternative. They’ve built their castle, and they continue to make a livelihood with their ideas- all over the world.
How do they explain the abject failure of our (US) WL programs til now?
I heard Greg Duncan and Helena Curtain at ACTFL say that:
1. A’ failure to plan is a plan to fail’ – referring to teachers need to make intricately detailed lesson plans and materials- knowing exactly what they’re going to teach/cover/present/test;
2. Backwards design assessments for data-driven decision making.
So that’s that. Better lesson plans and tests will allow everyone to finally speak the TL!! Who knew??
There’s no attempt to investigate pedagogy or classroom strategies. They don’t observe or coach. That stone remains unturned. Only the PLANNING for ‘Deep, rich, higher order language experiences…” whatever the heck that means…
Honestly I’ll bet you know WAY more about SLA than any of them- from the PLC if not from your own independent research…it looks like they haven’t upgraded their expertise for decades. (No worries- Eric and I sent HC plenty of SLA materials to study!!)
I soooo want to believe in the positive shift you sense…but alas, I’m not convinced. I think it’s window dressing.
As for your question abt training, they have nowhere to send anyone for any training, because they think that WL teachers should have lots of different tools and that every good WLT already does (or should do) t/ci – but their understanding of the term is not nuanced to include what we mean by it. Rather, HC, at least, sees our work as, ‘unfortunate,’ ‘evangelical,’ ‘divisive,’ ‘disappointing,’ and ‘shallow/narrow…only teaching one way.’ (HC used all these terms with/on me- and tried to blame me for fragmenting the profession!)
Would seriously considering our work nullify theirs? …I’ve wondered whether I would feel threatened if I was in their shoes… But the truth is they have contributed greatly to our profession (i.e., rationale and how-to for early language learning programs!!). and they could contribute more if they understood the shortcomings of their ideas and the power of all we do.
Wouldn’t it be great to get them into our classrooms?
…but the substance of their presentations & teachings is not changing….
This is how I see it Alisa. The shift is to radical for them. Their connections to the textbook companies can’t just be erased overnight. The Realidades Brothers are Met’s home boys. She couldn’t even do a conference here in Jeffco eight years ago without making the entire day-long conference for 375 teachers one long boring 8 hour explanation of how to use Realidades, and if we had any questions we could talk to the guy that flew out with her, back in the back at the table under the balcony, the regional sales rep for Realidades and yes, if you wanted, he could take your order for the newest workbooks.
You know much more firsthand about these folks than I do, Alisa. What HC has said to you is in poor taste and unprofessional. What Mimi did could be just window dressing, and I agree that there’s an urge to appear “relevant.”
It reminds me of a trend in allopathic medicine (medical doctors; drugs and surgery). For many years, alternative medical practitioners (chiropractors, etc.) have talked about the benefits of nutritional supplements and probiotics. Allopathic doctors used to say these were harmless (but not helpful) at best, or quackery and harmful at worst. But now, there is more & more about nutritional supplements and probiotics from MDs. No apparent credit is given to those who advocated for such ideas for years (and who were disdained for it), but the results couldn’t be mocked forever. The medical establishment seems to want to be the new source for nutrition and probiotics without pointing back to those who advocated about them for years. So, some who will only trust an MD hear about it only now, and get a more expensive and less finesse-y version of probiotics and nutritional supplements. Still, better health than the person would’ve likely had without them.
I think the same kind of thing may be happening here. I see that as an improvement. I also hope that it makes some teachers who usually listen only to ACTFL just a little bit more open-minded on CI and therefore able to hear about it from others.
I don’t see it as an improvement in ACTFL. They still think that you can teach output when it’s an unconscious process. What is up with that? They really don’t get how language is learned when they design and assess those output activities.
Until teachers, even CI teachers, get that the conscious mind cannot control the ultra-subtle process of language production, a process far too complex for the conscious mind, nothing in ACTFL will really change. Mimi talking about the importance of input and output mixed together in a program is, in my view, really stupid.
When ACTFL talks about creating and giving class time to output via activities that involve conscious monitoring of speech, they insult Chomsky and Krashen* and Vygotsky and VP and Ray and Gross and a ton of really heavy hitters in this field. They act like those great thinkers, those giants, never existed. Chomsky’s LAD is not about conscious analysis, neither is Krashen’s. The formation of speech is a wonder of God. It’s not our area, and as I have said here many times, neither is the formation of a baby. Yet we mess with that too. Not good.
He designed it, we can’t imitate it. But we keep trying. “Here!” says Mimi. “I’ve got this cool output activity!” And with those words the house of language acquisition collapses like a house of cards.
*Why do so many teachers not delve fully into Krashen, but merely sample his work, if that? Because they don’t want to. It’s out of their area as four percent analyzers who got lots of love from their four percent analyzer teachers. So they will make noises about Krashen and CI, but they will never get it, because they can’t. They really can’t, anymore than a crude football players smash face athlete can run onto a soccer field and fit in with those deft and subtle athletes. I have to say one more thing here and I’m tired and it’s late and I probably shouldn’t but here goes. I am totally sick to puke of those grammar teachers who force output before it’s ready, as per the seed analogy I wrote about earlier tonite. They don’t get it, and most don’t want to and that is why Jeannette and so many others who have been in this game for a long time know that the change will happen, but slowly. Those traditional teachers who can’t change aren’t just going to give up their jobs – they will keep trying to defend an indefensible position, one that Asher has called criminal negligence. So they will have to retire and new CI input based teachers will take their place and that will take time. It will be slowest changing of the guard in history. I need to say it again. I am sick to puke of old style teachers spouting out stuff that isn’t true and has never and will never help kids to any meaningful and authentic gains. Now do you see why this blog is private? Because 99% of language teachers in the U.S. are still pissing in the wind of output activities, and I sure wouldn’t want to offend them. No. They will have to retire. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. Who wrote so well earlier today about how admins who get this are so rare? But there is one in Oakland, Antwan Wilson, from DPS. So yeah they are out there. Rambling. Bed time. Vomit. “Oh, let’s pluck this seed of speech out of the ground and see how much it has grown!” Right!
Oh Alisa, you are SO right:
“because they think that WL teachers should have lots of different tools and that every good WLT already does (or should do) t/ci – but their understanding of the term is not nuanced to include what we mean by it.”
All I keep getting when I mention “CI” is “immersion this, immersion that”. They think it’s the same as immersion, and I’m told, “well, I’ve incorporated ‘immersion’ into my class too! What more can I do!” well, walking by the other classroom, the teacher is speaking SO FAST I can’t understand it! so I look at the kids and they’re either on their cell phones, or they’re doodling, or they’re looking at the teacher with the “what the heck is s/he saying!”
Now I ask: all of us here on this PLC have learned about CI, we’ve done research, it makes sense, we’ve tried it in our classrooms, and we see that it works. After 4 years on this PLC, I have come to the conclusion that we are not all rocket scientists and/or neuroscientists; yet we have realized/learned about how the brain acquires a language. If someone is truly passionate about what they do, what they teach, wouldn’t they too be doing research to find out not only HOW to teach (with all the new PBL workshops in our state!!) but checking to see how the BRAIN learns, to be sure it’s compatible?
Alisa writes: “Would seriously considering our work nullify theirs?” Their answer: YES
Our answer: “NO because the brain is a very complex mechanism and there are MANY ways to get the language into the brain.”
Terry Waltz has a fresh take on the tool box:
If anyone has really ever had a tool box, then you know that it is like backpacks and purses and other carry-alls. There is a whole lot of useless stuff in toolboxes, including broken tools, garbage, dust, shavings or grease, and random sized nails, screws, and bolts leftover from previous job, etc.
At least the allopathic vs MD model can be scientifically tested with controlled variables. Results are properly vetted.
As Eric has taught us, our research is confounded by the learning vs acquisition dichotomy (how to measure which outcomes came from which strategies) among other problems. But as good T/CI spreads across the country (world!!!!) the proof will be everywhere…program retention numbers, bilingualism, test scores, student satisfaction, a falloff in textbook sales, a change in ACTFL session offerings, the retirement of the Old Guard, and a run on whoopee cushions, fake dog doo, laser pointers and clown shoes. Mwahahahah!!
Also confounding the learning vs acquisition dichotomy, as opposed to the allopathic vs MD model, is our society’s regard for teachers. Parents will criticize their student’s teacher quicker than they will criticize their doctor or healer. And they will criticize the old guard of teachers as well. Alisa, you mentioned that parents’ complaints of the foreign language department in your district is what propelled you guys to find TPRS/ CI, right? So, with parents on our side, the CI movement gains speed.
I’ve come to appreciate over the past couple of months how much we are creatures of our unique communities we serve. How we teach CI; how we are able to have conversations in L2 with our students; how we are able to put the SLA theory rubber to the road are intricately linked with our stature in the school community. I’m humbled by the importance of establishing trusting relationships with the players in my school community in tandem with delivering the best classroom instruction I can. Having come to appreciate this, I look at you veteran teachers out there with great admiration.
Mary Beth said:
…we are not all rocket scientists and/or neuroscientists; yet we have realized/learned about how the brain acquires a language….
This is most important and largely ignored in the CI community.
Lurking in the wings of all buildings is the “How am I doing?” piece. Most of us – with the rare exception of a few princely souls – want to be the best foreign language teacher in the building and be so recognized. We hear about CI, we study it, and, the deal is (we hope) that we can use CI to propel ourselves into the rocket scientist category of teachers, and then people in our buildings will admire us.
But not all of us are CI rocket scientist teachers. Some because we are in the wrong building, where darkness rules, and some because of the John Bracey phenomenon type of building, where they can’t even think straight because of the way we teach, and so we walk into the building every day with targets on our backs and they aren’t painted on there by students.
There are many reasons to explain why many of us aren’t rocket scientist CI teachers. (In no way do I wish to imply here that CI is like rocket science – it is the most simple thing in the world, though found to be nearly impossible in school buildings.)
But, as MB says, since I have learned how the brain acquires language, I have set out to document and write about and share as much as I can in the hopes of getting better at it, whatever better means (for me it means enjoying my job). The strength is in the approach, not in me. I’m just lucky to have found out about it.
But what about those traditionalists who don’t get it and will never have even the faintest hope of reaching kids in the way we do, even when we are having a very bad CI day? What about them? My response is from my heart – how can we blame them if they don’t know about it? If they don’t know that real acquisition can only come about as a result of massive amounts of uninterrupted input, and they still believe that acquisition can result from practicing OUTPUT – it cannot because output is a function of the conscious analytical logical function of the left brain and the left brain is woefully inadequate in producing gains in language – how can they be blamed? They are missing the biggest piece of the puzzle in their profession, and will suffer professionally because of it, but I do believe that many CI teachers, or those who claim to do CI, don’t get the output piece either – they just don’t get how worthless it is when we only have 4.5 hours a week available to us. (I would be all for practicing output if we had 24/7 to do language instruction, but we don’t and every second of input counts in school settings.)
And while I’m ranting (and I welcome points of view that disagree with my point here but I won’t every be persuaded to change my position), I ask the question, “Why do we even talk about output here if is has so little value in the real way in our classrooms?” OH, I forget, we work in schools and the people who observe us want to see output. I don’t care if they want to see output or not. I won’t do it, unless I need to get through a class*.
I have been wanting to say something on this thread for some time now. It’s a thought that won’t leave my mind:
Traditionalists and CI teachers who don’t get that the first few thousand hours of language acquisition must largely be about input will fail.
And this includes a lot of us, who claim to know about CI and do CI but then do large amounts of output activities anyway. We can’t do that. If the first few thousand hours are not about input, and if we try to coax the flowers out of the ground and squeeze and measure them before they can become a flower, because we need them to grow faster, because we need to measure them, how can they grow? Our measuring and our desire to see results before that can naturally happen kills the very result we desire far earlier than it can manifest.
That right there is all I have to say. That’s the only message I have on this blog. It’s the unconscious piece, which is to say that input is absolutely necessary in those earliest 1000 hours and the input must be unconscious; our students must not be allowed to think consciously about the language when we are instructing them – this is what happens and how it happens when they are focused on the meaning, on the message, and not on the vehicle being used to deliver it.
It is the teaching to the unconscious mind (that’s what real CI is), that action of teaching to the unconscious minds of our students and leaving their conscious analytical left brain thing completely out of it, that brings the gains. That’s the mountain that keeps Met and her folks from seeing the ocean. Output activities involve conscious analytical left brain processes and have no business in those first 1000 hours of sowing and watering of input into their brains.
The rest of our discussions here (all 36,000 comments) is all peripheral. We either stop measuring what kids who are the equivalent of a six month old baby can do, or we might as well quit our jobs because that is how effective we will be when we think that output has a place, any place, in the work of teaching languages in those first 1000 hours. Or 2000. Or 500. I don’t know. Nor do I care. But I do know we don’t have any business doing any output in the first two years in buildings that have the word “school” written on them.
Adding this quote from moreTPRS by Stephen Krashen, posted today:
Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:11 pm (PDT) . Posted by:
“Stephen Krashen” skrashen
The organizations, professors, and publishers will be 100% behind CI as soon as they can figure out a way of taking full credit for it, and making lots of money from it. Herr Professor Herzengrabenfeuer. is already claiming that he not only supports CI but was among its inventors. And they will figure out a way of saying that we are still wrong or erasing us from the history of language teaching.
“There is no limit to theamount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Ronald Reaan (and a number of others)
Here’s another on this topic: more on ACTFL… a Facebook friend posted this about a summer training program she went to:
The program was called “LILL” but I forget the acronym – something like language instructors’ leadership l?… The video is called “The Keys to Language Acquisition.” It takes to task direct grammar instruction, teaching grammar rules, error correction, and textbook drills, but promotes 6 principles including authentic materials and task-based activities. Nothing on personalizing content, the unconscious/implicit nature of acquisition, or the primacy of compellingly interesting CI.
I am glad this conversation came up…everything that I notice from talking to teachers and online observations leads me to the conclusion that WE, TCI teachers, have a seat at the table.
I see that even our publicly diplomatic colleagues are more CI than I thought. In 5 years, the dominate path will be that of teaching with comprehensible input and personalized curriculum. 🙂
Yes Mike, I agree. Or maybe you and I are seeing the rosy side since we’re both going to CI districts? But actually, I see my former colleagues are leaning that way…but UNconsciously! 🙂
I see LILL (Leadership Initiative for Language Learning ) as a step forward from what just happened in my situation.
We did “curriculum” mapping. We followed the definition of “typing the table of contents into the relevant boxes on the form.”
So I see LILL as a big step forward. The six core ideas are: [Including a CI viewpoint]
1. Target language as a vehicle [to narrate and describe]
2. Grammar in context [20 second pop-up grammar explanations]
3. Interpersonal communication [circling, cycles of life, small talk]
4. Functional objectives [let speaker know when he’s not clear, tell a story, write 100 story in 5 min]
5. Authentic cultural contexts [songs, proverbs]
6. Appropriate feedback [jGR, Standards based]
The biggest difficulty I would say is with #5. It is too easy to find authentic contexts which are immersion [=submersion = drowning, (Bob Patrick)], thus the need for a language classroom instead of just going to live in the country (as Krashen points out). The key is how soon students are able to draw meaning (CI) from the content, or to put it another way, how efficient is the authentic context for acquisition? It is a goal. How soon can it become a means.
But, hey, 5.5 out of six notions I can work with. Cover the textbook will be more of a challenge, wince proficiency/fluency is not even on the horizon for those who align with textbooks and not with CI/proficiency/fluency.
So I too see these as progress. For this reason, I went to a Proficiency Academy a few weeks ago that was very similar to what LILL sounds like. It was sponsored by our state organization (MaFLA) and thus will carry more weight amongst those with whom I rub shoulders than TPRS will.
But if I were in the position of many of you, I would probably see it as a step backward.
“let speaker know when she’s not clear”
H, E, double hockey sticks YEAH that’s a good objective. My go-to has been “understand new words that you might find while discussing Roman _____,” but that one rules. One objective to rule them all.
Another sort-of-related thing: I just learned of the opportunity to apply to mentor a new world language teacher (via phone/online at distance). It’s an ACTFL thing with ACTFL membership & at least 3 years of teaching experience required. The info says they provide and expect you to use some ACTFL publications in the process (about which I know very little) but it sounds very flexible. I wonder if it’s another small way to nudge things towards CI by assisting a new teacher.
Applications due Aug. 24. I may just join ACTFL to get to do this (or at least apply to) — that and to be part of the Research Special Interest Group.