Amber Sullivan 2.5

O.K. there have been two blogs featuring some questions by Amber Sullivan here lately, with commentary by Byron and me. There will be additional commentary in blog 4 from Amber by Matt Jadlocki.
The two not yet published here – 3 and 4- will be published in the next week. But I am not going to publish Amber Sullivan 3 until we fully appreciate the content in Amber Sullivan 1 and Amber Sullivan 2. Why?
Because I consider the four Amber Sullivan blogs – and Byron thank you for sending them to me for this blog, to be the four most important, by far and away the most important, blogs among the 1500 or so blogs so far on this site, also among the almost 4000 comments. Why?
Because Amber, who is new to TPRS (yet clearly a TPRS talent), raises the ultimate question about TPRS – the argument about ouptut vs. input at the early levels. 
This topic must be discussed and it must be discussed at length and in depth, and decisions about pedagogy need to made and training done by all level one and two teachers before next fall.
I am even thinking of shutting this blog down because, with the publication of Amber Sullivan 4, there will be nothing left to say about TPRS – we either do input 90% of the time at the early levels or we don’t. Why have a TPRS blog when all we do is talk about that, and yet never do it?
There will be nothing left to say because either we do input 90% of the time in the form of listening and reading at the first two levels or we don’t. End of dicussion and I get to shut down the blog part of this site and just sell books and spend more time with my kids and quit being so OCD about TPRS.
If we don’t appreciate the point italicized in the above paragraph, our students won’t be able to do any output at levels 3 and 4 – which is when output in the form of speaking and writing should occur, along with the formal study of grammar, and not before because the neurology involved in language acquisition simply doesn’t work that way.
So, if we don’t make an attempt this summer as a group to retool our curriculae to reflect 90% of teaching time spent in the form of listening and reading at the first two levels, then, as I said, we have no reason to continue talking to each other on this blog. We will have become a bunch of talkers.
Our students won’t be able to ace the AP exams like (properly trained) TPRS kids can because we asked them for too much output in the form of writing and grammar and reading too early.
That is what Amber’s four blogs are about. So, please go read the two already published again, make a comment, kick your share of sand up in the air, get some dirt in your eyes, pleurniche, and then make a commitment to train yourself in some way this summer so that you don’t end up bullshitting your levels one and two kids next year with too much output.
Stop thinking about TPRS and start doing it, for the love of Ubaldo Jimenez, who just pitched a no-hitter in Atlanta yesterday for the Colorado Rockies. Did Ubaldo pitch that no-hitter because he TALKED about being a big league pitcher, or because he pitched his ass off as a child and young man in the Dominican Republic for the past 15 years? That last paragraph was an ad for the new G5 Program.



34 thoughts on “Amber Sullivan 2.5”

  1. What does “first two levels” mean? Is it an amount of time at a certain age? Or …?
    This may be clear for high school teachers because you know what Comprehensible Input teaching for two years produces. What might “first two levels” mean for elementary and middle school students?

  2. I don’t know Jody and all I am trying to say is that, whatever the age, the kids must hear it a ton before getting into any kind of left brain stuff with it in terms of writing or getting into any efforts to speak. I just believe in that so much. Maybe I’m off base here but I believe that the brain doesn’t need any help, least of all from a well intentioned teacher, at too early an age. Later yes, but at the start of language study, no. I guess not many people think that way.

  3. That’s why I’m asking Ben. I agree very wholeheartedly with the idea. I feel as though teachers hear something like “after level 2” and have some sort of notion in their heads about what that means. I don’t have the notion because I teach younger “level one” kids–who stay level one for a very long time because they don’t have class very often. (And as Dr. Krashen has told us: Older is faster.)
    So, I’m just wondering how a teacher out there might decide that “it’s time”. I sense that it is a very arbitrary decision. I was wondering what your thoughts might be about “how” a teacher would know.
    Your comment about “well-intentioned teachers” is exactly the point–and not just at too early an age–at too early an acquisition stage.

  4. Hi Ben,
    you ask “Why have a TPRS blog when all we do is talk about that (90%), and yet never do it?”
    The whole point of the blog is that it provides training, encouragement and ideas about HOW to do that. I was yet again drowning and feeling like I just would never get it. What I was seeing in my classes and what I was reading on this blog were not matching up……
    Then, suddenly, I read about Michel’s idea about having students take 3-4 minutes to write a story in english out of the structures. KAAAAZAAM! New life is breathed into my teaching and students come to life. New hope that I might approach the 90% challenge.
    In one class it has worked so well that students have asked if they can come up with names for their groups and keep track of how many times their group’s story is selected. They really like it. The stories belong to them and they own them. The group that “wins” is SO proud that the story is theirs. In addition, the stories are very good.
    Something real cool happened, actually. One group keeps throwing in song lyrics. One story had “Crosby hears Cam sing “ooop I did it again” in a high voice.” So of course I (and then the class clown) sang “ups lo hice otra vez” hundreds of times. It was REALLY fun! (Lo hice otra vez wasn’t even one of the structures but they liked learning it and hearing it)
    Then, in the next story “G.” “took off (a structure) his pants” just as Crosby entered and Crosby started singing “pants on the ground, pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground” so I put that in Spanish “Pantalones en el suelo. Pantalones en el suelo parece……… and we sang that over and over again in many different ways and voices. Do you know what that does to the class dynamic? We played with the language and that idea allowed it in a manner that I wasn’t getting before. We are closer now. We share that experience together. It let’s students become “friends” with the language.(I have no idea if I am communicating what I mean but I know that I have spent most of the year trying to convince students that they CAN do Spanish and this stuff helps convince them….)
    I addition, we are easily meeting the 90%. We played around with those stories and song lyrics for 3 classes each. Those stories are so rich!
    So, PLEASE DON’T THREATEN TO DISCONTINUE THE BLOG – (EVEN IF YOU ARE JUST KIDDING) This blog is my professional development. My students and I need this blot because it helps me network with all my favorite and effective teachers like Bryce, Jody, Michel, Laurie, Thomas, Byron and ………… Those teachers are making me better and more effective. We are ALL shooting for 90%. I am convinced that input = output and that is what I am striving for.

  5. To add to the votes in favor of keeping the blog going–I might never have remembered the idea of having kids write the stories if people here hadn’t liked it. I get many great ideas from this blog, reading what other people are doing, feeling supported when I do have a random good idea or good result. I would never have known Laurie or had a direct link to her blog, where I go all the time when I’m trying to remember variations on extended stories. Last year, when I was feeling defeated by a weekly schedule, I came here all the time to check what others were doing, and got lots of examples. It was through this blog that I realized that TPRS is not a lock-step method. There are a couple of crucial rules. Teachers must establish meaning first, and they must provide CI. But after that, while it isn’t exactly “anything goes,” many things do go well. Hearing how others arrange their good days is critical to my well-being. And hearing that the best struggle from time to time is critical to my sanity.

  6. I would love to be able to spend 90% of the time on input and tell students that I am only going to test them on their listening and reading skills at the end of the semester…but I can’t.
    Our district has a CRT that requires them to both speak and write. The speaking is 3 short-answer questions and one ‘describe the picture’ question. The writing is a minimum of 75 words.
    I don’t feel it’s fair to spend all semester reading and listening, but then at the last minute expect them to be able to speak and write, so I have to divide my time between them. I know that some of them have no trouble at the end of the first semester, and some LOVE to speak or write in French. But I have others who are there every day, they listen and understand, but they’re not yet ready to output. So I spend some time doing little speaking test, little writing tests, and while that doesn’t help them acquire the language it DOES let me know who needs a lot of help before the district final, who needs a little help, and who is going to ace it.
    What do you suggest for those of us who have to deal with output-based CRTs? 67% of the final assessment is output based. So even if my kids are superstars at the reading and listening thing, they will not look as impressive if I’ve only given them input and not given them some guidance on the output end of things.

  7. Teaching with TPRS is so much a process of acquisition… it’s one thing to have head knowledge and another to practice it fluidly with all the parts smoothly working together. On your blog, you are constantly supplying the vision of the good days (cause for hope and celebration), the bad days (it’s okay to suck) and the vision (it’s about the kids, and continually improving the CI). More of it sticks to me as I keep reading, even the same things over and over. It’s a great help.
    You are such a good discussion starter and I am so grateful for all the pioneers you attract by your blog. I know that by this kind of open sharing, you guys are saving me and others new to the field 20 years or more of struggle… I’ve tried so many things and failed this year, but on the other hand, things are also beginning to click. I tried embedded readings… very nice. And that vision of Michele’s Russian students who think Russian is easy and go around winning contests is a real inspiration to me. (My russian classes were i+100 I think. Never easy.) Thank you for all you do. Everyone needs a break sometimes, but I hope you don’t really shut down this blog.

  8. Heather I want to say this again. Input leads to output. That is either true or false. If it is false, then my belief in those four blogs by Amber as the key to the entire thing is a lost point and I need to shut up. However, if it is true, then the kids can write, and later speak, with not a lot of prior class time – in fact, very very little -actually spent on writing. I know, that is counter intuitive, but I don’t think I am the only one who has seen it as true in their classrooms. You don’t need to take class time on writing as you say you do. If you have done enough listening input on them, then they will write without writing classes. It is my nature to do CI in the form of asking stories and doing PQA most of the time, and I mean most of the time. I don’t read enough with my kids and I am working with that. But check this out – my kids wrote for maybe a total of 45 minutes all year. And yet, the writing samples on the end of year exam floored me – they were communicating in French at a very very high level for level ones. Now, a grammar teacher would not like the lack of SVA, but the crazy thing about that is that grammar trained kids write a lot worse than CI trained kids.
    As far as shutting down the blog, really it’s a frustration thing. I am giving it serious consideration because I think the growth must come at the building level with supportive administrators who get that the new way is here and we must grab it and run with it. If I do shut it down, it will be for personal reasons, a need to spend more time with my family. There’s more to life than teaching.

  9. I feel like tprs is somewhat of a puzzle. This blog helps me to try and piece them together. I can’t travel very easily at all to observe or participate in workshops. This blog has given me great ideas too. If you need to stop this blog for personal reasons, I understand, but it will be a huge loss…..
    A question about WRITING. I have jhs year 2 and 3 students who did not have tprs last year. My students can readily understand orally, 10% are attempting to speak only in L2 with me, another 35% or so are wanting to speak in class and the rest prefer listening. Reading is difficult for most (my students strong in L1 are also strong for reading and writing in L2). But I have a portion of students that can write so it makes sense but the spelling is catastrophic, grammar mistakes for the majority are not a big problem at all.
    I tried using dictations for my weakest class but I changed the procedure some this past week. First, they do the dictation based on a story or reading (I have modified it just a tad) and they can look at the copy. I then had them copy off the board the correct sentences in their notebooks. (I only gave 5 sentences using the structures and vocab I wanted to practice). I had them exchange papers and only underline words that contained mistakes and draw a circle for missing words. Afterwards, each person received his copy and handed in a final corrected copy the next day for 10 points. I just did it last week so I don’t know if it has had any effect yet. I was hoping to combine help for reading and writing!
    I don’t know what the natural progression for writing is, using tprs! Am I not pointing enough to get everybody on board or is this just a normal part of their development or because they didn’t have tprs before? Free writes, describing pictures for example work for some but not all.

  10. Ben:
    Absolutely agreed that you shouldn’t spend any time trying to prove that input-based teaching works. If people don’t get it then too bad.
    If the blog is shut down, however, we lose the valuable space to share ideas and hear about successes across the country – most of us likely fight this fight alone in our buildings and it helps to know about the other warriors out there.
    My 2 cents.

  11. I have asked my level two French students to do several timed writings. Like you, Ben, I am in awe of their output. I had to calm them down a few weeks back because they are watching their friends who study another language traditionally – lots of faux output and tons of worksheets. I had to talk them down a bit because they thought they were not learning because they were not in agony. Weird? Anyway, one student said that the students in the traditional class had to write a paragraph, so they all went to the translator, memorized the paragraph and wrote what they memorized in class the next day. She went on to say that writing for our class is relatively stress free. We either write a story we told in class or take the structures and invent a new one. They all feel that writing is not something to fear – they know how to do it. Susie always said something like learning feels difficult, conscious while aquisition occurs sub-consciously and effortlessly (or something like that!) I believe that to be true. Regarding the blog: I hope you can find a balance between all and nothing. I realize how tough it is to keep everyone happy, but this blog and this community are treasures!

  12. Ben, you have the technology to create users on the blog and give them permission to post their own posts (moderated or not). Why don’t you get some active bloggers that blog at lesser read sites and grant them access to post at this site and to moderate comments from others. Let your role (and this site) evolve the way it wants to evolve. I get the time thing. I don’t know how you keep up your pace! But if you and 5 others post here, then you post 1/6th as much.
    There’s a lot of momentum here. Without the SlavicLog the energy would not totally dissipate, but it is very true that you, this blog, and all the commenters and readers are helping align energy in the same direction. This is grassroots in the 21st century.

  13. Just to play devil’s advocate for a bit:
    There was recently an AIM video on this site with some beginning level students (2nd year of French, grade 6 I think) outputting French with some very impressive ability. AIM provides tons of input and insists on choral output in full sentences from the very beginning, although it consists mainly of repeating with the teacher who is gesturing the words that the student has to say. Their acquisiton for that level is very impressive. AIM people might say that is due to the forced output. I think that it is mainly due to the amount of input, but since seeing that video and other demos of AIM students, it has got me thinking about ways to improve my students’ acquisition. Blaine and others have always said that if there is a method/strategy/approach that provides better results than TPRS, it is worth a look.
    I’m going to copy part of an email I sent to Ben recently on this topic:
    “As for Sylvia’s visit and AIM, you got the gist of her message in her email. Imust say, that the video of her 1st year students speaking spontaneously is impressive. Better speaking than all other teachers/programs can get form their students after that amount of time. I did see Krashen’s video form last summer when he addressed that issue. I do want to investigate this concept of output a bit more. I had beginner adults focing me to give them time to answer in fuller sentences from time to time if they felt they were ready. Some gave 1 word answers, others tried full or half sentences. They were motivated and ready and probably believed that it was important for them to output in order to speak better French. Maybe there is some common ground or overlap in the TPRS/AIM output theories. As Blaine says, if there is something better, he’s willing to look at it or try it. The question I have is, is it due to the massive, slow, comprehensible input the AIM kids are getting, or does the forced output of AIM help them with the speaking. I think there is something in AIM that we can’t deny, although I don’t think it is what the AIM’ers think it is. You say that, selon KRashen, the brain shouldn’t have to organize language output that early. I agree. with the the teacher gesturing the output for them, what AIM may be doing is helping the brain/student organize the data and language. It might be setting up the pathways and brain structure for output. It’s not as forced as asking a kid to talk about his family after 3 months of FREnch. My students tend to have a few years of FREnch study under their belts and I often find myself expecting more from them as far as output. Other days, I know that massive CI is the best I can do.”
    I often use the following quote when giving presentations about acquisition. It’s from VanPatten who has been cited in the TPRS community:
    “Language acquisition happens in only one way and all learners must undergo it. Learners must have exposure to communicative input and they must process it; the brain must organize data. Learners must acquire output procedures, and they need to interact with other speakers.”
    There is a lot of support in this quote for what we do in TPRS, however, the thing that always made me reflect was the the part about learners having to “acquire output procedures”. What does that mean? What does that look like in the classroom?
    Lastly, if we really want to discuss the issue in depth, seeing it from the learners
    POV can be interesting and eye opening. The link underneath is from Steve Kaufman’s site. He has made one or two posts here on Ben’s site I think. He is strongly in favour of input-based methods. The discussion on this post is not exactly what we are discussing, but there are some interesting comments to think about such as the role of motivation. The focus of our discussion that is important is the role of input in the “early stages”.
    (VanPatten, 2003, p.96)

  14. VanPatten –
    “…learners must acquire output procedures, and they need to interact with other speakers….”
    And then Norm said –
    “…there is a lot of support in this quote for what we do in TPRS, however, the thing that always made me reflect was the the part about learners having to “acquire output procedures”. What does that mean? What does that look like in the classroom?”
    We should ask him. Krashen, at an all day seminar here in Denver today, said something like – can’t remember the exact phrase – acquisition as being the result of “a massive amount of deep neurological activity”, so I guess that to “acquire output procedures” would mean, possibly – just thinking out loud here – hearing so much CI that output just happens as a direct result of the glorious organizing power of the deeper mind to arrange massive comprehensible input into the form of reading and listening.
    I mean, it’s a miracle, really, so why would we want to interfere with it? If a miracle is happening to me, the last thing I’m going to do is offer my help in making it happen better.
    Another point is that there is a gnarly word in your question , Norm – “classroom”. There are so many kinds of classrooms that skew the discussion about what output – forced or not – really is. The AIM classroom I saw of Sylvia, for example, features kick ass, gesture driven, focused, younger kids wearing ties. That is her world. Mine is not very gesture driven even though I would like it to be. (That’s a whole nuther topic – I would love to be able to do a LOT more gesturing in class, but the 35 kids, the trips to the bathroom, the notes from the office, the month of April, the general culture, the general “feel” of our building cuts the high art of gesturing down as I try to do a million other higher priority things). So my world is just different than Sylvia’s. My kids as a general rule are driven not by any motivation to learn the language, they are driven to:
    look cool
    be cool
    walk in a cool fashion to the bathroom
    not be caught too involved in the lesson
    get A’s and B’s (something learned in other classes that is not about interacting with the teacher)
    So the entire discussion becomes muddled, in my opinion, by what classrooms look like. We all love teaching adults. But most of us don’t have that luxury, and most don’t have smaller classes of younger kids. High school is another kind of beast that, again this is my opinion only, prevents good and clear answers to your question above.
    You also said –
    “…the question I have is, is it due to the massive, slow, comprehensible input the AIM kids are getting, or does the forced output of AIM help them with the speaking.”
    Look, those gestures are a big part of the success, no doubt. You and Sylvia need to come down to Denver and show me how to use them better. Forced output works in AIM, I think, largely because of those gestures. They spark the output, as the brain finds in itself the sound of the gesture a lot faster via the physical movement initiated by the teacher. It is like a whole new powerful insurance that the kids acquire. I love gestures. Except when I got flipped off today on Sante Fe.
    This tags on to what Carla asked about writing. I have to think, in terms of ALL output, speaking or writing, that we don’t need to force them to speak or write to get them to speak or write better. I am a hands off guy and my heart could tell you why better than my brain. So I definitely think that the answer to your question, for me, is that it is the massive input in the form of listening and reading that creates definitive, solid, speaking and writing later.
    Today Diana and I were talking about why it might be that our TPRS trained kids in Denver were writing so well, and Diana said that Krashen said that writing a lot doesn’t make them better writers. Reading and listening make them better writers and speakers.
    And yeah, Steve Kaufmann totally rocks.

  15. This discussion sparked an idea/question for me. Little kids do a lot of “babbling”. While there are no doubt many reasons for this, I have read that a part of it is very necessary training – both for the muscles involved in later speech production and the neurological pathways. Since every language has sounds peculiar to it alone, at what point do we have students do that muscle training?
    The question is not rhetorical, but I do have a partial answer. For me, the time comes partly in response to an indication of “need”. The o-umlaut (ö) is one of the hardest sounds in German for English speakers. Since one of the teams in the German Soccer League is Köln (Cologne), my students hear it a lot. Eventually one or more of them will indicate a need to practice the sound because they want to be able to say the name of their team correctly. That’s one trigger.
    Another trigger is when we do poetry (level 3). I have several goals for the unit, and one of them is to help students know they can play with the language. One of my favorite poems for this is “ottos mops” (a “mops” is a pug dog). Here’s the poem:
    ottos mops trotzt
    otto: fort mops fort
    ottos mops hopst fort
    otto: soso
    otto holt koks
    otto holt obst
    otto horcht
    otto: mops mops
    otto hofft
    ottos mops klopft
    otto: komm mops komm
    ottos mops kommt
    ottos mops kotzt
    otto: ogottogott
    One of the key elements is that the only vowel in the whole poem is “o”. As part of looking at the poem we read it out loud with a different vowel each time – including the umlauted vowels. (You know, like the old camp song “I want to eat a apples and bananas”) The students are generally have enough fun with the language that they don’t have any performance anxiety.
    (If anyone is interested, here’s the URL for the poem; there’s a link to Ernst Jandl – the author – reading his own poem.)
    Any other thoughts on the place of “muscle training” in the course of acquiring language?

  16. I think we have to be careful when we discuss the value of ‘Comprehensive Input’ vs ‘output’, mostly because it means different things to different people. On one EFL listserve there was an extremely heated debate on phonics vs whole language. People on both sides gave studies and anecdotal evidence for why one was better than the other. There were nasty words exchanged and bad feelings overall. There was one person who was the most vocal in his anti whole language and pro systematic phonics thinking. Nothing anyone wrote could change his stance. NOTHING. What made this really interesting is that he held a workshop showing what he did in his classes and those who had participated in some form in the heated phonics/whole language discussion were blown away. They realized that what they did in their classes were not so different after all. They were not in total agreement and some used more of one technique than the other, but the major argument actually wasn’t an argument at all.
    Now back to CI and output. TPRS in not just CI. I watched the whole Destinos series on the net and I’m sure I must’ve learned a lot, but I couldn’t tell you how much because I couldn’t produce any more Spanish after watching than before. Contrast that with TPRS. After watching a few hours of Blaine or Jason Fritze, I was able to retell a story and still can remember many of the details. Why? Because the CI in TPRS is repetitive, personalized, exaggerated, and presented in a way that shows how the grammar pieces fit together. TPRS is also full of output. It is output in 1-2 word answers. It is output in illustrating and acting the stories. It is also output in the retells, dictations and free writes. Now you can tell me that TPRS is different from forced output, but then that would be a matter of how each of us defines the term.
    I apologize for adding more to this already long post to address what Norm wrote. I agree with Ben that AIM doesn’t work because it forces output. I also think that it is based on the gestures. They have done wonders for my and my students aged 6 to 50. They work the best for the younger bunch, as I would guess output, too. I have yet to see a kindergarten class who would not sing a song in any language at the top of their lungs. Getting them to sing alone may be a different story, but if you take the focus off of pure output and put in the form of a song, game, or even with gestures, you will see a lot of happy children. It may not be acquiring but it does seem to help to cement the language and it is a wonderful way to utilize all that energy children have.
    Ben, this blog has been daily reading for me and it has helped keep me on the TPRS road more than once. That being said, time is limited and we all have to make choices on how to spend it. If you do decide to take the time to be with family then I’m sure everyone would understand. TPRS is here to stay. I don’t think that this blog and it’s followers will go away that easily. Maybe you can hand the reigns over temporarily to someone else. Maybe you can give time for the TPRS seeds you have so tenderly sowed some time to grow and take hold.

  17. “Now, a grammar teacher would not like the lack of SVA, but the crazy thing about that is that grammar trained kids write a lot worse than CI trained kids.”
    Unfortunately, I am not allowed to grade them on a comprehensible output basis. I’d LOVE to be able to say “ok, you get 3 points for every sentence in French that I can understand, whether or not you have SVA or adjective agreement” etc. They would probably ace that test because they’ve had the input.
    Nope. I have to look at the SVA. I have to look at the adjective agreement. I have to look at the little words like à la/au/aux. There are SOME points for communication but there are many MORE points for accuracy.
    I’ve mentioned before at our PLC meetings that there is really a disconnect between what we say our goals are and what they really are. We’ve been told that we want our kids to use the language, so proficiency and communication are what we should work on. When we first came up with the CRT (it was the speaking one) that was the ‘big thing’ – we wanted our kids to be able to SPEAK the language. That was OK with me, and my kids do fine on that part of the CRT.
    But then the other parts started creeping in…the written part. The prompt is fine, not particularly difficult really. But it’s not a matter of communication as far as grading goes. Nope, it’s all about accuracy. Out of 70 points, only 10 of them are given for communication. The rest are all about the accuracy and the nit-picky stuff.
    And then the multiple choice part. It’s not about finding the right vocabulary item or putting things in the correct order. No, it’s about the right verb ending and du vs. de and all of the little things that the kids have the most trouble getting.
    I’ve brought it up at the PLC meetings and while there are a couple of other teachers who agree with me, a lot of them are still focusing on the grammar and accuracy. They’re not going to change. And since it’s a new CRT, that’s not going to change any time soon.
    What I’d love is to be able to change the rubric. The prompts are fine – but I don’t like grading kids on accuracy over communication, but I don’t have a choice. I can do that on my own assessments, but not the CRT.

  18. Aimee you said “TPRS is also full of output. It is output in 1-2 word answers. It is output in illustrating and acting the stories. It is also output in the retells, dictations and free writes. ”
    Just to check my own understanding: The output you describe is not said to increase proficiency, it is just so the teacher can monitor process. Output makes no contribution to proficiency. It’s purpose (in TPRS) is to allow the teacher to monitor the student’s progress.
    Am I correct?
    Great Threat…..

  19. Norm said:
    I think there is something in AIM that we can’t deny, although I don’t think it is what the AIM’ers think it is.
    Norm said:
    I think there is something in AIM that we can’t deny, although I don’t think it is what the AIM’ers think it is.
    Norm- I agree with your above statement. Ben and I had a discussion about AIM on this blog last summer which I seem to remember you participated in. Here is the link if anyone would like to reread it:
    I would like to discuss AIM and TPRS with teachers who are fimilar with both. I combine the two and would like to know if and/or how others are doing the same thing.
    Ben-I’ll try to film a class so you can see what using gestures à la AIM looks/sounds like when story-asking, PQAing…

  20. I think Ben’s point was that while kids with CI based instruction do not have correct SVA, etc. neither do the kids who were taught traditionally. In fact, these students often still outperform their peers on tests graded in this manner. The biggest “drawback” as I see it is that students who were taught with CI tend to be more expressive, to say more, and to be more creative in trying to get their point across. They produce *more* language, so we see *more* errors. But, the ratio is basically the same. I used to tell my kids that on these standardized tests I do NOT want them to be creative or to try to say things we haven’t gone over before in class. I had a student trying to write in the subjunctive in 7th grade – but I had to mark them down for every error, so this child who was superb in every way got less than another student who was mediocre.
    I think a lot of us have this problem, btw. We have to give standardized tests that expect output of a specific nature, and we have to score on the accuracy of minutiae regardless of how well the message can be understood. I think many of us go home at nights pondering how we can improve so that we are better teachers within the dynamics of the school we are in. I know that I too teach a cobbled together version of TPRS and not. My students transfer between teachers mid-year, and we have quarterly benchmarks that test all sorts of stupid stuff. The other teachers expect the students to know the acronym IOP, so I figure if I don’t give them some direct instruction, I am doing them a disservice since they too have to survive in this system.

  21. Grant and Aimee I like the 1/6th idea. Let’s get that going here. Who wants in? Or we could do 1/7th so that everybody has the same day of the week for their blog. I would grant access to moderate comments and blog directly from their computer so that I don’t have to do that piece either. We could call ourselves La Pléiade.

  22. “…I think Ben’s point was that while kids with CI based instruction do not have correct SVA, etc. neither do the kids who were taught traditionally…”.
    Thank you, Jennifer. That’s pretty much what I meant. But, if I reflect on it, the TPRS kids actually write better because the question “Did they communicate an idea that a native speaker would understand?” is answered more often yes to their writing than to traditional writing. At least that is true in my own experience, as having taught both ways.

  23. So, if I understand correctly, my students who are capable of writing and communicating their idea, even if filled with tons of spelling errors are on the right road. (I’m a good ‘guesser’ and see how they use phonics to write what they have heard. Gees, I told them to do that if they couldn’t write any other way in fact….but hey at least they’re trying! The ideas and meaning for the most part are there)
    I have tried to prioritize errors. Articles, prepositions, minor spelling or grammactical errors that don’t really impede comprehension, I don’t deduct points. On department testing I have discretely just graded my students papers using my own guidelines. I take leeway where I can and use partial credit. But in levels 2 and 3 where simple things that they have seen a long time, ok not acquired for a fairly large group, are bugging me. Sometimes I correct the error, sometimes I have to explain, sometimes I just circle where they need to verify their work because I think they didn’t take the time to do it…
    The TPRS/AIM discusssion is interesting. What does AIM do for writing? What do experienced tprs people do for higher levels? I’m lucky to have my students the entire year, but I’m the only one who uses tprs out of a team of 5 ESL teachers… I’m working on them 🙂
    How can I improve their accuracy in writing? Reading more? Pointing more? Should I consider using a, are you ready?, a “mini worksheet” when I see certain errors over and over? I now have them make flashcards ( I try to use alot more gestures with speaking or even singing like Aimee talked about. My kids learned ‘our’ and ‘middle’ just by singing the one line refrain from “Our House” or the word “when” from another song from GenkiEnglish.) Writing story boards was a too much, maybe because I didn’t correctly teach them how to play… but anyway so I thought ok we’ll do this progessively, words, sentences and then story boards.
    I also think different techniques within tprs may need tweeking (?) depending on whether students have previously had tprs, like Bens’ year 4s, or if they’ve been groomed from the very beginning using tprs. It’s quite a journey discovering all the aspects of tprs and I’m so thankful to be travelling it with all of you!

  24. Hello Skip,
    You wrote:
    Aimee you said “TPRS is also full of output. It is output in 1-2 word answers. It is output in illustrating and acting the stories. It is also output in the retells, dictations and free writes. ”
    Just to check my own understanding: The output you describe is not said to increase proficiency, it is just so the teacher can monitor process. Output makes no contribution to proficiency. It’s purpose (in TPRS) is to allow the teacher to monitor the student’s progress.
    My response:
    I hope that since I use most if not all of these on a regular basis, that I do it to aid the students. I’m not sure what you are asking, but are you suggesting that these output activities should be replaced with more input ones?

  25. Ben, that’s just my point. What techniques in tprs can be used or modified to help students who have NOT had input based language learning before and are already at level 3 for example? I can see that what we’ve covered together, they are learning much better. (Of course I discovered that they FEEL like they aren’t because it’s not painful. I had to do activities where they could succeed and be wowed afterwards to see that they had indeed been learning.) But what about errors for basic language they have seen for 2-3 years already and never mastered? What can I do to improve their writing especially?

  26. Aimee-my sense is that,
    If comprehensible input activities are what contribute the most to the likelihood of language acquisition, then it behooves us to spend as much time as possible engaged in those activities. It is believed that these are what “aid students” the most.
    If output activities = monitoring student progress, then I believe that the importance of those activities is acknowledged. My sense is that most who truly practice tprs believe that the information gleaned from output activities drives our CI activities.
    How much and how often do we need to “glean” this info?
    I need to know (every minute) that my students are understanding me: head nods, eye contact, brief translation, yes/no, short answers to questions. If a kid blurts out a huge, long, perfect sentence in Spanish, I won’t be stopping her/him, but I do not need for my students to practice speaking or writing the language to get better at it–no projects, no prepared paragraphs, no prepared speeches, no prepared presentations.
    The weight/number/frequency of kinds of activities skews to input not output–if I understand Skip correctly. I know I have to look at that frequently. I get pulled by a “school system” that wants a data driven program. I try to make sure that my kids get enormous amounts of CI even while I am assessing them. I try to greatly limit the amount of formal assessment. That’s just me.

  27. Nice thread!
    Someone mentioned above “TPRS is not just CI.” I really think it’s the other way around: “CI is not just TPRS.” In addition to learning stories, especially the ones that teach authenitc culture, students learn through positive, heart-felt personalized and comprehensible discussions, through authentic songs, through simple discussion of authentic art, through role play and games. All these can be found on the web, and will hopefully outdate textbooks filled with someone else’s standardized, “official” information.

  28. Here’s an answer to Carol’s question about improving accuracy in writing, when you still want CI. It’s a post that Marcia Myers wrote for our Alaska TPRS group when people wanted to hear more about her writing activities after she described them in a meeting. She said she got the original idea for this on but couldn’t find the original post.
    Marcia isn’t necessarily pushing output here; she is simply trying to help others in our group with the way she solved the problem.
    I wanted to try to focus more on accuracy, since so much of my focus is typically on fluency, and I sometimes am alarmed at the spelling and grammar errors in student writing, even when the meaning is clear. I got a great idea from a forum posting from someone who does lots of repetitions of a story by telling the story, then showing cartoons of it out of order and having kids write it in order, and a number of other things like that. I took this as the basis for my plan and really focused on having the kids need to write the words correctly (ie,unscrambling sentences, then unscrambling particular words, making sure that they first read the story in its correct form and had it as a reference for the first day), but IN CONTEXT of the story and its meaning. I did this type of thing for several days, with lots of variation so it miraculously did not seem laborious. ALL of the words/sentences I had students unscramble or identify pictures of came directly from the story we had just done.
    Amazing results. While the activities were so much better than worksheets and drills that focus on writing in crazy out-of-context ways, at the end of the week I had the students do a writing assignment and even a brief spelling test (sorry, Susie!) But again, all sentences in a meaningful context, but with only a particular word checked for accuracy in each sentence–a word they knew they were being tested on). Every student did well!
    It was somewhat labor-intensive for me to prepare the activities, but I really saw improvement exactly where I wanted it.

  29. Thank you so much Michelle! This makes perfect sense. I don’t believe that the students would have to do this type of activity for every story, but need some activity like this to get them launched in the right direction. So many of my kids have weak reading abilities: decoding and even worse attaching meaning. This type of activity would be exeellent for those students. This is the type of practical information and advice which makes this blog so great.
    Michelle you are fantastic! 🙂

  30. This is all Marcia’s, not mine! She laid it out so that even I understand and think I could do it. She’s coming over to my school tonight to help with the class that the fabulous Katya Paukova will be putting on here for the next four days, so I will tell her you liked it.

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