An Analogy

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36 thoughts on “An Analogy”

  1. Ha! Yeah. I anticipated this reaction. “Friend or Foe, depending on your goal” This was a CYA move. He had to say that bc he writes textbooks. When he said a textbook could help a new teacher I was puzzled. How would a textbook, with the “first century Latin” order of grammatical structures, help a teacher? Very wacky.

    1. Well, new teachers DO need support one way or another, so maybe it’s that concept. I didn’t hear the show. Support is much better if, like at my school, our new Spanish teacher is getting to plan and prepare along with 2 other, more experienced Spanish teachers who can coach her on CI approaches she could use. Otherwise I think she’d really feel under too heavy a weight trying to learn both how to do CI and what language to incorporate into class. It sounds to me like she’s doing great and learning a lot — CI makes sense to her though it’s new.

  2. The big party is already happening. Some are drinking like there’s no tomorrow because they see the writing on the wall yet they won’t sober up. Sometimes it’s best to keep your distance from these intoxicated colleagues!

  3. CYA yes, but BvP isn’t far off, at least in terms of “school” stuff new teachers have going on. They have to be around kids every day, not take their problems personal, take attendance, check up on kids going to the nurse, and attend poorly designed PD.
    CI is hard.
    There isn’t enough support for the harried new professional. Once they get a feel for “school,” they find Ben’s blog, go to a Blaine Ray Workshop, join moreTPRS, and read for a few hundred hours, they try the CI thing. Even then, most people jump in too soon and bail quickly.
    Is there a heavily guided textbook that still functions under CI principles? One that trains you to use non-targeted input?

    1. I think a new teacher CAN teach with CI from the beginning! That doesn’t mean they can use TPRS.
      They can shelter vocabulary, interact (lots of questions), ask details (rather than tell), and choose content/themes that are more likely to be engaging and meaningful to learners.
      The issue here is a paradigm shift from “teaching” to “communicating.” If teachers understood their job was to maintain communication all period then our job is easier. But communication requires good relationships, attentive listening, and in the beginning, the teacher is the primary source of CI, so in those regards, it can be “hard.”
      At least there are a few TPRS curriculums out there for support to the new teacher. And there’s Karen Rowan’s materials (Paso a Paso & Realidades) which have planned out lesson plans for teaching the textbook with TPR and TPRS.

      1. I’m with you, but think about what programs teachers are coming from. No one has had the experience, much less training for what it would take to walk in as a new teacher and dismiss the textbook.

        1. One of the most important skills to develop is how to shelter vocabulary. How to limit your communication, telling stories, with just 5-10 of the highest frequency verbs & some TPRable words. In essence, become a level 1 graded reader. Lots of stories at level 1. Then, every level after just integrates new language into the previous level’s language.

          1. …limit your communication, telling stories, with just 5-10 of the highest frequency verbs….
            They can read the stories effortlessly when this is done. Staying in bounds during the creation of the story and the reading, steps 2 and 3, is the key, and I believe is Eric’s point here. Things must be built on foundations which are dense and solid, made of those few HF verbs. The wider we go, the less they know, the more porous the foundation.

        2. I was lucky to have a a “master” teacher teach me the basics of circling and the importance of reading in his French class. He never role played, or did skits or even PQA. However, he also kids to demonstrate understanding through drawings and a picture dictionary.
          I was only able to observe him for 3 class periods. I dove right into TPRS and CI. My classroom situation is ideal: an honors school where the best of the district goes to — no major management problems. It keeps me sane.

  4. The third broadcast somehow did not get recorded. I was wondering why it was only 2:53 minutes long. It is just BVP explaining that it did not get recorded and that next week is about value of grading in FL.

  5. Brief anecdote.
    I’m tutoring a girl on level 2 textbook right now. 25% of the test is a discrete grammar section and in every other section the “skill” being measured depends on accuracy with that topic’s vocabulary and grammar. In other words, it’s all a grammar test and I was told by a high school teacher that the best way to prepare for it is to learn the grammar.
    Her output fluency is nonexistent. Her listening not so good and lacks confidence. When you are taught traditionally (grammar + output practice) you not only don’t acquire, but you don’t learn much either.
    For 2 classes I bored us both to tears explaining grammar and having her practice. I was teaching without context, without meaning, and I think you can only get short-term gains from this. And this student isn’t making time to study outside of our 1 hour per week. So in today’s 3rd class, I tried a different approach. . .
    1) We looked at the list of 30 vocabulary words from that unit (totally ridiculous and low-frequency unit on going through an airport).
    2) Then we worked 3 readings in the textbook from the airport unit. With each reading we worked these steps:
    a) She read it silently.
    b) I read it in L2 and we translated line by line.
    c) I asked easy recall questions.
    d) I asked a few personal questions.
    * I popped up the level 2 grammar points as they came up in the readings and sometimes went into more depth. But we worked first from a context.
    3) We did a sequenced retell of getting through the airport, she eventually having to orally retell.
    4) Lastly, I wrote her 10 questions about her own experiences traveling and she wrote answers to form 1 paragraph.
    I think this is a much more effective way to teach the textbook than to teach the content traditionally. Still, I wouldn’t wish this content and test on anyone.

    1. …Eric plays many different instruments in the CI band. In fact, he plays every instrument. But he excels on the communication instrument. He can’t sound that horn enough here. WE have to rethink what we do, and Eric first brought it up and continues to gently remind us. We don’t teach, we communicate. We CAN’T DO BOTH….

    2. …I wouldn’t wish this content and test on anyone….
      Eric that story about that girl you are tutoring is sobering. What if the professionals involved in working with that innocent child were surgeons and it were not about her WL knowledge but something physical? Do you think that the hospital quality control, up with most recent research on her problem, would stop people from hurting her? Ah well, it’s only her WL gains that are at stake. Just let it go, right? No need to stop those teachers from making her prepare that content for that test.They’ve been teaching like that for 20 years or more. They must know what they’re doing…

  6. Eric
    …the issue here is a paradigm shift from “teaching” to “communicating.” If teachers understood their job was to maintain communication all period then our job is easier. But communication requires good relationships….
    I don’t think that even we who read here get that first sentence. We still think we are teachers. The only thing the kids see is a teacher there in front of them. How can we communicate with people who mistrust us from years of abuse? The culture in the building is the culture that we receive in our classrooms. Communicate? What does that mean? (US education is abusive in general, and only rewards the few.)
    On top of that many of us walk into our classes in a defensive posture because the school culture is so negative, about memorization and testing and all that. We are so used to kids being so soured on the system, and that sourness/stank seeps into the mix of class and soon it’s us vs. them. How can communication happen in stank? Communication is (can be) a divine quality that reflects the best of life.
    Cheerfulness, a clear desire to make it fun, to sublimate the stank may be a missing component in the instruction of many of us. By cheerfulness I don’t mean a pollyannaish fake enthusiasm, but a feeling that these precious moments of our lives and their lives, where we by chance have been put together for a certain amount of hours, must be seen in a different light than what we normally see (because of the stank).
    They say, “Fake it till you make it.” I think it applies here. One way I fake it is via Annoying Orange. I wonder if Ruth has tried that with them. Might not work with those stankers:
    https://benslavic.com/blog/lame-students/

    1. And I’m reading BVP’s “Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen” (1995), which is all about changing the dynamic in a classroom. The role of expert/lecturer is inherent in the term “teacher.” And inherent in “student” is passive receiver/note-taker. They’re not students, they’re learners (or acquirers), since “students” is so tied to traditional education.
      It’s also clear to me now that the comprehension-based approach to teaching a textbook is so much sweeter (piña colada) than that crappy traditional beer. We’ve discussed this before, what Krashen and many others have been saying: communicative approaches (meaning-based) develops grammar as well, if not better, than traditional teaching approaches!
      Savignon is a name we should all read. I need to read more of her work. In episode 3, BVP cited her famous 1972 study in which the group that had communication for 1 hour per week (in addition to 4 hours of audiolingual method) was way better at communicative tasks and equal on a discrete grammar test. The other group did 5 hours per week of the audiolingual method. I can’t find online access to the original study, but Savignon summed it up here (1991):
      “When test results were compared at the end of the 18-week, 5-hour-per-week program, learners who had practiced communication in lieu of laboratory pattern drills for one hour a week performed with no less accuracy on discrete-point tests of structure. On the other hand, their communicative competence as measured in terms of fluency, comprehensibility, effort, and amount of communication in a series of four unrehearsed communicative tasks significantly surpassed that of learners who had had no such practice. Learner reactions to the test formats lent further support to the view that even beginners respond well to activities that let them focus on meaning as opposed to formal features. (A related finding had to do with learner motivation. Motivation to learn French correlated, not with initial attitudes toward French speakers or the French language, but with success in the instructional program.”
      She continues:
      ” . . . the replacement of language laboratory structure drills with meaning-focused self-expression was found to be a more effective way to develop communicative ability with no loss of morphosyntactic accuracy. And learner performance on tests of discrete morphosyntactic features was not a good predictor of their performance on a series of integrative communicative tasks. . . However, for the development of communicative ability, research findings overwhelmingly support the integration of form-focused exercises with meaning-focused experience. Grammar is important; and learners seem to focus best on grammar when it relates to their communicative needs and experiences.”

    2. “The only thing the kids see is a teacher there in front of them. How can we communicate with people who mistrust us from years of abuse? The culture in the building is the culture that we receive in our classrooms. Communicate? What does that mean? (US education is abusive in general, and only rewards the few.)”
      I think this is the greatest obstacle of all that we face as language teachers hoping to communicate authentically with kids during class. It is those rare moments of flow (and less rare the more skilled we become at this stuff) where we transcend the stank Ben talks about. The kids and I temporarily forget that grading/judging is needing to be happening.
      Sheltered communication with novices is one level of difficulty. Sheltered communication in a stank competitive environment (and with stank preconceptions of what it means to learn a language) is a whole nother level of craziness.

      1. “Sheltered communication with novices is one level of difficulty. Sheltered communication in a stank competitive environment (and with stank preconceptions of what it means to learn a language) is a whole nother level of craziness.”
        This is a great statement!

  7. Reading more and more of BVP’s MCLTH and I disagree.
    The “standard” for BVP’s version of CLT appears to be student pair/group activities. He criticizes “teacher-fronted” classes.
    “We can conclude that teacher-fronted activities might not be optimum for providing opportunities for communicative interchange. Pair and group work, on the other hand, do provide such opportunities. . . ” (p. 156). There are more opportunities for expression and negotiation of meaning in pair activities. I concede that point.
    But here is where we can get caught up in promoting CLT for the sake of it being CLT and lose sight of what drives acquisition. How can you say that we need to maximize the CI in the classroom and then spend significant amounts of time in pair activities?
    I get now what BVP meant when he said in that 2 minute clip shared a while back by Michele that TPRS fits the roles of “teacher” and “student.” Does he mean it fits the traditional roles, since our classes are teacher-fronted? Whereas, he would like the roles to be transformed in a communicative classroom to “facilitator” and “learner.”
    Of course, the pair activities BVP is advocating, except for structured input and structured output, are not supposed to be form-focused. Most classrooms today use communication in service of grammar when it should be the other way around. And kids pick up on this. Even in what is supposed to be “communicative” the kids turn into a mechanical, form-focused activity, because of the nature of the task, content, and class expectations.
    But even if pair activities were communicative in the purest sense (only meaning-based), and for sake of argument let’s assume our students have enough linguistic competence to communicate amongst themselves, then I still think we’d have a hard time getting student buy-in.

    1. There’s a 2003 second edition of that book, though, too. I don’t know all the changes, but I read part of the 1995 edition (last summer) and was likewise fond of the first sections and not of later parts of the book. You might check the newer edition before you treat content as BVP’s current thinking. I had a library copy of the 1995 & didn’t try to find the 2003.

        1. And now I know why my school’s library bought the older edition, too! Bummer, I hoped for more change in the second edition! Actually only saw the first few chapters of the newer edition. This was in the summer before I started actually to stop working on stuff like that.
          The processing input part felt to me like targeting grammar points that I try to spread out naturally across the course of 2 or 3 years of time in class. Having seen a Chinese lesson based on the concept, I could feel the difference. I mean, better than typical grammar instruction, but it felt so consciously accentuating a grammar feature that I would normally just slip in where needed & make sure they understood.

          1. Processing Instruction (PI) is only an intervention to be used in response to a need. It is supposed to accelerate acquisition of a grammar point the acquirers are missing. It is unnecessary.
            In many ways, our target language contrastive grammar is similar to processing instruction. We focus on one thing at a time, keep meaning in focus, and do it in oral and written input – 3 of the 6 guidelines for PI.
            E.g. focus on 3rd person singular present vs. past:
            “¿Tiene o Tenía? . . . Sí, tenía. [He has or he had? Yes, he had.]

    2. Always a pleasure reading your comments Eric. Here’s my response.
      “The “standard” for BVP’s version of CLT appears to be student pair/group activities. He criticizes “teacher-fronted” classes.”
      This is a major trend in the education field. In other words “have them do the work”, “challenge them”, make it “rigorous”. Have them work together to have a “greater” understanding. WHAA?
      “But here is where we can get caught up in promoting CLT for the sake of it being CLT and lose sight of what drives acquisition. How can you say that we need to maximize the CI in the classroom and then spend significant amounts of time in pair activities?”
      Excellent question at the end. I’m reminded of my third year in college abroad in Bordeaux. So many of us students would spend the minimal amount of time speaking French to each other even in the privacy our own apartments. Even when we tried it just did not “feel” authentic. There was no faith attached to it. This is the major short-coming of paired-activities. The educator needs to facilitate/scaffold the activity (if it even needs to be done).

      1. I would say that because language acquisition is subconscious, student need only meta-cognitive exercises to be aware of their own progress. BVP reminds me of focusing on “goals” and “tasks” rather than acquisition.
        If we are to believe Krashen, then Students AFs are going to go up, and tasks are will lose some of their compelling nature.

          1. Diane, I think you are right.
            And Steven, I think you bring up a VERY good point and it appears BVP is contradicting himself. He is all about accepting our roles. Role-playing is not communication. I had the same feeling as you when I was acquiring Spanish and still feel that way. I only use Spanish with someone who is a native Spanish speaker or who knows Spanish better than English. Pair activities FORCE us into the “Spanish club” when our peers are not Spanish speakers. They’re English speakers.

  8. I recently did a simple pattern story for Halloween with the kids – they seemed to acquire the key parts and seemed able to manipulate the language, too. I turned it into a cloze activity and allowed partner pairs to create their own versions of the story – to later share with the class thereby getting more reps.
    I rarely do any written partner pair activities like this – I mean like…never.
    Anyway, they were excited to get started. I projected a 5 minute timer and the pairs got to work. they had to cloze something like this in Spanish:
    In a dark dark _____ there was a dark dark ___. And in that dark dark ___ there was a dark, dark _____.
    I noticed that the entire 5 minute discussion between the partners was in English. Snippets of what I heard:
    “Hey, let’s put a baño that’s oscuro, oscuro.”
    “I want it to be a dark, dark hospital.”
    In the end let’s have a vampire.”
    Now, they can say all these utterances in Spanish – at least they know the vocab to say it, but of course these formulations are not their natural way of communicating with each other. So they completed the task correctly and on time and we shared the many silly versions – and I had to ‘give up” 5+ minutes of C/I time in order to make it happen. The difference between my old teacher self and my C/I self is that in the old days, I thought that 5-minute interval WAS meaningful interaction in the TL. Now I know that it’s just a means to collect more student ideas for more C/I input. Any oh yeah, it empowers the kids by letting them hold the pencils and mark down their ideas. For the novices, I can’t defend partner communicative activities AT ALL.

    1. Alisha, my old teacher self just never bought into those 5 minute activities. I was “trained” in those activities but students can goof off and the teacher goes right into conditioning students to chase the carrot (or extra credit/participation grade). I don’t know why but I have an inkling that it is a sham in education to discredit the worth of teaching world languages in the US. Hell, I teach Spanish through an online platform that has students recording their voices by the 2nd week of level I. 90 students with 1 teacher in an 90 minute block.
      I enjoy a good conspiracy when I see one.

    2. Yes. In my mind paired activities are primarily to give myself and the kids a break from the rigor of true CI. Or as Laurie says “feed the need” of the teenagers to socialize and such. Of course they will speak English when paired. DUH! And for me it is silly to insist that they speak Spanish. Maybe I am just conserving my energy and I don’t want to police that much.
      But Steven made a great point. And I say BVP would have to back it up. When you are with people who share a native language, they will default to this language. I shared an apt. with 2 other US native roommates in Madrid. We told ourselves “ok this week we will do Spanish only” but we couldn’t do it. It was not authentic. However, when one of their madrileño boyfriends was over, we all spoke Spanish without even thinking about it. We just did because there was an authentic communicative purpose, right?
      If graduate students who are fluent speakers IN a TL country cannot control their L1 use, then how can we expect teenagers in a HS classroom to do so. I am not saying don’t do zero pair work. But I can’t place a high value on the quality of the interaction bc it is forced and AF is likely high for social reasons, especially if they are grouped randomly and have no BFF in the group to counter the social exposure threat. Like it or not, mean girls (and boys) are real and the perceived threat definitely affects the nervous system.
      I have not read BVP book (yet) but is any of his research based on MS/ HS kids?

  9. Bingo Bingo Bingo y’all. I agree with all that. I wonder if BVP has “answered” these criticisms of pair work. I’ve read very little of his work so I apologize if this is obvious.
    Alisa said “For the novices, I can’t defend partner communicative activities AT ALL.” Same here. The most I might have novices do is translate that last sentence I just said or come up with the next line of dialogue or something real brief and simple…mostly to provide a brain break and a teacher break than anything. Also a chance to quickly output a few words in a more private way.
    When I worked at Omaha Central High, the FL dept was granted by Buffet family money a whole system of drop down out of the ceiling mics and headphones and a computer system up front that could manually and randomly pair students etc ad nauseum. It worked as it was supposed to some of the time. I remember the technicians being there quite often. Looking back on it now, it was probably one of those situations Krashen talks about where someone knew someone who was developing some new software/equip and needing to pilot it so that they could sell more in hopes of making it standard. Not sure if that ever took off…

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