I got this email in support of what I am doing with the Invisibles, and would like to share it with the group:
The Invisibles are fantastic! Thank you so much. I am in my first few months of using CI methods after 6 years of following the textbook and not stopping much to question whether what I was doing was effective at all.
I heard of CI, TPRS, and you through my wife, who is also a Spanish teacher, during the last school year and dedicated this past summer to reading and watching everything I could get my hands on. I first read the original green TPRS book and thought that was the way forward. I was so excited to start the year.
Then I read your “The Big CI Book” which I bought from Teacher Discovery and I realized that the methods you laid out there were indeed the way forward. I joined your PLC, and then ordered “The Invisibles” from your website.
It has been a whirlwind few months, starting with pure TPRS (targeting), and then introducing more and more of your ideas as September crept into October. By the end of October, after devouring “The Invisibles”, I decided to make the jump completely to your NTCI approach.
All I can say is “Wow!”. I have never taught such dynamic classes with such a high level of student engagement. I teach at an all-boys school, and they absolutely love creating their characters with problems and then helping them look for solutions. They are creating entire “universes” with their characters, just like the superhero movie universes they love, with recurring plot lines and villains, etc.
I responded to Tim:
Tim this is great. Very few (relative to the total amount of language teachers) use the NTCI approach. I think it has to do with trust in the process, and in the humanity of it all, which defeats mistrust and the need to control. I see the whole thing, the entire shift we are in, as a battle between the intellect and our intuitive side and you describe it perfectly here:
…less than a year ago, I would never have had the courage to start a class without a painstakingly created plan of what I was going to do that day minute by minute. Now I have the courage to begin a class with nothing but the ICI’s the students have made, safe in the knowledge that if I simply follow the Star, the students will be engaged and have fun with the language….
This is not just another paragraph. It is full of wisdom and points to the key word in all of this new work. If we are courageous, and let the Star Sequence work its magic, we will know something about intuition vs. intellectual control, something about “feeling” language classes vs. “thinking” our way through them all the time, something about the human aspect, about the real nature of human conversation which alone can guaranteed an individual’s membership in a group, and you describe it so well in your email, which was very uplifting to me.
It is my belief that we are smack dab in the middle of a time of massive death of intellectual control of education via the intellect and indeed of our lives as Americans in general. We have arrived at a point in American life, in my opinion, where we just have to lay down our dependency on our brains and controlling things, in favor of allowing the heart quality to enter into our teaching, because in languages the heart quality dominates over the mind quality, if you interpret the research in the way I do.
A masculine white guy dominated pattern that we have known for decades – if not centuries – is being stopped, arrested by the sheriff of the more feminine quality of intuition, of how people really acquire languages, which is via being a member of a community.
Noam Chomsky said, back in the 1960s said as much: “Grammar [is] acquired by virtually everyone, effortlessly, rapidly, in a uniform manner, merely by living in a community under minimal conditions of interaction, exposure, and care.”
Look at the words that Chomsky used there: community, care, effortless exposure, interaction. Such words evoke what Lev Vygotsky was researching as early as the 1920s – that acquiring a language is a reciprocal and participatory human process in which, just by interacting with one another, the language is acquired. No thinking is involved!
Consider that word “minimal” in Chomsky’s statement. He said that people acquire grammar – which I define as “correctly spoken speech” – merely by “living in a community under minimal conditions of interaction”.
It’s true. The person learning the language need make no effort. Don’t small children acquire their first language merely by being in community with minimal effort? They certainly don’t sit there and try to acquire the language every day. They just acquire it!
Our students don’t need to do worksheets. They don’t need a textbook. They DO need to be in a sharing community in their language classrooms.
So, per Chomsky, if I am in a community in which language is being spoken in order to communicate, I will learn the grammar. That gives us a new definition of grammar, one that we could define as “correctly spoken speech.” I may not know the technical difference between the various kinds of pronouns, but I will know how to use pronouns correctly in speech as a result of my being a member of a community and so I will know the grammar.
So, our first lesson in language acquisition is that it is processed quite effectively by the unconscious mind when we hear it and read it enough and that the conscious mind cannot do that work. That is a big pill to swallow indeed, for those of us trained in the old ways.The road for language teachers into the future goes in two directions. In this book we’re taking the new fork that goes in the direction of learning languages by focusing on the message and not the old fork that goes in the direction of focusing on form.
For more on what language teaching should really entail: