This post should be read by all who think – I’m sorry but in my view incorrectly – that they can blend CI with the textbook:
A colleague wrote to the PLC:
We have started using the TPRS method this year at school. I am using it for French 1, 2 and 3. I find that I need to find someone in the same situation as I am in, using TPRS plus [the textbook program]Bien Dit. Our school wants to keep the “academic” component in. Any ideas?
Robert Harrell responded:
What do they mean by academic? Do they mean that you should use “academic language” (i.e. technical terms) for your discipline? If your discipline were linguistics or even “the grammar of French”, then using grammar terminology would be appropriate.
However, the title of the course is generally “French 1” or something similar, and the stated goal is ability to use the language rather than talk about it. That means that you are teaching students Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS – notice how interpersonal is part of what we are supposed to be teaching) rather than Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP).
“Academic Language” is inappropriate at the novice level. Ask ESL teachers like Claire Ensor about teaching CALP before students have a handle on BICS.
Do they mean the course should be “rigorous”? Then define “rigor” and “rigorous”. It is not assigning a lot of homework, which is often simply a waste of time and onerous or burdensome rather than rigorous. I have a five-part definition of rigor. The first four items come from the US Department of State (see here – http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/44875.htm):
1. Depth and integrity of inquiry – allowing students to investigate a topic thoroughly and not just “cover” the material. (I had a seminary professor who used to say, “You can cover anything if you leave out enough.”)
2. Sustained focus – perseverance so that a topic can be studied in depth
3. Suspension of premature conclusions – learn to look for things that challenge our ideas
4. Continuous testing of hypotheses – check our conclusions in many and varied settings
5. Personal challenge – strive to be better today than we were yesterday, and even better tomorrow
According to those definitions, a TPRS/TCI classroom may just be the most rigorous course a student has ever had. It may also be the most rigorous course you ever teach because you have to teach and support students in all of those areas.