In this article I hope to show how two of the bread-and-butter terms of TPRS and of the CI movement in general, two terms that people really like to spend lots of time on in trainings and summer conference, are largely unnecessary and tend to obfuscate and confuse new CI practitioners.
Let’s start with something we have dissed for about four years now here on the PLC: targeting.
Targeting means you want to teach certain words. It means that you are trying to align your instruction with some sort of list: a high frequency verb list, any high frequency list in general, a list of words (like the colors, or a list of rooms in a house, – these are called semantic sets), a thematic unit list, some group of words that is going to be on a common assessment or some other summative test (which sort of testing is not recommended in the best research I can find), or a group of words pulled from a chapter book that you need to “teach” before teaching a chapter book, or (impossibly) a textbook.
Targeting has gotten our attention far too long here and I just want to say here that if we are ever truly going to realize our dreams with CI we are simply going to have to let it go. That statement right there puts me in the crosshairs of at least 90% of people who currently do CI, but I’m not going to back down from my position on it and I think it will change over time to favor the non-targeted approach. It’s my truth and not only that in my opinion NTCI lines up far more accurately with the research than those who advocate targeting.
For more on targeting see http://www.benslavic.com/blog/why-i-prefer-ntci/
Now let’s move on to establishing meaning. You can establish meaning in many ways., all of which are taught and harped on at the conferences and trainings to an extent that I consider excessive.
(In one summer conference years ago they used to spend the entire first two days of a week of training just teaching circling. The role of circling in establishing meaning eventually warped the practice into a mere mechanical procedure which took the life out of the communication in the classroom.)
The thing is that when you spend half or more of a conference training people in these “skills” you waste their time bc the real spirit, the bone marrow of CI, the thing that you want to impart to new people to CI, is how to do the unforced communication in a non-targeted way with the kids which alone leads to great results as opposed to CI where the teacher goes almost crazy thinking about all the skills “necessary” to establish meaning and deliver the message, like these outmoded concepts:
Gesturing, slow, teaching to the eyes, checking for understanding, point and pause (which I invented but have turned my back on), choral responses (the kids lie), barometer students, etc. – all are part of a crumbling church. Why?
Because as I said above all those skills simply OVERWHELM the new CI teacher who, when trying to think about doing all of them in class, forgets why they are really there, to simply communicate in a happy and relaxed way with her students.
I think that that is a major reason that TPRS hasn’t really worked in 25 years of trying – it has overwhelmed teachers w too many things to think about.
So, why am I saying that all the “skills” listed above are no longer needed in NTCI? Because you can just establish meaning if you just use my new technique of Walk Before You Talk (WBYT). What is that?
It’s where you simply keep your mouth shut before you say whatever word or word chunk (or for more advanced students, entire sentences and paragraphs), that you want to say. You keep your mouth shut and instead , before you say anything, walk over to the whiteboard, write the word down in both languages, then say it while putting your hand on it. You just walk to the board, or a poster or any other source of visual support like the colors/numbers chart, question words, etc and ONLY THEN do you put your hand on the word or word chunk while saying it aloud.
WBYT is discussed extensively in the Invisibles Supplements book, and in my opinion does a really good job of replacing all the other skills.
The advantages of learning how to do WBYT (it’s very easy) before you start the year this fall are considerable. WBYT will FREE YOU UP from having to remember all the “skills” so that you can focus on the important things: the strategies on the Star Sequence and just having fun communicating and building images like one word images with your students, free of all the stress via this “one skill to rule them all” – Walk Before You Talk.
Let’s take the old TPRS skills one by one and comment on how WBYT makes them unnessary –
Circling – took the minds of the kids off the story. All the kids wanted to know was what happened next, and circling “stopped the train”. You can keep the interest going by using WBYT, which only takes a few seconds to do. (We do get a ton of reps in the Invisibles method, but they are more spread out (which guarantees contextual flow) over the Star Sequence and not all at once, which bores and results in a marked loss in student interest.)
Gesturing – not needed (never worked anyway bc it was way too “busy” and easy to forget, plus the amount of time in class necessary to do TPR (so outmoded!) took way too much time away from the real work of communication. WBYT makes gesturing unnecessary.
SLOW – of course we go slowly when we use WBYT, so that “skill” is absorbed in WBYT.
Teaching to the Eyes – same thing as SLOW.
Checking for Understanding – this was truly a waste of time, either via ten finger hand comprehension checks, or the thumbs up/ thumbs down technique. Why? Because half to most of the kids always lied. Better to make certain that they understand via WBYT.
Point and Pause- necessary but absorbed into the overall skill of WBYT and so made simpler to make sure it happens.
Choral Responses – the students also lied on this. One kid would say, “Ohhh!” and all the others, relatively clueless as to what was just said, would hear the one kids say “Ohhh!” and they would do it too, so the overall effect of using choral responses was to encourage the kids to essentially lie to you.
Barometer Students – unnecessary because when you use WBYT, ALL the students who are trying to understand will understand instantly and so there is no need for a barometer student when you use WBYT. Why? It is because in a second language class the fastest way of establishing meaning is visually via translation.