When you do non-targeted input you end up creating much bigger CI swimming pools in your classrooms. But when you try to limit the vocabulary being learned to certain words that someone told you to teach from a list, you’re in the small pool; you’re almost in the kiddie pool.
Not trying to control everything that is said in a class, in a story, in a conversation, is a good thing. It lowers affective filters, removes stress from the shoulders of the instructor, and generally makes the class more fun and interesting. Such classes are based in trust and not in fear.
Fear is present in targeted instruction. Ask any sensitive teacher who has tried it. It never seemed to work for them. There is the fear that the students won’t learn unless she limits the words that happen in class to the list, whether it is a high frequency verb list, a thematic unit list, a semantic set list, or a list of words pulled from a chapter of a novel so that the chapter is “readable” (by whom? the five class leaders?) Reading class novels is a seriously flawed practice.
I wonder what would happen if new moms limited the words they said to their newborns and toddlers so as not to “overload” their brains. It isn’t necessary and it obstructs the process of authentic acquisition.
In the small (targeted) swimming pools words are limited and connected to lists and targeted vocabulary for eventual common assessments, chapter tests, etc. In those pools the kids usually have higher affective filters because of the test that they know is coming. Plus, things are crowded in the smaller pools.
In the smaller pools, as happens in real swimming pools, some kids start dominating, waving and splashing to get the attention of the other people/the teacher. The teacher ends up really only seeing those five or seven kids and so she unwittingly gears the swimming lessons only to them.
When that happens, trust goes down. Interest goes down. The stress on the teacher to “align”. (Teachers are always being made to “align”, as if just speaking the language to the kids is not enough.) Then those teachers, to convince others in their building that they are meeting the “curriculum” (but isn’t the curriculum the language?) have to plan and do more. Sometimes, around February or March, the eyes of CI teachers who target vocabulary look and felt like two pee holes in a snowbank. Take it from someone who has been there with TPRS but never with NTCI….
None of the above things happen in bigger (non-targeted) pools. The interest is up; the trust levels between kids are much higher because of the community building found in NTCI; they have more room to swim; more kids are involved; tests are far less important because the teacher knows that according to the research what is known can’t really be measured (Natural Order of Acquisition Hypothesis); teacher stress goes way down; everyone participates (see ANATS and ANATTY for exactly how); content of classes is generated by the children via the images they create, and generally very good things happen in the classroom as a result.
The students learn more, but since a lot of what is learned is down in the unconscious mind, it can’t be measured, so the traditional TPRS list-based teachers don’t know that it’s there and they don’t trust that it is there. But if they just looked into their students’ bright eyes during a NTCI class vs. a targeted class they would see that language is being acquired.
In February the eyes of non-targeted CI teachers are still bright and alive, because they are so much more relaxed and are doing so much less planning. Plus, every Friday they don’t actually work because the kids demand to play the WCTG for the whole class period; the teachers take every sixth week off for SPA week, and also in April and May their feet are up on their desks watching kids do projects.)
So I don’t like the small pools. I like the big pools.