[Note: I repost this article often, almost once a month, for any new readers here, and also because I keep adding to it. If you are willing to read all 53 of the reasons I oppose targeted comprehensible input, you might possibly find yourself echoing the a statement about classroom management by Fred Jones: “…open your mouth and slit your throat…”
Do you know what is crazy? People who target parts of the language instead of teaching it as a whole. Such people don’t trust much. They don’t believe that the words will come up in a natural way in normal discussion in class. But how could they not? Does it not make sense that if you speak in the TL all class, you will end up using a lot of words in the language, and your students will acquire the language?
For us, referring to the increasingly useless idea that we need to plan our classes, it’s “…plan your class too much and kiss your ass…goodbye…”.
Luckily there is elbow room in this group for lots of varied discussion on a variety of topics. TPRS has dominated the discussion here since 2007, but now – since 2015 – I have been leaning away from TPRS/targeted CI instruction to NTCI (non-targeted comprehensible input), which I consider far simpler to do with greater results in student engagement. With respect for those who still do TPRS/targeted CI instruction because we all do things differently, I submit 53 reasons to explain my shift in thinking.
- NTCI is easy to learn. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive training in the form of workshops and conferences. The majority of teachers who start doing it (via ANATS – Year One – A Natural Approach to Stories and ANATTY – A Natural Approach to the Year) report great results right away.
- Targeting requires planning which, according to the research, diminishes (greatly, in my opinion) student engagement, which tanks spontaneity, which destroys the joy of communication, and communication needs to be interesting and not robotic, so don’t do it.
- The big focus of NTCI on building community goes a long way in solving the big problem in American foreign language classrooms that the vast majority of students don’t know how to interact with their teachers or peers in class.
- The vastly simplified data gathering and grading procedures in NTCI are in harmony with the soul of comprehension-based instruction.
- By not aligning with and pushing high frequency verb lists, interest in NTCI classes is not constrained. When the interest is not constrained, there is more flow of language.
- By not aligning with thematic units or semantic sets, interest in NTCI classes is not constrained. It is one thing to talk about language flow, but another to teach in a way that guarantees it.
- The purpose in NTCI is not to teach words from lists but to teach language from images. This keeps the focus of the learner on the language as a whole, and not on pieces of the language so that the students can pass a test on the words for the rooms in a house. Thus, there is a greater alignment with the pure research in NTCI. Instead of pushing the language into a corner of the bedroom, or a kitchen or a living room, or down the staircase, or into a list of any kind for the purpose of testing the semantic set to grade the child on her ability to learn words out of context, we expand language into the whole house. The results are: (1) a more interesting story, (2) less conscious focus on words to learn, (3) more and easier focus on meaning, (4) no planning for the instructor, (5) a more expansive and less reductive language experience, (6) more fuel for the Din during sleep, (7) more contextualized learning, (8) a lowered affective filter, (9) language instruction that aligns more with the research, and (10) more authentic Communication. Neither does backwards planning of chapters in novels doesn’t work because it is impossible to teach the vocabulary in an entire chapter – there are too many words. The idea that one could prepare a novel by isolating vocabulary from a chapter and doing stories to prepare for the reading of that chapter is a flawed idea and should never have been allowed into the pedagogy.
- Dogs learn words individually, words like “Sit” or “Fetch” or “Stay”. As humans, we require richer, more contextual input. So it is probably best that we learn languages in context, and not from individual lists of words where CI is used with the goal of making sure that certain individual vocabulary words have been learned (for what reason?). How long are we going to continue, via targeting of vocabulary in the CI movement, to sell out the research so we can bow down to curriculum designs – originally found in textbook models but now thoroughly a part of the CI movement – that have always failed us and have had little positive effect on language gains?
- By not focusing on targets, interest in NTCI classes is not constrained. Focusing on lists of any kind, in my view, has little positive effect on language gains.The ACTFL proficiency guidelines are “holistic” and not specific to learning certain words or grammar concepts. NTCI reflects this point exactly.
- Targeting asks you to make up specific random sentences using specific verbs within the context of a larger fabric of information. Try that in English right now. It just doesn’t work. I think that’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks that many capable teachers have run up against with targeting – it’s just awkward.
- There is no consensus in SLA research of when something is “acquired” because we don’t really know what is going on in our students’ brains. To try to measure acquisition is therefore impossible. This fact is fully respected in NTCI instruction.
- If a teacher really wants to use CI to teach a list of high frequency words, etc. they should not do it in the creation of the story. They should teach those words in embedded fashion during the reading of the story, if they have to do it at all.
- When I was using the TPRS skill called Circling, I would very often get an automatic, almost predictable eye roll. But I would keep up my fake smile going like I was enjoying it but inside I wanted to scream. This does not happen in NTCI because circling is not used. One thing about circling is that it demands a certain natural ability to communicate on the part of the teacher. If the teacher has that quality, the communication will take place even though circling as a CI instructional skill tends to water down the level of interest. But if the teacher lacks this natural communicative ability – and there is no blame nor any reason to expect them to have it if they were trained in the old way – circling can be a real problem and throws light on reasons that TPRS hasn’t caught on with many language teachers.
- Allowing students to ask grammar questions during class when the non-targeted language is flowing is not done in NTCI. In my view, the short interruption back to L1 (a) throws off the flow of language for the rest of the class, (b) is often nothing but a way for some kids to draw attention and (c) derails the unconscious process and the concept of FLOW identified by Krashen as at the heart of language acquisition.
- In NTCI there is no class reading of novels, which practice allows a few faster processing students from more privileged backgrounds to skew the discussion of the book in their favor. In NTCI, the students read novels at their own pace. This is in keeping with the research. Those little novels are flawed in so many ways.In 2002, about eight to ten years into the TPRS movement, Blaine Ray and Carol Gaab started selling little simple novels to TPRS teachers who wanted to learn about TPRS. Blaine’s Pobre Ana was the first.But over the next 18 years, when all language teachers, not just TPRS/CI teachers, started to use those novels in their classes, a tremendous, almost unbelievable amount of money became available through the sales of those books, so the “TPRS movement”, way back then, became heavily about reading.But reading should not precede but follow auditory input, and the balance between reading and just listening to stories – the auditory input piece – was reversed. The problem with that was that the kids, esp. in level 1 classes, were not being given enough auditory input before being asked to read. This reversal of focus resulted in a disconnect with Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition hypothesis, yet Krashen didn’t say anything about it at the time.
The focus continued on with the novels, and many TPRS students and teachers got burnt out on that reversal of focus, and many quit, bc they thought that they “couldn’t do” TPRS. This was most unfortunate, because they were capable, but the focus on reading split their classes between kids who enjoyed strong reading backgrounds in their first language and kids who didn’t. The key to successful CI classes, indeed, is the feeling of community that you can build up in your CI classes, bc CI instruction requires full, not partial, inclusion.
Since not all kids are strong readers, with most current TPRS/CI classes split in half between the haves and have-nots in terms of their reading backgrounds, the CI movement was basically taken over by a few ppl w a very strong financial interest, which skewed the training. You could see Carol Gaab’s presence at the summer conferences where her books for sale covered up to 50% – 70% of all table space. Conferences became marketing experiences. There was very little auditory input materials or training available, because they don’t make money. So teachers thought they couldn’t do it, but they just weren’t getting enough direct and high quality training.
I won’t even comment on how so much intellectual materials have been harvested (stolen), repackaged and sold as new information.
I don’t blame Carol and Blaine, but I must observe here that the pursuit of financial interests by a few continues. I get that these self-proclaimed experts are just making money for their family, but there is a definite feeling of greed in what is currently being offered to teachers out there, and the focus is still not where it should be in the CI movement – on delivering interesting auditory CI to students.
All this has kind of shoved the TPRS/CI juggernaut off the rails and it’s been shoved further and further off the rails of late. Just go to any of the websites of people who sell themselves as CI experts these days. They are selling things, and they aren’t really experts if you define a TPRS/CI expert as a person who can authentically align the research with CI teaching without just throwing a bunch of basically ineffective “CI activities” online to increase their sales.
The whole thing has lost its charm. Back in the day, when we all met at the summer conferences, we were like little kids at a summer camp, just having fun and learning together. Now it’s become a big greedy mess, with some really dark people selling stuff that they have harvested, that wasn’t even theirs to start with.
The entire TPRS movement started to go south with those novels, starting 15-16 years ago. I wish we could all find our way back to summer camp, but the deed is done, I’m afraid. The research counts for very little in the CI world of today.
Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg has said about the novels:
…years ago I walked into my son’s Spanish 2 class for parent night. I was excited to see the teacher hold up one of Blaine’s novels when describing her curriculum. “These novels were written especially for language learners!” she said. Over the next two weeks my son came home w/packets & packets of vocabulary lists, grammar exercises, drills and all the other traditional stuff…clearly that’s not what the movement intended – the novel was hijacked. There was no personalization or class collaboration…he felt no investment in that class whatsoever….
Craig West has said about the novels:
…I’m completely with you on the idea of avoiding boring at all costs. The TPRS novels take interesting things and make them tedious and boring. The most popular book. Brandon Brown. Why in the world would any 15 yr old want to read that? Much less be in a class where the entire class reads it for 2 weeks straight?! Things have to be real or as close to real as possible to be compelling. If we’re making up a story, it is driven by students guided by the teacher and it’s real because it’s happening before our eyes. Can’t tell you how many “Holy crap, Ben!” moments I had this most recent semester just allowing kids to come up with the story. Also, I don’t have to light my hair on fire trying to get them to pay attention. When the artist’s work is unveiled, kids are actually applauding! Unprovoked! Any kids ever clap at the end of Brandon Brown?! I don’t think so!…. We must learn to separate research-based facts about CI from sales-driven fiction, or the purity that lies at the core of CI will be lost forever.
- In NTCI the students are not asked personalized questions, which causes tension. Rather, questions are asked about images they have drawn, which process is far more interesting and less personally intimidating to them. They create these images individually or as a class and it is wonderful.
- In NTCI we don’t need to establish meaning and then practice certain words or word chunks. What I mean here by “establishing meaning” is the practice of saying what words mean before starting the story, because of course in truth we are always establishing meaning as we go along through the story. We are not teaching individual words – we are teaching the language as a whole. The brain does better with language as a whole than language in parts. The process is a natural one. Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition Hypothesis states that acquisition is not dependent on the ease with which a particular language feature can be taught. The deeper mind is in charge and makes its own decisions about what sounds it turns into meaning in the growing language system, in sleep, after hearing input that is interesting/compelling and understandable during the day. We’re not in control and we should act like that in the classroom. The language should be in control. We merely deliver the CI. We do not deliver “instructional services”.
- In NTCI, the students enjoy the right to listen in a quiet and relaxed and focused way and not have to perform. Having kids supply cute answers puts stress on them and is linked to privilege because it favors the louder, bolder, and more socially gifted students, and thus tends to divide the classroom along socioeconomic lines, as is happening at all levels of American society today and yet is un-American.
- NTCI rarely uses gesturing as a group. Gesturing as a group brings the conscious part of the brain into play. It also invites copycatting. In NTCI the students’ minds are freed up to concentrate fully on turning the sounds they are hearing into meaning without all the pressure.
- In NTCI the stories last less than 30-40 minutes. Once the students know that in class they will most likely know what is going to happen at the end of the story in that class period, they focus better. The students need for the story to end that class period. Very early on we were trained (at the national conferences) that the stories were not important, that the content was not important, and that we were supposed to be doing reps of targets. But the students cared a lot about the stories, because they were invested, and they wanted to know what happened. The stories were theirs and not ours. But after roughly October or November each year when the students had learned that they probably wouldn’t find out what happened by the end of class that day, the air came out of the storytelling balloon.
- No planning is needed in NTCI. This greatly reduces stress which enhances our mental health right at a time when mental health issues are, like really big spiders in really big spider webs, taking over our profession and turning it into a dark forest, wrapping teachers up in big cocoons, taking all the fun out of life, and making what should be an enjoyable job into a form of mild mental torture.
- In NTCI with the Invisibles the students create images that become their own wonderful sources of non-targeted discussion. In that way, if a student does not know who a particular celebrity is, it doesn’t matter. I don’t want a section of the class – the cool kids who know the celebrities – running the class. Making up our own characters is so much more fun!
- In NTCI we have lots of alternatives to stories, so we don’t have to do a story when we aren’t having the best day. Stories in the Star Sequence curriculum take on a minor role to set up the other nodes of the star. Now we can work the reading options, extend things out with the Word Chunk Team Game, etc. It doesn’t have to be all about stories.
- The Seven Step Questioning NTCI process to create a story provides a safe set of golden rails for the CI train to go down. It is a safe process for the teacher, and highly structured. The teacher can literally stand on the laminated cards of each of the seven story creation steps while creating the story in her classroom and work with the Story Driver to make sure her class never goes off the rails.
- NTCI prevents dominance of the classroom by the few. Observe a non-targeted classroom. Classes based on images are not just interesting, they are very often compelling, which naturally involves everyone and not just the few. It’s what we want.
- NTCI allows teachers to bring their own personality into the classroom. NTCI teachers don’t have to be cute and entertaining all the time, because the NTCI process based on the creation of images is intrinsically cute in itself, and because the class content is generated by the students. Interesting input drives the class, not the lion tamer thing.
- In NTCI when creating stories, we don’t require students to draw complex images with lots of panels right away. The artists in level 1 classes create two panels (problem and solution); in level 2 they create 4 panels; level 3 creates the six panels, and level 4 does 8 panels. Of course, there are no rules on this. Each class does it the way they want. But in the NTCI classroom the role of artwork/drawing assumes a much greater role in the development of the story. The class galleries stimulate student interest in ways I personally have ever seen in a language classroom. Images drive the learning. It’s fantastic.
- In NTCI we don’t TPR words. TPR always seemed artificial and kind of lame to me, keeping interest for only a few minutes at the most and pulling the discussion out of the waters it really wants to always swim in – context.
- In NTCI, the teacher doesn’t always have to try to be the dynamic, in-charge personality with star quality. She can be self-effacing and quiet if she wants. She can be herself. She can listen to her students carefully, and effortlessly roll in whatever direction the conversation goes. The model of the lion tamer, master of CI ceremonies, person on stage is not in line with Krashen, Vygotsky, etc.
- According to some CI experts, “breakdown” is a concern. Breakdown is when a student answers a question but shows hesitation and the teacher, upon seeing this in the student, says to herself, “we need to practice the sentence more”. But students are there to listen and absorb what they can, not to be taught a certain sentence. It is in their ongoing flow that we learn languages, not in the focusing on any specific parts of the flow. We do ask yes/no questions in NTCI but we don’t continually monitor their responses, preferring rather to let the Din happen as per Krashen. Do we break contextual messages down when learning our first language? Looking for breakdown is like hammering the input in one nail at a time when no nails are needed.
- In NTCI, it’s just waves and waves of pleasant comprehensible input (easy on the student and the teacher both) and some goes in and some doesn’t and then when the students sleep the process of parsing out some words as “ready to be accepted” (acquired) into the growing language system or not happens. The process is under our unconscious command and so why “practice” it? Why look for things that the kids can’t yet do? Doing that activates conscious thinking and awareness of the possibility of being wrong and the affective filter kicks in and that is not how the research says it happens. In fact, it is exactly the activation of the affective filter that causes the student to lock up, to “breakdown”.
- In NTCI we don’t go for language correctness, correct points of view, SV agreement, etc. from students. This includes from actors. When we ask students to repeat after us mechanically, we are really judging the student. What we really do in NTCI is get a kind of smile on our faces and invite them to play, maybe repeating the sentence histrionically, for the purpose of laughing. It’s all about keeping the affective filter down so that acquisition can occur by osmosis and via the Din, which the research says is how it happens.
- In NTCI we don’t ask new teachers to “dive right in” to stories after one conference. Instead, we bring them along slowly from tableaux to stories and finally when they are ready, we give them the 7-step questioning process which is not random but structured about how to create a story.
- In NTCI, the primacy of the physical presence of the teacher as kind and inviting, soft and not judging, is key. In NTCI relational dynamics are the cornerstone to comprehension, engagement and maintaining attention.
- In NTCI there is not a long list of pedagogical “to-do’s” that prevent the teacher from doing the only thing they need to do – conversing in a light-hearted way with her students.
- In NTCI reading, we don’t teach specialized vocabulary beforehand so that a class can read the chapter in the novel. If we are tasked with teaching a group of foreign nurses who need the medical vocabulary before they can start working in the profession, they will not learn the terms they wish to learn until the bedrock of their language system is more established in a general way. The terms cannot be learned unless the overall language system itself in each nurse is strong. It’s like trying to put cargo on an unfinished boat – it will sink. It’s like building a stadium for a soccer game but forgetting to put in the field. The nurses will only learn the vocabulary they need when the field is finished.
- In NTCI it is less about collecting funny details, and more about getting the group together to showcase each child. Because of the community building that is done in NTCI classes before even trying stories, shy students become automatically more engaged. Thus, NTCI classes don’t revolve around the 5-7 most talkative kids in class.
- In NTCI teachers don’t have to instruct in a certain way. The message in their training is not that if they don’t do what they are told at a conference, they will fail. We are all different individuals with different teaching personalities. Diversity in instructional strategies, choosing what strategies we resonate most with, is a strength of NTCI. There is no one way to teach languages. What is required is that we simply be ourselves.
- In NTCI we downplay summative assessments. If we are forced, we weigh them lightly and we make them easy. We don’t give summative vocabulary tests on specific vocabulary to see if it was “learned”. How could we know what has been acquired, since it is all in the unconscious mind where things can’t be measured? We don’t kill motivation in kids by unfairly asking for translations of certain words that we think they “should have” learned, because doing so provides false results about what has been acquired, since what has been acquired lies hidden in the unconscious mind. Why do we keep ignoring the findings of the research?
- Students in NTCI classes should experience low levels of conscious engagement when reading. They read easy texts that some might say are below their ability but in my view are just right. We read “down”, which means we always read texts that are simple enough so as not to engage the conscious faculty of the student. Challenging readings are suspect in NTCI classes.
- In the upper levels of NTCI classes, we do not ask students to do expository writing. They can write in college, because they will have had so much listening and reading input that they will be able to write effortlessly, in an unforced way. Moreover, writing is one of the favorite things of college professors – it keeps them in their minds where they live, so we can save it for them. Input precedes output, so we must give them all we can before they get to college.
- I don’t like the use of the term “There is…” to start every story. It gets tiresome. What if the students don’t want to be told in each and every class that there is a girl or a boy? Perhaps they would rather decide, via the Invisibles process of working from images, what there is by designing their own classroom experiences themselves.
- There are not two kinds of “natural”. The research as I understand it doesn’t talk about having conversations that are supposed to contain words from a list somewhere. In fact, when this happens, you lose your center of gravity, as it were, and you can’t feel relaxed and natural in the classroom. And if a story doesn’t emerge naturally, so what? Who really cares? One can either be a language teacher or, far more desirable, merely a deliverer-of-comprehensible-input. There is no in-between area. We deliver CI. That’s it.
- NTCI has the ability to reverse expected outcomes in language classes for many “ordinary” kids. Installing any kind of CI curriculum in a language classroom should be done with the concept of equity in mind. NTCI can bring equity into a language classroom where other approaches cannot. If everyone can learn a first language, then everyone can learn a second and third and fourth language.
- I don’t use timers anymore. (Bogus. The kids who times doesn’t hear a word. I know that TPRS teachers like to make class competitions on who stayed in the TL longest that week, but the loss of five students, one from each class to time, is not justifiable. There they go lost in their phones.)
- NTCI doesn’t insist that we “teach to their eyes” – it is too intense for some kids and they avert their eyes.
- NTCI doesn’t require that kids interrupt us with some sort of signal (“over my head” or “stop” hand signals). Most kids have not developed that kind of personal power and awareness yet in their young lives, given where they’ve been (in school buildings which teach subservience) for so many years. It’s no wonder they look to their phones so much – they have power over them.
- NTCI doesn’t check for comprehension with “ten finger” or “thumbs up/thumbs down” signals. They don’t work because the kids, always fearing ridicule by fears, never tell the truth with those kind of comprhension checks. Then how to check for comprehension? With NTCI it is more intuitive and also we give more frequent quizzes.
- NTCI is far less stressful. On the general topic of how stressful our work is, especially at the beginning of the year when we have so much to deal with, I once got an email from a PLC member whose been reading here for over ten years:Hi Ben –I felt dizzy and lightheaded this morning, it wouldn’t pass, so I called my doc on the way to work. He told me to go directly to ER. I spent 10:30 till 2:30 in ER, now i am in ICU. I have A Fib, and my heart rate was up to 210! I will be here for a couple days! Thankfully my 2 colleagues have me covered!This shouldn’t happen. It sheds light on just how stressful our jobs are. I once had to take an ambulance ride to the ER due to sheer stress years ago. If anyone ever thinks that teaching is easy, they need to think again.Many teachers have reported that with non-targeted CI, their stress levels dropped. Here is just one example:
“Your books provide an instructional routine that I can count on to get me through a class period, but with much lower stress levels than before…”. – Lillian Smith
- In NTCI we don’t require students to say “Ohhh!” after everything we say, for two reasons: (1) it’s kind of demeaning, making them react like animals, and (2) (the real reason – kids lie). Why make them say “Ohhh!” when half of them didn’t understand us?
- One teacher has said: “I am coming more and more over to Ben’s perspective, that I don’t need to target structures or vocabulary, because if I allow the students to make the conversation continually more interesting, all that stuff is going to show up. Best part of all – ALL the kids are following along and learning, not just the rock star 5 kids who ace every class.” My comment on that is that this reflects Krashen’s admonition in 2008 or 2009 to the TPRS community, which had begun targeting at a high level by then (vs. Blaine’s original non-targeted vision that was purely based on Krashen’s research in the early 1990s), to tone it down w the targeting lest there be a “constraint on interest” (Krashen’s term). Nobody listened to Krashen (he didn’t push the point enough in my view) and the result now ten years later are classes of regular kids not being able to keep up and the rock stars that Sean refers to above dominating, thus splitting the class and with that destroying the sense of community that was so delicately built up since the beginning of the year. Thus, one can say with some degree of accuracy that TPRS has lost its way in the pursuit of vocabulary list mastery instead of fluency.
- The main thing is that non-targeted just feels right. But most CI teachers aren’t able to break the shackles of existing, list-governed curriculums. They don’t reflect deeply enough that those curriculums conflict 100% with the research. And all so that their students can – via CI – “learn” certain words in a forced way in a certain month for a test vs. letting it happen naturally. Why not use NTCI?
- When you use non-targeted CI, the kids will acquire the words ANYWAY, just at a different pace, maybe not when you and your departmental colleagues want them to, but when their brains want to. This is in keeping with Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition Hypothesis. BUT it will be so much deeper acquisition. Why not do that? If kids are not having fun, then the prime ingredient for success in a CI classroom is missing.
You may want to read this if you still use circling as a TPRS/CI tool. Why? It is because if you are still circling you may be making a mistake. The kids don’t like it.
Circling was invented by someone in Blaine Ray’s circle (not exactly sure who it was, maybe Blaine himself) around 2004. I was in the front row of a training here in Denver when he unveiled it.
I thought it was very cool at the time and used it a lot for about five years, but then the shine started to fade as I realized how boring it was to my students. Blaine touted it as the new “thing” in TPRS. He should have left it alone.
Circling seemed to make sense at the time. People who were using TPRS had always been flailing around trying to get the kids to understand from about 1993 to 2004. So when circling showed up everyone went after it like flies on honey.
The problem is that it conflicted with the research.
The research – 30 years of it – showed that the most important element in making CI work was interest, not repetition. That is why Krashen called his method the Natural method, and not the Repetition method.
The idea of getting reps (via circling) etc. has been grossly mismanaged by the experts, who thought that they had to take a structure or something that comes up in a story and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it in various ways before going on to something new. This intense repetition of a word or structure in real time during a story had deleterious effects, because it was boring.
Here are the points I would like to make on this topic:
1. After the first rep of the structure, if the kids understood it, a gradual decline in interest happened, just as it would in any L1 conversation. The kids don’t care about reps, they want to know what happens. To test this idea, start using circling to speak to someone near you right now.
2. So circling made me think that my job in my CI classroom was to teach “ran” to the class as a structure, because it was in some list that my students would be tested on. The actual FACT was that I merely needed to communicate with my students to fulfill the standard.
3. So if the story was about a girl running to the post office, the class would hear “Class, the girl ran to the post office!” Then they would all say “Oh!” like they were interested (even thought half of them didn’t understand and only said “Oh!” because I told them to, not because they understood.
4. Then I would say “Class, did the girl run to the post office?” (Yes!) and a few bright kids in the class would start to think “I know that since you just said it!” And the borefest would begin.
5. Then I would say, “Class, did the girl run to the post office or the school?” I’m thinking, “Look how clever I am getting all these repetitions on what I want them to learn!” but the kids are thinking “This is getting boring. My teacher keeps saying the same thing over and over!”
6. Then eventually the heads would start dropping on the desk and the hoodies would start to go up and the phones would come out, not because the kids are shitty kids but because they were being bored. All they wanted was to know what was going to happen!
7. So just stay on the story line and do not circle. Keep in mind that your desire to get lots of reps on a structure is not consistent with the research and thus should be avoided. It’s a teacher thing and if, over the past 15 years here sharing thoughts about language teaching with each other, we haven’t learned that the very concept of “teaching a language” is not consistent with the research (we can only provide comprehensible input), then we need to have our heads examined.
8. Does this mean that the reps won’t happen in the non-targeted form of comprehensible input that I push on this site? Of course not. But – instead of short rapid reps happening all in a group during the story – they happen in vast amounts during the Phase 4 reading options. That’s the big point of this article – that yes we can get massive amounts of reps around the star but NOT via the sadness and predictability of circling.
9. To repeat – the big difference between circling and the way I get reps on the star is that the reps when circling is used occur in a short period of time (about 30 seconds) during the story whereas when the Star Sequence is used they (the reps) all occur during the reading phase but are spread out over 14 different activities (my reading options), and I have designed the star with the “big deal” part of it being the Reading phase. That is the way CI works – the kids hear it and understand the message and then they read it and bam! – they acquire. (Note: the last sentence is the most important thing I’ve ever learned about CI in 20 intense years of thinking about it 24/7.)
10. The kids in the class only want to know what happened at the post office! So a big-ass conflict happens in any class where circling is used. The teacher wants one thing (to repeat the structure) and the class wants another thing (to know what happened).
11. Circling has therefore derailed the very intent and purpose of TPRS over the past fifteen years, gutting its effectiveness. The research says nothing about getting reps and everything about sharing what happened to keep the kids’ interest high.
12. The point of this article, therefore, is that any TL expression being “taught” in order to prepare the kids for some totally unnecessary test does not reflect how languages are actually acquired, but only how they are learned. (Krashen’s Acquisition vs. Learning hypothesis.) Acquisition cannot happen except in normal speech and does not happen in the circling way. To repeat, the research says that acquisition is a function of natural and normal speech. See the article on the Art of Conversation below.
13. Indeed, circling was a really big error and Blaine shouldn’t have presented it to the TPRS community at all in 2004. It not only represented a big diversion from the research, it (along with its twin mistake of using CI to teach/target structures from a list) may have ruined TPRS, because it’s ineffective as shit right now.
14. Blaine himself, of course, is not to be faulted for this error. It was the people around him, who couldn’t see how natural and consistent everything Blaine did from 1993 to about 2004-2005 was (they couldn’t really understand it and I have talked to both Krashen and Blaine about this) and since they didn’t have that vision to see how accurately he was interpreting the research for that early ten year period, they started the big twisting of the research, in order to help teachers who couldn’t see the big picture and now in 2019 TPRS is a mere shadow of what Blaine invented.
15. So again – the thing about getting more reps is that we should do it by using different reading activities that are more natural for the kids. Thus, Phase 4 in the Star Sequence is what gets the job done on getting lots of reps. Just exercise some patience and get it done over a longer period of time during class as per the Star Sequence – it’s just better and not at all boring to the kids.