TPRS vs. Georgia 20

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10 thoughts on “TPRS vs. Georgia 20”

  1. Ben, I am relieved that you think it’s OK to use other techniques. I teach children and see them as infrequently as 15 times a YEAR. I use personalized questions, simple stories, but I also use gestures, songs, games, and lots of work with phonics. I’ve tried to introduce TPRS to other teachers in Japan even though I am far from good and probably not even qualified to model it. In your recent posts you say how many represent TPRS badly and I felt that perhaps I may, too, be one of these you mentioned. It was nice to hear that you could still teach in other ways, yet still be true to the TPRS spirit.

    I am, however, confused at what you think are BAD examples of TPRS. I know that you have written many posts on this, so forgive me for not quite understanding….

  2. I guess it would be important for me to know why one wouldn’t advocate TPRS at the “only” way. If it allows repetitive comprehensible input, and repetitive comprehensible input is how we acquire languages, then why wouldn’t we advocate for TPRS as the way languages should be “taught?”

    Just trying to wrap my head around this. I really struggled this morning with getting students to participate so ……

  3. Ben,

    That is absolutely a brilliant solution! What a great way to get non-TPRS teachers started. Do 5 minutes of pure, personalized comprehensible input. Or as long as you can keep it going. No English, no interruptions, no textbook exercises, no lengthy grammar explanations. Think real-world (non-classroom) communication. Wow. I love it! Then, you can say you did 5 minutes of TPRS and be telling the truth.

    Skip, you are exactly right. The only problem is, as Ben said, there is a growing misconception about what TPRS is. People hear TPRS and think stories about pink elephants.

    Also, different teachers have different goals, and TPRS may not meet all of their goals. If your goal is real-world communication, then comprehensible input is the only way, and TPRS is the most efficient and interesting way to get comprehensible input into the classroom. If your goal is to have a few of your students be able to grammatically analyze the language (hey, some people value that sort of thing) then TPRS is not the only way. If you want students to know about holidays in a country that you are teaching about, then you can do cultural lessons in English and achieve the goal that way.

    I would like to take a survey of the students and a survey of their parents and ask what their goal is in taking a language. My guess is that most will say fluency in the language. In that case, TPRS is the best way to reach those goals.

  4. What Mark said was spot on. I would love to have one of those five hour French dinners with these people. Can we meet in Montreal? This weekend or next?

    Jeff, a lot of what you said in a few words took me the greater part of 18 blogs to express, so that is a nice summary of the thing. Aimee and Skip, I am afraid I am being misunderstood on this point about doing other methods. Both of your comments raise the question as to the advisability, if you will, of using other methods. My answer is that if you get TPRS fully then you would not hesitate to use it all the time, of course.

    Now, the reason that I suggested doing other things in the classroom is simply for those who feel that they can’t do CI + P for an entire class. My point was not that it is fine and dandy to use those other methods, but to KEEP PEOPLE FROM MIXING CI + P with other things. There is a difference. So I was saying how really bad it is to mix, water down, beer down, the method, and if you can only do CI + P for ten minutes in a pure way before you break down in a hail of bullet stares from your students, then take the ten minutes of successful CI + P as a gift from God and then in the eleventh minute open up the grammar book.

    Keeping the method pure and unmixed was my whole point, and I sure did not intend to say that the other stuff works and is fine to do. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money, students’ time, your time, in terms of actually learning in accord with the ACTFL proficiency guidelines, when you do those other things linked to the book.

    Skip, even with the difficulty of getting students to participate, we both know that if you stick to your guns (CI + P) then that is far, far superior to ANY options. Mark, I think, said the same thing, adding that it has to be real CI and not silly running around the room, which I so agree with.

    Once you are doing CI, even if it is boring and lacking in P, you are in a FAR SUPERIOR MODE of instruction than any others. Do those others if you need to but don’t mix them is my whole point.

    Aimee, if you look at what you listed as other things that you do, you listed songs – they are great CI but impractical across the board for older kids in longer classes (I think Skip teaches high school – forget songs at that level unless they are in a good story), then you said you use gestures – great stuff but not of great value unless the words gestured are actually placed into some CI later in the form of a story, then you said games – crapola unless they deliver CI + P and lead to stories (all small stuff we do should be destined to be included in large amounts of CI), then you said phonics – why work with phonics if the students don’t know what the overall language sounds like? I work with phonics, but within the context of stories, and for very short periods, and in goofy ways that will connect the sound with the meaning. Too work on phonics as a thing apart from the language, from meaning, seems as big a waste of time as playing some game that is not connected to the overall sky sweeping comet of CI + P.

    So I hope I have clarified this. Let me know. Again, I only said that other things are advisable if you can’t handle making it through the entire class in CI + P. Look – doing good CI + P is no easy thing. I am still learning, we are all still learning, and we will always be still learning. It is no easy thing to pull off a good TPRS story. I think the other stuff is largely ineffective phlaff and phluff, so please don’t think I am advocating it – I just don’t want us to be doing a mixmush hodgepodge stew of false TPRS, and then go tell everyone in the building how we use TPR Storytelling, who then promptly cross that method off their list of things that they want to try to do as a teacher.

    Have a great week, you guys.

  5. And Jeff, your comment allows me to clarify the Gary Null post statement I made:

    I am not saying that TPRS is the only way and that you should be doing only it in the classroom.

    Gary doesn’t say not to do traditional pharmaceutical medicines – he would agree that when the body gets to a certain point or in a certain situation, surgery is needed. His natural approach – nice words there – is more preventative.

    So, as you say, if a person wants to teach grammar, if grammar is the goal, then get out the worksheets and the Amsco book and go for it. It’s just that some would call that pretty unnatural if you want to learn a language, where TPRS is much more practical and useful and aligned with ACTFL.

    It depends on what you want to achieve – such a good point. If a teacher wants to talk about cultural differences all year, go for it. Just don’t do that and say you TPRS. That’s all I meant there. Thanks for that point, Jeff – it responds directly to Aimee’s question.

    It’s interesting that the term natural approach applies to medicine and teaching as per Krashen. Both don’t have huge financial corporate entities behind them, like the book companies and the pharmaceutical giants. Part of a greater trend?

    And Amy, I didn’t answer about what I thought BAD TPRS was. I guess it would be when English is used all over the place, where many of the kids don’t understand, where there is general disorder as opposed to the crystal clear focus there is when it is being done well, where the kids own too much of the room, where assessment has little to do with the class story content, where discipline is not locktight because rules aren’t being enforced, where enrollment doesn’t go up overnight, and where fellow teachers, instead of wanting in on a good thing, attack you verbally behind your back and call you a dreamer. Stuff like that. No wait, they will attack you sometimes even if you are doing TPRS well. But that is another story, and not our problem.

  6. What? Forget songs in high school? We sing every day and not in stories. I was mostly singing in Spanish 1 until my Spanish 2 class said I was “holding out on them” and only singing the “cool songs” in Level 1. It only takes a few minutes and the lyrics stick. I mostly sing short songs–just a few lines–and try to use ones like “Tengo hambre, hambre, hambre” (I’m hungry, hungry, hungry) that they sing outside class, too.


  7. Ben, thank you for your reply. I know my situation is different from most, so perhaps I am only straying from your message. I couldn’t imagine teaching without songs, games, and phonics. Phonics for my Japanese students has seemed to make the most difference. In the public JHS (don’t let me even get started on this English education system that is full of flaws!) go straight from teaching ay, bee, see to words without so much of an explanation that letters represent sounds. Perhaps not a problem if their first language used the same alphabet. I am finding astounding success with right-brain pictures and images associated with the sound and shape of the alphabet. I mostly focus on the sounds that exist in Japanese and for those that don’t I introduce it briefly and tell them that they will pick up on it in time.

    For the little ones, they constantly amaze and baffle me. They pick up easily on little stories and respond in kind but they forget just as easily. I have seen many a 6-7 year old who comes in fluent in another language, and seem to lose it 6 months later. Their little minds seem to store this information in places I cannot understand. I can teach them one month and come back the next and the understanding is not there. However with songs, the recognition is instant and somehow the language returns!

    Gestures seem to be another magical tool. For reasons I cannot explain, gestures help. They help them remember and they help them remember the word order (practically the opposite of Japanese). They also get them talking magically. Even the little shy ones start talking as soon as their hands get moving.

    Whether or not games are useful in language acquistion, I can’t tell you. I see them excited about learning and I can’t seem to get a story going for 45 minutes with the little ones. Little minds start to wander. I can get a good story with my 10 year olds, but even then, they seem to need the break. They are still very much in the pre-literate stage so reading stories isn’t an option.

    I more than understand your frustration however. I get my little ones excited about learning and see such wonderful changes in students who do poorly in other subjects. TPRS has shown me what teaching really is and the rewards are 10 fold. This year half went on to junior high teacher who relies on rote memorization, 80% conducted in Japanese and mathematical like equations replacing any means of communication. and the best part is that I get to assist in these classes by playing the role of tape recorder. It breaks my heart!

    I have a lot to work on. I struggle with classroom management and still have to work on bringing a story to life with more details. I still go too fast and lose too many students. I believe TPRS works and try to stay far, far, far away from drills. I can’t see myself 100% in stories in the classroom but I do try to incorporate what I am learning via TPRS to any other activity I try in my classes.

    apologies for the long post.


  8. Rita I’m no expert and anyone who can get songs going in a high school class w/o a story is pretty into it. I guess my point is that when all of what we do in a class is taken in the context of the overall comet of CI, instead of just as a separate activity, the acquisition might be more deep and real. That was my point. Remember this is a blog and just my views. I could easily be wrong because I haven’t been in a high school classroom in eight years and I certainly don’t teach a language with a different alphabet.

  9. Ben,

    My high school kids actually demand songs. Usually I pick a song that has “worthy” words, but lately they go on You Tube and send me the ones with good videos that they want to learn. We circle and create stories with the structures that seem most important until I think they’re going to be able to read the words with no trouble, and then we read the song. Only after that do we watch a video of the song. Then we retell the video and use one or more of the phrases in the song until I can’t do any more. On Fridays, I often let them push me into showing the (1 or 2-minute music videos) only after we’ve read the critical phrases, emoting/singing and retold the story with some twists. The real expert in this area is Corinne Bourne, who can make a unit out of a music video. We love our songs, whether they’re on tape or on video. Who could resist songs with titles like “Blondes and Brunettes” or “And you love me, right?”

  10. Rita and Michelle I have a chance to teach at East High School in Denver next year and I can’t even see straight I am so excited about even the thought. East is a great school, simply put, an all-American school. The reason I mention that is that I am going to have to learn what you guys do with music if I go there. Stories will not be enough, as great as they are. There will have to be a crescendo in the music of CI via stories, created through YouTube.

    Clearly, my idea about songs was based in my former life of singing some lame song, you know what I mean, the old stuff. Now, with YouTube and all (although I have trouble finding French songs with clean lyrics), clearly there is a new kind of TPRS teacher who spins stories from songs, and makes it all part of the galaxy of CI. I am all for that. I just don’t know how to do it.

    I have a precious briefcase with all my diamond CDs in it sitting about ten feet away from me right now, and my present task is to chronicle and load up all of those songs into my itouch and be ready, if I get the call at East, which would be a return to my high school roots, but then, you and Corinne and Lambert and Rita and Carmen and Bryce and Joe and the other TPRS high school jocks are going to have to gently school me in how to teach TPRS in high school but also how to teach TPRS using songs, because I know that my future with TPRS, my sujet de thèse, my sabbatical topic, if ever that were to happen, is how to integrate music into TPRS exactly as Michele and Corinne do, and I would presuppose that the link there would be to keep them integrated into one lesson, just as Michelle describes and as Corinne sounds like she does.

    I feel that as long as we have CI as the overall guiding galaxy, the music and the songs being integrated into and not separate from the lesson, then we can be true to Krashen, and I will go write a blog entry on galaxies now.

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