David Young

I got this bio description today from David Young which is, in his own words, “ridiculously long”. He offered to edit it. I say why do that? My goal is to keep the group small, the trust high, and get to know each other. So  maybe get a big cup of java and settle back and read about, like we did with Ardythe yesterday, how life’s paths led David to being connected with us here. His pathway, by the way, is mine. Just change the places and it’s pretty much the same. I was amazed at thinking that another person has gone through what I have, the same professional stepping stones, as it were, toppling over the churning water and finally rescued, like so many of us, just in time by Susan Gross. So David:
First I want to say that I have been a great admirer of your blog and have benefited greatly from the discussions and the postings on it.  I was very concerned when your blog was shut down for a while.   I can sincerely say that it has been my main source of inspiration the past few years.  I truly respect your goals and expectations for this new private blog. This bio will include a little about my life that is relevant to my being a foreign language teacher.
It really all began when I first went to live in Brazil in 1972.  After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in  Industrial Management in that year, the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to leave the U.S.   I joined the Peace Corps and told them that I wanted to go to Nepal or India and they said that all they had was Brazil, take it or leave it. The language training that I had was good. I suppose it was sort of audiolingual and light on grammar.  At the end of the Portuguese language training I took the FSL test and got a 3+ out of a possible 5.  The Peace Corps also paid for private classes for nearly a year. I worked as an industrial consultant with agencies of the Brazilian government promoting economic development in the state of Sao Paulo and also in the state of Bahia.  After leaving the Peace Corps, I worked as a consultant for an agency of the U.N. and then traveled around northeastern Brazil for nearly a year.  I then started a restaurant in the city of Salvador and ran it for two years. After losing too much money on the restaurant I came back to Indiana and ran an insulation business with my father and cousin and then worked industrial jobs for about 10 years.  In the mid 1980’s I moved to the Kansas City area and towards the end of the 1980’s I decided it was time for a career change and I went back to school to UMKC to get a B.S. degree in Secondary Education in Spanish. I then started and finished a Masters Degree in Romance Languages and Literature (Spanish) at UMKC.  This included a year of studies at the Universidad de Sevilla. When I finished the Master’s Degree I decided to continue with my studies. I began the Ph.D program in Hispanic Literature at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas in 1994.  It was very intense. I also worked as a TA, teaching Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. I also did the minor in Brazilian Literature within the Ph. D program.  We received a one week training course to teach Spanish. It was centered around a communicative teaching approach. It was big on paired activities and lots of grammar.  In 1998, I decided that I had enough of studying literature and especially literary criticism and had lost my desire to continue so I got a job teaching Spanish in a middle school and also began as an adjunct at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. I continue to teach at this community college. I worked at a couple of high schools and then as an assistant professor of Spanish at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri for  two years.  I then took a position as a Spanish teacher in the Olathe School District in 2004.  This was the first place where I had ever heard of TPRS and none of it was good.  My department chair told us several times that she was working with the principal to hire new language teachers and that anyone who mentioned TPRS would be automatically eliminated.  In about 2005 Susie Gross came to give a presentation to the foreign language teachers in the district.  I remember that there was some very bad weather and they had to cut the time short and most of us watched Susie give a French class to teachers who had volunteered to be in her class.  I watched Susie give a TPRS class to other teachers while other teachers would tell me how silly it was.  I was not that interested in hearing more, especially with my intensive grammar upbringing as a teacher.
Everything changed when I decided to start the National Board Certification process.  I did a lot of videotaping of my classes and tried to follow what was required to achieve National Board Certification.  I showed my videos to the only other board certified teacher in foreign languages in Kansas at the time.  She told me that I should try to deliver a lot of comprehensible input and that was what they would look for in the videos.  She also mentioned that I should read a little of what Krashen (whom I had never heard of) had to say.  The whole thing about delivering input made sense and I was trying to think of and create ways in which I could do that.  In the summer of 2007, I became aware that Jason Fritze was coming to Kansas City to give a workshop on TPRS. I decided that I would give TPRS another try and maybe they had some ideas about delivering comprehensible input.  The workshop with Jason totally changed my life as a language teacher. He gave a little TPRS class in Arabic and talked about the ideas of Krashen.  I then went to the NTPRS conference that year in Denver and was truly energized and ready to implement TPRS as best as I could.  While at the conference a few pictures of me appeared on the NTPRS website and a few people in my district saw it.  On my first day back to the high school in Olathe, my department chair told me that she had heard that I had gone to the NTPRS conference. I assured her that I just wanted to check it out and that I was not going to implement it.  The foreign language coordinator for the district told me that the whole district was buzzing about my having gone to the conference.  I remember another teacher in my school telling me, “You know that TPRS is taboo in this district.”   I left that district shortly after that.  I was glad to leave all the racists and narrow minded people.
I took a position in Kansas City, Kansas (a very poor district next door to the very affluent county of Johnson County). My first year (2008-2009) I taught in an elementary school (K-5) for the first time.  I used mostly Hola, niños and Cuentame.  It was mostly TPR and a little bit of storytelling. It was a very good experience.  The district had some cutbacks and I was assigned to teach ESL during the 2009-2010 school year at Wyandotte High School (where I still am).  They were very big on my using a computer program that concentrated on intensive phonics. It was called System 44.  I had a day of training and I remember the trainer talking about phonemic awareness. I told her that I had never heard of that term but after thinking about it I understood what it meant.  The trainers themselves admitted that it was not really designed for beginning language learners but that we would use it anyway.  It consisted of decodable digests with pages full of things like SAM BAM FLAM BAM and other nonsensical things.  It was literally without meaning.  Language activities that are without meaning are truly painful for a teacher who believes in language acquisition based on meaningful input.  I fought a lot with the people above me except for my principal.  She loved what I was doing in my class and said that she would like nothing better than just sitting in a corner of my room and watching me teach.  One day a higher up in the district ESL department came to observe my classroom and was very upset when she saw boxes of books that were at the child reading level.  Most of these books were boxes of children’s books that my principal had somehow acquired and was going to send to the nearby elementary school.  She first wanted to know if I wanted them and I said yes that I would love them.  The district higher up in ESL then brought some of her assistants to my room on an early release day.  They began an extreme makeover of my room and began a scene which was reminiscent of the scrutiny of Don Quijote’s library by the local priest.  The ESL higher up took out a book of Care Bears and said, “Just imagine that you were living in Japan and your children were learning Japanese and you came to visit their school and found them reading Care Bears in Japanese.  Wouldn’t you be outraged?” She then explained that they should be reading books that the other mainstream high school students were reading.  Remember that I had beginning ESL students who had just arrived in the U.S., mostly from Burmese refugee camps in Thailand.  Their proficiency in English was a big ZERO.  The ESL higher up then repeated the scene several times over with books such as The Three Bears, Dora the Explorer, etc.  She then packed up two big boxes of books and marked them “Not appropriate for High School” and put them in a corner.  When my principal found out she was outraged. This ESL higher up was later demoted and sent to teach ESL at an elementary school despite being friends with the head of ESL.  During that year I went back and forth between doing what I wanted to (mainly using TPRS with the Beth Skelton book “Putting it Together”) and using System 44 with its focus on intensive phonemic awareness.  It was during this year that I voraciously read everything I could about what has been happening in K-12 education the past 10 years or so, especially with NCLB.  I read lots of Krashen and the various critiques of the National Reading Panel Report that came out in the late 1990’s.  I was totally fascinated by the works of Frank Smith. I first became aware of Frank Smith when he was mentioned by Krashen.   Frank Smith, with his works on the psycholinguistics of reading, perhaps even more so than Krashen, totally demolishes the emphasis on intensive phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.  At the end of that year, my principal gave me the option of teaching Spanish rather than continuing in the ESL department and fighting with them.  I really loved teaching ESL but I decided that it was not worth trying to keep on fighting with them and so I have been teaching Spanish this past year. I used the book Ven conmigo (which I used for a couple of years in my pre TPRS days).  I must say that it was a step back. I tried to do a few stories but it is very difficult when the whole structure wants something else.  I did however, very much enjoy the 3 classes of Spanish for Native Speakers that I taught.  I learned a great deal and I have also been reading the research on instruction to heritage speakers and native speakers.
About three weeks ago, I met with some of the other Spanish teachers to pick another textbook for the district.  I brought my copy of Cuentame but everything I had to say fell on deaf ears and we ended up picking Realidades. At least it has a lot of TPR stories in a book written by Karen Rowan.   We spent a whole day trying to align the district Spanish standards with a pacing guide and a textbook.   The district standards were full of grammar points and they say they were taken from the Kansas standards.  The Kansas standards are totally proficiency based and taken from the ACTFL standards.  What obviously happened was that a group of teachers who were totally grammar based took proficiency based standards and converted them into something that was not proficiency based. [ed. note: this is happening a lot in Colorado]
In my high school, my principal has formed a new team for the ESL students for next year.  It consists of ESL teachers plus some sheltered content teachers plus the new addition is me.  I will receive the totally new and zero proficient students and I will teach 3 classes called Transitions class.  I will get to use TPRS a great deal.  My principal also acknowledged that we have been failing the ESL students.
Trying to use TPRS for ESL has been very difficult.  I became painfully aware of the lack of resources and teachers interested in using TPRS for ESL.  I went to the NTPRS conference in Chicago last summer and talked with Blaine Ray for a little bit about ESL. I quickly became aware that he was clueless about what was happening in ESL classrooms.  There was a special session for ESL teachers during the conference. 3 teachers showed up.  One taught ESL to Spanish speakers (that does not count) and the other taught English as a  foreign language in France.  I was really the only ESL teacher at the whole conference. I was hoping to talk with Beth Skelton but she was not there.
Meanwhile I have also been teaching at Johnson County Community College  since I was won over to TPRS.  I teach first year Spanish classes and first year Brazilian Portuguese classes in the evenings.  I try to use TPRS as much as possible in my classes.   I also began what is called the Foreign Language Pedagogy Group during the 2009-2010 school year. It is mostly a soap box for me to talk about SLA research.  We spent several sessions watching and discussing a Krashen video and I also gave a little TPRS class in Brazilian Portuguese. Interest has been fading however.
I must admit that the NTPRS conference that I attended last year in Chicago was a little disappointing.  This was especially truly because the year before I attended the Fluency Fast in Denver.  That is where I met you.  I missed not having people like Krashen and Jason Fritze around.  I think that the whole TPRS movement has taken a step back.  I gave Blaine Ray the Diane Ravitch book (Death and Life of the American Education System).  I could tell that Blaine seems to have no real knowledge of or interest in what is taking place in K-12 educational policy.  Krashen, of course, is very much involved in the fight against the destruction of public education in the U.S. and the current dumbing down of our schools that has taken place with NCLB and Obama’s Race to the Top (NCLB on steroids).  The fact that your book was not on sale was truly a tremendous loss for every single participant in the conference.
This summer I plan to do some videorecording of my classes. My main interests are: 1) applying TPRS to the college classes I teach for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese; 2) applying TPRS to ESL; 3) applying TPRS to my high school Spanish course with the Realidades text; 4) Spanish to native and heritage speakers.  Wyandotte High school is about 45% Hispanic, 40% African-American, 8% Asians and Africans mostly refugees) and about 8% white.
This summer I plan to attend the NTPRS conference in St. Louis.  I must admit that I am a little disappointed with the present TPRS movement. It seems that Blaine wants everything under his personal control.  This is very sad.  I really don’t know where else to go to. If there was something else like the Fluency Fast conference in Denver in 2009 then I would go there.  I suppose maybe I should use more the term comprehension based approach to describe what I do.   I also plan to attend the National March to Save Our Schools in Washington, D.C at the end of July.  As I am sure you know, Krashen has very much been involved in promoting it.
I was going to send this to you a week or so ago and then I saw that Krashen is coming to the NTPRS conference in St. Louis in July.  This is a very good  thing.  I think that it is vital for the TPRS people to interact with Krashen and to connect with what is happening in K-12 educational policy in general  and also relate to SLA research.
Finally, I must share with you a meeting that the Spanish teachers had with my principal at the end of this school year.  The meeting was devoted to scheduling and how we can promote the study of Spanish in our school.  My other two colleagues are both European born and I think that somehow influences their approach to the whole thing.  The teacher from  Spain said that students who study Spanish with her would receive some very necessary instruction on grammar, something that would help them with their English also.  The teacher that was born in Italy said that students who come out of his Spanish classes would receive a lot of discipline which would be beneficial to the study of other content areas.  I told everyone that I had some different ideas. I think that students should study languages with the aim of receiving proficiency in the language.  I get along with my colleagues but they are both only a year or two from retirement and have no intention whatsoever of changing what they have been doing throughout their teaching career.  It sometimes is a little depressing.
Fortunately the ESL teacher with whom I talk a lot and will work a lot with next year is a big fan of Krashen.   This is a tremendous breath of fresh air for which I am very grateful.
The other good news is that the newly named head of the foreign language department at a high school near Topeka, Kansas is a true blue TPRSer.  This is wonderful news and will help me promote TPRS in Kansas.
Thank you for your patience if you have been able to read all of this.  I hope that you will be at the NTPRS conference in St. Louis.
David Young



12 thoughts on “David Young”

  1. Wow! David, you have the kinds of real life experiences that we have been told help create great teachers. How unfortunate that it has not always been recognized or appreciated by your administrators or peers. How fortunate for your students that you have kept the faith and have continued to try to navigate the minefield of myths and legends concerning language acquisition held by so many.
    How funny it is that the ESL person thought Dora was inappropriate for high school students. I have DVR’d some episodes of Dora la Exploradara from Univision (the Spanish version designed to teach English) and put them on DVD’s. It is surprising how many students leave class singing “mochila, mochila…”. I also have used Pinky Dinky Doo in Spanish, because it lends itself to storytelling so easily. Of course we don’t do this everyday, even though students beg for them on a regular basis.
    I found an ESL TPRS book through the TPRS Storytelling site:
    http://www.tprstorytelling.com/ I will be using it in Guatemala in a few weeks and will let you know how it was received.
    Thanks for sharing your journey!

  2. …we spent a whole day trying to align the district Spanish standards with a pacing guide and a textbook. The district standards were full of grammar points and they say they were taken from the Kansas standards. The Kansas standards are totally proficiency based and taken from the ACTFL standards. What obviously happened was that a group of teachers who were totally grammar based took proficiency based standards and converted them into something that was not proficiency based….
    I can’t get this out of my mind. To misrepresent state standards in this way is a form of professional lying. It’s unbelievable. The thought is, “If we can make pacing guides seem as if they align with the state standards, since pacing guides is a cool sounding term that is relatively new in the jargon, then maybe we can fake ’em out.” Since books are out now, and with so many giving lip service to comprehensible input while trying to figure out what the hell it means, the term pacing guide is just a way to put a little bit of maquillage on the book and appear somewhat au courant of current research. Jennifer – La Profe Loca – has shredded the pacing guide argument here:
    Thoughts on Pacing Guides
    The differences in philosophy between TPRS and traditional language education:
    TPRS is a student-driven methodology. It responds to the linguistic needs of the students at any given time. This makes it free-flowing curricularly.
    TPRS believes that we should shelter (limit) vocabulary, focusing on the top 100 words then adding words based on high interest and communicative needs, but not sheltering grammar – using grammar naturally.
    TPRS believes that linguistic features are acquired in a natural order and that the brain cannot be forced to acquire a feature out of sequence or before it is ready.
    TPRS believes that each learner acquires knowledge at his/her own pace – that no two students are at the same point in learning at the same time.
    In TPRS we believe that student output cannot be forced. Students need hundreds of hours of repetitive input before they are ready for unrehearsed, spontaneous output. Much like a baby hears his/her first language for thousands of hours before being able to produce meaningful language. We believe that activities practicing output before students have reached this point is counter-productive and leads only to short-term learning goals, not to long-term acquisition.
    TPRS adheres to the Monitor Theory – we believe that direct instruction of grammatical rules in not helpful until upper levels of instruction, after students have acquired these grammatical features through context. At such a time students can use the analytical rules to polish their understanding, and to become truly literate in the language. Prior to this, overfocus on the rules inhibits student production and acquisition – students focus on rules rather than meaning. In TPRS grammatical features are highlighted through the use of brief explanations that focus on meaning not rules. i.e. The -n on this verb means that more than one person is doing it.
    TPRS believes that language instruction should be practical and focused on communication in areas that currently interest students.
    The Pacing Guide assumes that instruction and pacing are based on the curriculum, that they are not student-driven. This leads to a curriculum that is not especially responsive to student needs.
    The Pacing Guide does not shelter vocabulary. It shelters grammar. Students are expected to learn copious amounts of vocabulary for each chapter. Yet, students are exposed to one discrete feature of grammar at a time.
    By sheltering grammar the Pacing Guide does not allow for Natural Order of Acquisition. It does not provide adequate exposure to late acquired features early on and expects mastery of some late acquired features in beginning stages.
    The Pacing Guide exists to make learning uniform across the district. Every student in the district is expected to learn the same material at the same time.
    The Pacing Guide and accompanying benchmark exams are filled with output oriented activities. The philosophy is that practice with output rather than time of input produces accurate spontaneous output in students.
    The Pacing Guide, benchmark exams, and department teachers assume direct instruction in grammatical rules. They assume that students will know technical terminology and will be able to discuss the grammatical features in a metacognitive fashion.
    The Pacing Guide etc. assumes that language acquisition is an academic activity that will result in preparation for college and perhaps eventual communication in the language. Areas that currently interest students are not covered if they do not fit into the long-term goals of academic study.
    An analogy:
    In a way, the pacing guide is like the old practice in manufacturing of ordering and stockpiling a bunch of materials on a rigid and pre-set schedule – it might sit there for a long time without being used. TPRS is like the more modern practice of ordering “on demand”. As something is needed, it is ordered and used. The second way is simpler, more efficient, and more economical. The pacing guide is an attempt to recreate the old style factory production line. Why try to do that when factories don’t even do it anymore – at least the ones that aren’t shut down!
    It is no wonder that students find much of their school experience boring, irrelevant, mystifying and unengaging; it is almost diametrically opposed to how they learn on their own. Early 20th-century methods in a 21st-century world leave everyone behind.

    Comparison taken from “La Profe Loca” by Jennifer (“La profe loca”); posted on Ben Slavic’s blog, 21 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010 Analogy by Chris; comment posted under “La Profe Loca” on Ben Slavic’s blog, 22 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010. Visit link https://benslavic.com/about/thoughts-on-pacing-guides.html

    1. Being the tinkerer that I am, I changed “TPRS” to “CBI” and put this together as a two-page document in PDF. You can access it at the following URL:
      The reason I changed the term to “CBI” (Comprehension-Based Instruction) – hope Profe Loca doesn’t mind – is that “TPRS” has become a lightning rod for criticism and also doesn’t include some of the other things we do, like music and chanting. We shouldn’t create more difficulties for ourselves than necessary; as Ben has said numerous times, what we call it isn’t as important as getting Comprehensible Input to our students, so let’s talk about what we’re doing rather than what we call it.

  3. This is key Robert. Very major. Of course, Jennifer wrote that text three, maybe four, years ago and my website needs a lot of updating all around. And so do my books, now that I think about it. And I’m trying to get some video out and we have a French exchange kid coming in tonite so I will get to all that when I can. I thought we were on vacation! I have to get up at night just to read what’s shaking here so I can clean my house tomorrow for that kid. So Robert can we all have permission to cut and paste this text featuring the term CBI onto our school websites if we want to? We need to credit Jennifer and then credit you for the update so if you agree for us to start using it (we use the term TCI – credit Meredith Richmond – in our Denver group – Teaching with Comprehensible Input), then tell us how you want the credit to read. This is finally happening. The term TPRS is just not going to fly anymore, and over recent years we had no option that “felt right” and so we in Denver would get into these ridiculous conversations where sometimes we would say “TCI” but then forget and say “TPRS” and then we would say, “Whatever…” because the terms TCI and CBI – the latter is much stronger – were just babies or non-existent three years ago. So this update in terms is no minor event for me personally. I did change the name of this site away from TPRS a few years ago for the same reasons you give, Robert, and as this all continues to grow we just need to make sure that we credit Blaine properly, because TPRS is essentially the same but it has evolved into other things, every year a bit different for each of us but still the same like the Beaumarchais quote, with people like Bryce, as an example, tweaking things, coming up with new ideas, and gradually creating a new thing but the same thing. The key is to always credit Blaine for the three steps that form the basis of CBI/TCI and anything else it becomes in the future – because it is always going to be some version of TPRS. However, so importantly, and the big deal about this entire discussion, is that, as you say, the term TPRS really has become a lightning rod for negativity and I just can’t take that anymore. There is no cleaning off that term. We thought we might be able to, but it is so clear now that we can’t do it. What happened was so many thousands of teachers, for whatever reason, practiced it in ways that were very distant from what Blaine envisaged. There were not enough Susan Grosses around. Blaine wanted to keep the term under his own sphere of influence as David pointed out yesterday. So, over the years, after so many teachers just shredded Blaine’s ideas in the classroom, a kind of Evil Twin of TPRS was born in schools all around the nation, and that Evil Twin was one ugly mother %&*er. It was just TPRS done so badly that, when I walked into East High two years ago, I was greeted as a friend of the Evil Twin. I can’t take that anymore. I leave East this summer in search of a part time gig in the district. I have ordered my survival wings to fly me as far away from East High school as I can get because the past two years for me professionally have, as the friend of the Evil Twin, been devastating. Now, Susan Gross is in this group and will probably disagree with us on this – the last time I had this discussion with her she was saying we should continue using the term TPRS. I don’t know how she feels about it now and maybe she will comment here, but, and I am just speaking personally here, my last two years of teaching have just knocked the *&%# out of me because of my being associated with the term TPRS. It has been BRUTAL. Anyone not in the classroom lately can’t appreciate how much of a polarizing influence that term has become so, with all due respect and credit to Blaine, I have to say that my heart can’t stand it anymore. Lightning rod is exactly the term. CBI really feels good. So Robert, sorry for the rant, but you are as usual right on for me in my world and I am going with CBI so tell me how to properly credit you, like “Robert Harrell of [name of your school] or whatever. I want to say it again, the term TPRS has no meaning anymore, because it has been done in a way that is a long way from what Blaine intended. Strange brew, but it happened. I will always credit Blaine up front every time I discuss this stuff, but man I can’t take the friend of the Evil Twin label anymore. Dude. What a rant. Laurie and Bryce and others who are on this site and have a grasp of the history involved here please comment. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

  4. Ben,
    I make no claims to the term CBI/Comprehension-Based Instruction. There is no need to credit me with it. (Though if you really want to, then Robert Harrell at Pacifica High School or Robert Harrell with COACH would be fine.)

  5. As much as I hate to toss the proverbial wrench into the gearbox, it needs to be be said that CBI is already a well-established acronym for Content Based Instruction, which has a fairly long history in second language acquisition.
    Actually, Content Based Instruction aligns very closely with the goals–if not the traditional methodology–of TPRS. It advocates using language in real life contexts, creating compelling situations for students to want to be involved with language. It has found its academic home primarily within the ESL profession in which students are taught English within a specific context–science, history, math, etc.–and the vocabulary and terms are sheltered for them there. In a former life at the university I produced a series of Spanish videos for a K-2 environment that were CBI based, teaching the standard general curriculum in Spanish.
    And in truth, much of what we do using comprehensible input is very much aligned with the CBI principles, making it easy to introduce some confusion. I get the TPRS branding battle that plays out (fortunately not for me, as in a small district I am judged only on my language results rather than my language politics), but I would cast a vote in favor of sticking with CI.

  6. Great. CBI is a term I never understood Nathan and thank you for the explanation. Now what to do? I guess stay with CI. The rant above was one of those middle of the night can’t sleep rants and it felt good to understand how much the term TPRS with its negative connotations – the Evil Twin – has been a source of a kind of angst over the years. I think that there is a version of TPRS for each teacher who claims to do it.

  7. Teaching with comprehensible input! Now wouldn’t that be a concept in all the core subjects as well as 2nd languages! As long as politicians legislate the curriculum and administrators at whatever level of education chase the dollar, it is difficult to be an educator inside the walls of classrooms when one knows that education isn’t about jumping through the hoop of a test, it is about being able to communicate and think through the problems that rise in front of you. John Dewey proposed that education was about building citizens, citizens of the world. Who knew it would be so global in such a short time.
    What made TPRS interesting to me was the breakthrough of not only having students acquire language multi-sensorily (which is how as infants to young adults we educate ourselves), but also that at the core of it, classroom communities are being built. The relationships of the learners to one another and the teacher was the foundation of the learning process. The teacher was knowledgable in the language but not superior to the students. In fact the teacher looked to the class to supply the subject matter of the discussion but remained as a facilitator of the learning interactions that took place in the classroom.
    So a classroom family develops where conversations grow more complex and deeper and richer in understandings as we grow in acquistion of language nestled in the safety to laugh at our mistakes and learn behind the walls of at least that one room. Call it what you will. What matters is the teacher’s and the students shared understanding of what is going on.

  8. …the teacher was knowledgable in the language but not superior to the students….
    This is the hardest part for most of us. I have colleagues who would rather drown.
    …so a classroom family develops where conversations grow more complex and deeper and richer in understandings as we grow in acquistion of language nestled in the safety to laugh at our mistakes and learn behind the walls of at least that one room….
    That sentence has in it real vision. No comment needed. It is truly a radical sentence, one that deserves to be read over and over. It pushes on the dull clay of egocentric analytical language instruction with a star pulse. Thank you, Kate, I really love that sentence, and I’ve read a lot of sentences in my life. This one gives me unmistakable hope.
    …what matters is the teacher’s and the students shared understanding of what is going on….
    Key word in that sentence is “shared” understanding. And I had never thought about it but yes I can see where this applies to all classrooms and not just language classrooms. It’s the St. John’s model where the instructor concurrently explores the subject matter with the students.

  9. I came across a quote attributed to Einstein and thought it applicable to how we teach anything, but especially language:
    Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid. ~Albert Einstein
    BTW, I am now seasonally unemployed (i.e. finished with school for the summer).

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