David Young

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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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