The Net Hypothesis 1

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11 thoughts on “The Net Hypothesis 1”

  1. “Organizing” a curriculum around flow will not be happening anytime soon. :o) However, this research and these writings are CRITICAL to any success we may have in moving away from language torture and towards language acquisition.
    Ben, I think that in many ways Stephen is right about most TPRS classrooms. We do organize around “grammatical” structures because:
    a) We have to placate administration.
    b) We have to play nice with colleagues.
    c) We want to keep our jobs.
    d) We have thought this way for so long that even though we THINK we are organizing differently, if we examine ourselves closely, those patterns still exist.
    In the ideal world, curriculum would not have to be controlled nor directed by teachers, but rather by the intrinsic motivation and interest of the students. We know this because of Stephen Krashen and others who tirelessly research and write about this. These truths push us to move our “real” closer every day to the “ideal”.
    This is also why TPRS has evolved so well over the years. Folks like Dr. Krashen peel away the layers of false assumptions one by one. We must then look at what we are really doing. We observe and question and change by letting go of what we once thought was true.
    The most difficult piece for us, as teachers, is to accept the idea that we are, in many ways, superfluous. We have an abnormally puffed up view of ourselves. Where else do you get to keep the image you created (or adopted) of yourself as a child/adolescent and perpetuate it for years on end? We don’t have to grow if we don’t want to.
    What Stephen Krashen tells us (and models for us) is that teachers should no longer be stellar-students-running a society designed to produce more stellar students. Our job is to be truth-seekers, truth-sharers and door-openers. With a little bit of butt-kicker added in from time to time (for ourselves as well as our students.) He repeatedly tells us that the human brain WORKS BEAUTIFULLY ON ITS OWN. Our job should be to put it in a position to do so and leave it alone.
    Education today is, instead, built around the idea that the brain must be directed, trained, fostered, and otherwise controlled by a system run by other people’s needs and goals.
    Those of us in the trenches can only pray that students’ brains survive that kind of treatment for the decade-plus years that they are subjected to it.
    with love,

    1. …teachers should no longer be stellar-students-running a society designed to produce more stellar students….
      This is the hard one, I believe, for people to get. Most teachers, if they don’t see a few kids leading the class discussion, get uncomfortable on some “collective educational unconscious” level where that has always been the model. The model Krashen calls into play, and he gets a lot of shit thrown at him for it, is that all kids can succeed and all kids do succeed in properly run TPRS classes when the input is interesting (if not compelling) and SLOW enough.
      No wonder the opposition to Krashen is so strong – he has given wings to the idea nascent in the 70’s that the world can be a place where cooperation and not competition is the model. All those early books about “Getting to Yes” and making things a “win win” for everyone have been met with great opposition and, rearing its head now more and more, war. And so it IS a war in school buildings. We’ll get there. Let’s keep the faith and get on into this new year with the best, most fearless attitudes that we can possibly muster. Let’s teach our kids the right way, with comprehensible input and in the TL 95% of the time.
      Everybody needs to just get over it – Krashen is right. Ball game over. Go home. Do it the new way. I cut and pasted the entire article above into my email and on Monday morning it is going to my principal and my AP in charge of our WL department. These are people, who unlike those in the building I was in last year, know the deal with Krashen and want to educate themselves on what Stephen says above about syllabi, etc.

  2. …we have thought this way for so long that even though we THINK we are organizing differently, if we examine ourselves closely, those patterns still exist….
    Very insightful Laurie. I notice this whenever I talk to people. I never know what to say, because the walls of the school building are breathing down on us, asking us to organize and be “teachers”, so it is very difficult to honor Krashen’s conclusions, which, as you say, are pure descriptors of the right way to teach languages and merely waiting for the clouds of ignorance and school curriculum design to float away into the past. One day, we will apply comprehensible input methods and Blaine’s staggeringly important first design of them and all of the targeted grammar stuff will be gone forever. Then we can say we will have grown up as teachers.

  3. Ben (and everyone else!),
    I finally got my hands on Krashen’s ‘The Power of Reading’! Very exciting to read some of the very compelling research that goes into our determined escape from the Termite Tower. I am still on such a ‘high’ of pure excitement – I am finally leaving behind the years of frustration! I look forward to the challenges of this method that is truly beautiful in its simplicity…
    You recently had made a quick, parenthetical remark here on the blog (I can’t find it!) along the lines of, ‘why aren’t there any interesting beginning-level readers out there!’…that comment, coupled with what I am reading about Krashen’s research into FVR, brings me to this thought:
    If reading is THAT important (and it is), then perhaps some blog brainstorming is called for: brainstorming about what story ideas, story elements, etc. would make good beginner reader material. I, personally, would love to write compelling (to the point of getting the reader into Csikszentmihalyi FLOW!) beginning reader material, but perhaps this is a very lofty goal! My first brainstorm on this idea is that most likely a GREAT reader would have to include compelling art to help pull in the reader and make things comprehensible…in other words, the ideal may be the ‘children’s book format’ but subject matter geared to middle/high school readers…perhaps a beginner reader MANGA/COMIC BOOK style? Just a thought.
    Any one final thought/question: Ben, you mentioned today on the blog (and yesterday in an email response to me) that the catch 22 for all this reading stuff is that the auditory foundation must be there first. This sounds absolutely correct on an intuitive level, but I was just wondering if you can expand on that thought and/or its origins in research/personal experience. Is that somewhere in the rest of Krashen’s book and I just haven’t gotten there yet, or…? This whole idea of ‘reading is everything’ coupled with ‘auditory input first is (obviously) TPRS in a nutshell.
    Okay, one last, related question: Would it be theoretically possible to have a highly compelling beginner reader that lends itself to self-study (FVR) without necessarily having that auditory foundation? (I’d love one for me to help me with reading Japanese – not much chance in my life right now to hear it).
    The vison: have a vast (wow, that’s a very idealistic word) library of highly compelling beginner reader material available for my students that is at the level they need, that is not a bunch of Spanish language children’s books, and that is not just (forgive me on this one!…) filled with readers as boring looking as Pobre Ana (ouch, sorry!…high schoolers and…well, many of us still slip up and judge a book by its cover…okay maybe its contents aren’t so exciting either), and that is not given PQA specifically targeted to that story (because there are SO many of these compelling readers in out class library that I, the teacher, couldn’t possibly PQA all of them!!…)

  4. ps I made that last post (above) on this older blog topic since Krashen, quoted above, mentions the idea of readers based on non-targeted comprehensible input. He also mentioned the idea of FLOW…good stuff above! Read it all again!

      1. Ah, funny how language is (or how my mind isn’t!): I took “non-targeted” NOT as no target structures (a key part of TPRS stories as you have showed us), but as meaning having the goal of CI without using any planned pacing guide of arbitrarily chosen thematic vocabulary units.

  5. Brian I’m not a research guy and my opinions are largely intuitive and/or based on my classroom experience, so it just seems true that kids new to the language, as is true with small children, would go to their sound database when reading. But then I don’t know the research at all.
    I don’t know on the Japanese question. I do know that Diana has repeated to us over and over that we need to be doing a lot more FVR than we do. When thinking about your question my mind keeps going back to the sound piece.
    Last point there in your last paragraph – I say we still need a communal reader, something to unite us all in an interesting endeavor, something we could backwards plan for. That book, those books, don’t exist yet.

    1. Thank you Ben for your candid response about research vs. intuition based on classroom experience…there is a very valid place for both. I hear so much truth in your ideas…but then again, that’s just my hunch 😉

  6. Brian, thank you for saying something I have thought for a while. As methodologically sound (easily understood, full of repetition) as Arme Anna et al. may be, they are actually pretty boring as story. It gets a bit harder each year to maintain the enthusiasm for reading in the face of my students’ rejection of the story, plot, characters, etc. Other books follow the same basic outline as Arme Anna. While “x has a problem, x goes to 1 and can’t solve the problem, x goes to 2 and can’t solve the problem, x goes to 3 and solves the problem” works for live storyasking because we are constantly moving away from the plot and returning and our students are “creating” the story, it doesn’t work for reading unless the story itself is compelling.
    Blaine and his writers/translators have, however, done us a great service by providing a start (but only a start) because it is incredibly difficult to write a compelling story that also meets the methodological and paedagogical criteria. I know because I’ve done it for upper levels. (I teach a unit on the Middle Ages in level 4/AP, and I wrote my own reader for the unit because there was nothing out there. A colleague at El Toro and I piloted it, and my students said they enjoyed it – but then maybe they were just being nice. My colleague’s students also liked it and commented that it was nice to have a book that was “actually interesting”.) A good starting point might be a series of short stories (not mini-stories). Maybe not, though. COACH, the group I work with here in California, has written a short story that we have adapted to Spanish, German and French. It revolves around a theft in an art gallery (Prado in Madrid, Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and Georges Pompidou in Paris, respectively) that is solved thanks to evidence gathered unwittingly by a group of students. It’s for upper-level students (just like my book). I’ll be using the story in my class this year. I’ve also started investigating other readers. Klett has some good ones, but not really for true beginners in the early days. Michael Miller has Hilde und Günter, and my level 2 students enjoyed reading the level 1 book on their own. Gerhard Maroscher has also published collections of short stories – but I haven’t read them yet. Sabine Lewis from OK State has some readers, but I haven’t had the opportunity to look at them. (These are all German readers)
    I would be interested in what might come about, but I am so involved in other things that I don’t know if I would have time to do much. At iFLT Karen Rowan talked about writing books. I remember one statement that she made because I disagree with it. Karen said, “If you think the story is interesting, it will be too difficult for your students.” What she should have said is, “If you think the language is interesting, it will be to difficult for your students.” I set out to write a story that had interesting characters, a compelling story line, verisimilitude and enough “hooks” – both in terms of capturing interest and in providing springboards to discussion and exploration – to promote rigor and relevance of instruction. I believe I succeeded. BTW, I have since discovered that I can use this book as an “organizer” for fully half of the AP German Language and Culture course I teach.
    BTW, there have been numerous people who have “learned” a foreign language through reading. At some point they have received aural input or come to some extremely strange pronunciations, to the point of not being understood when speaking. I learned to read Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but I wouldn’t be at all comfortable trying to speak any of them. We just have to keep our goals clear – I wanted to read the Bible and early Christian writers in the original languages, so my course of study was suited to that goal. (My experiences with learning languages for different purposes is one of the reasons I always try to start conversations about methods, results, etc. with the question, “Why – to what purpose – are we teaching our language?” The answer to that has an immense influence on how we teach.)

    1. I know of a book that is compelling and 100% comprehensible. And it can be used in any language. It’s “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan. It’s a graphic novel with no text. I’ve tried using it with students and we have long discussions about each image. Of course, that’s not reading, but I’m wondering about writing up the story after our discussion as an embedded reading.

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