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24 thoughts on “ELA/TPRS – 10”

  1. Sorry to miss the obvious, but how would TPRS be any different for teaching English Language Learners? Look at the hi-frequency lists and proceed accordingly, no? The only difference I see is if there is a group of Ss from different/multiple language backgrounds so that establishing meaning in a single alternative language is not a viable option.
    This is actually fine, so long as meaning is established through pictures, gestures, props, etc. A (picture) dictionary with the English and the native language doesn’t hurt, either.
    At my school we have a set of 3rd grade twins from Europe that just arrived and scored very low on whatever intake battery they were given. Long story short, the district ELL person has not begun to service them yet, so they’ve been coming to Spanish class with the rest of their cohort. The support I offer to make the Spanish language comprehensible (visuals, props, gestures, expressions, repetition, a story line, narrow language, humor, song, fun, etc.) is helping them acquire Spanish! (Granted, they’re missing the establishing meaning through direct translation piece.)
    Another example: I speak Hebrew. Israel has a specialized language class for new immigrants called Ulpan. They are often filled with immigrants from all over the world! 17 klanguages were represented in my Ulpan class, and not everyone could resort to English. This is the norm in many other countries, and certainly in many US ESL classes.
    What am I missing here? We can use TPRS for all the other languages we teach – why any different considerations for English? The students would hopefully have that much more incidental comprehensible input through interactions with peers on the playground, TV shows, road signs, conversations and transactions with clerks, waiters, bus drivers, etc. Hopefully these highly contextualized experiences would support their acquisition (like it supported our L2 when we first traveled).
    To our native speakers of languages other than English, ELL is just another world language.

  2. I agree with Alisa. TPRS works great for the first few years. ELL kids are getting a lot more English exposure than 45-50/day as do FL students which changes the scenario a lot. Kids who have a high-intermediate comprehension and production level (even though they have low academic proficiency) do not need TPRS; they need good CI/Sheltered-content instruction and lots and lots of FVR.
    I always get a little confused about who you’re talking about, Ben. English Language Learners are an extremely broad group of students who arrive in this country at all different ages, many of them born here, many not, with widely disparate levels of native-language academic proficiency–preliterate, illiterate, low literacy, high literacy, etc.
    If a student has just arrived in this country in high school, TPRS would be the best tool available to acquire English for a couple of periods a day. If a student has just arrived in middle school, the same. If a student comes in the lower grades, a few periods of TPRS can work wonders. TPRS is great for any AGE. Remember, kids are hearing English from many teachers, some other students, and it is all around them in signage, Facebook, etc.
    However, if a student has been in U.S. schools since Kindergarten or beyond, AND is now in high school, that is a very different scenario. They may have very low academic proficiency, but are speakers of English (very likely non standard and non academic, but still English), and I don’t believe TPRS would be appropriate.
    So, who are the students you are talking about?
    So, who are you talking about?

  3. I’m talking about all kids. For those new, lots of all three steps would seem to fit the bill, as you suggest above Jody. For those who have been here for a number of years, I would shift the focus to massive reading and writing, Step 3 and then on into output.
    I am confused myself because I don’t know what they do in ELA classes for the second group you describe above, that wide variety of kids who have been here awhile. I just never studied that. But I hear that such kids feel stupid, don’t get much of a return on the time they spend in class, are forced to do output they are not ready to do, and have to read up instead of reading down, to use Michele’s term.
    I want a solution that works for both groups. I need the group’s expertise on that. If the group says there is none, I will drop it. But when I think about what we do, and what I hear is done in the ELA classes, I want to make a bridge and carry some TPRS supplies and provisions over to them because I think they could use some of what we have.
    I’ll try anything, because the #1 core principle at work on this PLC has always been to explore ways to bring success to kids. That’s really all I care about now. So should I drop it Jody, or keep trying to figure out ways to use TPRS with both groups you describe above?

  4. I am following this thread in a lurking yet rather obsessive manner. I have wanted to try teaching English in this way. I don’t really understand the various acronyms ELL, ELA, ESL, ESOL???? I actually just applied for a job to teach adult learners, “beginning level” English. I have no idea what this means, of course. There was not a big description. With any luck I will at least get an interview. And I am in the same mindset as Alisa describes above, where I don’t see why TPRS / CI is any different other than the establishing meaning piece.
    I’m interested in ways I can learn more and maybe make myself more marketable in this arena. I don’t know if it’s even possible in a school setting, with all of the hoops to jump through and the shackles of all the testing.
    I rely heavily on Jody’s and Judy’s wisdom and experience.

  5. I guess one thing that keeps popping up as I surf around various websites trying to check out programs ( not that websites are an awesome source, but…). Is THE SAME THING WE KEEP SEEING IN L2 PROGRAMS!!! “Beginning level includes the alphabet, basic greetings and vocabulary.” Ugh.

    1. …“Beginning level includes the alphabet, basic greetings and vocabulary.” ….
      jen the outdated (from the last century) course descriptions like the one above that are still out there in abundance contrast sharply with what Catharina wrote for her French program with little kids:
      …In Lower School French class we mimic as closely as possible the process by which children acquire their first language. The children are immersed in a language-rich environment made comprehensible through the use of body language, visual aids and abundant repetition in a variety of contexts. The teacher uses mainly story-based activities to bring the language to life. Through careful scaffolding of new and recycled words, and ample repetition, the children acquire a foundation of basic vocabulary, and simple useful phrases….
      Hear that rocking noise over there on the East Coast? That’s our elementary TPRS rock star Catharina Greenberg rockin’ the house.

      1. I can’t resist providing all of Catharina’s course descriptions for all the little kid levels she teaches:
        In Nursery the children are introduced to French through hands-on experiential instruction. The students acquire the language while participating in interactive age appropriate activities. A typical lesson will include some of the following: puppets, movement, imaginative play, games, music, and drawing. The focus is mainly on listening, and understanding what is said.
        In Kindergarten French class the main instructional focus continues to be on listening comprehension. To engage the students, and make the learning memorable, the instruction is based on the children’s environment, family, school, friends, and fantasy world. The class relies on basic vocabulary and simple language structures which the children become familiar with over time. A typical lesson may include puppets, movement, imaginative play, games, music, drawing, and storytelling.
        First grade:
        In first grade French class we continue to work on the children’s receptive language skill of listening comprehension. A typical lesson will include meaningful and personalized conversations, storytelling, music, movement, and a variety of hands-on activities. The instruction is based on topics of interest to the students, as we work in an atmosphere of “comprehensible” immersion to promote and accelerate the acquisition of French.
        Second grade:
        In second grade French class the underlying teaching philosophy continues to be based on comprehensible input. The emphasis is on listening, understanding, and responding, as the children engage in simple conversations within the limits of familiar contexts like their immediate environment. The students are given multiple opportunities to use their language skills in a wider range of practical settings.
        Third grade:
        In third grade French class we continue to provide the students with meaningful and comprehensible language. The children engage in conversations on topics related to their interests, family, friends, and community. A typical lesson may include a variety of story-based and hands-on activities, music and movement. While the students are given multiple opportunities to use their language skills, they are also taught how to best “learn” a language within the limits of a classroom setting.
        [Note: most elementary programs will describe “what they cover” each year – colors, numbers, farm animals – without explaining their approach or instructional strategies. It makes parents feel confident. Their kids are learning something that is tangible, measurable, similar to the way they learned.
        Some elementary schools that “do” TPRS, clearly struggle with the method or how to briefly describe it. It most often sounds like a mixed bag of different approaches, with TPRS thrown in to cover all bases.]

        1. Absolutely Sean! What I wrote, I borrowed from all of you.
          In particular Robert Harrell’s “Scope and Sequence”. A masterpiece.
          In the course description I was asked not to mention TPRS and TCI or any specific method and limit the blurb to 5-6 sentences. Quite a challenge for me!

  6. Sorry for the multiple posts, but is this true? “Equally exercised across content areas daily?” My gut says no. Stephen Krashen says no. But maybe there is something I am missing???
    “The domains of language acquisition, Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening need to be equally exercised across content areas daily. Assuring that students are using all domains of language acquisition to support their English language development is essential.”
    Found it in an article: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-english-language-learners-ayanna-cooper

  7. Input and vast amounts of it must precede output. Most language teachers continue to stupidly focus on output because all we talked about was the four skills in the last century. We talked about those four skills as needing equal time until it became a petrified block of concrete in the minds of most teachers. Plus it made them feel powerful as they got to be the only ones who spoke the language, and many of them horribly, in a group of literally tongue tied speakers and writers who were thousands of hours away from being able to really speak or write. That power went to their heads. They got to be the smartest kid in the room! Then toward the end of the century Krashen came along and gave some very good reasons to focus only on the two output skills. Nobody listened, because they got to be the smartest ones, and because they had the textbook lobby on their side, nudging them along to spend untold millions on things that didn’t work, and here we are, having ridiculous conversations with dinosaurs like the one with the ACTFL Language “Educators” from a few months ago, as we try to align our instruction with 21st century ideas, yet feeling oddly out of place while doing so. It will change, but y’all have to collectively go teach some more classes for us to get there. A lot more classes. Each class will take a little chip out of the concrete. So keep chipping away and go teach another class and get better at this. Slowly the truth will out. It has a way of doing that. That’s the good part.

  8. Jen, here is my plan on how to use TPRS with people new to the language:
    1. Stories build personalization. Personalization builds community. Being included in a classroom community builds confidence. Inclusion reduces isolation and shaming.
    2. For kids who have been here awhile and have a handle on the auditory piece but are illiterate, stories can be minimized in terms of auditory input to create lots of time for reading of the stories, and esp. embedded reading. For those kids, TPRS Step 3 can reign in an ELA classroom, but the first two steps would set that all up.
    3. Writing could then become like a fourth step in an ELA program based on TPRS.
    4. Cell phones and online dictionaries can solve the problem of multi-languages in one classroom. The child need only look up the word in his own online language dictionary.
    5. Students constantly “read down” to use Michele’s term. This produces more reading, and in an ELA classroom there is nothing more valuable than more reading.
    Jen if anyone in the group can write a letter recommending you we should do so. I can just see you in that ELA position, applying what you know about language acquisition in the form of stories to those GRATEFUL kids who NEED the language instead of the largely unmotivated kids many of us are dealing with in our urban and suburban classes. I think a whole flock of us should explore the ELA thing. Why? Because of the gratitude we would see. One year in Myrtle Beach High School (SC) I shared my knowledge of English with a group of kids from Vietnam who all had been here for less than a year and had no language skills. I hadn’t heard about stories yet, but even without stories, teaching those kids was a dream, the best teaching I had ever done. The reason is that they were motivated. Motivation is such a factor in our work. So go for it jen. This could really work! And by sharing your new journey with us we can learn things and we can get that bridge between TPRS and ELA built. Slowly people will start using it. Why? Because what we do works in second language acquisition and what is being done in ELA is spotty at best, unless I am wrong and then somebody needs to tell me why I am wrong and then I will get off this horse.

  9. Regarding the discussion on English language learners, I recall an idea I learned about in grad school (20+ yrs ago!) theorized by Jim Cummins* out of Toronto. It was called the BICS/CALP dichotomy. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills vs Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. This construct asks us to look at students’ face to face social language skills as compared to their school subject language skills, and consider how language demands increase as academic content grows more abstract and less contextualized. Take a look at this graphic:
    Notice how quadrants A and B, the top two quadrants, list tasks that have embedded supports or context (B less than A). If you’re ordering at McDonald’s there are pictures right in front of you and you can point to the number and /or you have an interlocutor with whom to negotiate meaning, the server.
    Compare the top quadrants with the context-reduced academic tasks in the bottom two quadrants, the typical school/academic language tasks. Not only is the academic language itself more challenging & complex and less contextualized, but as students move through the system, they are expected to be more & more independent, (no one with whom to negotiate meaning) and with fewer visual aids. Fewer pictures, fewer manipulatives, fewer gestures, less dramatic expression on the part of the teacher as compared to early schooling.
    The solution? High interest + low language! Scaffold scaffold scaffold!! Voila T/CI!!
    A student coming from an L2 home with few or no English literacy materials or English speaking family members to lend academic support could appear to have decent face to face English, but as we can see from the chart, can have really impoverished CALP. Ben saw this in his high school classes, right?
    *Google BICS CALP Cummins for more articles.

  10. I am interested in the conversation on using TPRS/CI with ESL/EAL. I teach a small group of Mexican women in Mexico during the winter months. I am also just beginning to work with East Indian immigrants in Winnipeg. I am absolutely convinced re the value of this method, and I have been incorporating it to the best of my ability. I think Ben said earlier in this thread that personalization is the key focus in these situations. I agree. The women I work with in Mexico are selling jewelry on the beach for income and our vocabulary and circling and reading (a small story I wrote) and games were largely centered on that topic.
    I had the privilege to study under Sabrina in France just recently, and her reminder that “students, comprehensible input, and repetition are the three things you need to keep in mind and you are good” applies to all language acquisition. “Students are your curriculum.” (I’m keeping that in mind, Sabrina. 🙂 )
    I would love to hear from others that are working with adults. I am taking quite a personal approach with the East Indian teaching, and in the very beginning stages. There is a large contingency of immigrants in my area, including taxi drivers and neighbours. I have been in communication with both, and there is definitely a interest. Step by step. Doing research this week re good location.

  11. So Jolyn you are clearly doing very strong work there. My only addition to what Sabrina said is that when we trust in serendipity and keep things slightly in the realm of what we might call “the personalized bizarre” then things will take off. I feel that too many teachers thing that they are teaching the language and so their desire to use the basic skills of TPRS like Slow/Pausing and Circling supersedes the desire to talk from the heart and really find out about the people they are instructing.

    1. Thank you. You are so right. When I was teaching in the open coaching in France, I could see that clearly. Everything in me wants to have something to fall back, something concrete. But when I “let go” and enter into relating with the students and truly care about them and let the nature of relationship and communication lead, I can feel how much better the dynamics are and how much more potential there is. (But does it have to be bizarre? 🙂 )

      1. No, it doesn’t have to be “bizarre” in a weird and utterly impossible sort of way. It does have to be memorable, i.e. something that genuinely interests the kids. Sometimes news stories will give you ideas for “bizarre” that is true. For example, earlier this summer there was a news article about a singer who was flying on Ryan Air. Because a second bag would have cost him a huge amount of money, he put on 12 layers of clothes before boarding the aircraft. Unfortunately for him, he overheated and passed out – and no doubt paid a great deal more than the extra baggage allowance. On the other hand, students also like to hear about the unusual thing that happened to you over the weekend, like going to Costco and bumping into Justin Bieber. (And yes, things like that do happen.)
        The theory behind “bizarre” as an element of TPRS is the fact that we remember the unusual but not the routine. By associating language with something unusual, the idea is that students will remember it better. I’m not certain if that is true, but bizarre/unusual also helps hold student attention – and that is definitely a plus for learning and acquisition.

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