Five Things to Throw Out of TPRS

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115 thoughts on “Five Things to Throw Out of TPRS”

  1. This is sure to spark some good convo and differing opinions. Mine . . .

    I agree with the sentiment of much said: Acquisition happens unconsciously from understanding the meaning and natural, real communication is the ideal. I myself have made many of the points above. But things are more nuanced. . .

    Before I break it down, lets try to understand what we mean by a method and what we mean by “TPRS.” . . .

    What makes TPRS so unique is how it is a “living method.” It has evolved and continues to evolve. This also confuses, because you have to stay up to date. There is actually no need to “change” TPRS. At the same time there is no need to have to teach with the current form of TPRS. In other words, our evolution does not have to be the TPRS evolution. Instead, we have just adopted a different method, our own personal method, with lots of overlap with TPRS for sure.

    TPRS as a method exists as it is outlined in Ray & Seely’s book. That includes a certain type of syllabus (organized around “structures” as awkwardly defined by Ray & Seely), certain activities (e.g. collaborative storytelling) certain steps (3), and certain classroom behaviors (e.g. circling and targeting).

    Echoing BVP’s advice, I highly recommend we go read Chapter 2 of Richards & Rogers (1986).

    Basically, the conceptualization is this: A method has a specific approach (theory), specific design (plan), and a specific procedure (classroom behaviors).
    Method = Approach, Design, Procedure

    You can use a different procedure (e.g. non-targeting) and a different design (e.g. objectives, content, syllabus), but now you are no longer doing TPRS as it is currently defined. That is okay. There is no need for everyone to have the SAME method with the same objectives, syllabus, content, steps, and activities. The whole point is to decide on your theoretical principles (approach) and then personalize your design and procedure based on your teaching conditions to come up with your OWN method.

    Teachers get caught up in this stuff at the level of classroom practice. But we’d all benefit if we worked backwards from principles of language, SLA, communication, motivation, etc. (the approach). From an approach, teachers can derive their own design and procedures. They’ll end up with all three (approach, design, and procedure), forming their own “method.”

    TPRS in its current form can still exist and be THE method, the one used more as a bridge between “traditional instruction” and communicative approaches or as a way of coping and compromising in a traditional department.

    I had a breakthrough in my own understanding last week when trying to make sense of BVP’s not-so-informative episode on methods 😉 I now see all of our work under the umbrella of APPROACHES: “Comprehension-Based Language Teaching,” or “Comprehension Approaches (notice it’s plural).”

    All Comprehension Approaches share the principle that language acquisition happens from comprehension.

    And Comprehension Approaches are at the same time forms of Communicative Approaches, because they share the principle that communication is what drives acquisition (comprehension is communication).

    My version of a Comprehension Approach can be said to consist of the following principles (and more):
    1) Theory of language: Universal Grammar (what BVP presented as “language knowledge is abstract”)
    2) Theory of language acquisition: input processing (comprehending input) is the first step
    3) Theory of communication: meaning-based, strong form (not basing communication around pre-selected linguistic items)

    Much like “Communicative Language Teaching,” or “Communicative Approaches,” Comprehension Approaches are not methods – there is no specific design and procedure. In other words, there are LOTS of ways to organize and implement comprehension-based language teaching.

    I work from my version of a Comprehension Approach and get into my Design:
    1) Objective: prioritize basic oral proficiency
    2) Syllabi: subject content driven (students & stories), not linguistic content driven
    3) Activity types: collaborative storytelling, Q&A, etc.

    And my Procedure would START with communication in the first step and teacher behaviors would include many of those TPRS “skills” that are really just classifications of ways to make ourselves comprehensible and compelling.

    1. TPRS as a “living method” is fascinating. I love watching the conversation.

      You gladiators battle for the best instructional practices and I get to 1. copy 🙂 and 2. be entertained.

    2. Eric you wrote:

      And my Procedure would START with communication in the first step and teacher behaviors would include many of those TPRS “skills” that are really just classifications of ways to make ourselves comprehensible and compelling.

      And Ben recently write that he thinks newbies to CI can jump into the deep end of the pool and take off the swimmies. I also believe that people can be trained to jump right in. How would that happen? Dunno exactly. They would need to see examples of non-targeted CI happening, and then learn about these “ways to make ourselves comprehensible and compelling.”

      And many of those “ways” are in Ben’s books.

      Way one: go slow.
      Way two: point and pause
      Way three: personalization
      Way four: run with compelling diversions

      I now have a lot to think about. I am planning a presentation for the COFLT/WAFLT conference in October (which looks to be stacking up a LOT of great presentations. We tentatively have Krashen, Karen Rowan, Carol Gaab, and I think WAFLT is bringing Martina Bex, plus we also have other non-paid folks presenting…if YOU who are reading this are interested, please let me know!). My presentation is going to be called “Routines and Materials to Boost Your TL Communication” or something like that. It will focus on non-TPRS CI strategies to make classroom routines and day-to-day communication comprehensible and interesting.

      I have been thinking about this all year, because sometimes my kids can get a whole period of input that is totally unplanned and just about the routines and what is going on with the kids and their imaginations and their lives. I love those days and I want to help my friends to have them too. SO much reward for SO little effort/planning. I believe that teachers should not plan too much now because think of the years we spent and invested in learning. Shouldn’t there come a time when we get to enjoy the fruits of all that and kind of roll on all that steam? PLUS I am a firm, firm believer in working for eight hours per day and enjoying weekends.


      At least teaching like I do means that I have the mental space to think about bigger things like philosophy and not just “What will we do in third period on Tuesday?”

  2. Now, to address the 5 items in Ben’s “trash.”

    1) Throw out a Scope & Sequence focusing on linguistic items – YES.
    Throw out lesson planning – that’s one option, but not the only one. You can also adjust what that planning consists of (not based on linguistic items). Depends on how “organic” you want to be and depends on your teaching experience and skill.

    2) Circling as a practice – DIE! Circling presented as the types/levels of questions available to a teacher – YES. Not sure any TPRS training promotes mechanical circling as good practice, but of course there can be a difference between the trainer’s intentions and what the attendees come away with understanding about TPRS.

    “question in any way that puts the language second and communication first” – YES.

    3) PQA is an OPTIONAL activity as it is currently described in the TPRS methods book. Although, there is a conflicting message in the book. That back page 3-step chart lists “Personalize the vocabulary” as part of Step 1, although within the pages of the book it clearly says that PQA is not a mandatory part of Step 1.

    Q&A doesn’t have to be just the true, personal stuff. It can be the fictional pets, etc. the students have – what TWaltz calls “Customization.”

    4) Once again, the gesturing and even the pre-teaching of words before the story is OPTIONAL as described in the pages of the methods book (see p. 36). In fact, there it says that they think it’s more efficient to not use gestures and to not pre-teach words. But also, once again, there is a conflicting message: that darn back flap of the book. Of course, we should still be establishing meaning when necessary via translation.

    5) I am all for “sheltering,” not targeting. This comes back to letting communication come first, language second. Not planning around “structures.” BUT, let’s say you pick the video clip you want to MovieTalk or you pick the type of story you want to ask, but then some words become necessary to know in order to be able to tell/ask that story. And those words may get lots of reps as a byproduct of communication. And they’ll also get reps, because you will be limiting the number of new sounds in order to be comprehensible. Just to be clear: I do not consider that “targeting.”

    * From what I can see in Blaine’s classroom demo videos he is on the same page as Ben – he’s already thrown out those 5 things. Were there then problems of articulation in the methods books and workshops – not describing what Blaine actually does? Or was it purposeful so as to have something more concrete that traditional teachers could grasp?

    Also, frequency-based decisions are taken care of by actual communication. The only reason it makes sense to say that you are going to design lessons around words from a frequency list (btw a list that was not decided based on communicative needs in your classroom) is when we are talking about “traditional instruction.” If you are going to explicitly teach and have kids memorize and do output practice of vocabulary, then best to choose words that are higher frequency. Otherwise, just let communicative needs take care of word selection. I totally agree that we should follow the interest.

    * My understanding of the history is that the term “TCI” was originally motivated by reasons not pertaining to the design and procedure of the method.

    On syllabi and consciousness: Krashen himself having already laid out his theory, then co-authored the Natural Approach, in which he supported a syllabus organized around situations, topics, and functions. So to say that aligning with Krashen means no syllabus is to say that Krashen did not align with HIMSELF when he wrote the Natural Approach.

    It would serve us well to maintain the distinction between teaching and learning, i.e. what a teacher does and what a learner does (or what happens to a learner internally). To say that acquisition is an unconscious process is a statement about the learner. Likewise, for acquisition to happen, the meaning of the words must be understood, which again focuses on the learner.

    Such statements do not make any claims about “teacher planning,” i.e. objectives, content, or syllabi. Certainly, Krashen supports bilingual schooling and content-based instruction, which requires plenty of planning and a syllabus. It’s just that the planning is not in terms of a grammatical syllabus.

    Common sense tells us that the teacher who uses lesson plans (e.g. like Ben uses his sequence in his post “I Never Think”) to know what to communicate, prepares texts (e.g. embedded readings) and activities (e.g. VPQA) to scaffold the communication, and has a scope and sequence including which novels to read, will be just as successful as another teacher to the extent that the communication is compelling and, most importantly, comprehensible. We can still talk of Scopes & Sequences, just shouldn’t be supporting ones that are “structural” – driven by what vocabulary and grammar to teach.

    And actually, theoretically speaking, so long as the learner comprehends then there is intake (potential then for acquisition). That includes when the learner CONSCIOUSLY focuses on form in order to get meaning, e.g. the learner looks to the end of the verb and applies his knowledge that “o” means “I” in order to process the verb. Krashen would never say those words publicly, since he’d fear the leeway it would give people to include more explicit instruction. But his theory allows it. Of course, it’s not the conscious attention and awareness of the learner that matters to acquisition. That does not directly cause acquisition, but it’s effect could be facilitatory.

    This is something brain studies could shine some light on. I know there are already some studies suggesting that explicit instruction does not lead to native-like brain responses and that explicit learning may even hinder acquisition, but I think we are far away from conclusive evidence. And either way, it’s not examining the effect of a pop-up, which is more like what I’m talking about.

    In the outside world, it’s pretty hard to focus on form and meaning at the same time, especially given the speech rate. But we make that more possible in our classrooms when we speak slowly and are so repetitive. It would be really insightful to observe relative long-term gains of comprehension-based classrooms with and without grammar pop-ups and follow classes at different proficiency levels and learner ages.

    1. “This comes back to letting communication come first, language second. Not planning around ‘structures.’
      Such a great point, and so well said. This made a light bulb turn on for me.

  3. I see why Ben and Steven Krashen and many other phenomenal educators make the brave and difficult choice to cast off burdensome target structures. I am also concerned that target structures make speech less authentic—not truly conversational.

    That said, I never felt completely comfortable with not having target structures and I’ve finally been able to identify why: target structures give kids language. They give language needed to comprehend and respond to a story.

    Yes, putting target words in kids’ mouths is the definition of a contrived story. However, for me it’s a necessary evil to provide language when co-creating stories and embedded texts with a wide range of ability levels.

    More advanced students may pick up other incidental vocabulary, but all students can fall back on the target structures to comprehend the story. Instead of focusing on, circling, and planning around targets, this article suggests students “notice” target structures while they focus on the story.

    When students are introduced to target structures “they will be more likely to notice it when they are listening or reading. Current theories claim that noticing is essential for the development of implicit knowledge.”
    Noticing helps students—as long as they aren’t focused on the target structures; they are focused on a fun story. They notice target structures that they use to better understand a compelling story. The focus stays on the story when (as Ben suggests) we don’t circle. Circling interrupts the story and puts the focus on the targets. Just tell a compelling story and allow students of all ability levels to participate in story-asking and retell process using the target words.

    Briefly explaining, then allowing students to “notice” naturally-occurring words helpful for understanding the story may be similar to Eric’s explanation of “sheltering.” The essential thing is the focus on the story, not the structures.

    Another article confirms what we already know: students reading interesting, comprehensible text show gains in incidental vocabulary acquisition.

    The study found that students without target vocabulary “learned much incidentally, just from listening to an interesting story”… their comprehension of incidental vocabulary increased by 15%. However, incidental vocabulary acquisition when students were given “brief accompanying explanations of the target words, were (the) most impressive. Here the average gains were nearly 40%”

    One thing is clear: both with and without target structures, high interest stories promote incidental vocabulary acquisition. Ben’s kids are learning. My kids are learning. We’re all okay.

    The only clear difference between TPRS with and without targets: it takes more courage not to use target structures. Casting off target structures, Scope and Sequence, and circling makes you, Ben, an innovative and courageous educator.

    1. Thank you Beth. I’m not that courageous. I’m scared a lot of the time. Like, really a lot. I’ve done a lot of healing in my life from stuff through this work, just going into the classroom. Any video of me doing TPRS – I’m scared.

      Not targeting structures is for me part of my own journey in this work. It helps me heal in some odd way. It helps me because it requires me to trust, which is an issue for me. Just hanging it all out there and not knowing what is going to happen is the way I NEED to do TPRS.

      Lance said, “Just think about what you’re saying as presented to an undergrad, MAT student, or graduate program director…”.

      I really want to say, “Yes, you are right!” to Lance’s comment. But I can’t. I think that non-targeted comprehensible input is by far the best way to do TPRS. Krashen is not stupid. I would invite people to watch a video I am in the process of preparing where I teach a class with no targets.

      I would invite others to consider it. It’s really so much easier and freeing. But to do it we have to let go of our need to control and just trust the storytelling process. Oh no oh no oh me oh my! Bob Patrick and John Piazza and I have talked a lot about this. Angie and jen are all over this. I think it’s the way to go.

      Try it. Walk on the wild side. You’ll be surprised. You’ll see something.

    2. Claire I don’t agree with this:

      …target structures give kids language. They give language needed to comprehend and respond to a story….

      I think that target structures don’t really do that. I think that they learn what they want, not what we plan for them. As per Krashen, the learner progresses when she receives second language ‘input’ that is one step beyond her current stage of linguistic capacity. We don’t set that up, it just happens during a story if we are using our intuition to gauge where our students are in the process and speak at that speed and vocabulary level. We don’t target structures in first language acquisition and it works pretty well.

      1. Good point. There are other ways to support language: go slowly, stay in bounds, use visuals, props, cognates, etc. Target structures might not be necessary in situations where you are able to give 100% of students i+1 or 90% comprehensibility, 90% of the time—because all students are generally at the same ability level. I am going to try this with my French class, which is a homogenous group of all beginners where I can go slowly and target my barometer student while still generally challenging most of the class.

        Not needing target structures is an ideal situation.

        However, there are times when we can’t give all students i+1 at the same time because the language that would be comprehensible to Student A is vastly different than the language that would provide i+1 for Student B (including sufficient challenge for higher students). I suggest using target structures when necessary to scaffold. If we eliminate target structures completely from TPRS, we exclude the possibility of teaching a group of students with a wide range of ability levels. For various reasons, that would mean most ESL classrooms would be excluded from using TPRS. That would be a shame.

        1. …if we eliminate target structures completely from TPRS, we exclude the possibility of teaching a group of students with a wide range of ability levels….

          Not if the input is compelling and understood by the barometer student. I have a fluent kid (verbally) in a beginning class. He is very happy to listen to a story in slow motion (to him). But it has to be interesting.

          I believe that target structures are vastly overrated. Vastly so. And we’re all buying into it.

          1. Ben, like your kid in class, *I* enjoy listening to stories in beginning French and Spanish TPRS classes, and they are WAAAY below my level. Heck, I sometimes enjoy watching Sesame Street in English and I can assure you I am far beyond that level. Why? TPRS and Sesame Street are often pretty funny. I like funny stuff. We do not have to be “challenged” all the time to have a good time.

            Also, from what I know of SLA which admittedly is not as much as many people here, there is really no way of knowing what a learner is ready for in their own order of acquisition. So even if we THINK we are providing i+1, there is no way to know for sure. Therefore providing a flood of non-targeted comprehensible input is the best way to present enough linguistic data to meet more kids’ needs since they are all at different spots. I would love to be schooled by someone on this understanding. It is important to me but it’s just gelling in my mind.

          2. And how many of them are there? If there are just a few of them, it would seem that providing them with the +1 would make it not “C” for the rest of the students. Maybe reading independently or giving them other tasks like being the story/quiz kid would be best.

          3. These are essential questions that ESL teachers struggle with daily, Tina. I appreciate you asking them-most people won’t bother trying to understand the strange things that happen when you combine ESL and TCI.

            Like you said, when you have one or two higher students, FL make alternate assignments to challenge them, but teach primarily to your beginners. I try to ability group and teach to my lowest group.

            Unlike FL, our program is restrained by federal mandates and state and local policies on class size, times served, what students can be pulled out of, etc. Often, ESL teachers have little or no control on grouping.

            We also have a wider range of abilities: many ELLs are native speakers who’ve been exposed to English since Kindergarten; one family just enrolled yesterday. Migrant populations get even more complicated.

            To put it in perspective: Imagine you had a combined class of 50% French I and 50% French IV.

            Who do you teach to? Do you teach up to French IV and risk frustrating and losing French I (which generally kills the fun in the room)? Do you teach down to French I so French IV would be having fun, but not growing? Consider that growth matters more in a second (not foreign) language. In ESL, no growth equals no diploma. No growth for half your students equals a non-renewed contract.

            Then imagine the kids start talking. French IV students excitedly start a back and forth to describe a conflict in the story using language that is almost completely incomprehensible to French I. Do you silence French IV? Immediately? Do they not get to talk in “French IV” French at all?
            If you don’t stop them, do you just let French I sit there? Then, you have incomprehensible input and a heightened affective filter. You also have one group of students who feel they can’t participate like the other group and your happy bubble of a cooperative learning environment pops.

            Imagine this is you all day, every period. You make lots of tough decisions always considering how you can provide the most i+1 possible to the greatest number of students.

            If I post crazy stuff here, I have an excuse. The ESL half of my job makes me a little crazy sometimes.

          4. I too have an ESOL endorsement and I have wondered how to use CI in ESOL. I would probably use GLAD strategies combined with storytelling through use of a Narrative Input chart. GLAD, I think, is designed so that the kids talk together and form “Expert Groups” and are sometimes talking in L1. A major difference in ESOL and FL is that in FL they will not be expected to get much more input outside of Room 23. In ESOL, we are giving them sort of a daily injection to push their acquisition along, and then they go out into the world and get a lot more exposure. Also, here at least, a big part of the ESOL teachers’ jobs is working with the classroom teachers and helping them to shelter language to make the mainstream classes more comprehensible to ELLs.

            I am very interested in how you use TPRS in an ESOL setting. Not having the same L1 would throw me for a loop.

          5. Tina! Will you be my ESOL/TCI BFF? It’s so nice to talk shop with someone who speaks my language.

            TPRS is only used for teaching BICS, but I am trying to use literacy to bridge up to intermediate students. I use SIOP with advanced students, and I could see GLAD fitting in within a larger SIOP framework to scaffold academic English.

            I like how you broke down “Ben’s way” to outline the key underpinnings of TCI –even if I can’t use TPRS with every English Language Learners, I can use the 4 scaffolds all day, every day:
            “Way one: go slow.
            Way two: point and pause
            Way three: personalization
            Way four: run with compelling diversions”

          6. Claire,
            This is a tricky formula. “i” is what they can produce. “+1” is what they can understand, but cannot yet produce. But it is not just anything and everything they cannot produce. It is only the next level beyond the where they are at for a feature (or several features). The problem is that we do not know what anyone’s brain is ready for. So the best we can do is cast a net a comprehensible input. In this input we expect that there will be “+1” for everyone.

            Separate Note:
            In the end, it is about production. “i” is what the Can Do and understand.
            “+1” is what they can understand, but Not Yet Do.
            ACTFL Can Do statements are in line with this to a certain extent. The problem is the temptation to take a short cut to the Can Do without sufficient CI.

          7. i+1 either refers to the next “structure” to be acquired (no good definition of “structure” provided by Krashen, especially since Krashen does not define a theory of language) or the next level of linguistic competence.

            I would be careful not to confuse competence (mental representation) with production.

            It’s also worth noting that +1 has to be made comprehensible by some means (e.g. context). And you can also make comprehensible what is beyond your stage i of competence.

            If you work from a UG perspective, there are certain parameters that when set will “restructure” your linguistic system such that multiple surface features are affected.

            Everyone accepts that there are stages and sequences and since people acquire at different rates, then everyone is at a different stage and sequence. Even assessing where one learner is at would be challenging. So, practically speaking, we just hope to give enough (without a definition of “enough”) input that is comprehended to help everyone.

          8. Thank you Nathaniel and Eric. It’s good for me to hear what you’re saying: it’s true -we have to cast a wide net. I realize i+1 is not an actual formula, but a model.

            I too hope to “give enough input that is comprehended by everyone.” That’s the goal for all of us, and I agree assessing exact abilities is impossible. I would have said we “guestimate” but of course Eric always knows how to word things beautifully.

            I won’t be restructing my linguistic system to include “multiple surface features” as you elegantly put it. Like I said I’m not as intellectual or even as good an educator as you are. I can only guess that by that you mean I need to vary my speech. I will continue to try to do this to the best of my (limitied) abilities.

        2. Claire, noticing is a slippery term and used by “interactionists” not by UG and CI theorists. You can read an excellent critique by John Truscott of noticing. Noticing is about a conscious process and means that you become aware of and register a form, but it does not mean you link it to a meaning. Noticing is not necessary to acquisition.

          I don’t follow your argument for target structures in order to provide i+1. It is precisely the opposite that Krashen argues for – i+1 for everyone is best with no targets!

          1. You had it right above 😉

            “providing a flood of non-targeted comprehensible input is the best way to present enough linguistic data to meet more kids’ needs since they are all at different spots.”

          2. Eric said:

            …Claire, noticing is a slippery term and used by “interactionists” not by UG and CI theorists. You can read an excellent critique by John Truscott of noticing….

            It is due to sentences like these that I would like to nominate Eric Herman for President of the United States.

          3. Thank you for sharing the article, but I’m not able to read the full text.
            I didn’t mean to reference the Noticing Hypothesis, which doesn’t actually suggest anything concrete enough to test so it’s almost not even a real hypothesis.

            I’m not a researcher, but I have seen how my kids notice unfamiliar words; they can glaze over many, but a one or two are repeated so frequently or are so central to the conversation, they will notice them. Why not anticipate those unfamiliar words that students will notice anyways if they help students access the story? Why not have those few essential words ready to explain: translated in my kids’ various L1s, a picture or realia, maybe investigate cognates in L1s or plan ways to circumvent.

            “I don’t follow your argument for target structures in order to provide i+1. It is precisely the opposite that Krashen argues for – i+1 for everyone is best with no targets!”

            I am not arguing for target structures to provide i+1. I do stand by my statement that occasionally when i+1 can not be provided, target structures are a “necessary evil.”

            As I said in my post, I’m 100% on board with Krashen’s i+1 without targets as an ideal situation.

            Perhaps because I’m new and I need what other describe as “training wheels” or perhaps because it’s especially hard with ESL’s wide range of ability levels: for whatever reason, I can not get at the perfectly balanced i+1 for every student, every day. Not yet.

          4. I don’t see how anyone with more than 1 student in a class can be sure of i+1 for every student all the time. Mixed abilities are in every class, though in much greater degree in ESL classes as you’ve pointed out, Claire. That would be very tough.

            Every class I teach has a range of comprehension even though they may have had the same hours with the same teacher as their only exposure to Chinese. So, I try to keep the barometer students comprehending, those who are still getting i+1 out of language they’ve heard all year (or more). For those who are superstars, I’m aiming for interest in what we’re discussing or reading, so if it’s sometimes i-1 for them, they are still growing in processing speed & are given opportunity for output. They are the ones who most often add details to discussion. They are also the ones asking grammar questions occasionally. So some students are hanging on tight just to understand, some are taking a walk in the park, but hopefully all of them are comprehending throughout. The barometer students take much more time to retain new language (which is why I said language they’ve heard all year can still contain i+1).

  4. I don’t want to undermine the messages, but you are all TPRS Masters. Part of that “evolution” is through the hero’s quest in each of us.

    Just think about what you’re saying as presented to an undergrad, MAT student, or graduate program director…”just talk to the students and make sure they understand what you’re saying” doesn’t really add up to a degree. They need the structure of structures et cetera.

    1. Maybe beginners need the skills broken down and practice them and learn how to make a lesson plan and unit plan that respects the kids’ interests and frees them to provide input that is unplanned and untargeted. If I were to ever have the opportunity to train pre-service people, I would want to help them with this. Not sure exactly how, but I want to keep my mind open to the possibility that there is a way.

      1. I am not a pre-service teacher but I am new to TPRS; having just started CI instruction 3 weeks ago w/ new semester classes and have not yet started a story but am wanting to soon. I understand the theories and am intrigued by the notion presented in this thread, of non-targeted input. As a novice, my question is how then do you stay in bounds and get enough reps?

        Also- another thing I have always wondered about this teaching style/ approach etc. is whether teachers track the language introduced and used in class, and similarly, if teachers make concerted efforts to recycle material or topics of past discussions or stories.



        1. This may just work for me, but here is what I have been doing, roughly.

          Beginning of the year, I began with a LOT of talk about the calendar, date, and weather. Man, in August and September we could easily spend twenty minutes talking about that. The kids were into it because I think they found it cool that they were understanding everything. Calendar/date is very visual. There is a lot of support for comprehension there.
          I also did Circling with Balls/Cards for pretty much the rest of the period and then gave them quick quizzes at the end.
          I used the words “play” “likes” “watched/looked at”and “went to/visited” a TON during those days. I would just write them on the board when they were needed. The trick is not to get all whiteboard-happy and write a bunch of different things each class period. Five or six is the upper limit based on my unscientific “study”.

          I started telling stories after about three weeks and that in the beginning, for me, was more “targeted”. But I chose the targets carefully from the “Super Seven” list: There Is, Wants, Goes, Is, Is Located, Has, Says (I *think* those are them…going to look them up.)
          Here they are:
          Location (to be at a place)
          Existence (to exist somewhere, “there is”)
          Possession (to have something)
          Identity (to be something or someone)
          Preference (to like or dislike something)
          Motion (to go somewhere)
          Volition (to want to or feel like doing something)

          I used these all the time, in every story, for months. That gave me a huge “bank” to draw from, because I knew my goal was to try getting unscripted/untargeted as fast as I could. I like the feeling we get as a group when none of us knows what is around the next conversational corner. I find management to be much easier in that kind of class. And I hate management. I will do it, of course, but I would rather operate under the assumption (illusion?) that they want to be there and talk with each other and me.

          At this point, we can spend the whole period talking about stuff using these verbs, telling stories using them, and just generally hanging out chatting. They really ARE Super! These seven verbs give kids so much language.

          Each day, probably two to four new words come up. I do two things to get them in-bounds: First is a “new word sandwich” I learned from Carol Gaab. Say the word, say English and then repeat the word. I also write the L2 and English on the board for them. (L2 in black, English in red, I am pretty obsessive about color coding) I make it a huge point to stop, point, and pause at these new words a lot.

          It is easy to stay in bounds for me if I look at their faces. They will start looking pretty dreamy and distracted if I stop being comprehensible. I also ask them a LOT “What did I just say” and praise the snot out of them if they use the “I don’t understand” signal.

          I wish I was so organized as to make a master list for each class. But even with being so free-range, I find it is still pretty easy to stay in bounds because I based the bulk of the instruction on the Super Seven and then the “extras” are unique to each class’ personality and interests, so pretty easy to remember who got what. For instance, I have the “puppies, books, and animals” class and the “sports and celebrities” class and the “we love each other” class and the “food and funny stuff” class…so they tend to learn more vocab about those topics.

          1. “new word sandwich”
            Tina, I like Carol’s term. I noticed myself doing this a few months ago, although I tend toward a Dagwood sandwich. I tend to use the L2 a few more times than the L1 word, which may open up a short series of PQA/circling so that the new word has a better chance to get absorbed into the listening vocabulary.

  5. I love something that Eric shared. He said, “There is 1) TPRS-for-traditional-departments, 2) TPRS-for-beginner-teachers, and 3) TPRS-for-optimal-acquisition.”

    All 3 of these “types” need to have a description of what is happening in the course. I get that even the traditional sense of the word “syllabus” is a topic for discussion but if we are working in the confines of how schools operate it behooves us all to communicate a plan. I love that Eric pointed out that when Krashen wrote The Natural Approach there was talk of organizing a course. In schools, we still have to do that no matter what.

    We can get rid of the term method and TPRS altogether BUT I think we can do better than that. We can articulate what it is that we are actually doing or trying to do. If you want to get rid of some steps…no problem…got to know the rules before you can break them is my motto.

    I will throw BVP in this conversation. He suggested that our courses be a description about what we are doing from a PRINCIPLES perspective not a methods perspective. Doing this means that we are no longer hung up on methods or the steps of a teaching practice. BVP said that he thought that since the “advent of communicative approaches to language teaching some 30+ years ago that the idea of methods was actually dead (minute 10:20 Ep.14)”

    He thought that “what was ushered in was the idea of principles underlying communicative language teaching…”

    I think this is what you are referring to Ben. BVP wants to usher in a BAN on language teaching classes based on methods. In its place his idea will go from language teaching methods to ideas about using principles in language teaching.

    Eric is ahead of the curve by renaming his class at the start of the school to describe the approach to the learning that will take place without getting technical about SLA.

    I am against getting rid of or throwing out any information that will help Beginner or novice CI teachers figure this stuff out. IF advanced CI teacher no loner need to think about how to frame lessons, use targeted structures, or specific vocabulary MORE power to you. I will add though that I do not think there are many advanced CI masters out there. The modern slog an in TPRS is that “there are NO experts.” Even Blaine himself knows that and admits to always learning about how to do this better.

    I also would start the conversation about the POWER of targeting structures. Structures are basically a combination of grammatical features that build implicit knowledge about how a group of words goes together. With my beginning learners I often use in repetition something like, “dijo que” or “sabía que” or “piensa que” or “empezó a ______.” I really am not teaching JUST that specific set of words. An observer would say I am targeting but I am not. The greater picture of what I am doing is teaching how the language is used in context of using communicative/comprehension approaches. I believe that I am channeling UG and that UG has informed my approach, I believe that as I use and interact with students based on how we negotiate meaning back and forth that they internalize and acquire.

    I guess my ramble is to say…Ben and even BVP seem to be saying we should get away from METHODS. I say go ahead skip some steps get rid of methods… In a perfect world that would be ideal to not follow a series of steps or procedures and ignore methods.

    We should be led by principles of SLA only. However, we do not live in a perfect world and we need methods.

    My conclusion is… the best we can do, is align a method to the best of what we know about SLA keeping in mind we are only responsible for the class time that we have…which in most cases is less that 180 hours over approximately 10 months. This needs to be said because thousands of FL teachers are not crazy like some of the educators on this blog. Not everyone lives, and breathes, and sleeps with SLA in their life. What can we communicate better to educators so that language acquisition becomes an attainable achievement for the 9 million FL students in the U.S (and the world)?

    I say know all the rules to talking about students and stories (using TPRS) THEN go out and break all the rules in your own classroom. 🙂

  6. I hear what you are saying there Lance. What I meant about not needing to establish meaning is that when I work now with the new way I have of doing CI using the Invisibles (“Six Step TPRS”), I have no desire to teach them something new. No new structures and hence no need to establish meaning. I just start with an image and go.

    Confession time: I really wasn’t happy with all the “target this and and target that” and “make a Scope and Sequence of the structures you want to backwards plan on with a novel so that the students can easily read the novel” and “I have a curriculum!” stuff. I’m done with planning. If you move my salary up to six figures I’ll think about it. And targeting structures doesn’t help kids learn the language any faster. That’s a myth, one of many.

    1. Cool, I’m with you there, BUT at some point they need to learn the words you’ll be using in the story…at some point you will have a core vocab set so there are no new words and nothing to establish meaning of.

      Don’t you still need to establish meaning of all that, FIRST? It almost sounds like you’re suggesting that TPRS shouldn’t be used to teach anything new. I remember Blaine telling me to ask a story using words students know…if we get rid of PQA, how do we do that? Is it all on the Word Wall and TPR?

          1. I understood #4 to mean no more gesturing. Giving up on establishing meaning entirely would be nuts. What I meant above was that we can establish meaning when the need comes up rather than pre-determine and pre-teach.

          2. …we can establish meaning when the need comes up rather than pre-determine and pre-teach….

            Absolutely. It’s the pre-teaching and formal planning that I object to. All three parts of Step 1 of TPRS – establishing meaning, gesturing and PQA – can and are done during the story, during the reading, whenever. I love to spin parallel questions about a character in a story out to a student in a class. That’s PQA.

            Eric is so right when he says that Blaine cannot be blamed for all this structuring (he told me this privately). It was really a Susan Gross thing, and I was and remain her acolyte. So I am learning. I am learning how rare my position in this work is. I don’t care. I have to follow my dream of using teaching to find out who I am.

            Lucky I have Eric and Mike Coxon to keep things on the straight and narrow in terms of the history and the research, and to clear different things up. And Robert and a bunch of y’all to whom I bow and say Namaste!

            I’m trying to become free of convention. I’m doing it. I know in my heart what this method is. It’s about learning to dance in the classroom, about flying our freak flags and being happy, about becoming in the classroom the very same person we want to become outside of it.

            I haven’t been able to do that with the Three Steps. They are too katty-wonkered. But now I have found something – this six step thing I am testing now and will share video on very soon once it’s been edited – that does allow me to be FAR more relaxed than the old TPRS.

            May that be our prayer tonight as we go into yet another Sunday night of apprehension and that low-grade nervousness that is so familiar to many of us. Let’s pray that the trials and tensions we experience on such a regular basis in our building lead us into the heart of healing and humility and devotion to the highest purity of mind and heart that I am convinced lies somewhere in the depths of this method.

            To that end, I am trying to learn how to breathe better when I go to sleep. I inhale to a count of four, deeply, then hold it, then exhale slowly. Sound crazy? You may be on the wrong blog. This place is for cultivating mindfulness in teaching, and that is different from cultivating the dominance of the mind. This is a heart practice. When our PLC becomes centered in ego and mental gyrations, down it goes. Kerplunk.

            That is what my new “dump five things” campaign is about – mindfulness. God will help if no one else does. He always does. Especially when we feel the most alone. Especially on a Sunday night, too. God bless us! He already has. He has already prepared us for the new teaching week and He has His angels ready to swoop into our classrooms if anything goes wrong so I am feeling pretty good about that.

          3. Ben
            What an amazing post you wrote! I’m trying to catch up on the comments both here and on the Listserve.

            I agree with Ben all the way, all the while understanding some of the concerns, questions it elicited.

            However, I have to agree with what Chris Stolz just wrote on the list:

            …we should remember that Ben Slavic– who for IFLT 2014 described himself as a “student of comprehensible input” methods, rather than “a French teacher” — is a relentless experimentalist and a forward thinker. He is best understood as an imaginer of the possible….

            …while I agree with many of Terry’s points about Ben’s excellent post, we must remember that we have to have “impossible thoughts” to make progress….

            This is SO true.

            I am one of the lucky one in Denver who does not use the Scope and Sequence that ironically I co-wrote under Diana Noonan’s leadership.

            We wrote it to:

            1) Help brand new teacher navigate the difficult path of transitioning from methods based teaching to CI or
            2) Help brand new teachers needing directions.

            In my view the document is just there to help those who need something concrete until they can fly with their own wings and understand for themselves the principles of SLA, which guide us in teaching this way. It is just a scaffolding document.

            I did an experiment last year. Again, I do not use the Scope and Sequence. One day mid-year I looked at the Scope and Sequence and as I was showing it to a new teacher and, to my surprise, I realized that all the structures that were in there my students knew, and more.

            The reason being that because these structures are the high frequency structures of the language, I naturally used them all the time in whatever we did in class. Using that language all the time, my students either acquired them at best or understood/recognized them at worse.

            I don’t follow a lesson plan, nor do I turn one in and I am again, a lucky one. This was not always the case, and I had my share of misfortunes when I taught this way in Chicago being the lone wolf like many on this blog. I understand some of the concerns expressed in the comments here (needing to keep our jobs, etc…)

            I also teach at the University of Colorado/Boulder and that for the last three years. I have a core of students who have been taking my class and it has become part of their life.

            We are in the land of language purity here [ed. note: CU Boulder under the gentle guidance of Mark Knowles] – no tests, no lesson plans, no Scope and Sequence, just CI, pure CI, having fun communicating in the language, creating stories week in and week out. Total nonstop fun. These are adults, some of them highly educated, researchers, Phds etc. They come because they love acquiring French, at their own pace in a stress free environment. One of my students commented last semester that this was like going to a comedy club in another language.

            Very different than teaching a bunch of teenagers with all the problems we know they have.

            The point is that there exists a land of language purity, in which we can rid ourselves of structures, PQA, Scope and Sequence, circling etc… to allow for pure communication.

            We need to keep on experimenting, like you are doing Ben, and thanks to your genius mind!

            We can only hope that one day in the near future, language classes around the world will be taught in a way that promotes communication and acquisition.

          4. We love your ideas Ben…and your fire. I just have to make sure that some of your ardent followers don’t follow your ideas out of a job. And the morelist? A wonderful group of people, but they don’t know you like this group does…nor do they have as deep a grasp of CI!!


          5. Laurie give me a chance. I am not advocating getting rid of Scope and Sequence but redefining it like Tina has done in that strong document that she just hammered out this past weekend. We’ll knock this out in Agen.

  7. One of the responses on the More TPRS listserv was from a woman who is required to have a daily lesson plan for each class sitting on her desk in case admins walk in. With that in mind, I tried to create a “non-lesson-plan-lesson-plan” for her. I would appreciate your thoughts on it. I think you can see it by going here. And I think I made it so we can all edit it. So please feel free to put your ideas in it too. I plan on sending it to that woman because I hate that kind of burden placed on teachers and I want to give her something she could use should she decide to try some untargeted lessons/units/years…

        1. Thanks Tina for saving me lots of time trying to put things in the right categories so I can cheek the boxes. I will use this for sure. I am going to write only 2 units. My classes are only 1/2 year long bc of block scheduling (80 min /day 5x week). So “Spanish 1” is 1/2 year long. Same number of instructional minutes as a full year, yet not. Whatever. I am shifting the course descriptions as well. People are too hung up on the “level.” I want to call it “Students and Stories in Spanish” if I can get permission from Dr. Herman 😉

          I have to turn in “all my units” (?) in a couple weeks. My current plan is to have 2 quarter long “units” for each course. First one is “My personal universe” (quarter 1) Second one will be “Interconnected Worlds” (quarter 2). That way within these “units” I can justify whatever we do, whether it ends up being “real world” or imaginary or a combo. For my lesson plans I can use Tina’s framework / cut and paste! Yay! Almost done and I haven’t even started.

          1. Hey, please let me know how it turns out. I banged that out fast this morning, so it is a real work in progress.

        2. I just sent it to the list. I hate posting there, though, it seems very exposed. I like it here, where I feel happy and comfortable and secure. But I threw that baby right on out there in the cold world!

          1. Good for you, Tina. That document looks great!

            I agree about not wanting to post to that listserv. The newer Facebook group seems much less anonymous or something – and therefore more friendly. Then of course this PLC is my mainstay.

            When I saw Ben’s post on the moreTPRS email digest, I was expecting Terry Waltz’s reply and mostly knew what she’d say. Between Ben & Terry my teaching has been most influenced, and so it’s an interesting exercise for me to imagine what they’d have to say to each other. Then they more or less said it online.

            Others noticed, I suppose, that the bottleneck of university instruction and teacher preparation courses came up again in some of those posts as part of the reason CI is not yet more widely known.

          2. It never showed up. I posted twice. Could I be doing it wrong? I just replied to someone. Maybe I am on some kind of shit list?

      1. Tina, this is fantastic!!!! What a great way for teachers to meet the requirements without boiling their own soul in oil!

        Templates like this are what will save TPRSers from punitive requirements.

        Also, as much as teachers would like to be able to come up with these things themselves they often cannot (for many, many reasons).

        with love,

  8. Eric says,
    5) I am all for “sheltering,” not targeting. This comes back to letting communication come first, language second. Not planning around “structures.” BUT, let’s say you pick the video clip you want to MovieTalk or you pick the type of story you want to ask, but then some words become necessary to know in order to be able to tell/ask that story. And those words may get lots of reps as a byproduct of communication. And they’ll also get reps, because you will be limiting the number of new sounds in order to be comprehensible. Just to be clear: I do not consider that “targeting.”

    This (sheltering) is what I thought WAS, in fact, targeting.
    So now I’m cool cuz I’m really just sheltering for comprehension of an unfamiliar ‘term,’ ‘lexical item’ or verb-containing ‘structure.’
    Ben, I find myself nodding at everything you say, but many teachers new to the CI strategies require beginners’ training wheels, just as their students require a period of time to get used to the inflow of contextualized, connected language in their story-spinning WL class. Teaching/modeling circling (for teachers) as a way to get reps of extended chunks is a short (hopefully) but maybe necessary stage in a newbie TCI teacher’s development. In bounds plus pause & point are integral to circling, and so circling becomes much more than the actual scaffolded questioning language. Circling reflects essential behaviors for the novice CI teacher.
    Ongoing coaching and mentoring and video clip analysis (of oneself, others) is a great way to check whether you’re circling the language into the ground or doing it for optimal effect. I don’t know when I abandoned ‘classic’ circling – I know it was shortly after I saw the (immediate) effects of storytelling, and was comfortable reading the energy and attention in the room. In my elementary world, kids aren’t great fakers of attention – you have ’em or you don’t!
    But learning how and why to circle was an indispensable skill in terms of transitioning to CI and polishing my teaching (and of course we’re all still working on it because our audience’s mood, hunger, time of day etc. affect the energy/attention in the room).
    Also, I think non Roman alphabet language teachers (Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, etc.) must start off that much slower and more deliberate. Circling to my mind is an indispensable construct FOR TEACHERS to learn how to serve up CI. Circling while staying compelling is hard, no doubt. But teachers need to see/learn to read their kids’ eyes for comprehension and interest all while getting in the reps as the story gathers energy.
    I wouldn’t dump all these steps/aspects just yet – certainly not for beginners, and I don’t think poorly executed TPRS is the reason the initiative fails or is ill-received by other Ts. Those who reject it I believe do so unconditionally because it doesn’t resemble the familiar WL instruction within their own experience and comfort zone. It’s novel.

    1. non Roman alphabet language teachers (Mandarin…. start off that much slower and more deliberate…

      Agreed, but I would say it’s the lack of cognates or loanwords that makes that necessary, not the written script. I say that because in level one, we talk about more things and say more complex things than I put into what the students read. Ex, TPR stuff is still mostly just auditory input for my students. Eventually I’ll fold in those words in writing one at a time somewhere. (Not planning it! It’ll just come up.)

  9. …I wouldn’t dump all these steps/aspects just yet – certainly not for beginners…

    Alisa I want to agree but something in my gut tells me that beginners are perfectly capable of doing CI in their classes in a non-targeted way and as per what I suggest above. Maybe it’s just indigestion in my gut or the food here in India, but I am very wary of the popular position that we need to water things down for new people. I think we can train them up instead of dumb what we do down. I believe that. Everybody is wanting a system. Everybody wants a plan. Imagine no plan, as per:

  10. We have a steadily growing group of Indonesian teachers very interested in learning about TPRS after observing it being used in our classrooms. Unfortunately the 3 of us who are successfully teaching Indonesian via (our understanding of) TPRS have had no formal training. We are struggling with exactly this question. Where do we start with helping these motivated ‘new’ teachers who are super keen to learn more. We are hoping to meet this year once a term to focus on aspects of TPRS to support them but further than that, I am stumped on the content details.
    Thus, following on from this discussion, if we ‘don’t water things down’ for newbies (and I am in many ways still a newbie myself), what and how can we down here in Australia do so that we can suppport these new ‘converts’ learn how to ‘use CI in a non targeted’ way?
    How would you break it down? Are you saying that the skills outlined in the Big CI Book need reviewing because that is our ‘TPRS 101 textbook’!!

    1. The Big CI book is solid. It gives new people 27 strategies and 15 skills that are needed. Call them training wheels. Call the book a good source of long distance learning. Everything in there, the bail out moves, all of it, obviously work if you are training new people with it. That said, I can say that since I wrote it last year, in my own TPRS world, I think that all those things are supplementary, good strong supplementary skills and strategies, that don’t really need “reviewing” as you said, Cathy, and certainly don’t need to be thrown out, but that if a person didn’t have them, with this new Invisible creature thing I’m doing, don’t necessarily have to be in place before the new person can start doing stories. Is that point making sense?

      1. Ben, we’re reading and discussing The Big Book of CI in our dept. recently. I think it’s been really good for people in dept. who know they want to do CI, but can’t feel out how to do it. One of my favorite dept. mtgs was last week when Lynnette walked us through part 1 of the book. She sometimes brought up points, others added ideas, questions and answers came up naturally. That is the kind of reason I wanted to be in a dept. of CI language teachers, that kind of fellowship. It was cool & your book facilitated it.

  11. I haven’t done circling for years–felt forced and awkward. However, I still teach gestures at level one because, on my end-of-year exit surveys, the two things that students said that they remembered most are the gesture words and the kids’ songs we memorized. Maybe I’m not brave enough yet to kick off the training wheels.

  12. Training other teachers to work as comprehensible input-based instructors is one of the most challenging professional undertakings I have faced.

    Being a TPRS teachers is counter-experience and for many people, counter-intuitive.

    Until they develop a new sense of intuition.

    Each teacher develops that new sense in her/her own time, much as our students acquire language as different rates / paces.

    Nearly everyone who has explored and developed training teachers in this approach has also been a full-time teacher. The upside to this is that they have had a great deal of classroom experience and experimentation. The downside is that they have done their exploration and training as a part-time job, completely unable to devote themselves wholly to the task.

    1. Each participant is unique. They have unique experiences as language students, as language teachers and as human beings. Therefore, they each have unique needs. If you think differentiating a classroom of kids is tough, try differentiating a group of adult professionals who jobs depend on how well they acquire the skills you are trying to impart and develop.

    2. If you think the time in the classroom is limited, try creating a CI teacher from a non-CI teacher in as little as 6 hours. (and that is generous since many teachers are used to the 1 hour “shopping mall’ approach to teacher training.)

    3. Trainers do not know their participants before the training begins. Although creating a relationship is highly crucial, it requires a herculean effort in the time available.

    4. While the skills needed are the same for teachers of novice students and teachers of advanced students, MOST TEACHERS ENTERING TRAINING DO NOT ACCEPT THAT.

    5. Besides skills, the teachers also need help with lesson construction/planning (whether or not we agree with it, they need it for their own sense of security), how to mesh their teaching with that of their colleagues, how to assess and develop assessments, grading, classroom management, in short, all of the topics that we have spent YEARS addressing on the forum.

    I could go on and on.

    There are many of us who would love to see changes in the teacher training segment of our profession as CI teachers. People on this blog are working on it. Elissa and I worked last summer to put together a teacher-training/language class program which was, I think, a new approach. She was incredibly generous about letting me put together materials as needed and change things on the fly to meet the needs of the participants. I really, really liked what we did, and have brought it to other trainings and other trainers. I know that Elissa is planning at least one similar week this summer. I’m sure that she and the trainers/teachers involved will continue to develop new materials.

    Haiyun and Diane and others are working all the time on how to share information and development ideas with Mandarin teachers. Terry Waltz has created a number of teacher training activities and materials to support TPRS teachers with great success.

    Teri W (on this list now?) has developed some new ideas which she alluded to on Facebook.

    Scott Benedict has his own materials and podcasts/video classes that many people love.

    I am SURE that there are others.

    BUT, right now there are 2 major companies who train teachers, particularly newbies: Carol’s and Blaine’s.

    You will not see significant changes in how teachers are trained until they make those changes. At least in the next year or two. As more and more people get involved in teacher training (and that is happening, I promise you) we will see more change. But even then, Blaine and Carol will hold the key to what is considered “good” training.

    Providing training and providing materials WILL go hand in hand.

    You know me. I would rather train the teacher than provide the materials. It is the mind and the heart of the teacher that make the difference in the classroom, not the pre-written ideas of someone else.

    But twenty years of this work has shown me that teachers need/want the materials in order to be successful. We must feed the need. Just like we do for our students.

    I’m gloriously happy to be retiring from my school district in June. As much as I love teaching and I love my students, I might finally have time to sit down and look at this teacher training piece the way I want to.

    We need to keep talking about what people need and how we can meet those needs. (Even if we don’t like what they need and again, I’m including myself on that one!)

    with love,

    1. Hi Laurie, et al.

      Yes I am on this list too, but not every day. I have been working on some new training techniques. It really is looking at asking questions from a different perspective. I train newbies and I retrain more experienced practitioners how to LISTEN very closely to the answer given to the question asked and then to RESPOND in a variety of ways to the information that was added to the conversation.

      Ben said it so well: the next question is not the next question on the circling chart, but the next interesting question.

      I encourage them to use non-verbal responses, give eye-contact, (really LISTEN to the conversation), giving REJOINDERS (hummm??? interesting. . . etc. whatever is appropriate to the TL). RESTATE the info (sometimes restate false information, then restate in the negative). VERIFY the details with the actor or with the class, ask for class input then ask the actor to choose among the variables(include, Janie, the class said that you should do XYZ, do you agree? Then report to the class her decision.) Ask FOLLOW-UP questions. Ask REVIEW questions. RESTATE with information gaps. Offer CHOICES when the response is slow. PLAY with the language.

      None of this is new. It’s what experienced and successful TCI Teachers have always done. It is really the same sorts of questioning that goes on in circling. The issue hasn’t been the questions, it’s been the training. Some teachers quickly and automatically grasp it, others don’t. These training techniques, that I am still refining, I hope will help teachers make that jump more quickly.

      As always, a work in progress. . .

  13. I’ll be in France. :o) I made that commitment to Judy two years ago, and if I have to live on baguettes alone, I’ll be there!! I am very excited about it! There are several folks who are going to IFLT and then jetting off to France, but, for a variety of reasons, I’ve chosen not to do both. (mainly because it is hard to celebrate when you are exhausted !!!) :o) I so hope to see you Ben, and finally have a little time to really chat. I think the last time we did that may have been 4 or 5 years ago!!!!!

    I may very well go back to teaching if I am healthy and happy and excited about it in a few years. I love the classroom! But, after 33 years, it’s time for a break from it and a new focus!!

    Starting in November, I’ll be driving around the entire U.S. to spend time with the people that I love and love to work with! For as long as I want to! (I’m giving up my apartment to be a nomad.) I hope to laugh, drink lovely beverages with old and new friends, look for art in the world, visit classrooms, continue training/presenting etc. and, while I”m at it, look for a new place to settle down and start a life. (54 years of this -20ish degree winter weather is enough!!)

    If I win the lottery, I will plan a trip to visit you and Linda and Zach in India. :o)

    with love,

    1. You have about ten homes in Denver, Laurie. Don’t forget that as you travel around. Many of the younger teachers and all of us DPS old timers as well would be honored to welcome you as the visiting royalty that you are.

      1. That thought keeps me warm on these below zero days my friend!!!!!!!!!!! (not royalty, just an old-timer still learning new tricks!)

        with love,
        PS If you didn’t have snow there, I would consider it as a permanent residence!! 🙂

        1. Snow in Australia is very localised and we live nowhere near those mountains!! Come down under. Many new friends here too who would love to meet you and share your knowledge.

    2. Congratulations, Laurie, on your retirement!

      First off, I’m so glad to hear that you are going to take time for yourself. Secondly, I imagine you already have plenty of friends in the Chicagoland area, but please include me as one of them. In your travels, I would be honored to have you stay in a guest bedroom of ours. We live minutes from downtown Chicago and a garage to park your car(!). Perchance you may accept the offer and we can partake in a Chicago brew.

      But yes, we must celebrate Laurie, somehow, here on the blog, at the end of the year Ben!

      1. We must celebrate her retirement and also in particular the singular contribution she has made to TPRS as a teacher. Laurie articulates things in a way that people can understand them. But she also brings the affective piece in as well. Dare I say that her career is most defined in terms of the love she knows rests in this work, waiting to be awakened. It is no accident that her blog is entitled Hearts for Teaching. Yes, we must celebrate. She will be in Agen, so those of us who will also be there need to think about what we can do to properly show our deep respect for what she has done for so many of us.

  14. Laurie if you want to come visit us at Midland, North of Peoria IL. I would love to have you. (I’m sure if you wanted to you could travel around the world indefinitely, bringing love and light to dark High Schools all over the world.)

    1. I have a giant soft spot for that part of the country David..My oldest son is a graduate of Knox College! I don’t know what my “calendar” looks like, but you are now on it!!

      with love,

  15. We’re way ahead of the curve on this blog, so of course, Ben’s points were going to be lost on people on the moreTPRS list.

    Ben wants to make TPRS the “optimal-for-acquisition-method” when most people want to make TPRS the “schoolified-for-dummies-method.” Dummies means beginners, in the vein of those “How to . . . for Dummies” books. It does not mean less intelligent people. There can only be one “TPRS” and for now it is the latter.

    This current version of TPRS is justified as the pragmatic version, the one that ruffles fewest feathers given the institution that is school and the necessity of co-existing in pre-scientific FL teaching classrooms. It’s what fits the the square hole. It’s a compromise. Nevertheless, Ben’s ideas come from a place of “revolution.” They are visionary. We need these kind of ideas in order to make change happen. And that change can be grass-roots, starting with us in our own classrooms.

    Ben and I are no longer doing TPRS if TPRS means you have a syllabus organized around structures and means you are trying to target and “teach” them. And yes, that is what TPRS is. No problem. We teach with a similar “Comprehension Approach,” but our means of planning and implementing the approach in our classrooms is different from TPRS and better aligned with research.

    Interestingly, Blaine was already doing everything Ben is recommending! I’ve long noticed that. It seems that Susie Gross took what Blaine was doing and step-ified it, classified it, and school-ified it. That 3 step chart in the back of The Green Bible (which conflicts with some of the practices prescribed within the book) comes from a Susie Gross chart. And she was Ben’s main trainer, right? No wonder he’s been thinking you have to target, gesture, pre-teach, circle, and PQA.

    Thank you, Ben, for pushing the field further. But over on the moreTPRS list, there are some well-respected and brilliant teachers who are also defenders of the current TPRS form of “schoolified-for-dummies-method” and are going to shut down discussion of anything that is progressive. We need both types of messages. The one focused on getting along NOW and the one with an eye on the FUTURE.

  16. Yes! you guys are futurist visionaries.
    I have learned so much here and intend to keep learning and challenging my dominant paradigm, asking and learning whenever I can!
    But there is a vast community of Comprehensible Input/TPRS teachers, many of whom are masters at their craft, who continue to see excellent gains in their classrooms, whose students find fun, humanity and solid language acquisition within the existing or ‘classic’ TPRS framework. These folks may be responsible for submitting or adhering to documentation such as Scope/Sequence, lesson plans, common assessments etc. or not – but the radical improvement over traditional methods (i.e., rigid textbook, grammar and/or theme focused 5C ACTFL methods) that they report, are proof that the existing TPRS is also revolutionary and effective!! While I love to dream of the Pure Land, I still have much to learn while working within the existing parameters, and do often find myself doing non-targeted CI work. I teach 8 groups across 4 grades every day (39 classes per week – and there are other WL teachers with even more heinous schedules), and I don’t think 100% non targeted CI would be feasible for me. I would probably go out of my mind.
    I have come to more fully appreciate the passionate contributions of the PLC members, but feel compelled to warn against criticizing or belittling those who follow the TPRS steps. For me anyway, my horizons are opening up month by month as I explore the vast potential of CI. Perhaps your very experience, passion and practice have brought you to this point. Folks have to get there in their own way, (and you are helping them get there faster) perhaps relying on the TPRS rails as they strengthen their foundational skills & understanding while gaining courage and surviving at their jobs…
    Reading a challenging research-inspired proclamation such as ‘5 things to throw out’ can be a call to action for those ready/poised and fortunate in their teaching circumstances to do so, or a discouraging slap to those who disagree, or feel unable to make that leap…

    1. Alisa I’m not trying to change TPRS. I’m trying to grasp what it looks like – I’m still learning, working my way down through the layers of the infinitely-layered onion. It’s core in Krashen’s research will always remain inviolable. Eric has helped me understand that the post about removing things from TPRS, except for the point about circling and maybe a few other points, is really more of a misunderstanding on my part, to wit:

      …Blaine was already doing everything Ben is recommending! I’ve long noticed that. It seems that Susie Gross took what Blaine was doing and step-ified it, classified it, and school-ified it. That 3 step chart in the back of The Green Bible (which conflicts with some of the practices prescribed within the book) comes from a Susie Gross chart. And she was Ben’s main trainer, right? No wonder he’s been thinking you have to target, gesture, pre-teach, circle, and PQA…


    2. Alisa, to your point, Blaine told a story in my training a couple of summers ago where (these dates are somewhat made up because I don’t remember exactly) in the 90’s Blaine ran into an old teacher that he had trained 10-15 years beforehand. At this point “TPRS” have developed and improved so much since that beginning point but this teacher didn’t do any of the new things. Blaine asked him why and the teacher responded something like “because what I do works.” Blaine used this story to express precisely this point: it shows the power of TPRS however simplified compared to the typical approach (used in a non-scientific sense!).

      Even though I’m all in favor of continuing thinking through what we do and making it as best as we can.

      Eric and Ben I think you are right about Blaine. In that same training, Blaine explicitly said he basically doesn’t do any PQA and I don’t even remember him clearly outlining steps. His “style” is clearly (at least to me) VERY off the cuff – and not so “stepified” which is great but does make it harder for beginners as many have been saying on this thread. It does seem helpful to break it down for beginners much like how you learn anything. A basketball player (something I’m most familiar with) you practice passing, dribbling, shooting individually and in very structured ways, but as you get better and better you are able to do those same things in varying ways within the game itself that turns out to be more than those structured skills. Think of Steph Curry. You can’t teach what he does – even if you can teach those basic skills.

      Maybe a better example is cooking. As beginner (trust me I know) you need to follow a recipe, but as you get better and better you get the more you just know how the ingredients work together and don’t need the recipe.

      1. See this kind of wigs me out when we say that doing it Blaine’s stepless way makes it “harder for beginners” and that we need to “break it down for beginners”. Why?

        I coached high school basketball (for two years before burning out) and we played a lot more than we practiced passing, dribbling, etc. Shooting individually is not at all like shooting with someone in your face in a real game. Yes I know that Steph Curry shoots a ton of 3 pointers a day in practice but the analogy kind of breaks down when you consider that he has been playing basketball games as well since he was a little kid. He grew up playing drive way pick up games with the first NBA three point star ever – his dad. Do you think his day made him do lay-ups for two hours and then play for fifteen minutes? No. They played and dad was bigger and already an NBA star and so now Seth can drain last second shots with people’s hands in his face. He just did it again today to wind over OKC. But with teachers? Practicing circling when we don’t even circle in stories? Practicing what? What is there to practice? Our practice happens in the next class that comes in. Workshops have failed to teach this method by breaking things down into pieces. If we want to be like Blaine we just stand up and do what Blaine does. For so long now we have been saying how important practicing the fundamentals of TPRS is so important. I just don’t believe it. And don’t say that I can say that because I have 15 years of it. I believe that new people can be taught better by just teaching/feeling it in their bodies than breaking it down.

        Few agree with me on this. They are all on the fundamentals train and lesson plans. Good luck with that. There I said it. No apologies. I mean this point and wonder why everybody keeps saying that “it’s so hard for beginners.” We make it hard for them by presenting it to them in little pieces in the same way that we make it hard for our students when we present it them in little pieces.

        1. Ben,
          I’m going to one day of a Blaine Ray workshop on Monday. I’m going to observe the newbies with your hypothesis in mind. Can newbies wrap their minds and practices around CI strategies without learning how to circle? Can they just observe and experiment their way into it, without breaking it down into boring decontextualized soundbites?

          I remember my first workshop impression of circling was that it was so complicated and clunky, with lots to remember/memorize. It SEEMED contrived & stiff. That fell away so quickly when I experimented w/asking my first story. My circling questions prolly weren’t great – I prolly didn’t mix up the yes/no/either/or/open ended as well as I could have, I prolly didn’t circle all parts of the statement (subject/action/object), but WOW! those 1st graders, who are now 4th graders, had stars in their eyes when I (with the dino puppet chomping) asked for the hungry dinosaur’s name and where he went to eat sushi.
          I think now I circle parts naturally. I restate, clarify, repeat w/a mistake, confirm, re-read, recap…these function to recycle the chunks – call them what you may. At the end of the day, they get us the comprehensible, compelling reps in context that we need.

          The steps allow the observer to understand what’s really going on – it’s a question of inductive (direct instruction) or deductive (learner absorbs patterns), just like grammar.

          I’d like to see the how the newbies without the front end instruction fare.

          1. Well I’m never gonna shake the right brain freak image in a world where logic rules. But the thing is, language is not logical. It is far too complex to be broken down by the mind. That idea is at the core of Krashen’s message. I’ll just look for my home boys who also don’t have a logical bone in their bodies and go hang with them. The people who want to think everything through are getting on my nerves. We can’t think our way to success in this work. Why is everyone trying so hard? Communicating with other human beings at the level of the heart and let the language flow from there – is it really that hard? I can’t wait until your report Alisa and thank you for being a consistently kind voice of reason and openness here. You are one of a kind, the right kind!

          2. But if you report that the newbies at that workshop got all weirded out by how they could never do what Blaine does, and then are told that they need to break it all down into pieces, I will be sad. Language doesn’t exist in pieces and nor should trainings exist in pieces.

          3. And I do not advocate getting rid of PQA, just changing where we put it. Brothers Chris and Eric schooled me on that point recently and I realize that in the above article I wasn’t saying dump it, just relocate it away from a “Step 1”.

            The two young studs mentioned have correctly pointed out that as per Blaine there was never even a Step 1 in TPRS. There was just a story and a reading. It was so simple it just had to be made complex by teachers! And it has said that philosophy is a simple thing made complicated.

          4. The French word for a practice, like an orchestra rehearsal, is “une répétition”. But does this mean doing a bunch of finger patterns over and over or actually playing the targeted piece over and over? It’s assumed that the finger patterns have been practiced before if the teacher is indeed certified in the field.

            A cellist does not prepare herself for a recital of a Bach suite by practicing scales. Indeed, the work must be done of repeating measure by measure the piece itself if one is to master it.

            Maybe the problem lies in teacher certification of new WL language teachers, who often don’t have to even discuss their ideas on teaching a language in the interview process, since few administrators think about such things.

            Most administrators prefer to find someone who can just keep the class quiet instead, which is what traditional teachers do. This may explain why there are so many bad teachers in the field and why they are so up in arms against us because we now are really exposing their practice for what it is – bullshit.

          5. German has a couple of words that can be translated as “practice”, and I find it interesting how they are used:
            1. “Probe” (yes, like English “probe” but pronounced with -uh at the end) is for choir, orchestra, band, drama. It implies “testing” the piece, i.e. doing the whole thing, not just bits of it.
            2. “Training” (borrowed from English) is used more for physical group work, such as football (both kinds), baseball, basketball practice; it’s also used for just working out.
            3. “Übung” is used for the individual repetition that brings something to fulfillment or a level of accomplishment.
            4. “Ausüben” is used in the sense of doing all of the things necessary for the carrying on of a career or similar endeavor.

            For me, #1 and #4 are the senses of “practice” that are most applicable to what we do. It’s a bit like learning to drive a stick shift: I don’t remember having the instructor ask me to do the “Übung” of putting in and letting out the clutch, putting the gear shift lever in different positions, slowly pressing down on the gas pedal, etc. as separate exercises. (I do remember putting in the clutch and running the gear shift lever through its positions just because it was fun. Weird, huh?) It was really a matter of having it explained, watching my father do it, then trying it myself – and keep trying it myself until it got smooth enough for me to take the car on the street.

            Perhaps the new “coaching” paradigm needs to look more like this. Rather than practicing just circling or pause-and-point, we do everything over and over until it begins to mesh. The conference / workshop / coaching session is like the parking lot where we keep doing it until it’s together enough to take it on the road, i.e. the other participants won’t mind our gaffes, and we get better and better without doing too much damage to our students. (I know, the analogy sort of breaks down a bit.)

            I guess I’m a bit ambivalent about this, because I think there is a place for practicing certain skills in isolation (sort of like my running the shift lever), but if we never practice everything at once, it will never come together. I know when I play organ, I can practice each hand and the pedals separately, but at some point I have to put it all together and work on everything at once until it all meshes.

            BTW, I am going to SWCOLT (SouthWest Conference on Language Teaching) next week and will attend a one-day Blaine Ray TPRS workshop. I’ll report back on what I observe. I will also be presenting a session (60 minutes) of my own. I will suffering for the cause in Honolulu.

          6. I think that circling is a skill. It is clunky when getting started. It is robotic and unnatural. But with a lot of practice it is what comes natural when the brain goes into a fight/flight mode. In fight/flight there is no time to think. It is all react. If we think about the details of the process we loose the flow of the interaction/story and do shoddy circling.

            Conversation is a skill. It is not the same as language acquisition. One can acquire the language and not be a conversationalist in the language. Circling is a way for speakers of a language to advance the conversation in the class with non-speakers. It is like acting. Poor actors act like they are reciting lines. Great actors act like this is real life. Read aloud is similar. Some people just sound out the words. Great readers aloud draw the listeners into the story so that if the book were not visible they might think that they were in the presence of an accomplished story teller. Circling is like reading aloud and acting. It can come across as fake or it can be compelling and convincing.

            Good circling is a way to set the kids up for success. It allows students to hear discrete units of meaning enough times that they are distinguishable from noise and to connect them with particular meaning. It allows them to interact with the meaning in a variety of ways which are appropriate for their level of “x.”

            I would suggest that experts in TPRS circle so well that it is not noticeable and thus not identifiable as circling. It can be come so complex and multifaceted that the students do not anticipate a pattern.

            How best do we learn to circle well? By hours of involvement/observation. But a lot of folks have had to just get the idea and muddle through it. Things are getting better. The community is so much bigger than it was at my first workshop in 1999. Some of us did great as loners, some of us not so great. We might goof up or get knocked out. But we keep plugging away. I was thinking the other day about the difference in language output by students and remember saying what so many of us have said, “We weren’t able to do this level of output when we were students.”

            Kind of rambly, but just wanted to say that I am not ready to through a tool out of the TPRS tool box just because it could be misused or overused.

          7. Nathaniel said:

            “How best do we learn to circle well? By hours of involvement/observation. But a lot of folks have had to just get the idea and muddle through it.”

            This is it. Circling is muddled. It is not something we can buy at a conference and take back to our classrooms and unwrap and use.

          8. Nathaniel said:

            …I am not ready to through a tool out of the TPRS tool box just because it could be misused or overused….

            There is a difference between circling as taught in workshops and just questioning our students. I was lucky enough to see Berty Segal in San Diego do a demo on what after all is HER invention (pre-Blaine) of just hanging out and questioning students in language classes and it looked somewhat like circling but was slightly more random. We labeled it, packaged it and sold it at workshops and the result has been the current confusion in the minds of new people.

        2. It is hard for new to TPRS non-Krashenites, but that’s something difficult to address at a conference. I love that after your conferences, teachers will get membership here.

          Improving TPRS/TCI’s presence at university teacher education programs is also important.

          In the meantime, I would be as sad as Ben if we had to limit ourselves to the steps because there’s a learning curve.

          1. So Claire I noticed you actually invited me to be your BFF on some old strand here on the PLC and there was no reply button over there for some reason so I guess I never replied and said OK, you and I can be ESOL BFFs. I have had many an ELL in my English Language Arts and Social Studies classes, and was always glad to have had ESOL training, but I never worked as an ESOL teacher per se. I think I like world languages better. But if I taught ESOL of course I would do that using CI, however due to the academic requirements, I would do it quite differently. If I taught ESOL and French I would treat it like two different preps. Like I said in my post a couple weeks back, I love GLAD units, because they give input, input, input. Plus they build in kids’ interests. I think they even work well in the upper grades. But during the output phase of a GLAD unit, it also let the more advanced kids give output for the less-proficient. Because you will have more proficient English speakers. My sister is an ESOL teacher and maybe I can get her to come to TN with me. She lives in GA. You and she could really talk about ESOL. 😉 And my sister could learn some Spanish. I would do small groups with them, have them read books at their level and set goals for what they want to read that week, and then give them time to read in class, abut 10 min daily (that is when I would be pulling the other small groups, about 5-6 kids per day so I can see everyone in a week). I would do read-alouds with them as a whole class, at an easy level so it is CI for the lower kids. It would help the advanced kids to work on their envisioning, predicting, etc. The lower kids could just listen to the more proficient ones. The input would not be as comprehensible in my class, where we are all novices, but that is the world of ESOL. You gotta do what you gotta do. They night not get it all, but to keep it as CI as possible for the less-advanced kids, you could try to recast it for them in simpler language. This would not need to be annoying for the more proficient kids. Most kids I think like to hear teachers repeat their ideas, seems to make them feel proud.
            Anyways, I hope to see you in Tennessee!
            Baby, won’t you carry me, Back to Tennessee!

  17. We should work backward from our principles. One pedagogical principle is “maximize compelling and comprehensible input,” but circumstances and conditions influence the degree to which our plan and classroom practice can make that happen.

    1. I totally agree with your statement, Eric. We all understand that there are states all over the country that have been completely enveloped by the corporate reform movement in education. School districts are pressured into adopting abusive and onerous practices intended to demoralize teachers. These barbaric practices include requiring teachers to submit daily lesson plans, following a scripted curriculum, comment assessments, etc.

      There is no question that draconian school systems are the reality for a lot of TPRS/CI teachers, BUT this does not mean that we should cease to discuss best practices with each other. To what extent we are able to pursue best practices will of course be impacted by our individual circumstances, but we shouldn’t bark down any discussion of what works best. (See the debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on health care).

    2. “…work backward from our principles”
      I like it.

      The same need to “work backwards from our principles” is true in other CI methods, including SIOP. Sometime in September Ben described a SIOP classroom he observed. The teacher had a checklist of “steps” to follow, but missed the principles of authentic and interesting comprehensible input. Students checked out because the class was boring and unrelated to their real lives.

      This happens sometimes in TPRS as well –anytime we focus on going through the steps and not on real communication. Regardless of what method you teach, like Eric says, there has to be a foundation of compelling and comprehensible input.

      1. So well said, Claire. Just going through the steps without fostering real communication in our CI classrooms has been Eric’s point here quite frequently over at least two years now. How many times is he going to have to say it?

  18. PQA, as I understand it, is a way to connect students to the topic at hand by simply asking the student a question and assisting him in his answer. The teacher ask the question; the student provides the answer (at least the content, the teacher shares the answer to the rest of the class in the correct form).

    Question and Answer is the chief means by which we establish and maintain Interactive Communication in the classroom with non-speakers and emerging speakers of L2. Q&A becomes personalized when it is about the students.

    Personalized Questions and Answers can be used when establishing meaning for a particular utterance. But we can personalize questions during the story-asking and especially during the reading phase.

    I think it is helpful to think that the three steps are not just a lesson plan format. They are also part of the life of every new utterance. I will try to explain. Let’s say that “wants to sleep” arises at some point. We can skip comprehension at this point or we can make this comprehensible (using gestures, pictures, realia, sounds, and, as Blaine points out, clarified by translation). This is step one in the life of acquiring “wants to sleep”: establishing its meaning. Step 2 is for that utterance to be contextualized in spoken language with sufficient reps for it to become a part of the learner’s expanding L2 repertoire (in some way). Step 3 in the life of this utterance is for it to begin to encountered and understood while reading.

    The way I am picturing this, Step 1 of an utterance can occur during any activity or step in the lesson plan. It can occur in any of the means of personalization we have devised or recognized (Anne’s questionnaire, Sabrina’s interviews, Ben’s CWB and Invisibles, a student’s cool teeshirt, the district tournament, Valentine’s Day).

    To the extent that it is more consistently encountered in Step 2 (oral context) and Step 3 (written context), the likelihood is increased that the particular utterance and its transferable components are incorporated to the mental representation of the language.

    1. I went back and reread what you said about #4, Ben, and it is clearer now that, as Eric pointed out above, your beef was with using gestures.

      Note that Blaine’s use of establishment of meaning in the story includes a gesture and a gloss to insure and maintain comprehensibility as the story moves forward. This does not seem to be learners gesturing to indicate their understanding, but rather, the teacher gesturing to aid understanding.

        1. Yes! Gestures don’t come naturally to me, but I’ve realized that many of my students, both adolescents and adults, are dyslexic and the gesture helps them SO much. I never ask them to make the gesture, but I use it with words that are difficult for them. When I see them searching for the word, I make the gesture and their faces clear and they are able to produce it.

    2. So Nathaniel please clarify. Are you saying that we need a Step 1 in TPRS? I say we don’t, that in fact it is better when we establish meaning and get reps and ask personalized questions during the story instead. PQA freaks people out, and not without reason. But I’m just not clear from reading the above what your position on Step 1 is.

      1. “I say we don’t, that in fact it is better when we establish meaning and get reps and ask personalized questions during the story instead. ”

        I agree, especially about the PQA as a separate pre-activity. Let it all weave together. I see more clearly in the quote that the “Step 1” stuff is still their, it is just a little awkward calling it Step 1 when it does not precede step 2.*

        I was thinking of Step 1 above in terms of being clarification of meaning. “Step 1” is vocabulary. Originally Step 1 was for teaching vocabulary. This may have been a continuation of starting the course with TPR.

        I was changing the framework. Instead of saying the three steps are vocabulary, story, and reading, I was saying that a word expression goes through the three steps of clarifying its meaning, hearing/interacting with it in the story, and seeing/understanding it in the reading.

        Having I further muddied or somewhat clarified?

        *So how could we explain it? TPRS consists of 2 steps. The first step is called step 2…and the second step is step 3…

  19. Yes!
    The ‘3 steps’ are an elegant road map for the newbie. They help insure that we are true to our principles; that we understand and act on the primacy of Comprehensible Input and follow it with literacy. It’s an internal organizer – a way to remember what must come first; even a way to self-analyze what went wrong in a lesson (i.e., lots of reading pronunciation errors may be due to insufficient auditory input). It helps the (overwhelmed?) paradigm-shifting veteran or brand new WL teacher to keep it simple.
    Perhaps no longer necessary for the superstar sages, it offers security as rookies dip their toes in the CI waters. As I’ve said before, I’ll bet T/CI- TPRS hasn’t failed or gotten a bad reputation because they were poorly executed by the teacher, but rather because new demands for planning, documentation and conformity make it onerous and intimidating to win over bureaucratic administrators…not to mention intractable & cantankerous colleagues.

    1. Alisa said:

      …perhaps no longer necessary for the superstar sages, it [the Three Steps] offers security as rookies dip their toes in the CI waters….

      PQA has never offered security to new teachers. In fact, over the years I bet it alone has sent thousands of teachers running and screaming from the TPRS camp.

      That is why I say we need to get rid of Step 1.

  20. Leigh Anne Munoz

    My observers who are open-minded tell me that this manner of teaching is more of an ‘art’ than a set of principles or steps. It is a great risk to turn teaching into an art. When we risk, we make mistakes. Here’s to us and to our fellow teachers who would be artists!

    “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
    ? George Bernard Shaw

    1. Teaching is, and always has been, an art. Everything else is instruction.

      “It is a great rish to turn teaching into art.” So true. I looked for the Like button. And like all great risks, the reward can be fabulous.

  21. It is true that circling could look like an advertisement for a throwback robot competition. But it needn’t be.
    1. We can feign surprise and forgetfulness to get kids to say yes/no about a fact/statement.
    2. For those of past the half-century mark (in life or teaching), we do not have to feign the ability to remember a bunch of details. The kids have grandparents who look like us. They know that people our age do not remember everything they just told us.

  22. Reps. A tool in the toolbox. The goal is not how many times we can say it, as if we need the practice. The goal is to increase the exposures to an utterance. The question is how many exposures do the kids need for an utterance to become recognizable as a unit with a meaning, and then to catch that meaning when the utterance is spoken? Susan Gross once related that her husband realized in a demonstration that he needed something like six exposures to a word before he even heard it.

    The focus on reps recognizes that students hear and understand less than we think they do and that the road to acquisition is longer than we ever imagined, even when it is paved with verb conjugations and other paradigms.

    We can turn reps into a game and play the game from time to time. What is a game? Counting reps? Reps are baskets and touchdowns and yards carried. Counting and comparisons. Increasing reps and decreasing the time. When we are done with that tool (gets old) we can put it back in the toolbox until we need it again.

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