From Input to Output – VanPatten

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49 thoughts on “From Input to Output – VanPatten”

  1. Eric,
    I will be reading your feedback for the next couple of days. I love so much that you’re willing to share your reflections about a lot of the research that you get into with us. Whether directly or indirectly you make all of us that read your words a better teacher. As you mentioned, I’ve been trying for a long time to interpret the work of the VP because I see a lot of what he says to be what Krashen says and to be what we realize much of our time in the classroom as TPRS teachers.
    I love the title of that book, input to output is exactly something that Blaine is striving for. For me, Blaine represents classical TPRS. And in classical TPRS the point is to provide input and expect output. I cannot teach my classes without some degree of output. I really think that VP’s work is closer to TPRS than anything else.
    I have always seen Krashen saying about TPRS that is the best way to provide comprehensible input. Because of his Comprehension hypothesis and the way many interpret it,I think output gets a bad rap. We desperately need output in the TPRS classroom, it is what guides, motivates, and determines our input.
    That might be a big statement for many to handle but I think in 2015 we can talk about appropriate student output and it not be bad words. we just have to be careful to note that we are not talking about output in the traditional sense.
    I loved that quote you shared too. I believe in the power of providing CI…and then just getting out of the heck out of the way and let the brain do its thing. If tons of INPUT is good enough for Krashen, Van Patten, and Chomsky then it is good enough for me too.

    1. …we desperately need output in the TPRS classroom, it is what guides, motivates, and determines our input….
      I see output as designed to occur in the natural growth of a person. What I mean by that is that when you compress input down into 4.5 hours per week, the natural language acquisition from input to output is thwarted and twisted. When we expect output, as Michael you say Blaine does, in my view we are expecting more output than can be expected relative to the amount of input each week inside the classroom walls, which is so unnatural anyway since we all struggle so mightily to stay in the TL in any truly meaningful and natural way, in terms of authentic input. Honestly, how can we expect output from largely unmotivated large classes of kids who have no real compelling reason to be in our classrooms and are forced to be there, kids in urban settings whose father just got deported or in suburban settings who are only playing us for a grade because college entrance is their real goal, not learning a language? If we get 2 or 3 hours of input per week where our students are actually truly receiving meaningful input but then expect them to turn around and output the language, I think that is just an unreasonable expectation. It raises the question – can we in fact expect any output in settings as sadly unnatural as classrooms in school buildings where data and fear drive all instruction?

      1. Right! Any output from a beginner has to be highly controlled, familiar, and/or scaffolded. They don’t have the mental representation to speak in any real and free way. So if we are looking at an unfamiliar, unpracticed context, we expect level-appropriate output (which may mean 1-2 word answers and short phrases).

      2. Ben,
        I love that you represent (in my mind) the perfect example of what I call a Krashenista. You are a purest in this sense of implementing CI in the classroom and I think you are right on. You, I think, represent LCI (loving ). I say this based on having been taught by you at NTPRS 2012, viewing your teaching videos, and what you write here and other places.
        Output is ultimately the expectation of our input right? It is an expectation or perhaps a better word is RESULT of input. I see that “expect” or “expectations” can be negative terms in this conversation.
        Ben, I think of you when Krashen states…
        “These methods do not force early production in the second language but allow students to produce when they are “ready,” recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and NOT from forcing and correcting production.”
        I would actually argue that that statement isn’t very “TPRS” or that it is mostly misinterpreted to mean Output=bad (along with the misinterpretation of the Comprehension hypothesis). In a sense, we do force responses from our students. We expect answers…I do think output is used in some form in every TPRS classroom. It MUST exist or the process does not work and is inefficient. Circling requires output.
        On the most basic and fundamental level “Sí o No?” requires an answer. I think we can start to change this idea of output and make distinctions. Even in sí or no, the output is arguably “forced.” Forced is a bad word. I do not want to force my students to do anything, but that is part of the process. The expectation (if you will) is that students answer our questions.
        VP brings to the table for all of us, and especially traditionalists, the distinction between “output” and “output in the traditional sense.” He uses that term a lot, “in the traditional sense,” every time that he does, I think it is a subtle way of being critical to legacy methods, grammarians, task-based learning and the like.
        It is my hope that we can be proud of our type of output we seek. Free writes, spontaneous language usage by students, complete sentences when students are ready, complex grammar usage, etc. When others ask me about output they think I don’t want it. I want it all the time and every day. The difference lies in the fact that I am just willing to wait for it when it happens naturally after tons of input. I (and perhaps we) do not want output in the traditional sense.
        1. Can we expect output?
        2. Should we expect output?
        I think every teacher will decide what is appropriate for their students. The heart of those 2 questions is really, Should there be a result of input?

        1. Wow. Those are some very badass observations Mike – they help me understand a lot! Especially this one:
          …VP brings to the table for all of us, and especially traditionalists, the distinction between “output” and “output in the traditional sense.”….
          You guys are actually helping me get a handle on VP, which I never would have thought possible. I will go re-read that comment again now.

        2. Part of what we teach students is that linguistic settings have expectations. There is a give and take in communication. There is Q&A (What color is my shirt? It is sky blue.) And there is reciprocation (How are you today? I am rather well considering the size of the loan I just took out to purchase two excellent tomes by VP. And how about you?). There is acknowledgement of another’s statement (“We had to get another cat after Toby died what with the mice wanting to move in with us.” “Oh, yeah.”) Etc.
          In class we expect students to show they understand. We expect they gesture or act in response to our utterance. We expect one word answers, including but not limited to yes/no. If that were too linguistically overwhelming we look for positive and negative head-shaking. And we may find ourselves modelling by shaking our heads up/down as we say ‘yes’ and left/right as we say ‘no.’ (This was especially important when I did after school Greek lessons last year, since ‘vai,’ pronounced [nay], is an English negative and sounds like Spanish ‘no.’)
          Nice final two paragraphs, Michael. Especially, “The difference lies in the fact that I am just willing to wait for it when it happens naturally after tons of input.” Impatience gets us in trouble here.

          1. A few quotes from Krashen, The Natural method, p 79.
            “The transition from preproduction input to a stage in which the students begin to speak is simple if opportunities for production are made available gradually within the normal comprehension (preproduction) activities. The earliest verbal responses in the target language will be yes-no in reply to a simple question…”
            “The next step integrates the use of “either-or” questions in the the comprehension questions: ‘Is this a dog or a cat? Is this woman tall or short? Is Mary wearing a red or a green blouse?’ Acceptable answer are: dog, tall, green. Answering an either-or question amounts to no more than a repetition of a word which the instructor has just pronounced. Thus, although the students are actually producing target language words for the first time, the correct pronunciation and form are immediately available in the preceding input.”
            “From either-or questions, it is an easy step (although one not necessarily taken immediately) to ask for identification of items which have been introduced several times. What is this? What color is her skirt? What is he doing? In all cases the students need only say a single word to answer the question. Or, the instructor may start an utterance and leave a pause. He has on a red… Most student will immediately say shirt (if indeed it is that shirt that is red).”
            “These input technique for encouraging early production do not constitute a discrete stage of language development but rather are an extension of the comprehension stage. When the instructor begins to ask questions and make comments which require single word response, the emphasis is still on giving comprehensible input. At first, most of the questions should require only gestures or names as answer with only a few requiring single word answers. As the students become comfortable with producing responses in the target language, their use can be increase, but the goal of supplying large quantities of comprehensible input is still more important at this stage than the students’ initial attempts at production.”

          2. Another quote, p 80:
            Indeed, new words should be introduced and then reused many times before the students are expected to use them in their responses.
            Thus, at any given time the comprehensible input serves to introduce new vocabulary, reuse vocabulary which has previously been introduced, and to give an opportunity for the students to produce vocabulary which has been used by the instructor so often that it has been acquired (or in some cases learned).
            In this way, at the same time the students are producing words they have acquired, the input contains new words which will form part of the material to be acquired.
            Comprehension, in this way, always outpaces production, not just in the preproduction stage, but throughout Natural Approach activities.

        3. I never thought about it like that Mike, but we indeed do “force” output, I mean, if we coerce with extrinsic rewards that our students show up and engage with us and give choral responses and all that, we do kind of force it. Bad word or not. It’s hard to get around the “forced” aspect in schools.
          But there’s a semantical difference there. We’re talking about getting kids to show up and output as a means of allowing the back-and-forth that takes place between teacher and class. As Michael you put it “We desperately need output in the TPRS classroom, it is what guides, motivates, and determines our input.” (That’s a keeper quote btw.) Also, as a tactic to keep them focused on the messages. As it’s been pointed out, they are talking about output as a means of learning, and some, as a means of acquisition. (Probably though they don’t even understand the difference.)
          I wonder… If a person went into a TPRS class and then a traditional “communicative” class, both at the same level and all that, and counted the amount of utterances in the TL, would they not find the TPRS class to produce a consistently higher rate of student output?
          I ask because virtually anyone who comes into my classroom to observe (non FL teachers) says something to the affect of “wow, I can’t believe how much the kids were talking!” Of course they’re usually talking a bit more when there’s an observer (the show-off and excitement factors), but I get WAY more output now than I did when I was asking kids to do dialogues and presentations and such when teaching from Exprésate, and it’s authentic and more fluent to boot.

  2. I’ll look again for the exact quote and attribution, but the fundamental difference between Krashen and Van Patten was once summarized by a former professor of mine in the following way. Krashen believes that “Comprehensible input is necessary and sufficient for acquisition” while Van Patten is of the belief that it is “necessary but not sufficient”.
    Thank you, Eric, for the post above. It will provide much food for thought.

    1. ….Van Patten is of the belief that it is “necessary but not sufficient”….
      What does this refer to? School instruction or just general 24/7 acquisition? What does it mean that CI is not sufficient for acquisition?

      1. 1) VP says we need a focus on form (meaning & form) in order to make more accurate form-meaning links and parsing, i.e. override faulty processing strategies. Krashen just wants focus on meaning (except that he allows for focus on form if it makes input more comprehensible).
        If you want to see a list of these input processing principles, go to p.421 in “The Evidence is IN”
        In the appendices there are also examples of VP’s structured input exercises.
        For example, in Spanish “Me ve María” would mean “María sees me” but learners interpret the first noun as the subject and process it as “Me sees María.” This leads to delayed acquisition of object pronouns and would explain why they are later acquired.
        Though, VP then goes on to say that when we make it easier to process input (everything we do in TPRS: slow, pauses, known vocabulary, repetition, etc.) that it makes it easier to process form, but does not guarantee it. Thus, good TPRS may make unnecessary VP’s focus on form.
        So, Krashen would say just keep giving learners more CI and it will all work out, people will follow the natural orders. I’m not sure VP is saying that focus on form would make this progress more efficient and/or more effective.
        Again, I think VP’s PI studies are largely theoretical, since he may* have shown that acquisition depends on processing input. So, he has shown on a micro-level of analysis what Krashen has been saying on a more macro-level.
        *the way acquisition is measured is suspect.
        2) VP says that once acquisition has happened, we still need to develop our skill of accessing this implicit linguistic system. VP says output production strategies (known as procedures) “emerge” and then we develop “skill” in using them. VP explains that we may develop these output procedures in stages (e.g. word -> phrase -> subordinate clause). This example is simplified, but used to make a point, that just as there are acquisition orders and developmental stages for acquisition so there are stages in output.
        This was the first time I was reading about this idea. And VP does admit there would likely be a symbiotic relationship between the growth of the developing system and production procedures. Here is where I think Krashen and VP would differ, Krashen saying output would come directly from acquisition (acquisition -> output), but VP saying output procedures and skill mediating acquisition and output (acquisition -> output procedures -> output).

        1. Well so now do we we have Krashen speaking in general language acquisition terms and VP talking about school environments in general or just in that quote? If indeed VP is talking about school environments and Krashen about learning a language in general, then that is a fine how-do-you-do for the less research gifted out there like moi.

    2. Here is footnote from Krashen, “The Natural Method,” 1983, p.49, footnote 13:
      Comprehension of input may be necessary for language acquisition but may not be sufficient We can understand input and still not acquire. There are several reasons for stating this restriction of the input hypothesis. First, there may be an affective filter, a “block” that prevents comprehended input from being used for further language acquisition….Also, is is possible to understand without making any form-function connection.Research in psycholinguistics has shown that we often “by-pass” syntactic structure in understanding sentences. (Bever, 1970; Taron, 1974). Related to this is the fact that we can often “get the gist” of what someone is saying, even though the actual utterance is far beyond our current level of competence and far beyond our i + 1.”
      Has he changed on any of this?

  3. Pop-up grammar pays attention to form. I am thinking that the vPQA format also addresses some of the concerns – hearing the structure, seeing the structure, and output in measured doses with the support of choices and of course reading. Seems a very balanced approach to me. I have some French 4s , who with limited time in the classroom, are really beginning to make themselves understood in French. Great conversation.

  4. “I would LOVE to have time this summer to write something truly accessible, shorter, and cheap – a short pamphlet that could be read by FL teachers. It would be a time consuming project, so I’d first want to make sure my labor would not be in vain, that someone would read it. Haha!”
    Eric, I think you should do this!
    I think that a decent definition of output would also be helpful. Defined as something like: spontaneous response in one’s own thoughts to engaging spoken or written input in the target language — that makes it clear it is not conversation drilling, memorization, or those exercises where you trade a word in the same question or sentence in the name of being a conversation. Ben said this on the post about Nathaniel’s admin: “To conclude, robotic parroting of memorized speech patterns does not constitute language learning.” It’s not really output, either.

  5. Here’s how VP defines output: “language that has a communicative purpose; it is language that learners produce to express some kind of meaning.” Coincidentally, he also gives the example of a parrot to demonstrate how that is not output 😉
    VP defines input as “language that a learner hears (or reads) that has some kind of communicative intent. By communicative intent we mean that there is a message in the language that the learner is supposed to attend to; his or her job is to understand that message, to comprehend the meaning of the utterance or sentence.”
    I love this: “acquisition happens as a by-product of comprehension . . . speaking is, in a sense, a by-product of acquisition.” Hence: input -> acquisition -> output
    A grammar pop-up would be classified as “focus on form” (not focus on formS). In other words, the way we point out form is meaning-based. VP has a very specific way of focusing on form (structured input exercises) and I’m not sure what he would think about our way of popping up form.
    As I said as well already, Krashen also supports level-appropriate output as a means of indirectly getting input. As VP also says, “no theory to date has articulated any mechanisms that would lead output to provide data for the developing system. . . they don’t create it [developing system].” Output can make a learner aware of gaps, which may make them look closer at the input.
    And because output doesn’t lead to acquisition, VP has this to say about student L1 use: “So, as far as the acquisition of the system is concerned, leaners’ use of English (or any L1) in tasks is not a major problem in foreign language classes in terms of inhibiting acquisition.”
    VP asks why a student would use the L1 and gives 2 answers:
    1) Student trying to clarify the task.
    2) The task is beyond their output processing abilities.
    And then VP says that “some insightful research has shown that as learners gain familiarity with a task, their use of the L1 drops dramatically.”
    He concludes: “What this research suggests is that use of the L1 may not be a problem in the early stages but may actually be useful if not necessary as a tool for learners to manage their environment and learning tasks.”

    1. …use of the L1 may not be a problem in the early stages but may actually be useful if not necessary as a tool for learners to manage their environment and learning tasks.”….
      L1 as useful to “manage” their….learning tasks?
      Now is VP talking there about conscious engagement with and fulfillment of learning tasks in a classroom? Is that what language learning is about? I thought that acquisition is a completely unconscious process that involves no effort whatsoever except that the learner be focused on meaning (which is effortless if the input is interesting) and now I am reading about learning tasks, which involve conscious effort. So is learning a language an unconscious or conscious process?
      There is a side to VP that has always seemed somewhat inaccessible and I don’t like it. Super intellectuals like Eric can get it, but normal people can’t. It seems like trying to figure out VP is like going down into a rat hole without a light sometimes. Can’t he just come out and say it so people like me can understand?

      1. By “task” he just means the activity, be it PQA or a step 2 story. By “manage” he means “clarifying” or “negotiating meaning.”
        So, VP says 2 reasons a student would speak L1 are to clarify (e.g. asking in L1 “What is going on in the story right now?”) or to express in L1 what they cannot yet express in L2, because what is being asked of them is not level-appropriate (e.g. When a TPRS teacher asks “Why?” this can lead to some out of bounds language).

        1. Thanks for your patience, Eric. Great explanation there. I think I get it. I just don’t want to. VanPatten makes my teeth itch, for some reason. Now that you have expressed it that way, in spite of myself, I think I agree with it.

    2. This is a good reason for not introducing too many tasks at once.
      This is also why so much L1 is necessary for textbook exercises: no one knows what they are supposed to do.
      This is why L2 to L1 translation in reading is brain-friendly: It we understand it we should be able to express it in our own language.

      1. “This is also why so much L1 is necessary for textbook exercises: no one knows what they are supposed to do.”
        This was one reason I began seeking out CI methods. The 90% TL thing was part of the motive to stop those stupid student pair work. Plus it was so obviously not helping their language ability.

        1. Yes, I always loved the textbook’s instructions in L2 for the pair-work activities that I used earlier this year before discovering TCI. If they don’t understand a few of the words in the instructions, they can’t even get started on the activity. A few might ask you (in English) what they’re supposed to be doing for their artificial conversation, but most will just sit there and fake it while you’re in earshot.

          1. Marc, most of my kids wouldn’t even bother faking it. It just all turned into one big pile of pointlessness, and the kids would think of me as pointless as well. I think if my kids faked it more I would have delayed my exploration and implementation of CI.

  6. I have to say, between the clown thing re Nathaniel and Scott and then the VP thing from Eric and Mike and that thread, this morning has been, as I look back, the most entertaining and edifying morning I can remember in the past seven years of this PLC. Thanks to everyone for making my retirement into one big stare-at-the-screen session.

  7. Expensive? It is only $219.94 + SH. Although there is a perfect copy for $999.11 +SH. Thanks for making more (fiscally) accessible Eric. And thanks for the heads-up about the close correlation with the video series.
    “skill-building can’t explain how it is a L2 learner can know and do things in the language that were NEVER taught or practiced”
    As I recall, this was Chomsky’s argument (or at least part of it) against BF Skinner’s behavioristic approach to language learning. I wonder how much the skill-building approach stems from or is connected to Skinner.

    1. Skinner, plus the American Army in WWII– who needed a superfast way to produce “speakers” of foreign languages to manage the countries they were about to invade– were the theory and practical sources of drills. Chomsky’s thesis– a generative grammar of Hebrew– basically pointed out that language learners are able to “do stuff” with language– and do it properly–that they have not heard modeled. In other words, the brain “figures out” what we would call “rules” (but NOT the “rules” that teachers use to explain grammar) from input which is limited (i.e. it does not contain all the possible permutations ofgrammar and vocab). Miraculously this limited data set “contains” enough info to acquire a language AND to allow speakers to generate an infinite # of grammatical sentences.

      1. Chris wrote:
        …the brain “figures out” what we would call “rules” (but NOT the “rules” that teachers use to explain grammar) from input which is limited (i.e. it does not contain all the possible permutations of grammar and vocab). Miraculously this limited data set “contains” enough info to acquire a language AND to allow speakers to generate an infinite # of grammatical sentences….
        I agree with Eric that this is really well put, Chris. I especially like this part of it:
        …the brain “figures out” what we would call “rules”….
        That is a knockout punch to anyone who believes that we can learn rules consciously by memorizing and applying them (an impossibility).

      2. Robert Harrell

        I think more information on the brain’s capacity for organizing language would be an important addition to the discussion. Unfortunately I do not remember the source, but I do recall reading several years ago about groups of children growing up in a pidgin setting but creating a full creole language (with complete “rules of grammar”, syntax, etc.) of their own without having had it taught to them.
        The National Institute of Health has a website devoted to American Sign Language. On their FAQ page, they make the statement, “Surprisingly, children who are deaf can learn to sign quite fluently from their parents, even when their parents might not be perfectly fluent themselves.” This is in reference to children born deaf to hearing parents who then begin learning ASL. Skinnerian behaviorism does not explain this ability to develop fluency despite less-than-native-level input.
        Okay, I think this is what I was remembering. Read the section on Nicaraguan Sign Language.

        1. The last sentence of that article, Robert, is this:
          …it is children, more than adults, who contain within them the engine that drives language creation….
          When I ponder this, I realize that engines are under the hoods of cars, out of sight, as was Chomsky’s LAD where “the stuff” (Chris used this term earlier today) happens.
          The fact that the change in spatial location relative to meaning happened over twenty years in Nicaragua leads me to believe that it was indeed the unconscious mind, the hidden engine, that led to these changes.
          The article, then, supports the point that we may not know how the brain organizes language, but we ought to trust that it can do so, and quite nicely without any help from overzealous language teachers.
          The image comes to mind of medical doctors messing with unborn children. Don’t. It’s fine. God doesn’t make mistakes. Stay out.

  8. In a less researched-based example, this weekend we were discussing how many of us had seen people (entire bars full!) singing songs in a second language…word for word…who had not one single idea of what the lyrics meant.
    Such a great example of extensive output (that takes practice!) and incomprehensible input (many hours of listening !) having NO measurable result.
    with love,

    1. Robert Harrell

      Another example of this is in the world of entertainment. Both actors and singers may be called upon to give output in a language they do not understand. In most cases they simply learn the words phonetically. The really good ones get at least a general idea of what they are saying so that they can provide credible intonation, flow and feeling, but they neither understand nor can truly communicate in the foreign language.
      A former student of mine created the Dothraki language for the series “Game of Thrones”. He teaches the actors how to pronounce their lines. None of them speak or truly understand Dothraki. The same was true for Elvish (Sindarin) in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films.

  9. I am still chuckling from the creepy clown with the disturbing smeared lipstick. If that’s what retirement promises- images like that- sign me up for the fast track!
    I am down w/VP cuz
    1. he acknowledges the complexity of the language acquisition task- no need to gunk it up with integrating earth science or the history of corn in the New World;
    2. cuz he says that practicing output doesn’t build output skill (right Eric?)
    3. He draws from his most excellent forbears, Chomsky and Krashen
    4. He affirms our criteria for quality input (and we’re the soldiers on the front line)
    I have read about his IP and PI umpteen times, and Eric has translated for me/us as many times, but I must be way too elementary-brained to ‘get it’ and hold on to it.
    Aren’t these dudes interested in studying theory to practice and watching how it unfolds in the t/ci classroom?

  10. Regarding #2 above, if output is to express meaning and AFTER the implicit linguistic system has developed regarding what is being output, then VP does say that type of output is necessary to develop skill. At the same time, he says development of speaking skill has hardly been studied.
    To really get PI, you should look at example exercises. The appendices of that 2003 article “The Evidence is IN. . .” has some samples. PI just means the learner is given structured input, structured in that it is highly controlled so as to force the learner to pay attention to meaning but also have to have to process form correctly in order to get the right answer.

    1. Eric, your comment above reminded me of what I have been thinking a lot about lately in regards to the role OUTPUT in my classroom.
      I’m not advocating for output just trying to understand its role in SLA. And get closer to articulating it better from a practical standpoint in my classroom. Is output important for acquiring?
      From The Evidence is IN (415).
      “Some have mistakenly used Swain’s position to create an input vs output debate in SLA. These scholars have misinterpreted Swain’s hypothesis to mean that either input or output lead two distinct aspects of acquisition or that output itself is the basis for acquisition.”
      VP goes on to say…
      “…output is seen as something that promotes how learners interact with input for continued growth of their linguistic systems. It is important to note that from the outset Swain argued for the insufficiency of input alone, not that it was unnecessary. Thus, argument is not for output over input, but rather output in addition to input.”
      VP says a close reading of Swain’s work argues for an important role of output. Output is seen as something that promotes how learners interact with input.
      1) [Output] is to promote the noticing of linguistic features in the input. Swain claims that by having to produce language, learners may become aware that they cannot say what they want to say. This subsequently pushes them to search (in the input) for ways to express their meaning.
      2) Output promotes acquisition through hypothesis testing. They subsequently confirm or dis-confirm their hypothesis via interaction with more input.
      3) Output is (used) to promote conscious awareness of language and language use. Heightened awareness of language in general may promote those processes that are responsible for acquisition.
      Do others agree/disagree or accept/reject these sentiments from VP why or why not…

        1. Chris,
          I think your opinion is right on. The points that VP makes about Swain I too think applies to learners that are READY to produce (more advanced learners). Swain says (via VP) that output stimulates the processes for acquisition. This only can happen after that rich diet of CI.
          VP says that there is no SLA theory that suggests that practicing a form leads to acquisition. This is where I believe Sarah C. misses the point completely. She thinks if they simply practice via task or drill that they will acquire and use…no research suggests that to be true…conclusively or happily at least.
          Do you have any Swain suggested readings?

      1. Even though Swain is suggesting output is a supplement to input, comprehensible output (CO) is still not accepted by Krashen. Read his critiques of CO. Those 3 functions for output listed by Swain are ALL about conscious processes. Noticing = conscious, hypothesis testing = conscious learning, metalinguistic awareness = conscious. Krashen, VP, and many more researchers who believe in implicit learning (no conscious focus on form) all reject Swain’s CO Hypothesis as directly leading to acquisition. And as Krashen points out, instances of “CO” are very scarce.
        Output is good, because
        1) it personalizes input (makes more compelling),
        2) because it lets us know if the learner is comprehending,
        3) and helps us provide more “teacher talk” (simplified speech to the learners’ level).
        Output MAY also be good to help a learner realize what they cannot do and make them more active processors/searchers of input, especially more active processors of syntactic components. And VP is suggesting output in later stages would help develop skill of utilizing the implicit linguistic system.
        Output can INdirectly lead to acquisition by improving the quality of input.
        Also to remember is how forced/pushed output is uncomfortable/anxiety-provoking for many learners.

      2. Knowing that I’m expecting an answer often appears to increase the level of attentive listening and looking by (especially) my less motivated students.
        In that way, they might feel that it is their output that’s benefitting them. Actually, it’s making them more willing to hear/read and comprehend input. So the expectation of some kind of respond may be the only thing that causes some less motivated students to attend to input. That’s what I think.

          1. Actually, I meant “interpersonal communication.” Depending on how you define “communication” you could consider interpretation of meaning (interpretive skills) to be “communication.”

          2. Just thought of 1 more benefit to requiring frequent student responses: encourages kids to focus on the meaning of the teacher talk in order to respond. It’s much easier to zone out and have a comprehension breakdown the more input has to be processed at once.

          3. You guys are pretty much riding herd on output here. Eric it is hard to argue with this:
            …Communication is 2-way!…
            Michael has seen Blaine make it a two-way street. I wonder why so many TPRS teachers accept the one-way street option. I know I have mostly done so. Maybe it has to do with personal courage. That is, not only do we have to do all the other little things we have to do to make our input work, we have to also have to find within us the strength of character to confront the lame bland blank stares we get and just DEMAND that the street be two way. I think that is what jGR/ISR is supposed to do. I just never could do it well. There are so many non-motivated students and the collective negative mental mass that a group of largely unhappy screen-addicted hormone cases can put on a teacher can really drag us down so that we forget such a basic thought that communication is two way. But it is.
            Clearly, the outcome of this thread will be a greater awareness in our community of the need to keep the discussion about student output going and to make it a major leitmotif as go forward with our work together here. I am so glad to be reading those expert comments above, not that I understand all of them. What is remarkable is that the tutorials from Eric and Michael and the others above are written by practicing elementary and secondary classroom teachers who are working in classrooms. That makes their views worth a lot more to me than research done only by ivory tower intellectuals. What stumps me is how they have the time to do all that and teach, but I don’t think anyone is complaining here. We are getting a great education on current research with a lot of the heavy reading filtered for us and we are most appreciative you guys. Thank you!

  11. Check out the exercise physiology analogy:
    1) Output is sweat. . . It is a common misconception that sweating leads to fat loss, just like it’s a myth that output leads to acquisition. Sweat is water. Water has 0 calories. It’s a byproduct. Output is a byproduct. Sweat often correlates with fat loss, but that largely depends on the climate and individual differences. Likewise, output can correlate with acquired knowledge, but acquisition can happen without it and is largely dependent on classroom environment and individual differences.
    2) Fat does not turn into muscle just like explicit knowledge (rules) does not turn into implicit knowledge (acquired competence). . . This is an imperfect analogy, because of the negative connotations of fat and I don’t mean to imply that explicit knowledge is a bad thing. But it does demonstrate the futility of teachers trying to practice rules (burn fat) in order to get them acquired (turned into muscle). These are 2 separate types of knowledge.

    1. Cool. Good analogies. These always work best when you have to explain this to c.i. newbies. Great explanation for why hot yoga is fake fitness. My analogy:
      Language acquisition is like learning music.
      1) You can represent music with dots (sheetmusic), just like you can represent actual (spoken or written) language with word lists and grammar rules. But you can’t learn to play music– in any genre– from dots if you have never heard the genre or piece. You end up with MIDI (computer-generated)-like sounds.
      2) once you have a feel for a song or genre, dots are useful for figuring out specific technical details that the ear cannot always pick up in real time. It is not an accident that in both language acquisition and music, the FIRST THING any teacher must do is SLOW DOWN, that nowadays people use software for slowing music down (without changing pitch) to figure bits out, and that back in the day people played LPs slowly to learn passages.
      3) The only way to really *get* music is to listen to a lot of what you want to play. Unless the “mental model” exists– and has been thoroughly developed with a ton of input– the output will be stiff, non fluid, dull, etc, much like grammar-taught kids’ writing is mechanical.
      4) The number of “rules”– or genre conventions– in music is enormous, as it is with any language. Any teaching approach that starts with rules will therefore miss out on a ton. It is MUCH better to get people to listen to a ton of the music they want to play, so that the brain’s immense unconscious power can soak up the zillions of subtleties, than to try to lay the rules/conventions out one by one.
      E.g. in bluegrass, thirds– the C or C# in an A chord, for example– can be indeterminate (oscilating between C and C#) only when the passage is melodically flat or rising. You don’t do indeterminate 3rds on descending riffs. What a great explanation…or, you could just listen to a solo fiddle version of “Cluck Old Hen” and “get it” that way.
      5) Overpractice– via input– is key to automatising skill in language; in music, the same is true but we also need some mechanical practice to enable the body to move as fast as the mind.
      In jazz– the most complex musical form ever (other than carnatic music)– it’s interesting to note that all of those brilliant players *knew* theory (some better than others) but *practiced* scales and *listened* to a ton of music. You need your scales hardwired in so that when it’s your turn to go for it you aren’t thinking mech movements: you just let yourself do your thing and “your thing” only works if you have had a load of input data on which the unconscious kind can work.

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