Grammar/Book Based Teaching Is Over

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12 thoughts on “Grammar/Book Based Teaching Is Over”

  1. They / we (because I really do believe that there is no “they”) are afraid. I can only speak from my own experience, but usually when I dig deep enough I find fear at the root of most of my insecurities. Fear allows us to build walls, to perpetuate the illusion of separation and control.
    Our practice as teachers, and especially as teachers of languages, is to poke holes in these walls to allow the light to shine through. Sounds corny and cliche, but this is what we are doing by acknowledging each student and celebrating his/her unique contributions. It can be a joyous, playful, messy and painful process. Often simultaneously! Emphasis on process. I am in my infancy of TPRS, but I already know it as a heart-centered process, so of course it will point us toward truth.
    “No one was born for nothing. We have something to learn from everyone. This is the mystery of humility.” –Sant Kirpal Singh

  2. It’s fear, no doubt. Pure and simple. I forget that and try to beat the walls down instead of doing the much gentler – and effective – hole poking process. Thanks for the reminder Jen. I’ll get it one of these days.

  3. Here is a link to a World Languages Skills Map from Partnership for 21st Century Skills. It is an interesting article. Take a look at the comparison of “Then and Now” on page 4. Unfortunately, I believe it is a fantasy document, because schools are for the most part still stuck in “Then”, but it does give us an idea of the goal to shoot for. I intend to make use of this in my attempts to help my school move away from “Then” to “Now”.

  4. This post is so important to me and you all know why. The recent inner conflict I’ve had between whether to continue with TPRS or fall back on the traditional is always looming. This morning, I had a young Freshmen boy walk into the room early (I still had the lights off ‘cuz I’m not a morning person. Go figure I became a teacher….) and he asked whether we would be doing stories. He told me that he liked them and found he could understand them well enough. It is moments like those that tell me TPRS/CI+P is the best way.
    I have to get back on track with it. I’m going to check my original comment-turned-post to see if I can get more people to give me some ideas. Ben, many people commented on my post but I still don’t feel comfortable with combining the old and new. Any pointers?

    1. I often feel like I “get more done” when the kids aren’t in class…there are moments when I long for days without students in order to accomplish what I want to. There’s a huge part of me that wants to take an entire week off in order to sit and read the blog and watch Ben’s videos. I understand the inner conflict that comes from the “old” vs. the “new” because for me it feels too chaotic. I know that things should just grow organically out of 3 chosen structures and PQA, but for me it just seems unstructured. Not unstructured in the sense that I should be on page 43 by this date, but because I feel like I lose control of what happens in my classroom. Before I know it, I have my two “hockey superstar” students standing in front of the room, each holding a stuffed animal, because the animal represents the star of his team. Where did this come from? My structures were “there is/likes/better than.” There was a slight link between the structures and what happens, but then when I fear conflict between the two boys (and conflict that rose out of fun, not dislike), my monster puppet comes and eats the puck to end the game (luckily, the score was 3-3). How is this going to help my students? Am I wasting their time? Am I wasting mine?

  5. So well expressed. I’ve got a class coming in and would like to address this later. I could write a book on it. The key to the response is in staying with it. It’s like, over time, things become clear that cannot be taught but must be experienced. Wow, Allison you express the thoughts of tens of thousands of teachers. I just wish there was a clear answer but there’s not. It’s the Just Do It thing.

  6. Allison,
    I really understand what you’re saying. Furthermore, I would add that assessing seems confusing after a few periods of this. We hate it but we have to put some grades in the system so…..what do we develop to assess? I know about the short listening and reading comp. quizzes but I’m talking more along the lines of what replaces those old vocab fill in the blank quizzes.

  7. Allison for me it’s about doing what’s right while keeping one’s job. If somebody is standing over you with a rubber mallet telling you to teach in a certain way or lose your job, then I would suggest that by all means you do that. On the other hand, if there is some give in the deal, where you can do some circling and pointing and pausing in a SLOW way and not get clobbered by a rubber mallet, then maybe you can fit that TPRS model into the model you are being forced to follow. But, and this is what I hear Drew and others saying, those who carry the rubber mallets are really without the strength (given the new standards and awareness of the ACTFL Position Statement that is sweeping through foreign language education these days) to actually land a blow on our heads with the mallet. They are only locally and temporarily powerful. They couldn’t hit strong TPRS/CI teachers over the head any more than could surgeons trained in the 1980’s lay blows on the heads of younger surgeons who are doing current stuff that is much more beneficial to their patients. If you are now standing on the shore overlooking a vast and beautiful ocean, you have to make choices. You can just look at the ocean and say, “That’s one big ass ocean! I think I’ll just hang out here on the shore”, or you could have other responses. I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but I suggest you follow the dictates of your own conscience with the limits of whatever situation there is in your own building. How fascinated are you by the ocean? A little? Then swim a little and see if you want to swim more. Not at all? Then don’t go in but neither do not yell at people to get out of the water because you don’t like it. A lot? Then dive in! There are people in this very group who have chosen to dive in who have been through very tough trials in the past few months, experiencing and losing sleep, almost feeling as if they are drowning, over rough meetings with angry blowheards whose heads are stuck in the sand. This is in fact really happening – as we speak today – to one member of this group. Just decide what you are willing to do and do it. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself. Just don’t ever for one moment belive that people who use a fifty year old model to teach their kids know what they’re talking about. Don’t believe that people who don’t know how to swim can tell others who do that they can’t swim. The fact is that their heads are way wedged in the sand, regardless of what they say or do. It’s over for them. There will soon be other Diana Noonans out there running major metro districts, and sooner than you think, and this change will take place. It is beyond unconscionable when a middle school teacher who aligns with standards is called on the carpet by a high school teacher who does not for sending kids to them who can’t conjugate verbs. That is bullshit. So I’m into a ramble. Better stop. I say get your sea legs and learn to teach with CI now, as much as you are able, so that you’ll be ready and employable when the old ostriches get drowned in the sand for good. I would rather be drowned in water than in sand anyway, trying to do something that makes sense instead of doing something that is just plain stupid. Give them what they want, shut your door, and teach your kids in the way you know best.

  8. That’s one big ass ocean!
    Love it, Ben.
    I just got back from a part 1 of a dept. meeting. I made it known that if you force kids to output you are forcing them to make mistakes. They are going to be damn proud of what they write and then we are going to tear them down with red. One guy said, colleges and university teach with a strict grammatical syllabus and I fired back and that’s why colleges and universities are seeing fewer and fewer language majors and minors. Some well known colleges are starting to close language programs.
    But kids need to know grammar, they still speak in infinitives! I said that we see kids speaking in infinitives because they are taught from infinitives. Infinitives are complex verb forms that devoid of context freak a kid out. “hablar” to talk/talk/talking. Él hablar: sounds right to them (and they’re proud when they can say it). But when we teach habla/habló/hablaba in context “él hablar” no longer sounds right.
    In my philosophy so many kids leave high school not speaking a language–whatever radical thing I might be doing is not going to do any *more* damage to that statistic; if anything it’s helping. In fact, ever since Spanish II has largely been CI taught, our Spanish 3 numbers have gone up by two or three sections. Spanish 4 sections have gone down because Spanish 3 is traditionally taught.
    Change is always scary though, Jennifer. My dept. chair is so excited today because in her level 3 class they asked a story and there was high energy and the focus was on in-bound vocab. And the stories were great. She goes back and forth between the book and stories. She said today that she will commit to one story per week because the kids know how to play the game and they are into it. She said that TPRS is tough work–it is.
    Sending good thoughts your way.

    1. …one guy said, colleges and university teach with a strict grammatical syllabus and I fired back and that’s why colleges and universities are seeing fewer and fewer language majors and minors….
      I’d call that a take down. Drew is awarded two points on the reversal. He walked right into it. I love this.
      …when we teach habla/habló/hablaba in context “él hablar” no longer sounds right….
      This is the entire argument for CI, an irrefutable one.

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