Harrell on Transparency

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



11 thoughts on “Harrell on Transparency”

  1. I’m picking up on John’s comment here rather than in the other thread.
    Perhaps, when someone talks about the constraints of time and expectations, we should reply: “You’re absolutely right. We have so little time with our students that we have to cut out all of the things that don’t contribute directly to our goal of acquisition – like teaching linguistics to students. If I spend time telling them about the language, it takes away from the time I have to teach them the language. I’m sure you agree that with so little time available, our emphasis has to be on letting students experience the language with understanding. You have inspired me to teach even less explicit grammar if I have to teach it in English. Thanks for your support and directing me back to the standards!”
    (Above said with tongue only partially in cheek)

  2. It’s like somebody shows up at a driver’s school to learn how to drive and the teacher says, “Well, you only have three lessons per week in this program, and that’s not really enough time to actually learn how to drive, so we’ll just be talking about how the car works. It’s really all we have time for.”

  3. In thinking about Diana’s comment, I struggle with how to move my beginners to intermediate language speakers. I have a hard time just moving my beginners out of that stage. I am thinking about how to take structures and make them accessible to them in order to boost not only their skills but their confidence. Yes, we know that there are procedures that do not always work for language acquisition, but students need to believe in themselves. It is our job to get them there, through transparency and CI. But we have to let our students know that we are there to guide them down the steps into the shallow end of the pool before they make it to the deep end; we will not toss them in to drown. But sometimes I feel as though I am standing at the edge of the pool with my novice students in the deep end, watching them flounder, as I throw Swimmies and noodles at them, hoping they can grasp them and stay afloat. How can I backtrack and ensure their success?

    1. Betsy (our fabulous Japanese teacher) came to class one day after having been at an ACTFL levels-of-proficiency meeting, and she was thinking about how to move kids’ speech from novice-style telegraphic sentences to more intermediate-level speech. There weren’t very many kids in class; it was a “late” day for weather, so she didn’t want to proceed with the next story until more kids were there. She sat down with them with a picture book that they’d been dicussing and asked them to tell partners what was NOT in the picture. Then they told partners what WAS in the story. (This gave them a chance for fun, but was also a review, and they were managing it quite well.) Then she guided them to say something like, “There was not a pink elephant flying on a rocket, but there was a camel flying on a flamingo.” They all shared their combinations, and then they looked at the picture and added a “therefore” clause. Betsy said that they sounded very confident and upper-level, and that having made those longer complex statements, the kids were able to think in bigger chunks of speech. She also mentioned that there was no real order to her conjunctions; you could use any that you wanted, but that she could see that just a little bit of this output practice gave them some of what they needed to believe in themselves and to feel like real speakers of the language. I haven’t tried this yet, because then we went into finals, and now we’re done for the year, but I’m definitely planning to use it on a Friday circle time as a “game” activity.

  4. …she could see that just a little bit of this output practice gave them some of what they needed to believe in themselves and to feel like real speakers of the language….
    Just to be clear about my own personal opinion on this topic of output. I don’t know why we need to give them confidence. I prefer to tell the kids and parents that we are all differently wired, speech will emerge in one kid after a year and in another after four or five years, and that it is wonderful if they want to practice, but that I will never in the classroom put them in settings where they are required to produce output. I just say what Susie always says, paraphrased here, that the French will fall out of their mouths like pearls when it is ready if they just keep listening to and reading the language.
    I also tell my first year classes that the time I start hearing spontaneous speech happening in many of my students is often in April of their second year, which I really have come to notice as true, of course with the exceptions of those few superstars who output a lot earlier. The kids who care and actually listen and try in class seem to accept that idea with good will and even with a sense of relief and I get to spend 90% or more of the first year and most of the second free of the pressure of thinking about output, which is really good.
    Then, when the end of year two rolls around, it’s “Katie, bar the door!” and then I have to completely rearrange my planning around all the output rolling out of their mouths in the late spring of the second year. This is where I am professionally, having never even taught a third year class using CI. I don’t even know where I would begin.
    The numbers support this view. If they need 10,000 hours – or whatever that number for mastery is – and I get them for roughly 150 hours per year and I am taking most of that for listening and reading, which I must do if they are to have any hope of ever speaking, then those 150 hours count for 1.5% of the time they need to get to real output. I would rather do it that way then create output activities, which I don’t believe in.

    1. I have come to understand that forced output does no good. Students are ready at their own pace. I am not thinking merely of output here, I am also thinking comprehension. I have the luxury of seeing my students for three years in a row, starting in fourth grade. I can watch their growth and see their progress. Yes, it’s been amazing to see what my fifth and sixth graders can do right now after having switched to a CI approach. It is my job to ensure that the I is C and if my students do not understand, it is my responsibility to see where the breakdown lies. Confidence comes in many shapes and forms and I suppose I find myself coming back to this idea because of my own issues and doubts as a teacher. I want my students to be successful and feel successful and because I feel that moments of the former are lacking that the latter is present, and my classes seem to be flat as a result. And no, I am not talking output here, I am talking about involvement in the class.

    2. Something else we have to keep in mind is the difference between what we hear in class and what goes on outside the classroom. Yesterday I took my mother shopping and ran into parents of students and former students. One mother told my, “I think my son speaks more German at home than he does English.” Yet, he is one of the quieter students in class. (This is level 3/4/AP, and the student is level 4.) I have other students who use German regularly outside the class – I keep getting reports back from other teachers and overhear comments – but don’t speak much in class. I’m convinced that as long as we are in the school setting we will never get rid of the affective filter; there will always be that ingrained hesitation to speak in front of the teacher.
      Levels 3 and 4 are the place for me to focus students’ attention on the more intricate sentences. They hear them all the time from level 1 on, but I draw their attention to the linkage in compound/complex sentences in level 3/4. It isn’t very long before I start hearing their sentences get longer. Last week one girl in level 3 spontaneously gave me a complex sentence about an outside-of-class activity, then said (in English), “Wow! I said a really long sentence in German all on my own!”

      1. I totally agree with you guys…in fact, I felt a bit out of line even mentioning it, except that it’s one of those things that might help when you’re a beginning teacher or when you’re getting jumped on to prove that you’re moving kids from level to level. I thought it could be a fun thing to do to get me out of my “must be a real game to be called a game” and other ruts during Kindergarten Day time. I’m out of school, on holiday (and in six hours, the rush of kids and relatives starts, so I will be off electronic forms of communication until the 28th!!), so it’s possible that I’ve already forgotten what kids are like…planning when I’m not teaching is not my forte.

        1. Even though you probably won’t read this for a while, Michele, as a fun activity I think it’s pretty good. I hope we all do things just for fun. Ben has talked about just playing with the sounds of the language, for example. Sometimes we overreact to something that was a fun idea because we see how often those things become, in the wrong hands, drudgery.
          This was, after all, a “filler” activity, and it appears the students enjoyed it. ‘Nuff said.

          1. Okay, replying to my own reply.
            I think the key here is to keep it lighthearted, fun and optional. More along the lines of “Hey, let’s see what we can do with this – just for fun!” Not, “Now in order to form compound/complex sentences, we have to use these connector words.” It sounds to me like Michele’s colleague was doing the former.

      2. Ooh, thanks for this. I have some level 4 students who speak more Spanish to me spontaneously in the hallways than they do in class. I was puzzled about this until I read this post.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben