Helena Curtain Again

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8 thoughts on “Helena Curtain Again”

  1. CI is gonna win. Eventually, kids will be asking “umm Monsieur Tabernac, how come you teach the hard boring way, instead of the easy fun way that Mlle Hereuse does?” and administratorz will be asking “umm our data suggests that the CI teachers are ahead of the others so why are some teachers still behind?”

  2. I am reading right off of her slides from a talk she did in Memphis where she says textually: Teach functional chunks of language. Use methods such as TPR (CI), TPRS (CI), and Natural Approach (semi-CI in my opinion although Krashen would argue that “getting the gist” may be enough.

    I believe that her railing against English and translation is more about what she sees in traditional fl classrooms (where teachers talk “about” the TL in English) and ELL classrooms (where the curriculum is so far over the kids heads, teachers often translate it into home language so that it’s comprehensible).

    She doesn’t say, “Don’t say a word in English.” She says, “Break your back trying to get them to figure it out another way before you tell them what it means in English–pictures, gestures, paraphrase, simplify, etc.” Last resort. I think she has just seen WAY too much English being used in supposed FL classes. I don’t think it’s a big vendetta against TPRS teaching. Obviously, we have seen the efficacy of brief translation of those functional chunks with our kids. I don’t believe it makes our students “dependent” at all. We are not working with dense content, so I think “the other side” really just doesn’t get what we do.

    She is a mish-mosh-mess of eclectic thinking, but I don’t think she hates TPRS/CI. It’s the tool in the toolbox stance. CI is her “thing”–not personalized and compelling, but certainly contextualized (thematic units = IMO boring, boring, boring). BUT, then it’s just the same old, same old “communicative output-based group and partner work.” She is the QUEEN of thematic units, but her whole point is comprehensible input. I just think HC and we dramatically differ about “what” that is and “how” it needs to be delivered for maximum acquisition.

    1. From her conference last December — someone in the audience asked her about TPRS (I don’t remember the exact question). She said she liked “old” TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling) and not the “new” TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). She specified Blaine Ray as a positive example (but she must know he’s involved with both?).

      It seemed an attitude of skepticism/distrust and she said it was because of her perception of the use of English. She quoted from a professing TPRS teacher who wrote in somewhat exasperated terms about using translation (of whole sentences it sounded like) by the teacher in the midst of instructional time. To me, it sounded like a TPRS teacher with some classroom discipline issues who was going too fast and being incomprehensible to her students. Therefore the “need” to translate sentences for the kids. That shouldn’t be happening in TPRS either. I think she used a straw man to discredit the whole.

      1. Right – one other thing: she acknowledged the concept that stories organize and make content interesting. So her version of using “story” format was that each lesson should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. She stressed it and demonstrated it.

        I was reminded of that from reading the post about the Washington Post article on story format (real story) being engaging and helpful for learning material. (And that writer’s analysis of a story as conflict, complications, and resolution makes for a much more compelling storyline…)

        1. …her version of using “story” format was that each lesson should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. She stressed it and demonstrated it….

          Most of my stories don’t get past the first location. I am not there to teach a story. I am there to teach three structures, chunks of sound. The story is merely the vehicle for that. Students cannot possibly absorb enough new language in one lesson for the story to have a beginning, middle and end. Who does that?

          1. Right, the term “stories” is usually picked on by detractors. Kids and teachers making stories together is a powerful tool in our TCI toolbox. It’s the spectacular dunk from the free throw line – exhilarating, legendary, favorite-part-of-the-game. But it does not define that which allows us to take the championship ring each time. The term does not sum up the wide array of techniques that have emerged (and, important: are still emerging) from solid brain research and language acquisition theory. We are a work in progress that cannot be reduced to “stories.”

            And yet, many of our detractors do just that. They look at whacky stories, (with a beginning, middle and end,) claim that “this is TPRS” and either dismiss it entirely on various grounds or claim that it is just one trick to draw on within the thematic and/or textbook-based approach.

            But their starting point is wrong and ours is right. Which is why we continue to find new approaches that go beyond “stories,” many of which never leave location one!

  3. She’s totally wrong with the “try to figure out the meaning” thing: why waste time and energy? Other than drawing quick attention to obvious cognates, there’s no point: for kids who can’t do it, it’s frustrating and up goes the affective filter. Give them the meaning, and get into doing something personal and fun.

    In my Spanish classes, the “guess the meaning” thing is easiest for the kids who have taken French, harder for the literate English natives, and hardest for the Punjabi, Arabic and Somali kids. I don’t waste time with guessing– I can’t afford to.

  4. It really pisses me off to see that some of these big ego, wannabe big shots are “disparaging” us tprs and ci folks. We have one here in ohio who I fear will end up being the OFLA president in the next 10 years. Thankfully Teri Wiechart is going to be this coming school year’s OFLA pres and I’m confident our conference will kick major ass. I will be presenting my Central States “best of 2013” session at the 2014 OFLA conf and I’m brainstorming a 2-part session as well. I agree that CI will win but we need to be out there kicking ass at these conferences reaching people. The paradigm shift that we are in the middle of has various factions competing to come out on top. There were a lot of pro-immersion type people at the CSC. I had an Arabic teacher thank me profusely for arguing in favor of, and providing research in favor of, the judicious use of L1 in establishing meaning. She said that throughout the conference everybody was basically saying what Curtain is saying and she was so, so happy to have decided to go to my session and see a differing view, backed by research.

    CI isn’t going to win simply because its the way to go, people need to see it for what it is and be convinced.

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