When Presenting to Colleagues on TPRS/CI

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16 thoughts on “When Presenting to Colleagues on TPRS/CI”

  1. Sorry, it’s actually THIS Thursday January 17th! I hope I’m not making a bigger deal of it than its meant to be but just in case I’m asked to say something…

  2. I just today had an articulation meeting with middle school teachers of Chinese. My supervisor and I have been trying to get them (and others in my own hs department) onto TPRS since the beginning of last year.

    There is great inertia on others’ parts to accept, and certainly to adopt, the methodology.

    However, video/audio recordings of students’ spontaneous, ie, NON-MEMORIZED, (shocker!,) speech always goes a long way. Even if someone is not particularly persuasive in their explanation of TPRS, CI-theory, Krashen’s research on reading, etc., etc., the proof is in our students who have broken out of their silent periods with genuine, beautiful fluency.

    I have great luxury in that at the high school I am still the only Chinese teacher and, so, the curriculum is all mine – I virtually answer to no one in terms of its content. (Next year will be a different story as we grow it by 0.6 ….) I believe articulating curriculum with colleagues in the same language who are textbook/grammar – based instructors will present its own set of issues. But, perhaps you won’t encounter these.

    Good luck!

    You colleague in Bergen County, NJ,


    PS – We will probably repeat for next year what we did this year for incoming freshmen who studied 2-3 years Chinese in middle school: put them in a fake Chinese 2. (!!) That is, they are put into a mixed class – Chinese 1 and “Chinese 2” together, usually all freshmen, (and the occasional upperclassman whose fled from a romance language s/he could jive with). At the same time, we run a more legitimate Chinese 2 made up of students who had one year of TPRS-based Chinese. The incoming middle schoolers just can’t keep up with this group.

  3. Jen, I just read this and it is already Wed. I would be happy to give you the PowerPoint I made up for my recent presentation to a group of Chinese teachers. It introduces CI and TPRS using info from Ben, Martina Bex, and Bryce Hedstrom. The examples are in Chinese but the summaries are in English. If you want this, please e-mail me at school today at tdrumm@stvm.com. I’m not an expert but I did a lot of research to put this together.

  4. Tamula,

    Wow! What an incredible gift you’re willing to share! Thank you so much. I immediately thought of you in your situation. Now, my super. didn’t even talk to me but I can imagine her whispering in my ear to say a few things right as the meeting starts, or something.

    I will be sure to email you from my yahoo account, ok? Thanks again.

  5. Jennifer I think you should take Tamula up on the Power Point idea and I also have these ideas that you may mix with that in a certain way that keeps you relaxed, explained below. Just take from it what you want, it’s kind of a stream of consciousness thing.

    Note that in this situation people are asking you about TPRS. They want to know about it. It is not as if you are going in and making a presentation to people who don’t care about it. They are asking you, not you presenting to them – that is a slight but significant difference in their stance.

    In other words, the burden is not on you to provide new information to people who may or may not be interested, which is a rough row to hoe, by the way. The burden is on them to ask the right questions and not appear stupid in this meeting.

    I may add that since TPRS is only one topic in the meeting, you run the risk of going on too long for what they want, so keep that in mind – practice with someone and keep it all under ten minutes and let THEM extend the meeting, not you.

    Therefore, I suggest that you merely say something along these lines:

    “I have been studying TPRS, which is a second language teaching method invented by Blaine Ray involving simply talking to the kids in the language, telling them stories and such, just speaking the language, for some years now.

    “It’s fun stuff for both the teacher and the kids, and results in great gains when done correctly, which I am still working on, but it is significantly different from other ways of teaching in that it involves lots of input and not lots of output, so that it focuses on listening and reading a lot before assuming that children can write and speak.

    “Blaine Ray’s work, which started in the early 1990s, was consciously and specifically created from Ray’s study of the seminal work of Steven Krashen at USC over the past 30 years, which in language acquisition is largely accepted as the most significant work ever done in how we acquire languages, although it has been much bashed by academics who think that we should keep the status quo going in our nation’s schools of studying how the language is BUILT vs. just using the language in class as is done naturally when we all learn our first language as small children. It’s a hotly disputed point and I make no apologies for professionally coming down on the side of Krashen.

    “Krashen’s work and Ray’s work is, and this is a problem, a universe of information to take in, so, rather than take any more of your time in this meeting trying to explain it, I will simply refer you to…” (the points on these handouts – make handouts from this site or whatever you want, but keep them simple with a few links and some bullet points or use Tamula’s Power Point).


    • invented by Blaine Ray in early ’90s.
    • product of 30 years of research by Dr. Steven Krashen.
    • other important names are Lev Vygotsky and Bill VanPatten.
    • focus mainly on input for the first year or so, bringing confidence and motivation before students have to write and speak.
    • called by Krashen the “Natural Way” and mirrors how we learn languages as young children.
    • increases enrollments.
    • hundreds of hours of input in the form of listening to stories are needed before the output can occur because of the way the brain is wired.
    • focus in class on the meaning of what is being said on not the words.
    • heavy focus on grammar.
    • memorizing lists of single words doesn’t work, because what the students need is hearing the words in the overall fabric of the language, just as we acquire our first language.

    Maybe you can offer them a little five minute lesson. Teach three words by establishing meaning first, asking your group to gesture, and then ask them a few PQA questions. Maybe use skips “first story” or something.

    The main thing, whatever you decide to do, Jen, is not to fret about presenting. Just tell them some version of the above (which you could not even do depending on time) but definitely hand them the bullet points and ask THEM to read them and, right there in the meeting, ask you questions. Make them ask you questions.

    The first question they will ask is about the line that says “heavy focus on grammar”. This is a trap in which you snare them, bc the grammar teachers will jump on it as a defense of what they do. But you then read or hand them copies of the recent post here entitled “Grammar Revealed” and say that the grammar has to be three dimensional (in sound) and not one dimensional (on paper).

    Actually Jen I’m not so sure I would even give them a speech. I would just hand them the bullet points or start the Power Point. So much easier for you. Sit there and take questions. So much easier.

    If I had to do that I would screw it up bc my mind would be freaking out trying to say the right things in the few minutes I had. Plus, I would start the discussion in a defensive position, with the burden of proof on me.

    Rather, put the burden of asking the right questions on them and suck them into the grammar question trap, which is rather clever. Wait until they ask, “I see it says that grammar is the big focus of TPRS, but that isn’t true! It’s all about kids pretending to be lions lying under a tree and it is just a big mess and it doesn’t work in middle schools or high schools! It’s for little kids!

    Let them get their yah-yahs out that way and then just hand them that article on Grammar Revealed and pretty much keep handing them stuff instead of talking.

    That is what I recommend. Speak less and keep handing them stuff to read, the punch list and the Grammar Revealed and anything else. People love handouts in meetings and they don’t like people who talk too much. Trust me, I know that.

    If you do the mini lesson, just be sure to personalize. Actually, you know what I would do? I would hand them the CWB cards and work with them. That is the best way to break the ice.

    If your principal puts on his card that he ice skates, just rip into that as if it were the coolest thing in the world, circle it like there is no tomorrow, and make him ice skate on the moon with Lady Gaga. Stop right when they are getting into it. Disarm them with fun.

    It’s all fun, after all. We are not meant to live in this world in fear, but to enjoy our lives in spite of all the fear and darkness that lives around us, like in LOTR. That’s what I think and is my philosophy of teaching. Hope this helps.

    (If you want to make a handout of some results I have had re: a kid getting a 4 on the French AP exam in level 2 with no prior background or a group of 5 eighth graders ranking Colorado and Wyoming on the National French exam, they are on this site somewhere. Hand them some scores, they like scores.)

  6. Slightly wandering thoughts on this subject after reading Ben’s excellent suggestions. I like the “I’ve been studying” opener. I would include that the language you are “speaking” to students MUST be comprehensible however. This is a major point missed by most language teachers. (Typing with one hand after surgery last week):

    In your mind, do you know “how” CI/TPRS is different than what is done in most classrooms and how those differences affect language acquisition? Having that “compare and contrast” list clear in your mind will help before making this presentation.

    For me, the most important points circle around (pound, pound, pound–that’s my virtual fist on the table):

    Natural (and therein, high frequency) language that is:
    In context,
    Delivered slowly enough to give the brain time to process its meaning–not its form,
    Personalized/compelling to students,
    Repeated enough for the brain to “file it” and eventually make it “accessible”, first, for comprehension, later, for meaningful expression, and finally, for accurate, meaningful expression–a process of natural order and wide variation among individual learners.

    Could be aural or textual language/input supported by visual or kinesthetic input

    Input trumps output– (use of time for language activities–why you don’t see “projects” in TPRS classrooms)

    Repeat ad nauseum.

    In terms of actual presentation, people’s brains respond to interesting/simple/clear visuals without much text and not too much blabbing. Just KEY INFO. If they are interested in hearing more from you, give them an opportunity to write down their questions, send you an email, or you could give them a short list of topics (you’d feel comfortable talking about) on a piece of paper or online for them to check off if interested in knowing more. I wouldn’t leave your “talk” open to a bunch of questions.

    I wouldn’t mention the Natural Way/Natural Approach. I think it gets people off on a tangent that may derail things. Just my opinion.

    Demo. demo. demo. Hard to do with a bunch of teachers who speak the language you teach. Love the idea of video of your students working a story. Real, spontaneous language.

    Just some thoughts today. Good luck with this. Someone may actually bite!

  7. I would only echo the emphasis on the then/now list that is floating out there, which contrasts traditional and new research-based methods. I would also shift the focus to the more general concept of CI, with a bit of personalization added in, saying that TPRS is one effective way of delivering CI. Keep it simple, don’t go in with too big of a list of talking points because you’ll get overwhelmed and you’ll overwhelm them. Talk about things you have done that have been especially successful, focusing on results that even traditional teachers would want, esp. reading comprehension and written production in the TL, as well as student engagement. No need to go into controversies, and any open challenges can be deflected by taking the conversation back to CI, back to the new standards, back to the need for personalized repetition and establishment of meaning, in order to keep immersion from becoming submersion. Talk about how CI addresses all the new standards, and how even the production assignments like dictation add CI to the class experiences (formative assessments).

    I don’t know your colleagues, and how receptive they are to what you are doing, but if you keep their affective filters in mind as you speak to them, I think you’ll have a positive impact. Good luck!

  8. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak


    There is this 5 minutes clip I saw of Dr. Krashen where he demonstates in that short amount of time what CI is all about in comparison to grammar teaching. He first starts with a drawing and goes on talking about it all in german in a totally comprehensible way . The audience is completely sold. It was great and really effective and to the point. I don’t remember where I found it but if you are interested to perhaps show that I can look at home in my notes and stuff. Has anyone seen that clip?

  9. The other clincher is results. Let them know that you have been in daily contact with teachers whose students have achieved enormous gains. We use it because IT WORKS. I bet that you could get some great details just tonight. Here, I’ll start:

    Spanish Dept
    Marcus Whitman MS/HS Rural upstate N.Y.
    *doubled the enrollment in upper levels.
    *Only 1 student in 8 years has failed the state Regents exam. (that is one out of 800)
    * 90 % of the students have scored 85 or above in the last 4 years.
    * 15 students in the last 5 years have passed the state Proficiency exam after few than 3 months of class.
    *2012 Over 80 % of the first year students passed the Regional LEVEL 2 final exam with a grade of over 85%.
    * 2012 Over 50 % of the second year students passed the Regional LEVEL # exam with a grade of over 85%.

    And we aren’t much on data collection…nor do we offer AP…share some data folks…I know that you have it.

    with love,

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