Look and Discuss Insights

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26 thoughts on “Look and Discuss Insights”

  1. …did the students suggest something in French?….

    There is not a lot of suggesting in L and D with a first year group of kids. That’s a good thing. It’s another thing I like about Look and Discuss, in the sense that there is more quiet, less hard work of getting answers from the kids. It’s all pretty much yes and no questioning. Of course, interest is diminished, unless you spin some new story or detail out from the picture via comparison with one of the students, which is very cool. It is good if we all remember that in any moment in any kind of comprehension based instruction, we can immediately, if things get a bit dry, compare what we are talking about (or reading) to a student in the class, which brings immediate heightened interest.

    1. Jeffery Brickler

      Cool! I’ve was wondering if I was doing it incorrectly because I would get very few responses. I do like the quiet! Next step is spinning it into a story.

  2. And Jeff don’t forget comparing details in the image to kids in the class. My kids insist on answering the question who is this person with “Slavic” in every image we’ve had all year. Today I had a huge head and my chin was on fire.

    One thing you can do is take a kid who is out of it but can take some ribbing and quickly shift the attention of the entire room from the picture to the kid and ask, “Is Federico’s chin on fire, class?” The increase in attention is immediate. Just make sure the kid can handle it emotionally.

    We haven’t talked much about comparing CI discussion to kids in class. We should. It’s a powerful tool and one that somehow, along with all the rest of the stuff we have to think about, we must remember to do in our classes.

      1. Yes Jeff I use both the Quiz Writer and the Story Writer on L and D. I don’t need the artist, of course. We still need an exit ticket, and that’s the quiz, and we still need to make sure that 50% of our instruction is done in the form of reading, and that’s where we write up the description of the image along with several incorrect details, as you say. Of course, here at the end of the year, I’m not doing either of those things. Honestly, L and D is great if you just want to get through a class. Time goes by quickly, the kids get plenty of CI, you have had to do no preparation, it’s interesting if the image is a good one, etc. R and D is a big bad boy in the CI galaxy.

        1. Jeffery Brickler

          That’s the part I am missing. We read everything that we talk about. If we talk about it, we read it with some incorrect details added in. I dropped the ball on that part. I had only been reading stories. Damn! I really need to make sure that I get my writer to always be writing what we are saying so that we can read it.

          I’m slowly getting my mind around the power of this method.

          1. Yes Jeff it’s in the creation of parallel delivery systems, the first auditory and the second visual, that creates the best learning. Of course, as Eric said, unless that order is reversed. It’s just fine.

            I feel that we have all been learning together about this sequence, testing it every day, and we are really starting to grok that the form it takes is not as important as just making this sequence happen in our instruction:

            est. meaning (PQA A)
            discuss for reps and personalization (PQA B)
            some kind of story or extended discussion (Story)
            reading of same (Reading)

            Really it’s not the Three Steps it’s the Four Steps, in a way, because establishing meaning is not part of PQA, not really. It just got glopped in there in 2003 when I watched Susie demo this stuff in at least ten different workshops before I got it. Nobody had made it clear back then and it drove me crazy trying to uncover the relationship between establishing meaning and PQA and what was going on there.

            But now it’s been accepted as the “Three Steps” so I guess we just need to keep telling new people that establishing meaning is a very fast one to two minute segment in PQA preceding the actual personalized questioning for reps.

            But the CI train runs on two tracks, the auditory one and the reading one, and when the students see both, no matter the delivery system (MT, stories, L and D are the three big ones that come to my mind but we have created many others here over the years), the train runs smoothly without tilting too much to one side. If it tilts it should tilt onto the reading side, in my view.

            However, let’s say you’re too busy to provide a reading to kids every day. Fine. We do what we can. It’s an easy method if we don’t get too crazy about it. We learn to save our energy outside of the classroom, as in near zero prep time for me for many years now, so that we can give our hearts to driving the CI train down those wonderful auditory and visual/reading tracks, which are made in the Input Rail Factory. In this work, we get to be happy railroad train engineers just like we wanted to be when we were growing up.

            Then, when the train arrives at the station (after thousands of hours, not hundreds of input travel) the happy result of natural fine sounding output happens when the train pulls into the Output Station.

            Weird ass metaphors there, but hey, I really want to keep saying the same thing here over and over and over about input and output. We have to quit thinking we can deliver enough input for good output to happen in four years with largely unmotivated high school students. That is my prayer for us, that we let that go once and for all. We don’t need to worry about output anymore and in my view it should be used when the kids need to take a break from all the input (via dictee and freewrites mainly, in my opinion, with a lot more freewrites than dictees).

            OK ramble over.

  3. was a natural scaffolding process (using circling to get to more and more complex levels of grammar instruction via proper speech – that’s my own definition of scaffolding anyway)

    If you were to ask me before I read your post here, Ben, I would have said that circling was a means to get more reps in. Now, I have certainly used circling to get different verb tenses in, and what not, but I wasn’t so conscientious of that intention. Now you’ve made me conscientious. Much appreciated. I can now say that circling is a means to get more reps in and to increase the complexity of grammar instruction.

  4. Yes Sean and I always have been a grammar teacher first. I was just teaching it in a very ineffective way before. Now, by speaking correctly to my kids, I teach real grammar – correctly spoken speech – in the real way.

    Scaffolding is fantastic. You park on a structure and then increase the complexity of the original sentence with new grammar added in after each new circling cycle.


    Class, there is a man.
    Class, is there a man?
    Class, is there a man or a woman?
    That’s right, class, there is a man.
    Class, is there a woman?
    No, that’s correct class, there is not a woman. There is a man.
    Class, what is there?
    That’s correct, class, there is a man.

    Then you do the same thing with:

    Class, is there a man in front of the horses?
    (circle all that)


    class, is there a man in front of the horses under the trees?
    (circle all that)

    Each increasingly complex sentence has the advantage, because the minds of the students are focused on the picture and the message and not the words, of bringing an extremely sophisticated level of grammar instruction even in level one classes. And the kids aren’t even aware of what they are learning, which is a good thing because then the deeper mind can have the reigns, the supercomputer LAD takes over, and the language is actual acquired in the way originally intended.

    Krashen had done some kind of research, I don’t know the details, that showed this way of instruction is at least 1600 times faster than anything else. I think that is a big understatement.

  5. Where can I find out about Krashen’s research on how much faster this is? (or anyone’s?) I had a good talk with my principal recently (who is leaving) and he told me that the best way to pursue my concerns about the way foreign language is taught, is to lay it out with all the research and give it to curriculum director, who happens to be the assistant superintendent. He apparently emphasizes data at every meeting of the principals. Much of my evidence for TPRS is logical or anecdotal. I have notes from one of Krashen’s talks about data from NTPRS last year. I remember hearing evidence that TPRS kids did as well as or better than traditionally trained kids… I would like to see something that would merit forcing an entire revolution. I think the gap between TPRS results and traditional results would widen over the course of years of instruction (as long as the students who quit were included for both groups).

    By the way, I have also applied for a couple of jobs where I have heard that there is freedom to teach!

    1. Carly said:

      …much of my evidence for TPRS is logical or anecdotal….

      God forbid our arguments for what we do be logical! Apparently now data, which can be flawed, trumps logic, which is never flawed.

      1. What could be more logical than the need for comprehensible input?

        If the brain does not get language input it has nothing to work with. If the language is not comprehensible to the brain it cannot work with it. It is like a mysterious code. The brain may have the wherewithal to crack the code (make it comprehensible), but until it does crack the code (make it meaningful) it cannot work with the code (it cannot gain the secret messages or manipulate them).

        Is there some data out there that will be able to demonstrate that a brain will be able to recognize and produce French without comprehensible French input? Is there some data forthcoming that people are producing German who have no exposure to German?

        Before denouncing the essentiality of comprehensible input, I would need to see some carefully controlled studies with abundant data to the contrary. And then I would have to wonder about where they got the data that defies logic.

    2. I prefer to think that we are in a data bubble during this period of time – this century and the last and maybe the one before that – and I can understand how it is that we would want to convince people with data because it is how we live now in these times, it is how we think and we roll these days, but I think that that interest and reliance on data will not last much longer.

      I would also make the point that many classroom teachers (99%+), thousands and thousands of them, have resisted comprehension based instruction, and resisted strongly and with vigor, and they have done that for about 25 years now, since it first appeared in the early 1990’s. So, knowing that, we would be wise to ask the question, “What would happen if we HAD the data?”

      Let’s admit it, gains in foreign language classes with kids who are largely unmotivated are a pretty hard thing to quantify for lots of reasons that don’t get into the discussion on assessment, and they don’t get in because the data box we think in is so small.

      In my view, using data to convince curriculum directors to force change on those who don’t want it would be futile. It wouldn’t work. Trying to convince people via data about something that is at its core not about data, but rather about loving communication with others (think Laurie Clarcq), may not work anyway.

      I am personally convinced that we are in the middle of a massive shift from competition to cooperation, from judging to trusting, from intellect to intuition, from thinking that numbers are important to feeling the inherent value of all things, from seeing others as different to seeing them as the same, from hating to loving, and that, although it looks real bad right now, it’s just the dust from one hell of a big cleaning job done by the Dude with the Really Big Broom.

      Therefore, I have chosen myself to trust divine timing, divine sweeping, and let go the need to find enough data, which is so flawed when students aren’t motivated anyway, and just let this cleaning process continue until the change is here.

      My current belief in a coming age of happiness for Earth is complete. I just spent my entire life trying to figure out if happiness is real and attainable in life and therefore in my chosen profession of teaching, or is it just me fervently wanting things to be better?

      I have decided it is true that we call can be happy. How about that? And I don’t need to prove it to anybody. All I need to do is hang out in the TL with my kids and be thankful that this beautiful blue green planet, the only one amongst gazillions of gray rock ones, is able to heal itself as it is now, except we don’t get to see how it’s happening and so we doubt that it is. But I feel certain that happiness is coming round the bend real fast, real fast. And I think we’re part of it.

    3. Repeating the same thing can be more effective than data. One of my repeated phrases this year is “90%+”.

      But what makes it really effective are the words “ACTFL recommends.” Appeal to a relevant authority is a valid means of bolstering our position.

      The entire position paper is worth sharing with your outgoing principal, incoming principal, and curriculum director. (http://www.actfl.org/news/position-statements/use-the-target-language-the-classroom). It may be that they are not looking for numbers data. Coming from ACTFL, this position paper carries a lot of weight.

  6. “Trying to convince people via data about something that is at its core not about data…”

    During our last NEASC visit (about 8 years ago) one of the visiting team members asked if he could observe my class. This was the last day and they were free to visit any class. He said that he had come on the recommendation of another visiting team member. She had said, “You’ve got to see this class.” It was Spanish IV and all we were doing was reading, translating, doing grammar pop-ups, and QA about the story. Afterward, he expressed how impressed he was with the class and wished that the FL classes in his district were doing something like this.

    The funny thing is…neither one of them asked me for the data.

  7. We must also remember that almost all teachers were successful at the grammar/translation game and know no other. They are no more qualified, therefore, to teach using a completely different approach than would a math teacher be qualified to teach a foreign language. That is how far they are from being able to do this kind of instruction. No wonder they don’t want any part of it and sometimes use our lack of hard data to justify their unwarranted and archaic approaches.

  8. Carly Robinson

    Ben, I have to respond to this beautiful paragraph that you wrote:

    “I am personally convinced that we are in the middle of a massive shift from competition to cooperation, from judging to trusting, from intellect to intuition, from thinking that numbers are important to feeling the inherent value of all things, from seeing others as different to seeing them as the same, from hating to loving, and that, although it looks real bad right now, it’s just the dust from one hell of a big cleaning job done by the Dude with the Really Big Broom.”

    I am so happy to be part of that shift to cooperation, trusting, intuition, loving etc. – or at least to benefit from all the hard work those before me did by shifting. You have captured why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place and why I felt so lost and sad my first years teaching because that work didn’t align at all with what I actually wanted to do.

      1. Me too! In fact I did copy and paste it and sent it out to some friends and colleagues, fellow warriors on this path. I keep talking to everyone about this group and it is hard to capture it all. That paragraph describes the essence of what we do in the best way I have seen so far. Thank you all!!! 🙂

        1. Beautiful writing. Moving message. I sure wish I was as convinced as you say you are, Ben. But everyone in education who is not an ambitious opportunist has got to believe that this competition business is out of control.

  9. Thanks everyone, for your thoughts. I will take what logic, anecdotes and data I have and use those. I would just like for my district to let me out of this box that says that I have to do what everyone else is doing (whether it works or not). Ben, you may be right about the coming changes. One of the schools where I interviewed was so inspiring that over a week later, I am still smiling about it and learning from it. As far as I can tell, that place is bursting with creativity, innovation and focus on students and teachers as people. TPRS would thrive there. I saw an RSAnimate once on how our education system is modeled after factories… standardization, bells to move people, and products (children) grouped by their date of manufacture. Seeing a school move so radically towards humanization (vs. mechanization) made me wonder whether the reason so many kids are failing in schools has do with how outdated our model is. School is out of step with some major modern American values. Our whole culture has shifted and schools are still living in the industrial revolution! Something *has to* change.

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