Masked Gains

Properly trained TPRS trained kids know much more, acquire much more, than any standardized test could ever measure. Traditional teachers know this on some level, and consequently are not the biggest fans of TPRS teachers. They know the power of the method, if they know their craft, which means knowing Krashen. Mistrust results.
Luckily for the book teacher, the district tests, no district test and no test of any kind, except putting the kid in a room and speaking for a long time in L2 to the kid, can accurately measure what TPRS trained kids can really do. The gains of TPRS kids are always masked in school buildings by the data-driven nature of the American educational nightmare.
When the traditional kid is put in a room with a strong group of TPRS kids – which is likely to happen some day unless there is only one teacher in the school – then all hell breaks loose for the traditional kids because they can’t understand what the hell is going on. That is because, at the end of the day, their training has included little CI – which means unconscious focusing on meaning, not the language, so that the language is acquired unconsciously – vs. what their own training has been – analytical, left brain, conscious, ineffective.
Blaine Ray’s nightmare must be to know that he has discovered a way to teach that really works, but, in fact, is so poorly implemented that it makes it look like his discovery has no merit. It’s like inventing a rocket ship and then having the people charged with putting it into orbit build it so poorly that it falls off the launching pad. The perception in that case would be that the rocket was shitty, when what was shitty was its implementation. That is the current state of TPRS today, in most schools.



3 thoughts on “Masked Gains”

  1. Please clarify for me Ben….by poorly implemented do you mean that although the school is using TPRS they are testing in a completely different way? Or that folks aren’t really TPRSing? I have heard several times that many people have “poorly implemented” TPRS….I think that we need to be very careful about how we approach that. How can we say that and at the same time say “bad TPRS is better than no TPRS?” They are really several different things. A. There are people who are teaching in the classroom, using something that they think is TPRS, but is really not. B. There are people who are just developing their CI skills, so what they are doing now is just emerging CI instruction. C. There are people who use storytelling as an occasional activity. So how do we handle that? How do we recognize the differences? Does it really matter? If implementation is shitty….what does that mean and how do we combat it? How do we encourage an ongoing skill development component in a new way?
    Some of the things out there that are working:
    Peer groups….across the country folks get together to “talk” TPRS, share ideas, coach each other and encourage each other. I’d love to see a presentation at a national even about how to get this going and keep it going. Anyone out there willing to share?
    Coaching….has the potential to make or break a TPRS teacher. I’d love to see folks who have worked on the coaching paradigm to outline in a few articles or posts what positive, productive coaching looks like. Lizette? Rochelle? Teri? Coaching can be done by trained coaches….folks who have spent a number of hours with other coaches practicing and preparing to coach other CI teachers. It can also be effectively done by our peers….but knowing what effective coaching looks like and feels like first is a big help.
    Observation/visitation….wow..nothing beats hanging out in someone else’s classroom and soaking up all that they and their students have to offer. It is a WONDERFUL experience for the observer and observee. The more of this that happens, the better.
    Stay in the loop…TPRS is a constantly-evolving set of skills…and perspectives…encouraging each other to follow the morelist through yahoo,, and various blogs will allow us to continue to evolve.
    Attenting national conferences…these are, by far, the best bang for your buck. Continuing the tradition of making them accessible, affordable and family-friendly is a must.
    Providing local opportunities…don’t be afraid to speak to your district or local BOCES or state organization…some of the most amazing conferences I have been to were once just ONE person’s dream.
    Lastly….we need professors of teaching methodology to see TPRS in action, in the classroom or at a national conference. If you have ideas on how to do that, please share…would love to hear from you.
    with love,

  2. Laurie these are great points. What I meant by “poorly implemented” was referring to the teachers who go to a workshop, get a little of it, but don’t really want to get it for real, don’t want to get how radically important Krashen is because it conflicts with their own college training, which they were awarded a degree for, and then claim that theirs is a TPRS classroom. I hope that clarifies your question. I am certainly not faulting those in the process of learning it, as I have spent ten years just beginning to grasp this stuff and I have a long way to go as each day of teaching uncovers vast new worlds of how to teach using Krashen’s ideas. So I am referring to your choice (A) above, I guess. I once knew a district coordinator who was all about how he did TPRS when in the classroom but I know was not even close to using TPRS. That’s what I meant. It just creates all this ignorance and animosity towards Blaine and his method. Anyway, re what you said about groups working together, we in DPS are just now implementing that. In fact, the 26 of us involved in the project are meeting once a month and we can report on whether we generated enough trust and open and honest communication in those meetings to make any differences by, say, next summer. We will see!

  3. Ben and Laurie, thank you for this post. Laurie, you’re right on with the things that need to happen in the realms you suggest.
    Ben, you’re right about measuring, I think. How do lower level teachers measure and defend what their kids can actually do? It’s a struggle I’m interested in learning more about. I continue to wonder how people are handling the issues that arise when lower lvl CI teachers have discussions about ‘curriculum’ with lvl 2,3,4 teachers, who are book teachers. For instance, I recently rec’d an email asking “Where is everyone in the book?” Immediately a flurry of responses all similar to “Just finished chapter 1” came back. Here’s a bit of my response:
    At this time, more than 80% of my kids can understand in print and speech the following verbs with better than 80% accuracy when presented in the first person, second person and third person singular and plural forms – all present tense and all informal: hablar, saltar, tener, correr, susurrar, comer, decir, nadar, dar la vuelta, caminar, señalar, mirar, tocar, rascar, levantar, bajar, montar (a caballo, bicicleta, monopatin), jugar, tocar. 80% of them know ‘es’, ‘somos’ and ‘está’ with 80% accuracy when reading or listening.
    Then, I attached a sample reading assessment that my kids just took with an avg 90% correct on 10 questions. I also transcribed 3 minute free writes of two kids to show what an avg and above avg kid are doing in class. The writing showed kids emerging understanding of conjugation, as well as the subj. noun agreeement. Both with better than 60 or 70 % accuracy.
    First of all, this was a great exercise for me to do. It really made me pause and take in the data I had and it clarified for me what I need to be working on with my kids in the coming weeks. It also gave me pause because their writing showed that they weren’t exactly where I thought they were. Their reading is much better, naturally. I feel it answers the question, what can my kids do with the language, i.e. how proficient are they?
    I’m hoping that my focus on what they can actually do will encourage some of them to ask themselves whether their approaches are creating kids who can read and write. But I know it’s likely to cause feelings. Is that just unavoidable? I hope to have the strength to stand up to any negativity it may create.
    What I really hope for is frank and open discussion about what kids can do with the language and how that might inform the creation of a ‘test’ that actually measures it…

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