Mes Apologies à Ma Patronne

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.



17 thoughts on “Mes Apologies à Ma Patronne”

  1. I ruminated on this line of yours for awhile: “Three people quit the PLC in one day last week after my statements in one comment about how teachers who try to mix the old way and our new way should find another profession.”

    I of all people, know that I do not do CI even close to perfectly. I know that this way of teaching can’t be mixed with other activities, but sometimes I throw in junk that I think will fit. I’m learning and I have the desire to improve. I know where my heart is; I know where I want to be, it just seems like a long road to get there. I am striving and pressing forward to reach the CI “mark” even though I know I’ll always fall short. But I’m not going anywhere–not leaving; where else would I go?

    This PLC has an organic, real feel to it–we admit when we make mistakes, rant when we need to, give support when a member is down. We can argue as if we are a real family–but, just like a family, we care. (Think of the anxious posts when we weren’t sure about our East Coast members in the aftermath of Sandy)

    Thanks, Ben, for bringing this odd “family” together.

  2. I was really shocked to read that somebody would quite this PLC just because of something you said. This is why I’m here in the first place – for the honest opinion. How can we ever get better if can’t take some constructive criticism.
    Lori, your words really resonate with me. I am so far from where I hope to be one day with CI, but I sure as hell wouldn’t even be on this road (anymore) if it weren’t for everyone’s expertise, experience, willingness to share, teach, and YES, tell it like it is, honestly and from the heart.
    Keep it coming – we can take it!

  3. Just a couple of comments. 🙂

    Ben, I think your experience with students who have difficulty reading in any language has influenced your thinking. How could it not? This is part of the art and practice of teaching: being able to diagnose what our students need and can handle. My fifth period is going to do more reading this year than I normally would do because reading calms them down enough for the language to get through. Whenever I try to do stories and in-depth PQA, the room dissolves into chaos because they lack impulse control. When we read, they settle in and actually get some good Comprehensible Input. I even let them struggle with new words, etc. Then I give them opportunity to ask questions, and we discuss the reading. By that point they are more ready for the discussion than they would normally be. It doesn’t solve all the issues with this group, but it makes life much more bearable.

    In addition, I think that part of the issue in getting students to read is that many come into our class with an aversion, even antipathy, to reading. We have to make reading in a new language so compelling that it overcomes this aversion. I’m reminded of Susan Gross’s story about her student who hated to read – except in French.

    As far as quitting the PLC is concerned, I can understand that. I don’t necessarily approve, but I understand. Just this afternoon I was listening to the news. They were talking about the fact that the Romney campaign has gone back to the position embodied in the infamous 47% quote. In a speech within the last couple of days Romney told supporters that Obama won because he gave out so many “gifts” (i.e. he bribed the electorate). The commentator observed that adopting this line of thinking is less painful than having to admit that they misread the electorate and were simply wrong about some things. I imagine that leaving the PLC was simply the less painful path for these people. Avoiding the discomfort, even pain, that change necessitates is also part of the reason why many people resist TCI; it is also why many people delude themselves into thinking they use CI/TPRS when they don’t. (I have recently been seeing this at my school; a newer department member talks a good game about CI, but when we get into the nitty gritty, I see a full-on grammar approach.)

    Finally (aren’t you glad these are only “a couple of comments”?), I don’t think the PLC will or can replace summer conferences and workshops. The face-to-face interaction is too important. I do think that the nature of those conferences and workshops will change to be more like what you guys did last year in Colorado or more like a live-action version of this PLC. Earlier this week I was talking to a COACH colleague. She was lamenting the fact that she is now the only CI teacher at her school and facing some real opposition. She needs the encouragement of like-minded people, so we are going to re-start our after-school meetings. Last year we all were just so busy that we let it slide, but I can see that getting together really makes a difference.

  4. LOL and that she is. She is amazing, as many of our group members learned in Breckenridge last summer. I think that between her and Jody and Laurie and Susan Gross, I have been deconfused on a thousand points over the years. I told her today, though, that I reserve the right to think that we may in fact be reading too much at level 1. We better not agree all the time, right? But yeah, without Diana’s leadership, the work we do would not be happening, and that is true not just locally but also nationally. She fears no one. The most exciting thing is that there is movement now in St. Paul like what we are doing in Denver, as I found out from Grant and then Shannon and others are up there – he is not alone. If it can happen in two districts it can happen in two thousand, and probably will. Then who gets the jobs, huh? What now?

  5. In the October 2012 issue of Language Educator (ACTFL’s publication), under the heading “Some Strategies to Get Students Speaking the Language” appears the following sentence:
    Encourage students to come up with silly stories as part of a survey or TPRS activities.

    While we know that this is probably a misunderstanding of TPRS, it is a landmark statement. According to Jason Fritze, who brought it to my attention at our last COACH meeting, this is the first time ever that ACTFL has made a positive reference to TPRS in a national publication.

  6. ACTFL was rocking with Pro-CI TPRS references. I wish that we had started a list of how many times people referred to Comprehensible Input, not using direct grammar instruction, personalizing input etc. etc….there is DEFINITELY a change in the air….

    with love,

    1. Speaking of things ACTFL Richard Donato spoke with Judy Liskin-Gasparro at a roundtable. They were kicking around defining research topics for high leverage teaching practices that can be used to coach teachers in training and current teachers. They sounded very CI to me. I did not hear him, but Bill Van Patten got rave reviews for speaking in “CI” terms – the futility of teaching verb endings and the importance of input. There was a station set up where every hour on the hour, either Annick Chen (Ben, you are one lucky dude to work with her on the daily) or Jason Fritz was modeling TPRS instruction. They had quite a crowd. One man stopped briefly to watch Annick. She was gesturing and he just – almost involuntarily, with a mesmerized look on his face – began gesturing before he moved on. It was a fabulous idea. Many of the nearby vendors who had no business were watching Jason and Annick. Wow. Like Laurie said, there was something in the air. We are not at a tipping point, nor have we reached critical mass, but it’s closer. Very encouraged by Van Patten and Donato.

      1. Judith Liskin-Gasparro was one of my master’s program professors and I can assure you she believes in CI. She begged us to use Spanish in our high school classes, rather than teach about Spanish in English, telling us students coming to the university are woefully unprepared for the immersion they experience there. She is also a wonderful human being who is amazingly generous with her time and expertise for her students.

  7. leigh anne munoz


    I am surprised at the explosion of efficacy in my teaching this year, after all the new and exciting developments/Ah-ha moments I have had reading on the blog this year (jobs, sticking to the basics, buying Anne’s stories). My students and I have made it over the hump with storytelling this year for the first time in 7 years.

    It does not surprise me that with the continued, hand-in-hand refinement and discussion of our teaching practices, that the blog continues to unearth people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities.

    I think you are doing a great thing and truly appreciate this. I will probably never get to a conference. This blog is *everything* to me, professionally speaking.

  8. No theory is ever completely right. Krashen’s are no exception to that. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to be completely right in order to arrive at a methodology that works much better than others.

    To my mind the jury is still out on the question of what the ideal proportion of input to output activities should be and what form those activities should take, and that will be the case for some time to come. In the meantime, I don’t think that the hardline approach that is currently being taken is wrong. It’s probably necessary.

    On the other hand, whilst I think it is perfectly reasonable to protect discourse of a kind that is in many ways fragile. I don’t think it is a good idea to try to make people whose beliefs or understandings may differ in some degree feel unwelcome in even accessing it.

  9. I’m not sure what you mean by a hardline approach, but my hardline approach is based on the research that shows that fluency or near fluency (those are our goals – communicative competence) does not naturally occur until many many thousands of hours. Like ten thousand at least. So we are we talking about thousands of hours of cooking the input soup.

    We cannot be taught to speak a language. Even writing is something that occurs with practice more than any kind of specialized instruction by some wonderful teacher.

    We have proof of that in my district where each year thousands of Latino kids are brought nowhere closer to command of writing despite over 2000 ESL teachers sitting down with them every day in what in my view is a comedy routine.

    We only think that we can teach kids to speak and write because we are teachers and we think that that is what we are supposed to do. But the deeper mind – far beyond the reach of conscious instruction – does all the work. We can argue the writing point but who cares?

    The point is that by following Krashen how is that hard line? How is Krashen wrong? I have never read one good convincing article bashing Krashen. I’ve seen a lot of bullshit where the person tries to define the rules of the game in their own terms, but it’s just not convincing. Find me something convincing against Krashen.

    I’m not sure where you were going with that, Henry, and I may have misinterpreted your comment but I always like to return to a simple idea – to get to output we need so much more time than we think, and nothing good happens fast, and it is all done in the unreachable realm of the unconscious mind, and no hardline about it.

    People were captivated by Annick and Jason because they were doing beautiful input. They weren’t doing output. Our self image and prior training as teachers really does get in the way all the time, making us think that we should “teach output”, but I don’t see that as possible.

    I’m going to say this again – we output language unconsciously as a result of so many hours of unconsciously delivered input. The conscious mind and thinking and planning to get our kids to speak by teaching them how to speak is our egos talking.

    As far as writing, sure, we can start teaching them how to write, but I would rather teach a kid to write who has had over 1000 hours of listening and reading input than a kid who has had less than 200. Because how can they read if they haven’t listened a ton and how can they write if they haven’t read a ton?

    I’m not even sure if I addressed the comment or missed it by a mile. As to your comment about pissing people off, I don’t give a shit. I’m not trying to, and that is all I care about.

  10. What I meant by ‘hardline’ is an all for Krashen all for input and minimise output line. Which I did say I thought was probably necessary for the times. In the absence of defiinitive proof of anything I do think Krashen’s ideas are a good thing to go along with in a full on way.

    It’s not as if there are no output activities in CI classes, there are, and their relative efficacy, function and quantity probably varies considerably in different classes. At what point that would amount to the dreaded ‘mixing of methods’, I’m not sure.

    I teach the alphabet to young children and I do so with a bingo card game. It’s fast and its fun. Some people disagree with doing that, but it works so I don’t have a problem with it. I also talk to them while that is happening. What do you have? You don’t have ‘x’. What do you want and such like. It isn’t long before they are just saying those rather drill like things by themselves and also know the whole alphabet.

    Do I think that kind of decontextualised and limited thing has a huge influence on learning? No I don’t. Do I know that if my entire class was made up of activities like that, as many are, they wouldn’t learn much? Yes I do. I just don’t think that doing a very small amount of that kind of thing does much harm either.

    I have some focus on spelling in my classes too, because what used to happen to me is that when people from my elementary classes started English in Junior High they got lousy scores on their tests even though their level was way above their beginning peers. When I looked into why that was, it turned out that the main culprit was spelling. I can’t do anything about the classes that they get in school or the way that they test things, but fixing up spelling a bit even if it doesn’t contribute much to overal learning is not a big deal and I don’t have to spend much time on it.

    So apparently that makes me someone who has no place in this community and should find another profession.

    I once went on a commercial walking trip and at the orientation the manager said. ‘If you haven’t come here to have the time of your life – go home, we don’t want you on our trip’. I was mighty pissed off and nearly walked out. But then I thought ‘Why deprive myself of a good walk just because of some manager?’ and went along anyway.

  11. Maybe I’m overmanaging. Look at the spirit of what I am saying, not the letter. I don’t want a site where we argue the merits of CI vs. other methods, nor do I want one where we argue the merits of input vs. output. Been there done that. This is a flashback to one reason I made the blog private. We had half the posts talking about various activities and their merits and many of them were about output. To me that is a waste of time until those thousands of hours have happened, which is never in our professions. This site was becoming like the listserve. So I try to keep the discussion on what we can do to make Krashen’s ideas come to real life in our secondary school classrooms and for me that means refining input techniques and positive and open and honest and frank discussion.

  12. Ben,

    I’ve been wondering where was the best place to report on my TESOL France adventure and then I got wound up in this discussion and it connected with some things I heard in Paris, so I guess here is as good a place as anywhere.

    I really didn’t know what to expect in the crowd at this national conference (350 people attended). I thought I’d probably be seeing a lot of British people. And I did, but there were also a lot more Americans than I thought I’d see, as a matter of fact the President and Vice-President of TESOL France are Americans and there were several other “speakers” who were American like me. The first big surprise was that though this is TESOL France, people were coming from all over the world to attend. There were quite a few people from Eastern Europe, Ukrania, Slovakia, Macedonia, Roumainia and Russia, and there were people from Saudi Arabia, etc. I guess if you want to go to a TESOL conference, why not pick one in Paris? The three “plenary” speakers were Brazilian, Canadian and Chinese.

    Most of the people present worked in private language schools or at the university level. There were very few native French who taught in the French education system. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have to convince my audience that “grammar instruction” is not the only way to go.

    I discovered something called Dogme, which has nothing to do with dogma, but with a Danish film movement which was about using no artificial lighting but filming the action as it happened, if I got that right. It was interesting and I went to two talks about it. The idea is that the teacher gets her students talking and then focuses on something they say which becomes the backbone of her lesson. That is, (this is my personal interpretation) she identifies their needs by listening to their “emergeant language” and builds her lesson around a perceived need. I think we do this in TPRS all the time without asking our students to “chat” at the beginning of every lesson. But a lot of things that were said in these two talks fitted in very well with CI and TPRS. I can see how the idea of asking students to start a conversation, which would mean starting the lesson with output, would be quite difficult to justify in 1st or 2nd year, but later it might be interesting to try. And I heard favorable references to Krashen and Comprehensible Input by more than one speaker.

    I also heard a speaker put down Krashen by saying he supported “the teacher talks until he drops” method and claiming that students who were taught that way never became speakers of the language. I think that his portrait was pretty much based on the kind of teachers who talk in the TL all the time without worrying about making their Input comprehensible to their students. I’ve often seen this in France where teachers are supposed to use TL all the time, and students sit through years of English classes and come out with a beginner’s level because they didn’t understand what was being said. When I did my own presentation I took care to insist on the fact that Krashen says that the Input should be both comprehensible and compelling and that TPRS was a way of doing that.

    Two other interesting ideas that I picked up were “a journal dialogue” and “minisagas”. A journal dialogue is basically fluency writing where the teacher responds to what the student has written, not by correcting it but by responding to the student’s content. The teacher did this in only one class, because it was time-consuming, but had journals to show how far the students had progressed.

    Mini-sagas involve asking students to write a story with beginning, middle and end in only 50 words. And exactly 50 words. The idea is that they have to manipulate the language, look for synonyms, learn to make their language more effective and more precise to make it fit into the limits of a mini-saga. Again, I saw this as something that would be interesting with upper-level students.

    What about my talk? It was on Sunday morning. The conference started on Friday evening, and some people only planned on coming for the Saturday activities. It gave me time to “network” and when people saw TPRS on my badge, I had a chance to try to explain what TPRS is without boring them, kind of practicing for my talk. Sunday morning 10 o’clock was probably not the best slot. I heard people saying they were going to see the Eiffel Tower, and others overslept, but I had about 20 people present. There were six or seven other talks going on at the same time, so that was a fairly good turnout for something that people had never heard of before. I had 30 handouts and gave them all out because some people who had not been able to attend asked me for my handout.

    I have been working hard to make my talk fit into the limits of one hour, but people tended to dribble in, so I wasn’t able to start on time. I wanted to give at least of brief demonstration of TPRS using a language people didn’t already know, and had asked a woman from Ukrania to be my teacher. She didn’t show up until the end when she apologized because she had been caught in a rainstorm on the way and had to go back to her hotel and change her clothes. But there was a woman from Croatia in the front row who graciously accepted to teach us Croatian. I gave people jobs, chose a barometer (a man from Saudi Arabia who looked rather skeptical) asked someone to tally how many times I said Comprehensible Input and tried to give them the necessary background in how the method had evolved and why I considered it a revolution, how I had first heard about it, and what it involved. Then we very quickly did the lesson in Croatian, using “has” as our structure, writing it on the board and going to “Kellie ima Rolls Royce.” We then asked people who has a Rolls Royce, What does Kellie have, we asked the man from Saudi Arabia if he had a Rolls Royce and he told us he had a Caprice (?). It could have gone on much longer, and I will definitely try this again, because the participants were really enjoying it. I explained why I chose Rolls Royce and how we use universally known brand names to adapt to beginners’ limited vocabulary.

    A man sitting in the front row was nodding enthusiastically throughout the talk, but commented that he didn’t accept the Learning/Acquiring distinction and feels that learning is more important than Krashen says. I had been expecting something like this and replied that to me, having taught English to French speakers for 55 years, Krashen’s hypothesis clicks with my personal experience. And I pointed out that he was a 4%er as most language teachers are, and I proposed my own personal explanation that 4%ers are able to learn with little Comprehensible Input because we go over lessons and replay things in our heads, compensating for the lack of CI. (I know I did this all the time when I was learning French.)

    Only two people had ever heard of TPRS before. One was Marie-Pierre Journaud, who is on the moretprs list and was the person who advised me to apply to the TESOL conference. She teaches native French who want to become English teachers. Since they are all 4%ers, she says that they don’t understand the importance of TPRS because they don’t realize there’s a problem. They are still assuming that their future students will be able to learn the way they did.

    The other was an American university teacher who says that she had read about TPRS in a course that reviewed different methods but had never seen it practiced. I’m pretty sure that she’s going to be looking it up when she goes back to the States.

    One older teacher came up to me as soon as my talk was over and was very enthusiastic, saying she was definitely going to try it out. She does private tutoring and said it was just the thing for one of her older beginners who kept saying, “But I don’t understand! It’s all Chinese to me.”

    I had to cut off the end, because the next speaker was urgently wanting to take over the room and the participants had to rush to get to the other talks. I really regret that there was no opportunity to chat with people who were present and answer some of their questions. But at least there are 20 people who had never heard of TPRS before and are now curious.

    To go back to the comment “Three people quit the PLC in one day last week after my statements in one comment about how teachers who try to mix the old way and our new way should find another profession.”

    I took this to mean people who pick up a little of the method (like circling) and adopt that, but don’t go any further. I think all of us, or at least those of us who had taught another way for many years, need to ease into TPRS gradually. It is a whole new universe and it takes time to understand it, grasp what is essential and what isn’t, and above all to understand why it works. One of my French colleagues adopted circling, although he continues to teach grammar and give vocabulary lists, etc., etc. He’s a very personable, likeable guy, his students love him and when he used circling while being inspected he got a rave report. I think circling has made him a better teacher, and some day he may take another step in the right direction. I wouldn’t tell him to change his profession, because there are teachers who are a lot worse than him out there. I think a lot of teachers need to test the waters and gradually ease into TPRS, and as they see the results with their students become braver and wade out a bit further. We shouldn’t glare at them because they’re not yet ready to swim out into the deep water where they have no footing.

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