Targetless Instruction – 17

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92 thoughts on “Targetless Instruction – 17”

    1. Hi Laurie, if you can squeeze this in some time when you are in Maine next month, it would be great. The trend here in Maine is…well, let’s just say that it is heading in the opposite direction from what is summarized here. It will become increasingly difficult here for us to apply this compelling research. If you could make this information available to the group of teachers who will be at your conference, maybe that bit of leaven will leaven the whole lump, to paraphrase the New Testament.
      Btw, I’m not sure yet if I will be there, due to crazy life circumstances, but I am hoping to see you!

  1. This message from Krashen is so liberating for me! I talked last year about how I use films in class. I called it “reading a movie” since I use subtitles in the target language and we go through the film scene by scene, talking about what is happening and how the characters feel, what they want, why they do things. We “read” the subtitles and I help them with unfamiliar vocabulary. When we encountered a structure that they were ready to acquire, I circled it, did pop-up questions and put it in their readings. I also give them embedded readings that are summaries of scenes. When the language in the subtitles was too complex, I just gave them a quick translation and we went on. Ben wanted me to write it up, but I was afraid that it was too untargeted, that some people would say it wasn’t really comprehensible input. Yet it worked very well with my students and allowed me to engage them and I could see the progress they made. As I read what Krashen says, I’m thinking, “Of course.” It worked because the films I chose were compelling input for my students and I was there to translate the “noise” into caretaker speech whenever necessary. I feel that Krashen has explained why working with films in this way was effective. Thank you, Stephen!

  2. If one reflects on what Krashen has offered to us for consideration above, one can see how truly natural language acquisition really is. It’s not something that can be messed with, but many language teachers go on messing with it every day.

    In the above article, Krashen gives strong reasons for us to accept the Net Hypothesis in auditory comprehension classes, but isn’t his message the same in reading, as shown dramatically via study after study cited in the Power of Reading?

    And hasn’t the difficulty we all experience in teaching writing yet more proof that writing, like listening and reading, must emerge in a natural way as well, at its own pace? This explains why ungraded freewrites are the only form of writing practice that have stood the test of time (20 years) in the TPRS community. What we have created together here over the past months on writing are good, except for my last crappy idea, but will they stand the test of time?

    And, if one were to go just a little further with this idea that everything in languages happens in organic emergence over long periods of time in which billions of neuron firings are guided naturally, a process that we could never even begin to try to understand and imitate (I call it hubris when we do) and that unfailingly results in speech fluency and literacy, could the idea of non-targeted natural output, if you will, not be true also of speaking?

    Are we not demonstrating no small degree of pride when we try to push the emergence of the skills that, left alone, happen so naturally? Does our time frame, that of the academic year and its 500 hours of work over a four year period not appear a little silly in the light of Krashen’s research that shows that it takes thousands more hours than that for acquisition in a process that cannot be planned or manipulated, merely helped along by non-stop CI?

    Aren’t we being a little silly here? I think of a bunch of people in the middle of the night yelling at the night for the sun to come up right now, because they have something to do. We should learn to wait for the morning.

  3. I’ve decided that this is my sacred text for right now. Here’s what I mean. I find what Krashen is saying here so important and at places, still for me, so disturbing, that I owe it to myself and my students to read this over and over and allow the most disturbing parts to rattle my cage. I have also shared it with my circle of Latin teachers doing CI and am urging them to study it so that we can get rattled together. Thank you for posting.

  4. There’s a very fine line, I guess, between PQA (with no net and only three structures) and BSITL (with no target structures and the ensuing chaos). Sort of like that line between NO ENGLISH EVER and way too much English. With TPRS I no longer feel anxious that my students are bored. Rather, I feel anxious that I’ll fall off this tightrope.

  5. I also think that just because something is acquired fairly late, like the third person -s, it doesn’t mean that you should teach it late. On the contrary. It probably means you need to hear it a million times until it finally sticks. Keeping that structure until the end would mean it takes hugely longer than if you’d introduced and used it early. I don’t expect my students to get it right early, but I do teach it early.

    1. I think this is a brilliant way to look at it. One cause of a structure being “late acquired” is the developmental stage of the learner, as Krashen points out here, but another cause very well could be that those structures require more repetitions given their ambiguity or whatever else.

  6. If I could have one wish granted, it would be that all teachers spend some serious time reflecting on the core ideas in Non-Targeted Comprehensible Input.

  7. This stuff given by Krahen in my mind is true. I see it every day with my children. If any of you have kids under 4 or even under 10 you will see this happen everyday. My two year old is magnitized to the tv when we let her watch word world or super why. She is then very quiet and mesmerized. I know she can’t understand everything that is being said but she is focused on it and nothing else seems to matter. She uses lines all the time from the stories she has watched, and by the way over and over again. Who would have thought that the phrase, ” hey, what’s the big idea!” from donald duck would have been one of her first phrases that came out of her mouth and used in the right context! This net hypothesis makes sense. We just need to talk to our kids in the target language and make it intereting. So interesting that they forget they are listening to the target language. The problem is as you all know is this totally goes against how language is taught right now in classes. I am lucky right now I am in a situation that I can do this type of teaching but next year I may not. How do we explain this to those of the grammar world and still keep your job?

  8. …we just need to talk to our kids in the target language and make it interesting….

    OK that’s a rap. Everybody read that, and go do it, and we can shut this site down and as long as everybody remembers that ONE SINGLE STATEMENT, we no longer have to talk about anything here. What we talk about is really all the small stuff, the details. What Darren says above is the only thing to say.

    On that other topic, we’ve been wrestling with that for a long time now. There is the admin/teacher/parent reeducation category to look at, read some of those articles. Dude, that’s the big question. Sounds like Common Core is coming to your neigborhood next year.

  9. Thank you for re-posting this exactly now right when I need it. I feel the truth of this in my body when I am in class. It seems to me (in my small data pool) that in the instances where I have consciously tried to make every single thing comprehensible, the flow is disrupted. When students are fully engaged in the conversation they are truly “listening with intent to understand” and the “intent” is the energy with which they focus on the main message and respond, allowing perhaps some unfamiliar sounds filter through because they are so engrossed in the “fact” that there is a casino in school where Charlie plays poker at lunchtime, or that Julie swims in the Nile river with Bruno Mars.

    I find it odd that people who have raised children do not get this or remember that they did not drill their infants with indirect object pronouns, or chase their toddlers around with grammar books or restrict their children to reading books containing only the words that they knew. I wonder about this a lot, as I explain the method to inquiring parents, reminding them that they have already “taught” language to their children by simply loving them and engaging with them in each moment.

  10. …allowing perhaps some unfamiliar sounds filter through….

    This is really foundational with Krashen.

    …I wonder about this a lot….

    For me it goes back to our human need to control things. We can’t believe that we could just learn all the little complex details of a language naturally and unconsciously. That’s too easy. So we ignore Krashen.

    If we ignore him it means we can stay stressed. Since that is such a natural condition for most of us we do it. We can keep on bullshitting and over explaining stuff to our kids, stuff that does not help them at all. If we don’t ignore Krashen we would have to grow into much more relaxed teachers. Whoa!

    For the first time in my level one class this year I am so far not trying to control a thing. I relax. I approximate real language sharing in that way. I have always thought that a classroom is one hell of an unnatural place to do language.

    I don’t even stand in front of the class. I just sit there with the kids and we make stuff up together, according to the natural flow of things.

    Like Robert said a few days ago, there are periods of silence. But I don’t try to fill them until it becomes clear that they need to be filled then. Those kids are amazing in that way. I fire a lot of people. Jobs are being filled and refilled constantly. This year it’s more like I am Michael Scott and my kids are the characters in The Office.

    Anyway, thanks jen for putting a point on it with this especially:

    …in the instances where I have consciously tried to make every single thing comprehensible, the flow is disrupted. When students are fully engaged in the conversation they are truly “listening with intent to understand”…

    1. This is the tricky place. Which students are fully engaged in the conversation? I can get pulled in by the eyes of my fast processors and their reactions because “I” want the flow to go on uninterrupted. Watch those barometers. Their eyes and responses are going to tell you what’s really going on in your classroom.

      Parents would never drill their offspring on grammar, but they are usually only speaking to one or two kids at a time–not an entire classroom which requires incredible attention on the part of the teacher to create i + 1. Parents DEFINITELY gauge the level of the input to the level of the listener (their child) and check for comprehension a lot. (Did the kid touch her nose when you pointed to it and said nose? Or did she point to her belly button? Did the child go get their shoes when you said, “Go get your shoes.”? or not?)

      1. Even when we believe we are 100% transparent, we NEVER are for ALL. There are always “unfamiliar sounds filtering through” for somebody. It’s the nature of the beast. I still feel we err, as teachers, on overloading not underloading–speeding, not going too slow, etc.

        When we are responsible for the delivery of input for 150-180 students every day, it is impossible to 100% accurately target input for all of those people. It is impossible to completely personalize and find compelling input for all. Just not real. We approximate to the best of our abilities and demand that the student do their part:
        help the teacher by giving interesting answers,
        help the teacher by attending to his/her own comprehension of the language
        help the teacher by notifying him/her when student needs clarification

        Parents don’t really need that. We do.

  11. My k-8 Mvskoke class is so small that we hold it in the tiny little kitchen space at school gathered around the table. I sit with them and we eat snack and talk about what we are eating and what they want.

    Being together like that makes it a family of language learners and that is the concept that I am trying to get across to my adult learners as well. We are a family of language learners. It is makes the natural flow of conversation work so much better.

    I found since I am only a toddler in the language and all these 4% adult learners wanted to grab me to teach them that I needed to go back to the concept that they were babies and I a toddler. As a toddler I could push them in the stroller. We don’t all get to where we want to go, unless we all go there together by helping each other.

    It has made a huge difference. The 4% are helping people outside their known buddies and the ones who were resistant to people from a different tribal town accessing their “Queen Bee’s” language knowledge have settled down and are starting to see the others not as others but as part of the family. Maybe still distant cousins, but there is no learning unless there is safety and recognition that we are a family of learners.

  12. Considering all the different sounds, structures, processing, etc. that go into using a language fluently and freely, acquisition should be incredibly complex. Yet, the brain has such an elegant solution to this (perceived) problem. All one has to do is focus on meaning and, given enough time and CI) it all gets acquired. It sounds too good to be true… But it is true!!!

  13. I think there’s a lot of validity here. For me as I continue acquiring more Chinese, it is definitely how I’m acquiring more Chinese myself (listening to podcasts, reading The Hobbit in Chinese, watching videos). For motivated people with self-control, I think this is awesome. I loved reading Judy’s comments about her use of movies. The homework I give 7th & 8th grade students – watch any beginner-levels videos at – is allowing for this kind of i+1 and i+n but complete comprehension through their transcripts. I have also intentionally started using a little connector word (de between nouns) with a young class and they’ve entirely comprehended without having it pointed out to them.

    So I see that Krashen is right about this i+n concept as long as the n isn’t too far beyond the i. I think that it might also help kids who acquire fast and want more content; those who aren’t ready for it aren’t held accountable to get it all, but quick minds might pick up some of it in passing. Does that make sense?

    And yet… with some students less motivated to acquire, some needing nearly-constant behavior management, and expectations that I will provide quizzes, assignments, and a scope & sequence… I do target higher-frequency words. One factor is that I need to retain a sense of what my 5 levels know so I am not overwhelming them by using too many unknown words; having a general plan for which structures are targeted does that for me. Many of them will not signal need for clarification if the content is too far beyond their acquisition, I know from experience last year. They’ll get very frustrated and/or feel stupid.

    I also think that for people new to teaching with CI, most of them need some kind of plan just so they can acquire the ability to teach in this style without becoming overwhelmed.

    So I’d like to hear more about what others are doing along these lines.

    1. I started working with the Net Hypothesis before I knew it existed. It just made sense to me after reading as much as I could on Second Language Acquisition (especially much of what S. Krashen wrote), and after teaching for lots of years–many unsuccessfully from the standpoint of having students who could actually communicate in the language. It started with what I remember being called the “Tennessee Experiment” which was the beginning of what has turned into the Fluency Fast model of teaching languages. A group of teachers studied Spanish for a week. It included organizing the curriculum for that week around parts of language that were important–including teaching past tense early on. From there I developed, and am continuing to develop, a curriculum guide to explain how to organize classrooms based on the Net Hypothesis. The reason for writing it is that, in reality, we are in classrooms where we must have a plan, a written curriculum, as scope and sequence, matched to standards, and measurable.

      Every time I go to a school or am with a group of teachers I talk about my “off-the-wall ideas” for organizing curriculum. A couple of years ago, I was going on and on about this to a friend at NTPRS. She was willing to try some of the ideas–with great success.

      A year ago, a curriculum director got hooked on the idea. So she hired me to come into her school and help them write a new scope and sequence. It was an interesting several days of working with teacher all over the board regarding CI teaching, traditional grammar/translation, and especially using the table of contents of the textbook as the scope and sequence. The most interesting part was to watch teachers who had never considered any of these ideas before as they thought about them. They would think about the idea of the net hypothesis, as in teaching whatever was interesting/compelling (as in Judy’s movies, kids books, songs, novels, poetry, folklore and traditional stories), AND starting with those aspects of the language that are foundational to all the other. They would walk right up to it and be ready to absorb it and use it, then they would turn and run–giving all sorts of excuses of why it wouldn’t work and why their colleagues would reject it. That is not to say that there weren’t those in the room who picked up the ball and ran with it. Most of them, however, were already using CI based methods and techniques already.
      I can’t say that the training in that school was a rousing success, but neither was it a total failure. I was planting seeds and I will never know when they will actually sprout.
      The guide is still in very rough form. I’ve asked a few close colleagues to read it and see if it makes sense. When it’s ready, I will share it. Or maybe when I am ready. It’s not mainstream thinking. But it makes sense to me.

      So when I read what Diane N. wrote yesterday:
      “I also think that for people new to teaching with CI, most of them need some kind of plan just so they can acquire the ability to teach in this style without becoming overwhelmed. ”

      I realized that is the exact reason I wrote the guide.

      1. I am so intrigued by this. Especially the part where you say “my off the wall ideas” and “It’s not mainstream thinking, but it makes sense to me.” I can’t wait to read it!

          1. No Teri – for us it is not “off the wall” – it makes TOTAL sense. WE have a hard time understanding why it IS “off the wall” to others, besides the fact that it requires a learning curve to the new paradigm shift.
            What I, personally, have a hard time understanding, is that teaching this way engages ALL students (eventually – maybe not within the first week, but they do jump on board) it is the ultimate in RTI….without massive amounts of planning! What’s not to love?
            So, the bottom line is: how do we educate those other teachers? How do we educate them enough to at least open their minds to Krashen? I am so new to this, that it boggles my mind that there is such a visceral reaction to TPRS that teachers are willing to lose students and their jobs to avoid learning anything about Krashen’s Hypotheses and how they can work wonders TOGETHER and increase enrollment in WL classes.
            I also wonder why WL Methods courses do not require study into the brain research of SLA….they spend so darn much time comparing L2 teaching “methods”, instead of actually learning HOW the brain learns — then they should look into the various methods and compare and contrast and analyze if they “would” work, given the brain research!
            I would like to learn how to open minds………….

          2. You are in the right place, Teri!

            In the summer, a few of us Chinese teachers (myself, Lea & La also from the PLC plus Pu-Mei Leng, initiated and led by Haiyun Lu) made a beginning Chinese structures & word list, including a lot of flexibility and “spice” words for fun/interest. The idea was to have something that a Chinese teacher wanting to begin teaching with CI could use as a guide. Pick a few from a variety of sections of the list and go. It’s too daunting without some framework, at least I think so.

      2. We are so ahead of Common Core it’s scary. One of the stated goals of Common Core is to teach students to “think outside the box”, so we should be presenting ourselves as aligned with Common Core because everything about CI/TPRS is outside the box as far as schools are concerned.

        Teri, I am really interested in your guide. Like you, I doubt that it’s off the wall as far as this group is concerned.

  14. Ben, there is so much here that it will take us a long time to “unpack” it all. Some of us will never do that in our teaching careers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start unpacking and using at least some of this.

    This time through, the following stood out to me:
    A modest first step is the creation of readers that are not targeted at certain structures and vocabulary. Instead of writing stories that include just those items that have been taught or are about to be taught, writers can just try to make the texts interesting and comprehensible, based on their own experience with students at the beginning levels. If beginning students understand the texts (and like them), then the texts are appropriate; the Net Hypothesis claims that just the right aspects of language will be automatically included

    I realized that this is what I am trying to do with my books. When I sat down to write the first one, I did not have a list of structures to use, I had a story to tell, and I wanted it to be comprehensible and interesting to any student in about level (3/)4 who read it. I consciously repeated vocabulary when it came up; I consciously chose certain figures of speech and phrases because they were more likely to have been encountered; I used certain words because they were cognates; I consulted a frequency dictionary; but I didn’t have a set of pre-determined vocabulary and structures that had to go into the book. So far the feedback I have gotten on the book has been overwhelmingly positive, from both students and teachers, so I must have done something right.

    For the pirate book – which is nearing completion in German, French (thanks Sabrina!) and Spanish – I had a different story to tell and tried to make it interesting and comprehensible for a (slightly) lower level. Last year it worked well in my classes, but I haven’t yet gotten feedback from others.

    Next up is either my East Africa book or something for beginning readers. I have a story to tell about German East Africa, so it may be next, but a lot of people have said I need to write the beginning reader, so we’ll see.

    One thing that Karen Rowan said is that if a book is interesting to you, the teacher, it will be too hard for students. She is only partially right. A compelling story, profound thought, interesting information can all be communicated in simple language. (Here’s an example: “At the start of things was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made that was made.” This is extremely deep theology couched in words of no more than two syllables, and most of them are one syllable. Here is another: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” That’s an opening to grab your attention, and it contains one and two-syllable words.) So, a story can be interesting to both teacher and student on that level. At the same time, an extended story in simple language will not be compelling to an advanced reader; it’s a nice treat but not something you want to consume in large quantities. So, Karen was partially right. I’m trying to write stories that are inherently interesting because of plot, character, etc. yet simple enough to be understood by relatively inexperienced language students. Quite frankly, that’s tough.

    BTW, anyone in the PLC interested enough in French medieval history to help me adapt the medieval book to France?

    1. In the online dictionary and forum in which I participate, someone started a thread on favorite first lines of books. When you look at them, you can see how compelling “easy” language can be:
      – It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, …
      – What I wanted was a fat bear; what I got was a skinny Indian.
      – It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
      – Aujourd’hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.
      – Call me Ishmael.
      – It was the day my grandmother exploded.
      – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
      – Grandfather’s house creaked with ghosts at night.
      – Ich bin nicht Stiller! (I am not Stiller!)

  15. “Figuring out the upper level thing is not going to be easy but I know a big part of the answer there is going to involve reading.” Gosh golly, can “upper level” include second year!? I feel like I am drowning for ideas at times in every class but level 1.

  16. Second year is in my opinion the hardest year to teach using CI. Not sure why. Maybe because kids who want the two years are still in but are gone in level 3. Anyway James you are not alone. Skip brings this up all the time. We act like using CI at upper levels including 2 is possible to do well if we just figure it out. I’m not so sure. The spark leaves after level 1, does it not?

    1. Yeah this is actually really kinda freaking me out. I feel like I have such a handle on level 1, and even level 3/4 isn’t so bad because they can read pretty well. But level 2 is killer.

      It’s like the little suckers think they have you figured out and so the buy-in goes way down.

      Is transitioning to reading pre-fab texts like novels etc. (and discussing/personalizing the reading in L2) the answer for level 2? Maybe mix in video clips and A FEW stories/TPRS cycles?

      I don’t think we should think of terms of “CI doesn’t work in upper levels” but maybe instead: “TPRS doesn’t work in upper levels.” But I don’t know. Again, this is scary for me.

      But it gets tricky when you consider this: TPRS CAN WORK in upper levels IF the students have never had CI/TPRS before. I saw this last year. But this year, because all my level 2 students had TPRS last year, I am feeling quite lost.

  17. I am with you guys here. I am feeling great in level I. I feel like I am making such great progress over last year at delivering understandable messages. However in my level 2 class and my level 3-4 class that only had one year of CI, I am finding it difficult. Where to turn? I can turn to readings in our book, but the issue is still so many words that they don’t know. The words are glossed, but it still seems that they are not reading.

    I am convinced that CI can work at these levels. However, what do we do? Do we do a ton of R&D or something else.

    I too am very nervous about this issue. Surely this can’t be the case that it doesn’t work in upper levels, right?

    Ben, maybe we need a discussion topic on this. What are some actual things people do in these levels. I would also love to hear from some of our Latin folks who have been doing this for a few years. Bob, John, David M, you guys out there? What are you doing?

    1. All I know is what I’ve experienced. So all I know is that we have spent the last month in Latin 3/4 having a good time, seeing/hearing/discussing a lot of good L2, and not asking a single story. I don’t think I’d be able to get the PQA/story/reading juices flowing in 3/4. I don’t think I want to, even. Reading and videos have been enough, and actually they seem provide a better amount of meaty i+n CI than TPRS. But maybe it’s just my inexperience. Like I said. This is a little scary for me because I don’t really know where I’m going.

      1. James,

        What are you reading? I have a 3-4 class and I am finding it very difficult to deal with. I have about half the class that is totally with it and almost bored and the other half that is still struggling a bit. We are trying to read from CLC Book 1 because I thought that it would be easy and I could ramp up my question asking to provide a higher level of CI.

        I can say that I have tons of anxiety because I don’t know where I am going with these kids. They can understand quite a bit, but their reading is still limited because of the vocabulary issue. I’m really at a loss here. My frustration level is high today as it is difficult to get things going.

      2. When have any of us known where we are going? This is the way we are and have always been flying. Like Antoine. By the seat of our pants. Trust your gut. It occurred to me while reading your comment above James that this is the first time I had the thought that the version of comprehension based teaching that we call TPRS may not even WORK past levels 1 or 2. That’s quite a new thought. But I believe it is true. Stories are for beginners. We never knew that until now as this seems to be the year that you and skip and I and many others are teaching true TPRS/CI kids who have never made enemies with the inside of a grammar book. Maybe it’s just part of the deal.

    2. Jeff and James maybe we can make this the first forum topic. That would be cool. Of course the software is not here yet but we are working on it. The reason for the entire change in the site is to add that forum. Anyway, James said this:

      …is transitioning to reading pre-fab texts like novels etc. (and discussing/personalizing the reading in L2) the answer for level 2? Maybe mix in video clips and A FEW stories/TPRS cycles?…

      I say yes to this James and pretty much exactly the way you said it. That is what I do. I personally don’t think that the answer to those kids’ attitudes lies in finding the right approach within the overall CI model, but rather to respond to those children’s pre-frontal cortexes which are not yet fully formed and simply give them what they are asking for – some firm direction. That is working for me. I brook no compromise with the rules, I do a lot of Annoying Orange, and the message is generally, we will read this shitty novel/do Youtube clips/spin out discussion/take daily quizzes and the best decision for them to make now is to get out while they can if they don’t like it. I told two French 3 kids today in separate moments that I did not work this hard for over thirty years to have them not sit up and pay attention. They responded. They owe it to me. We’re not French 1 kids laughing all the time anymore. They know the drill. I must admit to having to take a deeper breath right before class than I do with a level 1 class, to psyche myself into teaching with a slightly bitchy edge, but they asked for it, so they got it. Toyota.

  18. Jeff, I am reading from the CLC just like you. And, the vocabulary will always be an issue with any textbook. I use embedded versions to work up to the version in the book. There is no rush. I don’t care if a senior doesn’t finish the second book so long as we read fluently.

    But I wouldn’t do CLC reading every day. I’ve been mixing in look and discuss–using pictures by famous artists of classical mythology–and youtube and discuss–using the Mickey in No Service Clip. From the L&D and YT&D I’ll write up readings for us to enjoy and discuss in L2, also.

    So Latin 1 take almost no prep. But my upper levels require me to make embedded readings and readings from scratch based on the pictures or videos. Something feels a little off there, but maybe it’s just because there aren’t any good simple novels written in Latin. If there were, we would use those and not need to prepare as much.

    But like I said. I’m scared.

  19. Dude,

    I’m scared too. This is uncharted territory for me. I know what to do, but the damn textbook is staring at me mockingly. I keep thinking that I should read it. I think you might be right that we should be reading about what we discuss. It would be so much more comprehensible to them. I’m glad that you put out some ideas there. I have all levels. Six of them and I have trouble keeping up with everything. You are correct that the other levels need some work from me. Even though my Latin III/IV class has more experience, some of the students in there still struggle with understanding. I am thinking of just doing the same things in level II and III-IV, but extending it higher for the upper levels. Ask more complicated questions, put everything in the past tense, use conditionals, things like this.

    Sometimes I feel like the damn book gets in the way because it has so much incomprehensible vocabulary that is not very common and not relevant to the kids. However, it is rich in terms of culture items, it is not rich in terms of comprehensibility. This is so damn frustrating to me. After last year, I am so gun-shy because of the abuse I took. I am trying to protect myself and my mental health. I don’t think I can handle another year like the last one.

    This is a great discussion. Love to keep it going.

  20. Quick response for now: I would definitely do the same stuff in levels 2-4 in your situation. I did that last year and actually this year I am feeling myself starting to do it again.

    Think about it, and I’ll be really blunt here: first year is all that matters. If your first year students love your class they will 1) take level 2 and 2) tell their friends to take level 1. That’s where your numbers will come from. So focus on level 1, where you feel comfortable, and just try your best with everyone else.

    1. Something’s not right here. I just posted a reply to what I thought were the most current comments and as soon as I hit “submit”, different comments popped up.

  21. I can’t comment on levels 3/4 and above. However, I have now had two years with levels 2 who experienced TPRS/CI in level 1 and it never occurred to me that I couldn’t continue where I left off in level 1. They still enjoy the process/stories, as a matter of fact, they ask for it. Why do we even have to make a distinction between level 1 and 2? Just continue with different, but equally compelling, structures. Or use the same structures from the previous year but in a more grammatically complex fashion (e.g. he/she goes –> if he/she could go).

    1. Brigitte, if I could keep doing stories almost exclusively here at the beginning of level 2 I would. Trust me. But something feels like it’s dragging. I am completely open to the idea that the suckiness comes from my lack of experience with TPRS. If you are able to get your kids to buy in to stories throughout level 2 then you are probably just better at this stuff than I am. That should be a sign to me not to just give up all together. Ugh!

      But then maybe you’re just lucky and have easy kids. Ha! NOT!

      Thanks, Brigitte, I needed to hear what you said. I shouldn’t just give up entirely on stories in level 2. But I think this year I do need to start considering other tools. In level 2 like we’ve been saying but also, and even ESPECIALLY, in levels 3/4.

      1. Yeah right, I’m so great – NOT! If you only knew ;-). Since you’re thinking of other tools, Movie Talk comes to mind. Maybe that would get your kids excited all over again.

        1. I am going to start YouTube and Discuss with all my level 2s soon. I think they can handle it if we go slowly, which of course we will. My 3/4s have been doing some YT&D and it’s been a good change of pace. Mixed with some pictures and reading. I guess we don’t HAVE to do stories, so long as the kids keep getting CI. But level 2 does feel awful early to give up on stories all together like I sorta want to–possibly, probably, out of insecurity and laziness.

        2. Yes we should want to bring interest and excitement to our fluency programs. No it is not necessary. Some of us are not entertainers, and we have discussed that a lot here.

          Our only job is to deliver CI in the form of reading and listening. (Such a relief that we don’t have to teach them how to speak or write, because that totally takes care of itself on an unconscious level from all the input.)

          My thought on this thread is that the kids are tired when they are at the upper levels. They are scared. College or the work force looms. They have been in a restraining device, pretty much away from their parents and nature, for eleven years or more. They get up early and are tired. They interact with electronic devices on an average of 8.5 hours per day. Who among us can get them excited about learning a language given those factors?

          They are bored by definition and by their experience in the monstrous system we have created on their behalf. I say that the problem with upper levels is with them and we cannot change it by finding the right upper level curriculum. So I say again this comment from yesterday that stories are for beginners and that more reading and more reading and more reading and some YT & D are a good way to go. We could add to that list more reading.

          So in my level 3/4 classroom I will be using more reading and YT & D at the upper levels with SSR to start class and a Quick Quiz to end it (you burn 20 minutes with those two things right there) every day. I will also give up the entertainment routine and reserve it for my level 1s if at all, because I know that humor that comes from us is not funny but humor that comes from them is funny.

          All I have to do is stay in the TL and carry a bigger invisible world hammer at the upper levels with more reading and if they don’t like it they can go to another section or drop the class because I know that reading is the most effective part of all comprehension based instruction, not PQA and stories, and I know that because Krashen says it.

          1. Matthew DuBroy

            “humor that comes from us is not funny but humor that comes from them is funny.”

            Ben I think this is right on. I had one class write alternate endings to a story and I didn’t really have a plan for what I was going to do with it. One student asked if we could read them out loud so I asked for volunteers who wanted them read out loud and I got about 12-15 out of the 25-26 students to volunteer. I had to edit on the fly and ask a few kids what they meant but on the whole the kids absolutely LOVED it. I could never come up with this much great material. So then I thought well why don’t I have them make the next story so I put them in groups of 4 to write a story. I gave them some limits because starting from scratch can be scary and take forever to write. Most of them shared without prompting that they loved writing these stories in Latin. We are on break now but when we get back I plan on using them for class. We will see how it goes but I expect it to go even better than my own since as you say the humor that comes from them is great. And you know what sometimes I don’t get it but it doesn’t matter since they are totally engaged listening to what the other group or person said. I’m wondering if I can do more of this – having the students come up somehow with the story before hand. It takes so much pressure off me.

          2. Yes you can!! Or at least get you started and start off with more buy in!! To give you a little time, give the students 1 or 2 structures that you want in a story and 3 minutes to write a storyline. (What’s the problem??) It can be done in English or Latin. Collect them and keep them handy to go through! I like to do it at the end of a class and pick one / two to combine for the next day. Try it!!

  22. Great point Brigitte about levels. I think what James and Jeff are talking about is the strange phenomenon when the kids reach a certain point where they know so much and have done so many stories (somewhere in level 2) that they get the game and kind of start going through academic puberty. I can’t believe I just used the term academic puberty. Time for a break. Dude.

  23. James,
    For level 2’s I have begun the year with new, blank name sheets (or cards as Ben calls them). I asked them to spend some time drawing in response to the prompt: “Quid novi (what’s new)” that is, what is new or current in your life since last school year? All of a sudden I have possible stories about verbally abusive soccer players from rival schools, and a raging birthday party that many were not invited to (in which I am turning the tables in order to equalize the social hierarchy in my classroom, and get some laughs).
    Also, I think level two is the perfect time to work in more story scripts from Matava and Tripp, and pick the ones that overlap with textbook vocab, so that you can still say that you are following the scope and sequence of CLC as long as you are claiming to use it (and most of us need to say we are working through a specific book).
    Also I see nothing wrong with reading the same story/chapter with two levels. It’s the level of engagement that should be varied based on student ability.
    And keep writing those novels in your spare moments. I have one in the works, and if 3 or 4 of us crank out a little chapter book, think how much great material we will have for next year’s Latin classes.

  24. Kuddos to you John for working on that chapter book. I have a strong desire to work on one. In fact, I have a strong desire to adapt some Plautus, namely the Menaechmi. I just don’t think I’m going to ever get to it. I feel like a putz because my workload of 6 classes and 4 preps is making it hard to achieve anything beyond what I do in my classes. However, I am finding the power of doing the same things in several classes, but upping the complexity. I find this makes my life so much easier.

    I am doing some L&D with my 3-4s. This is my difficult class from last year that gave me so much trouble. I have tons of anxiety about this class. They never did buy into CI. Ben was so right, don’t switch a class to CI. Give them the textbook. Start only with first level kids and grow with them.

    I’m still finding it stilted and not very engaging the book. Using it doesn’t feel authentic. It is too difficult and time consuming to try to line up a script with book vocab. The book vocabulary is lame. It doesn’t even use common words. It has tons of words in there. I can’t say that I am impressed with it as a CI friendly text. I sent it to Ben to see what his thoughts were. Maybe he will have time to respond with his opinion.
    I do want to thank you for leading the charge in this process. It definitely has helped me. I don’t know how I’m going to incorporate the book. I don’t even know if I have to yet. We’ll see. I wonder if I can use them at levels 3-4 as ssr? Any thoughts about that? Ben, what do you think if you got a chance to look at it.

    1. I haven’t gotten to it Jeff. When I do something repels me away from it but I’ll keep trying.

      What you wrote here:

      …I am finding the power of doing the same things in several classes….

      This work is too hard not to have one prep. We all know perfectly well that we can do what Jeff says above. So we should be doing it. Three CI preps for me has often been one prep, taught differently. Then you can write that book Jeff.

      Now John’s point above is key in this ongoing discussion about choice of curriculae at the different levels for CI classes. I say again that beyond level 2 we need much more reading and R & D. Maybe we do a story every once in a while but we can’t overdo them because the kids take them for granted and then get snotty.

      What John said above about level 2, the transition year and the hardest year in TPRS/CI classes, is something I totally agree with. Basically he is saying, at least what I am hearing him say, is that we can continue a kind of level 1 thing with the cards but at a higher level and we can do more stories. Those Matava stories and Jim’s as well are gifts that keep on giving. So when I say that stories are for beginners I mean that they are for the first two years.

      So John is saying level 2 is for more of level 1. At some point the magic wears off with stories, usually in the spring of level 2, and then we have to think about this different kind of CI teaching I have been describing in this thread where we work upper level kids more and not allow them to be snotty, not caring so much about the curriculum but making it heavy on reading.

      At least we are talking about the kind of CI we want to be doing through the four high school years. It’s a start.

      1. Yes, Ben, you are hearing me correctly. I personally take a long time (perhaps too long) to get a class story printed. But the kids actually ask for it if it’s been too long. So don’t think you have to do a whole story every week or even every two weeks, especially if the energy continues, and Fall is when the story energy happens. If students are getting sick of stories already, that should not concern us. They are sophomores (greek for wise fools, know-it-alls), and they are acting like spoiled children. Spoiled children shouldn’t get their way. We should force them to endure what is best for them, with a smile on our faces, and lots of jobs and accountability via jgr. Once again, scripts are perfect for 2nd year, so let’s not let the kids deprive us of these valuable resources, which we can adapt and use in all of our classes. Also, ditto what Ben said about one prep being our goal. All classes are mixed-level, and so the “differentiation” so to speak comes not from the content of the reading, but from the level at which we require students to engage that reading.

        1. …spoiled children shouldn’t get their way….

          Bam! And thank you for the reminder about sophomores. And that is usually level 2. So there’s another factor in that level 2 issue we’ve mentioned here.

          …don’t think you have to do a whole story every week or even every two weeks….

          Bingo! Back in the day the protocol we got from Blaine was lots of stories. At one point it was one a day! Like we could do PQA, a story and a reading all in one class! Can you imagine? Now, your point and points we’ve laboriously discussed here about taking days on just a few structures really supports what you have written there John and thank you. It really is the way to do it.

          It’s so true for me that I no longer have any desire to leave one sentence (with variations) for periods of fifteen minutes or more.

          Here is what my French 1 sophomores (perfectly focused, with lots and lots of jobs and so much good will!) have done in the last five days:

          Maria runs to King Soopers. She runs slowly. She doesn’t run fast. The police do not stop her. She arrives at King Soopers and looks for Pampers. She doesn’t find him. Pampers is in front of Nicole in King Soopers. He is not in front of Maria. Nicole is in back of him. Nicole taps Pampers 17 times on the right shoulder. She does not tap him on the left shoulder. Pampers turns to his right and sees her. She looks at him. He says to her: “Do you want to go out with me?”

          So 50 minutes times five classes for that. That’s it. That’s over four hours of circling. Now, where did I get those words? I noticed in the third or fourth day of doing this that hey are the first column of words on my Word Wall poster, as per:

          on se lève
          on s’assied
          on se

          This is how great these kids are. I just started talking to them and my eyes fell on that poster and I kind of used them to ask questions that ended in that story. I did not target them. They just fell off the wall into the scene.

  25. I had a similar problem last year with Level 2s. They got less excited by stories.

    I thought, first, we should make some of the stories more serious. After enough bizarre wacky stuff, kids get tired of that routine. Second, I thought we should do a lot more reading and Q&A of readin. Third, movietalk. What I found was that it wasn’t stories per se that were boring, but doing ONLY stories, and then reading versions of those stories. When we got to doing one story every 2 weeks instead of 1 a week, they were way more into it.

    I also upped the seriousness of the news (which we do start of eah class). Kids like to bring in things like “bla bla divorced bla bla and his new mistress is ___,” which is fine for awhile. When we started doing more serious stories (died, was arrested, etc) it was cool– kids had serious (if simple due to being in TL) opinions.

    Bottom line: Krashen’s ideas about novelty being important are doubly true…let’s not let the “novelty” of weirdness get stale.

  26. Good to hear. I’m glad to hear that we have to turn it into as few preps as possible. There is no way I could ever keep up otherwise. Even when I taught from the book, I did all the same activities with different chapters. It may have sucked, but I kept my sanity. I have enjoyed stories, but it’s the reading the textbook that is problematic. If I don’t have to use it the better.

    It seems like trying to pqa stuff like barber (a word that occurs in chapter three) is totally lame. Where is the power in that?

  27. …it’s the reading the textbook that is problematic….

    Why do you have to do this?

    Also, there is no power in the word barber because the word is not owned, did not emerge from, has nothing to do with, the class. It is not compelling, it is not interesting, it has no connection to anything in their lives, and to try to PQA that word into something interesting in that setting, coming from the book, is just not going to get anything off the ground.

    The class generates the vocabulary. In my earlier comment about Maria in King Soopers THE CLASS did all that. I just asked the questions. I guided it all along with my Word Wall, almost by accident, and it was the class that owned the scene. Such a mega huge point. And yet there are still teacherd pulling words like barber from books and wondering why there is no energy in their classes. We teach kids not words.

    1. If the word “barber” comes from the class, it will have power. Today I spent a good 20 minutes on “got his hair cut” with one class because a student who has had fairly long curly hair came into class with a really short haircut, and another student commented on it. We found out who cuts their own hair, who gets their hair cut, why this student got his hair cut (joined our junior ROTC program), etc.

  28. Jeff, at this point I want to back you away from the wall, especially when it comes to the textbook. Bob and I are pretty much in agreement that CLC (Cambridge Latin Course) is still useful for a CI class. Our little group has already done the heavy lifting of creating embedded versions of stories from the first 10-12 chapters, and many of those stories are interesting to our students, at least as interesting as Pobre Ana–my guys love the barber story, and I adapted it into an easy powerpoint three years ago in my first efforts at CI. Bob has his students read every story in CLC, so no one can tell him he’s not teaching the material, and he keeps his program aligned with the other Latin teachers in his department (all of whom are using CI to some degree or other). I hope that Bob will chime in here and give his own take, but I’m bringing it up to say it doesn’t have to be either/or: that is, either you do CI or you stick with the book. Most of us Latin teachers still need to stay aligned with a book, even if we are adapting stories and eliminating useless vocab words. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, especially for those of us who are hesitant, insecure about diving into CI, and are in the process of educating admins about this whole CI thing and why we don’t have them doing group work and projects and forced production and iPads, and all the other BS that Bill Gates thinks makes for good teaching.

  29. Thanks John. I appreciate your comments. I know you all are having more luck with textbook. I will give it another try. Much of my anxiety comes from the unknown. I trust you guys know what you are doing and have the best practices in mind. Thanks.

  30. But just to present the other side Jeff it may be that working from even an organized system like that offered by John and Bob may not fit your nature and then you have to strike out on your own. I’m not disagreeing with John, and certainly in Latin his expertise must be brought into the decision, but if it doesn’t work for you then it doesn’t work. I’m just presenting the other side. It wouldn’t work for me and I suspect that you and I are birds of a feather on this CI stuff. It’s the fact that the textbook seems to have such sway in Latin unlike in modern languages that is handcuffing you. If you taught a modern language I know you would be rollin’. Tough stuff. See it through. You’ve been tough as nails up to this point. Keep on truckin’.

    1. Ben, the reason we Latin teachers always go back to CLC is because that’s our novel. It’s all we have to read. We are working on other stuff in our spare times, and of course we are constantly writing up short stuff from stories or pictures or videos on a class-by-class basis, but still… the book is all we have as far as “here is something already written for you that your kids can just sit and read.” I think it would be impossible, for me at least, to separate completely from it, especially in upper levels.

      And it’s not a lame textbook. It is actually kinda cool. It just has a lot of vocab.

    2. Thanks for what you said Ben. You are spot on. I do feel like the flow is not as good when I take things from the book. I just got this new book, so I don’t have any connection to it. I respect GREATLY Bob’s and John’s opinion, but it doesn’t feel right to me to use the book It feels very stunted. It could feel that way because I never used it before and therefore I have no ties to it or feelings for it either way. I do understand the NEED for reading. Without it, we are in a bad spot. However, I have 6 classes and I teach at two different schools. I teach all the levels of Latin and I have one class that is still pissed about me changing the game on them. I have a young son at home (2 years old) and a ton of other responsibilities. It is not feasible for me to spend a tremendous amount of time grading or planning. If I can’t do it during the day, it can’t get done. I get about 40-50 minutes each day of free time, but it is wasted at times because of scheduling and traveling between buildings. The Ci work has been intense and I have taken some serious licks in the past year. I am dedicated to it and I know it is powerful, but I need something that is going to work. I don’t really have tons of time to develop or experiment.

      John, Bob, and James have given me a tremendous amount of stuff from the book and they have without a doubt been awesome to me and I value them highly. I don’t want them to think that I don’t value them. However, I can say that I am looking for something that will work for me.

      The kids respond so much better when we are not tied to the book. There is magic there. I don’t experience that magic when we read. Our kids get enough homework and tons of textbook stuff. They are killed with it. They just enjoy hanging out an doing Latin. That feels powerful to me. I also enjoy my job a lot more when I don’t have a chapter to cover or vocab that I must teach.

      Thanks for the responses. I always look for them. Again, I want to express my deepest thanks to all you guys, especially John, James, Bob et al. .

      1. Jeffery said:

        …I do feel like the flow is not as good when I take things from the book….it doesn’t feel right to me to use the book. It feels very stunted. The kids respond so much better when we are not tied to the book. There is magic there….

        This is what is true for Jeffery. For others it will not be true. It is true for me. What we do must be a reflection of our own personalities. We must resist saying there is any right way to do this work. All we have to do is make ourselves comprehensible to our students in the target language.

        One thing is true – we don’t want to lose the lightness and whimsy of the moment. But each of us has to pursue what that means for us. There is no formula.

        To address the issue of readers, which discussion by the Latin group will probably last years, I quote from the above article by Krashen:

        “The Net Hypothesis predicts that the appropriate grammar and vocabulary will be included and that substantial language acquisition will take place…. [ed. note: i.e. even if target structures are not used]


        “A modest first step is the creation of readers that are not targeted at certain structures and vocabulary. Instead of writing stories that include just those items that have been taught or are about to be taught, writers can just try to make the texts interesting and comprehensible, based on their own experience with students at the beginning levels. If beginning students understand the texts (and like them), then the texts are appropriate; the Net Hypothesis claims that just the right aspects of language will be automatically included. To see if the Net Hypothesis is correct, as suggested just above, we can examine the texts of comprehensible/interesting readers written in this way and determine what structures and vocabulary are covered.

        “We can also compare the achievement of classes using these texts with those using readers matched to a grammatical syllabus and vocabulary list.”

  31. And thanks, all. This is exactly what I need to hear and it all feels right in my heart. Keep on with stories in level 2, but don’t hesitate to mix it up with some other stuff. It is really a transition year.

    And by the way I think this whole idea of how each year FEELS different in CI classes is something new. At least it’s not something I remember seeing in Blaine’s work. His main advice about upper levels is to use more advanced structures in our circling. I think we have to do that, but I also this there is this shift that happens that takes us away from stories as the main component in our classes.

    1. As soon as we get our act together enough to have the spare time to get our act together and write a novel.

      It’s still weird speaking in Latin in my classroom. Maybe John and Bob and others have gotten over this, but for me it’s like dying a small death every day. At least on the rough days it is. On the good days maybe it feels more like a small resurrection.

      Also the idea of writing a CI Latin chapter book is scary revolutionary. Like I’m not even sure where to start. And of course you start at the beginning, but there just are no examples and writing like that just isn’t in my veins, if you know what I mean, like it might be if I could read lots of stuff and then imitate it.

      1. Maybe Carol can publish Houdini in Latin. Or is that a crazy idea? I think that maybe y’all Latinists could maybe think in terms of the future and not the past. I know, it sounds weird even to say that. But open sharing of thoughts is what I want here.

  32. This is a great question, Ben. I don’t know where we are. I can say that it probably won’t be me to be the first to write it. As you read above, I’m up to my eye balls in alligators.

    I did hear others talk about writing stuff with students, but I don’t know where that is or f it will be useful. I have never seen pauvre ann, so I don’t even know what it looks like.

    As of right now there is nothing. There are too few of us doing this work with Latin with too much to do already. We need it and we need it bad. I know that Bob and John agree that Cambridge is the best thing right now. I would really like another perspective on this. If Ben looked at the CLC text, maybe he has an opinion.

    I would also love to hear details about how Bob and John, and David use the book, specifically chapter by chapter or week by week. I can’t visualize it myself. It could be that I’m dense. 🙂

  33. Just a random comment. I’m so sad about the stress we are all under. We shouldn’t be. The feeling in my building today is one of fear. It’s probably because we just found out that two full time teachers will be let go next year due to changes in projected enrollment. We have five AP’s for a population of 1700 students, plus all sorts of data support personal, and yet classroom teachers are being cut. The guy two doors down from me across from Annick’r room has been let go.

    Many of us enjoy teaching the kids so much we put up with all the crap. But it is getting harder and harder, I can tell. The screw is turning faster and faster on secondary public school educators in the U.S. I have no solutions, except to use more and more comprehensible input so that we can experience the real joys of teaching and watch our enrollment numbers and thus our job security go up.

    For the rest, I have no answers. It’s just a feeling of real heaviness in the building. If it’s heavy for us, it’s heavy for the kids. That is not good.

    Really, I do have an answer. We must decide firmly and with great strength in our hearts to not be afraid, even if one of the predominant feelings by all people who are in school buildings is fear, fear of all sorts. We must be cheerful in our hearts and not just put it on our faces. We have reason to be happy. It’s not easy. But we can do it.

    That’s what I am thinking about today.

  34. Ben said, “We must decide firmly and with great strength in our hearts to not be afraid. . . .”
    AMEN, brother. We must turn this around by sticking together, building each other up, and doing what we do best–teach.

  35. I’m slowly working away on an easy Latin novel, but it’s low on my list right now, primarily because having it won’t really solve my problems. It would be really really nice to have a chapter reader of 200 words for Latin 2 students to use, but honestly, between the embedded versions of CLC, and the scripts, I don’t need more. I need to continue to declutter and streamline what I do in class with my students. This is also beacause I’m meeting only 3 40-min periods /week with my students right now, and if I had them for closer to 5 hrs/week I would have more room in my curriculum. But bringing in a reading, any outside reading (besides one that is based on student input) is targeting, because there will inevitably be some (though less than a textbook) vocab that needs to be frontloaded via circling/PQA. Bob would be the one to ask about how the book is used week by week, since he is using it more than David or myself, and is coordinating with other teachers. And Jeff, I don’t want you to think that I don’t support your move away from the textbook. I think textbook independence is where we should all end up eventually, when we are ready, if our teaching situation allows/encourages it. I just know how long it’s taken me (for better or worse) to get to the point where I am, and I still rely on the structure that the book provides, and take comfort in that, for myself and for administrators/parents. That said, the book is pretty much relegated to the sidelines forme, and I don’t know when I am going to actually open up the book with students, and I may not at all if I don’t feel like I need it. I think David is at this place too. So I am not so much touting the virtues of a book, as wanting to assure people who are transitioning from a book to a more exclusively CI method that it can be a slow process, and we must learn to trust our guts and the feel we get for our classes. On that topic, I agree with Ben when he says that you, Jeff, don’t have to use the book if you don’t feel it with your students.
    As for speaking Latin in the classroom, if you focus on staying in bounds—and that means that all of the phrases you use with students should be already known. I constantly use phrases like “res absurda/re vera (that’s absurd/ indeed) to punctuate and add drama to what I speak. But really I don’t use more words than the students know. And this means that anyone who knows even a little bit of Latin can really drive a CI classroom. Don’t let the fluent Latin speakers from these summer sessions intimidate you into thinking you must be insanely fluent in order to speak Latin with your students. Pedagogically, those 0.0001 %ers are dead wrong, and you are light years ahead of them.
    Now go enjoy your weekend.

  36. The recent exchange on this topic between John and Jeff has me examining and re-examining this article by Krashen more and more. I think that the future of our work, certainly for me and maybe for others, lies in this single article.

    I know, it’s a pretty strong statement, but aren’t enough people pissed off enough about stories to be open to something else that is MUCH easier to do and much more effective?

    I will spend my time on writing that up over the next month or so and then share it here and with Krashen after this annoying site design is over. Stories will no longer drive my instruction. Reading will. Give me some time on this. It’s changing everything for me.

    Update on the vids for new people is that they will have to wait a bit as well. Update on the forum we are adding here is that it will be up and running by mid-week next week if all goes well.

    It’s been looney tunes on the site change and the addition of the forum – lots of behind the scenes drama – but it will be worth it and at least the site didn’t go down this past week. It may go down in the next few days so bear with us.

  37. Jeff I can’t find a place to put this so I will put it here. I’ve been thinking about what you and John talked about and have a few comments on that exchange from about a week ago.

    We will all respond differently to the Net Hypothesis, but respond we must. The non-targeted comprehensible input statements, recently discussed again here, are to my knowledge the first really significant statements by Krahsen since he posited the five hypotheses almost twenty years ago, this new one coming out in 2008/2009.

    I may be wrong on that point but nevertheless I think we need to pay more attention to those two documents. We largely ignore them in TPRS/CI work. We have a rift between us and Krashen because of that ignoring. I think we also make our lives much more complicated than they need to be because of it.

    Why don’t we discuss the net more and try to find ways to implement it in our classrooms? Why do we continue to try to backwards plan novels (impossible in my opinion – there are just too many words)? Why do we continue to work with only stories when we know that for too many teachers they are too unwieldy to work and that we have so many other CI options? How does all this connect to the reading piece? Why don’t we just all completely relax and go into class with just a few guide words and see what happens from there?

    I think that the answer lies in our personalities. As teachers, we feel the need to organize, but if the Net Hypothesis and the non-targeted input statements are valid, many of us don’t need to. Left brain dominant teachers will, but I think you are right brain dominant.

    You should be able to just float in class because of that. I remember fighting the tendency to just hang out with my kids because I felt as if I had to do stories. But now I know that that is not true. Of course, this relates to your discussion with John about Cambridge.

    Just thinking out loud. I guess we have to wait for good Latin stuff to emerge. I asked Carol to publish Houdini in Latin and got an email back from her just this morning in which she said no.

    Bottom line: we worry about planning our instruction too much. We don’t do that for small children and they do pretty well. They just need enough time. How silly of us to think that if we just find the right structures to target and get enough reps on them, they will be acquired. The fact is that we can only do so much. If we have 500 hours available to us in a four year program, and they need 18,000 hours or some insane number like that, then what we REALLY have to do is relax. Especially on a Monday.

    1. Ben,

      Thanks fore the response. The funny thing is that I feel confident coming into class and just talking to the kids and then reading what we talk about. I find it much more difficult to backward design. It seems almost too hard. Like you said, there are just too many words. I would just like to come in and talk to them with my list of most common verbs/words and go to it. The probem then is what to read. Having something to read, like Cambridge makes our lives a little easier. For me, it is also awkward because i have to target specific vocabulary that may/may not be engaging for them. Most teachers would like to cling to the book as they test the water of CI. I feel like it restrains me. It is very difficult to keep track of all the classes and where there are and what they know. There should be a way to deliver CI that doesn’t completely kill the teacher who has 4 preps. I’m just thinking here. Using the book often means following its scope and sequence and not the kids. It means teaching material and not kids. I used to teach material from a book, but now I am finding it difficult.

      1. …it is awkward because I have to target specific vocabulary ….

        Who says? What makes them authorities on how we learn languages? Doesn’t the Net Hypothesis count for anything? In five years it will be much more commonly used and we will target much less structures, like one a day if we are just hanging out with the kinds and two or three if we are doing stories. This minimalist approach frees up things and allows you to teach the kids and not the material. It’s time we grow up. Either Krashen has it wrong or he has it right.

        1. Ben,

          What you say is so true. This is why I am struggling so much. On the one hand, I understand that the research says and I want to follow it, because I believe it to be true. I know that we don’t determine what the kids acquire and what they don’t. Some kids pick up words that I would never think they would. However, I also look to my colleagues who are using Cambridge and who seem like they have success with it and I ask myself why I am having such a mental block.

          Let me try to explain why I am struggling. As you know, I have different levels and I teach them all. Level one is cake. I go in and I talk about the kids. They know so little and they are learning so much every day. However, I do feel that I should read from the book because it is our adopted text and because reading is so important.

          I have two Latin II classes and they are generally happy. I didn’t use a text with them last year, but they attempt output all the time. They are excited about Latin and are doing well. However, they don’t know much of the vocabulary for the stories. Therefore, for them to read those stories, I have to target specific structures. The question is, “Why read the book?” Well, therein lies the question. What happens if I don’t? What do I read? Where do I go? What will my admin say? Every book has issues and we need to read. It is a conundrum.

          Latin III/IV is a cluster &*%#!. I taught them traditionally out of one book in their 1st year and I taught them without a book last year and this year we have a new book. Some of them revolted last year and made my life a living hell. I damn near had a breakdown after all the shit I dealt with last year. Some of those kids, maybe like 8 of them can really understand very quickly everything I do. These same 8 understand grammar and sail through without problems. The other 18 or so have varying abilities. Most can understand simple sentences, but are not rock stars.

          I read Chapter 3 story from Cambridge today with my Latin III . I spent some time last week targeting the necessary vocabulary. We read it and I think everyone understood. We took a translation quiz. I asked one of the average girls how it was for her. She said it was at her level. Wow, that was very telling. I suspect that the same is true for others.

          For me the problem is indecision and the unknown. If I choose to use the book, I can do CI with it, but it can/will loose some of the power. It will be canned language, BUT there will be a reading to work on. It is also difficult to think about what to do everyday with the classes. It can also get boring primarily because I don’t think that I have good mojo with the chapter’s words.

          I was hoping that someone with experience and expertise on the Latin side would offer some guidance. I know that David and James have moved away from the book a bit, while Bob sticks to it closely because he teaches in a large district where other teachers use the book.
          Damn, this is hard work.

          1. In Latin 3/4 I am using the book as a novel. We read it most days, but only one story–or one embedded version of a story–at a time. We Reading Option A everything with the laser pointer and lots of circling and personalizing the readings. In addition to the readings I am having fun with them using L&D and YT&D.

            In Latin 1 my plan this year is to start with CWB and then stories. THEN I can use the first 3 stages (you see how simple they are) as our curriculum for the last quarter of the year, when everyone is checked out anyways and we’ll appreciate just being able to stay busy. We can also do L&D at any time during the year along the way.

            In Latin 2 my ideal is to continue with stories and L&D, to add in YT&D, and to finish the first book of Cambridge (through Stage 12). So by the end of Latin 2 we will have read all of the second book.

            Then in 3/4 we can start reading from the second book of Cambridge. That’s when we can start treating it like a novel we enjoy. At least that’s my plan. We’ll see.

            Note that this plan is based entirely on what I perceive my students to be capable of reading EASILY and JOYFULLY. If I get to Latin 2, for example, and find that we are having a crappy time reading lightly from Stages 4-12 of Cambridge, I’ll change my plan.

  38. Tiny fyi = Krashen’s hypotheses have been around over 30 years (btw–accessing articles is still very hit and miss with the new website from my computer. I get redirected to a log out page almost every time)

  39. You are right Jody and thank you for the clarification. Have you read the article here on how I think these hypotheses actually predate Krashen and are possibly 50 years old?

    I think if the site is acting strangely it is because we are still trying to find software that is compatible with the forum I want to set up here for a more daily sharing of ideas, not a chat but kind of like that. We are making progress but as I mentioned elsewhere it’s been a bit looney.

  40. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    As a mom Krashen’s non-targeted hypothesis makes a lot of sense for acquiring L1. Indeed he states that a lot of the research is being applied from L1 acquisition studies.
    I’d love to have him observe in a novice level classroom that’s trying non-targeted, and see if/when they fall off the comprehension train with the appearance of new words. Non targeted is for after the foundation is set.
    If we are going to keep it comprehensible then we need to first target the basic building blocks, so that we have words for a story or text!
    I think we all agree to dumping grammatical concepts or vocab lists in our teaching, but (especially true for Mandarin & other non-Romance languages) the careful and purposeful targeting of hi-freq and/or hi-energy items will allow for non-targeted or unscripted story asking!
    We have to first create a starting place, establish trust (I won’t expect you to understand words I’ve never said or explained) and a fun, can-do atmosphere of mirth.

    1. …non-targeted is for after the foundation is set….

      Yes. So I do fully six verb hammer activities before starting stories, targeted or non-targeted. And I agree with this:

      …the careful and purposeful targeting of hi-freq and/or hi-energy items will allow for non-targeted or unscripted story asking!….

      Alisa will you be in TN or France? Yes I agree but I would love to discuss with you (too much to put into a comment here) exactly what the above would look like. I think we differ in our ideas are what “best preparation” looks like and when to start stories. Briefly, I predict that you are more careful than I. My idea looks like this: Yes, do mega TPR, etc (and all those other verb stinger activities). But if a story wants to happen go with it. If the kids don’t have everything I’m saying, stay in. So what I am suggesting is, in those first six months of level 1, I do a free form thing going on where energy and not verb frequency lists infuse the instruction. I know. Energy. Not very scientific but neither is human conversation. Just expand on the weaknesses and try to mirthfulize (like my verb there?) the weak areas. Build little scenes around the weak verbs. That is when you really have to pull every kid in with eye contact. No lazying around when that happens. I go and get the kids mind and haul them into the language process. So the story is not necesssarily a 25′ wonder, and may never finish here in the first five or six months, which I think of as the Season of Verb Stinging, and is a lot more loosy goosy, BUT I’m ok with it. The CI is going to be loosy goosy for a good long time but in level three, when those verbs are set in concrete, Kaitie bar the door. I do feel that a lot of ppl in TPRS are overly afraid that “Oh they don’t know that verb! is going to cause them to not understand the story.” There is a little too much fear out there, I feel. That’s the short version of what I am trying to express. It has to do with HOW we spend those minutes in a story, where we allow things to go, to what degree the verbs are solid or not, how many little side stories are needed to support a verb and still keep things interesting, etc. If that makes any sense at all. Hey it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve confused myself here.

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