I Have Awoken From A Dream

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21 thoughts on “I Have Awoken From A Dream”

  1. This is so good. Why can’t I get this? Why, even after a couple years of CI, I still can’t just relax?

    My gradebook is just like yours, though it looks so impressive with tons of grades and categories. (I love explaining it to parents during conferences.) They are always so impressed. 🙂

    But, I still feel like I need to do more, like if every kid isn’t perfectly engaged, I’m failing them. Such a good reminder for me.

  2. I am going to read this 10 times this week…

    “Don’t tell anyone any of this. My purpose is to work on building positive relationships with my students. I can no longer find fault with them. The tardy issue and the gradebook issue, the old way of thinking that I had to take a tough stance on tardies and grades, I don’t believe in it anymore.

    “I wish I could put into words, after all these years, what it feels like to just like my kids, speak to them in French, laugh as much as possible, even if the building is in overall pain, honoring them and their hard lives. I just want to forget all that silly stuff that I used to think defined teaching. I don’t think it does. Not really. Not any more.”

    This is what i wish for me, for ALL students, and for all of us that spend our time educating children…


    Thanks Ben


  3. Sabrina Janczak

    Ben, thank you for putting those beautiful thoughts out there for us.
    Fear is what drives many teachers, professionals and other grown ups in general. You brought up the Little prince the other day and your post today again reminds me of this favorite story of mine. I am thinking of this little guy who debunked all that grown up garbage and forced St-Exupery to open up to a world he had no idea existed out there because he thought his job/life/values were so important, and was a terrible listener. Your post reminds me I have to become a better listener of all the kids that I am teaching to. They can teach me something about the world we live in and I can teach them some French.

  4. It’s about simplicity. We don’t do that. Too many activities. The terms comprehensible input and the term activities are opposites. CI is just listening to and reading enough language so that after a year of two of nothing but that our kids can start speaking and writing in the way that Robert described here recently re: one of his German students and in the way that John described in talking about one of his Latin kids. Now there is a time I would like to be a fly on the wall in John’s classroom in San Francisco.

    Dr. Krashen said in our debrief the other day that the first year should be all aural input. He didn’t even mention reading, because he was on a roll about the value of the story to provide compelling input. I hear in that statement that the first year should be all aural input. I have felt that way for years, even before I started taking a close look at his various hypotheses.

    Nothing but aural input aligns with Dr. Krashen’s natural emergence hypothesis. It’s too simple for us, though. The idea that the learner should not focus on the medium of delivery of the language, but rather on the language itself, and do so completely without the service (read meddling) of the conscious mind, support in an elegant way the idea that listening and reading should precede writing and speaking.

    But we only hear in Krashen what we want to hear, like is so many other things. It’s like what Drew said here on January 25th in a comment: “People won’t watch what they don’t want to see”. It’s so true, Sabrina – we don’t listen. We only apply what we want. We are too much, too seriously, teachers. We need activities, which largely involve getting output from the kids. We need that, but our kids don’t.

    We are serious people and we have serious jobs and we have to really work hard at them or maybe someone will find out. Who cares if Krashen has laid out for us a natural, balanced, and very simple way to do our jobs? A way that mirrors divine planning. We don’t need to teach according to the acquisition truths found in what is at its core a soaringly perfect design. Whe should we do that?

  5. The underlying dilemma I perceive for language acquisition in schools as opposed to language acquisition as a theoretical question, is the “time” element.

    Having worked in immersion programs where students have 3 hours a day for six years, you never worry about “structures”. You worry only about comprehensibility and compelling content. Krashen is right (imo); the brain knows what to do when those two “c”‘s are present, and it takes quite a long time to arrive at fluency. However, as Krashen points out, younger is slower–elementary immersion programs (ergo: older is faster). The fluency that is produced is beautiful and unconscious in good immersion programs–as you can imagine.

    But, who works in a high-school FL program or elementary FL like that? 45-50 minutes for three-four years is the best most of us get. Many of us get much less. Keeping language comprehensible and repetitive, and for most of us–measureable–looks much different than in a six-year (or more) immersion program.

    Good quality, in-bounds, pqa and compelling stories seem like a very good way to deal with the realities of limited time in the language, of students who may not be interested in acquiring another language, and of how to provide adequate repetition in context for eventual acquisition of, at least, some real language fluency.

    Because “we” write the structures on the board, point to them, and do pop-up grammar, we automatically engage the conscious mind. Younger kids don’t even look at the board and could give a flying “etc.” about grammar popped up or not. They still acquire, albeit more slowly, but much more unconsciously.

    However, I find older “literate” kids/adults want the safety of those items on the board and an occasional grammar “gps” moment along with the interaction of story asking. Otherwise, the language often is noise to them; they get stuck. Their conscious min override their unconscious minds and won’t let it do its work. Affective filter time–input stops being comprehensible and compelling. Interesting catch-22.

  6. You are so right about the conscious mind wanting to get in there and be a part of the process. And of course more with older kids. It frames things out for them. There is a definite “look” on students’ faces when they are engaged in that process of making connections between what they just heard and understood and what it looks like. That is the power that lies in dictation. They heard the music, now they get to read it and even write a few bars. As long as the sound comes first, it’s all good. My/our objection is in giving the conscious analysis of the form of the language too much play. How much is too much? More than 5% of the time is my guess.

  7. I am still very new at the TPRS and I would like to have some advice in regards to projects and activities.

    I attended a teacher workshop last week in Florida and saw many proud teachers brought many beautiful projects made by their students. All I had with me was all the writing assignments after each story telling and asking. I feel ashamed. After I came back, I made this week lesson ended with a power point project and it is going to take them 2 periods to complete. I feel like the time could be spent on more meaningful comprehensible input and story asking. Is project based assessment meaningful? Should I have some of those once in a while?

    The other thing it bothers me at the conference is that many speakers emphasized on doing activities with the kids. But since I adopted TPRS a year ago, I only have activities once in a blue moon. I use songs all the time to help them associate the words with the song, that is pretty much I do in terms of activities. Should I put back in activities now?

    1. Activities and projects get in the way of CI. I think most teachers do projects and activities because either: 1. they actually believe they help. or 2. they are good time fillers when you don’t know what to teach next.

      Time should be spent on CI, that’s it. Activities and project open up doors for English to be used in class and just takes time away from acquisition. Conferences are full of all kinds of cool, fun projects and activities because the page turners are looking for ways to be able to say they do not teach the traditional way. Technology, projects and really cool activities are just sheep skin being put on the grammar/textbook-driven wolf.

  8. Oh, boy! What a fantastic comment! This is the most beautiful and poignant comment I have read here, and there are over 10,000 comments in this blog space

    Why is it so beautiful to me? I find it beautiful because it reveals innocence mixed with great vision. Tracy you have perfectly described the problem in our schools’ approach to foreign language education and its solution in two perfect sentences, right here:

    …I made this week lesson ended with a power point project and it is going to take them 2 periods to complete. I feel like the time could be spent on more meaningful comprehensible input and story asking….

    Yes is the answer! Projects and activities do not lead to fluency, they just waste minutes that you could be using doing comprehensible input.

    How wonderful! I am so proud of you, Tracy. You have figured out that, in spite of all of those teachers blowing smoke about how wonderful their “projects and activities” are (like Chris said so well – they are “sheep skin being put on the grammar/textbook-driven wolf”), they are 100% misguided in their efforts in terms of current research.

    Always remember that projects don’t lead to fluency, but comprehensible input does!

  9. Dearest Tracy,

    You are doing the right thing for your students with CI. The other teachers (and I used to be one of them) are just collecting pretty objects. Those teachers think that pretty projects mean that they are good teachers. They are mistaken. In a few weeks the students may remember what the project looks like, but they will not remember the language that was used to create it.

    Projects MAY demonstrate the following:
    a. creativity
    b. ability to follow directions
    c. technology or artistic skills
    d. that the student’s family can afford to provide cool materials or technology
    e. a student’s ability to get parents or friends to help

    But pretty projects will not help students acquire language.

    There are ways to make district or department required projects more Input-based….but the kind of projects that you saw at that workshop are more about the teachers’ egos than the students’ achievements.

    You are doing the right thing!!!
    with love,

      1. I still think the best things with subs would be input based. I ascribe firmly to the mostly comprehensible movie theory (preferrably with subtitles in target language if they are far enough). I think it does them much more good to listen to and engage with a movie than to work on more output. I am starting to collect family type movies for those type of days.

    1. I work in a PBL high school, but my principal is supportive of CI. Many of my students love doing projects in their other classes, but most of them understand now, that projects do not help them acquire language. I got a very poignant email from a student who transferred to my class this sememster–an “A” student. That letter helped me realize that I am on the right track. An excerpt:
      “I know that you have had a hard week with people dissing on your teaching style. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate the way that you teach very much. I have always struggled with learning Spanish. I become frustrated with it because other subjects come naturally for me and Spanish has proved to be difficult for me. I actually requested to change classes at the semester to try something different because I didn’t feel like I was learning anything and I didn’t want to just be wasting my time. As we did projects, I felt like I was just getting through them and not really learning anything.”

      1. Lori this makes my day. Yes, we get dissed. But we stick to our guns and slow and steady wins the race. What people say from ignorance rolls off our backs now as we move forward, stronger every day but with a long way to go. We don’t take such comments and disses personally (I’ll be working on that one for some time, personally). Such a great note from that kid. It makes me very happy to read it. We can do this.

        1. Yes, a great note from a great kid; really caught me by surprise. It would be nice to think that I’ll no longer take negative comments seriously–maybe if I can just remember that they are saying it from ignorance….forgive them, for they know not what they do.

  10. I would like to thank all of you who replied. You have definitely cleared my doubts and uncertainty. Being one of the few teachers in the field of TPRS, it has made me lose my confidence when I am outside the classroom competing with those beautiful projects. However, I feel very proud today when one of my first year students told me the time he goes to bed everyday and the reason why (because too much homework) in was told to me in Mandarin Chinese. Constantly, they surprise me with what they can say. I still remember the first year students from a couple years ago, they could only articulate a couple of sentences.These were not spontaneous, but more of a programmed response (like a robot), and the sentences were not varied. I really wished I had used this method from my first year of teaching.

    I really glad that I had the courage to switch to TPRS and I really appreciate that I have your support on this blog.

  11. Ben –
    Thank you for writing this! This is my second year teaching Spanish and this blog and all the member contributions have really helped. I´m going to refer back to this post to remind myself to relax and enjoy the job.

    I think you´re being humble when you say, “Besides, I’m not a good teacher. I don’t even want to be a good teacher.” I´m laughing and at the same time resonating with this line.
    Thanks again.

    1. Thank you for reading between the lines on that one, Jeff. Yes, who wants to be a teacher? I just want to be happy! Given that teachers seem rarely happy, with all the work on their shoulders (not unlike downstairs service in English households, right?), I guess a radical redefinition of what a teacher is is order. And, indeed, we are doing that, and fast! If we keep this going, everybody will want into the profession.

  12. Annemarie Orth

    It is such a relief honestly to not “have to” do projects anymore. I spent so much of class time my first 4 years doing the monster project, the house project, the family tree project, ARGHHHHH! What a waste of time, I realize now. And I was assessing them on criteria such as craftsmanship and presentation skills. Not even relevant to language acquisition. Now I assess them on what I actually want them to get, which is the ability to understand comprehensible Spanish in the classroom. One of my students yesterday came up to me and asked where his new seat was (not in Spanish) and then said, “Ayúdame” followed by the question, “What does that mean?” I was blown away because he used the phrase appropriately but so unconsciously that he didn’t even realize what it meant. This would never had happened had I been doing projects with the students.
    For students that love to be creative, they are the fabulous artists who draw the story. And I do allow one project per year which is that students take one of their free writes and turn it into comic strips which I compile into a book to be read by students during silent reading and kindergarten day. I have 2 books from last year and they are consistently the most popular reading item. And I had them work on it the three days that I was away in Denver!

  13. … he used the phrase appropriately but so unconsciously ….

    That’s it. We need to see this kind of sentence expressed here more often. We need to see those moments of spontaneous output as the true indicators of acquisition happening in our students. They will only happen in direct relationship to how much instructional time we spend delivering aural and reading CI and forget all the other tricks which always involve some English. When are we going to get that? Why do many of us in this group still do projects? If it is due to lack of confidence in delivering strong CI then haul your ass to a conference this summer. Krashen talks about the din and the net and he means it. We need to do it. All the time. Languages are acquired unconscously. If this kid hears more and more and more CI that is delivered to him in the way you have been doing it, the blurting out of things from his deeper mind like that will occur more and more and more and some day he will reach that high degree of near fluency that we all aspire to as non-native speakers. And that is very bad ass.

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