On Encouraging Speech Output During Circling – 2

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50 thoughts on “On Encouraging Speech Output During Circling – 2”

  1. “that the best thing is to never force speech output. Ever.”

    Thank you, Ben.
    A silent period is a silent. period.
    No forced output.

    They will come out of their silent period eventually, and most of them come out speaking whole sentences.

    My actors are always volunteers: the kids who want to talk (who are not in a silent period). If they want to talk, they can be actors. If they don’t want to talk, don’t make them. It’s simple.

    1. Thank you Claire for reminding me about the silent period. My kids are having fun and sometimes speak in English… like Ben said in his video “so what”. Eventually the excitement plus CI will guide them to speak in the class. Some of my level ones are starting to speak in chunks like:

      because he sees his mom
      I like pizza from Me and Eds
      he goes to walmart

      etc… I’m loving it.

  2. I definitely agree with you, Ben. I don’t want to sacrifice fun and engagement for perfection. We must always remember the reality of our situation which is we are teaching students who only have us 50 minutes a day (in my situation) and then 6 other classes in English. It is a very unnatural way to structure a day of learning, and so providing that fun, warm and family like environment where we all screw up is so much more important to me. Over time the students will self correct or hopefully go on to travel, but then they will be immersed in the language and be hearing it all day everyday.

    Let’s never lost sight of the reality of a student’s day and like Ben says, take care of ourselves, have fun with the students and laugh with them!!

    1. “Over time the students will self correct or hopefully go on to travel, but then they will be immersed in the language and be hearing it all day everyday.”

      Yes. Krashen’s monitor hypothesis. More then just prepping the kids, we are establishing a fun association and confidence that they can learn any language.

  3. Michael Coxon

    Okay, I am jumping in here via The Natural Approach.

    There are advantages of the preproduction stage. And if teachers want to hang out in this stage for weeks, months, or years it is completely appropriate when discussing SLA. In fact, BVP discusses this as well.

    On preproduction stage…

    “The students are given the opportunity to become comfortable with the class activities, the instructor, and with his classmates without being forced to respond in the target language.

    …Production of utterances is much more complex than comprehension. In order to produce an utterance, the students must recall the words they wish to use, articulate new sounds, and use much syntax and morphology as they have acquired (and/or learned). Doing all this requires a tremendous amount of conscious “processing time” for beginners. By concentrating on comprehension strategies only, all the attention can be directed to to developing comprehension skills.” (The Natural Approach p.78-79).

  4. Michael Coxon

    Terrell and Krahsen on Early Production…

    “Target language production in an input-rich natural environment begins with single word utterances or short phrases. The shift from answers with gestures, names, or with Yes No to producing words in the target language usually comes naturally and spontaneously after several hours of input. The length of time of the pre production. Will of course vary with the amount of input provided in the rate at which and degree to which the effect of filter can be lowered. Our experience is that adults make the transition from listening to production quite rapidly. Some adults begin producing single words or short phrases after one or two hours of comprehensible input. Others need up to 10 or 15 hours of input before they feel comfortable enough to produce. Adolescence often a considerable exposure to the new language before they attempt to produce audiences. This is probably do more to effective factors into any intrinsic difficulties with language acquisition. Young children very often show a delay in production from 1 to 6 months.”

    This is important to bring up because how we may interpret early production and what is forced output is going to be different for each teacher. We are judging what is and isn’t force output through the lens of the experiences that we have with our students in our classrooms. We all have different types of students and strengths and weaknesses as teachers so there really are no right or wrong answers there is a ton of variance.

  5. Encourage, yes.

    I think Blaine’s focus on correct verb forms conflicts with this way of teaching, regardless of his reasoning (e.g. build actor confidence).

    Output, error correction, and knowing of the correct form do NOT build the implicit language system.

    Look at BVP’s traditional instruction groups for his processing instruction studies. The students are providing input to each other!!! and yet, it does not result in comprehension gains, although they do make production gains, which leads to the conclusion that something other than an implicit system (acquisition) was being developed.

    1. Eric,

      You view what you see Blaine doing as a focus on verb forms. I see it as something different. I was recently on the phone with the best TPRS teacher I have ever seen, Joe Neilson. I was talking to him about how years later, I was still impressed with the student output of the students in his class. We drew the conclusion that that output was a purposeful way for students to interact with more input.

      We can agree that what Blaine is doing might not aid acquisition directly. I conclude your stance to be that Blaine’s desire to get verb forms is NOT directly beneficial to acquisition. Correct me if I am drawing the wrong conclusion.

      I feel it necessary to bring others back to where all this stuff started and to understand the goal for oral communication development. We must ask ourselves questions about what we are providing for students actors and the class as a whole.

      What Blaine is doing provides the following:

      1. introduces new vocabulary
      2. provides the comprehensible input that students will utilize for acquisition
      3. creates opportunities for student oral production
      4. instills a sense of group belonging and cohesion which will contribute to lower affective filters.

      We have to admit that even with the student actors that this communicative activity is an activity for developing listening skills. The oral output is limited…the aural input is multi-layered. The output of the student actor serves as CI for the other students. Blaine (myself included) do NOT pick the shy kid to get up there and be apart of this. We look for “students”that want to ham it up or play a role in classes.

      When students do not know a word…the word is written on the board. This becomes input. Next, I notice that Blaine wants students to go from slow processing this new language to fast processing.

      Is this a right or misguided approach? I don’t know but I find myself with the ultimate goal of taking my students from slow processing the language they understand to fast processing it. I seem to end up with results that look like acquisition.

      1. Michael is right when he says:
        “What Blaine is doing provides the following:

        1. introduces new vocabulary
        2. provides the comprehensible input that students will utilize for acquisition
        3. creates opportunities for student oral production
        4. instills a sense of group belonging and cohesion which will contribute to lower affective filters. ”
        This formula is the foundation for language acquisition, no matter the method (TPRS, CBI, etc.)

        Eric is correct when he says “I think Blaine’s focus on correct verb forms conflicts with this way of teaching, regardless of his reasoning (e.g. build actor confidence).”
        Eric has hit the nail on the head. It’s not items 1-4 that are the problem; it’s the focus on grammar that “conflicts with this way of teaching.” Blaine has it 90% right- he fills up his TPRS balloon with CI, and then he brings in the verb conjugation and puts a pin in it.

        1. REPEAT. The focus of what Blaine does is not on grammar but communication. If this lesson were in Chinese we would not be talking about morphology.

          Maybe I’m being dense on this issue. For a handful of years I have been an astute student of this approach. I have been trained in different languages, trained others using different languages, and I am hyper-focused on the learning results and feedback from students.

          You guys got it wrong about the verb conjugation thing!

          1. No one things you are “dense.” You are right that Blaine focuses on communication, but there are times (however brief) that he does focus on grammar. It’s not his sole focus, but there is a focus on grammar that occurs that is distracting from his primarily communicative approach.

      2. “Is this a right or misguided approach?” I think that the decision is yours. However, I think that many students would be left out with this approach. I could see it working in a 4 year level maybe 3rd year as more of an activity/theatre “day”.

        My old master teacher would do this “somewhat”. She had the students do this. Though the students were engaged, I’m not sure that it helped them comprehend or acquire language. Performance for me is always the “icing” of the CI cake. It’s not necessary but it looks good.

    2. Th Natural Approach on “Acquisition activities are central” (Page 58)…

      “One of the central tasks of the instructor is to present an optimal balance of acquisition and learning activities. This balance is, of course quite different in different contexts, depending on factors (such as) goals of the students, age, ability to utilize grammar in monitoring, and so forth.”

      I realize that in my recents posts I am dropping info from a book that pre-dates TPRS as we know it. This is important though…this is Krashen. On this PLC, many like to simply reference Krashen when discussing TPRS.

      ASHER+ Natural Approach=TPR-Storytelling.


      TPR + CI =TPRS

      If we are to understand Blaine, and evaluate the merits of what he does in a video, we should be very explicit about where his ideas come from. We should reference them back to the source and not just challenge (one guy) but challenge the source from which his ideas came from.

      This is why I pulled out The Natural Approach this morning…

      We cannot over-generalize what we think we are seeing.

  6. So many things to think about/say…

    1. Theory is not always reality. Those in the classroom are very, very aware of that. Why?
    a. Students are people. People are not “data”.
    b. Success is defined differently for every teacher/student/parent/school. It doesn’t matter that it shouldn’t be. It is.

    2. We are discussing a “technique” that Blaine has been using for a short period of time. It obviously achieves some goals, but may impede others. It may work for some ages, but not for others. It may work for some levels of instruction, but not for others. It may work for certain teacher-student and student-student relationships, but not for others. It may work for Blaine, but not for others. Blaine, like all of us, experiments. (Ben points this out about himself everyday.) Only with experimentation can we improve.

    3. Whether or not we want to admit it, much of the passion behind this discussion is connected to how we feel about Blaine as a person and a professional. Please keep this in mind as you post. WE put Blaine on a pedestal where he ends up as a representative of “how things should be done.” He doesn’t see himself that way and we need to be careful about the pressure we put on the man but the position we put him in.

    4. We don’t have the right to criticize him as “putting out incorrect information” or ‘training people irresponsibly”. We may not have said those words, but they have been implied. If anyone reading this didn’t see that, I’m telling you now……the way things have been worded have given a very clear impression that Blaine has committed a horrible (possibly stupid and unforgivable) offense….and some of us are much smarter and are calling him on it. (In a forum he is not part of BTW)

    Pshaw. He’s trying to grow. He’s trying to help students and teachers. He is experimenting. Don’t we encourage each other to do the same all the time? Why not Blaine? We have no right to hold him to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That is not fair to him nor to our entire profession.

    5. We also don’t need to defend him just because he is Blaine. Let’s just let Blaine be Blaine and let Blaine train the way he wants to. We all have/want the right to do the same. Why do we feel compelled to defend Blaine? Because we care about him and what he does….and in our professional circles, within and outside of this blog, there is a GREAT DEAL of competition and criticism. This sort of “discussion” has, sadly, become common place. So common place that I am afraid that we do not see / feel the implied superiority in our discussing it in a forum that Blaine is not even a part of.

    6. If we really want to understand what Blaine is doing and why, why don’t we contact Blaine and ask him to join in the discussion? This dissection, without Blaine’s input, is not just some sort of “intellectual exercise.” It edges on ugly.

    Discussing ideas, talking about our own experiences (not suppositions) is what I thought this blog was about. If not, if it is about expressing our own intellectual and emotional “superiority”, it has veered away from what teachers in the classroom need.

    Sorry if I am overreacting to a bunch of folks just “talking” about things. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. Feel free to reassure me that no harm was intended and that no one is trying to promote their way instead of Blaine’s way for their own purposes or profit. But please also ask yourself why we haven’t included Blaine in the detailed dissection of his idea. Have we gotten so used to talking about people in the CI world that it feels appropriate to do so?

    with love,
    and taking the definite chance that I am “pissing people off”,

    1. By and large, we respect Blaine enough to adopt a method he created. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, however, emulation is our goal here. We want to do what he does, only better. I would like to think Blaine would be okay with our discussions. If not, I’d be very sorry.

    2. We are discussing a “technique” that Blaine has been using for a short period of time.

      — Thanks for that, Laurie, I wasn’t sure if I just hadn’t noticed before or if it was new.

  7. Laurie, you have excellent points. I personally do not put Blaine on a pedestal but I respect any educator committed to this kind of work especially if they have been in it for so long.

    I would definitely like to hear Blaine’s reasoning about encouraging output. Is this a training wheel for newbies to subscribe to his methods more readily? Is it to get the admin seal of approval or for experimentation?

    My opinions up above are just that opinions and not meant as a critique of Blaine.

  8. Laurie said:

    …theory is not always reality….

    For me, this is about the unconscious vs. conscious mind discussion – Krashen’s Monitor Hypothesis. I have always thought – and said about a billion times here – that for actual acquisition to occur, the input must be first absorbed by the unconscious mind and then go through that vastly complicated churning system if true speech is to emerge in a pure and effortless way. I have always thought that appealing to the unconscious mind in a contrived way – what Blaine is doing here – results in mere in “learning”, almost a kind of parroting. Is it real speech?

    I don’t know but I think that what Laurie is saying is that it doesn’t matter. We are teachers and teaching is an art and not a science. For some of us (me) you can’t put a car in forward and reverse at the same time. But that’s for a car. Laurie reminds us that we are not cars, that

    …success is defined differently for every teacher/student/parent/school….

    By pointing out the ambiguity of the research due to the human factor Laurie again reminds us that there are many factors that can’t be measured (the heart) in our work to bring our students what we call “acquisition”.

  9. In his very fine summary of Krashen’s work, Ricardo Schütz reveals that ambiguity is at the core of what Krashen says about the Monitor:

    The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule.

    [ed. note: What this means to me is that in speech one never has enough time in a conversation to think about a rule so that memorizing it is useless – it can never be called into action fast enough. This causes yet more reflection on what Blaine is doing in that clip with Carla.]

    Schütz continues:

    It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited [ed. note: this is a fantastic term to use – “somewhat limited”. It kind of boggles the mind of the reader or at least of this reader. What exactly does it mean? The answer to that bears directly on our discussion here.] According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.

    Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners that use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the ‘monitor’ appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the person’s psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

    This discussion by Schütz about over-use or under-use of the monitor in speech as relative to psychological profiles shows me, as Laurie says, that there is no one truth that can be roped and tied down on speech production.

    However, I think that the general thrust of Krashen’s unconscious vs. conscious mind hypothesis – we must remember that it is the result of over 30 years of study and 12 years of fine tuning by Schütz if we are to accept what he says above – holds good. At least for me.

  10. I might add to the above that Schütz’ summary here has been in a process of revision since 1998 to 2014, so that the scholar himself has been busy adding, reflecting on, tweaking his thinking on what Krashen is saying for 16 years. That is like what we are doing here, always analyzing, making changes to our work, challenging each other, and viewing any “all or nothing” statements about TPRS with doubtful eyes. That, in my own view, is the essence of all true research – there is no one truth, it changes with every new day, it is different for each person and all we can hope to do is pull from it is an appreciation of the stunning complexity of human speech.

    To read the entire article:


    1. Wow. I was 13 when he started this.
      Can you image how nuanced our understanding of Comprehensible Input will be decades from now?

      Stunning indeed to go from Grammar-Translation that had stayed the same for generations with no desire to change; to a Renaissance of Comprehensible Input blossoming seemingly overnight.

  11. Alisa Shapiro

    Sometimes I feel guilty when I ask a young actor to say something or parrot me when I tap her shoulder and whisper the line in her ear. The ‘Blaine coaching Carla’ video clip gives me a fresh perspective – so long as my practice isn’t centered on student output, I can ask a kid here or there to say something (which technically fits the definition of Forced Output – Oh no! Oh, no!) when she’s not ready to make that utterance independently. We are bogged down by what looks like, in the clip, Blaine’s insistence that the French “I am a girl” statement be perfectly pronounced. Really he’s more holistic, as he explains – he’s looking for more and more ways to get reps on that lil chunk so that the actor’s “brain hears it.” That what we do all the time in classic circling – get reps on chunks so that the students’ brains hears it. We don’t make them repeat it – here he did – but we know that he usually seeks superstar volunteers, not hesitant deer-in-headlights newbies.
    He is not going against his tenets – he doesn’t support teaching explicit grammar or pronunciation. While we had a good discussion and reviewed a lot of great SLA, we got a little obsessed with that one aspect (guilty as charged).

  12. Alisa this is really spot-on and thanks for saying that whole comment above:

    …looking for more and more ways to get reps on that little chunk so that the actor’s “brain hears it.” …


    1. We are discussing a specific classroom technique. That discussion can happen void of any reference to Blaine if we need to be in some way more politically correct or sensitive.

      That said, I’ll also point out that Blaine is not just any average classroom teacher. He’s an inventor, a trainer, an author, etc. In other words, he is very influential and his practices are not just staying within the confines of his classroom. There is more at stake.

      Everything we do on this blog is discuss language acquisition and language teaching and it is actually when there are differences of opinion that we grow the most! Krashen understands that and he often expresses that very idea, as should any scientist (and any teacher!). Does Krashen have to be part of the discussion every time we discuss his work? Does Asher have to be part of the discussion when we discuss TPR? etc. We do so respectfully, understanding there are nuances and absolutely NO dogma of “this is the one, right way to do it and will forever be the right way.”

      This blog is special, because it has implied norms of respectful, critical, professional dialogue in which Ben strives to maintain the safety of our commenting between each other and with the outside world. It would be a shame if we had to avoid potential points of disagreement.

      1. Exactly….but from time to time we get so carried away with our own thoughts and our own passion that we border on condescension. Implied norms are not enough. We must continually self-monitor. Eric, you wrote, “We do so respectfully, understanding there are nuances and absolutely NO dogma of “this is the one, right way to do it and will forever be the right way.”

        This is a beautiful statement…..and it is important. This blog grows every day and new members, especially those who do not post often, might take our critical dialogue as less than respectful and professional if we do not a) remind each other of our goals and b) monitor our own “output” so to speak.

        Those of you/us who post often are also looked at in the same way that Blaine is…..and I PROMISE you….what you write here is shared with others….despite the “privacy” setting of this blog. All it takes is copy-paste-send. Or here is my login/password. Nor does everyone who reads comments follow the entire thread, so it is easy to take what is written out of context. So what we say, and how we say it are important.

        My hope is that we continue to remember that.

        with love,

        1. Good point, Laurie 😉

          Just so other bloggers know, Mike Coxon and I are good friends and we email and chat regularly. In fact, we’ve talked on the phone amidst the discussion of this topic. There is a mutual respect and friendship and a common purpose to better understand the finer points and then share those with others.

          I realize I write often here. I, like Ben, am obsessive and have always been someone who “writes a lot” and uses writing to work things out. I try to qualify semi-regularly that what I say is MY understanding and what works for ME, and not to be taken as gospel. From my beginning in TCI/TPRS (4 years ago), I’ve loved sharing what I read and sharing my classroom with others, and it hasn’t been for any personal profit.

          Like I wrote Mikey in a private email: “I like the animated dialogue. There go more hours of my time I should be spending on something else! hahaha. Good work, man! Keep speaking your truth!”

          1. Matthew DuBroy

            And the rest of us always learn so much from these critical discussions. In my less than 2 years on this blog, I don’t think I’ve read any critical discussions that were heated (in a bad sense) or condescending in anyway. This is nothing short of amazing and shows how everyone here simply wants to come at the best way to do these things in their own circumstances.

  13. Michael Coxon

    Eric is right about Blaine. Because of his identity in regards to tprs it is open game to criticize, evaluate or judge anything that he does. In my position, my admiration for Blaine has nothing to do with why I am defending what he does and workshops.

    Based on what I have read today from others, there has been no rebuttal to what Krashen has written in his book The Natural Approach.

    What we’ve seen Blaine doing in the limited amount of examples of him teaching in videos is perfectly appropriate for expectations of a 180 day school year.

    I’m even going to poke the fire and say that Ben has a superficial understanding of what unconscious and/or conscious learning in a school setting is all about.

    If we only focus on the purity of unconscious language acquisition we do not serve our students well in the classroom setting.

  14. Now, this is only my take on a specific classroom technique: requiring complete and accurate actor output.

    I am going to look at this, not through a lens of WHO promotes the practice or what commercial METHOD may or may not support it, but show how one should arrive at classroom practice from a look at principles. . . (and I do not present these principles as “facts” – it’s my understanding and that changes).

    An abstract system in the mind/brain of universal principles, feature restraints, and networks of connections.

    -Acquisition happens from comprehending input.
    -Acquisition first, output (and accurate pronunciation) follows, unless your goal is (also) monitored output or memorized chunks.
    -There are stages of acquisition. There are also stages of skill development, i.e. stages of output.
    ->In a language with verb inflection, accurate verb usage is of a later acquisition stage and of a later output stage. So, accurate verb output from a beginner is not a developmentally appropriate expectation from an acquisition standpoint. So using such output to pace your input is problematic.

    These principles directly relate to how “mastery” develops in a language.

    -Communication is exchanging messages, not exchanging accurate forms.
    -People will do whatever is easiest to comprehend, which means that the input may not all get processed. If not processed, then definitely not acquired.
    -There are many ways to check comprehension that don’t require a student to output a full response with correct form.
    -Student output does not necessarily serve as input to other students for their developing systems (intake).
    -There are many communicative ways to provide input of first person verb forms, e.g. teacher talking about self, teacher as actor in the story, books written in first person, rewritten stories from a character’s point of view, etc.

    -A mechanical drill does not require comprehension and has one right answer.
    -A meaningful drill requires comprehension and has one right answer.
    -A communicative drill requires comprehension and does not have a right answer. The goal of a communicative drill is “normal speech for communication” (BVP, 2003).

    If a student actor knows he/she is a boy in the story, then asking “Are you a boy?” is a meaningful drill and requiring “I am a boy” as a response is not normal communication.

    -Confidence can come from successful communication, whether that means comprehending or exchanging a message, albeit inaccurately.
    -The more compelling the message, the more attention paid to comprehension.
    -It is more compelling to exchange new information rather than review old information, i.e. develop the characters and the story, rather than glom onto an utterance and circle it and parallel it.

    A classroom teacher’s intentions matter, but only indirectly. What actually matters is the learner’s perspective on what the teacher is doing. How does the learner interpret what the teacher is doing? Does it get interpreted as a focus on correctness? Does it get interpreted as the teacher trying to practice language or communicate? How does the learner feel? What does the learner do: pay attention to form, meaning, or try to do both?

    I like every one of Mike’s #1-4 points from his list above! And you can achieve all of them without requiring a student actor to respond fully and correctly.

    What I like for MY classroom (and this is constantly evolving) is to show kids the right form (I don’t do this for everything). I occasionally point to it when it’s on the board. But my student actors do not have to get it right when they speak. And I don’t use complete and accurate student output as a check for processing speed or comprehension breakdown.

    Goals, goals, goals . . . I apologize for referring to Blaine here, but this technique did originate with him as far as I know and it is how he is training people to do TPRS, so I deem it appropriate to look at his goals and what Blaine suggests should be tested reflects his goals:

    1. Matthew DuBroy

      I would simply like to note here that it is helpful to refer to Blaine so we can clarify what we are talking about. Clearly Blaine is an authority since he is the founder and has done such amazing work and for that reason it is super helpful to clearly delineate what we think is the best way to do something (otherwise when I see Blaine doing it I might immediately think I should do that, and maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t but then we have some reasons for deciding about it).

  15. Michael Coxon

    In response to you Eric, I am only going to site work from Krashen (Nat App).

    On Routines and Patterns, Krashen and Scarella argue that routines and patterns are neither acquisition nor learning, nor do they turn into acquisition or learning directly, except to occasionally serve as comprehensible input….Informal second language acquirers often make extensive use of routines and patterns in early stages as a means of saying things before their acquired competence is ready.

    Furthermore, Krashen concludes that R and P can be beneficial (as we see Blaine using) BUT it can also be troublesome.

    “Correctly used, R and P can help acquirers gain more input and manage conversations….On the other hand R and P can lead to trouble. R and P may get you in over your head.

    Although Krashen and Terrell communicate this in regards to Routines and Patterns, we can see that in modern day TPRS that Blaine is deciding to create R and P when it comes to high frequency language that is absolutely necessary for proficiency/fluency.

    In my view this is improvement that leads to results in student learning that are absolutely undeniable. How else can we explain free writes in a language after a few hours or teachers recalling the language they learned in a workshop several years earlier?

    Further discussion on this can be found in their chapter title Second Language Acquisition Theory (p. 23).

    1. So, is that what having students output complete and accurate responses is doing? Building routines and patterned speech?

      Kids acquiring a first language speak in chunks and are not taught in chunks. There are expressions that are stored as chunks, even now in our first language.

      If a goal is to build formulaic speech, chunks, patterns, routines. . . whatever you call them. That’s fine. I warn that such practices may undermine the communicative, compelling, and comfortable, acquisition-oriented environment. I’m not so sure such speech is absolutely necessary for proficiency and fluency. (But that “proficiency” and “fluency” can be derived from both acquired and learned knowledge sources).

  16. Alisa Shapiro

    It gets all gummed up in real life.
    Earlier in the year we read a Spanish picture book called “On your mark, get set, go!” (¡Listos, en sus marcas, adelante!). It was about a race between 2 rabbits. We had a blast with the referee calling the race, and the 2 animals traveling across the rug like crabs, swimming, blindfolded… I was the announcer, and narrated the race: “Now Jaime is in front, he’s moving faster, oh no! his puppy fell (they were balancing puppy stuff animals on their tummies when they crab-walked – you had to be there); now Juanita is winning…”
    Long story short, there was a low filter, there was lots of nan-targeted input, and there was a memorized chunk, for sure: “On you mark, get set, go!” We had dozens of races – they didn’t tire of it for several class periods!!
    The kids love that saying, they loved that book, and even now, whenever I say an unrelated, “Ready?” (“Listos?”) they can’t help but finish the chunk from before and retort, “Set, go!”
    I didn’t plan or want them to always associate those words as a chunk, but lo! and behold, they did. My goal wasn’t formulaic speech or chunks, but that’s what happened. For the kids, saying the chunk is empowering, it brings back a positive memory, it’s grammatically correct and age appropriate…I’ll take it. Just not all day, every day! Chunks are PART OF beginners playing with language and you can hear them in the DIN.
    I vote for moderation within our principle-driven instruction.

  17. Alisa, great anecdote! You are great at describing your classroom such that I can visualize it!

    My list of principles was not meant to be comprehensive. It was my first stab at it. I left off principles about LEARNING (in the Krashen sense), which would absolutely need to be included.

    And you could very easily include a principle about the role of chunks in language development or you could derive such a practice from other principles, e.g. comprehensibility, communicative, and/or compelling.

    Your classroom example is different from the technique originally being discussed.

  18. Alisa Shapiro

    Yes, true – but maybe someone would argue that ‘I/You/She am/are/is a girl’ is a chunk worth acquiring (and therefore ‘teaching for mastery’) cuz it comes up in tons of beginner stories?

  19. I like these discussions and I like when there is respectful disagreement on the blog, because I think we do it well. I know for myself, there is the danger of letting fear creep into my heart because I am not doing this or that in the classroom, which I should be doing, and which would make my students and me successful. So I vote for all of us here who are tinkering and learning and growing in our use of CI and communicative language teaching to trust our decisions in the classroom. If a student can handle correction, or wants correction, or if the correction does not interrupt the flow, and if you don’t lose 3 students to gain one, then just do it if it makes you feel good. It just might work. If it flops or fails, then laugh it off and try something else next time. This is what I’m working on! We’ll see how parent night goes this week!

    1. Angie, you could announce that you had a Latin teacher from MA come to observe you because he heard about what was going on in your classroom. I mean, it’s a fact, and any one of us can do the same for anyone else we’ve heard about here.

      We really do need to give credit where credit is due, and can be humble at the same time. We deserve recognition.

      1. I’ve been telling my students when I use a new idea I learned from other teachers. They are also aware that I’m sharing idea with other teachers (sometimes by video).
        I can see them react sometimes — like it takes us to another level or something. I think it’s good for them to know I’m not operating just on my own, but also, I hope it is a model of lifelong learning I often hear as the goal of all formal education.

    2. This from Angie is pure gold and is my idea of real SLA, because it comes from a real battle tested teacher and not a researcher:

      …if a student can handle correction, or wants correction, or if the correction does not interrupt the flow, and if you don’t lose 3 students to gain one, then just do it if it makes you feel good. It just might work. If it flops or fails, then laugh it off and try something else next time….

      I don’t say that with lightness. I mean it. In a firefight, would we listen to a fellow soldier or to a war strategist back at camp headquarters?

  20. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I made quick little presentation for Go-To-School-Night and did a demo – I am glad to send you my Keynote – Can you run Keynote? If not I can convert to Ppt and then to Google slides, if you wanna take a look. I did a 7-9 min demo w/parents as actors.
    Email me if you want:

  21. I promised that I would send my observations from the workshop I attended with Blaine Ray at SWCOLT. For what they are worth, here they are – observations and impressions.

    First of all, I enjoyed the workshop and getting to know Blaine a little bit. He invited me to join him for lunch, and we talked about a number of different things. In retrospect, a couple of things stand out: 1) Blaine is a good conversationalist because he does the same thing in a conversation that he does in class; that is, he asks questions and seems genuinely interested in the answers; 2) Blaine has a growth mindset; he genuinely wants to improve his own ability and the method he created; during our conversation, he commented, “Sometimes I look at videos of myself and say, ‘Boy, I would really like to coach that guy and help him get better!'”; 3) Blaine looks for positive things to say and ways to encourage people.

    In the workshop itself, Blaine commented on why he does certain things: 1) Having the actors speak with complete sentences gives the class more repetitions; 2) Having the class give only one-word (or two-word) answers keeps things from bogging down and keeps the number of repetitions up; 3) Student actors must want to do this, it is never a punishment, and each performance is an audition to be able to act the next time; 4) At the start of the first class, Blaine asks who wants to volunteer and then chooses actors only from those who raise their hands.

    As far as requiring complete sentences is concerned, keep in mind that these are learners who want to show off what they can do. At least in the workshop I attended, the volunteers wanted to speak in complete sentences. Consequently, while the production was highly scaffolded and might be considered language-like activity, it was not forced output because the learners wanted to do it. We could argue about being ready, needing the silent period, etc., but the fact remains that these were people who wanted to produce, and there was no coercion.

    I definitely learned things at the workshop, even though it was designed as an introduction to TPRS. I won’t reproduce what I saw in the workshop because I am not Blaine, but I will use what I saw to analyze, reflect on, and improve my own teaching – and isn’t that why we go to workshops and conferences in the first place?

    I haven’t watched the video that sparked this entire discussion, but I plan to do so. My hunch is that it won’t be a lot different from what I experienced at SWCOLT.

    BTW, toward the end of the workshop, Blaine asked me to teach, since I was the only German speaker in the class, and continue the lesson. When I had finished he told me to ask the participants what I did that helped them learn/acquire. I then added the question of what I could have done better. Blaine said he had no suggestions for me, even though he had given me a couple of pointers while I was teaching.

    1. “getting to know Blaine a little bit”

      Having gotten to know Blaine somewhat (6 days of workshops) colors my views toward what he says and does. You have the sense that he is genuine; that, although he has been out of the daily grind of school for years, he never left the classroom. I have known people to leave the classroom and move “up” and they act as if they walked out of the classroom, slipped and hit their head on the drinking fountain, and have no recollection of the classroom years. Not so with Blaine.

      At a five-day workshop some people were complaining that with all the money we were paying for the conference we should be getting free snacks at the break. Blaine heard about, pulled several bills out of his pocket and had someone go pick up some snacks.

      His common response to those who thought his ways would not work was that he wanted to teach better. If you knew how to get fluency better than he, then share what you are doing with all us so we could get better. He wanted fluency results and he would turn things upside down to get them.

      So, thanks, Robert. You reminded me what an amazing regular guy Blaine is.

  22. … At the start of the first class, Blaine asks who wants to volunteer and then chooses actors only from those who raise their hands….

    And if there are no volunteers, this could be one more way to introduce an Invisible.

  23. In Jump Starting Class, Ben said, “start circling. Just talk about Mirei.” I do not know if this what you intended, Ben, but the thought came to me, “Circle the person. Circle the event.” The event is “Mirei speaks.”

    In the process we are circling the individual words. But the process is one of circling around the notion that “Mirei speaks.” We circle around Mirei’s speaking in ever-widening circles and creating circles within circles. We ask for more details and circle out. We circle back in to keep the students in the comfortable sphere of the already known. We circle back out to pull them into the exciting world of the novel. We intersect circles with circles creating new combinations of meaning. We go out of orbit as we are pulled into orbit around other topics. We gravitate from one gravitation center to another and then the bell rings. (Hope it goes that way tomorrow.)

    Circle the person. Circle the thing. Circle the notion. Circle the event. Meaning-based, grammar-oblivious circling.

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