On Presenting to Departments – A New Plan

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53 thoughts on “On Presenting to Departments – A New Plan”

  1. OK, Team, can I ask for some help?

    I have 10 slides to allocate toward “What is TPRS”. These are the meat and potatoes of the presentation on Thursday to a small group of French and Spanish teachers and come after the demo in German, as per above.

    “What is” must include fundamental precepts, research, purpose, goals, etc. in recognition of the fact that I’m not really going to get them to proficient in story-asking in 3 hrs. It’s an “overview”.

    What absolutely must be included?

    What must be repeated ad nauseum?

    1. What I needed from early TPRS training I attended: what next steps to take to understand more. I needed to find support and further reading, videos, and guide books. This took me 2-3 years to find on my own to get to a point of readiness to change my teaching at a fundamental level.

      The other thing: that languages are acquired unconsciously. This means language is not acquired as students practice repeating dialogues and substitution exercises, but as they hear and read language that they can understand. This also means that we wait for students’ spontaneous output rather than assigned spoken tasks. This also means that we can, even in the limited time we have in classes, re-create the conditions of natural language acquisition like most FL teachers got either growing up or later during an extended time in-country. (I say that because a former colleague directly stated that the only way to become fluent is to live in a country where that language is spoken. We can give them a good start on that right now.)

      Sorry, too wordy! Hope it helps nonetheless!

      1. Too wordy? Hah! I am too wordy. That is nothing. But I can’t help it, my initials are B.S. Hey Diane, I would love to see your second paragraph above somewhere on the ACTFL list, somewhere in that thread. Such a great point and as Eric suggested, the teachers reading there REALLY DON’T GET THAT POINT. And as jen said today, even when we get it, we don’t get it and so she suggested we all go watch the VanPatten videos again, to remind us.

        1. Thanks, Ben. I do aim to post over there – I’m getting lost in the posts here & there a little bit. I also think about Catharina’s point about authentic texts and the “edit the task, not the text” being a terrible thing. Terry Waltz posted on moreTPRS about this today. I’ve heard about her Hawaii Startalk program… it’s a teaher training plus student language course. It’s always under fire by ACTFL-based StarTalk certifiers despite very obvious student success, and the thematic units and authentic materials arguments are the main things thrown against it.

    2. For me, TPRS is all about getting kids a good experience into long term memory. I am confident that in 10 years my students will remember that “contendit” means “hurried.” And they will remember me making the actors “do it again” if they didn’t hurry quickly enough to differentiate from just plain old “iit/went.” TPRS gives you that.

    1. Michele are you sure that Grant should present the go with the flow thing to new people? Teachers don’t do that and they generally don’t get it until they have seen the power of the method first. Yes, they can get SLOW and Staying in Bounds, but the Flow thing is advanced. These people with Grant will be looking for a curriculum. Going with the flow is something you learn later. Just thinking out loud here. I do agree it is of huge importance, and if teachers don’t get that piece of TPRS it will never work for them, but should it be presented right away? It is so different from what teachers do!

      (Note: if you are new to this work and reading this, there is a fine collection of many articles on FLOW in the categories here.)

      1. Flow is advanced, but it’s also critical for newbies to know that they will feel like fish out of water. They have to know that it’s okay. They’ll screw up. It will still be better than usual classes. They have to get into the water and pay attention to the kids swimming around them. They can’t start panicking. It’s a life lesson as well as a teaching lesson. Be in the moment.

        I forgot one thing that I always tell newbies: start with just five minutes of TPRS. Then go back to class as usual. When it feels comfortable to do just five minutes, move on to ten. What I’ve heard from my previous newbies is that, once they tried the five minutes, the kids and their own hearts pressed them to do more because it obviously worked so well.

    2. We need lots of responses in the comments fields for Grant. Don’t click out of this new thread. If everybody offers Grant one slide idea of what they think are the most important ideas in this work, he can then pick and choose the ten he wants. Show up for him, he has been in a war in MN for many years now and deserves the help. (And keep writing comments at the ACTFL site as well, although I am concerned that somehow that thread is losing power.)

  2. Off the top of my head, having just now started watching the VanPatten videos (WOW!)…I’d say that TPRS /CI is a PROCESS NOT A METHOD. In the VatPatten videos he says “there is no substitute for input” “practicing forms does nothing for acquisition” even if it did, it would be taking time away from input” and “there is no way to ‘practice’ communication.” This means that we must engage in a process. I don’t know if I am stating it clearly. In the video this hit me like a Mack truck. Not because I don’t know it, but because a big research dude is confirming it. Our process IS true communication, for which there is no substitute. There is a caveat to that because in the definition of communication, people and location is one of the variables, and in a classroom those are fixed. But still.

    I like the way he defines input as language (spoken or written) that the student is responding to for its MEANING. This busts the myth that CI kids are “just sitting there listening.” No. In order for acquisition to take place, the student must be engaging in the process by responding to the meaning.

    If you go to the second video around 30 sec. in he does a demo of a typical exercise and then rips that a new one. There is way more, but that one stood out to me last night as I watched.


    1. Here are some quotes from the title pages of VanPatten’s videos. They are from his 6 main points in the presentation.

      “Practice isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”
      “Communication is distinct from mental representation.”
      “It isn’t always about aptitude.”

      These 3 get at what we are trying to do in our classrooms with our 500 hours (max–maybe?) in 4 years: recognize each student and his/her gifts, build on those strengths, show him/her that the capacity to acquire is innate, do this in a “simple, effective, human”(Angie’s words) way by communicating with them (back and forth, engaging and responding to meaning). This builds confidence and community at the same time.

      …all stemming from the core truth:

      “In the end, acquisition is too complex to reduce to simple ideas. There are no shortcuts.”

      No shortcuts. We need to be immersed in the process (communicating) and the language. It’s a relationship! The language has to be understood ( duh) or the communication breaks down. ERic uses the term “optimized immersion.” This is accurate for what we do bc we are all in TL and all understanding. I also have said “it’s the classroom version of how you taught your kids your language.”

      What I would want to emphasize is the level playing field. Everyone can acquire, so why would we consciously plan our program to exclude 95% of the kids?

  3. Yeah Catharina but in defense of Blaine I don’t think that the Three Steps are a method. I think the approach that they represent is more of a process than an method. We establish meaning and get reps (Step 1 PQA), then we use the target structures (Step 2 Story) and then we read. We can do that in any loose form and we do, in L and D and in R and D and all those things we do beyond stories. It’s still a TPRS- based process. At least that is how I see TPRS, as a process rather than a method. It is easy for all the TCI people to say that TCI and TPRS are different things, that TCI is a larger umbrella – the “approach” word – and that TPRS is just one way that TCI can be applied, a method, but I don’t want Blaine’s contribution to be lost. He started it and he did so consciously on Krashen’s research. It was a bold move and a pivotal moment in our profession and he was and still is visiously attacked for it. I just don’t want his work to become forgotten as this thing goes forward. He really did invent the formula, the approach, and now it has gotten involved with personalities and politics. I told Blaine this summer that my belief is that TPRS is not some side bar of a larger thing, but the thing itself, whatever it is called, and I say that for the reasons expressed above. It’s like Coca Cola. There is RC Cola and Pepsi and all the other colas, but Coke is the real thing, the one that makes us sing in perfect harmony, so we can have a Coke and a smile, because it’s delicious and refreshing, it’s the pause that refreshes, and you can’t beat the real thing, because life tastes good. Sorry, my right brain pulled me off the topic. What were we talking about? Man, I’m thirsty!

  4. To Grant:

    1. I can never forget Laurie Clarcq’s simple image to explain how input leads to output. She asked us to image an empty cup in our brain that gets filled with input (comprehensible, repetitive, memorable, personalized…). When the cup overflows the words start to fall off the lips (output).
    Everyone’s cup overflows at a different rate.

    2. I would have liked to hear that it takes time to grasp the nuances of TPRS. It felt like a jigsaw puzzle at first. At each workshop/conference I’d pick up a few more pieces.
    You must be patient. Join this blog. Listen. Read between lines.Ask questions. Read the Forum.

    3. I love what Blaine says: “Even bad TPRS is better than everything else”. (It was reassuring to know that when hell brakes loose).

    4. It’s all skills. Practice one skill at a time, like learning to juggle. It can feel frustrating. One step forward, three step backwards. It’s a right of passage.

    1. I was going to say number 3 as well. When I started, this reminded me to keep going. It felt like starting teaching all over. Now in my 3rd year I can reflect on the parts that are now natural and take little thought and focus on the parts that I am still waiting to refine.

      Michelle said “start with 5 minutes.” I would encourage anyone that is starting this way to study Eric’s 5 minute power verb and Ben’s advice. He said don’t ask a question without the target structure. Through Eric’s idea and Ben’s advice I experienced narrow circling. I knew that I could go for 5 minutes and little by little I have kept focus on the target structure for more minutes.

  5. Catharina,
    I am not Grant, but your 4 points really speak to me. Thank you! I have never heard #1 and it is perfect. I am just finishing my first quarter with CI and it does feel like a huge jigsaw puzzle. This PLC helps me so much. Sometimes I think I should stop reading because I keep seeing new ideas that I want to try before I have really gotten a grasp of the strategies I am using. But, somehow it all meshes.

    I feel pretty sure my TPRS is bad, but it is about 120% better than any other FL teaching that I have ever done. I keep telling myself that. Even on a great day (like I have had this week) I worry about the verbs that my students don’t know and how they can’t tell time and they don’t know the words for pens and pencils. But I love the fact that they can read a full story! So I will also keep practicing my skills and getting better every day. Thank you!!

  6. Katie,

    I am so glad it could help a little. We are all in this together.

    No one, NO ONE has messed up more than me. I may not even be doing real TPRS?
    But I do realize how far I’ve come when I cannot stop commenting.
    My cup is overflowing with TCI output, like a front row student with my hand up all
    the time.

    After a while one notices star contributors that come and go on this blog. They’ve graduated, they got it. They may present at conferences, travel in the summer, enjoy their free time without ever having to prepare another lesson plan. I am not quite there yet.

    I am so thankful for this blog Katie. It may sound “cliché” (my new favorite word, merci Ben) to keep thanking all the brilliant teachers from whom I get yet another piece to finish my puzzle.
    So be it.

  7. Thanks, everyone, for your ideas. They’re helping me delineate between more advanced ideas and those things that beginners and not-yet-on-boarders don’t yet need to hear.

    Assuming 2.5 hrs total, I have this as an overview:

    I. Demo per above
    II. Debrief
    III. My story w/ TPRS
    IV. TPRS – Precepts, Purpose, Process and Power of TPRS

    My question is, do I need to have them “try” it?

    My initial thought is “no”. That if they want that, go to an extended workshop or hire me for a full day.

    Your thoughts?

    1. Hola Grant,
      Sounds really good so far! I did not see anything about cautioning newbies to not trying to combine TPRS and a traditional textbook. It is too hard and not effective to try to use a “hybrid” approach. (Been there, done that).

      Keep up the good work 🙂 you rock!


  8. I say no on having them try it. You’ll barely get to point 4 in 2.5 hours. You’ll have to work hard to get through what you have planned there. And I really think you should milk the story because your teaching style is so strong and captivating from what I saw this summer. Feature that story. Plus, it’s the most fun. They stop concentrating on all the stuff about CI and start focusing on the story and seeing images and that lightens it all up, which takes them out of their minds and into their senses of humor and lightheartedness. The laughter that that generates is powerful.

    1. I never cared much for practicing in front of others at introductory workshops. It confused me. The most powerful part of a TPRS presentation is letting the audience experience it from the students’ view point. Like hands-on. Experiential.
      As I was teaching my little kids today Grant’s post about elementary immersion kept coming to mind. It brought me to a deeper level of understanding. Sometimes 1 word does it. You are a true artist Grant!

      1. …You are a true artist Grant!….

        Well there ya’ go. And if you go here:


        You can see more of Grant’s artistry just in time to get your early Xmas shopping out of the way! (No I’m not getting a cut and Grant would probably like me to shut up about his pottery but I have two of his mugs and they are so unlike Walmart cups that I just have to say it. His pottery is really good!)

  9. Hi Grant,
    I agree with Ben re: milking the demo as much as you can. That is the most powerful experience because the participants are in the experience, in their bodies, etc. At very least, if the energy is there don’t cut it off.

    I have my presentation on Friday and I just watched Anne Matava do her “CI 101” in Maine. Her format was demo first then “teacher talk.” Along the way she kept checking in with us “we can go on to discussion at any point” but we wanted more CI experience. One thing that happened, was that in the beginning of the demo people had questions. After answering a couple, she then said “let’s save the questions for the end. You really need to feel what it’s like to be in an all-German atmosphere. It’s so powerful.” Um. Understatement. Then she hired a student timer to give us 20 mins in German.

    So I’m remembering this: delineate clearly when the demo starts and ends, and invite everyone to take off their teacher hats during the demo. I am actually thinking of doing some sort of gesture for that teacher hat and student hat??? Just to clunk that into the body. I will probably be the one most likely to interject some comment, so this advice is really for myself 🙂

    I’m thinking of this to transition from the demo: stop, quick brain break of some sort of movement and or breathing (really quick…30 sec -1 min) then have them put the teacher hat back on and give them a prompt for a quick write. What surprised you? What gave you a new perspective? What do you want to know more about? Something like that, so they can take a few moments in silence to think for themselves before the barrage of questions. ??? I’m thinking it might help each person individually to get their immediate questions down before being sidetracked by everyone else.

    I also echo what everyone has said above re: patience, keeping at it day after day, letting go of guilt and shame when we “mess up” and basically giving ourselves a break. This is a process for the teacher as well as the student and it is not helpful to judge ourselves harshly for being where we are in the process, just as we don’t judge our students harshly for not being fast processors! More and more I keep coming back to reframing “mistakes” and “errors.” Just as our students’ output does not contain “errors” (because what they say is what the are able to say given where they are in their acquisition), we also are where we are in our CI teaching process. For a new teacher, I think it is important to emphasize it as steps along a trail. Sometimes we slip and fall. That is part of the journey. It’s ok to fall and get back up! So many teachers have this either/or, all or nothing thinking and that isn’t helpful to their evolution. Sorry, this is probably outside the scope of your presentation, but it is definitely a learning curve for the teacher just as much as for the student.

    1. I think we all need to go with a 20 min. stay-in-the-language format when we demonstrate the method to others. What Anne told her audience that they needed to experience the German and not ask questions is completely in line with our entire point that language acquisition is an unconscious process that happens in the body and not really in the mind. She was smart to do that. We literally need to deny those intellectuals the floor when we present.

    2. Jen, great post. Thank you. I’ll consider this carefully.

      I appreciate the notion of personal writing. It’s what needs to happen. A quiet, reflective moment before any grammarians jump out to criticize.

      I’ve settled on a protocol for the reflection and want to share it.

      I saw:
      I heard:
      I wonder:

      Please reflect in writing about 1 thing you saw during this demo that you liked, 1 thing you heard that resonated with you, and 1 question you may have about what you just saw and heard

      Then, I’ll open up the floor by asking them to share the positive things they saw and heard first, to fill the room with positivity and cross-mojination before going to the questions they have.

  10. One more Grant.

    If there is one thing they should “take” and could apply the next day, is that the focus in FL class should be on the VERB (high frequency – language structures will confuse them). Sounds trivial, well not at all.

    You know what I mean. Keep it simple.

  11. This is a process… we don’t judge our students harshly for not being fast processors! I keep coming back to reframing “mistakes” and “errors.” …[O]ur students’ output does not contain “errors” (because what they say is what the are able to say given where they are in their acquisition)… [I]t is important to emphasize [acquisition] as steps along a trail. Sometimes we slip and fall. That is part of the journey

    Jen, I took this and simplified it for my own use, if you’re ok with that, to read to my students tomorrow, from “another teacher”.

    Grant, I have 100% confidence that you will rock the house tomorrow. Sorry I don’t have any input beyond the great stuff you’ve already been suggested. Have fun!

    1. Jim, claro que sí! I do this all the time…so helpful to have “another teacher” in class, even virtually. I usually frame these things as : “See it’s not just one of my crazy schemes…there are “public people” out there doing this!!!” Then everyone laughs and somehow the same messages clunk in for some reason.

      I keep meaning to say CONGRATS!!!!! How exciting to have a young Tripp girl amongst us!!! I remember seeing you back in St. Louis with a very young Tripper! Seems like just last year, but apparently not! 🙂

      1. Thanks Jen. And to everyone else who sent kind thoughts and words about the “young Tripp girl” (funny to hear it like that… I never imagined having a daughter!), over on another thread here recently. We’re doing great, very blessed!

        And yeah, that was over 3 years ago in St. Louis… time flies!

  12. To all of you presenting:

    Breathe deeply. Ask for grace. Go slowly. Present to the eyes. Use pauses. Check for comprehension without insulting your participants. Talk about your students….not brag about them, but share their successes, their aha’s and your joy in seeing those. Admit vulnerability. Show faith. Present for the future. Plant a seed.

    You may want to mention that you are not there for a conversion, but rather for comprehension. You want the profession to understand, and respect, what some professionals are committed to in the field of language acquisition.

    You’ll be great.

    with love,

  13. So glad to find this thread! I am going to be doing a TWO DAY teacher training for eight language teachers in a few weeks. (Not my school- I’ve never worked with this group.) They’ve asked me to do the demo in Mandarin- which is funny since basically all I can say is “Langman de kan Linda” (Look romantically at Linda) and Pie Pie Juanes da Pigu (tap Juanes’ butt).. (spelled all wrong)! But at least I can’t go out of bounds. I’ll share my plan in the next few days and I’d love feedback on it. I’d also love to see anyone’s power points they’ve used for this kind of thing so as not to recreate the wheel! (feel free to email me- elissa@expressfluency.com). Lots of love and appreciation to all! Elissa

      1. Thanks, Diane! I should clarify that I’m only going to do an hour demo in Mandarin. I think I can pull this together reviewing Linda Li videos..I can probably say 5 sentences… looks at, wants, gives, drinks, eats… we’ll see. I’m going to do Spanish demos for CWB, etc… but the group wanted an example of a language they don’t speak already. I also told them not to look at it like they are learning Mandarin– more like “Elissa-arin” since I am probably messing up all the tones 🙂

          1. Karen Rowan (Fluency Fast) sells some Linda Li beginner streamline Mandarin classes.
            I bought it for my son, and I think the password worked for a year? He never bothered, but I enjoyed watching Linda teach.

    1. I sent Elissa my PPT on “Starting the Year Strong in the Target Language”, which I presented last Fall at MCTLC. It is for the “teacher talk” part of a presentation, and if anyone wants it, you can email me. trippatmail2jimdotcom feel free to edit/steal/add to your liking. Many of the slides need explanation for those unfamiliar with the ideas, and I did not make notes on the PPT.

  14. On a very encouraging note, Jen and I presented at the New Hampshire state conference today and got lots of positive feedback. Here’s one teacher who sent me this in an email:

    “I’m so excited to incorporate this method into my program that I’m almost giddy! (I should mention that I’m not prone to being “giddy”). Also, as a non-Spanish speaker, I was shocked by how much I understood and learned, so I’m as close to convinced to drink the KoolAid as I can be.”

    Claudette Moran, TPRS teacher, is the Treasurer and gave the conference the title “Teaching with Comprehensible Input: A Gateway to Proficiency.” That mislead me to think the attendees would have a clue about TCI. Most didn’t at all. Many of the presenters probably didn’t either, since there were sessions on the “99 ways to teach the subjunctive.” Being in the exhibitor room made me feel uncomfortable – all the textbook companies trying to sell that crap.

    My 2-hour MovieTalk session, 1 hour of which I demoed, was a hit! So many teachers were excited about it and wanted to learn more. When I asked at the start for them to raise their hands if they taught with even a little bit of TPRS, the majority of the room raised their hands. As the session proceeded it became clear that they didn’t know what TPRS was.

    I also presented “Aligning Pedagogy with Research” and only had 45 minutes. I ended up speaking too fast trying to cover too much. I had over prepared on purpose – starting with the basics of Krashen if I found the audience to be unfamiliar and I had VanPatten, Nation, Elley, Mason and others if I needed to bust them out for a more advanced audience.

    I started by asking everyone to anonymously write down a list of as many SLA researchers they could think of. On the other side, I asked them to name as many of Krashen’s hypotheses as possible. I looked at the results before proceeding and realized I had to start from square one. Unfortunately, I had mentioned Krashen in the 2nd question, so I didn’t get the chance to see how many people could come up with his name on their own and his name was not counted.

    Here are the results:

    # Researchers #Attendees
    0 15
    1 3
    2 4
    3 1
    4 2

    #Hypotheses #Attendees
    0 21
    1 0
    2 3
    3 1

    Isn’t that scary? These teachers go into the classroom on Monday and many have been for decades. To make the analogy to doctors, as someone has before: this is like doctors not knowing science – many still believe that leeches work!

  15. # Researchers #Attendees
    #0 #15
    #1 #3
    #2 #4
    #3 #1
    #4 #2

    #Hypotheses #Attendees
    #0 #21
    #1 #0
    #2 #3
    #3 #1

    I’m not blaming the teachers. I didn’t come upon TCI because of Krashen, it was the other way around. But we should blame the system – teacher preparation programs and training. As I was told, “No one has presented on SLA research in a while.” Why is that so?!

  16. Dr. Krashen, Van Patten, Cadierno, the Variable Competence Model, Oller, Swain, Vigotsky etc all get mentioned in the ACTFL methods course. The theories and claims are reflected upon and discussed with the professor. For the inexperienced teacher that I was (why else would I have taken the course) it was difficult to engage.

    The confusion for my part came from the contradiction of discussing SLA but not finding successful ways to apply the theories into my practice. I kept asking/challenging my professor, and was under the impression that she didn’t quite “know” how to teach. New paradigm? Old paradigm? All the same in my opinion.

    Like you have said before Eric, Blaine Ray + all you smart teachers who follow this blog, found a way to make it work in the artificial setting of our classroom teaching real kids.

    TCI does it all. It’s the only 101 teacher’s manual I’d bother to read. If I could do it all over again.

    1. I agree. Without seeing how the theory works in action, then it carries no meaning. I remember reading a little about Krashen before I’d seen it applied and I had no idea how great it would actually be to teach with CI. I think the theory almost then comes after, more as a way to defend what we are already doing.

    2. Speaking of “a manual”, I just sent Ben an email regarding that very idea! We need one!! I know, we already have PQA in a Wink by Ben and TPRS in a Year by Ben, among others ie. the green book by Blaine, but I think we need a teacher handbook of sorts…vetted by all of us and written by us!
      I volunteer to coordinate the effort…
      any ideas?



      1. Excellent idea Louisa!

        On Ben’s great suggestion I’ve started to jot down (when I remember ) little tricks, techniques, anything specific to teaching TCI in early elementary grades. So much happens
        spontaneously (like Rachel Martinez described) and we forget.

        Ben said something like “just write down globs of stuff”. Hahaha.
        That’s exactly what I do with my little bear cubs: globs of stuff.
        Go explain that!

      2. I’m hoping to put something like that together with specifics related to Chinese and call it maybe “CI with Chinese Characteristics.” Unless Chinese readers don’t find that title as cute as I do. I’d actually like to put this in both English and Chinese to reach the most Chinese teachers most effectively. A native speaker teacher friend says she’ll help with the Chinese. Tentatively, this is my next summer’s project. If I can convince two or three prominent CI Chinese teachers to read it before it’s published, all the better. I have been finding there’s a growing interest from Chinese teachers in TPRS (and so far, they don’t reject that term outright). They need help.

        There are kind of two or three main approaches to developing reading skills, and I’d like to let them know about each other and how they work. Plus, as a cultural trend Chinese teachers are readers, but many need it in Chinese because we’re all so busy as teachers — at least that’s the case for some friends of mine. A lot of reading and investigation before making a change is also culturally typical. I don’t know of any kind of guide that deals with Chinese specifically (we don’t need anything about tenses and conjugations — but what about pinyin? what about characters? handwriting?). Some guide that a person could hand to those just-out-of-China HanBan teachers who find themselves struggling in teaching in the US. Maybe they’ll take it back to China and Taiwan!

        1. When you’ve published your book I will happily buy a bunch and hand them out in my county. So many kids are intrigued by Chinese (thinking of my son) and are terribly deceived when they fail to learn more than a few words.

          There is an exclusive private school in New York City called “The Avenues” that teaches 1/2 day in either Spanish or Mandarin. Little miss celebrity Suri Cruise was a student there. I always wondered what pedagogy they base their FL instruction on at Avenues?
          Must be difficult nevertheless for kids to follow instruction in Mandarin, unless it’s CI ?

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