Question on Sharing the Method

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26 thoughts on “Question on Sharing the Method”

  1. The simple answer is to get them out of their heads and teach them some Spanish, as you would a new group. Then, and this is key, have someone in there during the presentation who will write up the story in Spanish as it happens. Besides the story writer, have someone draw the story for a retell and maybe even one of them can later do the retell, as they are four percenters. Then at the end of the demo, with the audience having spent time smiling and being in their bodies and learning Spanish and laughing, you hand them the hastily copied story and ask if anyone can read it. Well, you just PQA’d and made a story out of it for two hours and when they can read it, they become convinced at what Asher (Krashen?) said that using comprehensible input results in acquisition that is 1600 times faster than the old way. I have heard many teachers say that what convinced them at a Blaine Ray workshop was how at the end of Blaine’s instruction they could read a story in a language they had never even heard. Why argue theory when yu can convince them on that much deeper level of their own experience as language learners? Bottom line, don’t argue your case intellectually but through their funny bones.

    1. That presentation style worked so effectively when my Elder first saw Ben last spring that she made me go to his presentation. It really works. He didn’t say that he used the name cards to start the presentation and he did the RULES. That was very impressive to many people. And he called people on the Rules. It was good for teachers to see and get out of their heads but in them at the same time.

  2. Do a simple story, but one caveat: be sure to identify the non-speakers of the TL before you start. Tell the rest of the class that you are teaching to those newbies and not to those that already know it. You have to be able to look into their eyes and see if they get it or not.

    You get false-positive comprehension readings when you teach a simple story to people that already know the language. Make occasional comments to the speakers of the TL on the side to explain tiny bits of the theory about C.I. and why you are doing it so they feel involved. Give them jobs to do like counting the number of times you say “tiene” to honor them and keep them from getting bored. Hopefully, it will dawn on them how many reps it takes for a newbie to get it.

    A simple, fun story can be one like Linda Li did at NTPRS last year in St. Louis. Use the words “has”, “wants”, “looks at” and “gives” as your target structures and go from there for an hour and a half, adding occasional adjectives, proper nouns and cognates as you go. Basic story line: Person X has something. Person Y looks at it. Person Y wants it. Person Y gives something else to person X for the something. Make it flirty and funny by using the people and props that are there in the room.

    I have written an explanation of TPRS that you are welcome to use called The Basics of TPRS:

    Send it to them as pre-reading or for them to review as a follow-up to your presentation.

  3. Awesome advice Bryce. Chris, I went to Linda Li’s sessions with Bryce all week last summer at NTPRS and I want to support Bryce’s point above about the story she did and how she did it. She went very slowly (SLOW-LI to use the great term Robert has coined). Do not fail to hear that most crucial point about going ever so slowly. You can’t go slowly enough. Do not get in there and start and go too fast. Bryce is a big strong guy and I am going to send him over there to Ohio to put you in a headlock until you slow down enough, which is never. Put it this way, go ten times slower than you think you should, so that it hurts, and then slow down some more, or face the headlock and maybe a noogie. And don’t be nervous about the fact that you don’t have a story line. You don’t need one when you do those particular verbs – they are a genuis arrangement of verbs as described below. They work on first days and that is why Linda uses them at national conferences.

    So at the start of the session DEr. Krashen was sitting there with his coffee. Linda, already in slow motion with a very happy kind of look on her face – one that signals that she is just enjoying herself – goes around the room using the verbs Bryce mentioned in this order:

    Dr. Krashen has coffee.

    Circle it. Everybody looks over at Stephen who sits there with a contented look on his face holding this huge ass Vente from Starbucks. Linda milks this. She doesn’t go flying to the next sentence. She hangs out with this image of Dr. Krashen sitting there. People cannot help but start to smile. They smile through most of the entire two hours of this. It’s awesome and what makes Linda the best. I went to her session every day because I wanted to see the source of the magic. I found it. It was in her sense of mysterious play in slowed down time – a kind of slow motion – and it was all about one thing – Krashen holding his coffee. Bryce really used the right words when he said that she makes it flirty and funny. That coffee will become the subject of the entire session. Next:

    Skip (sitting across the room toward the back) looks at Dr. Krashen.

    She circles it, same as above. She points to a pre-prepared list of all the words she needs (quesstion words, etc.) to make each sentence comprehensible, since this is not her own classroom. They are on those big sticky note chart paper things on the wall behind her. Then:

    Skip wants coffee.

    Circle it, etc. etc. Next:

    Dr. Krashen gives Skip coffee.

    The coffee goes to Skip’s hand via the group, who now have ownership in what is going on. That’s it. An hour has gone by in pleasant harmony without a word of English except the visual translation input from the charts behind Linda. Linda has spent this time just enjoying herself, and, since she was enjoying all this, so has everyone else. She uses the next hour to ask questions and do general processing work on those words, always using only those words and never going out of bounds and never speeding up so that the input is 100% transparent the entire time. Once as a joke she brought in a fluent Mandarin speaker from a Chinese university who told the story way too fast and the expressions on the faces in the group – I saw this – went into a kind of mild horror look as their affective filters rose like thermometers on a hot day. When this session is over, you walk around the rest of the conference thinking in Mandarin half the time, as, from time to time, the four verbs jump you like banditsf from your unconscious mind. You may be talking to Laurie Clarcq and bam the word for gives in Mandarin pops into your mind.

    So, since we want to start the year with the best comprehensible input, we may want to consider this for our first day back in the fall. We could do this on the first day of class and then do the “he loves her” story from last week on the second day of class. And then we could do the quesetionnaires and/or cards after that for a month and then, if we go slowly enough and enforce the rules at every turn, we will have a fantastic year with trained kids who know and like each other and respect every word that comes out of your mouth, 95% of which are in L2.

    1. Ben, if we’re doing it right, I don’t think we’ll get to “he loves her” on the second day. I think we’ll still be involved in the “has-looks-wants-gives” story. After all, it took 2 hours at conference with teachers who didn’t need the training aspect of the process. Between those two stories, there’s probably enough material for at least a week of classes at the beginning of school, especially if we are doing the training consistently enough.

      It’s nice to have my first week of school already planned. 🙂

      1. Yeah I’m going to write this all up and maybe do a videolink here and put it under the Beginning the Year category. I don’t want to forget it either. The thing is that teachers go to conferences, try a story, try to get through the whole thing, go too fast, circle mechanically, go out of bounds, see the deer in the headlights looks and then chuck it in favor of the book and then say the method doesn’t work. New people really need to see Linda to know where SLOW lives.

  4. Gracias! Thanks to everybody here so far. I think I’m good now, the structures Bryce gave here are gold.

    Reminds me of the “Sandwich” PQA in PQA in a Wink that Ben wrote about. I may do this with Yerba Mate in my classes as I’m usually seen drinking it throughout the week.

  5. Hi, Chris,
    Based my newbie experience, in 2.5 hours if you only do a story, people might see the magic of TPRS but they can’t really put all the logic together. If you could, as Bryce suggested, make commentary along your teaching, fill the audiences with logic and analysis (treat as pop up grammars, don’t spend too much time there, but do go straight to your points) and prepare them with more crafty skills, audiences are not only inspired, they would be better equipped as well.
    When it comes to Chinese hanzi, I have written couple posts regarding that, I’ll just paste my links here:
    Good luck!

    1. Better to put up a big sheet of paper on the wall in the back and, during the presentation, allow no interruptions. If an audience member has a question they can write it on the big paper for processing later. These are teachers. They like to be in their heads, but what we do is not about thinking and analyzing. In that sense we are completely redefining what a teacher is.

      What we do is about interacting with people. It is not a robotic mental energy anymore. A lot of teachers ask questions during those sessions. It’s pointless. I cannot even imagine someone interrupting Linda’s artistry to make some banal intellectual point. Those old and dead teachers who think so much can’t get away with that shit any more. They will eventually bring their own sorry asses down by the sheer weight of how boring they are. We don’t have time. Just a few hours ago a kid across the street took a hammer to another kid in a building where 15 people were murdered by sadness and darkness ten years ago.

      Sorry just ranting here a bit. Let’s say that the kid, who did this in a shop class, had just walked out of a good, lively story where she was the star in the foreign language wing of Columbine, the rooms of which are the closest to the cafeteria. Then what? Does she pick up the hammer? I don’t know. Maybe she does, but maybe she doesn’t.

      Conferences, this site, Bryce’s site, all are for learning the method so that teachers leave with cell level skills, awakening themselves to this new life of real teaching. I like that term. Real teaching. That kind of conference training will be taken to an extreme for the first time in Breckenridge this summer at the iFLT conference where the main force of the conference is bringing kids in from schools in the area and putting them in front of kids and teaching them. Real kids. I am doing that and Diana won’t even let me present. She said, correctly, “Ben, just teach the kids. That’s all I want you to do.” True of most of the presenters there.

      We need to get about our business of helping kids feel confident in their abilities and not shaming them (grammar goo shames 96% of the student it gets poured on). We need to furnish our precious young ones with positive and happy classroom experiences so that they stop killing each other and attacking each other. That is our work now. Not coming up with more talk about teaching. That is one reason we are private here. We have no reason to share thoughts about what works and what doesn’t work. It is too late. Stephen and Blaine have provided us with something that works. They have done major work for the betterment of a suffering humanity and they continue to ride tall in the saddle, pointing the way for the rest of us. They and Susie Gross and a few other real experts look down at us, the foot soldiers, and they point the way forward.

      Bryce and I and others who have done this longer (neither of us are experts – we’ve just been doing it longer and have learned a few tricks) have built websites to help others because we don’t see a lot of people doing this. But it is now time for the theory to give way to passionate practice of what we know is best for kids. I am the worst offender in that I find myself talking about why what we do is better. No need to now. Best thing for me – write stuff like Bryce and Bryce and I did above about Linda, teaching the young cowboys like Chris how to saddle up, lean forward and spur things forward. Now anybody who is serious about this change kind of has to, if it is at all possible, go to conferences and stand on your feet and feel the burn. Just do it. To avoid future hammer attacks. And murders. And teachers who make you feel shitty because you split that infinitive.

      Again, I know that this had little to do with the comment from Haiyun, but I feel better. It’s February, folks. Buckle up. We’re Krashen forward.

  6. Chris,

    You have gotten great ideas and advice here. Haiyun and Ben have a point about the “teacher-brain” and how it can ‘interfere” when the teacher is a student. Yet, the student experience IS the most powerful demo. It is why NTPRS went to co-presenters last year… to demo and one to talk about what was going on in the demo. It’s very powerful.

    So what do you do when you can’t be two people??? I tried something in Milwaukee in January that I think helped bridge that as a single presenter. I basically divided the group in half and told the group that the folks on the right would wear the student hat first. I taught to their eyes. When I felt like I HAD to explain something, I turned to the other side of the room, and explained to them in English what I needed to say. After the break, I taught to the left hand side of the room and “explained” to the right. (it helps to bring the newbies down front )

    This forced me to slow down. This forced me to think ahead about what I could actually explain in just a few sentences (so that I didn’t “lose” my students”) It was basically “pop-up” presenting :o)

    Even if I drifted away from it after a while, the group could feel the student-break/teacher-brain break.

    I hope that that makes sense!!

    with love,
    Go for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I look at the “teacher” side of the room and say, “Wait time is very important for individual students and for the way I want my students to work as a team. Watch for ways that I train, practice, use and reinforce wait time.”

    I look at the “student” side of the room and begin with two structures. I teach two gestures, explain how I want students to wait for a signal, call out a phrase, let them have a few seconds of wait time, and work with the gestures as I would in a class.

    I look at the “teacher” side of the room and explain that PQA is about finding out about the students by using the structures AND connecting students to the language. I ask them to look for two things: how I involve students individually and collectively, and how structures can be used over and over again to dig for information via responses.

    I look at the “student” side of the room and PQA away.

    I can have the sides “switch” roles whenever I think it is appropriate. It is important not to switch too soon, or in the middle of a section. If I did gestures with one group, I could do PQA with the next. I like spending at least 20 minutes with one side of the room though before I make the other side of the room the “students.” So last time I used one side as the students for gestures and PQA, then switched to other side. I reviewed the gestures, asked a few more questions and then started to ask the story.

    I point out that I would NOT do this in a classroom, but that it allows them time to be the student….and then to observe as a teacher. Once each side has had a chance to be the student and the teacher, I can then pair them up with someone from the other side of the room and they can share their feelings/experiences/observations/thoughts.

    I could have one side of the room be students for some time as I start a reading activity and then have the other side of the room be the students and do another type of reading activity. While they are on the “teacher ” side, they can observe, think and take notes. While on the student side they can just be the student.

    Does that help?

    with love,

  8. “Grammar goo shames 96% of the students it gets poured on.” I love this quote! It’s such a poignant reminder of why I love the method. I want my classroom to be a place for all learners – not just the 4%.

  9. Question:

    One day in class we were discussing a video we had to watch from Annenberg: . These are all dream world, ridiculous videos that create unrealistic expectations in foreign language teachers and foreign language teacher preparation programs. But my professor is in love with these videos. We had to watch the video “Daily Routines” and the teacher was using a lot of TPR and gestures but went really fast and never translated the meaning of the phrases that she was acting out. I pointed this out in class and I said that the teacher should have maybe written down the meaning of the phrases to get rid of any confusion about what she was saying. When she’s getting up, I don’t know if she’s saying “I’m getting up” or “I’m waking up” or “I’m standing up”. My professor said that while I made a good point, a better way to establish meaning would be to, while acting out gestures, ask a student in TL “what does ___ mean?” and then continue. This is going to be a hurdle to overcome during my presentation on TPRS. This professor has taken an extreme position staying in target language and she thinks translation is the devil. She isn’t going to like it when I write the meaning of the target structures in English on the board and continuously pause and point at it. How do I explain that translation is necessary during establishing meaning and reading?

  10. As many have pointed out, the best argument is truly experiencing the method. Can you present in a language your professor doesn’t know? Usually students use one of the more commonly taught languages – most often Spanish – and the teacher has at least some acquaintance with the language, so the full force of not knowing is never felt.

    One of the students in the methods course I took taught a TPRS lesson in Tagalog. It was great and very persuasive.

    I would love for a methods teacher to arrange a “teach off”: find a set of languages that no one in the class, including the teacher, speaks. Then demonstrate the method. Each method would have to present different content so there was no transfer but at the same level of acquisition. Perhaps put a number of items into a bag. Demonstrators pull one out, and that is the content for the lesson to be taught. Just thinking.

    BTW, my personal opinion is that both content-based instruction and some sort of “thematic units” will work once learners are at least ACTFL Novice High / Intermediate but not before.

    What would your professor do if the student gave a wrong answer to the question “what does ____ mean?” How would she establish meaning? How much class time is she willing to sacrifice in order to establish the meaning of a single word or structure? (These are legitimate questions that you as a learner need to ask.)

    I suggest you take a look at this post from Bryce Hedstrom on his blog. It may not fully answer your question, but it will give you a student’s perspective.

    1. …how much class time is she willing to sacrifice…?

      She seems out of touch. When you only use “what does ____ mean?” and only do that miming bullshit you waste tons of time. Hasn’t she experienced this enough in her own teaching to know that translation is necessary? Or does she only have asskissing college kids who will act like the Mime Method is a wonderful thing if they can have an A. We teach real kids who don’t buy bullshit. Maybe ask her to join you in your own classroom for a few classes? Show you how it’s done? I’m not kidding. Ten to one she’s busy that day.

      1. She’s been in the University for way too long, teaching people how to be language teachers. It’s been probably decades since she’s taught a real language class. Her intentions are good but I think her knowledge of research is about 10 years behind. She is a big fan of Krashen but I think her knowledge on his research is limited and out-of-date. She finds the outdated videos put out by Annenberg to be “model teaching practices” because that’s what Annenberg says. She thought TPRS still stood for “Total Physical Response Storytelling”, I had to school her on the evolution of the method. Her intentions are good but she’s living in the past in a way. She wants to see the old, traditional audiolingual, grammar based (although she’s a big fan of PACE) methods go out the door but I think that she thinks there’s a middle way, there’s not. CI and TPRS is the future of language teaching, not Content-Based Instruction, Thematic Units, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t think she’s even ever seen TPRS in practice, otherwise she’d be a bigger fan of it. Like I said, her intentions are in the right place but she’s out of touch and has been teaching at the University way too long.

        1. We have a super talented young teacher doing her practicum with us at Abraham Lincoln HS. She has a background in theatre. She is awesome. She took methods classes at Wartburg College, a fine school in Iowa. In those classes Krashen was not mentioned once, she told us. And yet here she encounters an entire department doing all Krashen based teaching. She attended Jason’s workshop. She says her entire EVERYTHING about teaching is now changed. This calls into question what these university people are doing. How long can they hold out against current research? Actually, I don’t care.

    2. Another option is to read them the very short, very funny, very true chapter about Spanish class from the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Blaine sometimes reads this at workshops and it is priceless. From


      This section begins with Melinda describing Spanish class: the Spanish teacher is determined to spend the entire year speaking only Spanish. Melinda thinks this is both useful and amusing – it makes it much easier to ignore her. The teacher uses playacting to try to get the students to understand what she is saying, but they can’t figure her out. She ends the class by putting a sentence on the board: “Me sorprende que estoy tan cansada hoy.” They look the meaning up in the dictionary, but can only translate it: “To exhaust the day to surprise.”


      This teacher seems, at least, to care about her class learning her subject, but they are so unwilling to learn that by the end of the period she writes her frustration in Spanish on the board: “It surprises me that I am so tired today.” For Melinda, this class is just another one where she can find a way to retreat from the world and get away with it.


      with love,

  11. I like that 2nd to last paragraph there, how would she establish meaning if a student wasn’t comprehending? That’s great, I’m going to keep that in mind. Thank you.

    I don’t know any other languages but I did look up how to say “has” ‘wants” “gives” and “looks at” in Irish Gaelic, I’ve never met anybody that speaks that. Did that student speak Tagalog or did they just memorize enough to present that lesson? I’ve been to a conference session where they did a TPRS demo in Finnish. The girl didn’t really know how to speak it, she just looked up enough words to be able to demonstrate the power of TPRS.

    Thanks for the link as well, I’m reading it in another tab and I’m bookmarking it for later as well.

    1. The student was a Tagalog speaker. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to learn enough Klingon or Sindarin (Tolkien’s Elvish) to demonstrate TPRS – you can be sure there are no native speakers in the audience. (I actually know people who speak Irish Gaelic – but then I tend to associate with an eclectic crowd.)

      1. In this particular class, it is primarily Chinese and Arabic speakers. One guy, who is from the US, speaks Cherokee and Spanish and the professor was once (long, long ago) a French teacher and she knows a little bit of Spanish.

        I wish I knew somebody who spoke Irish Gaelic, Google Translate doesn’t have the “listen” option for Irish Gaelic when I type my target structures in.

        1. Dear Chris,

          Since Spanish is your most comfortable zone, consider a lesson using structures that would be totally “foreign” to a French teacher….and with an “advanced” verb conjugation or a totally idiomatic expression that doesn’t exist in French. (slightly evil smile)
          just thinking….

          Si tuviera ganas, lo haría. If (I, he, she, you) felt like it, (I, he, she, you) would do it.

          No lo pudo aguantar. (he couldn’t stand it…not sure if this is similiar in French)

          Lo hizo. (He,she, You) did it.

          The imp in me would suggest that you give everyone else in class the meanings on a small slip of paper and not give it to her.

          Bottom line is, if this professor is determined to always be “right” nothing you do will dissuade her. Focus on your classmates. :o)

          with love,

        2. Go for the Cherokee Chris. That is an endangered language, but you can use the internet/computer to type it, they also have it for texting. Contact The Cherokee Nation and they will help you a bunch with materials if you want. But shoot for Cherokee is my plug.

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