Report from the Field – Brian Barabe

Brian Barabe has been doing this work for almost twenty years and really gets it. It is so nice to hear from him once again in this report from Chandler, Arizona:

Hey Ben –

I have given various TPRS related presentations at the fall conference of AZLA, the Arizona Language Association since 2005.  Two years ago Pat Barrett and I detailed the three basic parts of a TPRS lesson (establishing meaning, telling/asking the story, reading the story or a similar story).  Pat then told a simple story about a boy and a ferocious dragon in Russian, and the attendees were gleeful that they understood the whole thing.  A year before that I demonstrated Movietalk, and the year before that, embedded reading.

But somehow, TPRS has not caught fire in Arizona.  So this year I decided not to pull any punches and named my presentation “Getting to 90% with CI and TPRS.”  I prepared fifteen packets with basics–the three parts, a story outline with three places to go to, and a sample story.  It turned out I needed 33 packets.  The room was full, one person sat in the doorway, and four that I had personally invited could not get in.  And there were three other sessions at the same time plus the featured principal presentation on assessment in a large room.

The room was quiet when I started with this quote from Krashen: Current language acquisition theory claims that we acquire language in only one way, when we understand messages, that is, when we obtain “comprehensible input.”  Thus we acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message.  More precisely, we acquire when we “understand messages containing aspects of language that we are developmentally ready to acquire but have not yet acquired.”  Stephen Krashen, Foreign Language Education the Easy Way.

What I presented was so white-bread and elementary to a TPRSer, and the attendees ate it up.  There were several good questions (how do you keep your energy up?), lots of laughter, and total acceptance of the concepts and methodology.  Everyone in the room agreed that they would urge AZLA to hold a TPRS workshop.  Finally, the room was further electrified by the enthusiasm of about six people who already use TPRS.



7 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Brian Barabe”

  1. Thank you, Brian. This encourages me to continue presenting TPRS at the annual TESOL conference in Paris. I’ll be there November 19th along with Iris and Kristen from the Netherlands who are also presenting on TPRS.

  2. Very interesting how they would ask, “How do you keep your energy up?” While I think we use much less energy as a CI teacher than a traditional teacher, it does appear the other way around. I think they just need to see some of these videos we have, like of Ben, or Tina, or Grant. It becomes effortless when we do it well!

    1. How do you keep your energy up when trying to make grammar exciting? It takes a lot of lipstick to make that grammar pig look good enough to kiss day after day. Applying lipstick takes a lot of energy. I agree, I feel I am expending very little energy these days in class. I talk and emote. That’s about it.

  3. Judy asked:

    …what is tiring about having a friendly conversation with some nice people?…

    This is a major point she makes. So many of us get into the “I am a CI teacher” mindset so I’ve got to “be good at it and that means getting my skills together and getting up there and being all kinds of interesting and going to workshops and yadda yadda it’s all about me.”

    But it’s not. We have so many posts here about just being with the kids, hanging out, building trust.

    Those who work from some kind of agenda/curriculum/pacing guide will be forced into the idea that they are on stage. Those who word free form and let language naturally emerge will never have that “I am on stage so I better be good at my CI delivery today” mentality.

    In the one, where language is forced, chosen from lists because the words are “important” (aren’t all words important, not just the ones in the lists?), it is like they are competing and that fits well into the testing mindset we have going on right now. Such nervous teachers are like pitchers on a baseball team, with all eyes on them and the game in their hand.

    In the other, where language is not forced, well, that is what Judy described above.

    We are making this way to complicated.

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