Report from the Field – Skip Crosby

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78 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Skip Crosby”

  1. Skip – thanks for sharing these thoughts!! it kind of answers my question to you about the email I rec’d from him.
    To this group: I had missed the signup time frame for joining this workshop — I wrote to this guy asking if I could join, even since I missed the first session. I explained that I was well aware of CI, having attended a Blaine Ray workshop, two Maine CI conferences, the iFLT in Breckenridge, being on several CI blogs, including a specific PLC (this one!) and teaching with CI for the past 1.5 years. I explained that I am constantly researching best practices in CI and would really like to join in on this workshop. When I got his reply, I could not help but somehow “read between the lines” that he did not quite “get” what CI was, as I felt that he was dismissing TPRS and all that it stands for, i.e. USING *comprehensible* input throughout the class for ALL things. I read it as though he didn’t think TPRS did that…what do you all think? His reply:

    Dear Mary Beth,

    Thank you for your interest in the sessions on Comprhensible Input that we’re offering in the Portland Public Schools. I would love to add you to the cohort, but need to say no for the reasons that I explain below.

    At our first session, we established norms for group work and feedback protocols for the next two sessions. In addition, we began to develop a supportive community of learners. Regarding the view on CI, we did some key work on the theoretical background for Comprehensible Input that is independent of TPRS. That is, we established comprehensible input as a practice that is applicable across a variety of instructional activities (e.g., giving directions to students in the target language, managing classroom transitions in the TL, guiding a text-based discussion in the TL, and introducing new vocabulary in the TL). All of this is to say that the content and the work of the first session was vital to the 2nd and 3rd.

    We will certainly schedule more in the near future, particularly if there is demand for it. I am open to offering a second spring session: April, May, June or we will certainly have another round in the fall. Perhaps I can send out a survey to get an idea of interest and advertize at FLAME.

  2. Ben, I remember a ride up a mountain in Colorado last summer. Jody, you, and I were talking about the modes and the ACTFL standards and how helpful all of it was to CI as we on the blog strive to practice it. I remember Jody cautioning that the other side would look at the same standards and modes and twist them to fit their own devices – sounds like Skip is describing just that. In November, a group of us at ACTFL went to a round table and were excited to hear Richard Donato talking in favor of CI – I see Skip has referenced his name above. Donato and Judith Liskin-Gasparro are looking for ways to train university FL teacher candidates to be more effective student teachers – not good if their ideas mirror those of Van Patten. Hanging all of their “high leverage” practices on the Danielson Framework is depressing. These folks are on the way to wringing all of the art and joy out of teaching and learning. Thanks for fighting the good fight Skip and Mary Beth. With all of its warts, I am sometimes very glad I work in a private school.

        1. I think the guy can’t spell advertise. I think his refusal of MB’s request is shameful. I think chill is right. They take it and twist it. He treats MB in a way that is insulting. He is completely missing the point about comprehensible input when he says

          …we established comprehensible input as a practice that is applicable across a variety of instructional activities (e.g., giving directions to students in the target language, managing classroom transitions in the TL, guiding a text-based discussion in the TL, and introducing new vocabulary in the TL)….

          This is hubristic stupidity. Giving directions to students in the TL, managing instructional transitions, text based discussions being guided in the TL, all are impossible because students wouldn’t understand them without most of class being spent on making those things, which are things with no instructional value in terms of real language gains.

          This bullshit targets four percenters. This is really messed up. I want this guy’s email address but don’t send it to me. Last month I wrote eight articles attacking Helena Curtain based on something Diane N. said. Eight. I won’t publish them, just wanted to get it off my chest. Who are these people? What do they want?

          1. Ben you missed the line before when he says “we did some key work on the theoretical background for Comprehensible Input that is independent of TPRS. ” What the HECK does this mean? What is his point?

          2. hahaha – you were there Skip – what does it mean? 🙂 what was the key work on the theoretical background of CI he did with you? lol

          3. No, the “theoretical background of CI” I get, that was in the article.

            What I don’t understand is why or how it is “independent of TPRS”

          4. yeah, THAT was what I was asking in the email to you– glad I’m not going crazy, that you saw it as ‘weird’ too!

          5. Speculation here.

            -TPRS is associated primarily with one person (Blaine Ray)
            -TPRS has baggage (stemming both from some of Blaine’s actions and from people’s perceptions and misperceptions of what TPRS is)
            -TPRS has vehement opposition in certain academic circles
            -TPR Storytelling is a registered trademark of Blaine Ray Workshops Inc.
            -“Comprehensible Input” is a broader term than TPRS

            -To associate oneself with TPRS is, in those circles, academic suicide
            -Emphasizing Comprehensible Input “apart from TPRS” is a way to get on the bandwagon without suffering the stigma; sure it’s a sophistry, but people are willing to look the other way for it
            -Employing TPR Storytelling as part of a paid presentation without authorization from Blaine Ray Workshops Inc. opens people up to potential lawsuit for trademark infringement.*

            So, I can see why they would want to do the disclaimer: it provides the veneer to prevent a lawsuit; it distances them from a controversial term; it allows them to re-package a lot of the same materials and call them their own.**

            *I don’t know Blaine personally, but from what I have read of his writings and what I have heard about him, I think he would consider a lawsuit only if what the people were presenting was something other than TPR Storytelling but calling it by that name.

            **Blaine has said that he merely re-packaged things that have been around for a long time. At least, however, he gives credit to those who came before. Many presenters do not; if pressed they will admit that their presentations are derivative, but if possible they will allow (and even encourage) participants to believe that “this is revolutionary stuff” that originated with them without saying it outright (and therefore being able to sidestep charges of falsehood).

            Just my thoughts on the issue.

          6. …I think he would consider a lawsuit only if what the people were presenting was something other than TPR Storytelling but calling it by that name….

            This is a true statement.

          7. You’re 100% correct. I’ve been given permission by Blaine to use the term for sessions, workshops, etc. He told me that he only is concerned with people misrepresenting TPRS.

            One more stigma attached to TPRS: -all it is is stories about elephants and students don’t learn anything. They only learn how to talk about elephants climbing up trees. (I was told this before)

          8. The fact that this is so serious is the only thing that is keeping me from giggling about the ludicrousness of it. WE ….(as if the group had anything to do with it.)….did some KEY (yet it is blatantly unclear) work…on the THEORETICAL…which he may be using as “based on theory”, but means “not based on reality”, that is independent of TPRS ( of which he knows very little, other wise someone in Maine would have heard from him.)

            As for advertising…you’re right Ben, he may not be making money…but he is doing this for some reason, and it IS NOT altruism. If it were, mb would be there. He has an agenda (we ALL have an agenda) and he hasn’t been forthcoming with his agenda. WHY is he doing these? What is he offering? What is he collecting in return?

            Cynical? no. Realistic. We all have reasons for what we do. Part of what is setting off our antenae is that we do not know what his goals and purposes are. If we knew, we could follow our disconnect back to his goals and Skip would know exactly what questions to ask. But this presenter has not been clear, from the very beginning, about what he wants (for himself and his participants) from this “series” of workshops.

            with love,

          9. Which explains the look on Annemarie’s face skip describes. Annemarie is not one of those “out there” types. She is serious about applying high octane research to what she does in the classroom. When skip described her discomfort, that told me more than anything. Now, the line that skip honed in on:

            …we did some key work on the theoretical background for Comprehensible Input that is independent of TPRS….

            is also extremely revealing. I know that Krashen has precursors (see this link –

            but that is one squirrely sentence. It really does mean nothing. It is an attempt to wrestle the actual research into looking like something coming from him (“we did some key work” my ass), and it dissembles the real research pattern of the last 30 years. Can anyone say plagiarism. Also doing this is Helena Curtain. And Mimi Met.

            Both Curtain and Met have known but did not appreciate CI for decades. Met told me that it was just another tool in the toolbox. Curtain laid that bullshit that Diane ferreted out in the conference she attended in December.

            Now that CI is fashionable and fully aligned with everything ACTFL is saying, suddenly this dude and Helena and Mimi start crowing all over about it. And why not fail to credit Krashen and instead imply that the notion of comprehension based instruction and comprehensible input came, maybe, peut-etre, from THEM. (Dr. Evil finger to mouth move here).

            It’s not enough that Dr. Krashen has been vigorously discredited all these years, now he is failing to be credited for his findings by people who suddenly find them of value.

          10. the link????

            Ben, it was SOOOOOOOOO cool….. The instructor had us work in groups to determine a situation in which we could use the target language to give instructions to the class….

            Annemarie started… She shared that the next day in class she was going to have students draw their favorite animal (pet?). She said she would actually circle those instructions… She said she saw Jason Fritze teach that you could actually circle instructions. She said that She would say “clase, dibuja (draw) your favorite animal….Class, are you going to draw or eat your favorite animal? Are you going to draw your favorite animal or your favorite food? and on and on she went…. (I am paraphrasing here and her actual words may have been different)….

            I was impressed by how “natural” this came to her….

          11. skip I just now put the link in. It basically talks about how Krashen’s terms already existed in 1963, 20 years before they became identified with him. He did the research but the ideas were presented in 1963 in a NE Conference publication the key force behind which was Simon Belasco. I found it by accident.

          12. Does anyone wish to speculate on the motives? Honestly, I have no ideas? I actually believe him when he says that he really wants to create a community discussion on this CI topic…
            I really can’t speculate on what the motives might be?

            I also cannot understand the resistance to the TPRS method when Krashen himself said just recently on the more list that TPRS comes the closest to honoring how people acquire second languages…..

          13. More speculation.

            We seldom do anything out of a single pure motive. For example, I am writing and publishing materials for more than one reason:
            – I wrote the first book because I felt a need
            – I enjoy writing
            – I want to render a service to other teachers and to students
            – I would like to make some money
            – It’s nice to see my name on a book that people use
            – I enjoy the positive comments
            To name just a few.

            I imagine it is the same with these workshops. No doubt one part of the motivation is a genuine desire to create a community discussion on CI – as the presenter understands CI. Other possible motives include: a desire for recognition as an expert, having an influence on the future of world language instruction (and being recognized for it), making money. There is nothing wrong with any of those motives; however, some things will stand in the way of success:
            – Insisting on recognition to the detriment of good teacher training*
            – So emphasizing the profit motive that this simply becomes a business**
            – Not understanding what CI truly is***

            *In his sermon today, my pastor reminded us that there is no limit to what a person can accomplish if he doesn’t care who gets the credit. That flies in the face of most people’s attitude.

            **We see this often in businesses. Someone starts a business because he or she has a passion for something (building cars, building computers, cleaning carpets). The next generation doesn’t have the passion; the business is simply a means of acquiring money, so everything changes to accommodate that new prime directive. Even people who have a desire to accomplish good can be diverted when they see how well they are doing. (As Mitchener wrote in Hawaii: “The missionaries came to do good, and they did very well indeed.”) This, I think is where the larger danger in education lies. The textbook companies have abandoned their passion to educate in favor of a commitment to the bottom line, no matter what lip service they pay to education. Okay, I’ll stop here.

            ***This, I think, is where skip and mb see the main disconnect. Their observations reveal that the presenter does not truly understand the nature of “comprehensible”. The question “Comprehensible to whom?” needs to be asked. Far too many teachers (at times some of us included) are satisfied with “Well, it was comprehensible to me.”

            Once again, just some thoughts on my part.

          14. The question “Comprehensible to whom?” needs to be asked.

            Wow Robert, again your insightful thoughts are sooo RIGHT ON.
            That is why I LOVED that Mark Knowles made that distinction between comprehensible input and comprehended input. The former is just an assumption whereas the second is a fact. If it’s comprehended, then it will be acquired eventually but we can only speculate on whom it is comprehensible to b/c we are never 100% sure it is comprehensible.

          15. It’s all about hijacking the CI movement. It’s about fitting CI (which is “cool” now) and making it fit into their mold. Just like how libertarianism is “in” and you have mainline republicans trying to hijack the libertarian movement by labelling people like Paul Ryan as “libertarian” (bullshit). These people are trying to get new, young teachers to join their ‘eclectic’, output-drive teaching under the guise of CI.

          16. could we start using the term “comprehended input”? I LOVE it!

            Also, could you remind me who Mark Knowles is?

          17. This thread started by skip is real and not to be disregarded as just another thread. This is new information we are processing with this Troyen guy. The way Robert and Chris have characterized this is exactly true and I am in amazement that trying to rebrand TPRS and CI by people who don’t really get it hasn’t happened before.

            Well, it has with Helena Curtain, but I take from this example that we have now entered into a time when you better watch out whom you talk to. Here skip and Annemarie attend a conference and know for a FACT that the presenter has a fair amount of hot air in him. NOT GOOD! It goes to the depths of the national argument.

            We could discuss all day why intelligent degreed people with real brains that really work don’t get CI, but I suspect it has to do with intellectual overide. So much of what we do is intuitive. The ivory tower intellectuals are heart blind to that intuitive quality, and they freak bc they can’t really grasp the vast panorama Krashen brings, and so they start to present like Troyen at weekend conferences, and it just gets worse. What Chris said here:

            …it’s all about hijacking the CI movement. It’s about fitting CI (which is “cool” now) and making it fit into their mold….

            is the truth. And the Michener image from Robert. CI is cool now. Look out. Here come the rats. All the more important to ask for bios from new people. Or even make them apply to us to be a part of the group. I could do that. I am NOT into having a bunch of phonies like Troyen jump into what we have here. Somehow we need more security here to be able to continue to talk openly amongst ourselves. Those who ignore or forget what Chris wrote above may not want to do that. That is the nail on the head right there. And even worse, 90% (at least) of the teachers “doing CI” right now aren’t doing CI at all. Why? They don’t get the above point about comprehended input. Dang, bro, this is getting interesting.

            And the creator of that term, skip, Mark Knowles, is Director of the Anderson Language and Technology Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    1. I think I know what the key issue here is: Every time they say “Comprehensible Input” they really mean “immersion”. It must be…. The Chinese lesson was 100% uncomprehensible to me….

      I do not think I will be able to sit through the next session without defining CI for him/the group….

      But what possible beef could he have with the method of TPRS? I just don’t get it….

      1. TPRS did not come from academics at a university nor from a researcher. It came from a plain, ole school teacher who started doing because it worked and so he could have time to play golf after school. Just doesn’t resonate with their ilk. Blaine never uses big words when he can use small, comprehensible ones. 🙂

      2. His beef is that he doesn’t want you to see that he doesn’t get CI. I’m not kidding, Dale Crum and I about ten years ago both saw in Mimi Met’s EYES as soon as the term came up in a workshop that she doesn’t really get it. Her mind doesn’t get it. I know that is a strong charge but it is what Dale and I think. As soon as the term came up she bailed and asked five of us TPRS teachers to stand in a row in front of over 150 people and define it. She listened to us as we one by one gave our definitions and then moved quickly to….”Lunch, everybody!” So this guy knows that the term is the new replacement for TPRS, he sees an opening to promote his own (faulty) vision of what CI is, bc he doesn’t get it, and when you and Annemarie if she goes to the next session ‘call’ him on it, he will have to get snarky about the term TPRS and skip I know that you are much too kind to jump his ass in front of his audience but that is what he needs. I wrote those articles on Curtain and didn’t publish them bc I could just hear Laurie whispering in my ear to not go full battle mode on Helena and she is right. But Helena has gone into full battle mode on Carol Gaab so there you go. These academics are wanting to take the CI train up into their dismal little ivory worlds along with Jeremy in the Yellow Submarine. It’s a power grab. We all need to let this shit go and think about having a cup of tea by the fire tonite and asking for the strength we need to blast through another week but one in the middle of February. Talking about dudes like this weakens us. Let’s not let that happen. Our kids need for us to be cheerful tomorrow. Many of them don’t see too much cheerful in their lives anymore.

      3. Skip wrote:
        Every time they say “Comprehensible Input” they really mean “immersion”. It must be…. The Chinese lesson was 100% uncomprehensible to me….

        Some day someone needs to stand up in one of these workshops and say that. We need to tell the Emperor that he has no clothes. I volunteer to be that person the next time I’m in an Incomprehensible Input workshop.

      4. I wonder if there might be a silver lining? There are about 12 people attending the conference. They seem very open to “CI”… They seem to accept the “fact” that L2 should be used 90% of the time…. This is something, is it not?

        If I can invite them to our fall conference and if I can invite them to our “coaching sessions” perhaps they can come to understand “comprehended input”….

        I have decided one thing:

        I am going to define “comprehended input” at the last session. I am going to talk about being 100% comprehensible, barometer students, how L2 acquisition is an “unconscious” process, etc….

        I have almost decided another:

        That I am going to take Mr. Troyan up on his offer and do a short lesson. i wonder what the group would think about this? I also might seek some advice in terms of a very effective lesson that would make if VERY clear what “comprehended Input” is….


        1. Hi Skip,

          I think this sounds like great stuff to bring out there. It may show the same kind of thing that Ben (wasn’t it Ben?) talks about at another conference, where Mimi Met asked TPRS teachers to define CI (or something similar). It may embarrass the professor. It’s challenging to present that information and yet do it in a way that still allows you to speak – do you know what I mean? Giving potentially “offensive” info (such as “you don’t get what CI is”) in such a way that he’ll want to hear everything you have to share, and the others in the conference will hear it.

          I pray for your success, Skip! The real deal with CI is so powerful. I thought I was happy with it before this point. Now that I can hear the wonderful results (they’re starting to speak spontaneously in Grade 6!!), I am sold, sold, sold. I am starting to talk at school… not to my department so much as other teachers wanting to hear how it works.

          1. I wonder how much the Trojan actually knows about acquisition. If you feel so inclined, skip, ask him how to teach vocabulary. Many people who “use” – I say that charitably – comprehension based methods think that it’s about filling up a truck with words.

            But they don’t seem to grasp that the words cannot be actually acquired (they can be memorized for a test but that is far from being acquired) without tons and tons of repetitions and without strong focus. And without the child being interested in them. And without the child having comprehended them.

            (I am really starting to see Mark and Sabrina and skip’s point about comprehended vs. comprehensible input on a deeper level. I will email Krashen about that tonite. I think it is what he really meant!

            We know that in ELA instruction and in too many “CI” classes what they do is pile up the truck full of stuff and naturally most of it spills out on the road. What we do with CI, on the other hand, is to put a few things in the truck and then it multiplies and when the truck is full we get another truck and fill it up and then another and so on.

          2. It is so exciting to me to be part of this revolution so early in my career (middle of my second year). I’m amazed to find out that there are people actually teaching languages this way (using CI). I was pretty sure I was going to quit after this year until I found this website and PLC a few days ago and realized for the first time that there is a way to teach a language that really works (and not just another “creative”way to do worksheets, activities, and projects).

            The thought of filling up the truck of my students’ minds full of stuff and watching it spill out on the road (to losely borrow Ben’s words) is completely depressing to me. I will do everything I can to become a language teacher that actually honors -in my practice, not just in my head- the fact that every kid in my room can learn the language -and learn it well. I can’t believe all the time I spent making and searching for worksheets and “good” lessons last year and the first half of this year. And I really believed that if I just persevered over the years, I would get this teaching thing down pat and have really good lessons. It was NEVER going to work!

          3. I think after school on Monday I’m going to round up all the worksheets in my room and all the textbooks, load them in my car, and find a field somewhere to make a bonfire to burn them in -and also permanently delete every worksheet I have on my computer!

          4. I am not fully sure I understand completely, but I would never put him or anyone on the spot. I will have to think a lot about how exactly I can go about clarifying “comprehended input.”

            My primary goal would be to build a bridge… to graciously suggest the difference between how “we” view CI and how, apparently, they are…

            I think it might be fair to say that for me the Chinese demo was not “comprehended” by me….and discuss in what way, in his view, the lesson was comprehensible….

        2. Yeah,

          YOU GO SKIP. I m so happy you ‘re with me on this subtle terminology nuance b/c I have been bringing this up for a while ( the subtle difference between comprehended and comprehensible input brought on by Mark Knowles a while ago and noone picked up on that!). Until you did, yeah!

        3. I think that both of these ideas are wonderful Skip. CI/TPRS teachers may get frustrated with misrepresentations of CI, but we want to understand where others are coming from. We are a sharing, caring group of teachers and your welcoming them to the Maine conference, and sharing what you do is a wonderful way to put “our” CI out there.

          with love,

      5. I like the concept of comprehended input.

        I wanted to know when he was teaching his Chinese lesson when the group got to stand up and say “What?”. Too often in these workshops everyone goes along with the “expected behavior” and never call it for what it is-uncomprehensible!

        As attendees in conferences it is OUR resposibility as adult learners to call it.
        If we don’t, the rest of the adult learners develop a poor image of the concept being spoken about or think they themselves are not good enough to do the concept since they don’t understand what was being taught.

        Thank goodness all of you let me keep asking questions.

        1. Also, isn’t one part of CI (even this version of “CI”) that the teacher is to be frequently assessing student comprehension? Did that conference even address that in some way?

        2. I will, I promise Kate! First, however, I wanted to sit and watch, observe and understand. I felt like I should give some benefit of the doubt. Before the close of the next session I will ask some questions and relate how, for me, the Chinese demo was largely not comprehended…. and ask him to defend its comprehensibility….

          1. AWESOME Skip! 🙂
            and…you have such a NICE, KIND way about you that it won’t come across as “snarky” — I, on the other hand, would come across “snarky”! that’s one of the reasons why I wouldn’t want to do it!

          2. OT: Hi Marybeth, did you get my e-mail? Can you give me a heads-up about your visit next week? I really hope it works out!!!!

  3. “This is hubristic stupidity. Giving directions to students in the TL, managing instructional transitions, text based discussions being guided in the TL, all are impossible because students wouldn’t understand them without most of class being spent on making those things comprehensible.”
    #1. Prior to ‘finding’ TPRS/CI and its practitioners, and in hindsight, it was my experience that there were a LOT of hubristic WL teachers! 🙂
    #2. I have NO problem with giving directions to students in TL and managing transitions (good way to teach commands); nor do I have a problem with text-based discussions – isn’t that what we do with the novels/movies? BUT…..’we’ scaffold them; ‘we’ are realistic about our time constraints given to us by our schedules with the kids.
    #3. as Skip pointed out: he advocates no English? Hogwash!!! I am NOT about to stand up there and waste time doing charades!!! sure, I do TPR, but the gestures are QUICK and the kids get them right away!!! the kids also get bored with the ‘charade’ game – except the 4-percenters!!! the others do not want to be there at all anyway, so if they can’t figure it out immediately, then they are checked out.
    #4. The way he dismissed me from joining the session, I can understand, -in a way. It IS only 3 sessions, and they had already formed a “community.” However, to premise it on the notion that he “established norms for CI” without honoring the extensive research I have already done, yes, that IS quite bombastic.

    I will wait and see what the final ‘take’ on this is from Skip and Annemarie. Maybe I won’t attend; but maybe I will, just to clarify what CI REALLY is! 🙂

  4. This is an area of inquiry for you skip, and you too Annemarie, if you even go, during the next two sessions. Step up. Too bad mb won’t be there bc she would be there with bells on, challenging. You could hammer away at scaffolding. What does it mean? How does it lead to fluency? Of course that would lead to comprehensibility, and they would have some ‘splainin’ to do. I would like to hear how they respond to any questions about full comprehension by the students. I don’t think they get that piece*. You don’t use any words that they don’t know except the new ones you are targeting that day. That’s what this entire method is all about – comprehension. It’s why the word ‘comprehension’ now drives what we do and not the word ‘stories’ (TCI vs. TPRS). Blaine’s use of the term TPRS got themselves painted into a corner, and fools like this, seeing the rest of the room unpainted, rushed in to claim the term comprehensible and start painting. But they don’t get it and that is skip’s original point. They have shitty paint. They are four percenters giving a workshop to fourpercenters who teach fourpercenters. They need to teach some of our classes in lieu of skip just whoppin’ ’em up side the head.

    *I think that there are certain teachers, esp. at the college level, who perversely enjoy keeping their students just a little bit confused. They and their beloved fourpercneters then get to the be the experts, and screw the others. Isn’t that pretty much a leitmotif in our current society anyway?


  5. Ben = you give me WAAAAY too much credit! I am a chicken! I still feel too new to this to be too confrontational. BUT…I *AM* committed – just as much as all of you – to knowing that TCI just makes SENSE!
    (but, thank you for your vote of confidence! 🙂 )

  6. Along the lines of the importance of both using the target language AND making everything comprehensible all the time…

    I just started a certification program & had the first weekend seminar for it. (I’m at a private school so didn’t need cert before I teaching.) While grouped with 4 Spanish teachers-to-be, we shared a lesson plan and discussed. Three planned grammar lessons taught much in English. One planned something like the above methodology, which if for an advanced class, might have worked, but she felt that just letting them not understand would be alright. (“Maybe one word out of 10 today, but 2 out of 10 the next”). There was discussion about using English vs. target and the issue of comprehensibility, with my saying it is possible to teach 90% or so in the target language AND make sure students can understand. I shared a lesson plan I did with 4th graders last week, referring to CI and TPRS as methods similar to what I was doing, which accomplished these goals and during which the kids had a great time. They started asking about methodology and writing down terms to look up later. I hope they will. Though Skip’s experiences may mean there will be confusion online if they search these terms!

  7. I’m a bit late on this discussion, but I was thinking about a couple things.

    -I agree with MB about giving instructions, managing transitions, etc in class. We do those all the time, and I know that I couldn’t ever do them comprehensibly WITHOUT having done TPRS before. Or some form of TCI that very much resembles TPRS.

    -I’m curious how his “introduction of vocabulary” can be any different that the multiple, perhaps infinite, ways to execute Step 1 of TPRS. As long as you are establishing meaning, whether it be through gestures or charading or just writing the word on the board with L1, that is not separate from TPRS (except the fact that the word MUST be transparent by the students before proceeding to Step 2 or 3). Maybe that’s the difference and point, as Ben pointed out… to leave a few of the rabble in the dust before moving on.

    – Robert, I think you nailed it about the motives of the textbook companies. As long as they are shareholder-owned corporations, they have a legal obligation to ALWAYS PROFIT TO THE MAX. Doing everything possible (i.e. championing a one-size-fits-all grammatically-sequenced curriculum) to keep teachers/students dependent on their shitty products is part of that deal.

    -Something I learned from Bill McKibben recently… in order for a movement to succeed in its mission, it must recognize its enemy (huh, I guess I heard that from Zack de la Rocha years ago too!). The more we have these discussions about the denying and watering down of Krashen’s ideas by university elites and corporate textbook peddlers, the more I’m beginning to understand who the enemy of ‘effective language acquisition for all’ really is.

  8. -I’m curious how his “introduction of vocabulary” can be any different that the multiple, perhaps infinite, ways to execute Step 1 of TPRS.

    I saw two demos… The teacher teaching young children about the rain forest had a huge mural of a rain forest and she pointed to the vocab…. She also used gestures, varied her voice etc.

    The Chinese demo I saw used pictures of the animals she was teaching… It was interesting that the objective of the lesson written on a piece of paper that she taped to the board. The pictures of the animals were taped on the board as well.

    Neither lesson was transparent. Annemarie and I could not help but think of Linda Li’s lessons where everything was transparent… How she pointed and paused and did everything to make everything “comprehended.”

    1. So then, it’s “independent of TPRS” in that it is not tranparent (nor comprehended in your case?). Hmmm, doesn’t sound like a workshop worth taking anyways MB. (But props to Skip and Annemarie for attending, challenging, and reporting back!)

  9. Hey – I saw on one of my state’s list serves that this guy is doing an ACTFL 3-part webinar on Integrated Performance Assessments with a professor from Pittsburgh. I tried to read up about her, but all her stuff is in French. her name is Bonnie Adair Hauck. Anybody know HER? This ACTFL webinar started on Jan. 30, so it has 2 more sessions — I won’t even ASK if I can join late! 🙂 lol

      1. So then thats not ci is it? I truly feel so sorry for our students….. they cannot get a quality education these days bc someone is always jumping on the bandwagon tauting some cockamamey new way of doing things that dovetails with the reform du jour instead of just sticking to something that is tried and true and makes sense…..treat the kids with love and respect teach them the way their brains learn and let them be KIDS and have fun with creativity

        1. Remember how we were talking about what motivates “him”/’us”/people?

          mb mentions mine above: My passion is to save our students from having to “learn” languages and allow them to experience the joy of acquiring them. That’s it. I want to get as many teachers as possible to become as skilled as they possibly can in TCI and to “treat kids with love and respect and teach them the way their brains learn and let them be kids and have fun with creativity.”
          That’s what motivates me!

        2. mb said:

          …treat the kids with love and respect teach them the way their brains learn and let them be KIDS and have fun with creativity….

          I wonder if some of the smarter-than-thou language teachers out there, if their students were their own children, would judge them and find them wanting because they can’t conjugate a verb or don’t want to bother with making a map of some country for some dumb ass project.

        1. A. I just got invited to tell my language Master what by area of weakness was so that she could support me this summer in our intensive. Thanks for reminding me Ben. I need to hear more and speak less. I need to read more which will take writing something as there is little interesting to read in my TL.


  10. Dan Rather special on Feb. 12 about Seattle high school boycotting a standardized test. “Scrap the Map” its called. The test is called the “MAP” = Measuring Academic Progress”.

  11. Hello everyone,

    I received a follow up e-mail from the presenter of our “Standards Based Instruction and Assessment” workshop on the questions that arose about CI. Though I am not in agreement with all they think, teach and say, I cannot question the fact that all of these people are hard working, well meaning and that they really care a lot about their teaching. They give of their time and they are sincerely looking for ways to get better…

    Here is the response. I would welcome any thoughts about what I might say during the final CI meeting on 3/28.

    Bonjour tout le monde,

    Please find attached our work from last Saturday’s workshop. The different perspective (while using the same terminology) is striking.

    Also, following our workshop I had coffee with Frank Troyan, who has been presenting a comprehensible input workshop series in Portland. I wanted to get his take on some of the excellent questions raised at the workshop. His responses were:

    1. The 90% that was mentioned is for the input that the teacher provides – not the total class time. So when the teacher is providing input, ACTFL recommends that 90% of it be in the target language. Some people at the workshop were concerned about the interpersonal activities not being truly “comprehensible”.
    2. Frank agreed that especially at the novice level, there will necessarily be more interpretive and presentational tasks than interpersonal ones, and some of those will be very simple (“name”, “list”, etc.). He also agreed that there is a logical progression of some of these skills. Expectations have to be realistic given the level of our students.

    Also of interest is that he was talking about explicitly teaching writing skills vocabulary, just like we need to explicitly teach conversation sustaining vocabulary. So in addition to teaching things like, “Tell me more” which sustain a conversation, we need to teach things like, “It is evident from these arguments that …”.

    We both agreed that there is a deplorable lack of resources available for teachers, and that some sort of collaborative would be extremely useful. I have e-mailed Don Reutershan about this idea and am cc’ing him on this e-mail. I’ll keep you all posted.

    Finally, Frank recommended a book that might be useful to K-8 teachers: “Languages and Children”, by Curtain and Dahlberg.

    Please feel free to keep in touch with questions, comments, etc. I really enjoyed meeting and/or reconnecting with you all at the workshop, and remain convinced that language teachers are the BEST!

    Enjoy the rest of vacation,

    1. Hi Skip,

      Thanks for the update.

      My first reaction was that Frank had misread or misunderstood the ACTFL position statement, so I checked to be sure. After all, in our zeal for speaking the target language a la Krashen, we could have erred. Here’s the key sentence from the position statement:

      ACTFL therefore recommends that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom. [Emphasis mine]

      I think that pretty clearly includes students in shooting for 90% plus. Of course, it also says “as exclusively as possible”, so I know that beginning students cannot possibly achieve that goal – but that doesn’t excuse them from trying because only when they try will they eventually get there.

      The statement also includes outside of class encounters. Consistently, the students who greet me out on campus in German do better in class than the ones who greet me in English (even though everyone calls me “Herr Harrell”). That greeting may be all they can do, but eventually it begins to grow into “Wie geht’s?” (How’s it going?) and other comments.

      The URL for the position statement is

      Second, I see a distinction between Michelle’s two skills vocabulary examples. In the first example, oral, she is providing vocabulary to sustain Interpersonal Communication. Yes, we do need to teach students strategies, both verbal and non-verbal, for sustaining a conversation. (I often use tennis or ping pong as an example. To keep the game going, you have to return the ball to the other player. To keep the conversation going, you have to return the “conversation ball” to the other person.)

      The second example she gives is for Presentational Communication. If it were Interpersonal Communication, the same “verbal” strategies would work in written for that work in oral form. I’m sorry, but in my opinion a phrase like “it is evident from these arguments that . . .” is not appropriate to a novice level whereas “Wie, bitte?” (How’s that?), “Was bedeutet das?” (What does that mean?), and other Interpersonal Communication strategy phrases are.

      Which brings us to the idea that was touched on of what to teach at what level. Michelle wrote, He also agreed that there is a logical progression of some of these skills. Expectations have to be realistic given the level of our students. Here’s where I see the Trojan Horse of elitism, and it’s an unconscious elitism. In all of their other classes, the emphasis is on learning academic vocabulary. At the recent Constructing Meaning training I attended, the presenters said at the very beginning that the method was developed to teach academic vocabulary because that is what students lack to be prepared for college.

      While I agree with that statement, the confusion, the Trojan Horse if you will, is trying to apply that principle to beginning language acquisition. The research and experts agree that BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) must precede CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). Would we teach “academic vocabulary” to a two-year old? Linguistically, our level 1 students at the beginning of the year aren’t even at the level of a two-year old. Would we teach “academic vocabulary” to a six-year old? A six-year old has had far more time hearing his native language than a fourth-year student. We push our students to acquire faster, and the nature of the beast (academia) requires us to do some of this in levels three and four, but I still maintain that the emphasis is falsely placed.
      We need to go back to pre-suppositions.

      Question 1: Why do we teach what we teach?

      A. To meet A-G and/or high school graduation requirements? (A-G are California’s University system entrance requirements)
      B. To prepare for academic university classes?
      C. To communicate?

      Unfortunately, most students in the majority of language classes will answer A. They don’t really care about communicating in another language; they just figure they can go anywhere in the world and speak English; they haven’t learned to appreciate and care for people beyond their immediate self-centered universe. [That’s not a put-down, just an assessment of most of the students I see. Their world is far too small.] The ones who care about university will add B to their answer. In spite of what I just wrote, I believe that everyone wants to answer C at some level, even if it is not something of which they are aware.

      Now here is where things get interesting. If I teach to A and B, I can teach a traditional, grammar-driven curriculum and satisfy most students and parents, but I will accomplish C with only the rarest of individuals (probably a small percentage of the four percenters). If I teach for C, then I still accomplish A and can include B at the upper levels of my instruction. In other words, by teaching with Comprehensible/Comprehended Input, I can accomplish all of the goals for all students who are interested, something I cannot accomplish in a grammar-driven curriculum.

      An implication for numbers in a program that I see is this: Students who take a language solely to fulfill a requirement (graduation or college entrance) will still drop out of the program when they have done this. That’s usually at the end of level 2. Traditional programs restrict the upper levels to students who want to get the academic preparation for college classes – about four percent of the student population. TCI/TPRS programs still accomplish that but now add a pathway for students who just want to use the language to communicate. That means upper levels are meaningful for more students. No wonder they grow under a TCI program.

      As long as the US continues to begin language instruction in high school, I think the best approach would be to split classes at level four. Have a level four that is geared to people who just want to communicate and AP for the academics. Some places do this for their “major” language (usually Spanish), but the level four is often just a watered-down version of AP and not a true comprehension-based program. For the less commonly taught languages (German, French, Latin, etc.) the reality is that we will always have combined classes – and often levels 3, 4 and AP together. While I recognize the advantages to be had from mixed-level classes, those advantages are primarily in terms of language acquisition rather than “academic preparation”. We cannot be all things to all people in this case, so we have to choose our focus. I go with communication but try to bring in academics at the upper levels; it works but is not, in my opinion, the best solution.

      OK, enough rambling. I’m going to go enjoy my Saturday.

    2. Wait a minute. This statement:

      …the 90% that was mentioned is for the input that the teacher provides – not the total class time. So when the teacher is providing input, ACTFL recommends that 90% of it be in the target language….

      Oh really? So THAT is the intent of the 90% Use Statement. Hmmm. Well, thanks Frank!

    3. Also this by Frank:

      …expectations have to be realistic given the level of our students….

      Yes. I know that I myself had to temper my own expectations with my own children. I was disappointed but tempered my expectations that my two year old could not discuss the term phenomenological with me. But I eventually accepted it. I guess I’ll have to do the same with my own students and who cares about what Krashen says, right?

    4. I disagree with everything you report Frank having said, skip. This one really riles me:

      …in addition to teaching things like, “Tell me more” which sustain a conversation, we need to teach things like, “It is evident from these arguments that …”….

      That’s just silly. So I am supposed to take my urban kids who can barely write into this kind of output while at the same time teaching input, thus muddling the natural order of acquisition, and all because Frank says so?

    5. Who’s Michelle? There is confusion here. Who spoke with whom?

      I would like to bluntly add since this space is private that everything Frank is reported to have said makes me think he is another one of the Curtain/Met school of “Water-it-All-Down-But-Still-Call-it-CI” that I tried to describe in those What is CI? posts (1 and 3). His answers as they are reported above have no ring to them, no true feel, but seem muddled. What do you think skip? Is what he said something that you can get your New England group excited about?

      1. Michelle was the presenter at our State Standards workshop. She is a working teacher (18 teacher-leaders were trained by Paul Sandrock last summer to go around the state this year and present the “new” State standards). She is also in Skip’s Comprehensible Input workshop being given by this guy Frank.
        Skip, Dennis Gallagher (one of our NE group members) and I brought up some questions at the Standards workshop – Michelle then had coffee with Frank and asked him some of the questions. So….at least the guy “has an answer” for everything, it seems! 🙂

  12. Robert – this was BEAUTIFUL! Very well-said! thank you. (We are having a vertical teaming meeting next week with the Middle School, their Asst. Principal and our Principal!!! should be interesting!!!

    1. I have about eight unpublished articles about her. Don’t get me going. I won’t publish them because they are full of fire. But I got it off my chest. If someone on the site were to copy and paste any of that and send it out to Curtain, it wouldn’t be pretty. I don’t like that possibility.

      1. I decided not to post the 3 CI articles on the FLAME list serve.

        I really would like, however, to post an article on CI and what it is and what it isn’t…. (ci VS CI-if I have it correct) I know you recommended this as a point of research…. are you thinking of writing on that at any point?

          1. Hey Skip,

            I just typed this up for my own reasons. Might it suit your needs?


            Dear District Person,

            The longer I teach, the more convinced I become that to go fast, we must go slow. Giving people time to process, reflect on, and discuss these ideas is the right direction to go in. All future work hinges on reaching a shared understanding of the goals we adopt for our world language program.

            Recently you mentioned that you rely on us to help you with specific content area details. I would like to clarify something that I see as a critical distinction that I strive to make with my colleagues. That is the difference between comprehensible input (lower case) and Teaching with Comprehensible Input (TCI).

            Since ACTFL produced it’s 90% position statement, people who want to make money are eager to jump on board with c.i. (again, lowercase) to sell their products. But TCI has nothing for sale. It is a moniker that has been defined in the profession and operates under distinct precepts. Where TPRS is a method for providing TCI, TCI is an approach more than a method, and therefore evades succinct definition. But there are core precepts that distinguish it as culturally responsive, equitable and effective:

            *TCI strives for 100% comprehension by all students all the time.
            *TCI respects (and abides by) how the brain acquires and makes meaning of language.
            *With TCI, we don’t force output.
            *TCI strives for input so compelling students forget it’s in the target language
            *TCI uses natural language – textbooks shelter grammar and flood vocabulary. TCI shelters vocabulary and uses natural speech patterns at all levels.
            *TCI emphasizes mastery learning

            Of these, “No forced output” and “Using Natural Language” will be the hardest for some members of our cohort. These ideas in particular are, in many ways, diametrically opposed to what textbook companies sell. But ironically, they are key ingredients to _everyone_ accessing the language successfully. I think we will see the strongest reaction to these ideas, which, if true, will tell us that these ideas will need the longest implementation time and most persistent discussion.

            Please know that I am not requesting any change in the agenda or special treatment. I very much liked how you decided to frame the discussion about the goal statement – what is your understanding. And I think that a similar framework for determining what our understanding of TCI is will provide critical insight into what training is needed and when.

            It’s funny how writing this out has helped me to understand professional development through the eyes of language acquisition. The most difficult grammar patterns take tons and tons of repetitions and aren’t acquired until the brain is ready for them. Textbooks say, well, let’s teach those patterns _later_ in the sequence but in reality that leads to fewer repetitions. Students never acquire those structures before finishing the high school course. Students need to hear these patterns in context from the beginning without being expected to produce them accurately in order to someday have a chance at acquiring them.

            I think the same will prove true here for some people’s understanding of TCI. The hardest principles need to be discussed from the beginning but not expected to be fully implemented until the brain has had time to subconsciously ruminate, collect its own data and determine on its own when its ready to implement them.

            Thank you for reading this and for knowing that I just needed to share this with you. I’m looking forward to a productive and professional discussion at our next meeting.

          2. Excellent! Thanks Grant.

            Would I have your permission to edit it before posting it to the List Serve? Would you like to read it before I post it?

            I appreciate it – Thanks so much


  13. Here is something for you when it comes out:

    Ellis, R. & Shintani, N. (2014). Exploring language pedagogy through second language acquisition research. New York, NY: Routledge.

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