Silly Putty

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1 thought on “Silly Putty”

  1. I’m republishing this old blog entry – slightly edited – from 2007. What prompted this, I wonder?
    There has been a desire by some to simplify the method, to rename it, to package it in a way that would make it more easily accessible to those who can’t seem to learn it.
    I’m very leery of “make it more accessible to those who can’t seem to learn from it”, because there are so many reasons why that might happen. At the Shimabara, Japan, workshop, Susie Gross (when asked to talk about college classes) said, “45 minutes once a week? Forget it!” (Actually, it’s usually 90 minutes a week minimum, sometimes much more because students have more than 1 English (EFL) class, so I feel there is some hope.) However, I take the point: TPRS/CI teachers are aiming at fluency, at actual practical ability to use the language (ideally, according to Krashen, at an intermediate level). Once a week is not enough. If that is the case, then perhaps teachers teaching just once a week should re-consider whether they are justified in using TPRS/CI. To get back to the point, if students “don’t seem to learn from TPRS”, it might be because classes meet for 90 mins or less a week.
    And we need to always give ourselves permission to rely more heavily on reading CI plus spin-offs when necessary.
    Does this not imply an adequate (and THAT needs defining) library of appropriate (interesting, colour-coded-by-level) reading materials? I embarked on TPRS naively, without considering this need. It’s a major oversight. E.g., 7 of my classes (yes! I’m trying TPRS with all of them! What a nut!) meet just once a week. Given the above, I’m unlikely to make much of an impact (i.e. noticeably improve students’ proficiency) unless I can expand the classroom 90-min. CI with reading out of class (yeah, I know, homework is THE GREAT EVIL, but face facts: 90-mins a week of CI is not enough. Susie said so. You might as well forget it, unless you’re supplementing with reading/listening or both).
    At the Shimabara, Japan, workshop, we were lucky to have in attendance some folks who were familiar with Extensive Reading, and some were members of Extensive Reading Study Groups. Many of these “ER” folks are already familiar and supportive of the idea of FRV and of fluency. They are, I suggest, natural TPRS/CI allies. Check them out. A British EFL colleague has told me that ER is not that well known in EFL circles in the States (compared to UK and Europe, and -thanks to Rob Waring – in Japan), so here’s a coupla links:
    Rob Waring’s Extensive Reading pages – http://www.robwaring.org/er/
    The Edinburgh University Extensive Reading Project – http://www.ials.ed.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/EPER.html

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