At NTPRS this year there was a new rotating format that really worked. Presenters stayed in the same room and groups of teachers rotated in and out. Nothing was carved in stone, however, so there was a lot of choice. Bryce and Linda presented together, with Bryce doing the “teacher talk” piece, commenting on what Linda was demonstrating. I went to their session four times.
Each lesson from Linda (Mandarin) was a tour de force in SLOW. SLOW can’t be intellectualized. By experiencing the same lesson four times I was able feel Linda’s warm glacial pacing so deeply that, when I presented, I was able to go much slower myself. I have never gone slower than in my two Thursday sessions and it made a huge difference.
I really don’t think SLOW can be learned any other way, actually. It is in watching SLOW done by a master that we get it. And if we don’t get SLOW, then we might as well not even try to learn the other skills because they won’t work.
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14 thoughts on “SLOW”

  1. So important and yet so easy to forget. I find I need to set up structural reminders for myself so I don’t forget. One that is fail-proof is to put a penny in my shoe before going to work. It sloshes around in there so I can’t become desensitized to it. When I notice it I think the word “S-l-o-w” to myself. No one knows the penny is in there but me, my important secret.
    Another small trick is something I read somewhere, maybe from you Ben? to say goodbye to my students at the end of class asking “How did I do? Did I go slow enough today?” They laugh, I smile and together we remember that this is important for all.

  2. I love the penny idea. Ben, I am going to mess this up but I read here once that you said there is slow, there is really really slow, there is really really really slow then there is torturous slow AND THEN THERE IS COMPREHENSIBLE. I have always remembered this. Linda went slow enough for me.
    The other remarkable thing that I have also read you comment on before is how the Mandarin i “learned” from Linda started to Crystallize until
    Saturday morning. I had not reviewed my notes or anything. I just remembered more of the lesson that I had had on Wednesday than I had on Thursday or Friday. That is amazing. It is as if my brain had been working on it subconsciously for a few days and then it came out….. On Saturday I was able to SAY each of the sentences that we did in class….. (not that anyone cares but the grammar was possession, how to ask a question, and how to make a statement using 3 verbs looks, wants and gives)
    I AM going to go slow. That is one of my goals this year – to put a penny in my shoe (oops – I wear sandals with no socks 🙁 what to do:) and GO SLOW.

  3. Skip so wonderful to see you and especially share that Bryce and Linda session together. You were sitting behind me and ABSORBING those sounds. Three things:
    1. Ben Lev is Ben with the penny idea. It was great just now in high 90 degrees to meet him (on vacation from CA) and Bryce for a ride. They are semi beasts and I just hung on their wheels for the whole 30 miles.
    2. Credit Amy Teran for the SLOW quote. After the ride Bryce, asked me to describe my big take away from last week and I said SLOW and also allowing myself to be free when presenting.
    3. I am not a brain expert, but what I got about that unconscious processing you experienced in spite of anything your conscious mind may or may have wanted to do (useless and ineffective is the conscious mind in language acquisition), your mind when you slept that nite PARSED out everything it heard in the session and kept the Mandarin it wanted and threw out the other. That’s what I think happened.

  4. Slow! It changed my life too. I am always so anxious to give everything I’ve got, but folks aren’t always receptive to recieving it at the pace I give it out.
    SLOW! The brain research says–students hear 8-10x slower than the speaker’s words (and males slower than females). have you ever wondered at that blank look in their eyes? Slow allows for our brains to catch up.
    And Skip–I know what you mean. I consciously did not want to understand all those other languages. I was still trying to hold the sounds and meanings of my experience with my master the 2 weeks before, but there they were along with what all that meant in my target language too. WOW!

  5. Kate,
    I have intuitively felt students need me to go slowly and that the boys in particular need me to slow down. Where did you get the 8-10x slower piece? Having a study to cite or an article for skeptics to read would really be helpful.

  6. The going slowly piece was one of my major take-aways too–and I was presenting on it! I must have heard the Chinese for “looks at” over 1,000 times in the eight sessions that Linda and i did together and i could honestly use a few thousand more to really be able to hear it in the middle of a sentence.
    It is impossible to go slow enough if you are personalizing. The formula we came up with and added after about session 4 or 5 was:
    Personalization = Compelling = Slow
    If we are making a personal connection with our students, even on a low and silly level (like which type of coffee they prefer, Burger King coffee or Starbuck’s coffee) we will become compelling and we will be slow. When we begin focusing more on getting through the lesson than on the students, we begin to speed up and we lose them. Happens to me all the time, but now I have some modeling and some reflecting time to help me to slow down.
    I am seriously thinking of using variants of “looks at”, “wants” and “gives” as the lesson plan for the first 2 weeks of Spanish I this year.

    1. “When we begin focusing more on getting through the lesson than on the students, we begin to speed up and we lose them.”
      It always come back to the students. When we are able to BE with our students and teach them, we will go slow. Now, I just have to really get there.

  7. At the conference, on Thursday, I went sufficiently slowly (read “comprehensibly slowly”) for the first time, really, in my eleven years with the method. I had to, because Laurie Clarcq was co-presenting with me and had I gone even one cadence too fast she would have let me know. Plus, I had just seen Linda teach the same Mandarin lesson four times in a row over six hours. That may have done it. It’s like what Clarice and Kate said about actually and truly being with the students, which alone allows SLOW to happen. We talk about it, we say it, and yet we do not yet get the cadence, the pacing, that is required for our students to report full comprehension. Therefore, I would like to suggest that we label the 2011-2012 academic year “The Year of the Sloth”.

  8. Bryce and the rest of you curious seekers as to that info regarding learning, listening and speaking–
    I got that info from Dr. Becky Bailey at Loving Guidance (.com). Becky has been doing brain research for YEARS and applying it to the teaching process from babies to adults. It begins with building a classroom community. And here is the cool part about Conscious Discipline (it begins with the teacher being conscious and intentional through their hearts).
    This is the most powerful toolbox I own. Into the upper most used portion of the toolbox I will add what I am learning about TPRS because they fit like enke 2 enke-hute (thanks Clarice for showing your Mvskoke off–I was touched beyond words).
    As I told Laurie–don’t let the cute characters put you off (it started in pre-school). I am hear to tell you this stuff works, is brain-centered at it’s core, research based and I use it daily all my waking hours.
    I’ll leave you with this quote Becky put on a slide–
    “Emotions, not cognitive stimulation, serve as the mind’s primary architect for constructing the highest capacities: intelligence, morality and sense of self.” Greenspan 1997
    And I’ll keep looking for the direct research for the listening/retention piece Bryce. It’s in some pile of paper.

  9. This information of Kate’s should be a blog entry Ben. So many of us use these principles, by accident or design. Becky Bailey has aligned it with the research that tells us HOW and WHY it works. Just a few highlights of things that you may recognize in your own classroom:
    Assigning Jobs to Students
    Greeting at the Door
    Creating a Safe Place and a Safe Space
    Listing the Rules
    Recognizing Achievements Publicly
    and the list goes on…. should consider a session at NTPRS 12 on this…it’s beautiful and you so wonderfully embody it. I’d sign up today.
    with love,

  10. Well, I certainly can teach those principles and actually the thought did cross my mind at the conference. I train parents and teachers all the time in it. But, I didn’t know if that would be presumptous of me. I think most folks are there to get a hold of teaching language resources. But this is the only classroom management that has ever made sense to me when we are all in it together, the responsibility for the classroom is on all our shoulders. I think of it as Ben’s 50% rule.

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