Some History

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20 thoughts on “Some History”

  1. On the targeted vs. non-targeted topic, I agree that there is no one perfect philosophy to follow and that no one solution works for everyone. I have found that non-targeted instruction works best for me and so Tina and I started the CI Liftoff FB site and we started co-authoring books and working together to train people who are interested. Many teachers still prefer targeting. We indeed all have to find what works best for us as “individual teaching artists” – which excellent term was coined by Moco Loco Thompson in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1998. As long as both ways are first thoroughly vetted, our profession can keep moving forward in the way it should, with open minds and collegial respect.

  2. It is interesting that in Krashen’s “Natural Approach” there is a section on how to ask questions in a way that gives more input and it is VERY similar to circling. I think Blaine kind of refined what Krashen had in the Natural Approach.

  3. Yes, Greg and in my view that was due to Bertie Siegel and her influence on Krashen. The entire questioning process was originally all Bertie. I don’t think, honestly, that Krashen had much research on it. He just thought it was cool. Then in Denver in 2008 he finally gave us what we all wanted – his blessing on TPRS. He told us (DPS has it on video somewhere) that TPRS “came closest” to aligning with his research.
    As it turned out, that empowered a lot of people to twist his research from the confusing years of 2008 to now. By about 2010, nobody knew what the hell TPRS was, because there was an expert around every corner.
    It’s also interesting to note that Blaine didn’t “unveil” circling until 2005. He did so that summer and I remember bc I was sitting in the front row at one of his summer workshops here in Denver and he smiled at me as we reconvened after lunch, then revealed circling. I was floored. I thought it was just the coolest thing. Then.

  4. And Greg I personally just feel the truth that circling is not proven in any research. What Krashen showed was that normal input is enough to bring acquisition in a language as long as the acquirer is focused on the message. He showed that the person need only be relaxed and interested and it all happened naturally in sleep, by virtue of the “din”, etc. When Blaine put circling into TPRS in 2005, he probably thought it was going to be effective, and it was cool for a few years before we figured out how boring it made everything, but he didn’t think that it would eventually strangle his application of the research. That both Blaine and Krashen endorsed something that was never (in my opinion and how could I know bc I am not a researcher) proven in the research, it represents a profound point of departure from what they both had built up to that point. All of this is conjecture, of course.

    1. So Greg I said:
      …normal input is enough to bring acquisition in a language as long as the acquirer is focused on the message….
      Of course the TPRS rebuttal to that is that we don’t have the time to give our students normal input and so they justify the circling, to get the reps needed that we can’t get in the other 23 hours. I’ve actually heard people say that. But it deeply goes against the research about how the input has to be interesting and natural. So I stand by my position. We can’t speed up language acquisition. We hear it, we start reading it, and the output results are in direct proportion to the amount of input the learner has been exposed to. We can’t rush that process.

      1. Also Greg if our schools really wanted our students to learn the language (they don’t), they would give us at least six hours a day with the same students. That reveals the underbelly of IB and AP. It’s impossible to get ready for those tests in the time we have. All we can do is interest the kids to want to learn more in the future and to understand the critical importance of understanding the TIME FACTOR involved in this work. If we were to get those six hours a day, we would be ready to meet that challenge only with our non-targeted approach. Anything else would make our faces drawn and haggard, trying to teach a language class for six hours a day.

        1. The interesting thing is that you actually provide the best case for targeting (in the Big CI Book) and you also provide the best argument for NT.
          I think in the end NT wins out because targeting is a potential constraint on interest and community. I think targeting is only NOT detrimental to interest and community when done in short bursts.
          The Invisibles system is what changes everything though- you actually get to know your students on a personal level and really build community in the class. This kind of community can’t be built with a curriculum that we must “get through”. I wish every level 1 and 2 teacher in my department would just do the Invisibles, it’s so amazing.
          My question is, at what point does NT degenerate into a ton of out of bounds language and tons of words written on the board that will just be forgotten by students? It seems to me that at least a knowledge in the back of the mind of the most frequent words in the language does aid in staying in bounds.
          Also, at what point does the i+1 with a little bit of noise (as Krashen mentions in his NT paper) become an immersion class rather than a CI class?
          I have also seen some teachers new to CI approach it almost as immersion when they are introduced to more free-form NT. What’s missing in their understanding of CI and NT?

          1. …at what point does NT degenerate into a ton of out of bounds language and tons of words written on the board ….
            Well we don’t drive our cars off the road. We keep them between the lines. So if this happens it is on the teacher. In the same way, we learn to not write, ideally, ANY words on the board.
            So the answer is something I always saw Blaine do – he is the master of knowing what his students already know. It is a kind of sixth sense. We have to really “sense” what they are getting. We read their faces and eyes. We “know” when they don’t know.
            So we don’t go out of bounds and we don’t write, again ideally, ANYTHING on the board. Of course, we can’t do that, but when we turn around and look at the board after a class, we want to see, in my opinion, and I’ve tested this and thought about it a lot, no more than three or four new words up there.

          2. …it seems to me that at least a knowledge in the back of the mind of the most frequent words in the language does aid in staying in bounds….
            In my view, there is that knowledge in the back of our minds about high frequency words but it is so far back as to be a non-factor. Rather, it is about the contact we make with our kids in each moment of sharing information with them. We just “know”. There is no need to worry about “covering anything”.

          3. …some teachers new to CI approach it almost as immersion when they are introduced to more free-form NT. What’s missing in their understanding of CI and NT?….
            Over the past two years Tina and I have written over 800 pages on this topic. The change is so big that we had to. I can see why many people would think that non-targeted would be “nothing to learn; just say whatever…”. Not true. Not even close. We have to work at it.

          4. Greg I equate NT with, for example, when a pro golfer goes out to play the final round in a big tournament, and it’s all tied up on the last hole, she can’t be thinking about what she is going to do. It’s all got to be in flow.
            As they say in sports, athletes need to be “out of their mind”, “in the zone”, “be the ball/language”. NT in my view is about freeing the mind from planning, thinking, targeting, and yet relying on the mechanical expertise learned over years BEFORE arriving at the final hole. Like I’m watching the Spanish guy skating in the Olympic right now. He combines artfulness with technical mastery. Looks like he got a silver medal for Spain!
            Tina and I have taken major hits from people about NT. The Invisibles, and I appreciate your evaluation above as the best way to do NT, have been attacked as too loosey goosy and “out there”. That is the position of technicians, not artists.
            Many think that TPRS and its targeting and circling are prerequisites to doing NT. I don’t agree with that at all. The research does not support this position. If the research doesn’t support something, I’m not interested.
            The best NT people are those who have not worn the shackles of targeting and all the rules. Tina and I just shared that thought on the phone again yesterday. We think that the future is about people going straight to NT without passing through any intermediary stage.
            Again, I appreciate our privacy here.

          5. I’ve never done TPRS and this whole world is new to me. What is out of bounds? Where the students don’t understand? Or is it too much new language?
            Ben, I have tons of new words up on the board each class that we create a story. Seriously. And yet all my students follow. When we come back the following class and write the story together, we put it all together including language they already knew. Is it too much? I don’t know because my students get it. I see it in their answers to my questions from the back of the room, when we do readers’ theatre and when we do dictées. I see how much their understanding has grown. But maybe that’s why it takes me so long to complete each story. Maybe I spend so much time reviewing it and talking about it that the kids get it. Maybe I’ve not been doing it the way you envisioned it but it works. Somehow, it’s working.

          6. We all have different experiences. When I used to cover the board w new stuff my kids always acted as if they understood but in terms of lasting games it was too much. Just my own experience.

          7. …when we come back the following class and write the story together, we put it all together including language they already knew. Is it too much?….
            Again I can only speak for myself that yes it was too much. I just don’t think the material went narrow and deep but was shallow and wide and so didn’t really “take hold” in them. They wanted me to believe that they knew all that new stuff and I wanted to believe it. But I knew that they really didn’t.
            Dana you are right to point out the value of reading to further drive home the vocabulary, but for me in my own CI experience I kept getting closer and closer to how the reading, also, is best kept simple. Less is more. Even writing that sentence makes me feel its truth.

          8. I’m quite happy that I never got into (heavy) circling. I tried it once and it made me feel like wearing shackles, so I dropped it immediately. I believe sometimes sth like “natural circling” happens to me, by which I mean that the situation in class makes me do it and it’s not pre-planned and I don’t think about reps at all. I go with what feels right most of the time but sometimes my old teacher training kicks in and I teach sth but I must say I’m okay with that bc I’m unlearning the idea that I have to become perfect.

          9. Udo said:
            …I’m unlearning the idea that I have to become perfect….
            That goes for me as well. If we only knew how easy our jobs could be if we just aligned them with the research*….
            *because the research tells us to align our instruction with our intuition, with what is natural and unexpected and easy and fun and lighthearted and interesting. It really does say to do THAT. And that is too much for most teachers. They keep wanting to think and control and not relax.

      2. One interesting thing I was thinking about yesterday, is that my input as a non-native speaker of French is going to be narrow in vocabulary anyway but very conversational and useful. I’ve been NT and more willy-nilly than ever — and yet this provides the students with much more natural use of the language given our context, scenarios and experiences. In a sense there are already limits to our language. We provide the students with everything and more things will stick — I am sure there is something in the Order of Acquistion about this. The spontaneity is high with NT, in circling the predictability is high.

  5. Yes and it comes as no surprise that the academic bias in favor of academic language, specific IB themes, etc. is really nothing more than a reflection of the biased mentality of the people who who write the exams. They are still thinking that it is about academic achievement for the elite for college and you describe how to bust up that thought form above very well, Steven.

  6. Posturing now as a Hebrew teacher for novices based on my experience, perhaps there is an important (if limited) role for circling in both training newbie teachers and to benefit their students, many of whom have only been served a diet of pre-chewed grammar translation pablum. I taught the Hebrew Ts of beginners a bit abt circling – without the charts, counting & protocol – so that their Ss would come to recognize the same chunks and their filter (and that whole RIGOR/testing obsession) would drop.
    The circling phase (a coupla weeks/months?) can help lay in some hi-freq language, feed a sense of ‘effortlessness and automaticity,’ and engender success for Ts and Ss alike – so long as it doesn’t feel mind-numbingly boring and predictable.
    For kids coming off a span of years studying a language without ever really ‘hearing’ it in massive auditory hunks, circling can be a great transition since the L2 utterances are short, concrete, feel easy and build a sense of accessibility. This also transitions nicely to the Hebrew written word which, is a non-Romanized alphabet written from right to left.
    I agree that a steady diet of circling is bad, but I do see a role for it. Maybe I’m biased since I teach young novice students by day and train newbie teachers on the side – many of whom are not trained language teachers – circling gives me a concrete and replicable practice to nail and to see results from…

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