Some Quotes on Repetitions – 3

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27 thoughts on “Some Quotes on Repetitions – 3”

  1. This is Blaine’s “teach for mastery.” Massed reps. Targeted. . . different from Krashen’s opinion on reps.
    They may both be right, just depends on the students, especially their level. Hyper-targeted for true beginners and less and less targeted as they progress in fluency (a more non-targeted approach would absolutely be necessary as students expanded in vocabulary size IF you wanted to recycle language, otherwise, you fall in the traditional trap of “units” that have entirely different vocabulary sets).
    Personally, I realized I had drifted into a less targeted approach (partly because I get bored and I was trying to maximize interest in the classroom). But I reined it back in. I did some classic Blaine work with my student actors this week, working the targets until they were automatically responding in first person. I disagree with this “output practice” and “mastery in SLA”, BUT I bet the reason it works is not because the students are practicing. It forced me to go so much slower, get more reps, the actor questions were like comprehension checks, and we barely got anywhere in the story. I think the best thing about this is that it respects cognitive load – I didn’t get very far in the story (only about 4-5 sentences in 30 minutes) so there were only a few new sounds, probably closer to the number the students could actually handle. Yes, it was more boring, but we’ll have to suck that up if we want the building blocks – like an investment for more compelling CI in the future.

    1. “I didn’t get very far in the story (only about 4-5 sentences in 30 minutes).”
      I don’t often get much more than this if doing a story in an 82 min class. Just last week, with a very beginner group of 2nd graders, 20 min X 5 meetings, we did this, albeit in slightly different ways (i.e. different details… in CAPS).
      “KENDALL is cold. She doesn’t have a sweater (cognate). She needs a sweater because she is cold. She is cold because she is in the mountains of PERU.”
      That’s it, in those roughly 100 min. For one group, it went more or less like this: Plenty of TPR/PQA. Told the story, twice, with different characters, and also tried to change the mountainous location but they refused. 🙂 A third asking of it, but with me drawing the scenario on the whiteboard in place of actors. Listen and Draw, followed by choral translation.
      I think you hit this nail on the head Eric: “Hyper-targeted for true beginners and less and less targeted as they progress in fluency”

  2. I think that another difference between Krashen and Ray is that Krashen is talking about language acquisition in general (assuming unlimited time for massive amounts of input, low-stress environment, non-resistant – if not motivated – learners, low expectations of output, etc.) while Blaine is talking about language acquisition in schools (artificial environment, high stress, resistant learners, etc.). Remember, too, that Krashen is representing the theoretical aspect of the situation while Blaine has had experience in the practical application in school.
    Whatever the case, the take-away for us is that our students need massive amounts of input before they can even begin to be comfortable with output.

  3. What we do in the highly dysfunctional arenas that are schools is limit vocabulary anyway. We have to and we don’t even have to think about it because of our commonly accepted ground rules: we don’t introduce material that hasn’t been introduced, we don’t use words that they don’t know, we introduce from one to three structures in various contexts (stories, etc.) we keep things extremely limited, and the kids learn because we stay in bounds, go slowly, and get massive reps in a see of already known vocabulary. You describe the difference between Krashen and Ray perfectly, Robert, and we have to do it the Ray way, and it works.

  4. … I realized I had drifted into a less targeted approach (partly because I get bored and I was trying to maximize interest in the classroom). But I reined it back in….
    This is me to Eric, in the early days before I just gave up trying to push too much vocabulary on them. I tried, failed, and finally I gave up. They can’t understand what we say unless we stay in bounds, get high reps on limited targets and then yes it loosens up in the upper levels. I tried hard for three years to bust up the TPRS plan and I never did. It’s got the mojo going on, certainly. Formula for Coke and no bout adoubt it.

    1. They can’t understand what we say unless we stay in bounds, get high reps on limited targets and then yes it loosens up in the upper levels.
      I think we often fall into the trap – at least I know I do – of thinking that acquisition somehow proceeds fairly linearly. First of all, it does not proceed steadily but in fits and starts and dips and leaps (The TED talk where the presenter mapped his own child’s language acquisition is fascinating in this regard.) Even when we pull back to a broader, multi-year view, acquisition is more of a curve than a straight line. It increases incrementally until that moment when it takes off exponentially. The foundation must be laid word by word, line by line, here a little, there a little until you reach a point that learners are consuming chunks of language.

  5. I have a question and I’m not sure where to post it. There is a professional development conference coming up for the Canadian Association of Teachers of German taking place in Toronto in February and a Dr. Nikolai Penner is going to speak about TPRS. Has anyone heard of him before?

  6. I totally agree with you Eric about what you are saying about being bored trying to get that output. I, like you, am aware that the non targeted CI is important and feel…let’s say, trapped by targeted/specific structures.
    I think Robert and Ben are right on with their statements too. Krashen represents the theoretical side of SLA.
    Blaine tells the personal stories about trying to keep a job as a younger teacher with a family we can see he needed to find a way for students to demonstrate language. This is to say he took theory and made it tangible for his supervisors, parents, and students to see.
    My time with Blaine leaves me with the awareness of his commitment to the results of student learning. He does what he does and believes what he believes in order to show a result. He needs/wants the tangible part of acquisition.
    Krashen on the other hand, gives credit to language that sometimes is not as tangible. You know all about it…the subconscious part of it is limiting to the systems of public education. Our kids understand so much more than they can show us.
    I think we have to have both to be good teachers. I also think that you feel this because of the nature of our students nowadays (I feel the same way). We are sensitive to when they are bored in our classes or with our stories. With the students having so much access to things that are “fun” like videogames, netflix, cell phones, ipads, etc. we have a lot more to compete with than teachers from earlier generations. All this technology is a distraction to things that require slow processing and abstract/critical thinking.
    I think for the above reason we see so much discussion of MovieTalks. It is essentially a combination of TPRS and technology. My high school students could spend all day looking at awful videos of people hurting themsleves or funny mishaps with animals. I call smartphones “dumbphones” but we can use YouTube and its content to leverage our agenda too 🙂

  7. …wants the tangible part of acquisition….(Blaine)
    …subconscious part of it is limiting to the systems of public education….(Krashen)
    Here it is again – input vs. output. Blaine wants some results, because he developed TPRS for school settings, Krashen is ok with more input, lots of reading input especially, because his work was not done specifically for school settings.
    In my view, Michael, and you said it well, we all have to make our own decisions about how much Blaine and how much Krashen we push in our own fluency programs. The mind is what it is and since we can’t see down there and since output takes so many years even in people who are exposed via their first language to YEARS of input, I tend to side with Krashen. If they don’t like me, fine, but that is where I differ from Blaine, certainly. If I feel that I can’t push the flowers to grow, I won’t. And as much as I love MovieTalk, and Chris Stolz said something like limiting it as well, I need to limit it because something doesn’t feel right in it for me. It cuts into imagination, group process and inclusion. It takes a bit of our group feel away. But that’s just me. We always, in this group, have room for our differing opinions. We are lucky in that way, very lucky.

  8. Michael this sentence is a big time keeper:
    …all this technology is a distraction to things that require slow processing and abstract/critical thinking….
    And stories are a (human) distraction to the (robot) technology that is everywhere, even in our classrooms. It is easier to hide behind a machine than show up in our own classrooms as fully human. MovieTalk does not give what stories give, and that is why Chris Stolz commented here about a month ago about how he limits the use of MovieTalk in his own classroom. MovieTalk cannot do what stories do. MovieTalk pushes things away from a focus on the marvelous and wonderful students and in the direction of the action of the characters in the more visual video clip. Vision is of the mind. Stories are of the heart. Laurie always points to the right-as-rain role of the heart in this work and MovieTalk is just not as effective as stories in personalizing the discussion, in bringing the human element to the classroom.
    Who will win this Battle Between the Mind and the Heart? Because that is the real name of the battle we are now fighting with traditional teachers who have in a very slick and polished way replaced their use of textbooks with computer software but still peddle the same boring stuff – only humans can make life not boring.
    Sometimes I just wish I could sit a bunch of parents down in the first week of school and flatly say:
    “I don’t think you care if I use a lot of technology to teach your child French. It just feels counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I think you want your children to be able to participate in a group process when they graduate, right? I think you want them to feel important. I think you want them to feel that they can learn French. I think you want them tested less, for the simple reason that the more we seem to test kids – over the last five years in particular – the less they seem to learn. I think you want your children to feel happy about school. I think you want me to teach your child not just French but how to be in a group, and I think you want them to feel valued as a person in all their classes, not just mine. I would say these things to the language teacher of my own children, anyway. I teach that way – always trying to build group process. I fully accept that in our school we need to focus on preparing our students for a global technological information era, but I teach a language, and I don’t think a child can learn a language unless they show up in class in their full humanity as a social, emotional, physical being. Those parts of a child’s development count as much as the academic part. The ability to interact with others in a group, to make eye contact with others, particular their bosses when they get into the work force (I am their boss now) are as important in languages as the intellectual development piece. I constantly ask your child to show empathy and humor and eye contact and the give and take of authentic human interaction. My classroom is far more rigorous than other language classrooms because I know what rigor is (as defined by the US Department of State*) and how to teach using it. I’m not talking about the fake kind of rigor of more work, excessive work that is shaming to those who assign it and memorization, which in language is also shaming to those who make kids memorize in a language class because no one ever memorized their way to fluency in a language). I’m talking about real rigor – just look at that poster over there with the cool colors. When your children leave my classroom each day I want them to feel happier than when they came in and when they finish their study with me they can go into life with a bit more ability to hear what others say, and acknowledge them as human beings. Besides, it takes 18,000 hours to gain mastery over a language and I only have realistically 400-450 hours in a four year program, so my goal is to give them a strong base in the language that is full of confidence and motivation and the feeling that they can do it. That they learn a ton of French in high school with me isn’t going to happen, but I will speak to them in class every day over 95% of the time and that’s a promise. There, that’s what I think.”
    *Robert Harrell: “According to the US Department of State, rigor includes a sustained focus, depth and integrity of inquiry, suspension of premature conclusions, and continual testing of hypotheses. Students in a TCI classroom are exposed to this kind of rigor. The Interpersonal Mode of Communication requires them to sustain focus for the full class period with no zoning out, side conversations, etc. The student-driven nature of the course means that they can explore deeply and fully in the target language the topics that truly interest them. As students are exposed to the language in a contextualized, meaningful fashion, they suspend conclusions about how the language functions rather than having those conclusions forced upon them at the outset. The unconscious brain continuously tests the students’ hypotheses about what sounds correct in the language.”
    (Note: the Rigor posters and the Interpersonal Skills Rubric poster that drives most of our teaching – for some of us – have not found a home yet here on the PLC nor on the TPRS Resources page. I’m working on that. I will republish the links to the posters as an article here for those interested.)

  9. Ben…I am really glad to go the blog and see all the ways the great teachers here articluate how they interpret and express TPRS/TCI. Some people are very Blaine, other are very Stephen in their approach.
    You said…”I tend to side with Krashen. If they don’t like me, fine, but that is where I differ from Blaine, certainly.”
    I think anyone that really gets it…tends to side with Krashen. It makes the most sense for language learners. No teacher anywhere is more brilliant than how the human brain works. I love when practitioners say things like, “just expose students to large amounts of language they understand and then get out of the way.”
    I consider myself a “Krashenista” and get an uncomfortable feeling when I ask my students for any kind of output. I am sensitive to times when a 14 or 15 feels inadequate, I also feel like it is in some way forced.
    I couldn’t agree with you more about how MovieTalk actually limits imagination in our students. The story already has a begining-middle-ending with a such a lesson. In a way just another way to spoon feed to a large group. However, I see most value with MTs as a way to help teachers that are new to TCI/TPRS. It can be indimidating Asking a story or improv PQA.
    One last thing to mention about Krashen and Blaine is something that I once heard Blaine discussing. Honestly, I can’t remember the details and not sure if I am adding my own opinions here but he said something to the effect of…
    “I am not here to really teach you another language…I am here to get you to go from slow processing to fast processing language that you understand.”
    Anyways when he made that comment I realize that he too is very “Krashenistic” even though he adheres to a set of rules and procedures with specific outcomes. Ben, I understand the comment you made and appreciate the way in which you are a “rebel.” Your rebelness allows others to break free from the Matrix and experience teaching and learning in a real way!

    1. This comparison of Blaine and Krashen has really helped. It’s something I’ve been fighting with in my own head. Blaine is very targeted and my understanding is that he wants students (especially actors) outputting accurately in response to his questions. This gives some tangible results. And the teacher is forced to cover less if mastery is the goal. Continually adding more parallel characters. Going slow enough for mastery. Does this make the input less compelling? When not compelling is it still comprehended or do some students zone it out? When not compelling, does it still feed the unconscious. For these reasons, I’ve rarely stressed accuracy and accepted more yes/no responses, rather than verbs in the responses. I’ve leaned more towards Krashen. Probably less targeted than Blaine. Expecting less output. Believing I’m developing implicit grammars in students’ heads. But does that work in schools that want more immediate results? I’ve just decided I want to Blaine it up for true beginners and from time to time with 7-8th graders.

      1. …when not compelling is it still comprehended or do some students zone it out?…
        I don’t value compelling as much as I do personalized. A good MovieTalk or story could be compelling but I do believe the students zone out more on that than if the teacher switches the questions back to what the kids think and co-create into the discussion about themselves. Would you rather watch a good movie or be interviewed? For that reason I prefer PQA and stories to MT.

        1. Personalized is compelling. I think Krashen on moreTPRS last week said personalization is the best source of compelling CI.
          PQA can happen in MT. You’ve preselected structures. So PQA before the MT. Or pause the video (or have screenshots prepared) and use that screenshot as a jump-off point for your PQA. Does that image not make it more concrete, easier for beginners?
          The co-creation (storyasking) piece is perhaps the best and most unique piece of TPRS, right? It does feel there is less co-creation in MT. I love MT and TPRS and rotate between them.
          PQA can be more like an interview in which case usually only a few of the students are the focus at any one time. The interviewed students are certainly getting compelling CI, but what about the rest of the class? Are they as into it? Yes, if you find a way to make the PQA belong to everyone in the class, i.e. co-create the PQA. We do this whenever we storyask the PQA and wander into the imaginary – that’s when steps 1 & 2 start to blend for me. MTs can keep everyone’s attention and everyone enjoying the video, although it’s not a co-created story.

          1. Ben said that MovieTalk takes some of the imagination out of language classes. Eric you mentioned using PQA with MTs to bring it back to the group and I think there is a ton of potential for going deep with MTs. What do you guys think?
            At NTPRS in Chicago, Blaine and Von were presenting something they referred to as “Events or “behind the scenes of stories.” I think this went over the heads of some people in the room because they had a concept of using flash backs like we see on TV but applied to traditional story telling. The behind the scenes is a perfect place with MTs.
            I advocate for MovieTalks before bringing up any SLA acronyms nowadays. The reason is before I start ever discussing pedagogy I can provide an experience for the person I am communicating with. Once the story is experienced, the purpose of narration and questioning can be understood. I do agree that perhaps a bit of imagination and creativity can be taken away from showing a completed story (instead of creating it with a class) BUT that is only if we think the story exists on its own and nothing came before or happens afterwards.
            Meet Alex, we see him in a short animation trying to exercise and we assume he wants big muscles. In this story, he especially wants to impress a girl that is hanging out on the balcony across from his bedroom window.
            This is the gist of the story but we can discuss so much more than what we see in the clip. For example, who does Alex live with? Alex can be single and lives in a bachelor pad or perhaps he lives with his parents or as I like to think he is in his late 20’s still living with his mom. To me, that is funny and we might even get to mention something about all the chores his mom makes him do since he doesn’t work. Perhaps he works part time at various jobs. He is so thin…what does he eat everyday? See what I did there? I incorporated family, chores, professions, and food before even talking about the video.
            The back story could last for days and students are a part of these conversations every step of the way. As Eric mentioned, PQA is great here even though the topics are introduced…let’s say with little imagination or work.
            Let’s look at Alex. He is thin, tall, lazy, serious, and maybe even romantic. Comparing ser and estar or using n’est pas/est sentences can fit in nicely with this story. The discussion could also discuss elements of teenage life that can be serious, like Alex grew up being bullied by bigger kids so he is motivated to exercise and defend himself.
            What about the girl he sees on the balcony? Is this the prettiest girl he has ever seen? Did Alex ever have a girlfriend or does he have lots of girlfriends. We probably can discuss the past or probability with such a story. Continuing the idea of the girl…who is she? Does she live in that house? Is she a visitor or did Alex always hope for this opportunity. We discover that she is blind…what is her life like?
            These are all ideas that can be discussed in the target language and are matters that call for the use of our imaginations. Using parallel characters, adding locations, surprise details and PQA sessions can take place using MT’s. This is actually no different than what Blaine has ever shared. The main difference that occurs by using a video is that there is a visual representation that is presented much differently (less imagining by students). Ultimately, there is a sacrifice as Ben alluded to but perhaps some upside too.
            Sorry for the long explanantion. You can tell I am a lonewolfer and this is my first week on the blog. LOL
            What do others think about going beyond MTs?

          2. Michael I think it’s fantastic. Back stories are powerful. My reservation with them in both regular stories and MT is by themselves stories and MT (without a back story) can overwhelm and engulf a class due to the need to constantly go wide on the vocabulary.
            One of my mantras with this work is staying in bounds. I need that to keep the messages I send to my students understandable. My barometer students tell me with the glazing over of the eyes that the back story has them confused.
            Of course, many of my students in DPS were stricken by poverty so I can only address the question in those terms. It is possible, I would assume, that students whose lives are not being pulled down by having to work until 1:00 a.m. or whose sibling didn’t come home last night or whose families have been shattered by deportation could handle back stories.
            In general, TPRS students live and die with the repetition of the target in each sentence. So with too many new questions connected to the building of the back story – and this has been my own experience – I can feel the sparkle go out of the class with the wider vocabulary set.
            But that’s just me, I think. Blaine and Von have a fantastic idea there and have been doing it for years so it must be working for them.

      2. Eric/Ben,
        These are very intricate kind of talks… it takes a lot of understanding of TPRS and these theories and hypothesizes to understand a statement like, ” I think I am gonna Blaine it up.” I know exactly what you mean.
        I always start off with a new group by “Blaining it up.” It makes sense because the whole room could be the barometer student.
        Eric you said,
        “…Continually adding more parallel characters. Going slow enough for mastery. Does this make the input less compelling?”
        I think going slow does make it boring for the kids that process faster. After awhile the majority of kids get it, some don’t, but the show must go on. When that happens I think we have to fall back on Krashen and VP. We have to move on and trust that if we stay in bounds and provide CI that the slower processors still benefit. Perhaps they need time to internalize, process, and acquire to demonstrate at a latter time.
        I feel if we were to put kids on the spot and ask student actors to demonstrate proficiency all the time we can become like bullies. Eric I think it is VanPattenish of you too, as you stated, “…developing implicit grammars in students heads.” I would say that is pretty brilliant and shows a lot of awareness for what is happens in a classroom. With my level 1 students, I am still developing mastery with the super 7…it takes forever and some kids are masters and others are “lost in translation.”
        I love the Van Patten quote, “We should never stress accuracy before fluency… Accuracy only matters to the point that one can still comprehend.” Eric that’s your idea of accepting yes/no answers…really brilliant stuff.

  10. Last year I focused on mass repetitions. I was just repeating the vocabulary as much as possibly, but then I would have troubles reviewing the structures later on in the year. This year I am really focusing on recycling vocabulary a lot, and I have noticed a huge difference in acquisition. My students are noticeably acquiring the vocabulary better than last year. There needs to be a balance between masses of repetitions and spaced repetitions, from my experience.

    1. What you describe, Kyle, I see, too. It’s like I want to mass reps on a few new things (which the students may believe is what they are supposed to be learning) but I also want to re-use, naturally, lots of the high-frequency stuff that we’ve already worked with. They are actually acquiring the whole language in that way — getting stronger connections and internalizing it more deeply — and hopefully incorporating that newly-introduced, massed rep material to that strengthening internal language.
      It’s like I want to target some CI for an organizational method, so there is a plan and process to follow. Also because we’re in a school, and I can point to those things as the “learning.” Then, use plenty of non-targeted CI to get more reps on the language that comes up when we look at a photo, or discuss the weather, or compare the current discussion to what we talked about in the past. Does this make sense? I’ve been sifting through the discussion of Krashen and Ray on repetitions and thinking about what it means in my classes, and I think this is where I’ve landed now.

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