Staying in Bounds

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28 thoughts on “Staying in Bounds”

  1. OK so I just watched one of the newbie teachers I trained this summer (a different one than I already wrote about), and she tried to work off the cuff and was out of bounds within the first few minutes. She didn’t use the whiteboard to clarify anything – no gestures or drawings either, though she did occasionally translate the new word orally – once – but not again when she re-used it.
    Did the Ss ‘get’ what she was saying? I’d say mostly, yes – but at a certain point it felt like they relaxed their attention and stopped going for meaning-mapping, as they realized that she was regularly using out of bounds language. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS TRUE -IT COULD BE MY BIAS.

    So they got the gist, and mostly stuck with it, but I felt that it really compromised the quality. I also noticed that as more new language crept in, she sped up, as though she forgot that she was talking to learners. It wasn’t all bad – she did many wonderful things and employed some great strategies – and the kids generally enjoyed it.

    She realized the outta bounds issue, and right after class, she said to me, “I used lots of words they didn’t know, and I forgot to use the board!” She said that next time she’d prolly do a better job if she had a few of the words written down, to keep her on the tracks. I briefly explained a bit about NT, but she felt that NT was a later skill, and that she needed to be sure the Ss were with her before she meandered through the prairie…

    The last line you wrote above, about the astrophysicist speaking to her teenage son, is powerful. In classical TPRS, we sensitize the Ss to listen for what they do understand AND WHAT THEY DON’T – and give a stop signal. The stop signal is crucial for some kids – they get really hung up on a foreign-sounding new word! But then again, it focuses on language at the word level!
    What to do with the clarification signal?

  2. …she felt that NT was a later skill, and that she needed to be sure the students were with her before she meandered through the prairie….

    In my view NT is not meandering through the prairie. The idea of the prairie makes me realize that a lot of teachers probably think that that is what NT is. But I don’t. I just feel that when Beniko with all her years of research and time working with Krashen as equals for all those years must have a reason for advocating NT as strongly as she does. She is a researcher, first and foremost, after all. And I will be excited to listen to her speak in Portland this summer about exactly what she means by NT. I am sure it is not meandering through the prairie. I guess we few who see the potential of NT, who are excited rather than intimidated by it, need to hop on our horses and ride around and yell a little louder. We need to ride in a straight direction on this. If we believe it then we need to say it.

  3. Your Royal NonTargetedness,
    Are we standing firmly on NT from day one for absolute beginners – any language – even Mandarin with its dearth of cognates? I don’t mean to sound like Debby Doubtful – I just want to know the vision.
    I am so totally in and down with it – (but I dunno about day one for the munchkins, or with Hebrew…)

    1. I went round and round with Ben for about a month on this very topic about one year ago exactly. And he finally convinced me that you could do non targeted work from the very beginning of the year. I decided to test it out in seventh grade this year and it worked. I had to talk very slowly and I had to write things on the board and I had to talk about a limited number of topics but iit worked and it was fun and I really noticed a difference in the engagement for my students this year who started with nontargeted and my students last year who are eighth graders now. Firmly believe that using the nontargeted work from the first day has made a big difference in the feeling in that room. Also just in a related note Steve K wrote this morning on the more list his hypothesis that we will always use the highest frequency words the most important words in natural and untargeted speech. From recent discussions on that list and from his tone of exasperation I get the feeling that he is getting a little bit fed up with people’s insistence that we work from high-frequency word list

    2. The reason that I decided to take videos every day was because I wanted people to be able to see the progression of the year with nontargeted work. If you look at that first couple of days on that YouTube channel you will see how very slowly I had to go.

  4. I may be wrong here, but I see the NT approach as more about having the freedom of following the current interests and needs of the class instead of feeling locked into particular targets that need to be hit and hammered into students’ brains. Instead of a wild open prairie that we’re wildly galloping across (without some sort of map/rails), it’s more like a slow moving ameba that explores its surroundings as need/interest dictates. We move just a little bit more in this direction, but then we are free to move a bit in another direction when needed. But, no, we aren’t going to be blasting around like a pinball.

    Of course, we have to focus on our students being able to understand most of what we’re communicating (90% or so?), but it’s O.K. if there are some words here or there that they don’t know yet. We need to trust that we are all made to be able to communicate like a mother or a father with his or her child. We just have to keep in mind who we’re talking to, and not just talk to ourselves (or the air). Unfortunately, students have been trained to pretend like they’re following along whether or not they actually are (plus a lot of them don’t want to stick out, and they just want to make it through the day…).

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Tina, thanks so much for recounting your experience starting off w/NT from DAY 1. I have been following the vids here and there – I will certainly go back and look at the first day again.
    Your success thus far has really pushed my practice forward. I can’t wait to see/hear your reflections in person @ The Mitten Conf.
    This is very exciting stuff, and despite the backbiting and in-fighting, your work (Tina and Ben) is revolutionizing teaching WL as we know it. It’s a whole new world.

  6. Alisa Circling with Balls is NT purely. There are no targets there. I think that we can design first day instruction that is NT. Anne Matava’s questionnaires do that quite nicely. The key thought in this discussion is that if the level of interest can be moved up to compelling (as per the Compelling Input Hypothesis of SK), then they will understand it.

    One of the things I don’t like about the Back to the Future movement (stay with the targets) is that they think they can just teach skills at conferences and that will lead to compelling. The skill level of CI practitioners does not lead to compelling. Strategies that reach out and grab the kids lead to compelling.

  7. Have you seen the Feb 2017 IJFLT? It has an article by Justin Slocum Bailey called Non-Targeted CI. He is writing from his own experience with NT. He starts off by referring to two articles by Stephen Krashen: 1) “The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input” (2013), and 2) “TPRS: Contributions, Problems, New Frontiers, and Issues”(2015). Other good stuff in the IJFLT, but that one is especially pertinent.

        1. I just wrote this for a project I am working on:

          We have found that the language used in Story Listening is richer, and thus students gain exposure, through listening to comprehensible stories, to a deeper level of vocabulary than we were using when targeting. Vocabulary is still sheltered, in the sense that the teacher monitors student comprehension and uses strategies to make the new words comprehensible, but SL exposes students to a deeper slice of language than stories crested from targets with the old mantra, “Shelter vocabulary not grammar.” Our work with Dr. Mason on SL might offer the following mantra: “Shelter comprehension, not language.” We have a limited amount of class time so it seems important to use it to fill the students’ Language Acquisition Devices with language that is as rich and varied as possible while still maintaining comprehensibility.

    1. Some will be surprised to learn that Justin’s article was tampered with. Parts of it were censored. In my four decades in education I have never actually seen that happen. But it has happened. An article sent to what is supposedly a non-affiliated review panel whose job it is to promote free and open professional discussion on topics useful to teachers has been edited to read a certain way without Justin being informed. That’s all you’ll get out of me on that topic, though. Sorry. No time for bullshit.

          1. I am not able to go to that link, bummer. It says something like “cannot find the file”.

            Justin always writes clearly and elegantly, and kindly, too. I really enjoy his blog. He plays a tough game of Mafia though.

            Having had an article of my own massively edited without my knowledge or permission, then published in my name (some 15 years ago, totally different set of people and topic) I imagine I have some sense of how that would feel. (In my case, there were entire paragraphs added, and entire paragraphs rephrased into an edgy, mean-spirited thing different from my tone and purpose. I felt practically slandered.)

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Your paragraph above really sums it up, Tina. I would comment that “sheltering comprehension” and “still maintaining comprehensibility” varies by student age/level, maybe even by language. So we do have to keep the quantity of new sounds/words much more limited for younger learners especially at first. The overwhelm and attention span and literacy challenges require a narrower field. That’s where episodic/cumulative stories are great.
    And is a teacher able to implement more language in one ‘session’ of novice [cognate rich] Spanish than in one say of Mandarin, (even though novice language acquirers may not even notice/connect/comprehend the cognate)?
    I totally concur that the literary language of Storytelling/Listening is richer – even proper names from folklore or cultural stories like Quetzalcoátl present data for the brain to unlock that Ss might not otherwise get.
    This application of the research opens another world of possibility, allowing Ts to finally explore lots of cultural materials, so long as the language they use is appropriately scaffolded. I used to avoid such materials, because they were full of difficult and low frequency language, but now I can use those resources, by’ sheltering comprehension.’

    1. “is a teacher able to implement more language in one ‘session’ of novice [cognate rich] Spanish than in one say of Mandarin”

      My belief, a big yes, of course, if you’re talking about students with an English language background. I think it is extremely easy to lose kids in Mandarin in a sea of new sounds — this is why I began with such limited language in level one on day 1. If it’s called targeting, that’s ok with me, but it’s not my belief that they’re on a time-table or that I’m focused on reps; I’m focusing on communicating with them, but within really limited language. I really want them to be feeling successful and hear messages they understand without having to think hard, and to enjoy it. This is because they come into Mandarin class intimidated by the language, even the ones who really were eager to take the class. I mean, I have parents meet with me in the summer to determine if their “normal” student who is interested in Chinese could even pass the class. (The student I’m thinking of is getting an A+ and is speaking in sentences spontaneously — understanding a lot more, of course.)

      The symbolic reading system of Chinese is going also to require some extra care. It’s never sounded out; it’s not quite the same as literacy development in a phonetic (or semi-phonetic, like English!) language. This means I have been able to go a little wider in auditory than I go in reading. I have not found that students retain characters as fast as they retain auditory input. So, I want to be sure what they see in reading is really already very familiar auditorially.

      This is not to say non-targeted is impossible in Chinese, but I think it’ll look about the same on day 1 anyway, just to maintain comprehensibility. I loved Justin’s article in iJFLT. I felt it was the same kind of middle approach that I am aiming for with my classes.

  9. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    btw, I haven’t seen much classical checking for comprehension (‘What did I just say? What does X mean?’) in the NT/SL vids. Am I right to assume there’s less of it?

    1. There is less of it. But I do it from time to time. I sense when it’s needed. It’s all in their posture their eyes and in those invisible threads that connect us all in a group.

    2. We don’t need to check for comprehension so much with NT because, w the heightened interest, the students make sure that they understand. One could argue the point that when we targeted words we kind of built in a guaranteed level of boredom that required Blaine to begin to ask “What did I just say?” in the way that a parent lecturing a child would do, because they sensed that the child was not really paying attention. Which, in my case, was the case. So glad to be done with that. The fact is that if we have to ask a class what it is that we just said, then on some level we know that they are not involved.

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Diane, what you say makes a lot of sense. When our Spanish Ss don’t recognize a cognate orally (i.e, ‘elefante’), then they usually do if we stop to write it down, point & pause, and then say it. But you don’t have any of that luxury in Mandarin. The foreign sounds can build up and overwhelm very rapidly. For young kids in some ways it’s like Mandarin all the time, though they do seem to have a greater tolerance for ‘noise’ if there are other non-linguistic supports: pictures, props, drawings, gestures, sound effects, etc.

  11. I’m trying to catch up with you guys!

    I’ve experienced a little the feeling of NT flow the past couple of weeks now that I’m in my 2nd month at my new school. I would say that I’ve been holding back from introducing new language unless it can be easily acted out, like how we used the words ‘slither’ and ‘spat’ the other day. Otherwise, I try to stick to the Super 7 verbs (currently moving into the Sweet 16) and present those verbs in a more classical way. I feel the need to present the Sweet 16 in a classical way to help me keep my footing as I try to both be comprehensible and compelling.

    (I’m looking forward to being more active here soon. I’ve been busy putting the right curriculum pieces together for my new Spanish heritage classes. My current admin/coach has some wonderful ideas we’re bouncing around. This admin/coach recently got an all-school SSR initiative up and running. As you see, I’m in a good place!)

  12. Ben can yu pls resend the link to the original JSB article? That link doesn’t work.

    I have no tolerance for censorship. I will ask outright whether my article (which I submitted a few weeks ago and is slated now for the May iJFLT) will be published exactly as I submitted it before it goes out. I doubt there will be changes though, as the topic is pretty non-controversial. It’s about adapting and creating literacy materials for the elementary WL classroom – the same topic I recently presented on.
    I thought JSB’s article was fabulous. Lots of great points. Did I read it on his blog a while back? I saw him present on it somewhere recently – maybe at Midwest comprehensible or a summer conf?

    Perhaps much of what I do is, in fact, NT, like my birthday celebration ritual, and some of the other routines…like having a magician pick a magic wand from a vase to cast a silent spell (with a flourish) on the light panel, before turning the lights off/on – then everyone applauds at the magician’s control of the light…
    The non-direct instruction time is rife with possibility for NT input – like discussing the who and what of the daily jobs. That same language repeats regularly, too… in the same was a circling w/Balls is.

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