T1 + T2 + NT = TNT for TPRS

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76 thoughts on “T1 + T2 + NT = TNT for TPRS”

  1. My position is that neither T1 and T2 can work. I see both approaches as really a big cop-out to the curriculum and the system to assuage the guilt and fear of not aligning with the demands of the schools. Guilt and fear are not good things to plan teaching on.

    Krashen seems to go against his own research here. He is, in effect, trying to cram his entire set of theories into a school environment. But it won’t fit. It’s too big. Language is too big, too natural. Language cannot be tamed in the way Martina implies above.

    Specifically, language learners need, as I see it based on my almost 40 years in the classroom, FAR MORE INPUT than can be provided in a T1 or T2 classroom, even if the program of study is twelve years long. I won’t cite the numbers because we have talked about them so much here before. It’s purely a question of the quantity of input that T1 and T2 can provide.

    Krashen seems to be making the claim now that T1 (what TPRS became over the past two decades) and T2 (what it morphed into from that in the past two years) actually align with his own research. 

    I am stunned that Krashen would even say that. The only reason that I can think of for it is that he has never worked as a teacher in a classroom. Whether that is true or not, his position sure makes it easy on teachers who need structure, who need to feel that they are “doing a good job” within the limitations of their job environment while still aligning with the research. No blame. But there do seem to be discrepancies between at least what I personally understand Krashen’s original research to say and what he is saying now.

    That is why I can say that in my opinion Martina may be off when she says this in the first of the above articles:

    …I chose to target as a compromise with the grammar-based teachers to which my students were headed (I tackled the same grammatical constructions that they did, just in a different way). Furthermore, I chose to target because it helped me organize, plan….

    Well that is great but it doesn’t lead to acquisition – it leads to soup. But the soup is dry and boring, whereas NT soup is alive and tasty. But since no one can prove that, she gets away with saying it and, apparently, people are lapping it up. They can work in schools, address the curriculum, and still use comprehensible input! It’s a win-win!

    I just don’t believe it, not in my heart.

    It’s like in that movie where Captain Sully has to decide in just a few seconds if he can return to LaGuardia and the computers tell him he can and he “knows” somehow based only on his 43 years as a pilot that he can’t.

     

    1. Aw, I decided to visit but I don’t have time to read these comments or reply now. This is really interesting and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Bummer — I’ll come back tomorrow when I have more time.

      I think that Stephen Krashen has indicated measured approval of T2 perhaps mainly because of his experience acquiring Mandarin Chinese. I’ll explain more later.

  2. I just know that richer language is more entertaining to my kids. I just know that walking in with the intention to communicate something interesting – a traditional story, a fun story based on an Anne Matava script (just tried that Thursday with the story “An Important Test”) or an interesting cultural practice or a story based on the kids’ characters (OWI or an Invisible), I just know that walking in with that intention – to amuse and entertain them – carries us along on safe, comfortable rails of human connection. Which is what storytelling does. My kids seem content. I think it is because there is variety in the SUBJECT of the input. Plus I pick things that I LOVE to talk about…and they sense that and come with me to the realm of imagination, story, play, and “what’s happening next”? I look back and I can scarcely believe the changes I have undergone in one year of focus on NT work. The freedom it has given me and the kids. How I tried to fit a straightjacket of target language around my communication with them – for years! How tiring that was. How much work it was to keep the engagement alive. How grateful I am to be free of that. How this approach levels the playing field even more. I no longer wonder about the barometer students. Once I did an experiment, and gave my barometer students the task of writing down what they understood. They understood the general trajectory of the input. The language is sinking in as the kids are ready. On their own timeline. And they are comfortable. I wager these same kids would also be highly disengaged with traditional teaching or with targeted teaching. Here is a teacher truth: We will never reach them all. At least the way I am teaching, with trust in their capacity to acquire what they are ready for, at least now there is no failing and shaming and ranking and “I can’t do this.” Everyone can listen. Everyone can take what they can from the soup. Some are faster, some are slower. Some acquire more and others less. But they can all listen and let the language seep in.

    I have realized this year that my major concern is how we measure the “outcomes” (aka assessment). If teachers are able to make stories with target language work, go for it. Maybe you like that. Maybe it makes you more comfortable. Maybe you are a rock star and you can make anything fun. Some of us are like that. I know on my good days I am. But on my bad days, when I am tired or sad or gloomy and grey, that was always a struggle for me. So I believe NT stories and input is easier. But regardless, we need to look carefully at the way we measure outcomes for the kids. And absolutely not ask them to “master” or “acquire” or “control” certain aspects of the language at any certain time. That, to me, is the dividing line. How we deliver the CI is up to us, as we are the experts on our own classrooms, our own buildings, our own students, our own hearts. How we assess kids is, for me, the battleground. We simply must give up the idea that our Amazing Input and our Wonderful Teaching Skills are supposed to lead to mastery on anyone’s timeline but the kids’ internal clocks. That is the real battle, and that is Targeting 1.

    Of course, Krashen DOES say that Targeting 1 is not to be desired, and Targeting 2 is to be TOLERATED in CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES and that Non-Targeting is the DEFAULT MODE and is superior. He wrote a paper in which he outlined many benefits of NT work and how NT input solves many problems of the grammatical syllabus.

    http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/nontargeted_input.pdf

    1. And when I say that T1 is the real enemy I do not want anyone to think that there are not CI and TPRS teachers expecting T1 type results. (:I taught it now I will test to see who got it” types.) I believe I even recently read Blaine saying that he expects automaticity and control over certain structures. So, T1 is alive and well in TPRS.

      I would go back and find that post by Blaine but I left the iFLT FB page in November some time, and so I have lost the ability to find that information. Maybe someone who still goes there will find it and share with us here. I was very busy the weekend of COFLT when Blaine posted that and I remember thinking, I will get back to reading it, but then time got away from me. I would like to read it again, if someone can go to iFLT, do a search for Blaine’s posts, find his post from around Oct. 14 or so when he was talking about mastering targets, copy it, and post it here. I am not sure if I am remembering his position correctly but I remember thinking that he was advocating T1, back then.

      Also the article by Krashen states that T2 aims to target to understand the story, and that is what TPRS does. But that is incorrect in the case of TPRS as I was taught it – the story helps the targets go down, not the other way ’round.

      1. I have studied his two papers (the one from June and the one from November) more and more intently and I think that the hierarchy is:

        NT is preferred, then T2, then T1 (which in June he says is dangerously-close to skills-building).

        The question of whether TPRS is T1 or T2 seems to be up for debate. I am trying my best to understand it and I am corresponding with Beniko and Steve to try to understand more. I know for a fact that Beniko sees a lot of TPRS instruction as skills-building, due to the repetitions which, to her trained eye, create a focus on form.

        (This BLEW MY MIND in the summer in Agen. I think they put a plaque on the wall of that dining-room. Here Lies Tina’s Mind. Blown July 25, 2016.)

        I think that the best, most talented TPRS teachers are often able to provide T2, and that also very many TPRS teachers – probably the majority – are providing T1 as defined in his first paper (from June). I also know that very very few teachers are providing NT though it is clearly (below) the preferred method. NT represents a major shift and it requires a slightly different skillset to keep it comprehensible. It is still COMPREHENSIBLE input after all, though it may be non-targeted. And I think that only a small number of teachers have shifted to providing all NT all the time. It is a huge shift mentally.

        NT all the time would mean:

        1. giving up class novel studies especially in lower levels, in of SSR
        2. using Story Listening without word lists
        3. using the Invisibles and OWIs and “light targeting” of emergent language and not going back and requiring mastery of the emergent language, just clarifying meaning and moving on
        4. using class discussions like Grant does
        5. never testing on language, just assessing the kids’ global competence. For example, their ACTFL level in writing or listening.

        From Krashen’s November paper:
        Nontargeted input (NT): I argued for this option in Krashen (2013). It rests on a corollary of the Comprehension Hypothesis: Given enough comprehensible input, all the structures and vocabulary items the acquirer is ready to acquire are present in the input, and naturally reviewed. In other words, we don’t have to aim at i+1; i+1 will be there.

  3. Also, somewhere in her article Martina says that some of the kids acquire what she is targeting. If that is true, then we have vastly different opinions on what it means to acquire some concept in a foreign language. Is she talking about acquiring it for the test? I just don’t see where she can say that using T2 brings acquisition after one class. More like a few years at the very extreme minimum. I must be missing something about this T2 thing. If anybody can see where my thinking is skewed, please let me know.

    1. Ben, you think deeper than MBA. We as teachers want to believe that what we do is the best thing because we don’t want to be failures and we want to look good. Think about those adult personalities in le petit prince. Anyway, recognition is probably what she actually means and more than likely in the same context. Does acquisition require some sort of output? Does it require just simple understanding of what gets said like in an SL story?

    2. I just read her article and thought that it was balanced between the realities of the expectations we often face and the realities of the research claims.

      In the following statement she stresses the word “begin”: “My students would *begin* to acquire the target structures.”

      She then goes on to focus on attaining comprehensibility for all students:
      By the end of story asking, *all* of my students can understand the target structures within the context of the story.

      She then points out that there are differences the ability of students to remember them (in the original story context), to understand them in different context, and to produce them.

      “Some of them will remember the structures forever; others will forget them after just a few days. Some will be able to interpret them in new contexts and maybe even produce them; others will be stretching just to accurately interpret the story as originally told.”

      I understand that her focus is on those particular targets as vocabulary (“she was speaking”), and not on acquisition of “was doing something = -aba.”

      She then addresses practical needs for targeting, (some of which are note in the SKrashen article): “If I can’t guarantee full acquisition of the target structures by the end of a story asking session, you may be wondering why target at all?”

      In fact, she makes this disclaimer:
      “my expectation at the end of this unit was NOT that…my students would fully master (understand and be able to produce now and forevermore) the target structures.”

      Martina has been a great gateway source for a lot of people exploring better ways to reach their kids after they have weighed their results in the balance and found them to not produce communicators.

      1. Nathaniel, I really like Martina. This is not about her. She is a great person and a creative hard worker! I truly believe she has a heart of gold.

        But I cannot agree with this.

        Yu wrote, “[Martina] then goes on to focus on attaining comprehensibility for all students:
        By the end of story asking, *all* of my students can understand the target structures within the context of the story.”

        I would like to offer this vision of comprehensibility: By the end of the story, *all* of my students can understand the trajectory of the story. They have followed the arc of the story with their conscious minds while their unconscious minds took in the language that was used to convey this meaning.

        1. Another wondering I have on this particularly-juicy post by Martina.

          She writes, “my expectation at the end of this unit was NOT that…my students would fully master (understand and be able to produce now and forevermore) the target structures.”

          My question is, if they have not gained the ability to understand and fully produce the target structures then why focus on these language elements so much, potentially jeopardizing the students’ engagement? If the focus is not mastery or acquisition of the structures, then why spend energy on them?

          Maybe she is trying to suggest it is good to give the illusion of teaching something from the book or word list. Well, you can also plan to put those in a story you tell without targets. Just put them in your notes for story listening, and use them as you talk, and then, “Look ma, I am teaching words!”

          Why sacrifice student engagement for an illusion to appease other adults, when you really do not care about mastery?

          I have questions.

          If we are targeting the words FROM THE STORY that the kids need to UNDERSTAND THE STORY that is T2 right? But we are not expecting any mastery.
          In the post Martina says that she is targeting words to write a story that then she will the share with people who can then use it with their kids, having them supply the cute details for the blank parts. Then she does not care about their mastery or ability to recognize those words. I am confused.

          For most TPRS teachers the goal is to say the targets a whole bunch of times. I know I used to love those adorable pitch counters and if it said 50 or 60 at the end of class I would get all self-congratulatory. My goal was to make the targets go down easy with a good dose of humor and fun and personalization. The goal was loads of repetitions.

          Why have that goal if T2 is your goal? There is simply no reason to let repetitions of words and phrases define your whole day unless you are going to expect that effort and that exercise in fighting boredom to pay off, by having kids who can understand and use those structures.

          1. Thank you, Tina (and Ben, below), for your thoughtful explanations.

            “By the end of the story, *all* of my students can understand the trajectory of the story.” This offers a clear difference from focus on targets in the story.

            (I have discovered that I am a slow processor and will still be trying to figure this out after this post has to be searched in the archives.)

          2. I think this is important. I just re-read it.

            They have followed the arc of the story with their conscious minds while their unconscious minds took in the language that was used to convey this meaning.

            What I meant by this was that we cannot git rid of the kids’ conscious minds. Unless we devote all our time to meditation practice. And probably not even then. Ever tried to meditate? I usually last like .00004 seconds before my conscious mind is all like, “I AM HEEERE!”

            So, we are teaching to the unconscious minds but the conscious minds are there too. We ARE teaching to the conscious minds. We are teaching to BOTH. We might be the only teachers in the whole building that even give passing thought to our students’ unconscious minds.

            The conscious mind should be focused on healthy endeavors: being creative, attending to an interesting story, thinking about an upcoming school event or the weather, learning that on August 3 it is winter in Perú.

            The conscious mind thus happily engaged, the unconscious mind can then soak in the language.

            The trick is to make the conscious mind happy with compelling input that it can understand or it will rebel from boredom or self-preservation (not wanting to feel the pain of not-understanding, of being “dumb”.)

          3. …We might be the only teachers in the whole building that even give passing thought to our students’ unconscious minds…..

            Perhaps coaches in P.E. classes and in the music classes. When they play a sport or a musical interest, they have to not think. They have to find the flow state.

  4. Russ had it right when he mentioned the term “post tprs” there are compromises, grey areas and lines being drawn that are naturally going to separatend NT and targeted work. It happens. One thing that I look down in shame is the watered down versions of tprs. That is my opinion. We force language structure cause adults are scared. The youth loses on every battle ground.

    As for assessments, we’ve been through that and some thing’s will not fly. I had my dept chair mention how admins just love data “so just tell them 80% got it” then move on. I blow it off because what matters is how my input is. Questions to students include: on a scale of 1 to 3, how interested were you? And how much did you get?

    1. Well stated, Steven.

      There is nothing like putting “compelling and comprehensible” jargon-free English:
      “Questions to students include: on a scale of 1 to 3, how interested were you? And how much did you get?”

      Also, your data summary is great: “I had my dept chair mention how admins just love data “so just tell them 80% got it” then move on.”

      1. I noticed both of those things Steven said as well, Nathaniel. I love the simplicity. It is also a very human and respectful thing to just ask a child what they understood. Too human and too respectful for school admins, for sure. But Steven, now only in his second year teaching, will soon be changing that culture of judging kids in favor or working with them on the assessment piece.

        1. Thank you both Nathaniel and Ben. I will add that my administration has been really supported and trusting in both my structures and my professional development. My plans will include student goal choices on the jGR/ISR piece for the week. We cannot control acquisition, only values, vision and model enthusiasm for communication.

          1. Steven, did you say you’re going to let your students choose a criteria on the jGR/ISR to focus on for next week? That’s a great idea.

            I’d love to see what your jGR/ISR looks like. I’ve recently decided to use the same one Grant Boulanger refined and has been promoting.

          2. I use the old one in color to setup my class in the beginning of the year about 1 week. Around this time, this scholastic year, there was a variation mGR on this blog. I adapted it and created in class expectations. I told them that my expectations are based on what I expect. I tell them that jGR looks like it was written by teachers for teachers.

            This week is our week back from break. So I projected on my screen the old jGR which I will not project anymore after this week. We reviewed. Then I have my students read the expectations. and ask them “WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE/WHAT DOES THAT MEAN”? — I do this for “support the flow of French” because it is vague to them.

  5. All points well taken, Nathaniel, and Martina is not my target here. I really raise the points above because I am confused about why SK would say that T2 is acceptable in terms of his theories. That, and not Martina’s good work, is what I am wrestling with. I am really wondering aloud, without any clear understanding of it myself, how SK could be publicly condoning such a bending of his ideas.

    I said above:

    …Krashen seems to go against his own research here. He is, in effect, trying to cram his entire set of theories into a school environment. But it won’t fit. It’s too big. Specifically, language learners need, as I see it based on almost 40 years in the classroom, FAR MORE INPUT than can be arranged in a T1 or T2 classroom….

    Tina said to me in an email today:

    …in his book the Easy Way, SK says the goal of SLA programs is to get them to the place where they can acquire from the environment, meaning “authentic resources” like going abroad or watching TV or radio/podcasts or reading on their own, or conversing with fluent speakers. That I like because it acknowledges the reality that “mastery” of a language is the goal. In PPS (Portland Schools) the goal for two years of study is Intermediate Mid, meaning that they can ask questions and talk about simple things like answering questions about their immediate interests. They cannot yet talk in paragraphs and they make a lot of errors so that a normal speaker will get frustrated….

    More Tina on this, from private emails with her today:

    …SK says T1 is unacceptable (getting kids to output correctly, like hearing the pattern and then producing the pattern) and T2 is “sometimes” needed but that NT is the “default setting” but NO ONE is willing to LISTEN TO THAT because they are just all like, “Oh goody T2 is what we do” even though that is not what a lot of TPRS teachers do; they are stuck in the “I taught it so I will test it” mindset. And the T2 teachers are all sitting around patting themselves on the back because SK says that T2 is OK. EVEN THOUGH in his OWN writing it says that T2 is only “sometimes” desirable. And they base their almost whole program on T2. Goes to show how people hear what they want to hear….

    And below is even more Tina and you can see why I am thinking Tina is the perfect choice to take over this blog when I go running off into the woods in the next five years to commune with the pine trees because the flower essence pine brings relief from overwork:

    …it is T2 and NT that he says are acceptable and he clearly says NT is superior because of the “noise” and the compellingness. BUT NO ONE IS LISTENING….

  6. And I might add a kind of unrelated comment about non-Romanized language. For so long intellectuals have made Hebrew and Chinese to be these unsolvable problems with CI. Those languages have been set aside as “special”. They have all this terminology and so much of it is of the mind when in my opinion such languages are easily acquired if the teacher just speaks slowly enough! That is all that is needed from my own layman point of view. And the foremost voice in elementary CI instruction and also in Hebrew in the world – in my opinion – our own Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg kind of agreed with me on that point just today in an email. She said:

    …I have a hunch you are 100% correct – that it’s all about slow for the other languages. Once the kids crack the code in Hebrew, it’s quite simple and very phonetic. Most of the same sounds as English plus a gutteral here and there for fun (and extra saliva). Lots of opportunities for spelling errors, but who cares about that?…

    ….I will press on because I can see that the kids’ brains are getting more accustomed to the sounds in Hebrew and the cadence of the sentences. I will press on with establishing meaning in Hebrew, writing words as they come up. I will continue to write up stories, though I haven’t done that very much yet, with so few instructional minutes. I am really slathering on the oral/aural….

    [Tina if you read this would you recommend some Write and Discuss here – why here and not somewhere else I don’t know – as well and if so can you write a post on W and D and I will post it as an article bc it is kind of a new term probably for many people here who may be able to use it in their teaching this year. W and D is not in any of my books and I know you use it with OWI. Come to think of it, make a video or I will or we can together not just on OWI but also on W and D. We need to make some videos to show how all the stuff we are talking about works. We really need to do that. Put that on your 2017 list.]

    1. Write and Discuss: You have told a story to the class as in Story Listening, or created a story with the class, or you have done a One Word Image with the class. Now you can extend that into creating a text with them and using that text for the Reading Options. Ben’s Post on Reading Options.

      So how to generate the text? You could use your prep period to do that, which is fine, and a pleasant use of your time, especially I am finding with the Invisibles because the stories are so fun and unique and often surprisingly rich in meaning. (Plus they are all different so no more writing four stories about the same structures with just the names changed for each class…snore…)

      You could use your prep, sure, but wouldn’t you rather go get coffee or check Facebook? I mean, priorities, people! Seriously, relaxation and taking a breath and also not taking work home is a huge priority, so that we can be more relaxed and present and “with it” when we have kids in front of us. I read an article (Link here) recently that said that teachers report the same level of stress as doctors and nurses. I have also recently become aware through some health struggles of my own, of the detrimental effects stress has on our bodies which we kinda need to carry us into work each day, so it is important to relax! It is FOR THE KIDS!

      So, how to get that class-created text without spending too much non-class time (or any time) on it? Why, write it with the kids of course.

      Grant Boulanger taught me the term Language Experience Approach last year, and this is very similar. See this link.

      Dr. Krashen has also written about the Language Experience Approach saying in this article that it was deserves another look.

      So, this is not only a way to work less (my mission in life), it also has pedagogical value as the kids co-construct a text with you.

      So, you have the story writer’s notes beside you at the doc camera or the computer that you are projecting. I prefer writing by hand for this, because handwriting has an artisanal quality that is hard to come by these days. Waldorf education even has a teacher training manual called Soul Development through Handwriting! And in Montessori children learn and practice the cursive alphabet from a young age by tracing the sandpaper letters. I love writing by hand and even those with “bad” handwriting can use this as an excuse to practice. (Handwriting is not a fixed trait any more than not knowing how to ski or no knowing how to knit.)

      Anyway, you ask the kids to help you basically re-construct the story. I start by asking “Tale or Story”? I just kind of let them call out. Then I ask “The Tale (or Story) of Whom?” They call out the answer. “Jake the Marshmallow” or whatever. Sometimes that gets extended. “Jake the Fat Sad Marshmallow” could be a title.

      I proceed through the story like that, basically asking the details again. “Where was Jake”? “Was Jake big or small?” “Was Jake blue or green?” This, to me, has the advantage of including the information that students found memorable, so that the class-created text reflects their interests. Details they do not remember or offer to me just fall by the wayside. Since I am no longer focused on teaching certain lexical items or morphological constructions, I care not what language is recycled to build this text. (If I was worried about the kids’ acquiring a certain part of the language, I would put that in myself, just to expose them to that lexical or grammatical information once more, but generally I am not thinking like that at all so I just write whatever they offer.)

      I will sometimes “fancy up” the language they feed back to me. Like I will add new cool words or whatever pops into my mind. For example, “unfortunately” and “no one” and “in reality” and “the next day” and such. The kids like it. Makes everyone feel smart. And they really seem to remember these elements of the language, because they just popped up and fancied up their story right there before their very eyes. I keep this to a minimum, maybe two or three per text.

      It is pretty simple, actually, like how any good CI strategy is. That is why I love this work so much, that and some inexplicable calling I feel for it. Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” CI feels real to me, and making these texts feels very cozy and artisanal and homespun and creative and free. I love it and now I am thinking, I should do more of it.

      I did W n D a ton at the beginning of the year but with more SL these days I have fallen out of the habit. I want to get back to more stories with the Invisibles soon (as soon as it stops snowing and freezing-raining every other week in Portland! We are home again for Snow Day #5 this school year. I just hope that school lets out by June 26 for the Comprehensible Cascadia conference or I will have missed the first three days and the last days of school due to conferences and workshops ha ha, but not really, come ON, weather!!!) and do more W n D. But this was, in my mind, a critical stepping stone to SSR which started November 15 or so, at the start of Quarter Two. W n D and the Reading Options provided their first steps into L2 reading, comfortably, confidently, simply, and sweetly.

      Here are a couple of videos.

      In this one the W n D starts at 4 minutes in.

      This one has two parts.
      Part one is reviewing the artists’ work to remember the story, prior to the W n D.
      Here is the W n D part.

      1. I did a version of this earlier this year (with Sp 1, 2, and 3). I had the students write it down in their binders as we recalled it, projecting it on the screen as I typed it. I had them put in their binders to have a written source to read, to make them feel like we had done something, and to have writing that is comprehension-focused. We did not review it for content changes. It worked very well, and then something came up and I forgot about it. But I agree that it is engaging for the students. Nice description.

      2. “…relaxation and taking a breath and also not taking work home is a huge priority…”

        Seconded from the heart. My classes and my quality of life both improved when I started that advice. This should be a required mantra for teachers and taught in teacher education programs.

    2. On Chinese: I agree, of course slow and comprehensible is all they need. I think that one of the ways we Chinese teachers can serve world language as a whole is because we have pretty radical needs for comprehensibility and can’t use the typical cognate-reliance to overcome it. We’re like a model that yes, any language can be made comprehensible. Chinese doesn’t have what Hebrew does: a more-or-less phonetic writing system.

      For reading… I think too much new language at once in reading, esp. Chinese, is going to kill students’ sense of excitement and success. So I limit how much new gets added to reading at a time. That’s where I think (maybe) Dr. Krashen has allowed for T2. I don’t think it’s overstepping his privacy to say he’s found character reading a challenge (he’s said that to Chinese teachers).

      By limiting the language either heard or that ends up in reading, it looks like targeting, at least to some. But my aim is not acquisition on a time frame (so not Targeting 1), it is to make reading material comprehensible to my beginning-level students (especially then, when they need to feel success so much). However, those ways in which I slow down the amount of input and limit new language looks like targeting in a bad way to some people. I have learned that this past year. But don’t we want comprehensible reading? I guess instead students could just not read for a very long time, but even so, when they begin, I think they’d need a limited amount of new characters in the reading at a time. So we’re back to looking like bad targeting to some people again. Since I don’t have to wait for reading if I make the reading overall comprehensible to my students, we begin reading early on after aural input.

      It seems to me that there is a continuum on these issues, not a black-and-white, either/or, with crisp lines. I’d be interested in hearing if others see similar differences between:
      – Auditory input as a class (where the teacher can clarify meaning with pictures, gloss to L1, gesturing, voice inflection, etc. — so can be wider, more nontargeted);
      – Reading as a class (where the teacher can smooth over a little excess “noise” in the reading as needed — but if there are like 15 new phrases needing this kind of clarification in a reading, I think students are working too hard);
      – Reading provided to students more independently (I think we want i-1 material when they read on their own, and that means if they read in Chinese, it’s going to have quite limited amounts of new language for a longer time than in phonetic, alphabet languages).

      Those last 2 paragraphs in Dr. K’s article:

      “Nontargeted input is the ‘default mode.’ With nontargeted input, unfamiliar vocabulary and unacquired grammar is made comprehensible with the help of context, linguistic and non-linguistic. Sometimes, however, this is not enough, especially when the first and second languages have few or no cognates.

      There are two options for dealing with this situation: Use Targeting 2 or supply more comprehensible input with more contextual support, eg pictures. I have noticed that there are fewer comprehensible texts available in just those languages where they are the most needed.”

      I do what he suggests with pictures, too — often we add our own drawings when we read something as a class. Murals on the whiteboard have been fun. This week in classes we’ve been doing read, draw, pass — a Martina Bex activity. Together we read aloud a little bit of a story, then students draw a quick sketch, and pass to a classmate. At the end we have a series of cute, little drawings from the whole class. We can use those again.

      Ok, there it is. That’s my present understanding and opinion. Let me also say that I’m experimenting and open to other ideas, though maybe a little cautious about implementing them. Certainly I’m listening and letting them simmer.

      1. Well thought-out, Diane.

        Regarding i+1 , I believe that that can be happening even if there are no new structures. Why do I say this?

        First, we do not know what “i” is. Second, we do not know what “+1” is. Thirdly, we cannot hit a target we cannot see. I think that it can be a relief to know that we do not have to be consciously pushing at the edge of what we think is “i” meets “+1.”

        Let us say that we add no new vocabulary. “i+1” tells us that a student is ready to acquire something that student comprehends. But that student may not be ready to acquire something that I think is the next step.

        Furthermore, acquisition takes place in bits, so the student may be ready to acquire a few bits from the next input (e.g., story) even though it includes no new words. But if it is acquired in bits, the new word may be too much to be acquired in its first exposures.

        Now, I think we should be adding new words as their brains are ready for them and to the extent that they are able to process them without undue frustration. It is just that we can be guided by what is pertinent and germane to the story without being too much for the learner; by what is interesting, apropos, fun, melodic, rhythmic, etc. And I believe that that is what you are doing.

        I understand that what we are doing is consciously casting the net, knowing that we are unable to ascertain x+1, and in hopes of providing the necessary CI to feed x+1.

        Again, great comments on special concerns of low-cognate and low comprehensibility in Chinese.

        1. Thanks, Nathaniel. I believe you have Dr. Krashen’s definition of i+1 there: it’s not something we can know in advance, and the +1 is not equal to any new words made comprehensible in the context. It could be something else altogether.

          “Undue frustration” — that is a good term for what I’m aiming for with Chinese reading. Enjoyable, interesting reading, not making them work too hard. If it’s frustrating to read something, I think at best it really is conscious learning going on. One of the things that I have liked about how I’m providing reading is that I think it draws on the unconscious and “what sounds right,” not analysis of language forms. That’s there a little, but it’s not the focus. The focus is meaning. From that, the language forms start to stick with them, too, over time, at the student’s own pace.

  7. I hope you agree Nathaniel that this drifting of CI into a big nebulous cloud away from the TPRS cloud should never be argued about. How can we expect clouds not to change shape? I personally have seen many clouds do that, when I was smart enough to remember to look at the sky on certain days, and long enough to see the shapes change. That is a really good metaphor for what has been happening in this work for the past 20 years.

    The fact is that this discussion should never be about personalities but rather about ideas. And further, it should not be a discussion about which ideas are best but rather which ideas work best for each individual teacher. I know we agree on that, because we are all different personally and professionally. But, thinking of how clouds change and having said all of the above, I STILL don’t get about SK supporting T1 and T2 when in 2009 it became very clear to me that the dude was really a true NT power broker.

    Always good to get a comment from you, Nathaniel! You keep us all honest, kind of an East Coast Robert Harrell. Hey, you could be the Chevalier de l’Est to his Chevalier de l’Ouest!

    1. Ben, the only way to know is to ask the man himself. My prediction is: unity via compromise. I remember a certain prophet had once said that eating ALL meat was detrimental to the health of community. However, he had made a compromise by eliminating pork officially rather than all meats. This way there would be more people readily accepting the generally message. People over hard and fast rules.

    2. Mais j’ai peur de chevaux, a la difference de notre frere, Robert.

      It is refreshing to hear discussions about different ways to comprehensibly input. (It sure beats differences of whether or not to comprehensibly input.)

  8. I’ll be honest, I still use Target Structures. However, it is true that whenever I have told Non-targeted stories, the interest level is much higher. Personally, I target because it allows me to prepare practices such as “Movie Talks” in advance (usually in the summer). This helps free up a lot time planning time for me during the school year. I am thinking that I may be wrong and that my classes could be better and more interesting if I don’t target but I have some fears.

    I guess my question to the group is, if I decide to switch to Non-Targeted stories, and I have five different classes (in high school), will that be more difficult for me as a teacher to then plan subsequent activities for each class? Or maybe I am planning too much practice after a TPRS story anyway. This year, the sequence for my classes are:
    Day 1: PQA with targets one day
    Day 2: TPRS story (usually in past tense)
    Day 3: we read the story (usually still in past)
    Day 4 & 5: We tend to spend still on written story and do games and activities with it.
    Day 6 & 7: We read a similar story that I created (in present tense) about a student in class using the targets and we spend a few classes on this. Maybe this is overkill, but the kids really enjoy this.

    However, I am starting to think that this is too much. I’d like to get some opinions. How much practice should be spent on the written story? How many classes after the TPRS story has been created should we still be reviewing / talking about it? Is no PQA prior to TPRS stories ok? And if I decide to do some PQA practice after the structures have “emerged”, then I will have to plan completely different questions for each of my five classes! I know some of you may not have to plan your questions ahead, but I’m not very creative on the spot.

    Also, I tend to do very well to “ask” a story that I already have in mind when I already know what the main character’s problem is. I did do a couple non-targeted stories at the end of last year. Some went extremely well and others flopped because we couldn’t think of a problem. (By the way, we did use the invisibles to do this.)

    Thank you so much and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!!

    1. One thing. I have found that the NT work really cut my planning time down to near zero. I mean, there is really nothing to plan at all.

      I know how to create characters, I know how to tell stories. I know how to write them up the next day with the class doing Write and Discuss, and I know how to use the writing to do extension activities, the Reading Options.

      When I tell a story for Story Listening, I do have to look up stories and find one I like, and then prepare to tell it. I just write it out in large letters like an outline. Rhea, who is student teaching with me, also plans out her drawings. I do not do that, but it helps her stay focused on the kids if she knows in her head what she is planning to draw.

      Other than that, the only prep I have is entering grades once every two weeks: Interpersonal Communication and reading Habits.

    2. Keri, simplify days 1-5 and add story listening.

      Here’s mine: (at anytime it can change too)

      Day 1: Story about a student using a simple question ex: Where did you go over the weekend?
      Day 2: short reading about day 1, or FVR followed by Invisibles.
      Day 3: Read invisibles story plus story listening (and summary)
      Day 4: FVR, finish anything left, WTCG or have students draw.

      I use other classes stories for story listening, I also change details ON THE SPOT of these stories like when I gave a “big mac” a name “Biggie.

      Multiple stories in multiple classes just needs organization of your papers — different labeled folders etc… It is very helpful because I get more material to choose from. For example, my squirrely 4th period French 1 gets more storylistening from other classes.

  9. Keri you asked:

    …I have five different classes (in high school), will that be more difficult for me as a teacher to then plan subsequent activities for each class?….

    The way I have it set up is that you base all the activities on the story that you make with the kids and there are 21 such activities. So as long as you have a reading of a story (given to you as usual by your story writer) you won’t have any problem because you just go down the 21 reading options list and so you don’t even need to plan. The NT system has no need of planning, ever. Unless you want to I suppose.

    Also you said:

    …maybe this is overkill, but the kids really enjoy this….

    Then it’s not overkill. If it works it’s not overkill. We each do it differently. I did it the way you are doing it for 15 years and it always frustrated me so I invented something new. Embracing NT has been part of my process but it may not be for anyone else, or just a few. We do what works for us.

    …how much practice should be spent on the written story?….

    I do a ton of extensions in the form of those 21 reading steps. Usually I don’t always do all 21. Sometimes I only do three. But I always get a lot of mileage out of the written story.

    …how much practice should be spent on the written story?….

    For me it can vary from one class to four or even five, depending on how many of the 21 reading strategies I choose to do. Usually I do one day only, of only steps 4 -7 of the strategies.

    …is no PQA prior to TPRS stories ok?….

    PQA, and I should know because I wrote a book about it, for me is not the best choice. PQA sucks. It has confused countless people and harnessed a lot of classes into making the story a delivery system for the words listed without any regard for the research which for 20 years now has had the effect of stifling the potential in stories not to mention more than one teacher break out in a rash. Rather, in NT work, the words become a delivery system for the story, which leads to lots of freedom. I think that if you were to try it, you would feel as if you traded in your old Ford for a Mercedes. But as I said above we will all do it differently and we all get to choose what works best for us. I just feel that NT is what Blaine originally had in mind. I think it all got distorted and PQA was one of the big distortions of Blaine’s original vision. If you speak clearly to the kids in ways that they want to understand, there is much more freedom and targets are just not necessary! The entire nightmare that was TPRS, that it became at the hands of all the experts who popped up over the past fifteen years, wasn’t really in line with the original vision of Blaine and the original research of SK. That is why I said that the T1/T2 garbage that even SK inexplicably supports (T2 only really) is going to cause our movement to blow up. I am a traditionalist in that I follow SK on NT only and not on T1 (neither does he) or T2 (he supports this and I don’t know why) and sorry for that rant.

  10. And Keri this was a big question:

    …if I decide to do some PQA practice after the structures have “emerged”, then I will have to plan completely different questions for each of my five classes!…

    See the thing is that PQA is boring and what happens with my version of NT (the Invisibles, which is a carefully planned out system), the questioning is rarely if ever boring or in need of planning. Think of deciding to have a conversation with someone but in every sentence you have to use one of three words that you chose in advance of the conversation. That is boring. Because the focus is on the words and not the kids and what they have created.

    Now be clear that I cannot know about anything about how NT CI teaching might work without the Invisibles. I started developing the Invisibles in Jan. of a year ago and every month it has gathered steam. Tina helped me by testing and advising and so she jumped on board and is now expert at it, but I can’t speak of NT in general, only how NT works with the Invisibles.

    So my point here is that NT conversation is so naturally interesting this new way, since it is based on the kids’ interests and not on the interests of the school district, that you don’t need to plan any questions. You just don’t.

    I know you just said that you like to have scripted questions. I respect that. But really I see you, just my opinion here, looking at the NT ocean and just needing some reassurance before diving in. Nobody’s pushing you, that’s for sure. We all decide how we want to teach.

    What would happen if you did that? Could you tell that one class that you shared video with us of last year that you wanted to try out something new and see if they would help you test it out? I bet they would be a good test group. But maybe they graduated?

  11. Thank you so much for your response. I actually did use that same group at the end of last year! They made their invisibles and we told a non-targeted story. We actually did it twice in one class. The first story was so boring that I stopped it! Then, I chose another one of their characters and the second story was much better. In my opinion, we’ve had better stories in that particular class that had been targeted, but it went pretty well considering it was our first time doing a non-targeted story. Actually, Tina helped me a lot with this! Thank you, Tina!
    I want to try again this year but it seems that with each non-targeted story I do with my class (with or without invisibles) there’s a 50-50 chance it flops when we try to establish a problem. If I don’t have one in mind, and they can’t think of one, the story kind of becomes pointless and loses steam. I remember reading that a lot of times the problem can come from level 2-the character descriptions.
    I guess there’s no right answer. I’ll just have to keep on trying. As I told Tina last year, for some odd reason, every year the kids in my classes always get into che character description. They love it! But with the invisibles, the character is already drawn and it took the fun and creativity away from that level last year (at least in that one class). This year I did a non-targeted story with my Italian III class with no invisibles and they absolutely loved it!! They just verbally made up a random character and started describing him. It only took about 5 minutes but they enjoyed every second of it. It was hilarious. They were cracking up at level 2.

    Thank you, again. I’ll give it another try.

    1. My honest opinion, is that in the invisibles system there is a lot going on. I am a rookie teacher (2nd year) and multiple tasks going on in a complex system is not my strength .. (c’est pas mon fort!). Maybe I’m complicating it too much. I did a script and though it was slightly compelling, my students understood it. Maybe because it is my first week back from school.

      All this to say that Story Listening has been awesome for me. It requires some prep time but students just need to listen and enjoy the story. Keri, you described how you the teacher described a character and the students loved it. You get the teenage mind. It was compelling. They were lost in the language. This week I did a synopsis of Star Wars A New Hope and kids were on the edge of their seats… they were also laughing at my drawings but they were wrapped up in the story. I teach middle gifted students who are ALWAYS told what to do and HOW to do it. So, I need to be clear on my expectations and the less there are the better. I will continue to do SL because the invisibles has been a mixed… maybe the students need more clarity.

    2. Keri, I love both the Invisibles and Story Listening. Both of them together have really changed my classroom. I am in better humor more of the time than I used to be, when I was following Classic TPRS. I find that the Invisibles are a lot like Story Listening in that the kids do more listening and less co-creating, like calling out ideas for the story. They are more contented listeners. It is much more relaxing for me.

      With the problem, here is my advice. The problem is key. You cannot have a good story without a good problem and I do not want the kids to have to supply it when we get to that step. Therefore I pick only characters that I like and that have a problem inherent in their drawing or the bak story on their papers. Like the lamp that is only smart when it is turned on and dumb at all other times. Well, duh, the problem is going to be that he is turned off and the girl of its dreams happens by. And it says dumb stuff.

      I tell the kids when they re creating the characters to include problems. OR you can say to include an emotion it feels and a reason for that emotion.

  12. Thank you, Tina. So, you actually are planning a bit with these invisibles, right? You are planning a problem ahead of time. That’s a cute problem with the lamp! So, you took a back story and then you already sort of pre-planned that the girl of its dreams will walk by? So, in a way, you sort of are working from a script then, right?

    1. You know I am starting to see it that way. Like I am working from a possibility script. A set of possibilities but (like all good CI instruction) open to the moment, to changing things based on the energy in the class and the ideas that come up when we are open to the kids’ ideas and energy. I am not “married” to the idea that the girl of his dreams will walk by but it is there for me, like a safety net. I might have a few ideas in my mind. The big shift I am finding is this:

      THEY JUST LIKE LISTENING.

      We were taught that they had to be involved at every turn. That it increased engagement when we took their ideas for details and put them in the story. But that (just in my opinion after nine years of targets and a year and a half of NT) was because we were manufacturing motivation. Kids are not naturally notivated by language, by pre-selected words/structures, so this wonderful system of TPRS and PQA and all that was devised to manufacture motivation in the kids. So they would attend to the stories we made up from a combination of the targets and their ideas.

      This was, in my own way of thinking about it, because pure CI with no tether of language pieces, targets, was too much. Too much for teachers to swallow. It is still too much for many. It is so very different from how we conceptualize the job of teacher: meting out pieces of knowledge. But, to me, that is a very assembly-line, early-20th-century, non-constructivist way of conceptualizing our jobs. Some people are starting to move away from these tethers, like the elephant that Ben mentioned sometime last year whilst still in India, when it realizes the rope is no longer there, that it can wander away from the proscribed circle of the tether spot and rope.

      If we are telling stories that have inherent value (like Beniko d0es with story listening) or sharing truly-interesting information (like in some of the lessons people are doing that are more like social studies…like my lesson on the Cagatió, a Christmas tradition from Cataluña for example) or basing the stories on the Invisibles, which are kids’ creations and have so much possibility for true depth and richness of kid experiences and kid emotions, then when we base our instruction on that and not on language targets, we are free of the burden of manufacturing motivation.

      It has been the best thing that has ever happened to me professionally. And I have had some GOOD THINGS happen to me professionally so I do not say that lightly. I looked down one day, and saw Ben was right. The rope was just in my imagination, in my limited conception of what teachers DO. And I slowly meandered away and my whole life shifted more towards ease and peace and freedom. (Because what happens in school, unlike in Vegas, don’t stay in school. The stress and cares of the school day spill over into every aspect of our lives, because we are serious about our craft and we take our vocation so seriously)

      1. This makes so much sense! Thank you, Tina! As I mentioned before, I’m a planner and I like your safety net “problem” and “script”. Of course, if the kids are into it, I will roll with anything but it is so much easier knowing that you have something to fall back on! It has been hard for me the couple times I was in front of my classes completely “scriptless”! I had absolutely NO problem in mind and No ideas!!! That is very scary! If the kids don’t come up with anything good, then you either have to end the story or stick it out. I’ve done both and sticking it could be really painful!

        I am not giving up. Even though I haven’t had a breakthrough YET with the invisibles, I’m determined. Lately, I really see what Ben is talking about when he says that the predetermined structures handcuff you. They really do! In fact, I did a targeted story yesterday and we still only managed to incorporate two out of the three targets. Furthermore, the two out of the three targets we did use just seemed forced! I truly believe that this is the way to go and, once I begin to master this skill, I’m sure I’ll be glad I did. Again, just being a planner and not being able to think of problems on the spot is what scares me. I think what you said here, Tina, is just what I need!

        I am actually getting a student teacher in a couple weeks and she will be teaching my four Spanish classes-I think using targets. However, my one Italian class will be using the Invisibles right after midterm exams and I’m anxious to try it. I already planted the seed just yesterday in that class and they took the bait. A student asked “Who did those drawings?” I explained very casually that they were from last year and from a class that did storytelling very well and were very into their drawings.” Then, I said “Why, do you think you could do something like that?” At first, the student that asked said “No” (haha, the drawings really are good!) and I said “Oh, ok then” as if I didn’t care. Then as I was about to go on to something else, another boy said “YES!” very enthusiastically! So, I told them that “maybe” I will let them draw some characters after exams! We’ll see how it goes.

  13. I am learning so much from this discussion. I am excited to have a chance now to hammer out the problem thing. Keri if you could elaborate on this point I would appreciate it:

    …for some odd reason, every year the kids in my classes always get into the character description. They love it! But with the Invisibles, the character is already drawn and it took the fun and creativity away from that level last year (at least in that one class)….

    I am curious especially about the statement that when the character is already drawn it took the fun and creativity away, because there are two ways to create invisible characters, one pre-drawn by the group using one word images and the other individually by the kids and the latter always packs more punch chez moi.

    Thanks!

    1. The kids actually made their own characters individually. We did not do it together as a group. And, of course, I had no idea what the character’s problem was and it was so boring after the first five or ten minutes that I just had to stop. The kids were thankful I did.

      Almost consistently, every year and in every class, the character description is so much fun. The kids use their imagination and are all smiles! I really don’t know why but this sparks the most interest in my classes.

      I’m just curious, with the invisibles, should we still be describing them as much in level 2 as I may tend to do with my target stories about a random character? In my opinion, I wouldn’t because that is what I tried before and that is part of the reason they were bored. It actually felt like a pre-planned lesson in which I had a drawing and was asking them to look at it and describe what they saw. It felt forced and they were trying to say things they didn’t know how to say. It was really terrible.

  14. Keri,
    In the second level I do not really get them to say things, I am just describing the character using the back story that the kid who crested it wrote on the back. They put things like job, family, gender, marital status, hobbies, interests, likes, dislikes, age, etc. So I just spend a few minutes (3-4 is ideal) telling them what is on the back. I might say a thing or two about their appearance, if there is something super-interesting on there. But it is not a process of co-creation. Again, I maintain that my kids are more content to LISTEN and see where the character (and their fellow students’ creativity) takes us.

    In this video skip the Class Meeting if you want, and start around 3:45.

    Rhea (student teacher) and I talk about in level two:

    His job is accountant, to count.
    My job is not to count. (I am notoriously bad at math and it is a running joke.)
    His name is Bill the Accountant.
    He is is 43 years old.
    I am 40.
    Profe Phillips is 13. Joke. She is a bit older.
    (We got off track, this got clunky, I would never have asked how old am I? because my intention is to zip through this part.)
    You see Julia throw that trasketball at my feet to tell me to move on so that by 7:20 we have moved on. Lingering on the character does tend to lose steam.

    My students love creating together too, when we do One Word Image they light up and love it. And we use those characters (the well-loved ones) in stories too. So, you might think of OWI as a realllllllllly long level 2 that lasts 30-40 minutes, and then the next day the story is going to use level 2 to establish the non-physical portrait of the character (I find their JOB to be of the highest importance!)

    One note: Ben and I figured out in the re-writing of the book, that if you do a OWI you should have the class decide at the end of the session (most likely in L1 as they will have more opportunity to be creative) the character’s EMOTION and the REASON for that emotion. It sets up the problem perfectly, most of the time, and gives you some nice ideas for story lines.

    Here is another video. Start at 5:00 since I wasted a good deal of time at the beginning. This turned into a cute-as-heck story.

    In step two, we establish:
    Beef is a chocolate chip cooky.
    He is not happy.
    He is sad.
    He is nervous too.
    His eyes are nervous.
    He is a little nervous at least in MY opinion.
    Beef is nervous because he thinks about spoiled milk (this was on the back story).
    Beef likes milk but not spoiled milk.
    Beef is looking at some milk. He is thinking about the milk’s being spoiled or not.
    His job is to swim in milk.
    Then the Story Driver at 9:00 (exactly four minutes later wow good job Louis! He is not even using a timer!) tells me to move on to “Where?”

    1. I said that I “wasted” time in the class meeting. That is actually not true. It is INVESTING time, in our relationship. The kids really appreciate the relaxed nature of class. I can see it as they relax into the story. I wish I had the work ethic to get releases from them all so I could show them, they are adorable. They are so relaxed and comfortable, I love the feeling in the room.

      1. Tina, thank you so much for your videos! I just watched the first one and I now have a much clearer idea about how to begin a story with an invisible! I am still, however, thinking about my own weaknesses wonder if I would have come up with a similar problem such that Bill’s office is too cold. I’m sure that the continuation of the story was great for you but, initially, I may not have thought that to be an interesting problem. Also, I really would love to see the continuation of this video. Is it available? If not, would you be able to tell me where Bill went in level 6 and what questions you asked in that level? This is also where I tend to ask the same questions and sometimes my questions tend to be predictable.

        By the way, I love how dramatic you are. That is fantastic! I am wondering, though, how this would be viewed as high school students.

        Also, I really like that “box of shame”. So, if the kids don’t settle down after the second arm sweep, you add a minute to that box? And you said that they will have one minute more of academic work as a consequence. Would you be able to give me a couple examples of what this work might look like? I’m just thinking that since I have 84 minute classes, after our initial TL conversations, many times I do a warm up to practice target structures and I would probably continue to do that with emergent structures as well. This may already be viewed as “academic work” so I’m wondering how I’d add on to that, for example.

        Thank you! I’m going to watch your second video now!

        1. “I tend to ask the same questions and sometimes my questions tend to be predictable.”
          The kids, it is weird, they are so into the characters that they do not care if the questions are predictable. I ask where the character is, whom they are with (maybe if I feel like it) and where they go in Level 6…and that is about IT. They seem content to just follow the arc of their characters’ stories.

          I am wondering, though, how this would be viewed as high school students.
          Can’t say from personal experience but I have some friends using them in HS and the kids are liking them a lot.

          Also, I really like that “box of shame”. So, if the kids don’t settle down after the second arm sweep, you add a minute to that box?
          Yes, one minute for every second they continue to debate…it helps motivate them!

          Would you be able to give me a couple examples of what this work might look like? I’m just thinking that since I have 84 minute classes, after our initial TL conversations, many times I do a warm up to practice target structures and I would probably continue to do that with emergent structures as well. This may already be viewed as “academic work” so I’m wondering how I’d add on to that, for example.

          I do not know how you would do the bellwork with emergent targets cause you would not know then prior to class? The work I give them is NO STRESS stuff. We would write for extra time or read for extra time…that is all. I am not into grading stuff or working much. 😉

          1. Thank you very much, Tina. I just meant that I would do a warm up with emergent structures the day AFTER the story.

    2. Now I do see much clearer what to do with their back stories. At the end of last year, I was reading their back stories but wasn’t sure how much of them to reveal to the class and I also made the mistake of having them describe the characters. I see how you are doing most of the description in the beginning and I like that. I think my kids will enjoy listening to that as well and I will be dramatic about that part. This part makes much more sense to me now!

      In the story about Beef, did it say on the back story that he didn’t like spoiled milk?
      Also, did you think ahead of time that some character in the story was going to be hungry?
      Later on, in level 6, you “told” the kids a lot of information “All of a sudden, Kim Jong-Un’s phone rings. It was the President of South Dakota.” You also described to the kids the whole conversation without getting their input as to what was said as they were acting it out. I do this too but I always at least feel that I need to ask them what one character said to the other character at least once to keep them involved in the creation of the story.

      Was all of this something you had pre-planned or did you think of a lot of it on the spot?
      You don’t find that the kids get restless or bored if you are telling too much of the story without asking them to co-create a whole lot?
      Also, I remember reading that in TPRS, kids should be answering about 10 questions per minute about the story to keep them involved and to check for understanding. I thought that was a good idea although I struggle with this a lot. I don’t see you doing that here but what you’re doing seems to work well, too. You did say that your kids are content just listening. Maybe if I pre-planned the story enough, that will be the case, too. What are your thoughts on this?

      I’m just thinking, though. Originally, I thought there was no planning with the Invisibles. Now, I am starting to see otherwise. So, if I have to plan a story around a different invisible character for each of my classes, then that would mean planning five different stories each time since I have five different classes. This seems like a lot more work!

      Now after watching your videos, I’m wondering if I am giving my kids too much leeway. In some stories, the leeway works and the story ends up being very interesting but in others, no one can think of good answers. For example, instead of me telling them that Kim Jong-Un’s phone rang, I would have asked the class “All of a sudden, something happens. What happens?” Sometimes they come up with something good but, when they don’t, they’re stuck. And, worse, I don’t have an answer for them either because I hadn’t pre-planned anything. However, on the other hand, sometimes I find that when I do tell them what happens, there is little interest because I’m the one coming up with the ideas and, usually, the kids ideas are funnier.

      I’m sorry for all the different questions. I was writing down all my thoughts as I was watching this video.

      Thank you so much! These videos have been a big help to me.

      1. “In the story about Beef, did it say on the back story that he didn’t like spoiled milk?”

        Yes the kid said Beef feared spoiled milk. I suggested that they write the character’s “fears”.

        “Also, did you think ahead of time that some character in the story was going to be hungry?”

        It kinda just came to me as I chose Beef that day. It seemed natural to have someone wanting to eat a cookie, that seemed like a natural problem. I would not have chosen that character if it had not sort of “suggested” a problem. I **ONLY** pick the characters that I have an idea for a problem for…it is too nerve-wracking to try to create a problem on the spot.

        “I always at least feel that I need to ask them what one character said to the other character at least once to keep them involved in the creation of the story.”

        Like I said in the comments about Bill, it is amazing how they are content to listen. I truly think we have had to do so much personalization with targeted stories cause the targets kinda let the air out of the balloon. With the stories based on characters and the kids just along for the ride, mostly, they are content to listen. Of course these are first year kids who never had targeted stories. If your kids are more used to your “asking” a story then you might do more questions! if they enjoy them why not? I just find the fewer questions the better…for management and the like.

        “Was all of this something you had pre-planned or did you think of a lot of it on the spot?”

        I plan practically NOTHING. I have an idea for the possible problem then I just go.

        “You don’t find that the kids get restless or bored if you are telling too much of the story without asking them to co-create a whole lot?”
        No, like I said above, your kids might want to be more involved but if you could see into the kids’ faces in the videos they are very engaged, they are enjoying listening. They seem to get swept up in the story and they know it is being crested for them right there so they like that, I think. It is a very special, very cozy feeling.

        “Also, I remember reading that in TPRS, kids should be answering about 10 questions per minute about the story to keep them involved and to check for understanding. I thought that was a good idea although I struggle with this a lot. I don’t see you doing that here but what you’re doing seems to work well, too. You did say that your kids are content just listening. Maybe if I pre-planned the story enough, that will be the case, too. What are your thoughts on this?”

        I do not plan. I think having it all planned out would take away a good portion of the magic.

        “So, if I have to plan a story around a different invisible character for each of my classes, then that would mean planning five different stories each time since I have five different classes. This seems like a lot more work!”

        I do not plan. It just looks like I do because I swear these stories write themselves once you get good problems. I pick up a pile of characters, look through them, read their back stories…this happens IN CLASS, in front of the kids. I tell the kids when we have drawing time that they need to include difficulties/challenges/etc. in the back story because I will not pick a character who has no problems! I tell them every story has a problem.

        Here is a video of setting up the Invisibles.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEIe1dSQH6U

        Notice this is BEGINNING OF DECEMBER. That is key…I would not just jump in without the groundwork of several OWIs and stories based on them. The kids were eager to make more characters. The ones we used before were all based on One Word Images and the drawings they made the first week of school while I was absent to be at Mike Peto’s workshop, ha ha.

        I think that starting with OWI is key because the kids, when making the Invisibles, know what their destiny is…to compete to get picked to star in a TV episode. Basically the stories are like pilots of TV episodes.

        “I’m wondering if I am giving my kids too much leeway. In some stories, the leeway works and the story ends up being very interesting but in others, no one can think of good answers. For example, instead of me telling them that Kim Jong-Un’s phone rang, I would have asked the class “All of a sudden, something happens. What happens?” Sometimes they come up with something good but, when they don’t, they’re stuck. And, worse, I don’t have an answer for them either because I hadn’t pre-planned anything. However, on the other hand, sometimes I find that when I do tell them what happens, there is little interest because I’m the one coming up with the ideas and, usually, the kids ideas are funnier.”

        You have not yet tried telling them a story based on their beloved characters (first OWIs then Invisibles…I would NEVER have believed that this worked…I did targeted stories for years and years and had such fun! Most of the time my stories were a ball of fun. I dod not go to the Invisibles from a place of desperation, but from a place of wanting MORE. More authenticity, more smiles, more happiness, more ease and peace and calm, more depth and richness and emotional range (not just funny stories…the dial for me in TPRS was always set to “Maximum Funny”), more drama, more variety, more listening.

        And in the bargain, I got less stress, less dithering over the details of the story and thus less classroom management, less worry about what if their answers are mean-spirited or inappropriate or hard to manage, less planning, less boredom for me (never the same story twice!, less boredom for the kids…and more appreciation of each other’s creativity.

        Good deal for me. And since it really does not matter what little pieces of the language we teach, why not go for the good deal? that was my calculation, at least.

        Steve Krashen said in Portland at COFLT in October that we do not need to worry too much (unless we have a health condition) what vitamins we take in at each meal. Our bodies will take what they need at that moment to keep us healthy and make us strong. He likened that to language acquisition – each student will take from the language what they need to build strong interlanguage. We cannot know what i + 1 looks like for everyone.

        So make a rich, hearty broth of CI (making it comprehensible is the only requirement, not targeting certain language) and serve up as much as humanly possible. That is the only thing. Many recipes to do that…the ones I am liking right now are the Invisibles and Story Listening. Makes it easier on Mama to get that food on the table! 🙂

    3. Hey Tina. I just had a chance to look at these two video clips. Thanks for sharing them. You rock! It’s quite obvious that you are enjoying yourself.

      One thing I noticed was how you added in there about the cookie that it wanted to check to see if the milk was spoiled AND you added that it swims in the milk. These additions, it appears, came to you and you wanted to play with telling them. Then, either the class goes with it or not. This is testament to how perfectly fine it is to be a storyteller, to some manageable degree, and not a story-asker.

      Thanks again, Tina!
      P.S. Love the dress. Did you bike to work in that dress? 🙂

      1. Hi Sean!

        I actually got all those details from the back story. Kids are so creative if we just get out of their way. One reason I am so passionate about getting out from under the pressure of targets is because I like to see how the kids’ creativity can drive class in so much deeper ways than just offering cute ideas for our questions to spice up the stories we want them to build based on targets.

        I do bike in dresses often. If it is raining I tuck em into my bike pants. 🙂 I also sing on my bike. I have not ridden my bike in a long time…one time in about five weeks. We have had a LOT OF SNOW DAYS and out of the five days of school so far in ’17 (!!!), four have been sub-freezing so I took the bus and (gasp!) drove two times. The horror! 😉

        1. Oh. Thanks for clarifying, Tina. That helps. Soon I should be able to get students to create characters on their own and develop back stories.

          I admire you for riding to work!

  15. Hi, Tina. I have another question. You see you do TPR with “piensa”, “sabe”, “dice”, “habla”, etc. I was wondering how you establish those in the beginning of the year. I started this year with a lot of TPR as well and it is amazing how fast it works. I used Karen Rowan as a model and she introduces about 4-5 actions at a time and actually tells a story around them. For example, “ve”, “agarra”, “corre”, etc. Is this what you do as well? I’m only wondering because, by themselves, these particular actions are not too exciting. I was wondering what you do with these verbs to make them more interesting.

    Thank you!

    1. “You see you do TPR with “piensa”, “sabe”, “dice”, “habla”, etc. I was wondering how you establish those in the beginning of the year.”
      I literally just assign a small gesture and make them do it. The gesture is not that important to me, what is important is that they ALL DO IT 100% of the time!!

      “I started this year with a lot of TPR as well and it is amazing how fast it works. I used Karen Rowan as a model and she introduces about 4-5 actions at a time and actually tells a story around them. For example, “ve”, “agarra”, “corre”, etc. Is this what you do as well?”

      No, because I just TPR the verbs when they are needed, very briefly. Last week I told Steve K that I called that “light targeting” and e said he liked that term. It is “light targeting”. “Dice” and “Piensa” came up first in the year, I seem to remember. Just doing this quick TPR taught them the words and then they hear them over and over because they come up so much.

      “I’m only wondering because, by themselves, these particular actions are not too exciting. I was wondering what you do with these verbs to make them more interesting.”

      All I do is use them in interesting utterances when they are needed and the kids are not really even aware of the light targeting I am doing to make the utterance comprehensible, they are so interested in finding out what is about to happen. The interest in stories with the Invisibles is in the STORY not the WORDS so I never have to think about how to make a word interesting. I focus on making an interesting story comprehensible. It is a big mind shift but it is worth the journey. I feel lighter and happier than I ever did…and I loved TPRS do not get me wrong. I loved it for years.

      I just love this better is all.

      1. Thank you, Tina. As I’m watching Part Two and Three of Bill the Accountant, I am just very impressed with your talent of being able to think of things on the spot such as “Bill can’t move his fingers because he’s very cold” and “Bill is calling his therapist”. Now I see exactly where I get stuck when the kids can’t think of answers When my students can’t come up with a reason why being cold is such a problem for Bill, I would NEVER offer them my ideas. I thought that was what we shouldn’t be doing. All along, I’ve read how the teacher’s answers are not funny. I suppose this works because this is all about their own Invisible character. I will attempt to do this although I don’t know how successful I’ll be to come up with things on the spot like you.

        I noticed that you barely write anything on the board. I know you need to stay in bounds but even though my kids have heard “contesta” , for example, tons of times, I still would have written that on the board because I know that there are at least a few that need it and I don’t want them to get lost. I also would have written down “Yo voy a llamar a mi doctor”. I know they would understand more or less but I would want them to know that it actually means “I’m GOING to call” by translating it on the board. Also, did your kids already know “suena”? It seemed like that may have been a new structure as well. I know you made it comprehensible by making a ringing sound with your voice, so they understood but you did not write it down. Again, I would have and maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I am writing down too much on the board which does slow the story down as well. I thought it was a good thing to force me to go slow…what are your thoughts?

        Thank you so much. Your videos and your explanations have been extremely valuable to me!

        1. “When my students can’t come up with a reason why being cold is such a problem for Bill, I would NEVER offer them my ideas. I thought that was what we shouldn’t be doing. All along, I’ve read how the teacher’s answers are not funny. I suppose this works because this is all about their own Invisible character.”

          Yes you hit the nail on the head there. They are just more content to listen to the stories about their characters. We HAVE been taught that the teachers’ ideas are not funny but I really, really think that is because we have been trained to put the language in the center of the story, not the kids’ ideas. We have been trained to use their ideas to make the language go down, the repetitions seem more fun. We have been trained to personalize to the extreme in order to get kids to take their medicine. This has been true for me. Using the Invisibles and OWIs (You really should start with stories based on OWIs which is what the new version of the book says) has changed a lot for me.

          “I will attempt to do this although I don’t know how successful I’ll be to come up with things on the spot like you.”

          I’m not sure if this will work but maybe if you plan possibilities beforehand that would help till you get the hang of it and start to “feel” the right character to choose. One or two possible problems for each character will probably be enough. Then once you feel more confident you will probably find it easy to just look through the pile of Invisibles or the class’ gallery of One Word Images, and you will be able to choose a character that YOU think is fun, that YOU know you can spin a cool story out of. I think that maybe something that helps me relax about the stories is the fact that I do so many stories, and I know that if one is not GREAT then I can move on to the next one. (I do post almost all of them on the CI Liftoff YouTube channel so you can see the great ones, the so-so ones, all of them…)

          “I noticed that you barely write anything on the board. I know you need to stay in bounds but even though my kids have heard “contesta” , for example, tons of times, I still would have written that on the board because I know that there are at least a few that need it and I don’t want them to get lost. I also would have written down “Yo voy a llamar a mi doctor”. I know they would understand more or less but I would want them to know that it actually means “I’m GOING to call” by translating it on the board. Also, did your kids already know “suena”? It seemed like that may have been a new structure as well. I know you made it comprehensible by making a ringing sound with your voice, so they understood but you did not write it down. Again, I would have and maybe I shouldn’t be. Maybe I am writing down too much on the board which does slow the story down as well. I thought it was a good thing to force me to go slow…what are your thoughts?”

          I was talking to Steve Krashen this summer in Agen and he said that the kids need to understand the arc of the story, not every word. Beniko agrees, perhaps even more vehemently than Steve, that the story, on the level of whole ideas, not words, is the target. So therefore I have radically altered the focus in my stories. I used to point to EVERY WORD. I would never have used so many words that were new. I was a lot more careful with staying in bounds. I was good at it. Now I am more attuned to their enjoyment of the story, and I am more apt to go for global comprehension. It keeps the flow going, it is easier and more natural for me, and the kids, according to Steve and Beniko, are getting more language, so their language acquisition devices have more and richer raw material to work with. I watch my kids’ faces, eyes, and body language closely. Like a hawk. Like a hawk and a falcon combined. If they are faltering, if they look “lost” then I repair their comprehension. But I no longer worry about the words to the extent that I used to. Therefore, I figure that “suena” (which was new for them) will be remembered because it was cool and interesting (by some kids) or it will fall by the wayside for others (but maybe some other aspect of the language will sneak into the data set in their heads through that datum, “suena”…maybe the fact that there is no “s” or no “aba” or other verb ending. Who knows what mysteries the mind holds…each person acquiring what they need.

          I focus more on the experience of hearing/helping to create a interesting and dramatic story and less and less on the words. It has been a learning curve.

          The payoff? I have LOTS more energy available to me. Emotional energy. To invest in being dramatic, thinking on my feet, and watching the kids like a hawk/falcon. I used to feel weighed down by the language, now I hardly think about it. It feels good to trust the natural abilities of our minds.

          1. Thanks. This year I would not go backwards and do OWI but I will definitely keep that in mind for next year. I generally teach level III classes and sometimes make the mistake that the actually come in with SOME knowledge and acquisition but, in reality, they really hardly have acquired anything. I need to just start the level III as if they know NOTHING!
            So, I feel a little better now about creating one or two problems in advance as a safety net. But, after watching your wonderful videos, I am now much more worried about level 6! This level is very hard to plan anything or in advance because we really are unsure as to what the problem will end up being anyway. If you have any other suggestions on level 6, I will gladly take them!!

          2. I’m looking at some Invisibles created by last year’s students. One is called “Steve Shrimp”. He is a sous chef who hates basil. There are other parts of his back story, too, but, I am trying to figure out how I would come up with a problem for him in advance for the kids and certain things I would say to at least begin my story.

            “His name is Steve Shrimp. He’s 26 years old. He is a chef. He hates basil.” Should I ask kids why he hates basil or not bother? I don’t think I should describe him anymore as to not bore the kids. Then I could ask, maybe…
            “Where does he work?” If the kids come up with a restaurant name, I suppose I could ask where is the restaurant or else where the restaurant actually is.

            Maybe then I can tell the kids that he is cooking something in his restaurant (kids maybe could offer an idea as to what he’s cooking) and then “there’s a problem!”

            Ideas for problem:
            -Someone put basil in the dish he’s cooking
            -A customer wants basil but he won’t add it to the dish

            Are these ideas ok or do you think it may lead to a flat story?

            Then, I personally feel that I would have to plan out level 6 a bit according to the problem. I hope one day I get to the point where I won’t have to but, until then, I may have to do that for each of my five classes.

          3. Keri you said in reference to Invisibles QL 2 and 6:

            … I hope one day I get to the point where I won’t have to [plan]….

            What if you didn’t? What if you had to completely accept whatever you got with zero planning? What I’m getting at is that I really resonate with this because in the past I also felt as if the responsibility for the success of the story rested only on my shoulders. But there are up to 35 people in a classroom who are in community, and because of the way the Invisibles are set up, what we consciously work for is that and not the old way of 5 to 7 kids creating the story and the rest being overpowered. What if you were just one of 36 people to suggest the problem and whatever happens to it at the end of the story creation process is only 1/36th your responsibility*.

            Another point on this is that when I wrote that book on the Invisibles and NT I really meant no planning. The concept is so based in intuition and trust that I see nothing wrong with saying to a class if we get a weak problem or can’t resolve it: “Well, none of us could save this story and even though it started with a great character [it has to or the character doesn’t get used], you guys didn’t get it very far. Oh well, maybe YOU will do a better job with YOUR story next time.” That is code for, “What a boring ass group of students you are.”

            *I am pushing community building and mental health for teachers first. Teachers must stop the overwork. They all agree. Then they turn around and do it the next day. As much as anything else, the Invisibles are about finding peace in the classroom during the day. I have seen too many of us fall. I have burned out six times. Those were the bad ones I remember and there were countless other deep valleys. I am not joking now. I worked as hard as I could and it wasn’t me it was the stupid stuff I was doing. I could easily go on targeting stuff using CI. I’m good at it. But the price tag of my mental health was too high. This is my truth, applied to what I experienced in a classroom. So many people seem to be loving life with their targeted stuff and the targeted instruction they get at the big conferences and life is good for a lot of TPRS/CI teachers. But I needed greater mental health and so I have to go this new way. Not saying one is better than another. We can only talk about what we do and experience. There is no right way to do this work.

          4. Actually, now that I’m thinking…maybe in this case it would be better NOT to mention Stevie Shrimp’s job as a sous chef and just ask kids where he is. He will probably end up on someone’s plate with some basil…that may be more interesting.

            Still, I’m having a hard time as to what I would say in level 6 about this…

          5. I just read this article from Bu Kathy in Australia that Blaine Ray just said this last week as he spent the day with her and a friend.

            “His [Blaine’s] advice of writing out a script beforehand with a few planned surprises (should the student ideas be too predictable) would help as my mind goes blank when I am in front of a class. He did reassure us though, by saying that once you get started and students get the hang of suggesting the unexpected, we will begin to build up a bank of great surprises perfect for our cohorts that can be drawn upon when needed. I liked his mantra of rejecting the expected; I can fully understand now that choosing an idea that is sooo off the planet ramps up the class stories to make it even more compelling. Blaine demonstrated this with us all at Watson’s Bay with a sentence about a chicca called Annie. He circled this sentence using his 5 steps with us as the class. Whatever we suggested, he would shake his head and reject it with a disappointed look on his face and so we would dig deeper to outdo each other to come up with even better unpredictable ideas. However he continued to reject our suggestions and would then use his own which were always better than ours. I also loved his comeback when I told him that his story didn’t make sense to me; “This is my story and if you don’t like it, go and write your own story.”

            So Blaine has ideas in his back pocket too. I am so happy that Blaine and I offered the same advice. Makes me feel like somehow I just reached the moon in his rocket ship. Of course Blaine brought along targets in his suitcase, and I left mine at home.

      2. Re: “all do it 100% of the time.”

        I am a big advocate of this. And I allowed it to fizzle this fall. I am not sure what happened to me. I kind of let myself get sucked under the negative undertow. But here is my question:

        What do I do about the anxiety kids?

        It seems that in each group of students I work with there is one or more with severe paralyzing anxiety to the degree that they will not do things like gesture, TPR, draw, any of my typical ways of showing comprehension. So when I do that thing where I keep repeating until everyone’s doing it, that triggers the person and she needs to leave class. Then I slack off on making everyone do it, which made me slack off altogether on gesturing despite the fact that I know it helps and that kids initially find it goofy but then they all say it is one of the most helpful things.

        ???

        1. I have a kid who I let sit in the back and doodle. I let her off the hook. She loves me for it. I sometimes check in with her privately. Mostly I let her be. She’s getting something. Something’s seeping in. How lovely to be teaching that way. She won’t gesture. But she is the leader for the word chunk team game. She LOVES that role. And she drew an invisible that was a bar of chocolate who had one bite taken out of her and got thrown away. In a drawing day she explained that to me. She said The chocolate feels like no one tasted her fur real they just rejected her. Another kid overheard. Said I feel like that sometimes. Lucia said I never thought anyone else felt that way. I almost cried. I told them I used to be so shy. They couldn’t believe it. I told Luci I used to sit in the back and doodle. Luci was having the best class of her life. I could just tell. Thank you Ben. You touched thatvkids life through me.

        2. Jen said:

          …when I do that thing where I keep repeating until everyone’s doing it, that triggers the person….

          Jen doing that rule smacks of rules and the TPRS Police that we sometimes run into at conferences. (I am done with NTPRS and iFLT). I think that the kid should be allowed to not participate. Am I reading this wrong?

  16. Tina, how often do you do a new Invisible story? I tend to do so many follow up activities with the readings that we tend to create a new story only once every 4-5 weeks. Part of the reason, too, is that we meet only ten times per month on average (every other day).

    Thanks.

    1. I do a new one every other day. Every other, other day, I do Write and Discuss, and then Reading Options. Fridays are not story days, so two stories a week, average. Of course, I have also been doing Story Listening in there too. Average one-point-five stories a week.

      1. If I had a block class I would tell a story then write and discuss so if I saw the kids ten times I would probably tell eight stories, with the equivalent of two blocks being spent on other activities for a break – the Word Chunk Team Game or freewriting or kindergarten day or assessments etc.

  17. I have to admit that doing W and D after the story in class is a big time saver. Tina did we mention that option in the new version? It’s pretty smart. And don’t forget that if you have a heritage speaker who writes well in their language you don’t even have to do W and D.

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