The Language Studio

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19 thoughts on “The Language Studio”

  1. So, Ben, I think the part of this where you will train people to teach TPRS is awesome. I am totally jealous of the Denverites.
    But teaching foreign languages in a once a week class, will the students be getting enough input to really be able to learn effectively? Or will they still be frustrated and say that TPRS doesn’t work for them to learn languages?
    I suppose if English is taught (like the class Duke was so colorfully describing), then the students would be in an immersion environment and the teacher’s job would be to help bring the input in their everyday environment closer to i+1 (if right now it is i+10) for them, by giving their brain some easier input to latch onto. But how can enough input be presented in a once a week class for it to work? Or am I underestimating the power of comprehensible input?

  2. I have also wondered about the weekly schedule for an ideal language class within present schedule realities of potential students. I think that once a week, for at least 2 hours during that session, would be ideal. It means, for the student, less commuting, less commitment, and more time devoted to personal study throughout the rest of the week, IMO.

  3. One of my classes has three sisters. We meet only 2-3 times per week. They spend more time with each other than they do with me. How can they use their time with me to practice more English with each other , outside of class? I dunno, but we’re trying some stuff.
    We’re targeting interactions they can use with each other. Do this. Don’t do that. What’s so funny? What’s the problem? What do you want? Why? What’cha gonna do? Really? Are you sure? What? I don’t get it. What are you saying?
    Spanglish is allowed and encouraged. All we care about is getting them to use more and more English while interacting with each other, including using basic English to rephrase simple messages they believe are True. Yes, really.
    From the songs they choose, we look for chunks they can use. For example, Selena’s “Dreaming of You” (great power of imagination song) has us applying a chunk of “I’d rather be..”.
    So we backpedal to the big “If” condition. We look at the story in the song. Is loverboy there with her? Yes.. in her dreams. But.. in reality, No. If he would be there, how would she feel? Good. She would rather be with him. She’d rather not be without him. She wants to be with him. She does not want to be without him. Is he there? Not really. How’s it feel? Not good. But, if he would be there, she would feel good.
    She would rather be with him. OK. Would you rather have un agua de jamaica or una horchata. Would you rather escuchar esta canción o that song? Would you rather marry 50-Cent or John Lennon? There are opciones. What would you rather do? What’cha gonna do? What do you want?
    Would you rather use more and more English in your life, starting now? Would you rather feel bad wanting perfect English someday, or feel good communicating with communicative English today? Would you rather be able to use simple messages in uber-common interactions with each other? What would you rather do?
    I’d rather.. I would prefer to.. I’d like learners to feel confidence while processing their feelings and wants and truths, more and more in English. I’d like them to feel and think and interact in English, more and more. I’d like them to feel good using English, more and more.

  4. Ahhh Music!! I used Selena’s songs quite a bit when I was teaching English to local farmworkers. There are so many great things in lyrics! Why? They are poetry. Rhythm, rhyme, repetition. TPRS exchanges are poetry as well. By repeating and recycling structures we not only create familiarity and comprehensiblity, we also create rhythm and motion. It is one of many reasons why music and TPRS are such a great match.
    I’m with you Stephen…envious of the opportunities in CO….but it leaves a lot of places for us to try the same things!!
    Jim, I’ll be in Chicago also…hope to “meet” you there. The great thing about the Internet is that we can then all “get together” and process everything from both conferences via blogs and email.
    Ben…keep us updated as you juggle another plate. We love your willingness to go out on a limb and share it all with us.
    with love,

  5. I’m just doing what comes up. Stephen’s point is one I hadn’t thought of. Maybe twice a week for the language instruction. I am so fatigued with the vibes in schools.
    My goal is empowered speakers of languages to make their lives easier and better. It is service work, is all it is. I very well may take this into downtown and focus on immigrants. My idea is to start small with a feeling of love and respect for those who suffer because of language barriers, and then I leave the rest to happen as it will.
    I read a quote by Gisele Bundchen – she basically advocated two things in life – 1. get up in the morning with a sense of gratitude for your life, and 2. give. If we do that with the golden treasure we all have in this way of teaching languages, regardless of the intense heat of the opposition, we can help others and it will all come about naturally.

  6. I’ve been teaching my parent Russian class for 24 weeks or maybe a few more now, over three semesters, once a week, for about 80 minutes in a 90-minute session. I know they don’t have time for homework. They have little kids! We always do songs. I post those. It turns out they listen to them. And we do stories, and read them the following week. It’s slow going, but they’re definitely learning, and they’re feeling very successful. (Last night was our last of eight spring class sessions, and no one wants to have any time off, so we’ll start up again next week.) I think it would be hard to go for three hours, but 90 minutes is just about right. Something sinks in.

  7. Stephen,
    The classes are from 6:30 – 8:00 on Monday nights. The main point I was trying to make is that once-a-week classes will have a result, if the learners are motivated and persistent, even if they don’t do homework. I tell them not to do anything but listen to songs…
    and on a note about output, commenting for Duke–I have found that what Susie says is true: having only input will allow people to do output when they’re ready, but if we don’t ask them for output, they don’t feel confident at all. So about the time we’ve told something into the ground, I ask my learners of all levels to do a chorus re-tell, and then I do ask one or two at least to retell for the whole class. I try to get a re-tell or summary out of every student at some point, whether it’s “to their hands” in Susie fashion, to a partner, or in groups. They really don’t believe they can talk unless we scaffold that easy speaking for them. My adults were retelling Bryce’s joke about the broken finger the other night, and then they re-told Poor Anna for a bit. They looked really proud of themselves, and if you’d told me that these folks could do that with so little Russian before we started, I would have thought you were crazy. Actually…most of them have only about 16 classes under their belts. Just one or two have been with me for 24 weeks.

  8. Bryce Hedstrom

    I have taught once a week adult classes for some time. It can be tough to get enough input into their ears. When I added the books on CD a few years ago is when it took off. they listen over and over, understanding at a deeper level with each lap.
    Adults do need to have a format to give some output so that they feel like they are part of the club.

  9. Bryce Hedstrom

    A few days ago I thought I read a request by someone (Dirk? Jim?) that was wanting to start an adult class and was asking for my reflections on what had gone right and wrong with mine, but now I cannot find the thread. So here goes:
    I have taught an adult conversational class for the community college for 17 years. this year I got bumped by a full time professor whose classes didn’t make. A group of teachers asked me to teach a class and it has evolved into a live, extended demonstration of TPRS. Part of the class is learners that want to learn Spanish and part is teachers that want to learn TPRS. Here is what i have learned from this class so far:
    –Don’t Compete. I am not competing with the community college. I am offering something different, something they have never seen before. I am not trying to steal students from the college–in fact, I hope that we can work together by sending students to them. The night is different. The level is different–the former class was level I. Even though this class has some true beginners, I jumped in at a level 1.5 to 2. I wanted to demonstrate comprehensibility and not moving on till everybody gets it to the teachers.
    –Spread the Word. My regular high school classroom is always open. I have chairs for observers in the back. This adult class grew out of teachers that had observed a few classes and wanted more.
    –Accept what you are worth, but work with people. I am not too good at the first part of this one, I tend to shrug and say come on in. If learners cannot afford it, I ask what they think they can afford. I did wind up getting paid what I normally would have received for a college class by a family that made up the difference by graciously overpaying their “share”.
    I have learned more and I will write later if there is interest, but it is nice out and I am going for a bike ride.

  10. Do you have suggestions about how to do books on CD if there really aren’t any Russian easy readers? I’ve been thinking that I should record the stories from class or something–I’m so non-techie that it’s hard to do this or to come up with ideas. I did record a story poem kids were learning, but someone had to draw the pictures for me, and I just flashed through them, recording from my computer. Here’s the really hokey video I made, so you can see the bargain basement level of my tech-y-ness:

  11. Ben, a language studio?!!! I feel the revolution!
    Michele, I love it! The pictures were just right. By the third time, I figured out that vaksa klyaksa does not love another dog named Spot, but that he loves to sleep 🙂 and because of the picture, I remembered the word gate. Very nice. The rhyming was an added plus. It’s really easy to record plain audio with a computer… If you could make and post that video, mp3s shouldn’t be too hard. I made mp3s of my vocab using my computer and a $5 microphone. There’s a free program called audacity to record things. Just check your recording volume to make sure that you can hear. I didn’t do that on some of my mp3s… with the result that some were too quiet to hear.
    Bryce, there’s interest, if you feel like sharing after your bikeride! I’d like to do a small scale adult class this summer to practice my skills…

  12. Ben, it sounds like you’re having a rough time. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but just remember what we’re doing and why. Don’t let the negative feelings take over! You are making a difference every day, despite all the shit that we have to go through as teachers in America.

  13. No you misunderstand Bess. I am in a one on one clash with a very traditional teacher, yes, but that really isn’t bothering me. I am not thinking of bailing out of public education, I just like the idea of playing around with a little studio. Don’t read too much into my post up there.
    The fact is, we all need to be thinking about all of our options as outlets for our talents. Now that we no longer suck as teachers, because we have a way of teaching that brings immediate and demonstrable results, we should all be looking at all the possibilities in front of us.
    My heart will always be “to serve them all my days”. I know that when I think about what kids go through every day in traditional classes (those who are labeled as dumb), I again reaffirm my devotion to this change, and I will fight this fight as long as I can, and I will fight hard.
    It is a good fight and I am not totally tired out yet. We shall fight on until people fully understand that the only way to be effective as language teachers is to speak the language we purport to teach all the time in the classroom, and to properly honor the groundbreaking work of Stephen Krashen. Nothing else will do. It must and it will happen.

  14. Ben, our TPRS group talked about a Language Studio today. We were trying to figure out exactly how we’d do it. The conversation started because someone wants to learn German. Maybe we could have rotating teachers in each language room doing an hour once a week, or three going for 20 minutes each time, as other teachers and community members watched and learned and maybe even coached. Is that what you had in mind? I think this has all sorts of application, but I’d love to know more specifics, even though you couldn’t be sure yet. Would you rent a space? Try to use your classrooms in your school? To quote a famous friend, explain to me as though I’m a two-year-old!

  15. I’m not much for details. Bryce or Duke can tell you how they do it. My initial idea was based on a possible need to get TPRS beyond just the classroom, because I think that many of us are being beat down unnecessarily with severely recalcitrant colleages, and that is just too tiresome.
    A colleage in Boulder had asked if I was doing any workshops in this area, and I replied that I don’t like to present to new people, because we both know that Susie is the only one who can really do that, but that I wouldn’t mind preaching to the already converted locally, on an ongoing basis until the person had all the TPRS skills they wanted.
    A Brazilian friend has a Tae Kwon Do studio nearby and said that I could rent that space, and since language learning is a physical activity, it seemed like a good venue. I wouldn’t use a school classroom, because of the vibes. I think that Duke is the one way out in front on this, as he has opened an escuela in Mexico. He should comment. I don’t even have ten people intersested yet, so I may not get this thing going for awhile, if at all.
    The thing is, we shouldn’t be beholden to our jobs as classroom teachers just because we need the health insurance for our families or whatever. (How powerful those companies are that they would influence our very career choices!).
    Being a classroom teacher is a special kind of warfare, and it is so much more emotional and challenging than anyone who has never done it has any idea. I’m just looking at options, because, now that we have a way to teach that actually works, our power bar will be green all across the screen, which changes our job power. Yes, I can and will probably stay in the classroom for awhile yet, because I have work to do at East High in Denver – specific, in your face work.
    But I also think that language studios will become like yoga studios around towns. That is why I used the term The Language Studio. We need to expand our ideas of what is possible. Blaine took Krashen’s ideas and created one possibility, but others are bursting at the seams. But really, Bryce and Duke are better equipped to provide some specifics than me. I just motormouth.
    Michele, what is up with Vera? I haven’t heard from her in a month of Sundays.

  16. Just a comment about the “preaching” … two of the Anchorage teachers in our last TPRS meeting of the year yesterday said that other teachers in their building had heard what was happening in their classes and asked for an overview of the method. It’s so cool to have it spreading grass-roots style! And some parents are telling teachers in the TPRS group that their middle-school kids know more French or Spanish after three quarters than the older siblings in year two or three. That kind of news, plus the Language Studio plans, will keep doing more to set TPRS on fire. We do all have to keep plugging away.
    I almost Skyped with Vera two weeks ago and then had a meeting I’d forgotten about. Skype her! Just remember…she’s nine hours ahead of you. Susie is going to Vera’s school this month. Lucky Vera! Lucky Susie! Lucky Anglo-American School!

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