Using CI With Levels 2-4

A reader in Europe reports:

I have tried TPRS but if found it very demanding and artificial. I dropped it after 6 months. Currently I am preparing for the next year and taking  your latest book A Natural Approach to the Year as a starting point. 

I was already a fan of Dr Krashen’s work and your transfer of his theories to the classroom practice is very helpful.

I put it into practice the last two weeks with a class and we all enjoyed it. I do doubt whether or not it (more in particular One Word Images and student jobs) will work with 14-year old students (in their second year of German language instruction).  I will find out. 🙂

My response:

People who become enamored of CI and try it with kids who have been trained with worksheets and the textbook in years before (i.e. levels 2-4 students) are bound to fail in their endeavor.

Those kids will rebel. It’s too easy for them to memorize for the test like before than do what’s required in this new world – acting like a conscious human being. The irony is that when they arrive at the end of the year, having gotten their way, they invariably realize through word of mouth in the school and test scores that they don’t actually know anything compared to your first years students, and they are embarrassed.

Note that you have to at least offer it in the first week, but you must tell tell them that if they can’t handle it – and they simply won’t be able to – but after the first week of school if they fail to behave like your first year class, that you are officially ending their CI option and then put them back in the book and then stay there.

Don’t even bring it up for the rest of the year. I want to stress that second and third and fourth year classes trained on worksheets and the textbook ARE NOT ABLE to change, so why even try? Give them that first week – you owe them that – and you will see that unless they are a remarkable group of kids, it’s hopeless. 

The thing on this is that you should never put yourself in a position of having to struggle to make CI work in your classroom. That’s what kids trained in the textbook do to you. They make it so difficult!

Since I left the TPRS fold five years ago and in the past five years developed the Invisibles and the Natural Approach trilogy, I have seen how beginning kids deserve my hard work in bringing high-quality work to them each day, but kids trained with the textbook don’t deserve it. If they want to tune out, then I should get to tune out. Then they graduate and after a three year time period I get to find out what real teaching is, and I realize that what I thought was the wrong profession for me was actually the right profession.

I’m not speaking from conjecture on this. It may sound harsh, but sometimes the truth is harsh and it is certainly so in this case on this topic.

Just let those kids go – I know it’s hard but do it anyway – and look forward to your beginners every day until in four years you arrive at the point where you are finally happy in your work as a language teacher because of the Invisibles and this non-targeted approach to CI, which is the only way that I know of that truly aligns with the reseearch. I’m not saying TPRS doesn’t work. I’m saying it doesn’t work for me.



2 thoughts on “Using CI With Levels 2-4”

  1. So happy that you clarified this! I am so relieved. This is what I was thinking all along. Now I can just concentrate on French I for this year and continue next year for the class in CI.

  2. I’m glad my experience w trying to use stories with worksheet-trained kids has helped somebody. It about broke me. I even brought donuts every Friday for seven months to a morning AP class of 22 that knew less when they graduated than my level ones did in mid-year that year. Those privileged kids were in the class almost solely for the credit and the AP term on their college applications. They had had three different French teachers and their grammar was amazingly scrambled. Like scrambled eggs. It was what the worksheets did. And no teacher had actually done and CI. I was flabbergasted. No exaggeration there!

    I suppose that training kids out of worksheets CAN work, but only w certain kids and very rarely. Of course the worst ones to break are the seniors and it goes down from there. Sophomores are naturally snarky so level 2 is hard. If you have a strong and creative class of juniors who really want to learn the language, it can work in level 3. It depends on how many get the concept of language learning.

    Of course, if kids have been doing worksheets in middle school, then they are pretty much lost, unless you are able to do what has to be done.

    The profound question to ask in such cases is, why try? Their minds are gordian knots. Why try to untie it? Doing so is fool’s errand, for sure.Once that kind of damage is done, the result on an intellectual level on those kids is, if one can use the term – and one can and should get this perfidy out in the open – criminal.
    It’s like hiring someone to do some work that affects national security (our work does not just on linguistic levels but on cultural levels and “awareness” levels) and they screw it up. It’s not good for America, all these lost hours which total up into the millions each year, with smart kids, capable kids (all kids can learn a language) and spitting in their faces. Their bright hopeful faces which over the years through middle and high school fade so that their hope and optimism fades out, replaced by senior moments, but these are still children!

    And then Paul Sandrock, who once used the term communicative input to refer to Krashen’s work (I can prove it) leads an army of teachers who, bless their hearts, are hurting kids and therefore hurting the future of America. Change. Change. Change.

    Dian in the fall we want a full report here of the process next year. One more thing – when word gets out about how well your level ones are doing, you will get challenges from level 2 students who want to “learn that way”. Don’t bite. Say no. Then, after a month or two, put your hand on your chin and say, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think it’ll work. You guys think that memorizing things teaches you the language.” They will protest, because they want in on the Invisibles (which are all over the back wall in the Gallery of One Word Images and ICIs). If you relent, give them two days. When they keep interrupting, bc no one has ever properly trained them, quit and go back to the book for a month or more. Avoid the leniency bc we all know that high school kids eat leniency for lunch. I’m not being mean. I’m speaking the truth of it.

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