A Big Red Flag

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18 thoughts on “A Big Red Flag”

  1. I wonder how well the kids do being able to use verb charts during quizzes. Back in the dark ages, I experimented with leaving my verb charts up during tests. The kids STILL could not conjugate verbs even with the rules and examples right in front of them. Now, with TPRS, they don’t know the rules but they can conjugate better.

  2. Anne Matava’s fourth year German class some years ago was amazed to see verb charts when Anne finally presented them after four years of comprehensible input. They were surprised to know that the verb forms could be arranged in that way and one student even thanked her for the “filing system”. The point being that they knew via reading and listening the correct form of a ton of verbs in each possible case in many tenses but did not know that they could be arranged in neat little charts. It was the opposite of what happens in classes where memorization is used.

  3. Just glanced over a -relatively new- blog by a TCI elementary Spanish teacher http://www.senorhoward.com. I am quite puzzled by watching the videos and reading the explanations. It feels more to me like a mixed bag of different approaches with some circling than TCI. The good news is that he’s had great success, the kids are chatting sponatenously in Spanish and love class. That’s what really matters after all.

    1. I visited his site too. Even though he calls out thematic lists and grammar syllabi on his blog, I saw lots of that junk in his sample lessons. It seems like CI muddled with trad instruction. But that’s just based on reading a bit of his stuff. There may be a lot I missed.

  4. I was very disappointed too Jim. I was trying to be positive, but in reality I am a TCI purist and look for the very best. I can’t quite find the words to express how annoyed I get by teachers who don’t get TCI but think they do. There is a right of passage!

  5. It’s like the word organic. It meant something before it was usurped by corporate food interests who now sell “organic” products because they were able to lobby their way into control of the term to mean what they wanted, which is not organic in the way originally intended.

    People like this took the term TPRS down, then we came up with TCI (Meredith Richmond did) in June of 2010, and we have been using both terms since then, but now anything we use that has the term comprehensible input in it is going to be roped and tied down by just about anyone who wants to, like the dude above, bless his heart.

    The confusion that will come from that kind of misuse will eventually become incalculable and not too many of us are betting the house on ACTFL to lead discussion to protect the term comprehensible input from becoming a flatulent term.

  6. This is why I will keep using TPRS. Blaine developed a very effective, fairly simple way to deliver interesting, repeatable comprehensible input through story asking and reading. Our ancillaries– movietalk and picturetalk– fit perfectly with pure Blaine instruction.

    I don’t like the term “tci” because technically even my grammarian colleagues are delivering tci. My high-school German teacher Frau Thatcher delivered tci with her grammar lectures on the nine doubtful dative prepositions or whatever. Nuh-uh; if that kinda stuff is TCI then I am not a TCI practitioner.

    And if I ever get grief about “oh tprs is all flying elephant bullshit stories, it’s juvenile” I’ll take out my results, where– after a mere 9 weeks of instruction– my weakest kids can write 350-word stories in good Spanish and read simple novels. And I’ll say “this is where my flying elephants got my kids. Where did your communicative pair activities, worksheets, and culture projects get YOUR kids?”

  7. Then again, we do not know where this teacher is on his journey. He may be on the trail to clearer view of CI. I haven’t been to the site yet, so maybe it’s made clear there, but I’d hate to criticize a) someone who can’t defend himself and b) someone who really is an ally, but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to be a part of a true CI community.

    with love,

    1. I hear ya, Laurie. But right now I’m facing the dilemma of sacrificing my CI instruction for more output activities for the sake of appeasing admin and what they think is more engaging and better for kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one in such a dilemma. So, it’s good for me to listen to our colleagues here call out what they see is not CI and take a stand on full CI teaching.

      1. Sean, I’ve been aiming for a 15-20 minute spurt of spoken/heard CI for most classes, unless it’s a reading day. Sometimes I can get TWO 15-20 minute spurts in–I have 80 min. classes–but most of the time one FEELS like enough, if you know what I mean. After that I switch to reading, maybe some writing, and a quick quiz. So I can B.S. my way around any output activity with that “filler” part of class.

        I suggest: Just get a good 10 min. deal or two or three in and then do whatever and don’t feel bad about it. My kids, at least, can’t focus on auditory CI for an entire 80 min. class period… and I certainly can’t deliver it to every class day in and day out.

        1. This is why block classes are best for CI. We distribute the minutes between intense 20 min. auditory CI and fill the rest of the time with reading, etc. – all the activities we have at our disposal many of which are listed in the Two Week Schedule (see category) or in the Big Ideas category. We thus spend the entire class, or in James’ case, two weeks, on three structures. This is truly going narrow and deep. It results in real, not false gains.

        2. Yeah, I get it. In a way, your reading and writing exercises, James, could be masked input exercises. It’s just unfortunate that my admin’s response to my teaching is on how to give more output instead of on how to give more input. Oh well.

          I have to be very careful with what filler activities to do because my students get very easily disruptive. Most any output activities are too frustrating for them, though I have a few 5 minute activities that I rotate through.

          1. A little of both, but my conversations with admin have been minimal so far. We’ll see in the coming weeks how much I can talk with them. I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for asking.

          2. I used to share a lot with my principal. I’ve finally realized he doesn’t care. I’m the expert and I know enough to defend what I’m doing based on research, so I’m not gonna let someone ignorant dictate what I do. I took a stand on that recently, openly saying my students aren’t going to write and I’ve cited the success of the Focal Skills program as support. I also thought for a while I needed to impress him or show him how good I am. . . a misplaced feeling of self-worth, probably ingrained in me from my own upbringing. Those days are over.

  8. I think we should make that “T” in “TCI” mean “targeted” or “transparent” or both. Tsquared. That is what makes it different from other approaches claiming to be based on comprehension. Although, given the conditions we teach under, it could be argued that the only way to maintain 90%+ target language and stay comprehensible is to be targeted/transparent.

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