Van Patten Webinar

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66 thoughts on “Van Patten Webinar”

    1. That paper is dense. Yikes. Here’s a good quote (p. 21):
      “The problem is, from a pedagogical viewpoint, if one teaches surface rules, then one is not getting at the underlying issue, and that is mental representation. And, as we have argued, mental representation only comes about from interaction with input. What is perhaps more problematic is that many teachers think that the rules they teach are indeed the ones that learners ‘internalize. The result is a perpetuation of the myth of ‘teach rules and practice rules, and that’s how you get language.’

      1. “. . . we have argued for the thesis that learners do not learn rules from the input. Instead, they process particular forms (morpho-phonological units) that are used by internal mechanisms to create a grammar. Rules—if they exist, and they surely don’t exist in the classic sense used in instructed SLA research—are byproducts of the growth of language in the learner’s mind/brain.” (p.25)

        1. Eric, thanks for the quotes. This second one makes much more sense now after having read most of Chomsky’s “Language and Responsibility” (a Christmas gift this year!). It’s hard to follow sometimes because of some unfamiliar jargon, but the idea of an internal grammar that is biological guaranteed us as humans, the Language Acquisition Device as some call it, seems to really be what has allowed this return from traditional instruction to a more natural approach. It’s the philosophical roots of our work, from how I’m understanding it.
          It’s really fun, because I always read Chomsky for his political commentary, and now reading his revolutionary contributions to linguistics and language acquisition (and philosophy of thought in general) in his own words has been one hell of a morning coffee companion. But I must say, I’m quite glad that I was rejected by the Univ of Iowa linguistics program when I applied back in 2008… I may have never broken out of the intellectual approach to language teaching.

          1. I recommend everyone read VanPatten’s summary (or mine below) so you can use it as scientific ammo against the grammar lovers. In that above paper, VanPatten summarizes one of his kick-ass studies (p.13-16) that suggests that instruction, practice, and feedback do NOT lead to acquisition,* but input does.
            *acquisition = creation of an implicit mental representation (p.13)
            VanPatten, B., Keating, G. D., & Leeser, M. J. (2012). Missing verbal inflections as a representational problem: Evidence from self-paced reading. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 2, 109-140.
            Subjects: Spanish native speakers (18) and L2 Spanish intermediates (25) third year university students
            Examined 3 verb movement structures:
            -wh-question formation
            -adverb placement
            -person-number endings on simple present tense
            Measured: Reading times of grammatical and ungrammatical versions of the structures. If acquired, then ungrammatical sentences should take longer to read.
            Results: As expected for native speakers, i.e. 3 structures acquired. L2 learners acted as expected on first 2 structures, but NOT on the person-number sentences.
            Conclusion: L2 learners had acquired what likely had NEVER been taught and practiced and had NOT acquired the basic morphology taught and practiced since day 1. Acquisition is input-dependent. BOOYAH!
            “What is interesting about these results and why they are relevant to the present discussion is that wh-question formation is not taught in most Spanish classes and we know that adverb placement never is. . . Yet, these non-beginners did not show evidence of any mental representation for the very thing that has been present in their formal instruction from the first day of Spanish classes. What VanPatten, Keating, and ??Leeser concluded was that things like person-number endings on verbs must be learned from the input like anything else; they can’t be taught and practiced in order to build a mental representation of them. When they examined the input of typical classrooms and textbook materials, they discovered how relatively poor the input is in terms of providing lots of samples of the various person-number endings. . . What happened to all that instruction, practice, feedback, and so on related to person-number endings in Spanish? Where did it go?” (p. 15-16)

          2. Yes, thanks for the quotes. I had an e-mail from a Vice-Principal this morning asking teachers to send a “study guide” for finals to a parent for her son. (Finals are today and tomorrow. The e-mail was sent after 5:00 pm yesterday, so I didn’t get it until today.)
            My reply was as follows:
            The German final is based on a “novel” that we have been reading in class. Since it is primarily a test of the Interpretive Mode of Communication, [Students] will have access to the text during the exam. On Monday and Tuesday, we reviewed the book in class, and I went over what will be on the final. Language acquisition is not a matter of “cramming” facts and information into short term memory but of creating an implicit internal representation of the language through input over time. [Student] already has everything he needs to be ready for the final exam in German.
            Emphasis mine for this post.

          3. Robert said this to the VP who wanted a study guide for finals:
            …the German final is based on a “novel” that we have been reading in class. Since it is primarily a test of the Interpretive Mode of Communication, [Students] will have access to the text during the exam. On Monday and Tuesday, we reviewed the book in class, and I went over what will be on the final. Language acquisition is not a matter of “cramming” facts and information into short term memory but of creating an implicit internal representation of the language through input over time. [Student] already has everything he needs to be ready for the final exam in German….
            This is why I nominate Robert Harrell for President of the United States.

  1. Hey friends,
    I am finally officially in this PLC. I remember being on Ben’s site just a few years ago… glad to be here!
    I have brought up the question in others places and I guess I will do it here. Why does VP preach everything that Krashen discusses but avoid mentioning him? Why does VP not afffirm the results of TPRS/TCI?
    I know Dr. K replied to part of this inquiry on the TPRS list serve but not the latter. I guess at this point, I find it intentional that VP doesn’t advocate for the work that we all support and practice.
    This bothers me because I really enjoy much of what he discusses. Thoughts??

    1. Hi Mike,
      Welcome to the PLC! There was a lot of discussion in here around the time of posting on the ACTFL listserv, and I recall your posts there.
      Michele Whaley recently watched a VanPatten webinar in which he was asked directly what he thinks about TPRS. He praised it. She shared about that here maybe in December? It’s probably possible to search for that info in here – offhand I’m not sure where it would be.

    2. Mike, It may have been discussed elsewhere, but on his radio show, Tea with BVP, the man himself invited our Steven Krashen to come in for an interview. VP says that he and Dr. K are perfectly aligned. The first two podcasts I listened to were so gratifying. Recommend highly!

      1. Agreed, Chill.
        And just before that he was asked, “What resources exist to help people learn to teach with CI?
        His answer was 1) google CI, and 2) TPRS: “you can go to their workshops and learn a lot of tools for using input in the classroom and making your classroom more communicative via that particular method…[they] teach very specific skills and very specific techniques. So those are the two places I would start.”
        The two places. And the second was TPRS.
        He then added “Also, listen how mothers and fathers talk to 2-year olds. And that will help you too.” And he said this S-L-O-W-L-Y. It made me wonder if he were pointing as he spoke to the live audience.

        1. Krashen and VP have communicated. In fact, VP wants to interview Krashen on his radio talk show. I do not think they have a set date yet but when they do we can hopefully share it in several places including ACTFL online community and FL listserves.
          Ben and Robert and others…I am wondering what your thoughts on this Tea with BVP are?
          For anyone that has not heard the first 2 shows, they are archived and you listen whenever.

          1. I haven’t had time to listen, Michael. I am heartened to see this rapprochement in VP with K. But what do I know? I don’t know and what I wrote below was written almost a year ago. Things and people keep changing in this work and that will continue throughout this century of blowing up the old model into little pieces. One thing doesn’t change – Krashen. It’s an unconscious process and in my CI world that means that I am responsible for teaching in a way that gets my kids focused on meaning and not language. For me that says it all and anything VP might say would be some riff on that. But my growth won’t come through any great insights I get from VP, since K has done that thoroughly for me already. In truth, I must take that one idea, that SLA is an unconscious process, and run with it in my own classroom. That is where my focus remains. I am sure VP is doing great things. I personally already have too many great things that I got from Susan Gross and K for one lifetime. I don’t need any nuance on TPRS now. I just need to work harder at strategies and on keeping myself from using English in the classroom.

          2. I hear ya, Ben. Krashen & TPRS is certainly enough for a lifetime, especially during these times of transition.
            I still hope some day FL teachers can be “experts on language,” which BVP exposed in his White Paper in AATSP. That means understanding some basics on the “nature of language,” “language acquisition,” and “processing.”
            I hope some day FL teachers can speak intelligibly about the nuances of Krashen’s theory, understand the critiques, and know the rebuttals. That is what will be demanded of us next. Once Krashen is more embraced and FL teachers more SLA knowledgeable as a whole, we will need to be ready to defend Krashen. Maybe not in our lifetime, given the snail pace of this all.
            BVP has defended Krashen, elaborated and refined Krashen’s theory, and explained it via a theory of language (Universal Grammar), which is one of the main critiques of Krashen, since Krashen did not explain how comprehending input would interact with our mental representation (Universal Grammar in this case).

          3. This simply needs to be said:
            The people who are active on this blog know far more about (second) language acquisition than anyone else with whom they regularly come in contact, including AP teachers, Department Chairs, Principals, and District Administrators – combined. By reading the excellent posts that Eric and others write, we are getting a great education on the state of the research, and by collaborating we are learning how to apply that research in our classrooms.
            I hope everyone realizes just how different this PLC is from most.

          4. Having grown up as a CI teacher in most part through involvement in this PLC, I knew & valued this group and this forum highly. But it was at iFLT that I came to realize how special this place is among the TPRS/CI community, which has many great, generous, insightful people in it. I had thought our conversations here were pretty normal before that 🙂

          5. I love you guys!!!
            Robert is right on…people on this PLC know more about SLA in practice than most others out there. Eric states that through SLA education long-term success will happen. Diane mentions how truly special the people in our language community really are. And Ben dignifies the HEROES that have been the driving forces for where CI is today in the world!
            As practitioners, we know how CI lives and breathes within on our classrooms. When people smarter than me can articulate the process (K and VP) I see what we do more clearly. There are constants in acquiring language but there are also some fine details that always seem to be popping out the more time I spend in the magical process of helping others acquire. It changes every year and with every distinct class in some way something new happens. The core principles of input-based instruction seem to stay the same but my thinking and perspectives on how to do this well or better seems to be always in motion or development.
            I love hearing or reading what others have to say about what SLA is…or better what defines quality input-based instruction for classroom teaching. We need others inside and outside of our circle to do this for the benefit of all in the world.
            The plural efforts of the people on this PLC and in the TPRS community, is, as I have always said RIGHTEOUS work. Being a good person and this work go hand and hand…in contrast, the JERKS of the world will have very little success in this work.

          6. I think we not only get the “why” as it relates to what we do in our profession, but I think we (TPRSers mainly) get and apply the “how” better than anyone else out there. As someone has said before… Blaine Ray invented the formula for Coca Cola. And we brew it up pretty damn well here.
            This becomes clearer when we look at the TOYs for 2015. Skip Crosby, Grant Boulanger (who completely rocked the house up here in MN last weekend!), and then I learned that Michele Whaley and Annick Chen have also been recognized. That’s a pretty strong indictment of the effectiveness of TPRS and that it’s gaining more and more attention.

          7. Don’t forget that Darcy Pippins was Oklahoma TOY and she had AP Spanish success with TPRS only…amazing!!!

          8. We should make a list of all the state and ACTFL region TPRS TOYs over recent years. It’s not a short list. Dale Crum was the SWCOLT TOY a few years back, Robert Patrick and Carrie Toth like Dale both were among the five regional finalists of ACTFL for national TOY in 2013. Skip Crosby was TOY in Maine, I think in 2014. Michele Whaley in Alaska in 2014 also I believe. Now Annick in CO and Grant in MN. I think there are others.
            So far they’ve missed the one who should be CA and national ACTFL TOY – Robert Harrell. And Eric should be the 2015-2016 Teacher of the Universe.

          9. And about 20 years overdue. Congrats to Annick, who just moved from Abraham Lincoln HS to South High in Denver. Watching Annick teach is a true pleasure.

          10. …we will need to be ready to defend Krashen. Maybe not in our lifetime, given the snail pace of this all….
            In Denver once I asked Dr. Krashen how long it would take for people to get his ideas. He said, in dramatic fashion, that it would take as long for that to happen as it would for a mountain to be worn away if a bird flies across the mountain with a scarf in its mouth and drops the scarf once every 100 years. That it would take that long. I think he might be right. We may be thinking incorrectly here in thinking that we are part of a movement that one day will be the norm. Maybe it won’t be. Maybe we, John Bracey and a few others excluded, are just part of a small unnoticed group that will never be noticed. Not trying to be negative, just listening to Krashen’s story with new ears after about five years. It’s fine with me – my motto is Thy Will Be Done On Earth. But man, how weird if K is right with the bird and scarf story above.

          11. I will say this once and I will say it a million times. VanPatten has, since I’ve known him, been a troublemaker in almost sense of the word. He’s put himself as close to the bleeding edge as anyone in our profession, and deserves respect from everyone on this list for his work and dedication. Part of his basic work has been as a teacher trainer for Spanish in universities where non-initiate graduate students have one to two weeks to prepare to begin teaching (this gives VP at most 80 hours to erase 3000 hours of the apprenticeship of observation). While there are perhaps more than a few amazing teacher trainers who belong to this list, getting the number of unprepared graduate students that VP deals with to teach using TPRS in the short time he has would be nothing short of a miracle. Of course, he doesn’t do that. But he does get them to do CI. Who else can say the same?

          12. I really appreciate Mark giving us this perspective! . . . and BVP may not be able to train his teachers in TPRS, but given last week’s radio episode, he certainly supports and recommends TPRS. In fact, in the 1 hour show on CI, the only “method” he ever mentioned was TPRS 🙂

  2. Krashen has been bashed by more people than can be counted over more years than can be counted by an army of counts, viscounts and fools who can’t count. VanPatten wants respect. So why would he associate himself with Krashen? Mention him, yes. Quote him, yes. Support him and give him the credit he deserves? That’s not how those girls and boys roll. They are scholars – it’s always been about them. Bless their hearts. The reaction afforded Krashen over the past thirty years very much resembles, in my view, the reaction given Carl Jung. Both were just too far out there for the intellectuals of the day. Both (Jung in dream interpretation and Krashen in language acquisition) pointed to the undeniable and supreme importance of the role of the unconscious mind in those two areas. They pushed the intellectuals of their day far beyond their comfort zones, and Krashen is still pushing, because he’s just badass. And VanPatten, make no mistakes, is an intellectual, and I don’t say that as a compliment. Our work is not about the mind, but about blending mind with heart, and about allowing the super computer of the heart (yes, the super computer of the heart) to bring the language gains that we (yes, us, the ones with the sweat on our foreheads) will surely see before the next fifty years are over. The little computer that is the conscious mind sure hasn’t been able to do it. Krashen’s research took him there, to the threshold of mind and heart, where great things happen in human beings. The feeling I get from Krashen is that he didn’t need to dive in. Didn’t he do enough? He got up on the cliff and say, “Hey, there’s a cliff and a chasm down there and look at these hypotheses and now how can we get to the other side so we can maybe change some of the abysmal things that have happened in language education around the world up to this point?” And so he paved the way for the storytellers (stories are of the heart). Teachers who are looking for the heart quality in their work are drawn up to the cliff. Blaine Ray was one of the first up. VanPatten can’t quite see the link, doesn’t quite want to go up on the cliff, because it’s steep. He wouldn’t feel comfortable standing on the ledge like Ray, or like the critically important Susie Gross who dove off the cliff, found she could fly, and coaxed a lot of other crazies to dive off too, and we found we had wings to fly as well! VanPatten gives stories praise. How generous! But he won’t actually associate himself with the Venice Beach weight lifting hippy. He won’t dive off the cliff. He’s never going to dive in. That’s what I think, Michael.

    1. Ben…so true! I was just reading the paper that Eric mentioned. As I was reading it, I kept asking myself questions like, “What is you your point VP? Where are you going with all this?”
      Glad you articulated my frustration, he is an intellectual and I see his motives are different than ours. It takes courage to make a commitment to the world we are involved in (TPRS/TCI). Earlier in his career when Krashen advocated for CI and discovered TPR and TPRS he repeatedly would advocate for its usefulness for the purpose of providing CI. I guess I just get frustrated for someone like VP to not do the same. It is all a bunch a scholary nonsense unless the ideas can be observed/practiced in the real world.
      Diane, I will go back and see what Michele shared. Thanks for letting me know.

    2. Ben, your comments reminded me of something. In the ancient world, the heart was not just the seat of emotions but the seat of intellect. Other internal organs were associated with emotions. Interestingly, we still have vestiges of this view:
      When we have memorized something thoroughly, we know it “by heart” rather than “by head”
      A show of ill temper or spitefulness is called “venting one’s spleen”
      The intestines were the seat of compassion and pity (“my bowels are troubled for him”)
      The loins were the source of strength and power (“gird up one’s loins” = get ready to do a hard job)
      While today we know that thinking processes are carried on in the brain, Western thought, philosophy, and medicine have a very mechanistic view of the human body and do not generally address the idea of where emotions “reside”, we do know that various internal organisms are involved in emotional reactions, e.g. release of adrenaline in reaction to fear. As human beings we are both psyche (mind/soul) and soma (body) [not to mention pneuma (spirit)], and trying to separate the two [three] will always lead to trouble.

    3. VP also has a language textbook or two. Krashen has said something to the effect that he is the theorist and it is up to practitioners to put the hypotheses into practice.

  3. One really valuable contribution that VP brings to the table is this notion of there being no rules to be learned in the first place. This is so important, since there is a fine line between presenting CI for its own sake and presenting CI as a thinly-disguised excuse for teaching, for example, direct object pronouns. When I start doing too many pop-ups on a grammatical structures that I’d like the students to acquire, I channel VP and repeat this to myself (“There are no rules to be learned.”). In the mind/brain of a speaker who has acquired the language, that rule does not exist in the first place. It seems Krashen does not take as extreme of a stance, explaining that it is not “teach grammar, go to jail.” This problem makes a bit more sense, since with the limited hours we have with our students, a bit of explicit instruction may be necessary (not because it really helps, but because it helps us SEE results…even if they are fake). But, for those who are doing contextualized grammar instruction but THINK they are doing CI/TPRS, VP’s view on rules is helpful in making that distinction.

    1. Let’s be clear. Van Patten not only cites Krashen, but the early part of his career he was largely dedicated to popularizing Krashen and he stuck his neck out for him in a time when it was woefully unpopular and unacceptable to do so. Van Patten is a scientist above all and he has dedicated his life to the scientific pursuit and exposition of Second Language Acquisition, which might equate to being an intellectual, and maybe that is a defect. So be it. As noted by other people in this discussion, it takes discipline to understand Chomsky, and it also takes a good deal of discipline to get Van Patten, but once you put the time into him, you will not regret it. If you want to drive home the point to your administrators and your parents that TPRS makes sense scientifically, the first thing to give them to read is Van Patten’s “From Input to Output,” which he wrote for his dean in order to get the dean up to speed with Second Language Acquisition.

      1. Well Mark that is good information and thank you. So Van Patten wrote this book “From Input to Output” and you say:
        …if you want to drive home the point to your administrators and your parents that TPRS makes sense scientifically, the first thing to give them to read is [that book]….
        They won’t read it. I won’t read it. I would, but I have too much sweat rolling down my forehead into my eyes. I need Van Patten to explain it to me, to us who are not at the university level, who, like me, honestly and literally don’t understand the VP jargon to be able to share it with anyone.
        When Van Patten’s name comes up even though I have been in a second language classroom for 37 years more than him, I feel slightly less capable at my craft, because he seems to know something that I don’t know about it.
        So then Alisa and Michael Coxon request that Van Patten be more forthcoming, that is, less of a scientist and more sharing, because most of us, I think I could safely say, don’t get the science and we don’t get the jargon and with five classes a day don’t have the time to decode it. Maybe VP could talk to us at a level we can understand, maybe all you university people could, on behalf of the kids. Don’t you think you owe it to us here in the field to give us some stuff we could understand? But the beat goes on with y’all, and the chasm between university and secondary language educators remains unbridged.
        And then Coxon’s point:
        …as I was reading it, I kept asking myself questions like, “What is you your point VP? Where are you going with all this?”….
        … he is an intellectual and I see his motives are different than ours. It is all a bunch a scholary nonsense unless the ideas can be observed/practiced in the real world….
        So when are you guys at the university level and we in the secondary and elementary classrooms going to get together and have a date? I know that we were talking about CU Boulder for iFLT this summer and that would have been a nice reach across the divide but it looks like that’s not happening.
        Maybe you could write a book, “Van Patten for Idiots” or something.
        Sorry for the ramble. A few of us need Van Patten to be more clear, that’s all. Maybe that’s the way to say it. Does the fact that he is a scientist get him off the hook on this point? Does Michael get to ask the question why he doesn’t give Krashen more credit publicly? Is there something that VP knows that K doesn’t know? What is in that barrel of science that VP seems to be the only one with the key to? I really think VP – to repeat Alisa’s and Micheal’s points – owes us some kind of explanation as to why he stretched his arms so high early in his career holding the K flag up high and waving it around with such strength and grace and then he doesn’t mention him these days? Mark, what do you think is going on with that? What’s the real answer to that?
        Sorry for the ramble. My teeth just always start itching when the VP flag is being waved. Maybe I need a new toothbrush.
        [ed. note: Mark Knowles is the Director of the Anderson Language and Technology Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He is one of very few university scholars in the entire world who regularly reach out to secondary educators. I challenge him above because I know that I can, in a spirit of stirring up the pot and Mark would be the first to defend my right to do that and invite it. He is part of the solution, most assuredly. We need a lot more Mark Knowles types at the university level. He has even brought Sabrina to UC Boulder to instruct their faculty in French using TPRS/CI and it has been a big hit. Those faculty members love learning French from Sabrina because they actually do. Unlike their own students. So bridges are being built by Mark and I don’t want to sound overly petulant above, but at the same time, I’m tired of all the Van Patten stuff. Like Michael, I would love to know why he doesn’t mention Krashen. It’s like he has taken K up a notch but we can’t see that high up the Van Patten building, we can’t see up to that floor. What’s up there in that largely inaccessible and obtuse world of abstract university wormdom? Is it a step up if we can’t understand it and it doesn’t help us? If not, then that is not a step up at all, but a step down. We need VP to be more accessible, that’s all, like Mark is doing here in Denver with his own boots on the ground and in this PLC, building at least one bridge between one university and one school district.]

        1. Hi Ben,
          This is a great discussion and one I really appreciate, especially the part about popularizing Van Patten’s work. I actually did make an effort to have him to come to Colorado this spring and do a workshop for K-12 teachers, but his schedule is jam-packed. So, while I cannot answer a lot of questions that you raise, especially the one about supporting Krashen (although I did notice that Van Patten/Jessica Williams 2nd Edition of Theories in Second Language Acquisition, An Introduction just came out, and Krashen did play a fairly important role in the first edition, so the answer to your question on why VP doesn’t celebrate Krashen’s contributions more might be front and center in the new volume), We must all agree that Van Patten does an enormous amount of production in his domain. On that point, he, like you and like everyone else in this family-friendly capitalistic land, is extremely busy and has no time to breath, and nobody is going to revolutionize language teaching singlehandedly– he’s only one person, and he’s just doing his part, please give him credit for doing his part. I give him an enormous amount of credit, because without voices like his, frankly, we would be in a black hole of infamy. He gives me power to take on what I consider some of the less enlightened side of our profession. He helps me bring important new perspectives to the university, and knowing he does careful and deliberate science gives me the same kind of confidence a Brembo GT 380 Big Brake Kit gives car drivers the second their foot touches the brake pedal.
          So I absolutely agree with you. We need public intellectuals – those who can meet face to face with those who are in the trenches and speak to them in a language they understand. I would love to write the book you are asking for. But for that, I need the time, too! Aie, aie, aie! Okay, I’ll push it towards the top of my to-do list. Thank you for asking!
          I will say, however, that “From Input to Output” is probably just that book. It is short and simply written without being condescending, whatsoever. The real problem with it is its availability, because it is almost non-existent, and old copies go for exorbitant prices at Amazon. One more thing about Van Patten is that he’s an extremely gracious human being which may put him in line for being a victim of his own success.

          1. VanPatten’s contribution can boil down to two sentences:
            1) a “textbook type rule […] is not what actually exists in the grammar, or in people’s minds; it is a specific shorthand way to describe a particular consequence of of more abstract principles of the grammar.” — Bill VanPatten, (“Mental representation and skill in instructed SLA”)
            What the brain actually does when it hears language is NOT– repeat NOT– following a verb or pronoun placement chart. See verb, determine person number and tense, modify ending. These sorts of grammarian rules are exactly what Anne Matava’s kids said they were: filing systems for the conscious mind.
            This is CRUCIAL. If your grammarian colleagues come at you with “but they must know rules bla bla” you can say (politely) “no, because the brain does not work that way” and point them at VanPatten.
            It’s not up to US to defend c.i. It’s up to the grammarians and communicative ppl to justify their methods’ lack of scientific basis.
            2) “Any so-called pedagogical interventions must be (1) input oriented and (2) couched in some communicative/meaningful context.” (ibid.)
            Drills, output, even metacognition: useless.

          2. Chris wrote: It’s not up to US to defend c.i. It’s up to the grammarians and communicative ppl to justify their methods’ lack of scientific basis.
            Actually, it is up to us to defend CI just as it is up to the grammarians and communicative people to justify their methods. We should always be ready to give an account of what we are doing. The difference is that we can actually do it, i.e. the research that supports our approach is there.
            I have been reading about the history of approaches and methods in second language instruction. An approach is a set of principles about how a language is learned and a general statement of how those principles apply. A method is a set of strategies for implementing the approach. Of course, a single approach can give rise to multiple methods. Using these definitions, I see TCI as an approach and TPRS as a method within that approach. Krashen and Van Patten provide us with the research, theories, and hypotheses that produce the principles of our approach. Whose job is it to formulate the approach? There are people who will do that, but it is the individual teacher’s responsibility to evaluate the approaches and methods by seeing how they line up with the research. At some point, obviously, we have to trust someone else, but I would rather trust the body of research and interact with people like Van Patten and Krashen than simply teach the way I was taught. Part of the problem in our profession is that too few teachers do that sort of evaluation; most are simply trying to get through the day under the weight of other expectations (paperwork, assessment, committees, discipline, etc.).
            As I have read about the various approaches and methods, I have noted that most have some sort of theoretical and research basis, even if there are flaws in the research and gaps in the theory (e.g. Audio-Lingual has a behaviorist theoretical base, but further research shows that this is not how language is acquired). All of the writers so far have agreed on one point: the one method that has no theory to support it is Grammar-Translation, yet it is even today very popular in one form or another. There are numerous reasons for that, but a couple of them are the ease of application for the teacher and the non-reflective nature of most practitioners – at least non-reflective as far as the basic assumptions of their method are concerned.
            If we don’t investigate on our own, then we trust someone else to do it and tell us what to do, follow the models we have had in our own learning that seemed to work for us, or grab stuff from everywhere and see what “works” according to whatever informal and unconscious criteria we have established. I prefer to investigate and be able to articulate why I do what I do, but many of my colleagues do not and then follow outdated methods.

          3. sehr gut gesagt, Herrel 😉 One must be prepared to articulate one’s ideas.
            It’s amazing how many wrong ideas we have all had. man, i wasted 13 years of teaching.

          4. But they are not totally wasted, Chris. Thanks to all the relentless effort you put into communicative activities, you are a living testimony to their fruitlessness. Suzie Gross did the same thing–spent hours creating more and more communicative exercises only find that the end of the year scores never changed until she switched to TPRS. Thanks for all you have done to promote TPRS.

          5. ^ aw thanks ^
            I lead by negative example. I can write satire on my blog based on what I did.
            Blaine Ray is absolutely the best teacher I have ever seen. Here is a guy who failed several times, then literally re-invented language teaching. It is literally true that there are two kinds of language teachers: those who get Blaine, and everyone else.

          6. Hey, Chris.
            Looking at this again I should have clarified sooner. What I was trying to say is that you and Susan Gross took the “communicative” pair group practice and pushed it as far as you could. No matter how hard you tried, you got measly communicative results.
            You switched to a new paradigm when Adriana and Blaine showed you a better way and the communicative results skyrocketed. So I understand your passion born out of experience. There is no wavering on your position. You traded your PT Cruzer in on an 18 wheeler and are able to take more students farther than you had ever dreamed.
            I do not think you lead by negative example. You have been a leader in standing by the power of the story. Other forms of CI are great, but the ability to engage learners in a problem or conflict and carry them forward in L2 to a resolution is engagement at the essence of our humanity. By contrast, those who belittle “stories” mock an essential component of what it means to be human.
            We need to keep being reminded, in the sea of memorized dialogues, that the narrative boat floats high above the rest.

          7. Ben, I love your response and the kindness and respect you showed for Mark. I love this PLC!
            Thanks so much for offering your information and experiences with VP. I am clearly someone that carries some bias. I do see that VP cites and mentions Krashen…like you said his work is hard to come by $$$. I am glad you called some of us out on expressing our bias.
            By my own admission…I will say that I have narrow view of SLA researchers. I get frustrated that VP avoids using the term “comprehensible input” (maybe he does and I don’t know it). In its place he uses “input” but my bias is that not all input is equal. I spent years, providing “regular old” input to my students and I see many colleagues providing “regular old” input as well with less than fair results. The word “comprehensible” to me, says that the input is more valuable for teaching and learning than just input.
            This is minor and perhaps snobby but I think critical. I feel like if he uses the term CI that it affirms the work and passion that I/we share with colleagues and students. Perhaps, it is silly…I thought there might be something more behind the scenes with VP and Krashen and perhaps there isn’t. Thank you for sharing.

          8. Though I haven’t read that much VP, I share that observation that he doesn’t use the term “comprehensible input.”
            But look closely at his definition of input: “meaning-based language and involves learner comprehension of an intended message” (2003, p. 408)

          9. Maybe we don’t need VP to used CI. He can just keep hammering away at the notion that rules result in language.
            And being able to tell colleagues that SLA researcher VP is against rules with regard to language acquisition can make the discussion more interesting.

          10. Hi Michael,
            Van Patten uses the term “comprehensible input” extensively – and has an early and entire chapter dedicated to that subject – in a book he co-wrote with James Lee called “Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen.” That was a very good book that came out in two editions and needs to be revised for a third edition. I must say that the Illinois crowd, i.e., Sandra Savignon, Bill Van Patten, James Lee, Diana Musumeci, Peter Strevens, Numa Markee, and others in the 1980s had a big influence on the spread of the term “communicative” but had less influence on how the word came to be used by the rest of the profession. So I’m a communicative language person and someone who also sees no inconsistency between that and being impressed with TPRS and CI, in general. I see no incompatibilities whatsoever, but I use the term communicative as Savignon defined it long ago. Getting back to Van Patten’s chapter on comprehensible input, I’d say it is one of the clearest and most thorough treatment of the subject ever done for a teacher training manual.

          11. Mark,
            Really appreciate the book recommendation. I will keep my eyes open for that one. I also appreciate your willingness to say…”wait a minute, you guys have to get it straight!” Sometimes people with too much in common lose sight of looking at things objectively. I am guilty of that because I love this stuff.
            Perhaps the question should be posed this way.
            Any hypothesis on why we don’t see VP exclusively promoting TPRS?
            Emphasis on the word hypothesis…

          12. Hey, Mark, I appreciate your comments here. A good friend of mine who no longer works in academia was a protoge of BVP and says the same.
            By the way, I’m not familiar with how Savignon defines ‘communicative’. Do you have that definition to share?

          13. This is not Savignon’s definition, but I have something that might be better – it’s something I just found by Googling Savignon and Krashen together. There’s a lot out there when you do that. The two are often associated because of their congruity in time and in ideas. But here’s the quote, and please try to be patient and relax when you read it and then I’ll give you the best interpretation I can muster:
            “Krashen’s concept of acquisition clashes with the real-world perspectives and expectations. Language instruction should focus on fostering learners’ ability to communicate naturally and realistically. The goal is for learners to achieve communicative competence. The competence is not limited to grammatical competence, but includes sociolinguistic. discourse and strategic competencies as well (Savignon: 1997; Canale and Swain: 1980). The focus here is on using language in a meaningful context in order to communicate. Because Krashcn holds that acquisition is unconscious, while language exists only in our conscious minds, causes contradictory clashes in this theory. Therefore. Canale and Swain, Savignon and others have taken Krashcn one step further by moving his theory into the real world by focusing on the acquisition of an ability to communicate, and not necessarily just on the acquisition of a language.” (McClaren 2011)
            So Savignon would not reject Krashen at all. But Krashen explained his side of the acquisition coin, and she wanted to explain more fully what happens between the time of acquisition of the internal system and the time that output begins to occur – and then move forward from there. True, learners generally want to talk, and they will produce output when they are darn well ready to talk. But there is variation in that speaking ability nonetheless. Communicating, which might include the ability to speak extensively and accurately, belongs to the realm of skill. It may very well be something quite separate from acquisition. As language teachers, we can most certainly intervene and help bring about acquisition through rich and meaningful and comprehensible input. But we can also play this other role of communication coach whereby we foster the conditions for students to improve upon their output abilities. Teachers will most definitely mess up on this second step if they don’t get the first one right. That’s my interpretation. I once asked Savignon if language acquisition came about through explicit instruction or through implicit instruction. Her response?
            – “Both.”
            Personally, I like the acquisition versus communicative skill learning distinction. The two are real and the two exist with no incompatibilities. Perhaps one precedes the other, and perhaps sometimes the two can happen very closely in time (for the parts of the language that are easily acquired and then easily outputted). But communication skills are quite different from language learning abilities, and as language teachers, we can play an important role in fostering communication skills as well. We might say it is not our responsibility to do so because acquisition is all that counts, but it might be interesting for us to take a swing at communication skills while we are at it.

          14. “True, learners generally want to talk, and they will produce output when they are darn well ready to talk. But there is variation in that speaking ability nonetheless. Communicating, which might include the ability to speak extensively and accurately, belongs to the realm of skill. It may very well be something quite separate from acquisition. As language teachers, we can most certainly intervene and help bring about acquisition through rich and meaningful and comprehensible input. But we can also play this other role of communication coach whereby we foster the conditions for students to improve upon their output abilities. Teachers will most definitely mess up on this second step if they don’t get the first one right. ”
            Brilliantly said Mark!
            I agree very much with your statement and interpretation.
            There is a correlation between literacy in one’s first language and ability to become well versed in one’s second or third. Hence 4%ers or glib students will output much faster than the rest.
            However, without a strong foundation in acquisition no teacher can move entire classes to communicative competence.
            Now, we find ourselves in a period where a tremendous emphasis is put on literacy across the curriculum including World Languages.
            This is dangerous because people who put forth these expectations are no experts in second Language acquisition or have never hear of Krashen ‘s theories of unconscious system building.
            Communicative Competence is nearly synonymous with literacy with the exception that it also includes audio-oral skills.
            For me the take away from Marks distinctions is as follow:
            As world language educators, we should ask ourselves what our learning outcomes may be, given our time constraints (250 hours/2 years on average of language learning)?
            My humble understanding of VP is that he is very aware of these constraints and therefore we might consider him an enlightened ally to keep our eyes on.

          15. I just happened to see the above comments from last school year while reading what Nathaniel wrote… I’m really glad we have access to hearing VP speak about comprehensible input on his radio show….
            Makes me wonder what the heck the world did before the Internet and technology. We are blessed to have so much access to technology and information.

  4. Pop-ups are gateways to meaning. Does it lower the affective filter? Does it increase comprehension? Suzie said to let the students ask the grammar questions.
    I think I did more grammar pop-ups when I started TPRS, because I was coming from a grammar-based mentality. The judicious use of pop-ups is probably an art that is acquired with experience, but it may have been a stepping stone to stories when I thought I knew what I was doing. Now that I am sure that I do not know what I am doing, I tend to do pop-ups less.
    There may also be an important role for pop-ups if we are preparing for the common exam which is replete with grammar-based decisions for choosing answers.

  5. How frustrating. Why can’t we directly ask VP a series of explicit questions? Tell him we’ve been chewing on his paper/thesis and discussing it, and want to fully understand it’s implications…include him in the discussion? Dr. K is glad to join in! Worst thing that can happen is he blows us off.

  6. I don’t think I would be able to hang with such a discussion, Alisa. If the process exists in the deeper mind, and if all we need to do is speak to our students in ways that they want to understand, with lots of reading, then how would VanPatten clarifying himself help? I am confident that my students can learn from me if I just communicate with them in happy ways in the TL so that they are focused on the message and not the words. I think that’s just me, though.

  7. Ben, Agreed – we are good with what we know and do and we always push for more ways to serve it up. But wouldn’t it be great to have the blessings of some of the major heavy hitters (academics) in the field? Krashen loves what “WE” are doing in the classroom. It’d just be affirming, I guess, to have another recent recognized scholar say, “yes, what you guys are doing on the front line is consistent with all the latest research.”

  8. I don’t respect the scholars in that way, but I hear what you are saying. For me, though, if we could get some of those great university minds into the classrooms, all would benefit. There are some people in our PLC whom they could greatly benefit from observing and talking with.

    1. Yes. This is why I hope there can be more bridges built — either from among us towards academia, and/or from academia because people like us can speak their “language” well enough to get their attention and demonstrate what we’re doing. Same way I’m thinking about ACTFL and the majority of language teachers in the USA.

  9. I’ve been busy and haven’t been around for a few days, and when I come back, what do I find? A great discussion that is going to take me a while to really catch up with, especially if I can get my hands on some of the books. Thanks to everyone for contributing. There are so many rich ideas in there.

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