Vertical Alignment Thought

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36 thoughts on “Vertical Alignment Thought”

  1. What do you mean by “target”? If you just mean you want to limit input to high frequency words, then that is sheltering. Target would mean you are aiming at massed reps, essentially doing “units” of high-frequency words, with the teacher goal of forcing something to be acquired, essentially trying to “teach” language.
    It doesn’t matter your theme, your story, whatever – the words the kids need and want to communicate will be common to everything. The theme, story, whatever is important to the extent that it gives us a meaningful and motivating context.
    We do NOT know the degree of sheltering/limiting that is optimal. I am convinced that TPRS promotes “targeting” because it increases the chances a teacher stay comprehensible. It gives a teacher a more fool-proof way of staying comprehensible. That is its value. But I view sheltering as ideal.
    Note: Sheltering requires comprehension. If we go wide in the input and it is not comprehended, then that is NOT sheltering.

    1. At one time, the target structures were the items that were tested on by means of a surprise quiz. Targets were stated orally by the teacher in L2 and written in L1 by the students.
      This was big change for me. Students were being assessed for understanding. The number of words for which the students were held responsible was very much reduced. There were so many words that were not tested that students picked up in the process. But this made it possible for the weakest students to demonstrate that they were knowledgeable.
      Instead of a massive list of words that were not brain-friendly, students were responsible for a much more manageable list of expressions that were packed and ready for communication (“he went” instead of “to go”). Students were responsible for those words throughout the year and had to show comprehension at a moment’s notice.
      The goal was to use the targets. Unlike traditional teaching which is big on repeating a bunch of words without variety, TPRS was big on what could be said, discovered, and created using those limited targets. They were anchors to keep us floating in the vicinity and not going too far afloat. The trick is finding the balance between limiting ourselves to what the students can understand and extending our creative use of the targets to the maximum extent. Perhaps “anchors” more accurately describes what we are wanting to do, rather than targets, which could be misconstrued to refer to repeat-after-me, 3x each, and flashcards.
      For Asher, one key was to get the maximum number of recombinations on imperatives. He was getting reps in the process, but it was the idea of recombination that was the focus. This increased interest and retention. TPRS has held the idea of recombinations high also, while not necessarily labeling it such. Again, TPRS is not as much about getting machine-gun reps on the targets as it is about getting recombining the targets by asking for negation of the target, affirmation of the target, contrast with the target, and a multitude of details about the target.

      1. Thanks, Nate, for that!
        I can forget how drastic this change is from a textbook, traditional program.
        I think you’ve described TPRS very well. As we get used to this drastic change, more of us will want TPRS to go even further.

      2. Nathaniel, I like your analogy of the target words from a script as “anchors”. These can be short term anchors (one class) or even longer-term anchors (one week/month). The better we get at steering our comprehensible ship in the sea of L2, the more worry-free we can just float without anchors. This anchor analogy may illuminate both sides of the coin… we will less easily drift afar when anchored, but we will be less able to the flow with the tide (interest).

    2. I was recently reading a paper by Leonard Newmark called “necessity in language learning.” The parallels of what he wrote in the 60s to what we’re doing today is pretty cool. BVP and Krashen both gave credit to his work. Here’s a bit of what he says…
      “… Our position is that we have been in the notion of structural grading and structural ordering of exercise material in favor of situational ordering. That is, we need to devise no more structural drills….”
      “… The student would learn situational variance rather than structural alternants independent of contextual base. The principal motivation for providing contextual and psychological reality for dialogues in a believable manner is not, as is so often objected, to provide to learn with something to say for particular , necessarily limited situation. Rather, it is to present instances of meaningful use of language which of the learner himself stores, segments, and eventually recombines in synthesizing new utterances appropriate for use in new situations. ”
      I’m open to hear what others have to say about this but whether we shelter, target, or focus on certain language I believe that students have the ability to reform and reuse what they are being exposed to. As language teachers we’re on the smart side of this type of argument because we are purposeful and the language that we use, we target high-frequency language. We are ensuring that they will get really good at processing or using this language by keeping it purposefully close to high-frequency stuff.
      Leonard Newmark was on this path to divide language learning from doing school over 50 years ago …pretty cool stuff!

  2. Not using hand-chosen nouns as the main topic of communication (how’s that, Eric?) makes total sense to me, especially after having done exactly that through textbooks years ago, and occasionally trying it with CI, too. There just isn’t so much “oomph” behind nouns. Nouns are good for adding interest or visualizing the meaning, though. I sense that those who teach a cognate-heavy language have many nouns that they can just start to use without confusing students. I don’t really have that, but there it is. Probably a significant reason why Chinese is supposed to take longer.
    It also seems like young children ask a lot of questions about “what is this?” to find out the names of objects. They have the basic structure of the language, and now they’re filling in with more nouns based on need and interest.
    It seems like this is an idea that came a little later as a norm in TPRS: focusing on high-frequency verbs and structural words first, plus some words of interest to our students (things they want to discuss, and fun words). Is it directly stated as a principle to use in TPRS training, or is it in the updated version of Fluency through Storytelling? It seems like it should be.

    1. Depends how we define “theme.”
      From the ACTFL October 2014 battle, I came to understand that “topic” is what the traditional textbook focuses on – categories – related words of the same part of speech, e.g. colors, animals, fruits, etc. Fancy terminology: semantic or lexical sets.
      “Theme” refers to any context that is engaging and meaningful. That could be driven by an essential question (e.g. What is a healthy diet?), personal narratives (e.g. trips to the beach), student likes (e.g. going shopping or playing sports), a story (e.g. what to wear when cold – “Brrr”), a movie clip (e.g. how the paperman gets the girl), etc.
      So “theme” has to be redefined as I did here. Unfortunately, our profession has confused topic and theme. The same thing happened with “communication” when the profession confused it with speaking practice and BVP had to offer his definition of communication.
      What language we include in the input doesn’t matter so long as the kids get lots of CI. Try to communicate without the highest frequency words (e.g. highest 100 words). Impossible.

      1. It’s hard to distinguish the line between Krashen’s advocacy of teachers and research-based practice. Are his recommendations based on one or the other or both?
        I do think now that so long as the content of the class is comprehensible, then there is no additional reason to be targeting (trying to get mass reps) on something and sequencing our words. That’s what Krashen has been advocating and that definitely makes a teacher’s job easier.
        We really just don’t know how limited we have to be. Teachers continue to think that comprehensible + wide would be an inferior approach and they say there is “not enough time” when in fact, we’ve not given it a try and its effects in our classrooms have not been researched! But it is the recommendation that falls out of Krashen’s theory.

        1. I am in the comfortable position of not having to teach true beginners. When I was teaching in the lycée most incoming students had had four years of English, minimum two, some more. Many of them would have tested in the false beginner range, but they had been exposed to a lot of incomprehensible input and a few things had stuck. Now I have students who are all over the place in what they have acquired, and I find an untargeted approach works very well. We use films, novels, chitchat about what they did during the week, songs, graphic novels, whatever seems compelling, and my job is to make it comprehensible. I usually pick up on a structure that is giving them problems and focus on it a bit, but I don’t go for 150 reps. I find the important thing is the word Compelling. If they have heard the structure in a compelling context, it doesn’t take a lot of reps.

          1. What you describe Judy is the type of environment I am in with my students. They were good little students and passed years of classes with incomprehensible input. The untargeted approach works great for 97% of the students. The other 3% just want to know where they are…they want weekly quizzes and notes and tests so that they can earn their “gold stars.”
            I appease them at times with taking notes. Meanwhile those types are not progressing Spanish like the “wild ones” that get swept up in the stories and activities. I am noticing what research suggests…that the focus on the language is hindering their acquisition of the language.
            I am really glad you shared!!!

          2. Judy said:
            …we use films, novels, chitchat about what they did during the week, songs, graphic novels, whatever seems compelling, and my job is to make it comprehensible….I find the important thing is the word Compelling. If they have heard the structure in a compelling context, it doesn’t take a lot of reps….
            Today Linda wanted to know what the group was doing in terms of targeting words. (She had read something that Eric had said here recently and wanted some clarification on it.) Her question was “Are we targeting or not targeting?”, adding her position that whether or not we are targeting, if it is compelling, the high-frequency words are going to show up anyway.
            In response, I told her that we in the group are all in different places on it, that we each have our own individual teaching style and that there was no one consensus, BUT that many of us were doing what you are doing, just getting something interesting going so that, as you said, “…if they have heard the structure in a compelling context, it doesn’t take a lot of reps…”.
            That is my tentative conclusion, for me in my own CI world, to the whole discussion about targeting vocabulary. We have long believed that targeting specific vocabulary has been the way to get a good discussion going in the TL. I even wrote articles on the concept of Rebar (that term can be searched) and I believed in what they expressed until Krashen started saying “compelling” in every other sentence, probably because he felt like he wasn’t being heard by the TPRS community (which in my view is true). Then we got into this big Eric-led discussion over the past year about striving for communication on any level instead of targeting and teaching things via the storytelling format.
            For me, we can start a class using a Step 1 target format or not. That isn’t the question. The question is “Is it interesting/compelling?” Like today we were reading about Brandon (boring) and we spun it into a discussion about cats and dogs (fun). Why go back to the boring stuff if what we are doing is fun? To teach the novel? I thought we were teaching the language. I know that Anne Matava’s position on her scripts is to just go with what happens and use the scripts as backups. (Although they are so interesting I always stay with them.)
            Zach Al Moreno has mentioned to me that the novel is merely a delivery system for the language, but that kids still ask him if they are responsible for content, and he always says no.

          3. The thing about stories is that they allow for locations, so that the reading is much easier for the kids when we do that, because of the repetition. I do value stories and readings with three locations, and that means working from a script.

  3. Isn’t it the case that by dint of speaking the language naturally and not entering esoteric topic areas such as particle physics, we’ll hit upon frequency verbs and structural words without a conscious design to do so? I would also argue that if we were teaching a Specific Purpose crowd about particle physics in the L2, we’d also discover that the frequency verbs and structural words would keep coming to the forefront. One question that might arise would be when to introduce the more esoteric terms of the topic as the students become more and more accustomed to the concepts of the topic at hand, but even that should flow as a matter of course – the flow might be slow, but the solution to the “esoterica vocabulary issue” would emerge as the learners’ syllabi emerged. Krashen’s i + 1 and Vygotsky’s ZPD are not at all synonymous, but I suspect they intersect in important ways if we look at this issue with a little distance and forget about how we may have been trained to create a curriculum.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    We do need to teach words from written text before kids read ’em. So if we are gonna read prepared texts (i.e., trade books, leveled readers, picture books, as opposed to teacher or class-created original texts) then we gotta target some of the less HF words to insure comprehensibility. As I said before, I had taught all year without hitting ‘recoge’ and ‘regresa’ – ‘picks up’ and ‘returns’ – but needed them for Brandon…Dog. For me that’s where the targeting comes in, within a sheltering context. We stay very narrow but intentionally incorporate those words that we know the Ss will encounter in the reading. Having a short and handy list of ‘Tier 2′ (not the obvious hi-frequency Super 7 or Sweet 16 or whatever) must knows for the novel is helpful.
    Using a novel/reader to backwards plan from makes the job easier. We have lists of words in the glossary and teachers’ guides. We can easily see where our ‘holes’ are and address them. We become experts at upside-down circumlocution – inserting or substituting target words, or creating a need for them in stories and PQA – so that the kids will have what they need to understand the messages at hand, and later, the book.
    I haven’t done any stories with sube/baja this year yet – (boards, gets on; off) but am looking forward to, as I have my own kids’ school bus tent and rocket tent to play with. Plus my enormous hoola hoop steering wheel, train whistle and plastic hot air balloon….
    Here’s our grades 1-4 short list of words we need for 3rds to read ‘Brandon…Dog’ and 4ths, ‘Aventuras de Isabela.’

    1. The concept of targeting vocabulary and pre-teaching it using stories or via PQA is what TPRS is all about, with the big deal of the three step process being the reading. We have always accepted that Step 2 fails if Step 1 is not good (lots of reps, etc.). That concept has been heavily challenged here over recent months. (We never came up with a conclusion, because there is no right or wrong way to do this work. It speaks well of this group that ever since Eric played the communication card here over two months ago, we haven’t had one person complain about mixed messages on the topic of targeting vocabulary. We form our own plans from what we share and go from there. We are individual teaching artists who may have gone to the “same graduate school” but don’t practice our crafts in the same way. New people who may be reading this; that is your signal to take a nice big deep breath.) However, for me in my own TPRS world, I like to read (stories we made in class* or novels or songs or anything) and then spin discussion out of the various points in the reading, paragraph by paragraph or page by page. It is where the students are fully tricked – they are thinking about the messages while I am sending while I am sneakily getting massive reps on any words that emerge as “weak’ during the reading. So I may in any class take about 20 minutes on one word, just going totally narrow and deep with it until I feel it has been hammered in. And if we leave the text, we leave the text. Boo hoo. Either way is fine, but I don’t feel good about targeting things before the fact because I have done too many stories over the years where I over-prepped in PQA only to never actually use the structures. I get my reps during the readings, stories and novels. Getting reps during the spin cycle cannot be planned. Which. Is. Why. It. Works. I diagnose weak words/groups of words during the discussion and hammer whatever is weak.
      *I only do PQA now before a story if someone is observing because that whole procedure is so interactively fun but doesn’t help much I have concluded. We had that discussion three weeks ago here. No rules. No one way to do it.

      1. Kids do not need to hear words before they read them.
        Depends on the purpose you have for reading.
        Words like “recoge” and “regresa” come up so much in Brandon Brown, that the read-aloud alone gets you tons of reps. And you can stop on any unfamiliar word in the reading and do a little impromptu targeting if you are into getting massed reps.
        The order of the steps does not matter, depending on how you use each step and the purpose you have for each step.
        If backwards planning for a novel makes your job easier, then do it. Not for me. I trust we’ll be able to read the easiest novels eventually, after enough CI classes.
        The other thing is, not every word needs to be comprehended the first time it appears in the input. 100% comprehensible is a myth anyway and in fact, impossible, because of universal faulty processing strategies. And it’s not going to do harm if we say a word the kids don’t recognize the first couple of times. And if a low-frequency word, then it really doesn’t matter.

        1. “Kids do not need to hear words before they read them.”
          With kids in their first few hundred hours of exposure, and Chinese, I don’t think this should be the norm. In my experience with beginners, there is plenty of i+1 in reading only “familiar” Chinese words in this new context. Throw in unknown words, and in my experience, beginning language acquirers sink in their chairs. Perhaps I’m ultra-sensitive to that kind of response from students, but I hate to see it, and I consider it a sign of too much new, too fast. I gave them i+5 instead of i+1. I want to give them 99% comprehensible texts, more even than the 98% guideline I’ve seen for extensive reading. Otherwise, it’s too much for them to process smoothly and they lose track of the meaning. I really want it easy enough to imagine it in their minds in an enjoyable way.
          That said, though, I deliberately don’t pre-introduce a VERY few less important words (as in, maybe one word on a page or 2 in an entire chapter) or words like “zao gao!” or “peng peng peng!” which are something like “drat!” or onomatopoeia.

          1. I agree Diane. And I think there is understandably a lower tolerance (and subsequent higher AF) for “noise” the more beginner the student is and the more accountable (i.e. not FVR) students will be for comprehending the content.
            My goal is to make class story readings (ROA) 100% comprehensible. Lofty but I’ll shoot for that.

          2. Chinese has soooo few props to comprehension, either from sound or from written form, when you’re a beginner especially. You need a lot of CI. I think the thing about Chinese is that the “hard” part comes at the very beginning of acquiring it, and later it lightens up. After you get some comfort about the sounds & flow, and your brain doesn’t freak out too much when it wants to get meaning from characters (or you learn to overcome the freak out impulse, which is what I did), it’s really wonderful. I don’t know; maybe this is the case with other languages, too. I took French & Japanese but both in not-very-CI classes. To me, they both felt much harder as time went by, but Chinese (even in a not-very-CI college class) felt easier with time.
            In other news, my novice class was delighted to find that “ding ding dang” is the sound of bells in the Chinese version of “Jingle Bells”, and we made up the beginning of a story about a class member who wants to eat seal pizza while watching movies. So he’s going to go to Sea World. Ai yo! We’ll read about it tomorrow.

          3. …my goal is to make class story readings (ROA) 100% comprehensible.
            That’s the goal right there Jim: comprehensible and compelling input. That’s the road I certainly want to be on, because it’s the one with the gold bricks and the promise of acquisition when we get to our destination, one story, one reading at a time. How to find that road and not go down a side street? Guarantee their comprehension. This makes it easy on them and on us. What accomplishes that and also brings in high levels of compelling input? Stories.
            I might add that every time I try to “go somewhere else” with class, my kids, honest middle school kids that they are, complain. They want stories.

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yes my reality is influenced by the fact that I have very young novice learners. I have taught the book without pre-loading the aforementioned tier 2 reps (picks up, returns) but have concluded that tossing them in purposefully ahead of time both helps them stick and boosts confidence for my 3rd and 4th graders. I do like to give the aural of the word before theat first encounter cuz they are newer readers. Only a few really need it…
    “Who could read and understood the whole paragraph as though it was written in English?” Ahh, everyone!!
    There is plenty of i + 1 in my class, but I front load what I can.

  6. …tossing them in purposefully ahead of time both helps them stick and boosts confidence ….
    It’s such a great point. Eric, in reminding us so much about the importance of Communication over everything else that we do, has caused us to look deeply at targeting structures. Which is best? Just starting class out in a general communication mode without targets, or frontloading structures (same as the term backwards planning in my own mind)?
    Although I love the idea of general and open non-targeted communication, I am fully with Alisa on this delicate point.

    1. It’s not clear that PQA was ever a mandatory part of step 1, something you must do before step 2. In fact, if you watch Blaine teach, it looks like he doesn’t do it, and he IS the method.
      You can frontload. That’s fine. Especially if it’s language you know will DEFINITELY be needed for the communicative event. The problem arises when the language restricts the communication and the communication starts to get dictated by the chosen words.
      I quote the Green Bible (p. 36) again:
      “We have found that there are two effective ways to start establishing meaning:
      1. The teacher begins to ask the story. When s/he comes to a target phrase, s/he says it slowly and immediately gives the translation orally in the first language and also makes a gesture that represents the phrase. . .
      2. Before beginning to ask the story, the teacher pre-teaches the vocabulary with gestures. . .
      Notice that in the first option, you do not actually pre-teach the new vocabulary. You start right in with the story. We think this is probably more efficient than pre-teaching the phrases through student gestures.”
      So, that’s the method. Take it or leave it. But have a good reason, hopefully informed by SLA and what has worked for you.
      We do not want to get caught up with what is “the right” way to do TPRS. And then forget the big picture. All that matters is that input is comprehended. Krashen has made this very easy. Teachers, stop being teachers. Don’t overthink it.

      1. …it’s not clear that PQA was ever a mandatory part of step 1….
        I remember Susie telling me once that they had to make the steps up because teachers couldn’t wrap their minds around what Blaine was doing. You are so right on that point, Eric.
        Then it so happens as a result of the codification of the method that, as you said:
        … the language restricts the communication and the communication starts to get dictated by the chosen words….
        However, the Three Steps and the three locations allowed me as a former wacko AP teacher to have the tracks I needed for my story train to roll on. In class I would sense if the words were dictating the flow of language and immediately veer away from any form of restrictive and prescribed instruction. This is done by shifting the discussion from the story to the kids and personalizing the discussion, but always working my way back to the story. Those spin-outs rock. Compare and contrast students and characters – a real winner in a CI discussion. Also is great for reading.
        Working from a script has given me the structure I needed because I’m not Blaine. Scripts have been my way of working ever since. I’ve done a lot of stuff over the years, but none of those things are as effective as stories, not even close. Stories work for me and I’m happy.

  7. The fact is that when kids don’t know (haven’t had enough reps on) a particular structure, they can’t take part in the discussion (not enough reps) nor can they read the text. So like tomorrow I want to start Le Petit Prince with a group of 8th graders who are like an AP class – no hyperbole there. Will they be able to randomly read and discuss the text? Probably not. So I must frontload. But I don’t want to, because I am lazy. Do I wait two years until they have had enough CI in other forms before starting that text? Obviously not. These are embassy/diplomat kids and will be gone to other countries next year, in part because of this:
    So what to do? Ideas? I really want to read that book with them. That book is etched in my heart and I have memorized it. (If you teach anything for over 35 years that will happen, if you love it and if God is in it.)

    1. The goal you have is to be able to understand a novel. Fine. Pre-teach words if it has too much unfamiliar language. When the goal is not to be able to read something predetermined, then you do not have to pre-teach anything.

  8. OK well the targeted thing for me always goes back to the power and sturdiness of the Three Steps. Although some of us (Chris in particular) starts stories sans PQA – (Step 1 doesn’t matter that much) – if we have a story and we create it with our kids then they can read the text if it is embedded as per Laurie below 10% new words. THAT IS A HUGE POINT. Why? Because then they can read the story (Step 3). To me, as attractive as the siren-like idea of general random communication is, I have to stay with Steps 2 and 3 of TPRS. I have to stay with TPRS. Stories grab kids and novels put them to sleep. In my beginning classes tomorrow I am doing the readings for our recent “Seated in the Corner” story. Why do I feel so confident that the ROA machine will be so effective in those two classes tomorrow? Why do I know that my kids will learn a trainload of French tomorrow? Why don’t I have “that nervousness” about my other two classes which don’t have a story to read, but have other random communication things going on (no stories)? Because the story has set up the reading. That’s the gold. That’s the money. That’s the cash. That’s what makes teaching fun – when you know they can read it and discuss it and learn grammar from it because of the story tha that preceded it. Talk about frontloading! Stories and a reading – peanut butter and jam. Ham and eggs. Salt and pepper. Spaghetti and meatballs. Steak and baked potato. Like:
    Soup and crackers
    Fries and catsup
    Birds and bees
    Chips and dip
    Honey and mustard
    Salad and dressing
    Pen and paper
    Soap and water
    Hugs and kisses
    Hot dogs and catsup
    Baseball and peanuts
    Pickles and onions
    Beer and nuts
    Remote control and men
    Milk and cookies
    Doughnuts and coffee
    Pie and coffee

    1. The alternative to the 3 steps and targeting is not ONLY “general random communication.”
      Sheltering is also deliberate and controlled. If you shelter the story you ask, then kids can also read it.
      I get that nervous feeling sometimes – it’s fear that I won’t be able to engage and manage the kids. That’s communication. It’s spontaneous and free to some extent. But man, the power of this is the class collaboration – that investment in the meaning, including the strong social effects on the group dynamic. The co-creation of something new. Then there is ownership. That’s what makes it so meaningful and so memorable.
      In fact, many of you are sheltering more often than you realize, but you’ve been mislabeling what you do. No fault. The terms need to be defined. I’m trying. Targeting, circling, the 3 steps – I needed all of that to figure out how to do all this. I probably could have lowered that learning curve had I understand the big picture earlier and better understood the SLA that motivates the method. Now, I shelter, ask comprehension questions, and there are no steps.
      (Ben, I’ve seen some of your DVDs and you were not targeting when you asked the stories).

      1. Common definitions. Without them we can’t even begin to contemplate and discuss.
        People think that because they chose vocabulary and established meaning, front loading it, and then wrote a story with reps of that vocabulary, and follow a script, that they are targeting. Not necessarily.
        Purpose) Focus on language and getting specific pieces of language acquired, irrespective of internal syllabi.
        Practice) Massed reps. Moving like traditional instruction, from unit to unit, from 3 structures to the next 3 structures and largely leaving behind and not recycling much what came before it.
        E.g. 3 targeted phrases: (sticking strictly to a Tripp script): The boy is cold. He puts on a jacket. He puts it on his foot. . . The boy is still cold. He puts on a sock. He puts it on his head. etc. etc. And all the circling will add some grammatical flexibility, but still be very drill-like and targeted.
        Purpose) Communicate – comprehensibility is implied for communication to be successful
        Practice) Spaced reps, only massed reps in the first weeks of level 1. With time, more language gets added and integrated with all that came before it.
        E.g. Super 7 stories, LICT, graded readers. Each story uses the same language to tell a DIFFERENT story or adds a little new language to ALL that came before it in order to tell a DIFFERENT story. Circling is a natural result of checking comprehension and adding details to the story.
        There may be a time for both of these approaches. But they are definitely different. And I think hyper-targeting does result in language being stored as chunks and formulas, giving the impression that more grammar has been acquired than reality. And calling them “structures” is just horribly misleading.
        Targeting and circling were fool-proof strategies for teachers to provide CI. But if the ultimate goal is CI, then we can do without them.

        1. Another example of sheltering starting from zero exposure to the target language.
          Phase 1) You introduce 3-5 of the highest frequency verbs, a couple of function words, and cognates. This language is used to co-create stories/scenes/characters/images/MovieTalk. Maybe you TPR some action words. You can continue with phase 1 for weeks!!!
          Phase 2) Expand to the highest frequency 5-7 verbs, more function words, and more cognates. You use ALL familiar language to create stories. This is ENOUGH language to tell the classic TPRS 3 location stories. You could spend months creating stories with ONLY this language. Maybe you gloss a few more words as needed, but they don’t get targeted. Nothing is getting targeted. But you’re still getting tons of repetitions. Spaced. Recycled. You are not worried about what is getting acquired. That takes care of itself as a result of communication (again, communication requires comprehension).
          Phase 3) You continue to expand by 1-5 more high frequency + more high-frequency words + any words that are specific to the discussion/story. And you stay within these words and all the words that came before it to tell stories or find out personal info about students.
          This is EXACTLY what a graded reader series does. Level 1 may consist of 20 different books all written with the same 100 highest frequency words. Level 2 is 20 different books written with the highest frequency 150 words. etc. But you don’t have to make these 50 word jumps. In your oral CI, you can gradually integrate unfamiliar words.
          This is SHELTERING! Considerable class time (multiple stories or 1 long story) spent with a few new words + all familiar language. One big difference you’ll notice between sheltering and targeting is that targeting by definition will mean less recycling.
          But don’t get caught up on numbers of new words in each phase. Then it starts to become a method again. This is just an example. You’ll end up doing this by default if you are in tune to what your students can comprehend.

          1. True communicative teaching requires a change in a teacher’s role. Usually called facilitator. If the teacher is genuinely interested in coming up with good stories, then the kids relax, trust and honesty happen, and the entire dynamic changes. Kids let their guard down. This is much like what Krashen says about there being no need for motivation – it’s the message (the story) that is inherently motivating, not the language.
            In essence, that is what is needed in order for this to really work. It must not feel like we are trying to teach something. Too many kids put their guard up in response to school and being forced to learn something. It must genuinely feel like we are not focusing on language, not teaching language, but communicating and creating stories. That’s when the magic happens.
            So, think about which TPRS practices support our role as story creator and which practices support our role as trying to teach something. . .

          2. And the example of the 3 phases is exactly why it doesn’t matter what your theme is or what your story is about.
            By progressing in rough order of frequency + interest/need words, you are granted a wide range of stories/themes. It truly does not matter what story, video, picture, etc. you choose. The language you use will be common to all of them, IF you progress in this frequency-based manner.
            The skill of talking with familiar language (staying in bounds) is one of the best to develop.

          3. Here is a relevant quote from “The NA.” (Although it is not contrasted with TPRS and 2-3 steps, but rather with the Grammar-based Approach.)
            “When we ‘just talk’ to our students, if they understand, we are not only giving a language lesson, we may be giving the best possible language lesson since we will be supplying [roughly tuned] input for acquisition.”

  9. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Thanks so much for all the thoughtful examples of each – Targeting and Sheltering. I believe I try to do both.
    Also, when management issues arise, I feel like a teacher and not a facilitator, but it could be that I’m not using novelty enough, and some kids sometimes act bored.
    This yr in grades 1-4 I’ve been using prompts, picture books, MT, & some Cuéntame (a tiny bit) more than asking original collaborative stories, though I have asked several original stories over the past 3 years. I do lots of PQA that turn into little dramatized scenes, to which we refer later, and it’s fun and constructive.
    As a whole I feel like I deliver comprehensible messages and that the kids are getting ‘whole language’ and even sometimes demonstrate the ability to use and manipulate the parts on their own.
    Pacing is so hard for me in elementary – I usually have to err first in order to recognize that I’m not comprehensible/outta bounds – as evidenced by weak responses & comp checks. I rarely get a ‘stop’ signal. It’s still hard to predict, and I’m often surprised by responses – both good and bad…
    It’s baffling how some days/classes feel so powerful – they get it, they play along, robust responses and laughter – some even produce some language – and then other times, they sit down and I say, “Buenos días, chicos,” and they say, “Muy bien, gracias.” :[

    1. This kind of wide variation happens with high school and middle school, too. It’s not a linear process. I think it’s because we’re working with real people in real circumstances, with every day being different. For the teacher, too! Some days go pretty well even when I’m not feeling at my best, and other days not so good. This is a reason why I so appreciate all the reminders here about mental wellbeing.

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Diane, You are soooo right on.
    I just did a Carol Gaab story from Cuéntame where an alarm clock rings and the cat wakes up. My 4th graders decided that the alarm sound was, “Let it go! Let it go! Don’t hold it back any more!” (song from Frozen). At the end of class, everyone left the room with an ear to ear grin. What a blast! Memorized chunks be damned!

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