If you are getting in enough repetitions during class, homework is pretty much unnecessary in the experience of most TPRS teachers.
If you do give them homework, try giving things that are still input-oriented, like draw the story (no artistic talent needed but make sure I can tell you really understand what is written in all the details), read something and answer a few super-easy questions (no new items, more like a parallel story to the one told in class), etc.
(I was actually directing the writing comment at heimuoshu, who was reporting problems with writing skills.)
I think my post was misinterpreted. Starters and Movers students are barely CEFR A1. I am not concerned at all about their writing and getting between 70 and 80% for a 25 to 40 item test I consider very good considering I give them very little if any homework. In fact the majority of my homework would involve reviewing vocabulary and/or making a recording of a short story or dialogue more to get the parents impressed than me thinking there is any use to it. It also forces them to open their books at home at least once. The older students have very little writing problems, but I attribute that to me allowing a lot of self selected free reading time and not really anything special I do when teaching. What I like about TPRS so far is that it is easier to get everyone involved and motivated, and that they are far more "solid" at the level than with other methods. Granted I have only been doing it for a few months but experience tells me where you can go from certain starting points and I am happy with where they are now.
bismarck: The adults also self-select because it's not compulsory. I don't know if you ever had any mature age students in your university classes, but those in my classes were always the ones who went and asked for additional homework while the rest of us groaned and wanted to go down to the pub.
I don't know that this is necessarily the solution either (i.e. yet more time at school), and I don't know that anyone would hold Chile's education system up as anything brilliant, but here's a story. At a school I taught at in Australia, there was an exchange student from Chile. One of the other teachers told me that the first time anyone tried to give her homework, she freaked out along the lines of, "What is this homework thing?!" Apparently, they have a much longer school day, but they don't do homework there. The teachers thought it was as weird in Chile as the exchange student thought it was in Australia.
Because this type of stuff is really expensive.... oh ... the DVDs are only 35 bucks. For the set, not each. Not bad.
I'm pretty tempted to order at least the TPRS book and the DVDs, since this kind of thing looks like it's almost exactly the way I want to teach, but I need some help getting there.
I really question whether it will be useful in a classroom full of shy/lazy (or lazy AND shy) adults in Taiwan that won't answer any questions though. People here seem really confused when I tell them to stop studying grammar and to start listening and talking in class. Explaining acquisition to them just gets a "I don't have that much time!" (even though they've been studying English for 20 years and they've been going nowhere fast the whole time).
They'd probably get mad at me and tell me my questions were too simple, or walk out of the room mid-class. I can't see them even answering "yes" or "no" as a class to a circling question. I'm also not sure how to work it in around the material I'm required to use for each class. I also have a revolving door of students.. it's different every day sometimes, so I think I'd have to explain what I was doing on a daily basis and we'd never get anywhere. There might be a newcomer in each and every class.
This definitely looks to be right up my alley though.
TaiwanVisitor: I think it probably is unrealistic to think you can make progress in any system, not just TPRS, if you have a revolving door of students. There's just no real time to build any kind of relationship and figure each other out. Unless you can somehow really turn on the dog and pony show and hook them from the first few minutes, then it's probably going to be difficult for the reasons you state. I don't think this is a flaw with the style of teaching or even the individual teacher, but with how the school has set the classes up. I have one class that took to TPRS from the very first time I ever tried it, but they're those kind of kids (and I already had a good relationship with them). With others, it's taken considerably longer, but I'm starting to really see results now, and they get into it (though we have off days too). There's still one that I'm not sure about because there are massive behavioural issues. Those are all under an ideal situation where I have complete control of what I do and how (though not in terms of dealing with behavioural issues). I don't know how anyone would expect you or the students to reach that point under highly constrained circumstances in less than one lesson, so don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work. You can't be all things to all people all the time, especially if someone else is pulling your strings.
In one sense, though, I think you can use the Taiwanese teacher culture to your advantage (if you can get them over the "foreign teachers aren't really teachers" thing, that is.)
When you start doing TPRS, you post the rules on the wall in Chinese. Or in Chinese and English together. You enforce those rules mercilessly. One of the rules is, you must respond to all questions that are asked to the entire class (choral response) and you must "ooh" and "aah" as appropriate (if you want to do that). With adults, sometimes I lean on the response rule with a sort of tongue-in-cheek attitude, but with a bit of steel underneath that says, "Yeah, it seems stupid to have to answer back when I'm asking a question as stupid as the one I just asked, but you ARE going to answer." If you get a so-so response, stop, indicate your theatrical disappointment with the volume of the answer, and ask the same question again until you get the kind of answer you want.
Whenever you're (general "you") doing TPRS, you have to have classroom management in place first. That's true for anything you're going to do instructionally. Passivity is a classroom management problem (greatly exacerbated by culture and circumstance here) but still, it is not a language problem unless they absolutely do not have the language to answer your question, and in TPRS we're making sure they do, so it should always be a management issue under those circumstances.
In my limited experience, the actual giving a response when you understand an utterance is quite important. When I find that students are unwilling to utter an 'ooh' or 'aah' when they comprehend the sentence, I just let them tap the desk. A double tap like they use when they "pass" in the pub card games. If the class is small enough you can see it easily or you can ask them tap a short "phrase". They might feel embarrassed about making the sound but getting the response is quite important. As for answering the questions, I find it might take a while to get everyone to do that and you need to be firm but patient. One mistake I did make when I started was not put the question words clearly in English and Chinese on or next to the board. Often when you get a halted response it is because they are still decoding the answer. Acquiring the question words are key to circling from what I have seen and making them visible is important. I also make it very clear that if I get the responses I want I promise to give no homework and you will be surprised how well they respond if you keep you're word.
Not only visible (question words) but pause and point to each one as you use it, until you're sure that everyone has acquired it. (It doesn't take all that long, really.)
The other thing I'm doing these days is also posting what I call the "logical connector" words, like "because", "therefore", "although", "if", "then", and so on. They are used all the time no matter what the topic is, and they're regarded as "difficult" (ie., if the student uses them and produces complex clauses, he is more "advanced" in the language -- which kind of doesn't make sense for 2nd language as the concepts are all there in the L1 in most cases). In languages where there are significant grammatical (inflectional) challenges in using these words, that might be one thing, but if there aren't, starting off using these from day 1 gives amazing results (again, pause and point every time. If you're doing it right, you'll feel like a cross between a blithering idiot and a robot. )
I got the 5 DVDs + TPRS in a Year + PQA in a Wink! = US$116/NT$3600 You can get 5 DVDs + TPRS in a Year as a package deal for US$50.
I use it with adults and kids (I teach at two schools). The kids are easier in some ways, and the adults in other ways.
With the adults I do the following: 1. I have set words, like question words they should know etc that I have the English and Chinese posters for. 2. The new vocab in each lesson I do in the beginning by writing them on the board and then I have each student come up and write the Chinese word for one on the board. 3. Then I get on with it and "teach the grammar" by circling etc, using some or all of the vocab in the lesson.
I'm still new at this, but I find I can use the method and get through all the work. When we have section where students must question each other etc etc, I make it a class activity and I ask them, have them answer me and repeat the correct answer back and re-ask (circle etc) the class. I've tried making stories, but either I'm not good enough yet, or the kids are just easier to do that with.
Edit: Oh, when a word or pattern comes up that's new, I write the English and Chinese on the board. If I can't write the Chinese (too long, unfamiliar character or whatever), I ask a "star" student to help me write the Chinese.
“Confucian dynamism” stresses loyalty and conformity, which drives Taiwanese workers to conform to management directives and rules. That is why many students at Uni. never ask why? They rote learn and conform and any teaching methodology would have to overcome this barrier.
In any classroom, discipline precedes instruction and makes instruction possible.
The teacher should be the person in charge of the classroom, and should have the final word about what happens or does not happen in the classroom. Therefore, if the teacher establishes a set of rules that state that students must answer chorally all questions asked by the teacher, that will happen, assuming the teacher is in control of his classroom. There have to be clearly understood and applied consequences for failing to do what is required in the classroom. There are times in Taiwan when this is very difficult -- if the administration does not support the foreign teacher who isn't a "real" teacher, if the parents at a buxiban are to be pleased rather than their children actually educated -- but that does not make the blame fall on the methodology. There is no specific pedagogical methodology involved in classroom management.
The idea that the teacher stipulates what the students will do would seem to mesh perfectly with the (overgeneralized) philosophy you mention.
Anyway, I don't view this thread as one primarily concerned with language education. I view this thread as primarily involving people (note: not everyone in the thread) discussing law--which almost always boils down to the use of force--with gleams in their eyes and/or stridence in their voices. It's kind of a creepy thread, really.