Ci & tprs


#201

I’m more annoyed with guys who have 20+ years teaching, training and researching the old approach and still refuse to change.

Has there been a head-to-head test of TPRS vs a standard communicative approach class yet?


#202

You can’t do it with a defensible research design.

TPRS vs communicative (or input vs. output, more accurately stated) is such an emotionally charged issue that I don’t believe you could even defend the idea of having the same teacher teach both methods to two groups and comparing at the end. The other question is – where is the end? For output-based teaching, the “end” comes frequently in small chunks: now they know the present tense, let’s test it – while in TPRS, there isn’t really a distinct “end” and no clear “units”. We expect incremental growth and we expect different students to acquire at different rates. We can assess whether they have acquired, say, the language from the past week of class, but then there’s nothing to compare that to head-to-head with output-based teaching.

With regard to “newbies” not being open to CI, remember that even if they are new to Taiwan, they have been thinking about language teaching, may have taken classes about it, and have probably learned (or failed to learn!) languages themselves. All of those probably used output-based methods, since that’s the majority of what’s going on just now. So it doesn’t surprise me that they would be resistant when one woman walks in and says “Everything you ever heard about language teaching is wrong. Trust me.” Especially when they’re in an environment that doesn’t really support CI and where assessments are outright anti-CI.


#203

[quote=“ironlady”]You can’t do it with a defensible research design.

TPRS vs communicative (or input vs. output, more accurately stated) is such an emotionally charged issue that I don’t believe you could even defend the idea of having the same teacher teach both methods to two groups and comparing at the end. The other question is – where is the end? For output-based teaching, the “end” comes frequently in small chunks: now they know the present tense, let’s test it – while in TPRS, there isn’t really a distinct “end” and no clear “units”. We expect incremental growth and we expect different students to acquire at different rates. We can assess whether they have acquired, say, the language from the past week of class, but then there’s nothing to compare that to head-to-head with output-based teaching.
[/quote]

This is fair enough. However, wouldn’t it really strengthen the input driven argument if, say, a rather “good” output driven teacher tried a head-to-head test using pretty bad input driven skills with a bunch of low level uni students? The standard university tests would have to suffice as a rather ridiculous benchmark of achievement, although they could easily be accompanied by recorded oral questions. Video recordings of lessons could also be made. As an attempt to reduce the emotion and increase the objectivity it could help. On the other hand, do you think that people would just dismiss the results and continue to believe what they believe?


#204

Uni tests are not testing proficiency. TPRS isn’t concerned with discrete-point tests; the point is proficiency and fluency. Plus, “bad input” means the effect would probably not work well – even new input-based teachers who are trying their best to do good input often end up giving bad input, so I can only imagine what kind of input would result for a teacher who didn’t really have his heart in it.

Switching to input-based instruction isn’t easy on the teacher. It’s a whole new skillset backing up a totally new mindset.

There was an interesting study at Georgetown University recently – neurological, not linguistic, too! – that compared people who’d learned languages via immersion to those who learned via rules-and-output, and showed that the brains of the immersion people showed patterns more like those of native speakers. I believe that if TPRS had been added as a condition, the TPRS-taught brains would have shown more native-like features in the same period of time (since the input is more comprehensible than random immersion), but this was not focused on methodology or philosophies of language teaching. The results do support CI-based instruction, though, since long-term retention and native-like skills are what we’re aiming for.


#205

[quote=“ironlady”]Uni tests are not testing proficiency. TPRS isn’t concerned with discrete-point tests; the point is proficiency and fluency. Plus, “bad input” means the effect would probably not work well – even new input-based teachers who are trying their best to do good input often end up giving bad input, so I can only imagine what kind of input would result for a teacher who didn’t really have his heart in it.
[/quote]

OK, fair enough. I’m not sure how you guys are going to sell TPRS to those who work in academia, though. They don’t teach English anymore and probably haven’t for 10+ years. Unfortunately they make the rules, write the textbooks and set the agenda. How’s it working out telling them that their tests are wrong :slight_smile: ? Seriously, I agree that they are but at some point you have to beat them at their own game, as it were.


#206

Perhaps the best way might be to argue about return on investment. If someone “learnt” piano for fourteen years (which is how long kids here have to study English if they complete university), even if they only had one lesson per week and never practised at home, and they could only just stumble their way through Chopsticks at the end of it, we’d call that a complete failure. If someone invested $1,000, and after fourteen years, only had $1,010 (adjusted for inflation, if you like), we’d call that a complete failure. These are things that don’t even come naturally to people. Language comes naturally to people, so it should be that much easier for someone to get to a reasonable level in it. It’s almost like the present way of doing things, particularly here in Taiwan, has been deliberately designed to produce failure. It’s mind-boggling that it could be so useless and ineffective. This isn’t just the elephant in the room. It’s the brontosaurus in the room, with everyone squashed up against the walls, hardly able to breathe, claiming everything is fine.


#207

I read a short research study/report in Krashen’s online journal which states if I recall correctly that TPRS and the communicative approach delivered the same ability on speaking and listening but TPRS was better for reading and writing. Not what I expected. I’ll post a link if ayone wants it.
I do think that long term, the key is comprehensible input, and that it is possible with an adjusted communicative approach. There are many things to learn from TPRS though. Staying in bounds for one. Not teaching the names of countries and the languages spoken there in one lesson, but rather over a longer period where it is acquired better. Not teaching questions and question words as a unit or two but rather have it acquired over a period of time.
Also do note that TPRS is effective only up to a point and then it needs to be replaced with another CI method that involves extended listening and reading. Creating readers is in my opinion even more important than selecting the classroom method. Once you are able to read, you should be reading. I know Krashen has research that indicates that it doesn’t matter if you read easier or more dificult books but my general approach to it is that if you have students at or preparing for CEFR A2, then any book written at A1 should be readable and comprehensible to them without teachers having to teach it. The same for B1 reading up to A2 etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t lay out a few books that are more difficult, it is just a guideline and I consistently allow students to change a book they either dislike or find to difficult. I am amazed by how shit libraries are in both public and private schools as well as buxibans. I have more than 500 books (probably close to 1000) that cost me a fortune, but it is well worth it.


#208

[quote=“GuyInTaiwan”]ironlady: I don’t have any sentence patterns on my wall. I will also probably get rid of most of what I do have on my wall and replace it with the 100 highest frequency words in the English language.

I also think you misread part of what I wrote. I wrote that they should be able to work things out at an unconscious level (i.e. they wouldn’t have to think about it).

There is one thing that I find frustrating. There are certain weaker kids in every class who are kind of gaming the system, so to speak. They know that there’s a high likelihood that I will check them personally to see if they understand. When I ask if anyone doesn’t understand, they put their hands straight up. In theory, that’s great. However, I suspect that with some kids, they’re doing it to deliberately slow the class down and actually do understand because some other kids give them grief about it, and they amazingly get it the first time I go over it again. In the most egregious examples, right at the start of the lesson, I introduce the three new sentence patterns for that day. There is Chinese next to them. Some kids claim not to understand them. I’m sure they’re taking the piss. Or, it’s often preceded by them not paying attention. Likewise, there are kids who don’t pay attention, and when I do directly question them to see if they understand, they openly admit that they don’t know (and don’t care). I’m not talking about kids who are paying attention and really do want to understand. I’ll give those kids all the time in the world. However, in all of the real problem cases, there’s absolutely nothing I can really do to discipline them so they don’t screw around while everyone else is paying attention. The most I can do is move them elsewhere, but then they either distract other people or it becomes very confrontational and they deliberately don’t pay attention and seek to undermine me at any opportunity.

I know that in theory, they should be engaged in class and classroom discipline should deal with all of this without having to take it beyond that to other discipline, but some kids simply aren’t engaged, and I doubt whether they can be. Whether it’s poking the kid next to them or having a chat about something, that’s much more engaging, and probably always will be. This seems to be a point at which the theory of CI/TPRS and the reality of some students simply run up against each other. I can beat myself up about not engaging everyone. I can blame the kids. I can blame the administration and their former teachers. I can blame their parents. I can blame society. None of that solves this really fundamental problem though. Last year, I used to really get stressed about all of this. This year, I have simply let go and I’m all the less stressed and much happier for it. I’m still trying to get everyone but the most disaffected 10% of the class, but I just don’t think I can get those guys and will only drive myself to an early grave trying. Maybe I really am a pretty mediocre teacher at best (and maybe I’m just really bad). I’ve gone through a fairly long period of introspection, and I’ve come to accept that. Maybe this is defeatist. I think this grave dilemma I have (which I discussed last year) is an insurmountable problem that is endemic to compulsory, mass education though. I think it also leeches a massive amount of time away from those kids who are willing or capable of learning. As such, I wonder if, after a month of classes, once you’ve figured out who the bad kids are, it’s better to just work on sidelining them so they take as little time away from everyone else as possible.[/quote]
I know you have read Slavic’s book and remember that he says to have a barometer student or two. In the beginning it was hell for me when it looked lke two or three kids were F789ing around, but you will be surprised (or at least I was) how they eventually do come around (granted not all of them). I am also in the position where I let my kids choose. Want a story? YES. Fuck around and it’s textbook and writing. Got it? YES. By the time they have figured out we are doing less and less textbook it’s a lot easier.
Peer pressure works like a charm.


#209

Read Krashen’s papers with the critical eye of a mainstream academic toward research design. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

As for reading being more important than CI, I don’t agree. during the climb to initial fluency – prior to full unconscious control of all grammar patterns – reading is most effective when sheltered, IMO. Krashen is fond of promoting reading as THE way to fluency, but IMO the sort of read-anything approach he is promoting is not what will most efficiently get students to initial fluency. For going from initial to final fluency (expansion of vocab and collocations) yes, any sort of reading or listening. But IMO they must have the structure first to be able to read extebsively.


#210

[quote=“ironlady”]Read Krashen’s papers with the critical eye of a mainstream academic toward research design. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

As for reading being more important than CI, I don’t agree. during the climb to initial fluency – prior to full unconscious control of all grammar patterns – reading is most effective when sheltered, IMO. Krashen is fond of promoting reading as THE way to fluency, but IMO the sort of read-anything approach he is promoting is not what will most efficiently get students to initial fluency. For going from initial to final fluency (expansion of vocab and collocations) yes, any sort of reading or listening. But IMO they must have the structure first to be able to read extebsively.[/quote]
I never said reading is more important than CI. You must have misread my post.
What I did say is that it is more important to create readers than selecting a classroom method. Unfortunately, it is also something that can not be measured in a test or in a research study because the point really is that readers will continue to learn and improve while those who don’t will not.
Teachers are not measured on how effective they are in creating readers. Teachers are also often not given enough time to create readers in the class. It takes my students up to a year of paging through books and maybe reading a sentence here and there while looking at the pictures before they start reading. My son has been doing that for 18 months and I’m sure he will continue to do so until he is ready to read. Creating a reader is a process. That’s what I said and/or meant.


#211

[quote=“heimuoshu”][quote=“ironlady”]…
As for reading being more important than CI, I don’t agree. …[/quote]
I never said reading is more important than CI. You must have misread my post.[/quote]

No, I was talking about Krashen’s views, not your post. Sorry, wasn’t clear.
Reading IS (or should be) CI, but unless your reader turns out to be written TPRS (highly repetitive, patterned questions, etc.) I don’t believe you’ll get the requisite density of repetition on structure to make people initially fluent just through reading. Certainly not if you want the reading material to even vaguely tell a story. It is HARD to write stories at the 100-word level that are actually stories – and that assumes they have those 100 words already. So I get a bit whatever when I hear Krashen championing reading only. Lots of reading, yes – but after the student has some basic tools to be able to read, aka the grammar of the language is in his head. Before that, I’d put my money on purpose-written texts that aggressively support the language the student is acquiring orally in class.

If you’re teaching intermediates or above, this may be a meaningless argument, because the focus is on the move from basic fluency to academic competence – which means expansion of vocabulary and collocations, not really acquisition of the basic structure (no matter how much that may still be needed, depending on how they got to be “intermediates” and whether they truly are or not).


#212

[quote=“ironlady”][quote=“heimuoshu”][quote=“ironlady”]…
As for reading being more important than CI, I don’t agree. …[/quote]
I never said reading is more important than CI. You must have misread my post.[/quote]

No, I was talking about Krashen’s views, not your post. Sorry, wasn’t clear.
Reading IS (or should be) CI, but unless your reader turns out to be written TPRS (highly repetitive, patterned questions, etc.) I don’t believe you’ll get the requisite density of repetition on structure to make people initially fluent just through reading. Certainly not if you want the reading material to even vaguely tell a story. It is HARD to write stories at the 100-word level that are actually stories – and that assumes they have those 100 words already. So I get a bit whatever when I hear Krashen championing reading only. Lots of reading, yes – but after the student has some basic tools to be able to read, aka the grammar of the language is in his head. Before that, I’d put my money on purpose-written texts that aggressively support the language the student is acquiring orally in class.

If you’re teaching intermediates or above, this may be a meaningless argument, because the focus is on the move from basic fluency to academic competence – which means expansion of vocabulary and collocations, not really acquisition of the basic structure (no matter how much that may still be needed, depending on how they got to be “intermediates” and whether they truly are or not).[/quote]
I completely agree. I also think that if you are doing TPRS or anything else (which might not be as effective), you need to be
letting your kids explore books. After a few months or a year, you could be at a point where they can start reading. With adults it is a bit more difficult but I have had some success with it. They are a lot keener to start reading but they are also a lot keener to take a book that is too difficult and then “dictionary” it instead of read it. I mentioned Krashen’s study because in my experience the book HAS to be below their level, but that’s just me. It is difficult to say anything about Krashen without the entire teaching population jumping on you. :smiley:


#213

[quote=“ironlady”]STOP THINKING ABOUT GRAMMAR.

You are still teaching based on grammar. You need to give that up.

Concentrate on meaning. Always meaning. And don’t be too concerned about a one-to-one correspondence between the parts and Chinese meanings for them. It’s enough that students know “What is that?” means “Na Shi sheNme*?” One of the star analysts will eventually raise his hand and say, “But isn’t that backwards?” and you quickly say, “Wow! You’re so observant! You’re right! Let’s talk after class if you want to know more.” Then go on with the input. The Masses don’t care about the grammar (unless they have been brainwashed to care about the grammar above all else, as is sometimes the case. In that situation, you need to un-brainwash them by emphasizing what they will be assessed on and how, and making sure that doesn’t include grammar patterns!)

In TPRS/CI based teaching, you may focus on and repeat a particular structure (with the words plugged into it) during a class session, but that isn’t “teaching” it. It’s just the first part of the 100 (random number) parts needed to get enough repetition so that a structural pattern is generalized and internalized. Students will not get “do”-support for awhile. They will definitely not get articles for a long time – they are late acquired. You can put them in Chapter 1 of the textbook if you want, but they aren’t going to stick in an acquisitional use-it-naturally-and-correctly way for a long time after that book is done.

In TPRS, we do not limit structure. We limit vocabulary – which generally ends up meaning “content words” (nouns, verb roots, adjectives and adverbs).

There is an ESL series available – I haven’t looked it over closely – but it might be a good point of departure provided it is not simply a back-translation of existing Spanish or French materials. I think it would be worthwhile for you to obtain that book before trying to invent your own.

I would also caution STRONGLY against “doing my own variation of TPRS”, at least at the beginning. There are specific reasons why this works and they’ve been tested and tried over the past 15-plus years in classrooms. Most often when a new TPRS teacher wants to “just change a few things”, what happens is that s/he loses the grip on the basics, which isn’t yet solid and natural to him/her anyway, and the teaching starts to work against itself. IMO you’re better off to learn how to play the piano pieces on the page before you start improvising. (Well, maybe not in the case of the piano, but definitely in the case of TPRS.)[/quote]
Currently I’m strictly working according to Ben’s TPRS in a Year! book.

My only concern, as he uses French to explain what he’s doing, is what are the sentence patterns in English that a learner should be acquiring? I can’t seem to find anything remotely like that online as you either get a list of all the basic English grammar patterns (tenses) as I posted before, or the 6/7/9/10 (depending on which site you go to) that English is apparently made up of (S+V+O etc…). It’s a tad frustrating trying to figure this out.


#214

Bismarck: Well, that’s the thing though. It’s a bit like asking how long a piece of string is.

Perhaps one approach might be to work out what you want the end point to be at a certain point in time and work backwards from there. Perhaps this is the wrong approach, but imagine that you had to give us a two minute autobiography of yourself now. What would you say about yourself? Your name, your age, where you’re from, what your job is, what your hobbies are, who your family members are, etc. Or imagine you had to describe everything you did last Saturday from when you woke up until when you went to sleep. What sorts of things would you need to be able to describe in order to do that? That kind of stuff is probably what anyone would want to be able to do with a language by the end of a beginner course, because ultimately, people love to talk about themselves. If they can tell someone they have three kids or they got a dinosaur for their birthday, they’re pretty happy with that. Find out what they’re interested in to start off with (perhaps by giving them a survey or by asking them to write an essay or two in Chinese), and kind of reverse engineer that to get your fundamental sentence patterns. That might get bums on seats and keep them there.

You wouldn’t cover all of those things just once off as a topic lesson, and you wouldn’t approach them via substitution drills, but you’d gradually cover them all, making sure you covered each one a lot of different times in novel situations, making sure you randomly brought some of them in from previous lessons with each new lesson and so on.

You could probably save yourself a lot of work by simply looking through some textbooks and picking out the basic sentence patterns they teach (you know that there will be huge overlap there) and just approach teaching those sentence patterns from a TPRS angle instead of how they’re handled in the textbooks.

Maybe I’m way off base with this though.


#215

I’ve just wasted most of a weekend in Taipei reading through this thread, damn you all! :smiley:

It has been very interesting, but since it is soooo long, how about a summary of the main (3 or 4) points? Ironlady, perhaps?


#216

Oops! I said “wasted”, but really I meant “spent”.


#217

Comprehensible Input: the brain acquires language by hearing language it can understand.

It takes many repetitions for the brain to acquire new words, and many more repetitions for it to master and internalize a new structure (“grammar pattern”) so it can use (comprehend or produce) either unconsciously and correctly.

Acquisition takes time, and everyone’s acquisition goes at a slightly different pace.

Output will happen when the brain has sufficiently grasped a certain word or piece of structure. Until then, output is forced and most often will be incorrect as the brain seeks to use rules and logic to consciously construct language based on its knowledge of the native and any other languages it knows well or in part.

Most programs these days teach some variation of the “communicative approach”, which holds that the brain learns language through memorization of patterns and vocabulary items which are plugged into the patterns. Under this view, output must be forced so that the student can “practice” the new material by speaking and writing it, in order to master it.

CI and the communicative approach are diametrically opposed to one another because of the basic difference in the beliefs underpinning each about how language is acquired/learned.


#218

I went to a (non-CI) workshop yesterday. Amongst other things advocated by the (foreign) teacher involved: teaching reading for recognition and pronunciation of words (i.e. being able to read out loud), whilst also explicitly stating that comprehension of said words is not the goal of the exercise. I raised several objections but was answered with a lack of logic and/or not even really answered. Almost everyone else nodded along, praised the teaching methods, etc. I left thoroughly demoralised about the state of English teaching in this country. I will press on with what I’m doing, but this industry is so messed up. I feel like I have to lock myself away in a closet somewhere and never talk to other English teachers here again.


#219

I know what you mean. The last two weeks I’ve been involved in several incidents that almost had my (almost) 37 year old ass in tears of frustration. It’s like banging your head against a wall of stupidity. Is no one able to recognise that what we’ve been doing here for decades hasn’t worked, that adding stupid “spaceboards” to schools to baffle parents with “Look!! We have technology!!” isn’t the answer? I used CI for a year with one class from the beginning of their first course to the middle of their second level with huge success. I was moved to another branch and everyone is stunned at their progress, but no one is willing to acknowledge the methods I used to achieve this.

I truly feel that branching out on our own really is the only sane move for the future. :2cents:


#220

bismarck: The level of irrationality in this industry drives me to despair at times. It’s not just the Taiwanese either. The majority of foreigners are either going along with it, or even really believe in all the nonsense too. There’s just such an abject lack of critical thinking, even when it’s possible to engage in that. Yet, such people seem to be much happier in the profession than I am. Does it really come down to being a satisfied moron? I was thinking about this yesterday. The person hosting the workshop was described as “a passionate teacher”. I think I am passionate too, but more in the old, Latin origin of the word passion, to suffer.

I think that the entire industry is full of hocus pocus and pseudo-science. It’s all based upon what people “feel” is right or “feel” is successful. I sometimes wonder if I started teaching English based upon the principles of phrenology, if anyone would figure out I was taking the piss.

Me: "Leo is very good at English because he has a huge lump on the side of his head."
Other English teacher: "No, that’s a scar from a scooter accident when he wasn’t wearing a helmet."
Me: "Well, intelligence obviously runs in that family, so that explains why he’s so good at English."
Other English teacher: “That’s interesting. You’re obviously a very passionate teacher. Maybe you should run a workshop.”

I have other irons in the fire. For me, the only way forward is out of the industry. Maybe other people, such as you, could carve out a niche, but I live in a very small place, so if only 2% (or even 5%) of people would be interested, it simply wouldn’t be enough.

By the way, did you get that email from me last week?