Your original response to me indicated that I was disparaging something I knew nothing about. Without claiming to know anything about it, I addressed your response by explaining that I was using irony. And I was using irony, to make the point that alternative methods often seem silly to people if they are viewed superficially. That was to counter GuyInTaiwan’s cursory disparagement of play, sticky balls, squeaky hammers, etc. ([color=#FF0000]in a thread in which the use of force is being discussed[/color]), which you could have seen if you’d read my post with any degree of care. But that would have involved setting aside your zeal for TPRS.
So not satisfied with that explanation, you stated that I didn’t indicate that I knew that TPR and TPRS were two different things. I showed that I did, and gave evidence that anyone could figure that out in a short period of time.
Now you’re claiming that I act as if I know all about it. I never said any such thing.
Wonder where the goalposts are gonna be off to next?
Charlie Jack: I think you’re confusing TPR and TPRS. They’re totally different things. The acronyms just look similar. As you have pointed out, TPR is Total Physical Response. TPRS is Teaching (Language) Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. There’s very little movement involved. My understanding of TPR is that it’s output is very important (hence the name). TPRS is input driven and any output is not forced (though there are points at which comprehension is checked and output is required, but this usually takes the form of me asking them to explain what I just said in Chinese). Basically, the way I do it (which is the way some others do it, but I can’t say that everyone does it this way) is as follows. There are two lessons that are linked together. The first part involves creating a story. The second part involves reading that story (which I write down between the two lessons). There may be other points where, if time permits, other stories of a similar nature are read (for instance, sometimes, I take a story created by say, 8B and have 8A read it to see if they can understand it), and sometimes, students can read other stories based simply upon their interests (I do this if we lose one lesson in a week to exams or something else). Anyway, during the process, there’s little to no movement involved by the students. Amongst other things, there are four basic rules in my class: look, listen, don’t talk (to each other), don’t touch/play with things/people. So, there’s little to no movement by students.
Whole Lotta Lotta: Hmm. I’m not sure what to say to that. One of the things that frustrates me about what I am doing is that I can’t really run it as an experiment because there are problems with the samples, amongst other things. From what I have observed, I think I’m doing okay, but that doesn’t satisfy me because I’m aware that that may involve a lot of wishful thinking. I think it’s something that plagues teaching generally: we all thing we’re doing a wonderful job, but are we?
Yeah, I suspected that, but I wasn’t sure. Some time ago, I was googling around for info on TPRS, and I found this Ben Slavic video:
One of the first things I noticed was that there wasn’t very much movement at all, except on Slavic’s part. But it’s such a brief video–and for all I know, the video may have been intended as something like a demonstration–that I was hesitant to conclude that there was no movement involved in TPRS. But I certainly get the part that it’s about comprehensible input. Speaking of comprehensible input, the Slavic video kind of reminded me of part of this Steve Krashen video, except that Slavic wrote words on the board:
But to say it one more time, the comments you’re referring to were not intended to pass on the merits or demerits of any method. They were intended to show that alternative methods could easily be dismissed out of hand for superficial reasons. That’s why I wrote about the psychologist who had lost his language ability and subsequently recovered it through music therapy, which really seemed mostly to involve singing songs. That probably would look pretty ineffective to an outsider (the music-therapy materials in the library didn’t impress me much, but the fact that such materials worked, impressed me greatly), and indeed the use of songs and chants to aid in language acquisition has been disparaged on this board.
It’s so hard to make a point here.
Lemme try this one last thing:
When I was in high school, some hippies moved in next door to us. I was hanging out with them on their front porch one Sunday, and the alpha hippie observed some people down the street getting out of their car after attending church. They were dressed up, and very conventional-looking. The alpha hippie said, “Those people look weird.” The unintended irony of that statement was not lost on me, but instead of addressing the irony, I said, “Maybe we look weird to them.” Believe it or not, he actually disagreed with me on that.
Now that I think about that incident, I shouldn’t be surprised at some of the comments in this thread.
Not to disrespect Krashen, but that video is a relatively poor attempt at showing the value and effectiveness of the comprehensible input theory. I’ve seen him talk and I’ve read a lot of what he’s written. My opinion is that he is a far better writer.
With kids, depending on age (the younger, the shorter and simpler, but that should be pretty much true with any teaching that has to do with young children) you might select fewer or simpler items to circle. You would also make sure the stories are very concrete, and it’s better to have a visual aid to go with everything. That does not mean that you are using those visual aids (puppets, cutout photos, etc.) to establish meaning – you still tell them what things mean. It’s just that little kids are very concrete and need to see things, not imagine them, in this kind of situation.
Still lots of reading. Maybe less emphasis on writing so the class doesn’t become a memorization fest. Writing should come after the language is well acquired IMO and it takes time when you’re doing tiny, tiny pieces at a time. But narrow and deep is the underlying principle anyway, so that’s actually a good thing. You want little kids to acquire language, not memorize lists of colors and numbers and not be able to do anything with the language or understand an actual sentence or question.
The “stories” with children can be extremely simple: SpongeBob wants a large pizza with snails on it, but Patrick wants a small pizza with tires on it. For older kids, that would really only be the start, but for the little ones, that might be all of it for a lesson.
Carol Gaab has established herself as pretty much the “go-to” person for TPRS with small children – her company is called TPRS Publishing. I prefer to teach about age 11 and up, so I’m not as good a resource for the really young children. In fact I subbed yesterday for a class of 4-5 year olds (learning Mandarin) and felt really awkward. Got to get some more practice in with this age group to get better at it.
I’ve got to disagree with you about the Krashen video. I think it’s an excellent short illustration of the whole point of this technique. I wouldn’t have known what was going on in the Slavic video without the subtitles (no offense to Slavic, of course). Even better, Krashen only uses German, and he doesn’t make use of a chalkboard or anything except his own body. The contrast between the two ‘immersion’ techniques could not be starker. The Slavic video does not communicate that to people who are new to this kind of teaching, in my opinion, and it wouldn’t be much help to someone who is just off the boat and doesn’t speak any Chinese.
And yet Slavic is a skilled practitioner of the embodiment of Krashen’s research. Krashen is not. He essentially relies on people in the TPRS community to develop his ideas and make them applicable to the classroom. He’s a theoretician.
Anyone will be “lost” in a TPRS class if they just jump in without any prior experience. Slavic is making videos intended for people who have had at least some training in TPRS. It’s really not something that is easy to just “pick up” from a book.
The Krashen video is also very obvious because he’s talking about body parts. It’s easy to show a body part without a blackboard. The French in Slavic’s video is considerably more advanced than the German in Krashen’s video.
I am not really comparing Krashen with Slavic. I am merely claiming that it is not “a relatively poor attempt at demonstrating the value and effectiveness of the comprehensible input theory”. In my opinion, Krashen’s video is a better demonstration of that effectiveness, because he starts teaching the audience (us) German rather than explaining how to teach it. In three minutes. My kind of theoretician.
He makes two presentations in German. The first is solid and foreboding. The second is comprehensible and inviting. I bet someone from almost any cultural or linguistic background could start to understand what he was saying and recognize that he was already building on the body parts lesson with numbers and affirmative/negative responses. In the Slavic video, all of that groundwork has already been laid, so I think the contrast is not apparent, probably because it is not the point of his video.
I think the other thing is that Krashen’s video demonstrates the discipline required to use this method. As others have pointed out, from the outside it is deceptively simple. But, it requires a lot of control of the “material”, as well as awareness of the audience at any number of levels simultaneously.
The challenge with CI methods is not in presenting a simple lesson on body parts, or anything else that’s concrete. It’s in presenting a lesson that gets people to use and understand a structure like “if he had gone”, or “fortunately for her”, or something. The demonstration that comprehensible language is better than non-comprehensible is valuable, but many teachers see that and think it’s just a matter of having enough realia to point to.
I feel as if words are being put in my mouth. I don’t use any ‘realia’ or props at all when I teach. I don’t give my students stories with pictures. I actually hate the use of all those things as a distraction from the language. My point was simply that Krashen’s demonstration was not “a poor attempt” at demonstration of CI. He had used the body parts to put his foot in the door, and he was already moving on to number and getting the audience to respond with yes/no in German.
I also did not say CI was “simple”. My point regarding simplicity was that CI only appears simple. Part of the genius of Krashen’s demonstration was all of the things that he did not do wrong, things that most teachers routinely do. He was completely focused on interacting with the ‘students’, the audience, and there was nothing extraneous.
Most teachers who read this thread probably wish they had the problem of how to teach “fortunately for her” or “if he had gone”, but unfortunately for them, they struggle with how to deal with students who after years of English cannot use “I am” correctly, despite the textbooks, the grammar charts, the worksheets, the lectures, the immersion approach, using Chinese to explain, the homework, the haranguing, etc. It is about getting into the head of the student with the language you are teaching. Krashen did that with his little demonstration.
If someone sees the Krashen video and thinks it is about body parts, then he/she completely missed the point of the video. I grant you. It’s also not about German or teaching German. It’s about language and students and how a teacher can facilitate the students’ acquisition of language.
In other words, I thought the Krashen video was good. I recommend it.
He also had an audience of adults who were probably very academic/well-educated, had probably already studied or taught languages (perhaps including German), and who were very receptive. That’s a very different situation to the average person teaching a class of adolescents, many of whom don’t want to be there, can’t sit still, and struggle with their own language.
And there’s the point. (I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth, BTW – I’m just thinking about the ideas that have been brought up.)
Krashen goes to TPRS demonstrations because he’s interested in how this theory can be operationalized in a real-life classroom. He tends to come up with things like “extensive reading” and his new baby, “compelling input”, but it’s up to the mass of teachers working on this kind of thing to make these ideas useful in a classroom situation.
Comprehensible input makes the brain acquire language.
TPRS is just the tricks used to make the kids sit still long enough to hear enough comprehensible input to acquire the language.
If you’re lucky enough to have a motivated student or students, you can teach them using the local phone book, as long as it’s comprehensible. They’ll listen raptly and acquire. The average student doesn’t – especially since the world is full of wrong messages about how language is “so hard to learn”. Lots of kids shut down before they even give it a chance.
(BTW, TPRS wouldn’t teach “I am”, it would teach “I am swimming”, “I am running”, “I am whatever-ing” ad nauseum, and the brain will acquire the “I am -ing” pattern over the course of many repetitions. Many. It doesn’t happen neatly within the “present progressive unit” that is two weeks long. It happens over the course of a month, a semester, a year, or whatever. One of the tough things in training TPRS teachers is to get them to understand how to pick “items” to teach in class. Individual words can be TPRS-taught but the benefits in terms of structure aren’t there, and structure is the focus of TPRS.)
I’ve got to disagree with you about the Krashen video. I think it’s an excellent short illustration of the whole point of this technique. I wouldn’t have known what was going on in the Slavic video without the subtitles (no offense to Slavic, of course). Even better, Krashen only uses German, and he doesn’t make use of a chalkboard or anything except his own body. The contrast between the two ‘immersion’ techniques could not be starker. The Slavic video does not communicate that to people who are new to this kind of teaching, in my opinion, and it wouldn’t be much help to someone who is just off the boat and doesn’t speak any Chinese.[/quote]
In my limited knowledge from reading these threads, and I do so because of GiT, I think you need to distinguish between what is comprehensible to you and what is comprehensible to the students. Krashen video only shows how easy it is to make something comprehensible at a very basic level. Slavic’s video shows what TPRS and the theory in practice really is.
What Krashen is doing is what most teachers should be doing. Starting at a very basic level. I guess my feet are really going to be held to the fire for saying Krashen’s video was not “poor” and that I think it is a better illustration of CI.
I cannot speak for others, but from my experience, most simply don’t get the utility of CI and talking about it is of little utility. Just do it. A non-academic, poorly educated and half-interested audience would immediately start to understand Krashen’s second German lesson. I would say that if somebody thinks that the difference between Krashen’s two illustrations of ‘immersion’ is that one uses ‘easy’ language and the other ‘difficult’, then that person missed the boat. It’s what Krashen is doing with that material, moving on from ‘realia’, as it was termed, and moving on to abstractions, such as number and affirmative/negative responses. He encourages the audience to reply. He also made it humorous, another deceptively simple skill that does wonders for ‘receptivity’. Slavic uses humor, too, but he already has a rapport with his class.
Krashen’s demonstration captures that spirit better than does the Slavic video. In the Slavic video, we are watching from the outside. In the Krashen video, we are participating.
In the Slavic video, we are reading subtitles and watching kids go “ooooh” and “aaaah”. Something about fish and the fish’s name and whether the fish is stupid or smart. We are probably watching a class from a particular socioeconomic background that is already quite receptive to this style of teaching due to those reasons and a long-established relationship with their teacher, if I can latch on to that argument. It is not especially comprehensible what is fundamentally going on vis-a-vis CI for the uninitiated. It is useful for picking up a technique for the initiated, but it doesn’t really strike at what is at the heart of CI. I am not disparaging the Slavic video at all; it serves a different function. I simply disagree with the commentary about the Krashen video.
In other words, Krashen’s video is more comprehensible than is Slavic’s. Krashen is teaching CI with CI. Slavic is demonstrating CI and explaining it as he goes along.