RE: Silent Period
There isn’t a “silent period” in TPR in the same sense as some other methods where students aren’t all expected to start speaking for several lessons. TPR gets kids up and speaking quickly, you only let them have a few minutes of silence before you expect that they will start speaking. But I think there is a good point to the “silent period” idea, and for some students it can be what they need.
I had an experience with a girl who was new in my kindergarten class when I was at Hess (she had join the class about a month before I did), and she was really shy and withdrawn. She NEVER spoke in English, and I was worried that maybe she had a psychological problem or that perhaps she just wasn’t learning anything. But apparently she was active and talkative enough during the Chinese portion of class. So, I respected her silence and never forced her to speak English but always encouraged her to participate. And this lasted a couple months and I showed her concern, welcome, and gave no pressure to speak.
One day, she asked me for food when she was in the line for lunch. I was delighted. In no time she was asking every time, and suddenly, when I asked her a question from the lesson she gave an answer. Not only did she start speaking, she soon proved just how much she had learned during her silent period (which was a TOTAL silent period). Overnight she was one of the top students in the class. She had some shyness issues to deal with still, but clearly there weren’t any cognitive ones.
RE: My personal approach
Personally, I’m more of a cognitive-code/cognitive approach person, but I’m also a bit of an ecclectivist. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to have the freedom to really explore my own educational philosophy since I’m always required to follow what someone else wants (and they pay my bills), but I’ve seen a number of times where explicit grammar teaching just turns on the lights for a number of kids.
Baby’s learn almost purely on inductive principles. But as children mature, the deductive faculty becomes increasingly powerful. I think most methodologies I’ve seen focus too much on either one or the other. These systems can work, but I think it can be done faster.
RE: Mormon missionary language learning
As a former church member, I have an inside scoop on that. Audiolingualism was their major method after it was introduced, and the fact that they are being trained to read a dialog and anticipate and answer a fairly predictable set of questions lends itself well to this approach. But, instruction of missionaries is a bit more advanced than that. It more resembles the communicative method, with lots of task based instruction and unscripted dialogs. There’s also some influence from the cognitive-code method as well and they are also using CALL.