The differences in philosophy
between TPRS and traditional language education:
TPRS is a student-driven methodology.
It responds to the linguistic needs of the students at any given
time. This makes it free-flowing curricularly.
- TPRS believes that we should shelter
(limit) vocabulary, focusing on the top 100 words then adding
words based on high interest and communicative needs, but not
sheltering grammar - using grammar naturally.
- TPRS believes that linguistic
features are acquired in a natural order and that the brain
cannot be forced to acquire a feature out of sequence or before
it is ready.
- TPRS believes that each learner
acquires knowledge at his/her own pace - that no two students
are at the same point in learning at the same time.
- In TPRS we believe that student
output cannot be forced. Students need hundreds of hours of
repetitive input before they are ready for unrehearsed,
spontaneous output. Much like a baby hears his/her first
language for thousands of hours before being able to produce
meaningful language. We believe that activities practicing
output before students have reached this point is
counter-productive and leads only to short-term learning goals,
not to long-term acquisition.
- TPRS adheres to the Monitor Theory -
we believe that direct instruction of grammatical rules in not
helpful until upper levels of instruction, after students have
acquired these grammatical features through context. At such a
time students can use the analytical rules to polish their
understanding, and to become truly literate in the language.
Prior to this, overfocus on the rules inhibits student
production and acquisition - students focus on rules rather than
meaning. In TPRS grammatical features are highlighted through
the use of brief explanations that focus on meaning not rules.
i.e. The -n on this verb means that more than one person is
- TPRS believes that language
instruction should be practical and focused on communication in
areas that currently interest students.
- The Pacing Guide assumes that
instruction and pacing are based on the curriculum, that they
are not student-driven. This leads to a curriculum that is not
especially responsive to student needs.
- The Pacing Guide does not shelter
vocabulary. It shelters grammar. Students are expected to learn
copious amounts of vocabulary for each chapter. Yet, students
are exposed to one discrete feature of grammar at a time.
- By sheltering grammar the Pacing
Guide does not allow for Natural Order of Acquisition. It does
not provide adequate exposure to late acquired features early on
and expects mastery of some late acquired features in beginning
- The Pacing Guide exists to make
learning uniform across the district. Every student in the
district is expected to learn the same material at the same
- The Pacing Guide and accompanying
benchmark exams are filled with output oriented activities. The
philosophy is that practice with output rather than time of
input produces accurate spontaneous output in students.
- The Pacing Guide, benchmark exams,
and department teachers assume direct instruction in grammatical
rules. They assume that students will know technical terminology
and will be able to discuss the grammatical features in a
- The Pacing Guide etc. assumes that
language acquisition is an academic activity that will result in
preparation for college and perhaps eventual communication in
the language. Areas that currently interest students are not
covered if they do not fit into the long-term goals of academic
In a way, the pacing guide is like the old
practice in manufacturing of ordering and stockpiling a bunch of
materials on a rigid and pre-set schedule - it might sit there for a
long time without being used. TPRS is like the more modern practice
of ordering "on demand". As something is needed, it is ordered and
used. The second way is simpler, more efficient, and more
economical. The pacing guide is an attempt to recreate the old style
factory production line. Why try to do that when factories don’t
even do it anymore - at least the ones that aren’t shut down!
It is no wonder that students find much of their school experience
boring, irrelevant, mystifying and unengaging; it is almost
diametrically opposed to how they learn on their own. Early
20th-century methods in a 21st-century world leave everyone behind.
Comparison taken from "La Profe Loca" by Jennifer ("La profe loca");
posted on Ben Slavic’s blog, 21 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010
Analogy by Chris; comment posted under "La Profe Loca" on Ben
Slavic’s blog, 22 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010