In The Power of Reading, Insights From The Research, Stephen Krashen mentions the importance of flow in reading (p. 29). Why shouldn’t this same concept be a key part of our focus as we learn to get better and better at delivering listening input to our students in the form of PQA and stories?
Water runs down mountains and not up them. In the same way, simplicity and flow must reign in any part of a TPRS/CI class. The water must flow downhill in a natural way. Things must emerge naturally. Language must emerge naturally. The student must be unaware that she is learning.
For that to happen, I must be relaxed. I must not try to control the story too much. I must not get nervous about the process. This requires trust in the questionning process. We have talked about trust here so much already in this past year especially.
What is trust? It is believing that what we do works. We must learn to pause and go slowly and then that lets things emerge organically. We learn to let our questions produce new information that, because it is remarkable and about the people in the room, isn’t ignored, but drives things forward.
This brings full participation by the students in the class, who are thrilled that their cute suggestions infuse the class with interest. The script becomes what it is supposed to be, the banks of the river and not the water in the river as the water that is comprehensible input goes down the mountain effortlessly.
Letting the water flow downhill. Teachers try to push the water uphill in their grammar classes. It is the same way in classes that use computer technology. Trying to push water uphill is not just boring, it is impossible, no matter how many Rosetta Stone bells and whistles are used – the student rejects it because the lesson is not comprehensible and not about her.
Water flows downhill. Each time we say something in the TL and a student understands what we say, it is like adding a drop of water down the side of the mountain. Those drops, when joined together, begin imperceptibly to form rivulets and eventually rivers. The kids begin to understand large chunks of what we say because of so much input.
After thousands and thousands of hours of comprehensible input in the form of listening and reading, after thousands of little rivulets have been formed, rivers of knowledge form and the language thus built in the mind of the student reaches the sea of fluency. The process is effortless and astonishing.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put it this way:
…if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea….
Other articles on this key topic that can be found on this site are FLOW (November 21, 2009), On Uninterrupted Flow (April 13, 2009), Teaching in a Natural Way (August 21, 2008), and Just Go With The Flow, (May 13, 2008).