How I Differ

Someone asked me how I am different from TPRS. Here is what I wrote back:

It’s a messy business, but I know that since I made the shift away from TPRS, I am much happier in my work. This is not true for everyone, but it is true for me. In January of 2016 I – in quite serendipitous fashion – uncovered a system of teaching languages that I feel is very much more specific than TPRS, much less haphazard and therefore much easier to do, and which more closely aligns with the soul of the research. In short, what I am doing is based on making images and not instructing from a list of words connected to a “curriculum”.

To me the curriculum is the language and so everything I do is almost entirely based on the Three Modes of Communication of ACTFL, especially the Interpersonal Skill, which comprises 65% of my assessment process. I’m sad that my TPRS colleagues have turned it into a competition to learn certain words when the research clearly states that that can’t be ordered, that it occurs in a natural way that is different in each student depending on how they are wired, and that taking tests on word lists requires memorization, which is thinking, which has nothing to do with what the research says.

Oh hell I could write about this forever. Suffice to say that TPRS doesn’t work for me. It never really did.




7 thoughts on “How I Differ”

  1. So, Ben, a whole group of my Spanish 1’s have gone through the Invisibles process first year. What in your opinion would be the ideal for them next year in regards to what is done in class?
    It’s not completely under my control but I’d like your input so I can pass it on to the teachers who will have them next year.

    1. More CALP and more Free Choice Reading. Stories can’t be stretched that far in level 2 esp. if they are sophomores, bc they just get snarky in Level 2 – it’s an age thing and my biggest challenges with CI were with sophomores.
      Output in some will start appearing in April of Level 2, if you are like me and I know that the two of us teach in about the same way. So they have had lots of input and my question is do any of their teachers next year do CI? If not, then some of your current kids will just sachay out the door.
      It’s a mean thing to take a CI trained kid and stick a textbook in their face. It’s just mean.

    2. Hi Greg,
      I did an ecclectic CI thing. For year two, I used scripts and make them short, I used longer FVR, I used foodie type of videos from YouTube to just talk. Like this dude florianonair on YouTube who visits a place with authentic tacos in Paris. I would show them websites to candy stores. I surveyed them alot about likes and dislikes, homework, how much sleep they got etc… Then I had students guess how much sleep I got. I followed their interests including marvel movies, Netflix etc… i also used the special interview. I basically went rogue. I also splashed in a few SL stories but those were too long. I liked using movie synopses like star wars, foreign flix I say etc…

  2. See that level of eclecticism would freak most new CI teachers out. But if you are making yourself understood, then what is the problem? When we ask a five year old if she had a good weekend at grandma’s house, we don’t shelter the grammar by speaking to her in the present tense when the past is called for in proper grammar (proper grammar being defined as properly spoken and written language vs. adverbs, past tense agreement rules, etc). So that is what I see you doing Steven. It doesn’t matter if we are using words connected to a list, it only matters if we make ourselves understood. This is the new frontier in CI instruction. At last, after 25 years of failing to really build community (thus communication) in our classrooms we are finally aligning w the research and the standards. Whew! It took us long enough….

  3. Greg,
    To my (elementary; concrete) mind we’re always searching for new ways to serve up interesting things to talk about.
    So the Invisibles et al start with an image…In what other way can we start with a compelling image and talk abt it?
    *Movie Talk, Blooper Talk and all the other ways to use clips, film synopses, etc that Steven mentioned;
    *Book (‘StoryBoard’) Talk – using illustrated books, graphic novels, artwork (professional, graphic, student generated, historical, cultural, political…) – from one panel or a plot-driven series;
    InfoGraphic Talk
    LitCrit Talk – we discuss elements of a story – character, plot, setting, problem, attempts to solve, theme, motif, resolution; Here’s a link to a packet of Spanish Language graphic/templates for Spanish Language Arts that could help drive such a convo;
    News Talk – using NewsELA or Martina’s graded news resource, etc.;
    Songs and/or Poetry talk
    Exercise Talk – I have used 5-a-Day Fitness – which has themed dance routines in French and Spanish (subscription requ’d); -you can also just google stuff like, ‘Yoga en español’
    I love the way you suggested organizing the year into chunks, starting with personalization activities, heading into OWI/Invisibles, and ending with Story Listening. Perhaps in subsequent years you could start the same way (Personalization), find out what jazzes the class, and explore ‘topics’ with all kinds of talking extensions/graphic organizer templates for admin ‘documentation’ – plus of course more reading and some Timed Writes?

  4. Jennifer Gerlach

    I switched to NTCI this year, and these things happened for me too. I love it! The only thing I still do is TPR the first 6 weeks with Level 1 to take breaks from card talk about what they like to do a.k.a. circling with balls. I still like it for basic classroom words and verbs, but I don’t just blast out command after command. I make a little conversation with them too. Like if I have taught trash, trash can, and floor. I ask does trash go on the floor or in the trash can? Stuff like that.

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