If You Can’t Get It

Here are some words of hope for those who “can’t get” TPRS/CI with its current formula of massive reps, circling and targets. Working without targets allows:

1. More freedom because it is a softer approach to the work of CI that puts the heart first.
2. It is not about crowd control but about helping people come together as a group.
3. It is free flowing and fun and easy and one never feels in danger of messing up – the group dynamic is different from the old teacher-centered storytelling dynamic of the “gifted teacher riding around the room on a high horse being wonderfully entertaining”. The instructor can be vulnerable, can explore, and not have to be right all the time, nor have to entertain, since that part in a non-targeted CI classroom comes from the kids a lot more than from the teacher.
4. The instructors are less “experts at language teaching” and more “co-learners.” This is true in training as well.
5. One can be natural and be oneself in the classroom.
6. One doesn’t have to do rote circling practice at trainings “till you get it”.
7. Training is about demos and coaching, which is a natural way to learn to teach, because it is based on teacher intuition and not getting the TPRS skills checked off by the judging trainer.
8. Training is not about coaching from a formula, but rather about coaching from intuition.
9. Assessment is lighter, which raises the quality of instruction, since the kids can trust more those who don’t judge them so much “what they can produce” when they are so new to the language.

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4 thoughts on “If You Can’t Get It”

  1. This is good. It reminds me of Laurie [Clarcq]’s Coaching from the Heart. It is focused on positive feedback and instructor-selected formats. The feedback comes from a variety of perspectives, including feedback from the “coach,” the “students,” the “overseer” of the event, and the observers.

    One of Laurie’s gems was that we notice things as negative because they are things we see in ourselves. There is no reason to point them out in someone else because the only reason they are not doing something in a particular way is they haven’t gotten there yet. If they had they would have done it fine.

  2. I agree with a lot of this. I circle less and less, especially with more advanced students, but I still find it useful to help students notice things. I like Laurie Clarcq’s expression: sanding. You don’t sand in one place for too long, a little here and a little there, until the entire surface is smooth.

  3. From my 3rd graders (ESL) I get enthusiastic yes/no-answers when I circle but my class 4 already are less enthusiastic about those questions and I get the feeling they are responding bc they are really nice kids.

    1. Yes Udo the fact that kids are nice is a big factor – and I wouldn’t write this on one of the public sites – in giving teachers who love to circle and target mass reps faith that the system works. Tina and I have a simple position: this work is far simpler than it is made out to me. We don’t need to learn all the skills any more than mothers need to learn skills to speak to their babies. It’s not the skill, it’s the feeling in the heart. Sorry if that takes it out of the realm of research, but there is a lot in this field that is far beyond the realm of research. Teaching a language is not like teaching math. It reaches into the realm of the invisible, and, dare I say it, of trust and human compassion and, most importantly, laughter.

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