On Mixing TPRS/CI with the Textbook – 1

Should we mix TPRS/CI instruction with textbook instruction? Nathaniel Hardt discusses why it is unwise to do so:

1. Kid-centered TPRS/CI is of interest to kids. Textbooks are not. When required by my school to use a textbook, I decided that I would try to use readings from the textbook. Then I read it. It was boring. I was bored so I knew the kids would be bored. I closed the book.

2. There is an inverse relationship between eyelids and textbooks. The wider we open our textbooks the tighter we close our eyes.

3. There is a new phone app called World Lens which is a point and translate app. This makes obsolete just about anything except face to face interaction.

4. The textbook chops up language into parts; TPRS/CI treats language as a whole. TPRS/CI is like leading students up a staircase to fluency; the textbook is like carrying the kids up a few steps and then giving a test. Since you can’t go anywhere from there, you go back down and go up another “staircase.”

5. Using textbook listening exercises does nothing for student listening skills because the textbook writers take a whole class of listening time and expect the kids to be able to understand based on memorizing vocabulary and grammar. There is no sense of the enormous amount of time/work necessary to sensitize the student’s brain and ear to spoken language.

6. Focusing on textbook grammar leads to a lot of English in the class. Using a lot of English in the FL class is like talking baseball in the history class; it is off task.

7. Focusing on grammar divides students into cans and cannots. This requires homogeneous grouping. Language and TPRS/CI unite the class. Grammar has a way of marginalizing the majority.

8. A lot of work goes into modifying textbooks for any approach. Why pay all of that money if it is not going to reduce your workload? And why pay all that money in the first place?

9. We used to say that at least the textbook is a good resource. With the internet resources online a textbook is at best an obsolete, overpriced resource.

10. Presenting material in thematic units or in pacing guides destroys the confidence of students and is boring. They can’t remember all the words in the lists. Rather, we would do much better to introduce expressions of time, etc. in very small doses, sprinkling them lightly into our instruction throughout the year, rather than confining them to one chapter in a book, to be forgotten after the test.

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4 thoughts on “On Mixing TPRS/CI with the Textbook – 1”

  1. I agree with the above, if we are talking about a mixed approach as merely “embellishing” a rigid application of a traditional textbook scope and sequence. But I do not think it needs to be either/or, and we have to be realistic about what we can do within our many limitations. Here are some reasons why I WILL be using a textbook this coming year:

    1. I am coming into a well-established program, and I don’t want to pull the rug out from under students and administrators whose affective filters would go through the roof if I were to come in and say “I’m getting rid of the book.”

    2. the book provides a framework for what I am expected to expose students to each year. I reserve the right to depart from that framework, but it is still in place, and gives me an anchor of sorts if I really need it.

    3. I can use many of the stories in the book with minimal adaptation (using embedded reading strategies)

    4. As long as I have leeway in how I “use” the textbook, it allows me to present something legitimate to administrators, parents, etc. so that I can do what works best in class without interference.

    5. the textbook provides me with activities and worksheets which I will no doubt be using when I am absent or have a class which cannot handle CI.

    6, Even if there are no external obstacles from one’s school, leaving the textbook behind before one is ready and confident can backfire. Almost every teacher I know who has successfully implemented CI, has done so bit by bit, slowly moving away from a textbook, but relying on that framework when things fall apart (and they always do when you are trying CI). To those of you who simply took the plunge, I have a ton of respect for you, because I know I could never do it that way.

    7. Even my worst half-assed attempts at adapting a textbook story into a crappy silly story in a powerpoint with silly pictures, followed by artificial pre-scripted circling and a quick quiz followed by traditional work in the textbook was WORLDS better than any grammar-translation work I had done with my students previously. This personal experience forms the basis of my objection to those who say a mixed approach is bad. We all have to start somewhere, and few of us have the guts or the support to dive in full bore. With few exceptions, we are all teaching a mixed approach, with fluctuating success, depending on the students, the day, and everyone’s mood.

    7. I have a family to support. If keeping my job means compromising or slowing down the transition to “pure” CI (whatever that actually is), then I’m ok with it. Better to have a job in which to experiment with better and better ways to deliver CI, and connect with one’s students more and more each year, rather than be full of uncompromising CI strategies, but with no job in which to use them.

    I know that inspiring experiences at NTPRS and IFLT can get us really pumped up with idealist resolve, and I really felt that this year in Denver, in the most positive ways. But the real challenge is: how to take those experiences, methods, materials, etc., and translate them into strategies that will work in our particular schools with our particular kids, and with our particular personalities. How can we be fearless,without being self-destructive? Even ATTEMPTING to implement a few of these CI strategies into an old curriculum is an act of bravery that few FL teachers will ever undertake in their lifetimes. We need to honor those baby steps by not falling into hyperbolic rhetoric, thus making those beginners feel as if they shouldn’t bother. We should all take a plunge, but the definition of “plunge” depends on where each particular teacher is starting.

    1. I am new to the group and this discussion is definitely food for thought as I make decisions about what I will be doing with kids in two weeks. I jumped into TPRS several years ago and definitely saw the difference in my students. But I had trouble sustaining it. I never doubted comprehensible input but I doubted me. I continued doing a few stories, some TPR, and some reading but I did a lot of textbook stuff, too.

      Last spring I was so frustrated that I began using old stories with students. In one class, everything came together that day and I really did glimpse the Pure Land. That’s what led me to “Stepping Stones to Stories” and all of you. I realized how much I need to change and how tweaking my classroom management might make a big difference. I found a lot of answers to my questions and now I have more, but I have more hope than ever before. I agree with John with the principle of the textbook keeping a person from drifting. I really was all over the place and craved more structure years ago. What is the most favored structure in lieu of the book? I did find some DPS vocabulary lists on the website that looked useful for this purpose.

  2. I was specifically told to do a half and half curriculum. I’ve decided to just make sure that the students know the same stuff that I was teaching before, but better. They will get their grammar. I will show them the chart once I feel like they can make some of those connections. Those will be English days. I’ll have posters and I’ll play the game. If asked, I’ll tell my admin that the vocabulary is coming from the textbook. Will it be a lie? No. I teach Spanish I. All of the TPRS materials that I have and all of the books that we will read all cover basic Spanish I grammar and vocabulary. I wish I had readings that I could ‘doctor’ but my book Aventura by EMC has weird unnatural popup cultural readings. I’ll figure out a way to use them because I know the other FL teacher exhausts the book. I like John’s suggestion of an imbedded reading.

    I can’t even imagine using the workbook pages other than saying, “Oh, look at this workbook page. How do you think we should do this?” and then do it together. Again, an English moment specifically to play a game for my colleague. I have to make sure my kids are prepared for a grammar class.

    Other than that, I am diving as deep as possible. I feel like I have put my feet in to test the waters several times and I have always loved the independence, creativity and laughter.

    If you are new to a district, I probably would do what John said. In fact I did to a certain extent. It’s exhausting and frustrating to teach a true half and half.

  3. We all do what we have to do and truth be told, if you had something that worked for you pre- TPRS, as Donna Tatum-Johns said, “Don’t trow the baby out with the bath water.” If you are one of the lucky ones who can be a pure, pure CI teacher, count yourself very lucky. Fifty/fifty will be a challenge but it’s better than 0%. Do what you can and keep trying to educate your admin. The system has to be purged of the devotees of textbook teaching. With each conference I attend, with each article I read praising the brain’s compatibility with storytelling, I sense a shift. My suggestion would be to try to find like-minded teachers in your area and form a support group. It helps.

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