Tina gives a heartfelt response to Terry’s morelist position on SL:
Terry you write: después de que el idioma se haya ido de la mente del que escucha,
For this not able to read Spanish, this means “after the words that the learner heard have gone from the brain” i.e. saying that in SL the learner is not matching sound to meaning.
OF COURSE this will not lead to acquisition. It would be like If I sat down to watch a Mandarin movie with all that language just whizzing by then at the end getting a card with the words on it, and thinking, “Did I hear that?”
BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH STORY LISTENING.
What is happening with SL is “caretaker speech” which, as we all know, is slower, simpler, and involves frequent visual check-ins, use of gestures, visual aids, and L1/L2 writing.
They are understanding in the moment. How do I know that? Because they can retell later. They are not acting all cray cray, as a class of 37 middle school kids will tend to do if they do not understand, if they are lost. I know this because I had a student teacher. On the days when she was not being comprehensible, the kids went cray cray. The days I would take back over, and speak comprehensibly, magic! no more cray. Just listening and enjoyment. Also, my kids can write now. SO, they must be acquiring something.
I know you think, Terry, it is less efficient. I know you will likely never change your mind on that. For you, the efficiency you have experienced with TPRS, targeted words, circling those words to provide repetitions, checking for understanding frequently, that efficiency is so powerful that you promote TPRS as the best path to language acquisition.
That may be true. We can dither all we want about what is and is not true. I think there is even a whole branch of philosophy that deals in how do we know what we know is actually true. We really can not know if circling or not circling is more efficient in the long run, as there have been no real side-by-side comparison studies. However, in my little corner of the CI universe, where I am just in the classroom each day, teaching for proficiency through stories and reading, and working with other teachers here and there from time to time, in my little corner, I have found that using only NT communication such as SL has made my life easier, lots easier, this year, and here at the end of the year I can clearly see acquisition has happened for my students.
Do I have data? Well, I have their last batch of assessments from late April. But I do not have like some kind of scientific study. Maybe one day I will. Maybe someone will do the research. But even those, I have found, people will poo-poo. “Not enough test subjects” or “Not conducted over enough years” or “The comprehension hypothesis is untestable” (I have heard that one, yes). People say all the time, Dr. Krashen is not a classroom teacher so he can’t truly know. Yet any of his research subjects were in schools. People also say that action research a teacher does is not a large enough sample size. Sounds like a catch-22 to me. So, even “data” will fail us. And still we dither. And as we dither, there are more and more teachers out there asking themselves, “What is this CI thing?” and the teaching world is slowly waking up to CI. It is growing, people, the energy is picking up. And yet we dither on and on. Do we have to circle? Don’t these curious new people need to circle like we were taught to?
The data that counts to me is are the students enjoying class, are they able to communicate in the language with more and more proficiency, are they able to understand as evidenced by non-invasive procedures such as end-of-class written L1 retells as Beniko does and Quick Quizzes as Ben does, and – maybe the most important of all – AM I HAPPY IN MY JOB SO THAT I DO NOT QUIT AND LEAVE THE POSITION OPEN FOR A GRAMMARIAN TO GET BACK IN HERE AND HARM – LITERALLY HARM – THE KIDS OF THE FUTURE.
I am in it for the long haul. I am in it to help other teachers be in it for the long haul. The long haul, well folks, it is LONG. Happiness matters. School’s hard enough. If there is something easier, I say take it with both hands.
Now, we can dither around about who does TPRS and who doesn’t, what constitutes TPRS and what doesn’t, what steps need to be there and which don’t…but there are teachers out there who need to get through the year. They need to make it till June. They need to go home and have the feeling of a job well done. They need to feel love from kids, b3cause they need to stay in the profession in these dark and quickly-getting-darker times.
So we can dither about, but while we dither, there are teachers who NEED to KNOW that YES they can just go in to class and tell them a simple story. It really is that simple. It really does work. It might lose out on a little efficiency, but hey, life is not all about getting to the finish line first. If that is your focus, get ready for some serious burnout. I am all for anything that helps us sniff a rose or two on the way to the finish line. And you know what, by sniffing those roses, we actually might finish faster and better because we will run with refreshed energy.
Even I, who is like a bouncy Energizer Bunny the likes of which I thought did not really exist until I met my match in Annabelle Allen, even I run out of juice with circling targeted structures day in and day out. And yet I kept on keeping’ on year after year, because that is all I knew. And then things got lighter for me. They got easier. And you know what, if my students acquire a smidgen less quickly, THAT IS FINE BY ME. They still blow the PPS expectations out of the water. They still zoomed up the ACTFL levels of proficiency.
They are still acquiring and I am able to relax a good deal more. Sounds like a win win.
Because I have seen non-targeted work including Story listening succeed from the first months, I have to say that I disagree with the commonly-expressed belief that TPRS is the only way to give them a foundation in the language. My parents never sat me down and circled with me as a baby. But they did talk to me slowly and comprehensibly.
The old argument of “We just do not have the time in schools” is losing its bite. I CARE NOT anymore. Because I care more about our sanity, our longevity, our survival in the profession. The world needs us, us CI teachers, us weirdos, us firebrands. We are needed. We need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to take it just a little easier, in my opinion.
And yes Terry they DO understand in the moment. I know they do. I cannot see inside their heads to see that they got every word, nor do I care to. But I know they are acquiring. I make no pretense of being scientific about this. Nor do I need to. I am a teacher. I am a proud and happy teacher. I am happy to be here and I am proud to have survived.
This is just my opinion.
This is just my way of sharing myself and my experience with you.
I am just too excited not to.
You might not agree.
That is fine with me.
But I cannot sit by and let you say that they are not comprehending. They are.
That is all.
Peace out again.