Untargeted – 3

In this new untargeted work, we must keep front and center in our consciousness that we still must absolutely shelter vocabulary and unshelter grammar.  This TPRS mantra has been true for decades, though it is often ignored by practitioners, coaches and trainers, and it is still true in this vision of untargeting our input.  

We cannot allow ourselves to become incomprehensible or we have lost the whole purpose of TPRS.  Now, do we need to make sure that every single second, every tiny fragment and particle of language, is comprehensible?  I have come to think not, and so does Stephen Krashen.  Anyway, how can we really be sure that everyone is getting everything all the time?  We cannot.  Targets just make us feel like we are getting all of them all the time, because if we are so diligently sticking to them and pausing and pointing, it feels more structured, you can count the reps, you can even use a baseball counter like I used to do, you can feel the reps piling up in the kids’ ears.

But, and here is the crux of the question on untargeting:  are your diligently-accumulated reps really making it from the kids’ ears into the kids’ hearts?  Into the kids’ mysterious and all-important Language Acquisition Devices, which for all we know are actually located in the chest not the cranium?  

Maybe God put those shrouded little black language boxes in there to lead us into the realm of the heart and out of the forest of the mind; maybe this is His gift to us language teachers.  

How can we be sure that the reps that we are doggedly pursuing, even at the expense of ease and connection, how can we be sure that they are actually reaching the kids’ hearts, or to wherever their Language Acquisition Devices live?  The kids must be attentive, preferably riveted to the messages.

But then how can we know for sure that they are attentive?  After all, they can, if they are good little girls and boys, fake attentiveness by knowing what we are looking for.  We tip our cards with jGR and they can, if they care to, just play the game and actually not be all that attentive deep down.  Really, we can’t tell,

So anything, anything to up the ante, to move from ho-hum to compelling, in order to make those little attention cheaters forget to cheat and just ATTEND, because the message before them is so compelling – that is what I want to chase down.  And untargeted, unshackled communication is that for me.  What I have chased down after a decade and a half of tinkering.  

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2 thoughts on “Untargeted – 3”

  1. “…they can, if they care to, just play the game and actually not be all that attentive deep down. Really, we can’t tell”

    Yup. Right on. We *think* we can, but we really can’t. I mean, of course we truly can if we ourselves as the teacher are present in the moment in the interaction with the individual student, of course we know if they are attending, but when does that actually happen in a class full of students?

    So many moments are similar to those moments at a wedding or graduation or other large gathering where you are in a conversation with someone and at some point you realize they are not attending. Their eyes are scanning the crowd to see who else is there. Or they are “looking at you” but it’s more of a vacant stare. We know the difference. They are smiling and nodding yet not really *in* the interaction with you.

    Heck this happens all the time in any conversation. I only brought up the large gathering image since I’ve recently attended a buncha those and have consciously attended to conversations, and noticed when I start to drift! Due to the nature of what we do, I feel I’m constantly trying to observe “real world conversation practices.” I know I’m on a tangent, but the state of the interpersonal world is scary. I’d venture to say that if interpersonal interaction were a species, it’d be in danger of extinction.

    Few people, students or adults, can engage in a conversation that requires presence. Despite my dogged efforts at eliminating cell phones in my class, it was a constant daily battle of selective memory. Such a waste of time each day with the “adios telefonos,” although by the end some of the most unlikely kids were the ones badgering each other with “adios telefonos!” I think that phrase had the most reps, along with “en serio? “Ay Dios mío!”
    “Todo es posible” and “Sé amable!” Next year I am getting a lock box for the phones. Not kidding.

    Here is the hopeful part: We had “interview the seniors day” in one class. One of the underclassmen asked “What are your favorite high school memories?” Unanimously all 4 seniors included the rafting trip, SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF THE INTERACTIONS, “getting to know each other better” “class bonding” etc. Yes they actually used those words. They even said “it was because we could not use our phones!” The valedictorian echoed that in her speech yesterday.

    So, “we got this.” We have to! There is much at stake.

  2. … I’d venture to say that if interpersonal interaction were a species, it’d be in danger of extinction….

    That is why I protect the interpersonal interaction here so jealously by kicking people off the blog from time to time. I just did it again. What you say, jen, reminds me of a favorite saying of my hero, Mary Anne Williamson: “We aren’t educated in our country – we don’t know how to talk to each other.

    These are dark days in America. With each attempt at a story, successful or not, we become part of the solution. Want to see some American patriots? Look on this blog.

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