Ideas Without Labels: A Discussion Framework

It was John Bracey who reminded me that if either of us just started discovering CI right now, we’d have NO IDEA what to do or where to begin. It was very clear a few years ago when Story Listening wasn’t as popular, and Ben Slavic had yet to write his Big CI Book, let alone create The Invisibles with Tina Hargaden. TPRS wasn’t even promoting its version of MovieTalk, which is now standard practice in its workshops as the easier gateway to story asking. These all have positively contributed in some way to those teaching in comprehension-based communicative classrooms—don’t get me wrong—but the culmination has also made communicating ideas about CI more complicated. For example, the Teacher’s Discovery magazine has begun selling products branded with “CI,” regardless of actual comprehensibility, let alone amount of input, and some methods mention CI while simultaneously drawing from older methods shown to be ineffective (i.e. Audio-Lingual), and aligning practices with the latest publications from the research-lacking ACTFL. This isn’t a jab at ACTFL, it’s just the reality that most of what they promote is determined by committees, not actual research.

There were fewer teachers interested in CI, too, which meant that there were fewer opinions. In a way, it was almost easier beforehand to be dismissed by most colleagues than it has been lately, falling into debate after debate over what used to be quite simple. Professional groups have also migrated to Facebook, a more active platform. Instead of ignoring messages from a single list-serve daily digest email, folks have been receiving notification after notification on their phones, and responding promptly. There doesn’t seem to be as much time as there used to be to absorb ideas, formulate thoughts, and respond accordingly. For example, while my principles about what language is have been refined since the release of Tea with BVP in October of 2015, many teachers are just now discovering that resource, some of whom have been responding on Facebook with their ideas that haven’t had much influence since the 70’s. It’s becoming difficult to communicate ideas about CI clearly.

So, there are a lot of voices now, which is great, but just not that much support, which is not great, and not as much clarity, which is really not great at all. Many ideas I observe being discussed share no guiding principles, yet teachers go back and forth as if they’re the same thing. Most ideas aren’t, or there’s a crucial difference that one or all parties don’t see. There might be a way to move forward together…

Continue reading

5.5.16 Tea with BvP Takeaways

Today on the show, Bill did not give the same definition of Forced Output from Episode 18 when he told a caller that anything more than one word responses (e.g.yes/no, either/or, fill in blank) was considered “forced” (listen to that brief definition, here). Why? He was thinking about that term in a new way, referring to what happens when you make someone speak in an activity or task, which may not have anything to do with what has been acquired (e.g. “I am teacher, you are student, do this.”). The definition of Forced Output was expanded by Karen Rowan on Mixler to include any “Output beyond the level of acquisition.” Bill’s previous definition along with Karen’s mean that although acquisition rates vary, all students can give a single word response, so it is the only thing we should expect. Anything else is a bonus.

We also got a definition for Output as “any learner production that is embedded in the communicative context/event.” Martin Lapworth noted that this immediately rules out  a lot of what’s been going on in classrooms involving certain acts of speaking and writing, which some teachers have misunderstood as Output for the sole reason that something is coming OUT of their head that other people read, see or hear. Here’s how we can categorize Bill’s take on some examples of exercises, activities, and tasks within the context of Output…

Continue reading