Lance Albury just left a comment on my post, “Can’t Read Greek—Unsurprised but Angry.” I must say that I get a Highlander kind of feeling whenever I cross paths with another Lance—which is quite rare—so I’m not surprised that Lance and I hold opposing views. We have different definitions and assumptions about the nature of language, language teaching, and education, more generally. This post highlights those differences.
Not meaning to be insulting, but I believe your position on reading ancient Greek is simply naive.
Lance is not off to a great start. He thinks that I have a lack of experience, or poor judgment, which means any response I give is likely to be dismissed. This is the reality of supporting your practices when someone already believes you have no idea what you’re talking about—one of the greatest obstacles against mainstream acknowledgement of CI.
Spring semester Tea with BVP starts up again this week, but before the winter break, Bill VanPatten dropped what that weird keynote speaker at ACTFL 2016 would call “mind grenades,” and he dropped quite a few. If there’s one episode to listen to, it’s Episode 43. Among others, here’s one gem that sticks out, and sets up this week’s episode:
“In fact, nothing in a textbook is psychologically real” (click here for a psychedelic treatment of the audio)
- “The problem we have is textbook materials…if you look at them closely they’re probably not input-oriented, or meaning-based…here at MSU, for example, all of our homework is input-based (e.g. sentence-level).”
- “I think we need to do away with seat time requirements, and we need to do away with grades.”
- “As a profession, we need to start making the argument that language is not like other subject matter. We gotta stop treating it like that.”
- “One of the questions [aspiring language teachers] asked was ‘how can we study so we can do better on our state proficiency exam?…what tenses should we be studying so I can pass this?’ and I said ‘well you CAN’T study for a proficiency test’…you’re a language teacher, what have you been learning about language and language acquisition that you don’t know the answer to that question yourself?!”
- “Output is a byproduct of acquisition, it’s not really necessary for acquisition…there are some people who claim it is, but there’s absolutely no research that shows that it is!”
- “There was work that came out in the 70’s showing that actually your knowledge of grammar emerges from interactions with people…it’s about participating in conversations that you gain accuracy in knowledge about a language.”
- “Any of us can open a textbook, open a page, and memorize a page and it winds up in our conscious knowledge, but what actually is in your head is something quite different…the fact that you can conjugate a verb doesn’t mean that’s what you access later on.”
- “That’s the problem we have in SLA—there are facts, but people just don’t want to believe them.”
- “Talking doesn’t make you learn anything…you do not have to talk in order to learn language, language will get in your head by just listening and reading and watching and seeing.”
- “Getting input into your classroom is not my idea of SLA—that’s just SLA. input is necessary, so the consequences is that we need constant exposure to input for our student.”
- “The people who were videotaped interacting improved, but then another group that just watched the videotape (and weren’t students themselves) improved just by watching the interaction…and this wasn’t grammar class, just interaction…the group was listening in on other people’s conversations and acquiring some language at the same time.”
- “If your classroom is interesting, I could be talking to Angelika but if Walter is listening (because we’re doing something interesting), he’s gonna acquire language.”
- “Sometimes slipping an English word is the fastest way to get that meaning across…if your focus is on communication and you spend all this time going around and around and around and people still don’t know what they hell you’re talking about, you could’ve had 10 more min. of Comprehensible Input and interaction because all you needed was one word.”
Teachers who use this term mean well, but at the theoretical level it’s absurd.
The reason for a “Hybrid CI/Textbook” program is that teachers aren’t yet comfortable doing something radically different, or have external constraints that prevent them from having a “full/pure CI” program. In both cases, they are tethered to the textbook in some way.
The latest Tea with BVP episode was “Teaching Without Textbooks.” Whether you’ve already ditched the textbook, or still work alongside one, parallel stories are important. Parallel stories include the same language found in a narrative, but the details (maybe plot) change. This year, I’ll be using a mix of parallel stories that compliment a textbook’s narrative, and co-created stories via TPRS.
For years I used TPRS story scripts to ask a story and then type up and read the exact story as a class. I’m now sold on parallel readings that include all the language found in the class story during acting, but now in a new context with details unknown to the students. Following Michele Whaley’s current practices on Embedded Readings, each of our stories will have at least three versions—this builds interest along the way by withholding information (vs. knowing exactly how the class story ends).
There will be more on how I adapt a textbook’s narrative later, but for now, here’s a link to our Latin 1 parallel stories (updated throughout the year in this single document).