Student assistant

I sent an exchange student to the library with three AP students today, telling her to ask a lot of questions on a reading. Instead, she worked on their accents as they read aloud. They came back feeling that they had wasted the hour. They told me that they were hoping to read for meaning, and that they knew they couldn’t speak correctly unless they first understood and then had heard the vocabulary a bunch of times. It was really weird to hear all the TPRS phrases coming out of their mouths. Even though they sometimes don’t appreciate what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, they know the concepts.

But as the kids would say, “My bad.” I thought that since she’d watched me for a semester in  another class, she would understand when I said, “Ask a lot of questions.”


2 responses to “Student assistant

  1. The paradigm shift to comprehensible input UNDERSTANDING is profound and deep and truly complex psychologically to me.

    How does one know that one has made that shift? For most, it seems to happen in pieces. I can feel it on a gut level every time my understanding gets a little deeper and more “true”. I believe that once the BIG shift happens inside of us (not just intellectually), it becomes difficult to understand how others do not “get it”. It now seems so obvious.

    I, too, have experienced what you saw in your exchange student on a number of occasions–even with people who can rattle off tprs jargon and theory like machine guns. TPRS is totally intuitive on some levels, but runs counter intuitively to so many ideas people have about learning. This shift is truly enormous–not easy to do. I no longer make assumptions that talking tprs is the same as doing tprs.

    I am always fascinated by the personal stories behind “the shift” to input-based teaching. I can’t switch over right now to look at your “bio”, but have you written extensively about your own personal road and its nuanced curves, hills, dead ends and the like? If not, I’d really like to read it sometime. I remember reading Ben’s story. I knew, in that moment, that I should pay very close attention to what he was writing on his blog.


  2. Jody, you say it perfectly. Some activities and approaches just seem dead wrong once you’ve heard about TPRS. It is still really hard to pull myself away at times from what I did well in the past (Susie: “Good is the enemy of great”). I have often thought that I need to feel a TPRS concept in comprehensible context at least 75 times in order to get it, much the same way that my kids need to hear or read a structure 75 times to really begin to acquire it. There are simple things, like making sure that a gesture’s meaning is actually clear, and more advanced steps, like asking the right questions of the right kids in order to differentiate.

    For now I’ll say that even with that huge shift that has taken place in my brain, the continual learning and need to return to basics is always a surprise to me, while at the same time, I love the fact that I can keep learning and growing. Ben said it takes about seven years to get really good at TPRS. At the time, I was thinking that I had it down. But there are always new challenges. I think that I am capturing the road on this blog–when I look back, I find that there are some days that I have no clue. There are some kids who think I never do, and others who love my class so much that it’s a bit embarrassing. Just when I think that I have figured things out, the ground shifts, and I find that I’m in a rut or on a precipice.

    Right now I’m struggling again with some of the basics, but when I stop to listen to what my kids can do, compared with the “old days,” I’m still amazed.

    The conversation stays open. Thanks for your words.


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