A repost re hostility to tprs

On 4/10/09, Why I don’t like TPRS wrote (on a different forum):
>The Number One… and an unarguable reason why I don’t like TPRS
>is… too many kids from other schools with TPRS teachers, who I
>know in outside of school settings, telling me that they HATE
>Spanish because all the teacher does is tell these “stupid stories”
>over and over, day after day, and they don’t feel as if they have
>learned ANYTHING! They always feel as if they are just “play
>acting” at Spanish and have no idea what they are doing.

Well, I’m not sure this is really an “inarguable reason”. Let’s
imagine for a
moment that we are not teaching language. We are teaching, say,
Physics. Our
students don’t like Physics because all we ever do are these stupid
labs. Do we
cease doing labs, which we believe is the best way to have the children
ownership of the concepts of physics so that they can utilize them in
the real
world, in favor of having them read about physics and categorize their
knowledge, because they feel better (at the age of 14) because they can
what they’ve learned?

It kind of depends on what the goal of the class is, I think. If you
want kids to make use of the properties of the physical world in real
life, labs would help more. If you want kids who can perform in
classes, or go
on to do theoretical work in physics, then labeled knowledge of
equations and
the ability to manipulate them would be more important.

Well, in language terms, the first goal is proficiency in the
language, while
the second goal is Linguistics — the study of language. Metalanguage,
language. If metalanguage (labels for language) is one of the goals of
language course, ***there is nothing wrong with that***. For TPRS
though, that is usually not a goal.

Now, the analogy is even stronger in foreign language teaching,
Physics is a scientific discipline that has to be studied. There is no
mechanism even postulated for people to somehow “acquire” the idea that
force of gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared, or something like
that. It’s
quantified and labeled knowledge, not a concept. But — similar to
language —
people all over the world make USE of the principle of gravity (the
fact that it
exists and they know what it will do and what it will mean to an object
in their
real world) in all sorts of inventions, both fancy and humble, new and
without having any idea at all what the equation behind it is.

You don’t stack textbooks more than X books high because you know the
height of the pile will cause instability because….um, I can’t
remember why (there’s a teacher in the faculty room who could explain
and would make it really interesting, but I can’t). I don’t know the
math (metalanguage) behind it, but I know how to stack books
(language) and avoid the whole thing crashing down
(misunderstandings/failure to communicate).

TPRS kids often cannot label “what” they have learned, because they
learning the language, not the metalanguage. They are acquiring the
language, all at once, although progress on acquiring certain features
naturally going to be faster than other features (see recent
discussions on
“late-acquired” features of language and the order of acquisition).
teachers believe that it is a better use of class time to expose the
kids to a
meaningful use of the preterite vs imperfect than to label those two
since there is virtually never a point in life outside school classes
where that
is needed.

(It would be interesting to know how many native Spanish speakers
would label
the two tenses if they were, say, helping an American student with a
piece of
writing, or something. Would they say “you need to use the Ud. form of
preterite here insead of the imperfect” or would they say “you need to
use ’fue’
instead of ’iba’ here”? This is a serious question in my view because I
trying to anticipate how these kids will use the language in the 21st
learning [and living] environment, where actual use is stressed.)

I think that TPRS teachers could improve in terms of helping kids and
parents and admins to understand that kids ARE learning when they are
“just doing stories”. They could certainly help kids to label their
learning, if that makes the kids feel better about everything. Kids
are used
to a certain model of school, and when some teacher teaches outside
that box,
the kids feel uncomfortable. That’s normal. But it does not mean that a
who has decided upon a teaching methodology based on her understanding
of the
latest research should abandon those practices because of what a 14
year old
thinks is happening or not happening in class. If that were the case,
would be no reason to read research, to take classes in methodology, or
to share
with colleagues. We would only do that which makes the kids (or some of
them —
the ones who succeed in a traditional class) feel that they can label
with the traditional 20th century model of learning. The other kids
would just
remain silent and feel that they “can’t acquire a language”. How many
do you hear from your “underachievers” in a traditional class saying
how glad
they are to know they failed a test on the preterite versus imperfect
distinction, rather than just failing another test?

>MY students can TELL you what they have learned… and the ones who
>have done as I’ve told them, done the work and studied for tests,
>DO know what they are doing.

Do you really believe the others haven’t tried to do the work and
study for
the tests? Truly? Or are they not being reached with what’s going on in

My goal with my kids would be more like: “SOME of my students can tell
you what they’ve learned, but ALL of them can use it with ease.”

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