I am so immersed in the world of comprehensible input that it shocks me when folks do not get it at all. The gap between traditional teaching and TPRS, between learning and acquisition is so great that it seems like the chasm cannot be bridged.
I was observed by my principal recently. He liked the lesson and saw how the students were engaged, but he described my main method as “lecture”. To put the best spin on this, I have to point out that he has a form with only a few check-off boxes and since I was standing and speaking most of the time in class, the closest description was “lecture” in the little boxes on his form. Lecturing in my mind conjures up pictures of a professor hiding behind a podium and reading notes to a class as the students passively copy down notes. OK, so I was speaking, but was I the only one that was contributing to the lesson? Were the students merely passive recipients of information?
One way of demonstrating the difference between lecturing and what we do in a typical TPRS class is to count how many students from each class were involved in the story. Well in one particular class there was Selena, Brody, Shaylyn, Victor, The kid who named the horse Victor (who was just tickled), and the kid who came up with Best Buy as the first location (who knew he was brilliant!), that’s six. Then there was the kid that wrote the quiz, and the two kids that counted the new grammatical structures, that’s nine. The two barometer students that I was checking constantly, that’s 11. There was also the bright girl that asked about adjective placement and agreement and later about the verb changes she was noticing to whom I gave a couple of short grammatical explanations. And there was the energetic girl that kept yelling “¿Por qué? (Why?) whenever there was a detail that needed more explaining. She kept us laughing and asking questions and talking even more.
That’s 13 students of varying ability levels and with varying gifts that all contributed to the story (differentiation!); over half of the class with a crucial part of the lesson. 13 students for whom paying attention was not a problem at all. And the rest were obviously paying attention because almost everybody got an “A” on the follow up quiz. Most answered with complete sentences even though I said a short answer or one or two words would do.
So this lesson directly involved 13 students and all of the rest were engaged and responding, the content and direction of the story was guided by enthusiastic student interest, I asked scores of questions in the TL the entire hour and students answered chorally and individually, nearly every student got 90% or more on a follow up reading and quiz, and then my principal described the method as “lecture” during his observation. I’m still working on training him. Sigh.
He came in too late or I would have given him this checklist for observing: http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Checklist-for-Observing-a-FL-Classroom.pdf .
In our follow up conversation, he changed the “lecture” box and wrote in “other”.