Acquisition vs. Learning

I Want My Students to Produce More & Better Output!

We all want more and better output from our students, but how does that happen? The iceberg is students' total acquisition. The part above the water line is what they can say and write–the messages they can produce. The bigger part under water is what students can comprehend by listening and reading–the messages they can understand. If the iceberg is a reasonable analogy for language acquisition, there is only one reliable way to do that: make the whole iceberg bigger. The top of the iceberg increases when the bottom gets bigger. The more students understand, the more they will be [...]

Comprehension Precedes Production

Everybody gets tired this time of the school year, but take heart, my friends: Your students understand more than they can produce. A lot more. Susan Gross always used to say, "Comprehension precedes production--by a mile." Focus on measuring comprehension over output. Evidence that they can understand much more than they can say or write will encourage both you and your students.

By |2020-02-26T11:03:14-07:00February 26th, 2020|Categories: Acquisition vs. Learning, Forced Output, Hope|Tags: |1 Comment

Spanish Teacher Accused of Appropriating Math Teacher Culture

February 24, 2020 SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Spanish teacher Teo Retica Mente has been accused of using non-communicative teaching methods, a serious allegation. But even more serious is the allegation that by so doing, he has appropriated math teacher culture. Mente habitually teaches using formulas and long explanations in English with no real communication in the target language. Since discovering the pilfering 0f their methods, "Señor Mente” has become a target in the math education community. “Pure theory with no application to the outside world is our thing!" said one offended algebra teacher. "Stop appropriating math culture!" "Pi!  Pi! Pi r [...]


What is the role of explicit grammatical knowledge in second language acquisition? "Input cannot be equated with the staple of much traditional language teaching: explanation about grammar, presentation of vocabulary lists, practice, fill-in-the-blanks, and so on. For mental representation to develop, learners have to hear and see language as it is used to express meaning. There are no shortcuts; representation cannot be taught in the traditional sense of teaching." —Bill VanPatten, PhD, in ACTFL's The Language Educator, Oct/Nov 2014 "Conscious learning has an extremely limited function in adult second language performance, it can only be used as a monitor, or editor." [...]


In September I was a guest lecturer in Nyssa Knarvik’s Teaching Methodology for Foreign Language Instruction graduate course at Colorado State University. I talked about Krashen’s hypotheses and gave a demo of a TPRS-style story. I have been invited back in November. Here are some questions the students have about TPRS/CI. These are good questions by a sharp group of graduate students, all of whom are currently teaching. I have some answers in mind, but I am interested in finding out what members of the group are thinking. Please share what you would add or alter in the responses below. [...]