Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Hybrid CI/Textbook Approach, Part 1

The following is the first in a series based on my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook".

When one starts to embrace CI/TPRS, immediately one begins to think about casting aside the textbook. That was my first inclination when I began to implement TPRS in 2007, and for the first six weeks, I was moving along pretty strongly...and then I suddenly realized that I had no idea where I was going. I had no map, and I did not possess a strong enough foundation of CI/TPRS to head out on my own. As a result, I ended up going back to the textbook and felt like a CI/TPRS failure.

So is the textbook in and of itself bad? It is a resource indeed BUT..
  • Textbooks are not written with Comprehensible Input language acquisition in mind. If they were, textbooks would focus on higher frequency vocabulary and unsheltered grammar; and they would scaffold like crazy with tons of repetitions. Instead, we find the opposite in textbooks: intensive vocabulary with limited grammar. 
  • Textbooks assume that language learning is linear in nature. Most textbooks assume that students will master a language structure in a chapter. The reality is that language acquisition does not occur in a linear fashion but rather in a spiral: one goes up the spiral a bit when being introduced a new target structure/vocabulary and then one goes back down, and then one goes up again a little higher, and then spirals back down again. It is actually in the goings up and down of that spiral where acquisition of previous structures/vocabulary occurs through repetition. And for the record, I am quoting ACTFL language in that description.
So then why do we cling to the textbook?
  • It is what we know. For many of us, we have "perfected" lesson plans for the textbook after having used it for years. We have worksheets/packets set up for each chapter, and we know how to teach each concept. We ourselves most likely learned from a textbook, so we "understand" how it works.
  • It provides us a map (albeit faulty) of where to go with structures, topics, vocabulary, etc. Even though we are language teachers, creating a "map" on our own is difficult.
  • It is safe and easy. The textbook has everything lined up for us teachers, in terms of vocabulary lists, workbook exercises, classroom work, online resources, etc. All we have to do is to follow the teacher's manual. 
  • It saves prep time. Many language teachers have 2-3 preps (even more!), so using the textbook is a godsend, since it saves preparation time for teachers.
  • We are “required” to use it. Even if one wanted to leave behind the textbook, in many districts, teachers must use the textbook.
  • We are bound by a pacing calendar or Instructional team. Depending on one's district, there may be a policy requiring that all students be on the same page at the same time.
  • We do not have enough of a foundation of CI/TPRS to leave the textbook behind. This was exactly the situation in which I was in 2007.
The question to ask yourself then is "Is the textbook what is best for your students? or is it what is best for you as the teacher?" 

So if you need/want to use the textbook (for various reasons), is there a way you can implement a CI/TPRS approach with it? The answer is YES, That will be my next posting...

1 comment:

  1. This is perfect. Just what I need! As soon as I found out about CI/TPRS I chucked the textbook aside thinking I was done with it. Everything was fine for a few weeks, but then I found myself just as you described... with no idea where I was going, and I went back to textbook feeling like CI/TPRS failure! I can't wait for your next post so I can start dusting myself off and get back up!