Jargon often used by Comprehensible Input Teachers

Acquisition: Everything that the brain has registered subconsciously and a speaker can produce immediately without reflection. A student using what he has acquired speaks fluently. See learning.

Barometers: Students that the teacher watches closely in order to pace the lesson so that they are following. They are students who have difficulties but are willing and make an effort as long as they can understand. When the teacher sees that they are not understanding she backtracks so that the entire class can follow.

Bell ringer: An activity that students begin working on as soon as they enter the room. The idea is used by many teachers, but is particularly popular with TPRS teachers.

BEP: Bizarre, Exaggerated and Personal. The teacher looks for details to insert in the story that are bizarre, exaggerated and personal in order to help students remember the story.

Circling: Starting with one statement containing the target structure, the teacher will ask as many questions as possible about the statement, beginning with yes-no questions, continuing with either-or questions and then who, where, why, etc. As she asks the questions and students respond, they are constantly hearing the target structure.

Comprehensible Input: Comprehensible input means the student is able to understand the language that he is presented with, both written and oral. It is the teacher’s responsibility to use comprehensible input at all times.

Comprehension checks: Teachers need to verify comprehension frequently.  There are various ways of doing this, but one of the simplest and most effective is to ask a student to translate what was just said. If he can’t, it means the teacher was not 100% comprehensible.

Embedded Readings: Laurie Clarq and Michele Whaley developed a manner of producing written texts that are progressively more difficult, while containing the same core structures. Depending on how complex the final version is, there may be three or four readings. Each reading includes the previous reading with a few more details and slightly more complex sentences. It is a way to scaffold texts and works very well with students who discover that they can read a long and rather complex text easily if they have worked through the earlier versions.

Fluency writing: Most teachers know that students cannot become fluent if they are corrected every time they open their mouth. In the same manner, they cannot become fluent writers if everything they write is heavily corrected with a red pen. Fluency writing existed before TPRS but has been adopted by the movement.  Students are asked to write for five or ten minutes and told to stop as soon as the time is up. They are judged by quantity, so they are encouraged to be spontaneous and not to read over or correct mistakes. Teachers use the texts to decide which structures need work on and which have been acquired.

FVR: Free Voluntary Reading. Stephen Krashen considers this the best aid to acquisition there is and there are studies that show remarkable progress in the students who practice it.

Homerun story: A successful story that has the whole class engaged and happy, the kind of story that students will repeat outside of class.

jGR: “jenn’s Great Rubric” allows teachers to give a grade to students for their interactive communication in class. It describes five types of behavior from the most positive to the least helpful and can be used as an auto-evaluation tool. It was developed on Ben Slavic’s Professional Learning Community.

Learning: A conscious, rigorous effort to commit to memory vocabulary and grammatical rules. A student using what he has learned speaks slowly and hesitantly and invariably makes many mistakes. See Acquisition.

Monitor: The little voice in our heads that corrects grammatical mistakes. The monitor is useful for editing written work, but is nothing but a nuisance when we are trying to carry on a conversation.

NTPRS: The National TPRS Conference. It’s usually held in July and lasts five days. In fluency fast classes in Mandarin, French, German, Yiddish, Swedish, etc. teachers can experience the method as students, then participate in a wide variety of workshops on different aspects and specialties. In recent years coaching for experienced teachers has become a big attraction.

Out-of-bounds: Any vocabulary which has not been taught and which is not transparent to the student is out of bounds. If the teacher needs to use out of bounds vocabulary she can put it in bounds by writing it on the board with a translation and pointing to it each time she uses it.

Parking: Instead of continuing the action of the story, the teacher stays at one point of the story and asks for more and more details, which allows for many more repetitions of the structure. Example – The boy goes to New York. How? By helicopter. What color? Big or little? Fast or slow? New or old? Is the boy tall or short? What is he wearing? What color is his hair? His eyes? Is he handsome? So we end up with “The tall blond, blue-eyed boy who is wearing green jeans and a yellow sweatshirt goes to New York in a big new blue helicopter that flies very slowly.” With at least two repetitions of “goes to” with each added detail.

Pop-up grammar: TPRS avoids the technical jargon of grammar, so we do not talk about adverbs and relative clauses and the past perfect. What we do is draw attention to the different forms and ask the students how the meaning is affected.  “What’s the difference between ‘he wants’ and ‘he wanted’?” These interventions are frequent but very brief. They should never last more than a few seconds. So they are called “pop-up grammar.”

PQA: Personalized Questions and Answers. The teacher questions the students about their interests, their lives and activities, using the target structures of that day’s lesson. Students are encouraged to invent outrageous answers.

SSR: Silent Sustained Reading. A time set aside in the class in which everyone reads whatever they choose to read. There is no talking during this time and the teacher also reads.

Teach to the eyes: The students’ eyes are your best comprehension check. You should always be looking in their eyes to see if they are following or not.

Three locations: The three locations give structure to the story and permit more repetitions. A character has a problem in location one; attempting to solve the problem, he goes to location two. There he fails and goes to location three where he usually is able to solve the problem.

TPR: Total Physical Response. A method of using comprehensible input to teach a language based on commands given to the students who did not speak but showed they understood by executing the commands. Berta Cook has made a fine art of the method and frequently presents at TPRS workshops.

TPRS : TPR + Storytelling > Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling

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