TPRS: Review should be redundant

OK, this is intended to be very, very gentle, but after seeing a number of conventionally excellent — and yet very “not really highest possible quality input based” — review suggestions out there of late:

The whole point behind TPRS is that review is redundant. We teach to mastery the first time around. I think this “old-time” tenet of TPRS has been getting lost a bit lately. There is so much emphasis on “keeping it fresh” and “keeping students interested” that I think a lot of teachers are jumping to new content in an effort to do that, instead of working the old content in different ways until it’s really firm.
How many of us use a reading more than once with the kids? Use different modalities of reading to get that repetition in reading? Do you know multiple different ways to have kids read a text? How many retell stories after the first day the story was created? How many have a plan to spiral vocabulary throughout the year? How high frequency is the language you are choosing, really? High frequency enough that it’s almost unnecessary to plan for repetition?
Really, in my view, TPRS students should be rolling their eyes and complaining about having to review a vocabulary list, saying that “we know all of these already”.
Our challenge as TPRS teachers — and part of the reason why I am so supportive of planned input rather than free-range — is that we provide **enough** repetitions for the required content of our class, however many that number happens to be for our particular students. That doesn’t mean we do 675 repetitions of a phrase in the first class and then never utter it again until the final exam and trust that it was acquired. Rather, we do 100 reps the first class, get in another 30 reps through a reading, another 50 through discussing the reading, and then constantly recycle that language in coming classes.
This is why people use (well-designed) TPRS textbooks — they recycle or “spiral” that language without the classroom teacher having to think about it.
Being at a point where review IS required while doing TPRS doesn’t mean one is a horrible teacher. It just means, in my view, that it might be a good thing to put more focus on repetition, both within-sessions and across-sessions. There are a lot of separate skills in TPRS, and curriculum design is not generally covered in workshops. Implementation, yes, but not design, and that’s what this has to do with, to a great degree.
Across-session repetition is really important, and helps not only because it’s repetition across time, but more so (IMO) because what could be more unexpected context than hearing something you had no idea at all was going to be said, since it “has nothing to do” with today’s lesson (but yet it has everything to do with it, since we deliberately choose such high-frequency vocabulary and structures).
It’s possible that having kids “review” in pairs or groups might be a way to give a nod to an admin who insists on seeing pairwork, without harming input — assuming that the review truly is unnecessary in the first place, so that the kids are giving each other input of reasonable quality. There’s always some use for things that are not properly part of TPRS practice (in a very rigorous sense) because we do not teach in a perfect TPRS-friendly world. But if that review is really needed — it was needed two months back, when those items were originally introduced, and over all the intervening time. Like everything else in TPRS, “review” is mixed into the blend in such fine pieces as to be invisible, like “differentiation” and “grammar instruction” and “interpersonal and presentational and interpretive language” and so on. They’re all there. It just looks a lot different from a non-TPRS classroom.
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