Everything else is TPRS-minus, folks. Sorry, but it is.

Every other sort of activity you can come up with is TPRS minus something. And most of them have been done to death back in the days before CI teaching. Just saying you are using fewer words when doing them doesn’t make them as effective as, well, doing good CI-based teaching. CPR. Comprehended, personalized, repetitive. You can “get away” with varying degrees of this, depending on what and what level you’re teaching. Upper-level Spanish? Have a ball. You’ve got plenty of leeway with a phonetic alphabet and 40% cognates and a mass of already-acquired language. Lower-level Chinese? No previous language, no cognates, no phonetic alphabet? Yeah, let me know how that works out for you. It’s not going to be pretty.

Minus the comprehended nature of high-quality input (Here, listen to this cool story but I’m not going to “break your flow” by checking to see if you understand or not. Here, work with this authres even though you don’t know that language yet. Here, play this game and I’ll assume you “get it” if you make the right motions at the right time) input is just varying percentages of noise.

Minus personalization that comes from the students (here, listen to this cool story, here, let’s work with this neat song, here, let’s play this nice game, hey, why don’t you care about this it’s sooooo cool!!) content is imposed from outside.

Minus the repetition that makes acquisition really take off at the beginning levels (here, listen to this but I’m not going to circle, here, I’m going to do a MovieTalk but I’m not going to circle because people say that’s just deadly boring but if the kids just see a cool video they’ll automatically be totally engaged in the language and not just the animation, here, I don’t want to plan so we’re just going to talk and I’m not going to worry about you encountering these words and phrases in unpredictable comprehended contexts because it’ll just happen somehow) kids are left struggling to hold on to new language. You go take a totally new language and see how well you get all the language only hearing it once.

Those things are fine to use. But building one’s teaching around a series of activities that don’t provide CPR is like going back to communicative teaching, back when we used to stand around making pairwork activities with whiteout and a photocopier. There was something missing, but we didn’t know what. Now we do know what — but more and more people are ignoring what that is and going back to scarily similar “activities” thinly disguised as CI.

“What’s a good song to teach numbers?” “What’s a good game to teach the preterite?” These are terrifying questions on a CI-oriented group. “What’s a good anything to teach anything specific?” is just not a question we should be asking anymore.

It’s not that “activities” (songs, games, chants, activities, whatever) don’t provide CI. They can. But especially in the hands of teachers new to CI — that’s a big “can”. And meanwhile, we know that doing a PictureTalk, MovieTalk, PQA or asking a story — doing TPRS, in other words — does provide all the elements that make the CI comprehended AND personalized AND repetitive, setting the teacher up for success, because the element of guesswork is removed.

Supplement with activities. But plan your teaching around TPRS — MovieTalk, PictureTalk, PQA or story-asking. Any flavor you like. But circled. Circled. Comprehended. Personalized. Repeated.

Comprehended. Personalized. Repetitive. It’s why TPRS works for classroom teaching.