breadOn a language teachers’ discussion list, a comment was recently made that  “the idea of targeted structures in inconsistent with what we know about language is acquired.It also makes in hard to make input interesting”.

I think it could be. But only assuming that the input CAN otherwise be natural TL, unfettered by any need to “hit” particular structures or vocabulary. Those limitations are hateful to free range CI teachers, and many can’t imagine why anyone would bow to such chains. The free-range teachers offer many great ideas, but the chained teacher has to modify the majority, and starts thinking that she is “doing TPRS wrong” because of having to follow a curriculum.

You really need to be inside a district that has a curriculum that must be honored to realize what that means to a teacher. I am beginning to feel that the divide (not a deliberate or dismissive one, but a conscious one anyway) between teachers who can be “free” and those who are held accountable for discrete items and/or structures on a curriculum (and sometimes even, God forbid, a pacing guide) is the biggest factor impacting the way we prepare new TPRS teachers and give advice on how to do things. Or at least it should be. That, and the amount of preps.

Every teacher tends to assume that if s/he is free, everyone is free, and the opposite is also true. But even though that’s not the case, the strategies, techniques and realities that apply to the two groups are very different.

You **cannot** just “share the beautiful language” with your kids if you aren’t in a Free situation. You **must** incorporate the structures and vocabulary items that are dictated — sometimes by someone else. But I really feel strongly that it is not really that difficult to make language compelling even if its structural content has to be directed!

When I read material by the real advocates of the “Free” direction for TPRS/CI, it seems like the assumption is being made that any direction is going to absolutely kill any spark of interest that might come up. I’ve never found that to be the case. “Free” also assumes that everyone in the organization is on board with “free”, and while there are more and more unitary departments that are CI through-and-through with administration support, there are far more that are shyly, partly CI, with varying levels of support and buy-in from others. You can say that’s wrong, or not the best for the kids, but that hasn’t seemed to stop anything else in education lately, so good luck. 🙁 Most of the teachers I talk to at workshops are worried about articulation with “the next teacher” (or even with the next school, which takes in their students).

Proponents of untargeted input also assume that everyone has the “gift of gab” and can make untargeted conversation interesting. This isn’t the case universally. For many people, it is preferable to have some sort of target, so that the skills of TPRS can function to dress the skeleton of structure in details and ideas from students. The rules of TPRS also function to level the playing field for participants, rather than having some struggle to participate in natural conversation in the TL. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid in the first place?

“Free” might be the optimum situation, but for many people it is just not an option. And I would direct a teacher in a vastly different way, and emphasize different skills, depending on whether the immediate placement was going to be “free” or not. The caged teachers need to know how to make CI work within the confines that have been set for them — and IMO it can work just as well as it does for the free-range students. Compelling comes from the ideas, not from the structure included, though my private suspicion is that moderately interesting does quite nicely.