I am glad to see that Stephen Krashen has reconsidered the wording which previously stated that TPRS becomes AL-M when the input is targeted.

However, removing the inflammatory language hasn’t changed the basic idea being put forth. Krashen says he is simply describing two types of input (targeted, as in coming from a curriculum, and untargeted, as in arising naturally from interaction with students), but there are significant side comments included that indicate that the “right” kind of input, in his opinion, seems to be “untargeted”. TPRS/CI teachers using “targeted” input are dismissed as grammar-pattern pounding, uncreative types who are simply in there to repeat things over and over hoping for immediate acquired output.

My personal opinion is that either type of input is just dandy, as long as it’s comprehensible and there’s enough of it. However, we teach in the real world. The vast majority of teachers are hired as public school teachers to implement a curriculum. That curriculum document is the set of language our students are to have worked with by the end of the year. As TPRS teachers, we do not subscribe to the concept of “Today is September 24, so they ‘know’ the preterite now”. TPRS in practice has evolved far away from the workshop ideal of 30-minutes-and-they-have-the-language.  Demos work that way. Classes don’t.

But in a very damaging way, since Krashen is viewed as such an impeccable source, some of the arguments put forth to undermine targeted input are simply ill-founded. There are mischaracterizations of TPRS/CI being made to make a point, and all the argument flows from these basic misunderstandings of what TPRS/CI is really about in the classroom.

From Krashen’s description of targeted input:
“Targeting 1 (T1):
3.     The source of the rules to be targeted is external, from a syllabus made by others.  Our job is to find a story or interesting activity that will include lots of comprehensibe/interesting repetitions of these items. (This is why we get questions such as “do you know a story which I can use for teaching the conditional?”). “


That is not “our job” as TPRS teachers. With all due respect to a fine theoretician, that is not at all what a reasonably-skilled classroom teacher using TPRS does, and anyone who knows TPRS from inside a classroom will be well aware of that. If a teacher believes that is “the job” as a TPRS teacher, that teacher has not been adequately trained in TPRS, and what the teacher is doing is not really TPRS.
This is where Krashen’s description becomes over-simplified and extreme. Sure, there are un(der)trained teachers trying to use TPRS or CI, who will think: I will try to “find a story” because I think it’s about “telling stories” or I can’t do story-asking in the first place, only easier variants that come with a pre-made story (soooo popular these days since they are quicker to implement and require less training and practice), and — here’s the crux of the matter — I have never been taught how to reliably elicit a story from students. There are steps that can easily be used to teach teachers how to do this and we do it quite successfully all the time. But there is no logical relationship between pre-planned language input and the kind of teaching described here. It doesn’t make sense to condemn the input type for the fault of incomplete training.

“Thus, Targeting 1 is a way of “contextualizing grammar,” defined here as beginning with a target grammar rule and finding a context that will help make it comprehensible.”

No, “targeting 1” is a way of teaching the language one is contracted to teach, because the community (school board, etc.) has decided that is the language it wants the students to work with at that particular level or class.

“Targeting 1” is a way of teaching the language that will enable students to adequately take on some other task, such as reading a particular book in a language where there are no cognates and the script is not phonetic. The concept of untargeted input soon breaks down when you deal with a language that does not have dozens of substantial pieces of level-appropriate writing available which can be read by students without any sort of problem because “hearing the language is seeing it”.

Equating “targeted input” with “teaching grammar rules” is another leap that is not well-founded in the practice of TPRS/CI by trained teachers. A teacher who knows what s/he is doing is hardly going to start the day by saying “Today I make the imperfect tense comprehensible”. It seems to me that these are all very extreme examples taken from teachers who really do not understand what CI is in the first place — which again points out insufficient training, not a flaw inherent in targeted input. The examination should be placed on trainers and training, and on the willingness of teachers to invest the time required to become competent. There’s no sense in saying root canal is worthless if you’re looking at my attempts at doing it at home instead of looking at the results obtained by someone with training. Even though I know how to brush and floss.

The fact that people do not seem to like is that teaching with TPRS/CI requires effort to master. It requires skills. Skills require practice. This is not something where a teacher can go to a workshop on Saturday and pop into the classroom on Monday and do TPRS/CI full-blown and fantastic.

It’s interesting to me that in a day when “grit” is the catchphrase for our students, we are not calling teachers out when they malign the method for a lack of training and practice. If we control for the effect of teacher competence in TPRS/CI, the differences between targeting types will most likely disappear, just as controlling for poverty in the US eliminates differences in achievement.