T.P.R.S. or…whatever? More Evidence for the Effectiveness of Comprehensible Input

I have documented TPRS kids’ success in the past (see this) but today we are in for a different kind of treat: we are going to look first at what top students can do with traditional methods (forced output, grammar practice, word lists, memorisation, etc) and then with comprehensible input.

Today, totally by accident, I found my old Spanish 2 binder from when I was a traditional methods teacher using the ¡Juntos Dos! program.  One of my old Level 2 final projects was to create a children’s book.  The kids generally used themselves as characters.   This story was written by Nuvjit S.

Nuvjit was a keen language learner in high school, and has since then acquired Japanese. She was the top student in Spanish in her year.   For this project, the kids got editing help from me, they could use dictionaries, etc. Here is Nuvjit’s children’s book. This was the best project of its kind that I got that year.  So take a look at what I was able to get done with traditional methods.  This is second year Spanish.


Now, let’s take a look at what a kid taught with only comprehensible input methods can do.

This is Neha D.’s story. She is one of the top five or six students from this year.  This was done today, in 50 minutes, with no notes or dictionary.  First draft.  No editing.  Neha is Nuvjit, ten years later, with  Spanish teaching based on what we know the brain needs to acquire language: tons of compelling comprehensible input, in aural and written form.

Neha has never seen a grammar worksheet, a verb conjugation table or an explanation of how the pretérito  differs from the imperfecto.  She has never had her work corrected, and she has never “reflected on her learning,” or fiddled with a portfolio.  She probably can’t even tell you what a verb is and she has never heard the word “conjugate.”

This is first year Spanish.


So…it’s pretty obvious which method works better…for me, and for these students.  Your mileage may vary.

Now let me also be clear here:  I was a pretty bad communicative teacher.  I didn’t get good results (well, I couldn’t get my kids to have awesome results).  There were– and are– loads of people better than me in that tradition.  So I am pretty sure that any number of people could have gotten better results.  I’m also at best a slowly-improving T.P.R.S. practitioner, and there are loads of people who get better results than me.

This however is also my post’s silver lining:  if I was a bad “communicative” teacher and I’m a marginal (but improving) T.P.R.S. practitioner, my kids are getting more out of the class with T.P.R.S.

At bottom, I don’t attribute Neha’s success to me being smart or a good teacher, or to how funny I am– err, try to be– etc.  Neha and her classmates’ success ultimately stems from T.P.R.S., Movietalk, etc, allowing us to remain comprehensibly in the target language for huuuuuge amounts of time.


    1. You will if you shelter vocab, deliver good C.I., and figure out what worked/didn’t and adjust instruction accordingly. I am *far* from really good and it’s taken me TIME and PRACTICE to get these results.

      TPRS is not easy. It takes three or so years to get the basics down. But even beginner TPRS beats the textbook and it’s waaaay more fun. Keep at it! 👍👍👍

    2. How long have you been doing TPRS/CI? Hang in there– I didn’t get results like these until my 3rd year. The keys to success (in my experience) were to very strictly limit vocab and output (less PQA, IMHO, is more) and to focus on stories (and Movietalk).

      It takes time to learn this, learn to slow down, chill out, etc etc…and remember: I am probably the dumbest guy in the room, and I was certainly a terrible Spanish teacher pre-T.P.R.S. I always say, if *I* can do it, ANYONE CAN DO IT! 🙂

      1. Ok thanks but while they are addressing during a relaxed write do you take that stuff down to see exactly what they know?

      2. They can see the Q&A sheet and the colours. But literally only 1% of what they write will be from that, and a number of them interestingly enough chose to do their own thing (and make mistakes) rather than looking at the PQA sheet.

        I have noticed that, basically, when kids are “in the moment” and writing Monitor free, outside “help” doesn’t interest them and doesn’t really work for them.

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