I.F.L.T. is the brainchild of a bunch of people: Stephen Krashen, Jason Fritze, Karen Rowan, Carol Gaab (and many others directly and indirectly), and is one of the best pro-D opportunities for languages teachers in the world.
Today’s question: should I go to I.F.L.T.?
To answer, I’ll describe my experiences in 2014.
I.F.L.T. has three “threads”: language labs, where real TPRSers teach real kids real lessons, workshops presented by master teachers such as Laurie Clarq and Martina Bex, and language classes where you can learn some Spanish, French, Mandarin or whatever. 2014 also had Ben Slavic’s “war room,” which was peer-to-peer coaching in C.I. techniques. And of course there was chance to talk to a very diverse crew of awesome teachers from all over. Oh and random stuff like the Turkish Army Smoking Delegation.
The workshops were uniformly excellent. I saw Martina Bex, Carol Gaab, Laurie Clarq and a few others whose names I can’t remember. The many workshops last 75 minutes and are quite technique-specific (e.g. you will Movietalk only in the Movietalk workshop). An experienced C.I. teacher can get a “tune up” with a technique, and newbies can get specific strategies to try.
One of the best things about the workshops was their applicability to non-C.I. teachers. The jump into T.P.RS. is a huuuge one and seems forbidding to people who are smarter and saner than I am ;-), and functional baby steps before going whole-hog C.I. are a good way to help people improve their practice. I met a fair number of teachers who said “I love T.P.R.S., but it scares me,” and for them, the technique-specific workshops were a godsend.
The language labs were even better than the workshops and in my view the conference highlights. I saw two people: a Mandarin teacher and Joe Dziedzic doing Level 2 Spanish. I managed to understand what was going on in the Mandarin class, and Dziedzic was impressive not only for his hilarious (unsheltered grammar) story but for his epic tatoos and surealistically giant water bottle. While watching the language labs, observers can’t say anything, and when the lesson is over and the kids gone, observers question the teachers.
My favorite Q&A of all time happened after one of these language labs:
Observer: “This is really impressive. The kids are really good at ____. What do you assign for homework?”
Teacher: “I am an extremely lazy teacher, and I have found that both my students and I are much better off with as little homework as possible. Mainly I try to have them do a bit of reading a few times a week.”
This one line nailed it for me: this teacher got amazing results without making their kids overloaded with work…leaving them to actually enjoy acquiring the language, rather than seeing it as just a college-entrance burden. This echoes an old story about how an early TPRS adopter said they developed the method to improve not just student outcomes but the teacher’s golf game.
The language classes put teachers in the students’ seats with T.P.R.S.-based lessons. I attended a Mandarin demo and was pleased to see how quickly I was able to understand a basic story (and read five or six Chinese characters). This was also a pretty good reminder that teachers really need to s.l.o.w. down to keep things comprehensible.
Ben Slavic’s “war room” was great, and I managed to chat with people from all over, including Diana Noonan (D.P.S. languages co-ordinator, who has managed to get a whole District onto C.I.!), a zillion interesting random teachers, and the Turkish Delegation, a crew of Turkish soldiers who are learning how to use T.P.R.S. for officer language training (English is what they have to learn). I also also got a glimpse of the legendary Krashen, an animal known for both its prodigious coffee consumption and its encyclopaedic grasp of S.L.A. research.😉
I also hit five Irish sessions in Denver, and this year in Chattanooga TN, should be awesome for bluegrass (and Irish). Bring yer sticks, kids! Also they have a killer beer scene there plus HISTORY!
Anyway, I.F.L.T. was fun and productive. If you can’t make it to Tennessee, N.T.P.R.S. (Blaine Ray’s conference) is the week prior in Reno NV, and though I havn’t been, it also looks very good and has many of the same presenters.
(and no, I do not get any reimbursement for recommending IFLT or NTPRS)