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Posted By Chalkbrd

If you know me, you know that I am a firm believer that comprehensible input is the key to acquiring another language.  But you also know that I've always been a bit of a rebel.  LOL

When I first started using TPRS®, I gave my students an end of the year survey where they could rate their own opinions of their skills in their new language.  The first year I used TPRS®, the method was beginning the transition from seven steps to three.  I'd participated in a summer week of a TPRS® class and observed student retells as part of the process.  They became part of my process that year as well, even though they were more of the seven step than the three step version.

The next year many on the MoreTPRS Yahoo list were discussing how they had taken the retells out of their time because the retells were output instead of input.  I decided in that second year to try doing that, replacing the retells with more input.  At the end of that year I gave the same survey to my students.

During the summer I looked over their responses, expecting to see a better result from my students' feelings about their skills because I'd been working on my TPRS® skills, but I was disappointed.  The data indicated my students felt much less confident about their language abilities, even though I'd increased the input I'd been giving them (and I knew they were actually better at everything because of it).  What was going on?

It took me a few years to understand, but it boiled down to their perception of what they could do.  While I'd increased the input and decreased the opportunities for output, from my point of view the students were much more capable of using the language.  But from their point of view, they were less capable.  Why the difference?

Think about a language like a team playing football.  As long as the team is merely scrimmaging against their own members, it's hard to know just how good they are.  Sure, the coach might see the talent they have, but until they've faced another team, the kids won't know for sure how well they play.

Output is all about that.  It's the opportunity for the kids to take what they've been learning and put it to real use.  When we give our students opportunities to use what they've been learning, they feel more confident because it's something they have accomplished on their own.  They had to make the choices of how to put the language together so they could be understood.

Of course, I believe the majority of our time in the classroom should be spent giving students comprehensible input, but adding frequent opportunities for short bursts of output will add a confidence in our students.

And, if you're looking for a great opportunity for student output, I've started a Student Creative Story Contest to give students a chance to see how their story-writing skills in the target language will match up to other students across the nation.