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Total Physical Response

Background

 

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action; it attempts to teach lan­guage through physical (motor) activity. Developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University, California, it draws on several traditions, including developmental psychology, learning the­ory, and humanistic pedagogy, as well as on language teaching proce­dures proposed by Harold and Dorothy Palmer in 1925. Let us briefly consider these precedents to Total Physical Response.

Total Physical Response is linked to the "trace theory" of memory in psychology (e.g., Katona 1940), which holds that the more often or the more intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory association will be and the more likely it will be recalled. Retracing can be done verbally (e.g., by rote repetition) and/or in association with motor activity. Combined tracing activities, such as verbal rehearsal accompanied by motor activity, hence increase the probability of suc­cessful recall.

In a developmental sense, Asher sees successful adult second language learning as a parallel process to child first language acquisition. He claims that speech directed to young children consists primarily of commands, which children respond to physically before they begin to produce verbal responses. Asher feels adults should recapitulate the processes by which children acquire their mother tongue.

Asher shares with the school of humanistic psychology a concern for the role of affective (emotional) factors in language learning. A method that is undemanding in terms of linguistic production and that involves gamelike movements reduces learner stress, he believes, and creates a positive mood in the learner, which facilitates learning.

Asher's emphasis on developing comprehension skills before the learner is taught to speak links him to a movement in foreign language teaching sometimes referred to as the Comprehension Approach (Winitz 1981). This refers to several different comprehension-based language teaching proposals, which share the belief that (a) comprehension abilities precede productive skills in learning a language; (b) the teaching of speaking should be delayed until comprehension skills are established; (c) skills

acquired through listening transfer to other skills; (d) teaching should emphasize meaning rather than form; and (e) teaching should minimize learner stress.

The emphasis on comprehension and the use of physical actions to teach a foreign language at an introductory level has a long tradition in language teaching. We saw in Chapter 1 that in the nineteenth century Gouin had advocated a situationally based teaching strategy in which a chain of action verbs served as the basis for introducing and practicing new language items. Palmer experimented with an action-based teaching strategy in his book English Through Actions (first published in Tokyo in 1925 and ultimately reissued as Palmer and Palmer in 1959), which claimed that "no method of teaching foreign speech is likely to be eco­nomical or successful which does not include in the first period a very considerable proportion of that type of classroom work which consists of the carrying out by the pupil of orders issued by the teacher" (Palmer and Palmer 1959: 39).



Approach

Theory of language

Asher does not directly discuss the nature of language or how languages are organized. However, the labeling and ordering of TPR classroom drills seem to be built on assumptions that owe much to structuralist or grammar-based views of language. Asher states that "most of the gram­matical structure of the target language and hundreds of vocabulary items can be learned from the skillful use of the imperative by the instructor" (1977: 4). He views the verb, and particularly the verb in the imperative, as the central linguistic motif around which language use and learning are organized.

Asher sees language as being composed of abstractions and nonab-stractions, with nonabstractions being most specifically represented by concrete nouns and imperative verbs. He believes that learners can ac­quire a "detailed cognitive map" as well as "the grammatical structure of a language" without recourse to abstractions.Abstractions should be delayed until students have internalized a detailed cognitive map of the target language. Abstractions are not necessary for people to decode the grammatical structure of a language. Once students have internalized the code, abstractions can be introduced and explained in the target language. (Asher 1977: 11—12)

 

This is an interesting claim about language but one that is insufficiently detailed to test. For example, are tense, aspect, articles, and so forth, abstractions, and if so, what sort of "detailed cognitive map" could be constructed without them?

Despite Asher's belief in the central role of comprehension in language learning, he does not elaborate on the relation between comprehension, production, and communication (he has no theory of speech acts or their equivalents, for example), although in advanced TPR lessons imperatives are used to initiate different speech acts, such as requests ("John, ask Mary to walk to the door"), and apologies ("Ned, tell Jack you're sorry").

Asher also refers in passing to the fact that language can be internalized as wholes or chunks, rather than as single lexical items, and, as such, links are possible to more theoretical proposals of this kind (e.g., Miller, Galanter, and Pribram 1960), as well as to work on the role of prefab­ricated patterns in language learning and language use (e.g., Yorio 1980). Asher does not elaborate on his view of chunking, however, nor on other aspects of the theory of language underlying Total Physical Response. We have only clues to what a more fully developed language theory might resemble when spelled out by Asher and his supporters.

Theory of learning

Asher's language learning theories are reminiscent of the views of other behavioral psychologists. For example, the psychologist Arthur Jensen proposed a seven-stage model to describe the development of verbal learning in children. The first stage he calls Sv-R type learning, which the educational psychologist John DeCecco interprets as follows:

In Jensen's notation, Sv refers to a verbal stimulus-a syllable, a word, a phrase, and so on. R refers to the physical movements the child makes in response to the verbal stimulus (or Sv). The movement may involve touching, grasping, or otherwise manipulating some object. For example, mother may tell Percival (age 1) to get the ball, and Percival, distinguishing the sound "ball" from the clatter of other household noises, responds by fetching the ball and bringing it to his mother. Ball is the Sv (verbal stimulus), and Perci-val's action is the response. At PercivaPs age, children respond to words about four times faster than they respond to other sounds in their environ­ment. It is not clear why this is so, but it is possible that the reinforcing ef­fects of making proper responses to verbal stimuli are sufficiently strong to cause a rapid development of this behavior. Sv-R learning represents, then, the simplest form of verbal behavior. (DeCecco 1968: 329)

This is a very similar position to Asher's view of child language acqui­sition. Although learning psychologists such as Jensen have since aban­doned such simple stimulus-response models of language acquisition and development, and although linguists have rejected them as incapable of accounting for the fundamental features of language learning and use (see Chapter 4), Asher still sees a stimulus-response view as providing the learning theory underlying language teaching pedagogy. In addition

Asher has elaborated an account of what he feels facilitates or inhibits foreign language learning. For this dimension of his learning theory he draws on three rather influential learning hypotheses:

1. There exists a specific innate bio-program for language learning, which
defines an optimal path for first and second language development.

2. Brain lateralization defines different learning functions in the left- and
right-brain hemispheres.

3. Stress (an affective filter) intervenes between the act of learning and what
is to be learned; the lower the stress, the greater the learning.

Let us consider how Asher views each of these in turn.

1. THE BIO-PROGRAM

Asher's Total Physical Response is a "Natural Method" (see Chapter 1), inasmuch as Asher sees first and second language learning as parallel processes. Second language teaching and learning should reflect the na­turalistic processes of first language learning. Asher sees three processes as central, (a) Children develop listening competence before they develop the ability to speak. At the early stages of first language acquisition they can understand complex utterances that they cannot spontaneously pro­duce or imitate. Asher speculates that during this period of listening, the learner may be making a mental "blueprint" of the language that will make it possible to produce spoken language later, (b) Children's ability in listening comprehension is acquired because children are re­quired to respond physically to spoken language in the form of parental commands, (c) Once a foundation in listening comprehension has been established, speech evolves naturally and effortlessly out of it. As we noted earlier, these principles are held by proponents of a number of other method proposals and are referred to collectively as a Compre­hension Approach.

Parallel to the processes of first language learning, the foreign language learner should first internalize a "cognitive map" of the target language through listening exercises. Listening should be accompanied by physical movement. Speech and other productive skills should come later. The speech-production mechanisms will begin to function spontaneously when the basic foundations of language are established through listening train­ing. Asher bases these assumptions on his belief in the existence in the human brain of a bio-program for language, which defines an optimal order for first and second language learning.

A reasonable hypothesis is that the brain and nervous system are biologically programmed to acquire language... in a particular sequence and in a particu­lar mode. The sequence is listening before speaking and the mode is to syn­chronize language with the individual's body. (Asher 1977: 4) 2. BRAIN LATERALIZATION

Asher sees Total Physical Response as directed to right-brain learning, whereas most second language teaching methods are directed to left-brain learning. Asher refers to neurological studies of the brains of cats and studies of an epileptic boy whose corpus callosum was surgically divided. Asher interprets these as demonstrating that the brain is divided into hemispheres according to function, with language activities cen­tralized in the right hemisphere. Drawing on work by Jean Piaget, Asher holds that the child language learner acquires language through motor movement — a right-hemisphere activity. Right-hemisphere activities must occur before the left hemisphere can process language for production. Similarly, the adult should proceed to language mastery through right-hemisphere motor activities, while the left hemisphere watches and learns. When a sufficient amount of right-hemisphere learning has taken place, the left hemisphere will be triggered to produce language and to initiate other, more abstract language processes.

3. REDUCTION OF STRESS

An important condition for successful language learning is the absence of stress. First language acquisition takes place in a stress-free environ­ment, according to Asher, whereas the adult language learning environ­ment often causes considerable stress and anxiety. The key to stress-free learning is to tap into the natural bio-program for language development and thus to recapture the relaxed and pleasurable experiences that ac­company first language learning. By focusing on meaning interpreted through movement, rather than on language forms studied in the ab­stract, the learner is said to be liberated from self-conscious and stressful situations and is able to devote full energy to learning.

Design

Objectives

The general objectives of Total Physical Response are to teach oral proficiency at a beginning level. Comprehension is a means to an end, and the ultimate aim is to teach basic speaking skills. A TPR course aims to produce learners who are capable of an uninhibited commu­nication that is intelligible to a native speaker. Specific instructional objectives are not elaborated, for these will depend on the particular needs of the learners. Whatever goals are set, however, must be attainable through the use of action-based drills in the imperative form. The syllabus

The type of syllabus Asher uses can be inferred from an analysis of the exercise types employed in TPR classes. This analysis reveals the use of a sentence-based syllabus, with grammatical and lexical criteria being primary in selecting teaching items. Unlike methods that operate from a grammar-based or structural view of the core elements of language, Total Physical Response requires inititial attention to meaning rather than to the form of items. Grammar is thus taught inductively. Gram­matical features and vocabulary items are selected not according to their frequency of need or use in target language situations, but according to the situations in which they can be used in the classroom and the ease with which they can be learned.

The criterion for including a vocabulary item or grammatical feature at a particular point in training is ease of assimilation by students. If an item is not learned rapidly, this means that the students are not ready for that item. Withdraw it and try again at a future time in the training program. (Asher

1977: 42)

Asher also suggests that a fixed number of items be introduced at a time, to facilitate ease of differentiation and assimilation. "In an hour, it is possible for students to assimilate 12 to 36 new lexical items depending upon the size of the group and the stage of training" (Asher 1977: 42). Asher sees a need for attention to both the global meaning of language as well as to the finer details of its organization.

The movement of the body seems to be a powerful mediator for the under­standing, organization and storage of macro-details of linguistic input. Lan­guage can be internalized in chunks, but alternative strategies must be developed for fine-tuning to macro-details. (Asher, Kusudo, and de la Torre 1974: 28)

A course designed around Total Physical Response principles, however, would not be expected to follow a TPR syllabus exclusively.

We are not advocating only one strategy of learning. Even if the imperative is the major or minor format of training, variety is critical for maintaining con­tinued student interest. The imperative is a powerful facilitator of learning, but it should be used in combination with many other techniques. The opti­mal combination will vary from instructor to instructor and class to class. (Asher 1977: 28)

Types of learning and teaching activities

Imperative drills are the major classroom activity in Total Physical Re­sponse. They are typically used to elicit physical actions and activity onhe part of the learners. Conversational dialogues are d< about 120 hours of instruction. Asher's rationale for th day conversations are highly abstract and disconnect understand them requires a rather advanced internaliza language" (1977: 95). Other class activities include rol presentations. Role plays center on everyday situation restaurant, supermarket, or gas station. The slide presei to provide a visual center for teacher narration, whic commands, and for questions to students, such as "Wh picture is the salesperson?". Reading and writing activ employed to further consolidate structures and vocabi low-ups to oral imperative drills.

Learner roles

Learners in Total Physical Response have the primary and performer. They listen attentively and respond pr mands given by the teacher. Learners are required 1 individually and collectively. Learners have little influei tent of learning, since content is determined by the te; follow the imperative-based format for lessons. Lean pected to recognize and respond to novel combinatio taught items:

Novel utterances are recombinations of constituents you ha^ training. For instance, you directed students with 'Walk to t on the chair!'. These are familiar to students since they have sponding to them. Now, will a student understand if you su ual with an unfamiliar utterance that you created by recoml: elements (e.g. 'Sit on the table!'). (Asher 1977: 31)

Learners are also required to produce novel combinatk Learners monitor and evaluate their own progress. 1 aged to speak when they feel ready to speak - that is, i basis in the language has been internalized.

Teacher roles

The teacher plays an active and direct role in Total Ph "The instructor is the director of a stage play in which the actors" (Asher 1977: 43). It is the teacher who decid who models and presents the new materials, and who s< materials for classroom use. The teacher is encouragec pared and well organized so that the lesson flows srr dictably. Asher recommends detailed lesson plans: "It is wise to writeout the exact utterances you will be using and especially the novel com­mands because the action is so fast-moving there is usually not time for you to create spontaneously" (1977: 47). Classroom interaction and turn taking is teacher rather than learner directed. Even when learners interact with other learners it is usually the teacher who initiates the interaction:

Teacher: Maria, pick up the box of rice and hand it to Miguel and ask Miguel to read the price.

Asher stresses, however, that the teacher's role is not so much to teach as to provide opportunities for learning. The teacher has the responsi­bility of providing the best kind of exposure to language so that the learner can internalize the basic rules of the target language. Thus the teacher controls the language input the learners receive, providing the raw material for the "cognitive map" that the learners will construct in their own minds. The teacher should also allow speaking abilities to develop in learners at the learners' own natural pace.

In giving feedback to learners, the teacher should follow the example of parents giving feedback to their children. At first, parents correct very little, but as the child grows older, parents are said to tolerate fewer mistakes in speech. Similarly teachers should refrain from too much correction in the early stages and should not interrupt to correct errors, since this will inhibit learners. As time goes on, however, more teacher intervention is expected, as the learners' speech becomes "fine tuned."

Asher cautions teachers about preconceptions that he feels could hinder the successful implementation of TPR principles. First, he cautions against the "illusion of simplicity," where the teacher underestimates the diffi­culties involved in learning a foreign language. This results in progressing at too fast a pace and failing to provide a gradual transition from one teaching stage to another. The teacher should also avoid having too narrow a tolerance for errors in speaking.

You begin with a wide tolerance for student speech errors, but as training progresses, the tolerance narrows. Remember that as students progress in their training, more and more attention units are freed to process feedback from the instructor. In the beginning, almost no attention units are available to hear the instructor's attempts to correct distortions in speech. All attention is directed to producing utterances. Therefore the student cannot attend effi­ciently to the instructor's corrections. (Asher 1977: 27)

The role of instructional materials

 

There is generally no basic text in a Total Physical Response course. Materials and realia play an increasing role, however, in later learning stages. For absolute beginners, lessons may not require the use of materials, since the teacher's voice, actions, and gestures may be a sufficient basis for classroom activities. Later the teacher may use common class­room objects, such as books, pens, cups, furniture. As the course de­velops, the teacher will need to make or collect supporting materials to support teaching points. These may include pictures, realia, slides, and word charts. Asher has developed TPR student kits that focus on specific situations, such as the home, the supermarket, the beach. Students may use the kits to construct scenes (e.g., 'Put the stove in the kitchen").

Procedure

Asher (1977) provides a lesson-by-lesson account of a course taught according to TPR principles, which serves as a source of information on the procedures used in the TPR classroom. The course was for adult immigrants and consisted of 159 hours of classroom instruction. The sixth class in the course proceeded in the following way:

Review. This was a fast-moving warm-up in which individual students were moved with commands such as:

Pablo, drive your car around Miako and honk your horn.

Jeffe, throw the red flower to Maria.

Maria, scream.

Rita, pick up the knife and spoon and put them in the cup.

Eduardo, take a drink of water and give the cup to Elaine.

New commands. These verbs were introduced.

wash your hands,

your face, your hair, the cup.

look for a towel,

the soap, a comb.

hold the book,

the cup. the soap.

comb your hair.

Maria's hair. Shirou's hair.

brush your teeth,

your pants, the table.

Other items introduced were:

Rectangle Draw a rectangle on the chalkboard.

Pick up a rectangle from the table and give it to me. Put the rectangle next to the square.

Triangle Pick up the triangle from the table and give it to me.

Catch the triangle and put it next to the rectangle.

Quickly Walk quickly to the door and hit it.

Quickly, run to the table and touch the square. Sit down quickly and laugh.

Slowly Walk slowly to the window and jump.

Slowly, stand up. Slowly walk to me and hit me on the arm.

Toothpaste Look for the toothpaste.

Throw the toothpaste to Wing.

Wing, unscrew the top of the toothpaste.

Toothbrush Take out your toothbrush. Brush your teeth. Put your toothbrush in your book.

Teeth Touch your teeth.

Show your teeth to Dolores. Dolores, point to Eduardo's teeth.

Soap Look for the soap.

Give the soap to Elaine.

Elaine, put the soap in Ramiro's ear.

Towel Put the towel on Juan's arm.

Juan, put the towel on your head and laugh. Maria, wipe your hands on the towel.

Next, the instructor asked simple questions which the student could answer with a gesture such as pointing. Examples would be:

Where is the towel? [Eduardo, point to the towel!]

Where is the toothbrush? [Miako, point to the toothbrush!]

Where is Dolores?

Role reversal. Students readily volunteered to utter commands that manipu­lated the behavior of the instructor and other students....

Reading and writing. The instructor wrote on the chalkboard each new vo­cabulary item and a sentence to illustrate the item. Then she spoke each item and acted out the sentence. The students listened as she read the material. Some copied the information in their notebooks.

(Asher 1977: 54-6)

Conclusion

Total Physical Response is in a sense a revival and extension pf Palmer and Palmer's English Through Actions, updated with references to more recent psychological theories. It has enjoyed some popularity because of its support by those who emphasize the role of comprehension in second language acquisition. Krashen (1981), for example, regards provision of comprehensible input and reduction of stress as keys to successful lan­guage acquisition, and he sees performing physical actions in the target language as a means of making input comprehensible and minimizing stress (see Chapter 9). The experimental support for the effectiveness of Total Physical Response is sketchy (as it is for most methods) and typ­ically deals with only the very beginning stages of learning. Proponents of Communicative Language Teaching would question the relevance to real-world learner needs of the TPR syllabus and the utterances and sentences used within it. Asher himself, however, has stressed that Total Physical Response should be used in association with other methods and techniques. Indeed, practitioners of TPR typically follow this recom­mendation, suggesting that for many teachers TPR represents a useful set of techniques and is compatible with other approaches to teaching. TPR practices therefore may be effective for reasons other than those proposed by Asher and do not necessarily demand commitment to the learning theories used to justify them.

Bibliography

Asher, J. 1965. The strategy of the total physical response: an application to learning Russian. International Review of Applied Linguistics 3: 291—300.

Asher, J. 1966. The learning strategy of the total physical response: a review. Modern Language journal 50: 79-84.

Asher, J. 1969. The total physical response approach to second language learn­ing. Modern Language Journal 53: 3—17.

Asher, J. 1972. Children's first language as a model of second language learning. Modern Language journal 56: 133-9.

Asher, J. 1977. Learning Another Language Through Actions: The Complete Teacher's Guide Book. Los Gatos, Calif.: Sky Oaks Productions. (2nd ed. 1982.)

Asher, J. 1981a. The extinction of second language learning in American schools: an intervention model. In H. Winitz (ed.), The Comprehension Approach to Foreign Language Instruction, pp. 49—68. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Asher, J. 1981b. The fear of foreign languages. Psychology Today 15(8): 52-9.

Asher, J., J. A. Kusudo, and R. De La Torre. 1974. Learning a second language through commands: the second field test. Modern Language Journal 58: 24-32.

Asher, J., and B. S. Price. 1967. The learning strategy of the total physical response: some age differences. Child Development 38: 1219-27.

DeCecco, J. P. 1968. The Psychology of Learning and Instruction: Educational Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Katona, G. 1940. Organizing and Memorizing: Studies in the Psychology of Learning and Teaching. New York: Columbia University Press.

Krashen, S. D. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learn­ing. Oxford: Pergamon.

Kunihira, S., and J. Asher. 1965. The strategy of the total physical response: an application to learning Japanese. International Review of Applied Lin­guistics 3: 277-89.

Miller, G. A., E. Galanter, and Ê. Í. Pribram. 1960. Plans and the Structure of Behavior. New York: Henry Holt.

Palmer, H., and D. Palmer. 1925. English Through Actions. Reprint ed. London: Longman Green, 1959.

Winitz, H. (ed.). 1981. The Comprehension Approach to Foreign Language Instruction. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House.

Winitz, H., and J. Reeds. 1975. Comprehension and Problem Solving as Strat­egies for Language Training. The Hague: Mouton.

Yorio, C. 1980. Conventionalized language forms and the development of com­municative competence. TESOL Quarterly 14(4): 433-42.

The Silent Way

Background

The Silent Way is the name of a method of language teaching devised by Caleb Gattegno. Gattegno's name is well known for his revival of interest in the use of colored wooden sticks called cuisenaire rods and for his series Words in Color, an approach to the teaching of initial reading in which sounds are coded by specific colors. His materials are copyrighted and marketed through an organization he operates called Educational Solutions Inc., in New York. The Silent Way represents Gattegno's venture into the field of foreign language teaching. It is based on the premise that the teacher should be silent as much as possible in the classroom and the learner should be encouraged to produce as much language as possible. Elements of the Silent Way, particularly the use of color charts and the colored cuisenaire rods, grew outof Gattegno's previous experience as an educational designer of reading and mathe­matics programs. (Cuisenaire rods were first developed by Georges Cuis­enaire, a European educator who used them for the teaching of math. Gattegno had observed Cuisenaire and this gave him the idea for their use in language teaching.)

The Silent Way shares a great deal with other learning theories and educational philosophies. Very broadly put, the learning hypotheses un­derlying Gattegno's work could be stated as follows:

1. Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than re­
members and repeats what is to be learned.

2. Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects.

3. Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be
learned.

Let us consider each of these issues in turn.

1. The educational psychologist and philosopher Jerome Brunei* dis­tinguishes two traditions of teaching - that which takes place in the expository mode and that which takes place in the hypothetical mode. In the expository mode "decisions covering the mode and pace and style of exposition are principally determined by the teacher as expositor; the student is the listener." In the hypothetical mode "the teacher and the student are in a more cooperative position. The student is not a bench-bound listener, but is taking part in the formulation and at times may play the principal role in it" (Bruner 1966: 83).

The Silent Way belongs to the latter tradition, which views learning as a problem-solving, creative, discovering activity, in which the learner is a principal actor rather than a bench-bound listener. Bruner discusses the benefits derived from "discovery learning" under four headings: (a) the increase in intellectual potency, (b) the shift from extrinsic to intrinsic rewards, (c) the learning of heuristics by discovering, and (d) the aid to conserving memory (Bruner 1966: 83). As we shall see, Gattegno claims similar benefits from learners taught via the Silent Way.

2. The rods and the color-coded pronunciation charts (called Fidel
charts) provide physical foci for student learning and also create mem­
orable images to facilitate student recall. In psychological terms, these
visual devices serve as associative mediators for student learning and
recall. The psychological literature on mediation in learning and recall
is voluminous but, for our purposes, can be briefly summarized in a
quote from Earl Stevick:

If the use of associative mediators produces better retention than repetition does, it seems to be the case that the quality of the mediators and the stu­dent's personal investment in them may also have a powerful effect on mem­ory. (Stevick 1976: 25)

3. The Silent Way is also related to a set of premises that we have
called "problem-solving approaches to learning." These premises are
succinctly represented in the words of Benjamin Franklin:

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.

In the language of experimental psychology, the kind of subject involve­ment that promotes greatest learning and recall involves processing of material to be learned at the "greatest cognitive depth" (Craik 1973) or, for our purposes, involving the greatest amount of problem-solving activity. Memory research has demonstrated that the learner's "memory benefits from creatively searching out, discovering and depicting" (Bower and Winzenz 1970). In the Silent Way, "the teacher's strict avoidance of repetition forces alertness and concentration on the part of the learn­ers" (Gattegno 1972: 80). Similarly, the learner's grappling with the problem of forming an appropriate and meaningful utterance in a new language leads the learner to realization of the language "through his own perceptual and analytical powers" (Selman 1977). The Silent Way student is expected to become "independent, autonomous and respon­sible" (Gattegno 1976) — in other words, a good problem solver in language.

Approach

Theory of language

Gattegno takes an openly skeptical view of the role of linguistic theory in language teaching methodology. He feels that linguistic studies "may be a specialization, [that] carry with them a narrow opening of one's sensitivity and perhaps serve very little towards the broad end in mind" (Gattegno 1972: 84). Gattegno views language itself "as a substitute for experience, so experience is what gives meaning to language" (Gattegno 1972: 8). We are not surprised then to see simulated experiences using tokens and picture charts as central elements in Silent Way teaching.

Considerable discussion is devoted to the importance of grasping the "spirit" of the language and not just its component forms. By the "spirit" of the language Gattegno is referring to the way each language is com­posed of phonological and suprasegmental elements that combine to give the language its unique sound system and melody. The learner must gain a "feel" for this aspect of the target language as soon as possible, though how the learner is to do this is not altogether clear.

By looking at the material chosen and the sequence in which it is presented in a Silent Way classroom, it is clear that the Silent Way takes a structural approach to the organization of language to be taught. Language is seen as groups of sounds arbitrarily associated with specific meanings and organized into sentences or strings of meaningful units by grammar rules. Language is separated from its social context and taught through artificial situations, usually represented by rods. Lessons follow a sequence based on grammatical complexity, and new lexical and structural material is meticulously broken down into its elements, with one element presented at a time. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching, and the teacher focuses on propositional meaning, rather than communicative value. Students are presented with the structural patterns of the target language and learn the grammar rules of the language through largely inductive processes.

Gattegno sees vocabulary as a central dimension of language learning and the choice of vocabulary as crucial. He distinguishes between several classes of vocabulary items. The "semi-luxury vocabulary" consists of expressions common in the daily life of the target language culture; this refers to food, clothing, travel, family life, and so on. "Luxury vocab­ulary" is used in communicating more specialized ideas, such as political or philosophical opinions. The most important vocabulary for the learner deals with the most functional and versatile words of the language, many of which may not have direct equivalents in the learner's native tongue. This "functional vocabulary" provides a key, says Gattegno, to com­prehending the "spirit" of the language.

Theory of learning

Like many other method proponents, Gattegno makes extensive use of his understanding of first language learning processes as a basis for deriving principles for teaching foreign languages to adults. Gattegno recommends, for example, that the learner needs to "return to the state of mind that characterizes a baby's learning — surrender" (Scott and Page 1982: 273).

Having referred to these processes, however, Gattegno states that the processes of learning a second language are "radically different" from those involved in learning a first language. The second language learner is unlike the first language learner and "cannot learn another language in the same way because of what he now knows" (Gattegno 1972: 11). The "natural" or "direct" approaches to acquiring a second language are thus misguided, says Gattegno, and a successful second language approach will "replace a 'natural' approach by one that is very 'artificial' and, for some purposes, strictly controlled" (1972: 12).

The "artificial approach" that Gattegno proposes is based on the principle that successful learning involves commitment of the self to language acquisition through the use of silent awareness and then active trial. Gattegno's repeated emphasis on the primacy of learning over teaching places a focus on the self of the learner, on the learner's priorities and commitments.

To speak... requires the descent of the will into the voluntary speech organs and a clear grasp by one's linguistic self of what one is to do to produce definite sounds in definite ways. Only the self of the utterer can intervene to make objective what it holds in itself. Every student must be seen as a will capable of that work. (Gattegno 1976: 7)

The self, we are told, consists of two systems — a learning system and a retaining system. The learning system is activated only by way of intelligent awareness. "The learner must constantly test his powers to abstract, analyze, synthesize and integrate" (Scott and Page 1982: 273). Silence is considered the best vehicle for learning, because in silence students concentrate on the task to be accomplished and the potential means to its accomplishment. Repetition (as opposed to silence) "con­sumes time and encourages the scattered mind to remain scattered" (Gattegno 1976: 80). Silence, as avoidance of repetition, is thus an aid to alertness, concentration, and mental organization.

The "retaining system" allows us to remember and recall at will lin­guistic elements and their organizing principles and makes linguistic communication possible. Gattegno speaks of remembering as a matter of "paying ogdens." An "ogden" is a unit of mental energy required to link permanently two mental elements, such as a shape and a sound ora label and an object. The forging of the link through active attention is the cost of remembering paid in ogdens. Retention by way of mental effort, awareness, and thoughtfulness is more efficient in terms of ogdens consumed than is retention attained through mechanical repetition. Again, silence is a key to triggering awareness and hence the preferred path to retention. Retention links are in fact formed in the most silent of periods, that of sleep: "The mind does much of this work during sleep" (Stevick 1980: 41).

Awareness is educable. As one learns "in awareness," one's powers of awareness and one's capacity to learn become greater. The Silent Way thus claims to facilitate what psychologists call "learning to learn." Again, the process chain that develops awareness proceeds from atten­tion, production, self-correction, and absorption. Silent Way learners acquire "inner criteria," which play a central role "in one's education throughout all of one's life" (Gattegno 1976: 29). These inner criteria allow learners to monitor and self-correct their own production. It is in the activity of self-correction through self-awareness that the Silent Way claims to differ most notably from other ways of language learning. It is this capacity for self-awareness that the Silent Way calls upon, a capacity said to be little appreciated or exercised by first language learners.

But the Silent Way is not merely a language teaching method. Gattegno sees language learning through the Silent Way as a recovery of inno­cence - "a return to our full powers and potentials." Gattegno's aim is not just second language learning; it is nothing less than the education of the spiritual powers and of the sensitivity of the individual. Mastery of linguistic skills are seen in the light of an emotional inner peace resulting from the sense of power and control brought about by new levels of awareness. Silent Way learning claims to "consolidate the hu­man dimensions of being, which include variety and individuality as essential factors for an acceptance of others as contributors to one's own life" and even moves us "towards better and more lasting solutions of present-day conflicts" (Gattegno 1972: 84).

Design

Objectives

The general objective of the Silent Way is to give beginning level students oral and aural facility in basic elements of the target language. The general goal set for language learning is near-native fluency inthe target language, and correct pronunciation and mastery of the prosodic ele­ments of the target language are emphasized. An immediate objective is to provide the learner with a basic practical knowledge of the grammarof the language. This forms the basis for independent learning on the learner's part. Gattegno discusses the following kinds of objectives as appropriate for a language course at an elementary level (Gattegno 1972: 81-83). Students should be able to

correctly and easily answer questions about themselves, their education, their

family, travel, and daily events; speak with a good accent; give either a written or oral description of a picture, "including the existing

relationships that concern space, time and numbers"; answer general questions about the culture and the literature of the native

speakers of the target language; perform adequately in the following areas: spelling, grammar (production

rather than explanation), reading comprehension, and writing.

Gattegno states that the Silent Way teaches learners how to learn a language, and the skills developed through the process of learning a foreign or second language can be employed in dealing with "unknowns" of every type. The method, we are told, can also be used to teach reading and writing, and its usefulness is not restricted to beginning level stu­dents. Most of the examples Gattegno describes, however, as well as the classes we have observed, deal primarily with a basic level of aural/ oral proficiency.

The syllabus

The Silent Way adopts a basically structural syllabus, with lessons planned around grammatical items and related vocabulary. Gattegno does not, however, provide details as to the precise selection and arrangement of grammatical and lexical items to be covered. There is no general Silent Way syllabus. But from observation of Silent Way programs developed by the Peace Corps to teach a variety of languages at a basic level of proficiency, it is clear that language items are introduced according to their grammatical complexity, their relationship to what has been taught previously, and the ease with which items can be presented visually. Typically, the imperative is the initial structure introduced, because of the ease with which action verbs may be demonstrated using Silent Way materials. New elements, such as the plural form of nouns, are taught within a structure already familiar. Numeration occurs early in a course, because of the importance of numbers in everyday life and the ease with which they can be demonstrated. Prepositions of location also appear early in the syllabus for similar reasons.

Vocabulary is selected according to the degree to which it can be manipulated within a given structure and according to its productivity within the classroom setting. In addition to prepositions and numbersof the language. This forms the basis for independent learning on the learner's part. Gattegno discusses the following kinds of objectives as appropriate for a language course at an elementary level (Gattegno 1972: 81-83). Students should be able to

correctly and easily answer questions about themselves, their education, their

family, travel, and daily events; speak with a good accent; give either a written or oral description of a picture, "including the existing

relationships that concern space, time and numbers"; answer general questions about the culture and the literature of the native

speakers of the target language; perform adequately in the following areas: spelling, grammar (production

rather than explanation), reading comprehension, and writing.

Gattegno states that the Silent Way teaches learners how to learn a language, and the skills developed through the process of learning a foreign or second language can be employed in dealing with "unknowns" of every type. The method, we are told, can also be used to teach reading and writing, and its usefulness is not restricted to beginning level stu­dents. Most of the examples Gattegno describes, however, as well as the classes we have observed, deal primarily with a basic level of aural/ oral proficiency.

The syllabus

The Silent Way adopts a basically structural syllabus, with lessons planned around grammatical items and related vocabulary. Gattegno does not, however, provide details as to the precise selection and arrangement of grammatical and lexical items to be covered. There is no general Silent Way syllabus. But from observation of Silent Way programs developed by the Peace Corps to teach a variety of languages at a basic level of proficiency, it is clear that language items are introduced according to their grammatical complexity, their relationship to what has been taught previously, and the ease with which items can be presented visually. Typically, the imperative is the initial structure introduced, because of the ease with which action verbs may be demonstrated using Silent Way materials. New elements, such as the plural form of nouns, are taught within a structure already familiar. Numeration occurs early in a course, because of the importance of numbers in everyday life and the ease with which they can be demonstrated. Prepositions of location also appear early in the syllabus for similar reasons.

Vocabulary is selected according to the degree to which it can be manipulated within a given structure and according to its productivity within the classroom setting. In addition to prepositions and numbers, pronouns, quantifiers, words dealing with temporal relations, and words of comparison are introduced early in the course, because they "refer to oneself and to others in the numerous relations of everyday life" (Stevick 1979). These kinds of words are referred to as the "functional vocabulary" of a language because of their high utility.

The following is a section of a Peace Corps Silent Way Syllabus for the first ten hours of instruction in Thai. It is used to teach American Peace Corps volunteers being trained to teach in Thailand. At least 15 minutes of every hour of instruction would be spent on pronunciation. A word that is italicized can be substituted for by another word having the same function.

Lesson Vocabulary

1. Wood color red. wood, red, green, yellow, brown,

pink, white, orange, black, color

2. Using the numbers 1—10 one, two,... ten

3. Wood color red two pieces.

4. Take (pick up) wood color red take (pick up)
two pieces.

5. Take wood color red two pieces give, object pronouns
give him.

6. Wood red where? where, on, under, near, far, over,
Wood red on table. next to, here, there

7. Wood color red on table, is it? Question-forming rules.
Yes, on. Yes. No.

Not on.

8. Wood color red long. adjectives of comparison
Wood color green longer.

Wood color orange longest.

9. Wood color green taller.
Wood color red is it?

10. Review. Students use structures taught in new situations, such as comparing the heights of stu­dents in the class.

(Joel Wiskin, personal communication)

Types of learning and teaching activities

Learning tasks and activities in the Silent Way have the function of encouraging and shaping student oral response without direct oral in­struction from or unnecessary modeling by the teacher. Basic to the method are simple linguistic tasks in which the teacher models a word, phrase, or sentence and then elicits learner responses. Learners then go on to create their own utterances by putting together old and new in­formation. Charts, rods, and other aids may be used to elicit learnerresponses. Teacher modeling is minimal, although much of the activity may be teacher directed. Responses to commands, questions, and visual cues thus constitute the basis for classroom activities.

Learner roles

Gattegno sees language learning as a process of personal growth re­sulting from growing student awareness and self-challenge. The learner first experiences a "random or almost random feeling of the area of activity in question until one finds one or more cornerstones to build on. Then starts a systematic analysis, first by trial and error, later by directed experiment with practice of the acquired subareas until mastery follows" (Gattegno 1972: 79). Learners are expected to develop in­dependence, autonomy, and responsibility. Independent learners are those who are aware that they must depend on their own resources and realize that they can use "the knowledge of their own language to open up some things in a new language" or that they can "take their knowledge of the first few words in the new language and figure out additional words by using that knowledge" (Stevick 1980: 42). The autonomous learner chooses proper expressions in a given set of cir­cumstances and situations. "The teacher cultivates the student's 'au­tonomy' by deliberately building choices into situations" (Stevick 1980: 42). Responsible learners know that they have free will to choose among any set of linguistic choices. The ability to choose intelligently and carefully is said to be evidence of responsibility. The absence of cor­rection and repeated modeling from the teacher requires the students to develop "inner criteria" and to correct themselves. The absence of explanations requires learners to make generalizations, come to their own conclusions, and formulate whatever rules they themselves feel they need.

Learners exert a strong influence over each other's learning and, to a lesser degree, over the linguistic content taught. They are expected to interact with each other and suggest alternatives to each other. Learners have only themselves as individuals and the group to rely on, and so must learn to work cooperatively rather than competitively. They need to feel comfortable both correcting each other and being corrected by each other.

In order to be productive members of the learning group, learners thus have to play varying roles. At times one is an independent individual, at other times a group member. A learner also must be a teacher, a student, part of a support system, a problem solver, and a self-evaluator. And it is the student who is usually expected to decide on what role is most appropriate to a given situation.

Teacher silence is, perhaps, the unique and, for many traditionally trained language teachers, the most demanding aspect of the Silent Way. Teach­ers are exhorted to resist their long standing commitment to model, remodel, assist, and direct desired student responses, and Silent Way teachers have remarked upon the arduousness of self-restraint to which early experience of the Silent Way has subjected them. Gattegno talks of subordinating "teaching to learning," but that is not to suggest that the teacher's role in Silent Way is not critical and demanding. Gattegno anticipates that using the Silent Way would require most teachers to change their perception of their role. Stevick defines the Silent Wray teacher's tasks as (a) to teach, (b) to test, and (c) to get out of the way (Stevick 1980: 56). Although this may not seem to constitute a radical alternative to standard teaching practice, the details of the steps the teacher is expected to follow are unique to the Silent Way.

By "teaching" is meant the presentation of an item once, typically using nonverbal clues to get across meanings. Testing follows immedi­ately and might better be termed elicitation and shaping of student production, which, again, is done in as silent a way as possible. Finally, the teacher silently monitors learners' interactions with each other and may even leave the room while learners struggle with their new linguistic tools and "pay their ogdens." For the most part, Silent Way teacher's manuals are unavailable (however, see Arnold 1981), and teachers are responsible for designing teaching sequences and creating individual lessons and lesson elements. Gattegno emphasizes the importance of teacher-defined learning goals that are clear and attainable. Sequence and timing in Silent Way classes are more important than in many kinds of language teaching classes, and the teachers' sensitivity to and man­agement of them is critical.

More generally, the teacher is responsible for creating an environment that encourages student risk taking and that facilitates learning. This is not to say that the Silent Way teacher becomes "one of the group." in fact, observers have noted that Silent Way teachers often appear aloof or even gruff with their students. The teacher's role is one of neutral observer, neither elated by correct performance nor discouraged by error. Students are expected to come to see the teacher as a disinterested judge, supportive but emotionally uninvolved.

The teacher uses gestures, charts, and manipulatives in order to elicit and shape student responses and so must be both facile and creative as a pantomimist and puppeteer. In sum, the Silent Way teacher, like the complete dramatist, writes the script, chooses the props, sets the mood, models the action, designates the players, and is critic for the performanceTeacher silence is, perhaps, the unique and, for many traditionally trained language teachers, the most demanding aspect of the Silent Way. Teach­ers are exhorted to resist their long standing commitment to model, remodel, assist, and direct desired student responses, and Silent Way teachers have remarked upon the arduousness of self-restraint to which early experience of the Silent Way has subjected them. Gattegno talks of subordinating "teaching to learning," but that is not to suggest that the teacher's role in Silent Way is not critical and demanding. Gattegno anticipates that using the Silent Way would require most teachers to change their perception of their role. Stevick defines the Silent Wray teacher's tasks as (a) to teach, (b) to test, and (c) to get out of the way (Stevick 1980: 56). Although this may not seem to constitute a radical alternative to standard teaching practice, the details of the steps the teacher is expected to follow are unique to the Silent Way.

By "teaching" is meant the presentation of an item once, typically using nonverbal clues to get across meanings. Testing follows immedi­ately and might better be termed elicitation and shaping of student production, which, again, is done in as silent a way as possible. Finally, the teacher silently monitors learners' interactions with each other and may even leave the room while learners struggle with their new linguistic tools and "pay their ogdens." For the most part, Silent Way teacher's manuals are unavailable (however, see Arnold 1981), and teachers are responsible for designing teaching sequences and creating individual lessons and lesson elements. Gattegno emphasizes the importance of teacher-defined learning goals that are clear and attainable. Sequence and timing in Silent Way classes are more important than in many kinds of language teaching classes, and the teachers' sensitivity to and man­agement of them is critical.

More generally, the teacher is responsible for creating an environment that encourages student risk taking and that facilitates learning. This is not to say that the Silent Way teacher becomes "one of the group." in fact, observers have noted that Silent Way teachers often appear aloof or even gruff with their students. The teacher's role is one of neutral observer, neither elated by correct performance nor discouraged by error. Students are expected to come to see the teacher as a disinterested judge, supportive but emotionally uninvolved.

The teacher uses gestures, charts, and manipulatives in order to elicit and shape student responses and so must be both facile and creative as a pantomimist and puppeteer. In sum, the Silent Way teacher, like the complete dramatist, writes the script, chooses the props, sets the mood, models the action, designates the players, and is critic for the performance.

colors of the symbols will not correspond to the phonetics of the Fidels, but rather to conceptual groupings of words. There are typically twelve such charts containing 500 to 800 words in the native language and script. These words are selected according to their ease of application in teaching, their relative place in the "functional" or "luxury" vocab­ulary, their flexibility in terms of generalization and use with other words, and their importance in illustrating basic grammatical structures. The content of word charts will vary from language to language, but the general content of the vocabulary charts (Gattegno 1972) is para­phrased below:

Chart 1: the word rod, colors of the rods, plural markers, simple im-

perative verbs, personal pronouns, some adjectives and question words

Charts 2, 3: remaining pronouns, words for ''here" and "there," of, for, and name

Chart 4: numbers

Charts 5, 6: words illustrating size, space, and temporal relationships, as well as some concepts difficult to illustrate with rods, such as order, causality, condition, similarity and difference

Chart 7: words that qualify, such as adverbs

Charts 8, 9: verbs, with cultural references where possible

Chart 10: family relationships

Charts 11, 12: words expressing time, calendar elements, seasons, days, week, month, year, etc.

Other materials that may be used include books and worksheets for practicing reading and writing skills, picture books, tapes, videotapes, films, and other visual aids. Reading and writing are sometimes taught from the beginning, and students are given assignments to do outside the classroom at their own pace. These materials are of secondary im­portance, and are used to supplement the classroom use of rods and charts. Choice and implementation depends upon need as assessed by teachers and/or students.

Procedure

A Silent Way lesson typically follows a standard format. The first part of the lesson focuses on pronunciation. Depending on student level, the class might work on sounds, phrases, or even sentences designated on the Fidel chart. At the beginning stage, the teacher will model the ap­propriate sound after pointing to a symbol on the chart. Later, the teacher will silently point to individual symbols and combinations of symbols, and monitor student utterances. The teacher may say a word and have a student guess what sequence of symbols comprised the word. The pointer is used to indicate stress, phrasing, and intonation. Stress can be shown by touching certain symbols more forcibly than others when pointing out a word. Intonation and phrasing can be demonstrated by tapping on the chart to the rhythm of the utterance.

After practice with the sounds of the language, sentence patterns, structure, and vocabulary are practiced. The teacher models an utterance while creating a visual realization of it with the colored rods. After modeling the utterance, the teacher will have a student attempt to pro­duce the utterance and will indicate its acceptability. If a response is incorrect, the teacher will attempt to reshape the utterance or have another student present the correct model. After a structure is introduced and understood, the teacher will create a situation in which the students can practice the structure through the manipulation of the rods. Vari­ations on the structural theme will be elicited from the class using the rods and charts.

The sample lesson that follows illustrates a typical lesson format. The language being taught is Thai, for which this is the first lesson.

1. Teacher empties rods onto the table.

2. Teacher picks up two or three rods of different colors, and after each
rod is picked up says: [mai].

3. Teacher holds up one rod of any color and indicates to a student that a
response is required. Student says: [mai]. If response is incorrect, teacher
elicits response from another student, who then models for the first
student.

4. Teacher next picks up a red rod and says: [mai sii daeng].

5. Teacher picks up a green rod and says: [mai sii khiaw].

6. Teacher picks up either a red or green rod and elicits response from stu­
dent. If response is incorrect, procedure in step 3 is followed (student
modeling).

7. 8.

Teacher introduces two or three other colors in the same manner. Teacher shows any of the rods whose forms were taught previously and elicits student response. Correction technique is through student model­ing, or the teacher may help student isolate error and self-correct. 9. When mastery is achieved, teacher puts one red rod in plain view and says: [mai sii daeng nung an].

10. Teacher then puts two red rods in plain view and says: [mai sii daeng
song an].

11. Teacher places two green rods in view and says: [mai sii khiaw song an].

12. Teacher holds up two rods of a different color and elicits student
response.

13. Teacher introduces additional numbers, based on what the class can
comfortably retain. Other colors might also be introduced.

14. Rods are put in a pile. Teacher indicates, through his or her own ac­
tions, that rods should be picked up, and the correct utterance made. All
the students in the group pick up rods and make utterances. Peer-group
correction is encouraged.

15. Teacher then says: [kep mai sii daeng song an].

16. Teacher indicates that a student should give the teacher the rods called
for. Teacher asks other students in the class to give him or her the rods
that he or she asks for. This is all done in the target language through
unambiguous actions on the part of the teacher.

17. Teacher now indicates that the students should give each other com­
mands regarding the calling for of rods. Rods are put at the disposal of
the class.

18. Experimentation is encouraged. Teacher speaks only to correct


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