A Day With Stephen Krashen

What an amazing day we had yesterday in Adelaide – I’m still absolutely blown away by the entire experience! Imagine having the opportunity to listen to Stephen Krashen speak in Australia? I hardly know where to start to give you even a taste of what the day was like. That we attended at all came about purely by chance after learning just last week tthrough the MLTAWA newsletter that he is on an Australian “Power of Reading” Tour organised by the Australian Library Association. We each bought a ticket even though his presentation would be largely aimed at librarians because the opportunity to listen to him speak was just too precious to pass up. We had our fingers crossed that aspects would be useful but not in our wildest dreams imagined just how brilliant it would be. 

Why were we so excited about hearing Stephen Krashen speak? Quite simple really. He is the mastermind behind TPRS. The TPRS/TCI methodology we use in our Indonesian program is based on his theory of second language acquisition and supported by his many years of research. Here is a brief bio from amazon.com:

To those familiar with the field of linguistics and second-language acquisition, Stephen Krashen needs no introduction. He has published well over 300 (BC- closer to 500 actually) books and articles and has been invited to deliver more than 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and abroad. His widely known theory of second-language acquisition has had a huge impact on all areas of second-language research and teaching since the 1970s. 

So you can imagine our absolute delight upon learning that Adelaide was one of the stops on his Australian tour and in no way did he disappoint us. Our day began at 7am as we headed off to Adelaide and finished 12 hours later, yet every minute was absolutely and undeniably brilliant. He is a relaxed and entertaining speaker.

While his presentation was pitched at librarians, sprinkled throughout were many TPRS references and he also spoke at length about Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) – equally important in a second language classroom.  Absolutely everyone we spoke to throughout the day took so much from his presentation. I sat between a young librarian from a local council library and a Year 12 English teacher and they were both totally rapt throughout. 

During the first break, I went up and introduced myself explaining that I was one of 3 TPRS teachers in his audience. He was so excited to meet Australian TPRS teachers. He had no idea that there is a small group of us here in Australia. He encouraged us all to follow aand post questions on the iFLT/ NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook page where he himself soon posted:


The fascinating aspect of his presentation was his use of stories. They were compelling and entertaining just as they need to be in TPRS. Even after lunch, in that well known time where most participants start to nod off, he tackled the huge topic of poverty yet with relevant Australian statistics meshed with real life stories – Geoffrey Canada & Liz Murray – we were wide awake and entranced till the very end.

Afterwards, we invited him out for a coffee. We took him to a nearby restaurant and for an hour chin wagged. Can you imagine? Can you possibly imagine how cool it was to actually talk directly to the TPRS guru? We were able to ask him questions about all sorts of details and also listen to his ideas and use them to further gel our understanding of TPRS. Our conversation re-energised us and if anything, made us even more determined to attend some official training somehow, somewhere!! If you would like to join us, write in the comments below and I’ll keep you posted with any plans. A huge conference in Agen, France is already being planned for July 2016. HOw amazing would that be?

 He was so busy, so tired, so jet lagged, yet happily gave up his free time to spend it with us newbie TPRS teachers and for that we will be forever grateful. 
If you’re keen to listen to him actually speak, I highly recommend this podcast: http://www.sourcesandmethods.com/podcast/2015/9/14/sources-and-methods-20-stephen-krashen  He covered so many topics and there is no way I can do them justice. So do yourself a favour, find an hour and sit down and enjoy this podcast. Lots of truly great points raise & relevant to everyone, not just teachers.

Just to finish, here are a few quotes taken from his presentation:

  • There are 3 ways to slow down the onset of dementia:
  1. bilingualism
  2. reading for pleasure 
  3. lots of cofee
      • Through FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) students improve their
      1. reading comprehension skills
      2. writing
      3. vocabulary
      4. grammar knowledge & 
      5. spelling.    (Therefore FVR is the source of most of our literacy development.)
      • If teachers read with their students during SSR for as little as 10 minutes a day over their career, it will amount to 3 months of paid leave!
      • Research demonstrates time and time again, the impact of reading for pleasure on people is far greater than the level of education their parents achieved. 
      • Reading aloud to students is very important for language acquisition in areas of vocabulary, grammar & also develops a love of reading 
      • A love of reading develops empathy. When reading the reader is in the protagonist’s shoes, thus helping readers to have more tolerance for vagueness which is important for problem solving. Readers learn not to reach premature conclusions.
      • Schools are not broken. Just because test scores are low, does not mean that our schools are broken. It is wrong to measure school results by test scores. Instead governments should be addressing the high levels of poverty. Poverty causes poor school results not teachers or schools. 
      • Find your strengths, then get better at it and use it to help others. When you know your strengths, work on it. Don’t focus on your weaknesses, focus on your strengths because its fun. If its not fun, then it is wrong for you. 

      He also included some great quotes from other notable people:

      Picasso ; The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

      Mark Twain: The 2 most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.

      Zhao: It is difficult to predict what new businesses will emerge and what will become obsolete. Thus, what becomes highly valuable are unique talents, knowledge, skills , the ability to adapt to changes and creativity, all of which calls for a school culture that respects and cultivates expertise in a diversity of talents and skills and a curriculum that enables individuals to pursue their strengths. 
      Isn’t he a legend?

      4 thoughts on “A Day With Stephen Krashen

      1. Kirsty says:

        Thanks Cathy for your post. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog. As an Indonesian teacher who has just discovered TPRS etc your blog is a fantastic resource. Keep it up and thanks!


        • bucathy says:

          Thanks for your comments! Very exciting to hear of another Indonesian teacher using TPRS in their classroom! How did you hear about TPRS? Love to hear what you’ve been doing.


          • Kirsty says:

            Hi Cathy, I have only just ‘stumbled’ across this method. So I am in the process of learning everything I can – so your blog is fantastic. I am looking at how to introduce this into my programs next year (using the holidays to upskill). Can you recommend any specific books etc


          • bucathy says:

            The best book by far if you are interested in learning more about TPRS is Ben Slavic’s ‘The Big CI Book’ which is available as an ebook through his website. I have started reading it again and it is brilliant. So many gems even though it is aimed more for high school teachers. I also highly recommend his website which costs roughly $5-6 a month – depending on our $AUD. It is chokker block full of ideas and is also a great place to ask experts questions. They are all very supportive of us Australian teachers implementing TPRS without access to face to face training.
            Stay in touch – it would be awesome to hear what you discover and eventually share ideas.


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