Are we fishing for reps the right way?

Today I came across an article by Noa Kageyama that I found fascinating. It’s not about language teaching, but it is about how the mind acquires routines and automatic reactions. The author is speaking about musicians practicing a set piece and about baseball players in batting practice, but what she says obviously can apply to acquiring a language. We know it takes repetition, and as teachers with young, often unmotivated students, we know that it also takes variety. This article goes into why the brain needs variety and how to optimize our “practice” time. Of course, as comprehensible input teachers we do not ask our students to practice, but we do try to give them “reps” or repetitions of a certain structure. There have often been discussions on moretprs about how many reps are needed for students to acquire a structure and the answer, of course, is …. “It depends.” I’ve been impressed when someone announces that they got 80 reps, or sometimes over a hundred. After reading this article, I’m wondering if it might not be more effective to stop at 20 or 30 and then to get in as many on following days.

Here is the link to the article:

There are 2 comments

  1. Jim Tripp

    Thanks for sharing this Judy! This reminds me of what Eric Herman has been saying the last year about the need to not impoverish the input by focusing on reps at the expense of variety and novelty of language.

    “Although a blocked schedule may produce superior performance during practice, study after study has shown that a random practice schedule consistently produces superior retention following practice a day or more later (i.e., the amount actually learned). This phenomenon is called the contextual interference effect.”

    This seems to be the reason why a TPRS classroom is so much better than a “traditional” sequential grammar and thematic vocab curriculum, because the input comprehended is naturally varied and fairly spontaneous. It also seems to be the way for us TPRS teachers to move to another level of effectiveness.

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