First Hundred Hours (2009)

The First Hundred Hours:

Interacting about the Here and Now


Growing Participator Approach

At-A-Glance Session Plans and Resource Packet for

Phase 1


by Greg and Angela Thomson (Version: Mar06, edits Sep09)

Don’t learn the language!

Rather, discover a new world, as it is known

and shared by the people among whom you are living.

Note for Groups using This Program

progressionWe suggest that before you begin to meet for the learning activities with a Nurturer, each participant read the introduction to each phase (and skim the rest of the document). Then meet together to discuss it, with a Language Learning Advisor also present, if possible.

We also recommend an initial social event like a party, potluck supper, and other activities that will help the members of the group better understand one another and develop a team spirit of mutual support, encouragement and ‘plain old fun.’

Please keep in mind that even though the Here-and-Now Phase involves less than ten percent of the total set of language learning activities (1500 hours with Nurturers),  these first 100 hours provide a rapid and powerful kick-start which can create momentum that will help learners continue for months to come.

Phase 1A: Listen And Respond Nonverbally (‘The Silent Phase’) pages 3-48

Time Spent with Nurturers:

15 Sessions, 30 – 40 hours

Word Gain: 

first 300+ words

Phase 1B: Add Constrained Two-Way Communication pages 49-92

Time Spent with Nurturers:

25 Sessions, 50 – 60 hours

Word Gain: 

add 450+ words

How This Set Of Session Plans Was Originally Created

These session plans were created for our first eighty hours of focused participation in Kazakh life. Each morning, we spent half an hour to an hour planning and preparing for a two hour session. We had four such sessions per week. We had previously collected a lot of toys and dolls and continued buying such items as we saw them in bazaars and shops. Often, though, we just gathered the needed artefacts for a session from our own apartment, for example, from the refrigerator. We also prepared visual helps such as a detailed drawing of a typical local neighbourhood.

Graphics Pack Included

More recently we have added a set of drawings of the objects suggested in each session. We find these are especially helpful to GPs as they listen to audio-recordings made during their sessions, to use when they can not reassemble the objects that were used in the session. We like to ring-bind the program for Phase 1 (a and b) with the back cover forming a pocket containing this graphic resource set as loose sheets. Often it is helpful to cut apart the pictures, in which case we encourage users to first make photocopies. We are also making the graphic resource set available as computer files.

As more people use this plan on their own, we would love to hear of changes and innovations they have made.

Phase 1A: Interacting about the Here-and-Now,

Listening and Responding Nonverbally

(‘The Silent Phase’)

At-A-Glance Session Plans

Copyright September 2004, all rights reserved.  Revised September 2009.

Informal copying and distribution freely allowed.

Please obtain permission for formal publication or translation.

SECTION I: Understanding the Growing Participator Approach. 5

What Language Learning is All About:  Become a Growing Member of a New Community 5

More about the Sessions 7

More about Your Nurturer 9

More about the Comprehension-Led Approach to Learning. 10

The Iceberg Principle 10

Fun versus Frustration. 11

Some Types of Activities for Supercharged Participation Sessions 13

Our “Lexicarry Activity” 13

“Quick and Dirty” Dozen Vocabulary (“Dirty Dozen” For Short) 14

Total Physical Response (TPR) 14

Here-And-Now-Descriptions of Us! 15

Ways to Learn ‘Survival’ Expressions 15

Input-Based Learning of New Speech Sounds 16

Grammar in the “Here-and-Now” 16

Checklists and Resources 18

Things to Keep Track Of 18

Resources to Gather 19

Recording Device 20

SECTION II:  Phase 1A Sessions-at-a-Glance 21

Session 1 at-a-Glance 22

Start with the Foundation. 22

Here-And-Now Descriptions 22

Session 2 at-a-Glance 24

Two Goals of Each Session. 24

Session 3 at-a-Glance 26

Building Your Little World. 26

Session 4 at-a-Glance 27

Session 5 at-a-Glance 29

Grammar: Expressing Concrete Meaning. 29

Session 6 at-a-Glance 31

The Value Of TPR. 31

Session 7 at-a-Glance 33

Grand Review – Hurrah for 150 words! 33

Session 8 at-a-Glance 34

Learning Grammar using Familiar Words 34

Session 9 at-a-Glance 36

Quick Gap-Filling Activities 36

Session 10 at-a-Glance 38

Session 11 at-a-Glance 40

Listening Furiously. 40

Listening Contrast Activity. 40

Session 12 at-a-Glance 43

Session 13 at-a-Glance 44

Session 14 at-a-Glance 46

Session 15 at-a-Glance 47

Plan Your Own Session at-a-Glance 48

SECTION I: Understanding the Growing Participator Approach

What Language Learning is All About:  Become a Growing Member of a New Community

“Language learning” is a phrase I find myself using less and less because it has such a fixed meaning in most readers’ minds and does not readily expand to accommodate the full complexity of the processes involved in gaining fluency in a new language and culture. The more I learn about these processes the more evident this conflict between the common understanding of language learning and the reality becomes.

When I talk about “language-growth” and “language-development”, most people think of these terms as only referring to processes occurring inside the individual “learner.” Indeed many essential changes are going on inside the individual who is growing, but the more basic developmental picture, I believe (following the Soviet psychologist Vygotsky, and a variety of others) is something bigger than the individual. The more accurate picture is one which includes two or more individuals and the dynamic that is happening between them as they interact. What happens inside the individual is only what it is because of the place it has in that person’s joint life with others.

Humans are primarily social! Listening and talking are the primary way humans relate together socially. Thus, social interaction plays a central role as a language learner learns to listen with understanding, and learns to talk so as to be understood. Because of this, learning a language has been defined as growth in participation in an ethno-linguistic community.

Language Learners can be Growing Participators

Instead of using the terms “learner” and “language learner,” in the Growing Participator Approach we refer to them instead as growing participators (abbreviated GP). This helps to remind us of this new way of thinking (of language as fundamentally a social activity), and prevent us from inadvertently slipping back into the old way of compartmentalizing language learning as merely a mental activity. Feel free, of course, to continue using the terms you prefer. Perhaps for you, as for us, though, those older terms will begin to feel uncomfortable.

Language Helpers can be Nurturers

In these pages, we will mainly talk of the processes of “language learning” in terms of “growing participation”, in which “current participators” of the host community group life nurture “growing participators” (us) into ever fuller levels of participation in their world and lives. This is a process that will take many years. Within these pages we will focus on the “first 100 hours” of sessions involving a language helper — whom we call a Nurturer (referred to by the pronoun ‘she’ in these pages) — and the learner (referred to by the pronoun ‘he’ in these pages). We are convinced that, ideally, the many-year process is a single road, and the sessions described on these pages will be merely the first few steps of participation on this long, enjoyable journey.

The process of “growing participation” is sometimes complicated by the fact that although newcomers are desperately in need of opportunities to participate deeply in social relationships, they appear to host people to be unable to do so! For that reason, beginning GPs need one or more host people who will be dedicated to interacting with them in ways which allow them to participate and grow, literally nurturing them into deeper and deeper levels of participation. These special “Nurturers” help the new participators to reach the point where additional host people begin to see them as (perhaps marginally) valid participators in their social world. Then the newcomer’s opportunities to participate in the community and grow in communication skills will begin to multiply rapidly.

We like the term “Nurturer” rather than “teacher”,” tutor” or “language helper” for the same reason that we prefer the term GP over “learner”: for most readers, those traditional terms don’t mean what we intend them to mean.

Be careful not to make the idea of “participation” into an abstract concept. Each GP should not lose sight of the fact that he is together in a flesh-and-blood relationship with a very special person (the Nurturer) in order to interact with her in a lively manner. He should not lose sight of the importance of growing into a relationship with her and, through her, into a relationship with her larger network of relationships and community and with other individuals in it. Over time, the GP’s relationship with the Nurturer will keep evolving. The Nurturer, by participating in this relationship with the GP, nurtures him to higher and higher levels of ability to participate in the broader community. She helps him to participate in both this specific relationship and in further relationships. The further relationships will, in turn, provide additional nurturing.

Language Learning Activities can be Supercharged Participation Activities

“Participate” and “grow as a participator” are used as synonyms in these pages. In later weeks and months, as the learner participates in his place of employment, or in growing friendships, those very activities will be a continuation of the activities he does now as he participates in these “first 100 hours” with his Nurturer. For several additional hundreds of hours following the activities described on these pages, there are other varieties of specially planned “participation activities” which can accelerate the learner’s early growth in participation, until the rate of growth in normal-life participation becomes adequate and sustainable.

There will be a strong sense of continuity in the growing participation beginning from Session 1 and continuing through Year 10 of the learner’s life in the community. For that reason, among others, we will refer to “language learning activities,” instead as “supercharged participation activities.” This refers to activities which are optimised to facilitate growth in the learner’s relationships and in his ability to pursue further relationships.  These activities will allow you to participate ever more fully in life with members of the host language community.

We ask the readers and users of this program to attempt to consider everything discussed in these session plans as parts of a continuous, multi-year journey into ever fuller participation in the life of the host community.

Interaction at a Level that Allows You to Grow – during Phase 1

As new GPs connect with Nurturers, the key, then, is that the latter to relate to the former in ways that allow them to grow. At the outset, this can be done by interacting about immediate, shared experience, so that the GP can see (and do) what the Nurturer is talking about. By sticking to “here-and-now” language, that is, language about what is visible and taking place while the Nurturer and GP are speaking, it is possible for actual communication in the new language to begin immediately.

Many traditional approaches to language learning require learners to memorize sentences or dialogues which they could never have produced or understood based on their current language ability. Unfortunately, it is only by using his current language ability that a GP will be able to interact with others in a way that allows him to grow to a higher level of ability.

At the very start, before he has learned anything, a GP’s current ability will be his ability to understand what his Nurturer is saying while he can see clearly (with his eyes) what she (the Nurturer) is talking about. During this process he will begin to become familiar with words and patterns of words. Once a GP has a bit of familiarity with how the Nurturer talks, he will then have a non-artificial basis for attempting to talk himself. We follow this sequence then: first becoming familiar with what host people say, and then attempting to talk like they do, with their assistance.

Phase 1A allows GPs the opportunity to become familiar with hundreds of words and simple ways of combining them, before being expected to talk at all. Phase 1B then includes activities to “force” the GPs to talk to the Nurturer and to one another, in their own words, according to their own ability.

After a hundred or so hours of interacting with a Nurturer about the here-and-now, the GP will be ready to begin talking more about things that are “displaced”, that is, not happening at the time and place of the interaction. In fact, however, in Phase 2 (not presented within this document), the GPs continue to communicate mainly with the help of pictures and drawings, while communicating much more freely than they did in Phase 1. Extensive “displaced language” (talking about life in the past, or future, and in other places than the one where they are currently located) will be the focus during Phase 3.

By following this sequence, GPs will be able to fully participate in interactions within the host language. At first, their responses will be non-verbal, but when they have a bit of familiarity with the language the responses will start to be verbal as well. In this way, from the first moments, GPs can actually be functioning in their new language — using the language to accomplish its purposes, rather than parroting memorized phrases — making use of their present level of ability to enable them to grow to a higher level of ability.

Beginners often feel the need to be able to say some things to others in the host environment even in the first weeks.  In other approaches to language learning this need has compelled them to initially memorize “useful expressions”. This need will not be ignored but rather addressed through the “Lexicarry activities”, through the use of personal photos, and through spontaneous (non-memorization-based) role-plays. We believe that GPs who engage in interaction as their way of growing will quickly come to be able to communicate all of the ideas that they would have traditionally relied on rote-memory for, as well as gain many more helpful skills and progress in relationships in the process. Many people are radically restricted in the amount they are able to learn when they have to learn by rote memory. We observe that people develop much broader communication ability when they learn by communicating rather than by memorizing. By “communicating” we mean using supercharged participation activities.

More about the Sessions

Phase 1 — Worth the Effort to Plan and Support

No matter who does the day to day planning, we recommend that both the GP and the Nurturer have a copy of these plans for daily sessions, that both of them be familiar with what is going to happen in each “supercharged participation sessions”, and that both of them be familiar with the objectives for the whole program.

One of our favourite strategies is for a language learning advisor or language coach to take a major role in preparing and guiding the activities with a small group of learners and Nurturer. (A pair of language learning advisors adding some of their own brainstorming might significantly improve the program, too!)

After a Nurturer has been through the Phase 1 program a couple of times under such guidance, she will be in a strong position to lead future groups on her own. Also, a GP who has been through the program may be in a position to serve as a coach for a group involving new GPs and an inexperienced Nurturer.

Of all the six phases, Phase 1 is the only one where this level of support is found to be valuable. Planning and carrying out supercharged participation sessions will become much easier from Phase 2 onward.

Principles for Customizing Your Session Plans

This current paper is intended to give GPs and Nurturers step-by-step assistance, if that is what they desire. However, others may prefer to use it merely as a sample of how they might organize 80 to 120 hours of sessions. The content and its ordering are partly driven by our understandings of how language ability develops (the first author has a PhD in psycholinguistics), but inevitably, it is also partly arbitrary. We feel that many people might create a better sample program than the one presented here, or might modify this one in profitable ways, as new ideas come to them while they are attempting to use the ideas that are presented.

In constructing such a program, we try to keep the following features in mind, which people preparing a different program, or modifying this one, might also want to emphasize

Virtually all learning-related activities should be participative, interactive and relational (whether or not the GPs have started speaking the language). Listening to audio-recordings of sessions as “homework” is viewed as a way for the GP to re-experience, in his mind’s eye, his personal participative, interactive, relational activities that took place during the session.

Throughout each session, GPs should be able to hear a lot of speech that they can understand. Also, the activities should be done in ways which help them to pay attention to what they are hearing, process it, and respond in some way.

During this first 100 to 120 hours, GPs will be very limited in their ability to speak creatively. Activities that require them to speak should therefore provide a realistically narrow framework in terms of the range of speaking that is prompted. At the same time, information gap activities (see below) should definitely stretch the GPs into speaking creatively.

Any material that is new in one session (for example, new words, and new grammar patterns) should be woven also into subsequent sessions. Thus, most sessions will contain new material interwoven with previously encountered material. When weaving in the repeated material, it is helpful to take some from the immediately preceding session or two, and take some from much earlier sessions.

In line with this, the activities (and hence the language involved) should increase in complexity from day to day.

Before GPs begin speaking, they can have a vocabulary goal of becoming acquainted with ten (or more) vocabulary per hour of session, on the average. Once talking begins, the average new vocabulary per hour of session may fall to seven (or more) items. In any case, we find that it helps to set a goal for steady growth in vocabulary. This goal should be stated in terms of listening vocabulary, that is, words that you understand when you hear them, not words that you have mastered completely.

A topical orientation seems natural and is encouraged, as it can give a certain logic to language growth. A session, for example, might employ bathroom artefacts or kitchen activities as the focus of a language learning activity.

The Nurturer should understand her role. The GPs are trying to grow in their ability to have relationships through participating in this initial relationship with her. This will bring them to the point where they can grow in additional relationships. As a Nurturer, she relates to them in ways that facilitate their participation in communication with her, thus facilitating their growth into her larger speech community as well.

If there is a group of GPs in which some are falling behind the others, those falling behind should be provided with extra time with a Nurturer in order to “catch up”. The catch-up times are for more experience with language which was involved in previous sessions, not for new material. In some cases a more advanced GP can help a struggling beginner by listening to the audio-recordings together with him, and helping him to understand parts that he finds difficult.

More about Your Nurturer

Desirable Qualities in a Nurturer

The term “Nurturer” is not meant to exclude professional teachers, who can often be the very best Nurturers if they choose to approach their profession in that spirit. In fact, the concept of a Nurturer, which is analogous to an older brother or sister or parent helping a young child who is attempting to interact with them, is often very helpful to teachers. After all, it is often their nurturing spirit that led them to choose that profession, even though the role that cultures often assign to “teachers” (a transmitter of knowledge, a disciplinarian) tends not to be very nurturing at all. Thus the concept of teacher-as-Nurturer frees many teachers to be what they naturally desire to be.

On the other hand, it is not necessary that a Nurturer be a trained teacher. Host people who are not professional teachers often make absolutely outstanding Nurturers as well. However, it cannot be expected that they will more naturally adopt a Nurturer-role In fact, they too would naturally think they have to adopt a teacher-role, since that is the usual role their culture provides for someone attempting to help someone else learn a language. Thus ordinary host people, as well as trained teachers, need to be oriented to the idea of a Nurturer-role. Happily, the metaphors of older sibling and parent are readily available in all cultures, and have repeatedly proven effective in orienting new Nurturers. If a GP needs to recruit an untrained Nurturer, he should explain that he needs someone who is kind and helpful in addition to being intelligent.

A Significant Relationship

The relationship between Nurturers and GPs can be a special one indeed. We commonly observe a powerful bonding that occurs almost immediately. This is not surprising if we realize that the Nurturer is literally nurturing the GP through a major life transition.

In addition to the unexpectedly deep nature of this specific relationship, it also is significant since it provides the means for the GPs to begin to relate with the whole community whom the Nurturer represents.

The Language of Communication

Sometimes the Nurturer might share a common language with the GPs in addition to the language she is helping them to learn. She does not need a high level of proficiency in the common language in order to explain the activities to the GPs or to understand the GPs’ explanations of them, depending on who is primarily preparing the sessions. Alternatively, a fellow-expatriate who is already a relatively advanced GP can assist in the beginning sessions by guiding the Nurturer through the activities. In the ideal case, this fellow-expatriate will be one who has received training to serve as a Language Learning Advisor (LLA). There would be no need for a shared language if the session plans have been translated into the Nurturer’s own language or another language she knows, especially if she has been guided through the program once, and the GPs are also familiar with the lesson plans.

About Hiring

The GP should not set precedents by paying hourly wages that are outlandishly high by local standards, since this can be socially disruptive, and can create hardships for future GPs coming from less affluent nations who might like to also work with Nurturers that are known to be gifted and experienced, who have been previously hired by GPs from affluent countries. In the case of professional teachers serving as Nurturers, there will already be a standard for their wages within the society. For other Nurturers, the normal salary of a semi-skilled worker might be a good standard.

It is generally recommended that a GP not agree to hire an inexperienced Nurturer for more than a few days initially. The gifts and personal qualities of the Nurturer will determine how much the GP is able to participate in the sessions. Some sincere would-be Nurturers may lack the patience, gentleness and sensitivity to others that is required. Others may be unable to abandon the traditional “teacher” role that they are familiar with. If things go smoothly for a few days, then Nurturer might next be hired for a longer period such as a month. If the relationship is deepening steadily and the GP is growing well in it, then the arrangement can be made indefinite in length.

More about the Comprehension-Led Approach to Learning

At the outset, GPs know nothing of the host language. That means they have nothing to say. Many GPs expect to be able to talk a lot even before they know much of the language. As noted earlier, that is not realistic, unless the GP wants to mimic his Nurturer like a parrot! The strategy suggested here is for the GPs to not attempt to speak a lot until they have something to say – able to express their own ideas with their own words

Vocabulary can grow very quickly when the GP focuses on this main goal of being able to understand (not speak) the new vocabulary. Soon the GP will have considerable familiarity with hundreds of vocabulary items, and many sentence patterns, which will form a reasonable basis for attempting to speak. So at first, the assumption is that the GP needs to focus mainly on listening and learning to understand.

A GP may have a need to begin trying to speak in the world outside of the session. The principle is that the GPs should express themselves “as best they can” based on their stage of development, rather than expressing themselves “perfectly” based on memorized materials. As noted, memorization is so time-consuming, that it cannot but decrease the kind of broad-based growth that we are promoting.

The basic idea of comprehension-led learning is that the GP’s goal is to become extremely familiar with the new language, and that this wide-ranging familiarity will provide a basis for growth in speaking ability. Other more traditional approaches put relatively little or no emphasis on the need to learn to understand speech. Often there is an implicit assumption that if one learns to read, write and speak, one will automatically be able to understand speech. This is not reasonable, since understanding speech involves a set of complex skills that are separate from the skills involved in reading, writing and speaking.

In fact, in normal language learning (and normal language processing in the heads of normal language users) the ability to understand speech is the foundational ability on which the other abilities to read, write and speak are built. It seems therefore unwise to ignore the purposeful building of this foundational skill when learning another language. In this plan of sessions we put this purposeful skill-building first. The various activities and vocabulary goals of these six phases of growing participation are designed to steadily increase GPs’ ability to understand speech until they can understand almost everything they hear.

Discover a New World

The philosophy of language learning that is reflected in these sessions is summed up in the statement:

Don’t learn the language! Rather, discover a new world, as it is known and shared by the people among whom you are living.

This little statement encapsulates a tremendous amount. Rather than elaborate on it, we will encourage you to reflect on it, repeatedly!

The Iceberg Principle

icebergMany GPs put great energy into attempting to master every word fully as possible when they first encounter it. They find that a large portion of the words they tried to master do not stay mastered! We find it works better to simply aim to put the words into the lower part of “the iceberg” and let them rise.

Very briefly, this principle can be described as: words that are completely mastered are like “the tip of an iceberg”. Words that are barely familiar are very low in the iceberg, but rise higher with repeated encounters in new contexts, since each encounter strengthens them somewhat.

One person might expend great energy trying to put 300 words into the tip of the iceberg (the goal being to speak them out at will), to soon discover that only two hundred (or less) remain there. Another person, for the same expenditure of energy, might put a thousand words into the lower parts of the iceberg (the goal being to understand them when they are again heard in context), to soon discover that 200 (or more) of them have already risen to the tip of the iceberg. The latter GP has achieved as much as the former when it comes to the words that are in the tip of the iceberg, but in addition, has another eight-hundred or so words in the iceberg, working their way up (while the former GP has only another 100 words lower in the iceberg working their way up).

In our experience, most GPs find the iceberg principle a great encouragement. However, there are some who find it frustrating to apply this principle, and would prefer to learn less, in order to feel a sense of greater level of mastery (at least they hope) of what they have attempted to learn. When working in accordance with the iceberg principle, they may express frequent frustration that they “can’t remember anything” when it is obvious to observers that they remember a huge amount (as they respond to words or can utter them after being reminded slightly). They just have a very strict standard for what they will count as something “remembered” (expecting instant ability to speak the word exactly right).

Fun versus Frustration

Here are some common complaints or resistance that new learners have to this approach, and our advice.

Many GPs, when they first experience a highly participative, interactive, relational, comprehension-led approach, feel that they grow more easily and quickly than has been their experience with traditional approaches and other approaches that employ a lot of rote memorization, and non-participative, non-interactive classroom activities.

Not everyone reacts in this way. For some people, the traditional approach they are familiar with defines what they consider “language learning”, and they may feel anxious that they must not be learning the language because they are not going about it in the familiar way (even if they realize that that familiar way didn’t work very well).

For some people tradition spells security: One knows exactly what one is supposed to “learn”, and what one will be held accountable for on the exam. Communicative language learning of any stripe can be frightening because it requires one to use the language in freer ways that one cannot fully prepare for in advance. If a potential GP realizes that sooner or later he must give up the security of precise, bit-by-bit mastery, and deal with the uncertainties of participation in real life, it may help him to be brave, and go ahead with activities such as those proposed here or other communicative language learning activities which require real understanding of speech, and real talking from an early point.

Other GPs are greatly intimidated by the idea of having to learn by listening, since they feel they are “visual learners”. It helps them if they understand that listening comprehension, the foundation of normal language ability, can never be made into a visual skill. The stronger one’s “visual learning preference”, the more urgent it is that one seriously improve one’s ability to listen and to learn through listening. They are going to be doing thousands of hours of that along this multi-year journey in growing participation. Most people can grasp this point, and some self-declared “visual learners” report they have been significantly helped to be better able to listen and learn through this program.

Another group of GPs that may be frustrated are those who feel a strong desire to have every detail of everything they are exposed to fully explained before going on. They do not realize that there is much that actually cannot be explained until they are more advanced in their participation (if then), and attempts at partial or misleading explanations can consume a lot of time, turning the 100 hours into 500, as they seek the security of full understanding. At times, a Nurturer may invent “explanations” that provide the sought-after sense of security to such GPs, even though the explanation may not actually be valid! (A variation on this problem is the GP who feels he hasn’t understood anything until it has been translated into English.) GPs should try to let as much of the new language as possible be directly meaningful, rather than requiring themselves to always mentally discuss everything with themselves in complex analytical terms. Kids and teen-agers can do these supercharged participation activities with no problem. Intellectuals can feel challenged by an approach that is inherently non-intellectual. They are encouraged to loosen up and have fun. Remember that one has to speak badly for some time before one can speak well. (Language learning may not be the best life choice for someone who always needs to sound like a genius!)

Again, we are talking about a gradual process. People shouldn’t panic if some verb form is not totally clear to them after the first few exposures. They need to relax. After all, by Phase 6, they will be continuing to encounter that verb form thousands (or millions) of times, day in and day out, for many years! The same is true of vocabulary. Words that we know weakly at first will keep getting stronger with repeated encounters until they are extremely, extremely familiar. Someone may feel that because he couldn’t think of the word for “husband” this morning, he is in big trouble. Well, that word will be back, believe me!

Some GPs complain about the fact that they can understand lots of the vocabulary but cannot recall it at will. They need to keep being reminded that they are not supposed to be able to recall it at will. They are first to be able to understand it. Later, they will learn to recall it as well, often at first with much effort, and requiring help from the Nurturer. That is normal. (And good.) Many people equate “remembering” with “recalling”. However, if we understand a word when we hear it, then we remember it. Learning to recall words for use in speech is by nature more difficult than learning to understand them. So we happily take advantage of the fact, rather than bemoaning it. It is a key secret of our rapid growth—we aren’t requiring ourselves to be able to recall all that we can understand. For many that spells freedom. For some it spells panic! Our understandings of these things are at best shadowy.

The point at which the activities move from listening and responding nonverbally to listening and talking—the beginning of phase 1b—is a point at which some GPs will experience a lot of stress and anxiety. It may help just to be forewarned about this. Some may complain that they don’t want to have to “make things up from scratch”, in order to speak, but rather want to know in advance exactly how to say whatever they are going to say. Such a philosophy won’t get them very far. There is just no way to know in advance exactly how to say whatever we might need to say. Developing the ability to “make things up from scratch” is the name of the game.

Some GPs may be embarrassed or stressed feeling they cannot keep up with others in a group. We suggested above that they get extra help, either from a host Nurturer or from a fellow GP who is more advanced.

Some GPs may be troubled that some of what they are learning does not seem “relevant” to them. We feel that this may reflect a misunderstanding. What is most relevant is to be able to understand as much as possible of what one hears, and to express whatever meanings one may need to express, as early as possible—that is, to be able to express meanings that one didn’t know in advance that one would need to express. The popular alternative is for GPs to memorize specific expressions that they believe they will frequently want to say. That is a time-consuming approach that cuts into time that might have been used for developing the abilities to understand speech, to put one’s own thoughts into words, and to interact. The need to learn a few “useful expressions” very early is met here through our Lexicarry activities. We find we actually learn such expressions in that way more quickly and easily than we do by memorizing them, and the activity is interactive and comprehension-led, contributing to growth in language ability overall. We have tried our best to structure the learning activities in Phases 1 to 5 in such a way that they correspond to the actually observed pattern of development of language ability. Concentrating on memorizing complicated but “relevant” sentences during the early weeks of language learning would go against that principle. (See the discussion above on NOT memorizing.)

After all these warnings, it should be emphasized that most GPs have fun doing the activities described below, or others that they or a Nurturer makes up, especially if they do them with one or more other GPs in a group. We include these warnings so that the smaller number who experience serous frustration can be anticipating this, and deal with it, and end up also having fun. Even those who don’t find the activities totally fun may recognize their value and enjoy them to a reasonable extent. Very few people will find them highly unpleasant. Such people may benefit from lots of opportunity to talk through their frustrations with a language learning advisor, but in the end, they may prefer to go back to a more traditional approach, until they develop some confidence. Hopefully, that will later enable them to deal with the challenges that they must ultimately face if they are to grow very far in their participation.

The kinds of frustrations we discussed here arise from the conflict between the dynamics and uncertainties of growing participation, and various aspects of the would-be GPs’ personality, history, beliefs, and so on. People should be supported in turning to more comfortable activities if they find growing participation overwhelming at first, but should be aware that some of the issues that are causing difficulty may still exist whenever the student finally decides to start functioning as a participator. Sooner or later the person may just have to bite the bullet, and stick at it. The frustrations eventually decrease.

Some Types of Activities for Supercharged Participation Sessions

Here are brief introductions to many of the activities included in the sessions.

More detailed instructions will occur within the At-a-Glance Session Plans.

Our “Lexicarry Activity”

Lexicarry is a wonderful book containing story strips similar to comic strips, with about three frames per story. The “bubbles” where words would be in a comic strip, are left empty. The stories illustrate approximately sixty common language functions and communication situations.

The “Lexicarry activities” referred to in these lessons are of the type described in the paper “A Few Simple Ideas For New Language Learners” by Thomson, Thomson, Thomson & Thomson (1996), available for downloading on the web-site

During our first month, while concentrating on learning to understand, we can use the story strips this way: The Nurturer begins by telling us what each person might be saying in the stories and then asks us questions like “Who is saying, ‘May I help you?’; who is saying, ‘I’m sorry’?”. We respond by pointing, not by speaking. In a few moments, by using this activity with the Lexicarry, we can recognize ten new “survival expressions”. Soon we are saying many of them as well.

In certain sessions described for Phase one the GP or Nurturer may want to create their own Lexicarry-like drawings. There are examples of home-made Lexicarry-like drawings in the accompanying resource set.

When considering such functions we need to bear in mind that there may be a large number of possible ways to fulfil each function, and the choice among the possibilities may partly depend on:

* One’s social standing relative to the person one are talking to

* How well one knows the person

* Who is listening

* The circumstances under which the communication occurs

In other words, as he works on specific language functions, the GP should not expect to simply memorize a single sentence for each function, even though on the first pass through the Lexicarry, he may learn one utterance for each cartoon bubble. At later stages, the Lexicarry can be used to discuss various options associated with the cartoon bubbles. You might eventually consider role-play as a means of exploring language functions as they are carried out with a variety of speakers and hearers in a variety of circumstances.

In the Appendix we have included some sample Lexicarry-type pages.

“Quick and Dirty” Dozen Vocabulary (“Dirty Dozen” For Short)

A “quick and dirty dozen” activity commonly involves ten to fifteen new objects, actions or pictures (thus roughly a dozen). The goal is not total mastery of the new words, but rather strong familiarization with them. That is, the learning is “quick and dirty”, rather than neat and thorough. Of course the activity can be done with as few as five or six new words, and as many as twenty or thirty.

In a dirty dozen activity, the procedure is always to start with two items. Suppose the GPs are learning the names of the parts of a car. They might use a picture of a car. The Nurturer might begin with the car door and the steering wheel. She would tell the GPs (a few times) “This is the door. This is the steering wheel.”

Then the Nurturer asks the GPs, “Where is the door? Where is the steering wheel?” They respond by pointing, not speaking.

When the GPs feel ready, a third item is added: “Where is the door? Where is the tire? Where is the steering wheel? Where is the tire? Where is the steering wheel? Where is the door? Where is the door?” They respond by pointing, not speaking.

Every time the GPs feel ready, a new word is added. Only one new word is added at a time. Thus, the rule is, “Start with two words, and only add one new word at a time.” It has been found that in early language learning, departures from this rule cause frustration. Later on it may be possible to break the rule sometimes.

Total Physical Response (TPR)

In Total Physical Response activities (developed by James Asher—see his web-site, for a large selection of books and supplies) the Nurturer gives commands to the GPs, which they carry out, without speaking. Example: “Pick up the ball and throw it to the boy in the green sweater.”

This allows GPs to develop their ability to understand new words and sentences without being under pressure to speak. Most of the comprehension activities suggested below fall within the broad category of TPR-like activities. We apply the dirty-dozen rules to all TPR and TPR-like activities that are introducing new vocabulary. That is, “start with two words, and only add one new word at a time”.

Here-And-Now-Descriptions of Us!

This term is used for activities where the GPs and the Nurturer perform actions, and someone, either the Nurturer or a GP, describes what is happening, speaking to another specific person: “I am reading, you are drawing a picture, and they are playing football”. Talking about “you, me, she, us”, etc. is essential in early language learning. Here-and-now descriptions provide a means for this from the very beginning, even if they are somewhat artificial.

In the age of digital cameras, it is easy to make pictures of the GPs and Nurturer in various combinations, carrying out various activities. These can be used in place of “Here-and-now Descriptions of us” or in addition to them: “In which picture are you-plural running? In which picture am I eating?” Etc., etc. It seems to be a bit of a challenge to come up with activities which naturally refer to “you”, “I”, “we”, etc. during the early sessions. Suggestions are welcomed. See the puppet show example in lesson 8.

Communicating about “you”, “I”, “we”, etc. during the first 100 hours of supercharged participation activities is one of the areas most in need of creative ideas and improvements in our present approach.

Ways to Learn ‘Survival’ Expressions

Survival Expressions are those phrases you feel a need to be able to say very soon upon arrival in your new community.  The ‘default’ approach in many language programs is to memorize these by rote.  There are various alternatives to memorizing. When we were learning Urdu, we abandoned all memorization apart from the memorization of some survival phrases and power tools. When we were learning Russian, we abandoned memorizing survival phrases and power tools as well. This is in keeping the communicative language learning philosophy, according to which speech produced by the GP needs to always reflects his current level of ability to produce speech, not recitation of much more complex speech.  Here are some options that involve more communicative approaches:

Use Lexicarry and Role Plays

We learned to avoid memorizing survival expressions and power tools by using our “Lexicarry activity”, and by doing impromptu role-plays of survival situations.

Listen Repeatedly to Recordings

A less radical alternative is to record fifty or one hundred survival expressions, each one preceded and/or followed by the English (or other language) translation, and listen to it often. As the language starts becoming more meaningful to the GP, so will these expressions. It is not so useful a strategy at the very beginning, but becomes more useful once the GP can partially process many of the sentences he hears.

A later recording can omit the English translation and perhaps relate each expression to a simple drawing that reasonably suggest of the meaning to the listener. The drawings can be shuffled so that it takes some processing effort to relate each recorded expression to the appropriate drawing. This will stimulate the mental language processor, and the GP may absorb a lot of the detail of the survival expressions.

When the GP needs to use the expressions in real life, he may end up using a chopped down version, but it will be a chopped down version that is his very own – he will be expressing his own thoughts using his own words. This will probably contribute more to the development of his speaking ability than just spouting a flowery expression like a parrot, not knowing exactly what he is saying. If a GP follows the procedure we are suggesting, he will quickly acquire a lot of survival language, in synch with his gradually evolving speaking ability.

Use Reverse Role-Plays

Another alternative to memorizing survival expressions is to learn them through reverse role-play. Example: set up a model of several city blocks and pretended the GP is a taxi driver, and that the Nurturer is a customer giving him instructions. This is reverse role-play. The GP wants to learn expressions a customer would use to talk to the taxi driver. Thus, he does not pretend that he is the customer, since that is the role he needs to be able to function in. He first needs to hear what local people say. That is the spirit of comprehension-led language learning. So he takes the role of the driver, and in the process learns what customers say. In the pretend driver role he can hear, process, and respond physically by moving the car about the model town. With suitable props he can use reverse role-play to learn expressions which will be useful in just about any communication situation which he faces during his early period of language learning.

For example, what props might one use with a Nurturer in performing a role-play aimed at learning how to talk to waiters in restaurants?

Input-Based Learning of New Speech Sounds

GPs will find during much of Phase 1a they do not hear words with precise detail, but rather, rely for understanding on the overall impression they have of a word, or on just part of its details. This is normal and to be expected. By Phase 1b they will hopefully be ready to start learning to hear the individual sounds of each word much more precisely.

Focus on Hearing Before Pronouncing

Often language learners attempt to develop their ability to pronounce accurately ahead of their ability to hear accurately. Suppose a GP cannot hear the difference between “peel” and “pill”. How is he supposed to “accurately” pronounce a sound distinction when he doesn’t know what it sounds like? That is putting the cart before the horse.

Resorting to looking at a written form of the words the GP is having difficulty with will actually complicate the development of the ability to hear accurately.  One learns to hear better through listening more.

One of the common ways we promote this more finely detailed phonetic learning is to have the Nurturer say words that sound extremely similar, and the GPs attempt to point at a picture which goes with the word that the Nurturer says. For example, an English-language Nurturer might say “pill” and the GP must choose between the pictures depicting a peel, a pill, a pal and a pale. In this way, the GP’s ability to listen and hear more precisely is further developed.

Grammar in the “Here-and-Now”

As noted, in the initial stages you should focus primarily on language tied to the “here-and-now.” That is, experiences shared by you and your Nurturer at the moment that the activity is going on. At this level, much of the basic grammar is dealt with, not as grammar, but simply as various ways to express concrete meanings. This level of grammatical ability will provide a foundation for going on, and developing more advanced, abstract grammar abilities later.

Often, when ‘grammar’ becomes the focus of a language session, the order of introduction of grammar details is based instead on teachers’ or learners’ impression of which forms are more simple and which are more complex. However, some things that appear simpler may really belong more properly to more complex stages of language processing, while some things that appear a bit more complex may more properly belong to simpler stages of language processing.

In these sessions, we attempt to organize the activities so that, over time, the processing complexity grows. This increasing complexity of interaction is what we use to determine which aspects of grammar come into focus at which point.

Having a lot of exposure to some aspect of grammar does not mean that it has been “acquired”, only that some sort of acquisition will have begun, which may stretch over months or years until it is more fully understood. There are some sentence patterns included, especially in Phase 1b, that are known to belong to more advanced stages of learning. They are included to raise initial awareness only, and the GPs are not expected to “master them”. These include conditional constructions (if..then), modal constructions (can, must, should), desiderative constructions (for wanting to do something) and relative-clause-like constructions (“The man who was running down the street”).

Input-Based Ways to Highlight Grammatical Form

In the popular mind, where learning a language is a matter of “learning to speak”, grammar is viewed as instructions on how to form sentences. This is a core aspect of “speech-led language learning” philosophies. In reality, grammar is first and foremost, a set of features found in speech that native listeners constantly intuitively use, in powerful ways, as part of their listening comprehension processes.

“Input-based grammar activities” are those which involve learning grammar first as part of the listening comprehension process. They are a very powerful way to become aware of many aspects of grammar, and are by nature participatory. Traditional grammar teaching diverts “learners” from real participation. With input-based activities, grammar is highlighted effectively, and yet the pace of participation is not broken.

Although Bill Van Patten is the name commonly associated with the idea of using TPR-like activities that force GPs to make use of grammatical information while listening (sometimes called structured input), we ourselves were using such activities long before he began writing about them, and no doubt others were as well. As an example, imagine someone learning English who is having trouble learning the principle of pronoun gender. We can place before him a set of pairs of pictures. In each pair of pictures the same situation is depicted, except in one picture of the pair the central actor is a male, and in the other picture it is a female. The Nurturer will make statement such as “He is swimming” or “She is swimming”. The GP must look through all of the sets of picture pairs to find the one that involves swimming. In addition, if the statement was “He is swimming”, the GP must choose the picture with the boy as the swimmer rather than the one with the girl.

Such input-based activities can begin with little or no explanation given to the GP, but with enough of a demonstration that the GP catches on to what he is supposed to do. The point of such activities is to prompt the GP to stop filtering out certain grammar details. Normally, many sentences can be understood without making any use of the grammatical details. If the GP is listening to a story about a girl, and the girl goes swimming, then when the phrase “She went swimming” is encountered, the pronoun “she” can be treated as a homonym of “he”, with neither “he” nor “she” conveying any gender information to the GP, since the GP already knows the gender. The fact that our GP is not acquiring the gender distinction suggests that this is just what he is doing: filtering out the difference, which in context, can often be considered redundant. Input-based grammar-highlighting activities make it impossible for the GP to filter out grammatical details. To perform the action required by the TPR-like instruction or question, the GP must make use of the grammatical detail that is in focus in the activity.

Obviously, we cannot provide examples of input-based grammar-highlighting activities that will be guaranteed to be relevant to every language. The example of pronoun gender is irrelevant to Kazakh or Mandarin. This is the aspect of our program that may take the most thought and effort to adapt to other languages. This is best done bit-by-bit over the course of the 100 hours, when those using the program notice aspects of grammar would benefit from special emphasis.

We no longer recommend starting with a list of grammar topics to attempt to cover, but rather dealing with ones that come up and that seem essential in the here-and-now phase. Many grammar details simply need to be ignored at this stage. For example, in learning English at this stage, the GPs might hear sentences such as “The man is standing beside the window.” The verb is in a form (“is standing”) that will be constantly encountered in speech about the “here-and-now”, and shouldn’t cause them much problem. They will likely begin using it soon in their own speech quite soon. The word “the” is another matter, and its role will not become clear for a long time. The order of the words “beside the window” (that is, with the word “beside” at the beginning of the phrases rather than at the end) may be new to someone from, let’s say, a Japanese background, and so an input-based grammar activity may be appropriate for highlighting that aspect of grammatical form in the here-and-now stage, since talking about locations is very important in this stage.

So, Don’t Become Derailed or Mired by Grammar

If you find that grammar is side-tracking you altogether, and discussions of grammar start eating up much of your time, you will need to place a strict limit on it, or there won’t be much growing participation going on. How disheartening it is for us to see GPs get off to a rip-roaring start in participation, and then a short time later find them drowning in papers strewed across the table where their dolls or vegetables should be, as they try to master complexities of grammar with pencils and papers, all the time talking in English rather than the host language. It can be a temporary or permanent derailment of their growing participation, or at least greatly decrease the rate of growth.

Learning a language is a long process. Many “language learners” want to become instantly native-like, and the grammar seems to them to be the factor preventing this. Thus, they let it mire them. Derailed and mired—what a combination! They need to be assured that the only normal way to begin speaking in a new language is to begin speaking badly!! If they will just get on with it, they will grow. They can use input-based grammar-highlighting activities, which are participative in nature, to help them become more sensitive to some key aspects of grammar in this phase, and use other varieties of activities to keep improving this aspect of their speech in later phases (not discussed here), but grammar is a very, very small part of what is involved in sounding “native-like” and should not be allowed to steal the show.

Checklists and Resources

Things to Keep Track Of

¨  Word Log

In the first weeks, it helps if the Nurturer maintains a list of the new vocabulary items introduced during a session. At this stage, this may best be done at the end of each activity in the session, perhaps before the audio recording is made which summarizes the activity.

This word log can serve four purposes: to keep track of how much vocabulary has been covered, for review, and later for focused phonetic listening activities. If you are creating your own session plans this log will also assist you as you plan your subsequent sessions, since each session is supposed to include some review of previously learned items.

One of the GPs goals can be to learn to recognize an average of seven to ten new vocabulary items per hour of session. Thus after a hundred hours he will be able to recognize seven hundred to a thousand common spoken vocabulary items. If he is more energetic, he might realistically go for fifteen or more vocabulary items per hour of session, and thus learn to recognize 1,500 spoken words in a hundred hours. Some keys to this efficient use of language sessions are to be well prepared, and for the GPs to keep listening to their recordings and reviewing previously learned items in subsequent sessions.

¨  Observation Log and Log of Ideas for the Future

The GPs can also keep a log of their observations as to how the language is put together, or why they think certain forms of words may be used in some cases, and different forms in other cases. They can relate this to their goals for covering a broad range of sentence patterns, a matter which we will discuss more below. They should also make note of any thing that puzzles them about how the language works.

As we progressed through our language sessions, we kept various checklists of ideas for future sessions. If you are using this sample program as an aid to creating your own program, you might want to do this as well.

These idea checklists included:

1) Situations in which we need to use the language.

2) Topics which we need to discuss in the language.

3) Special areas of vocabulary that may come to mind. You can go out and look around the community for ideas for vocabulary and examples of daily life situations, and add these to the checklists.

4) Sentence patterns to cover. The lessons outlined here will provide you with many examples of these, which need to be modified for each language. (For various checklists, see “Kickstarting Your Language Learning: Becoming A Basic Speaker Through Fun And Games Inside A Secure Nest”.)

¨  GP Journal

Another important component of record keeping might be a diary or journal in which the GP describes his whole experience of participation each day. This will have various uses. For one thing, reading back over the diary as the weeks and months go by will help the GP (and Nurturer) to appreciate the progress that has been made. For another thing, the diary will enable the GP to share his experiences with a LLA, or with other GPs, who may also share their diaries. The discipline of diary writing will help the GP to maintain a high level of self-awareness, which is important in the ongoing process of planning and self-evaluation.

Resources to Gather

¨  Toys and Things (See Shopping List in Resource Packet)

Some of the activities call for objects you can gather in your home, such as bathroom items, kitchen items, food, water, etc. Other activities call for toys: enough dolls to make a nuclear family with grandparents (in many parts of the world they cost about a dollar a piece—in North America we relied on “dollar stores” for many supplies); bags and bags of toy animals, mostly domesticated, but some wild ones, too; toy furniture; toy tools; toy vegetables are nice, but real ones work too (toy ones can be kept in the collection of objects currently in use); a small slate or whiteboard and markers for each learner; white paper, coloured paper, scissors; world map; sets of many small objects such as matches, beans, objects that come in sets of different colours, such as candies, pencils, crayons, tacks; something for a barrier in information gap activities (see below) such as a briefcase.

There is some advantage to having sessions in a normal house in a normal neighbourhood, since the furniture, utensils, rooms and so on will automatically be those of the local culture. The GPs or Nurturer can also take pictures, perhaps digital photos, of the common sights and situations in the neighbourhood and area. If the sessions are in the Nurturers’ home, then the GPs can be paying special attention to how the Nurturer welcomes them, invites them in, tells them where to sit, offers tea, deals with phone-calls or visitors, etc. If the sessions are in another location, such as a GP’s home or learning centre, these things can still be simulated. Meeting at the GPs’ home provides other advantages, since the visible context is more familiar, and the GPs can observe behaviours such as how what the Nurturer says when she arrives, and how she requests permission to leave or announces her departure, etc.

Some GPs feel that if the Nurturer is displaced from the primary homeland of the speech community, then the learning content should be based on that far-away homeland community. However, it may be more genuine to base the early learning on aspects of life that are current for the Nurturer, and on areas which she currently talks about in her own language with her family or friends who are with her now. Learning can start with the shareable world of the displaced people’s “sub-culture” in the location where they and the GPs currently live. Dealing with the far-away world will fit more naturally at a later stage.

This session outline comes with a graphic resource set which can be photocopied. It contains drawings of most of the objects used during the lessons. These pictures are to use when reviewing session, while listening to recordings, in case the toys and objects may not be handy. The pictures can also be used in place of the objects in sessions if the objects are difficult to obtain. The resource set also includes other drawings that are called for by various learning activities. It does not yet include drawings of actions used in the sessions. We hope to add them soon.

Be creative. If dolls are hard to obtain, for example, you might clip pictures of people out of magazines and glue them on cards, or just prepare photos. Puppets can be used when a GP is working alone with a nurturer, to simulate activities requiring more people.

¨  Lexicarry

To keep sessions interesting for GPs, an effort is usually made to include multiple activities in each session. The book Lexicarry is an extremely useful book which can add an activity to every session in this Phase as well as later Phases.

Lexicarry: Pictures for Learning Languages, by Patrick R. Moran. Beginning to Advanced. Primary to Adult; 2nd edition, Pro Lingua Associates, 1990; Price: $15.00, ISBN: 0-86647-123-5; Can be purchased at, or at

¨  TPR Kits

This very useful ‘toy’ involves normal scenes, with re-useable stickers or movable objects to place in them.

TPR kits (available commercially at, or from Sky Oaks Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 1102, Los Gatos, CA 95031 USA; Phone: (408) 395-7600; Fax: (408) 395-8440; Email – contain a plastic picture, for example, of the interior of a two-story house or the main street of a town. In addition there are reusable plastic stickers of many objects and people found in such locations. These are very useful for this Phase as well as future Phases, for ‘information gap’ activities, as well as for learning vocabulary related to the scene and objects.  Unfortunately, recently the manufacture has begun using partly transparent stickers, which makes them difficult to see on the boards.

You can also make your own scenes and movable objects. In some countries (including Kazakhstan) it is also possible to purchase scenes with reusable stickers, depicting well-known children’s stories.

Recording Device

The value of the sessions can be extended greatly by wise use of audio-recordings made during them.

¨  Lapel Microphones, Two Recorders

We find we get very clear recordings if we use lapel microphones. We also like to use a double cassette recorder or MP3 recording device so that we can copy sample bits of the session onto a second recording or onto the computer. This second recording will grow from day to day, as we add key excerpts of each day’s session.

In recent times the variety of recording devices has increased. Digital minidisk recorders, MP3 recorders, hand held or laptop or desktop computers that can record sound. Having the recordings on computer provides much greater ease of dubbing, taking excerpts, finding exact spots, repeating small stretches, and so forth. Files recorded on a computer can be converted into MP3 format so that a large amount of listening material can be stored on a CD or minidisk. If the GP or Nurturer has the technical know-how, these options can provide considerable help in making tools for reviewing material from sessions.

What to Record

We don’t need to save all fifty instances when the Nurturer said, “stand up” during the session. But during the final part of the initial TPR activity in which we had learned to respond to fifteen commands, the Nurturer was rapidly using all of them (in random order), and we were rapidly responding to all fifteen (or however many) commands. Therefore, by capturing the final few minutes of TPR instructions onto a new recording, we can save a complete record of the expressions we learned in the initial TPR activity of that session. We can similarly dub excerpts of the second (pointing) activity onto the same recording.

With the picture descriptions we may just dub the whole works over onto the abbreviated recording. We can listen to that several times: This is a man, this is a woman, etc. Keeping up with the descriptions and not losing my place is enough of a challenge at this point to force me to keep processing what I am hearing.

Video Recording

Given the highly visual nature of the Here-and-Now Phase, there are obvious benefits to using a video camera rather than an MP3 or tape recorder. This is great if a video camera happens to be available, but may not justify the cost of purchasing one.

Using Your Recordings:  the Value of Repeated Review

As GP’s listen to the recording of the TPR activities, they can actually respond, or they may just recall how they responded during the session. We consider it helpful to keep re-listening, repeatedly cycling through the recorded excerpts of previous sessions over many days.

As GP’s do these sessions in the coming weeks, they will be systematically focusing on a large variety of sentence patterns. GPs will always learn to understand the sentences during the session. However, they can easily forget much of what they had understood, except that they keep re-listening, cycling through the recorded excerpts of the earlier sessions. As they listen to excerpts of an earlier session, they can recall what they were doing in the session as they processed and responded to what they heard. If they have difficulty maintaining concentration while listening to the recording, then they can actually perform the responses (for example, point to the appropriate picture upon hearing a sentence about it), as they listen to the recording.

SECTION II:  Phase 1A Sessions-at-a-Glance

The session plans that follow are sample session plans—in fact descriptions of the sessions as they ended up unfolding, not necessarily as they were originally planned. Thus not more is included in a session plan than it was actually possible to carry out in two hours. (And we are generously allowing 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 hours for others to complete each session!) You will find occasional hints of the real life origin of the sessions, such as reference to a “disaster”.

If you think of creative ways to modify or replace the activities, please don’t hesitate to do so. Some adaptations will be necessary because the material and social world in which the GPs and Nurturers find themselves is different from the one we were beginning to participate in (as we wrote down these sessions).

In the area of grammar, much of what we describe is more relevant to Kazakh than to Xhosa. As noted, it will take special effort to come up with input-based activities that force processing of aspects of grammar that are important in other languages in the here-and-now stage.

Session 1 at-a-Glance

Start with the Foundation

It is good the first day to begin with some of the most foundational vocabulary. In ordinary conversation, people probably talk most about people. A good starting point in language learning is words for people, including pronouns. man, woman, boy, girl, baby, old lady, etc. (languages differ in the way the divide the life span into segments); I, you, we, they, he (languages differ in the specific variety of pronouns, too).

Those basic human nouns and pronouns may provide ten or fifteen vocabulary. These can be supplemented by other common living creatures in your context such as dog, cat, horse, cow, fly, spider, frog, mouse.

Here-And-Now Descriptions

Descriptions of ongoing activities and states that are visible to the GP are an extremely important part of early input. It is relatively easy to learn actions in the form of commands. It is important to hear, not just, “Eat the bread.”, but also “He is eating the bread.” “We are eating the carrot.” etc, in contexts where such meanings are actually being expressed. An easy way to do this at this point is to have the Nurturer and GPs, in various combinations, doing various activities, mainly ones that the GPs already know, and the Nurturer describing them. (However see the discussion in the introduction where we mention the need for some more creative alternatives.)

Learning Activities


Materials to Gather

1: Names of animate creatures (Dirty dozen style)


The Nurturer begins with two objects: This is a man. This is a woman. This is a person. These are people. Where is the man? Where is the woman? As names of items become familiar, new ones are added, one at a time, with lots of repetition. The pronouns are mixed right in with the nouns: Where is the boy? Where am I? Where are you? Where is the woman? Where are they?(In many languages, “Where is” is a good question for initially learning names of objects, as it will involve the most basic form of the word, whereas “Point to the egg” may involve a changed form.)Don’t separate the people and the pronouns.  Do them as one group of items. For the objects being talked about (a man, you, etc.), you can use real people, toy people, dolls, photos, or drawings. For the pronouns, the Nurturer talks about himself (I), the specific GP she is addressing (you), etc.  Add other props (for example, dolls) as necessary to refer to people, including pronouns. (see note above)Those basic human words may provide ten or fifteen vocabulary. These can be supplemented by other common (to the country) living creatures: cat, bird, mosquito, fly, spider, rat, fish, animal, insect.


Once all items have been learned, a recording is made in which GPs are again questioned about all of the items randomly. This recording is for review before the next session. Recording can be audio or video. Video has a big advantage in that GPs can readily see which objects are being talked about. Recording device

2: basic actions

Use TPR:  Stand, sit, walk, lie, run, go, stop, come, etc


A portion of this activity, incorporating all actions, is recorded for review. Recording device

3: basic actions (Here and now descriptions)


The GPs and the Nurturer all engage in one of the above actions (or states, in the case of sitting and lying). The Nurturer then describes what each one is doing: I am sitting, you are walking, they are lying down, etc.


Recording: Here-and-now description activities are ideal activities for video-recording. If that is not possible, then drawings with stick figures or triangle people can be made to represent the situations that were acted out in this activity, and an audio recording can be created describing the drawings in sequence.At some point when enough actions are known, it might be good for the GPs to take photos of the Nurturer and themselves individually and in various combinations, performing the activities. Then the Nurturer can use the photos for a here-and-now activity, asking, for example, “In which picture are we swimming? In which picture am I sleeping? In which picture are they dancing? In which picture is he crawling?”This strengthens both here-and-now description forms, and also the forms related to “I, we, he, they,” etc Recording device

3X (option):

Variant using puppets or a couple stuffed animals (for here and now descriptions) The Nurturer, and the puppets act out the various actions sitting, walking, lying down, etc.Examples:Puppet lies down. Nurturer says to puppet, “You are lying down.”Nurturer walks. Nurturer says, “I am walking.”

Nurturer sits. Puppet says to her, “You are sitting.”

Nurturer and puppet “walk,” and they say to learners, “We are walking.”

Puppet and teddy bear are lying down and Nurturer says, “They are lying down.”

Puppets or stuffed animals

4: Greetings, Leave-takings (Lexicarry)


Using Lexicarry strip 1, the Nurturer asks, Who is saying hello? Who is answering hello? Who is saying good-bye? Who is answering good-bye? (The actual greetings will vary in many ways depending on the language and culture. This activity may turn out to be a tiny start on a large area of language.) Lexicarry

4X (option):

Reinforcing Lexicarry activity with a puppet conversation.Nurturer and puppet greet each other with “hello” and “response.” Then Nurturer asks GP, “Who is saying “hello”? Who is answering “hello”? Who is saying “Good-bye.” Who is answering, “Good-bye.” Then the Nurturer and the puppet can trade roles and ask the GP again. Puppets or stuffed animals


Remember to record the Nurturer, so the GP can review and practice with Lexicarry on his own. Recording device

Session 2 at-a-Glance

Two Goals of Each Session

Each session has two goals: To reinforce material from earlier sessions, and to introduce new material. A helpful pattern is to begin with a heavy emphasis on new material, and begin with the more stationary activities. Following a period of stationary activities (thirty to sixty minutes—less if younger children are involved), turn to more lively activities, such as TPR. Try to end with an activity that combines vocabulary from previous days with vocabulary from the current day.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: initial basic inanimate objects (dirty dozen style)


This activity will emphasize some of the most basic household and office/schoolroom objects, and objects that can be used as locations for other objects.Learn the new items, combined with some of the items that were more weakly learned in the previous session. If there is more than one GP, each one can help decide which previous items are weak for him or her personally.Once the GPs know the names of several objects commands can be given which us and or: “Where is the book and the spoon?” “Where is the glass or the cup?” Book, paper, pencil, pen, knife, fork, spoon, glass, cup, bowl, mixing bowl. Furniture—either toy furniture (recommended), actual furniture, or drawings of furniture. E.g. table, chair, bed, couch, furniture. (plus all those from session one)The GPs might learn a generic word meaning “thing” in this session, if such a word exists.There might be a good and bad exemplar of some items to learn words for those concepts. (E.g., a good pencil and a bad pencil)


Don’t forget to record, once all of the objects have been introduced into the activities.

2: descriptions of drawing (listen/point)

This activity is aimed at strengthening the here-and-now-activity (or here-and-now-state) forms of the actions learned in the previous session.The Nurturer describes drawings randomly, and the GPs point to the picture being described. “The man is running, the baby is lying down, etc.” Drawings, such as stick figures or triangle people, depicting, men, woman, boys, girls, babies, etc. engaged in sitting, standing, lying, walking, etc. (See the graphic resource packet.)


3: object manipulation (TPR)


This activity combines objects from Sessions 1 and 2, using the book, paper, cup, bowl, etc. and furniture as the places where all of the animals and people (toys or drawings) and other inanimate objects are to be put.The Nurturer gives instructions such as “put the pencil in the bowl; put the horse on the paper; put the cat on the bed”, etc. objects from Session 1

3X (optional):

To illustrate “put” and the prepositions, the Nurturer can use a puppet to obey the commands.Example: Nurturer says to the puppet, “Put the pencil in the bowl.” “Put the horse on the couch.” Puppet or stuffed animal


4: object manipulation (here and now descriptions of us)


One of the GPs performs the activity of taking the various objects and putting them in the various places as in the previous activity. The Nurturer tells the GP what he is doing (“You are taking the spider and putting it into the cup.”).

optional: video record

5: beyond greetings (Lexicarry)


Continue with the three strips on the first page. Are there some expressions beyond greetings which express interest in the other person? E.g. “How are you?” “I’m fine. How are you?” The middle strip might be used for such expressions at this point, combined with the expressions used for the first strip (greeting and leave-taking). Lexicarry


Session 3 at-a-Glance

Building Your Little World

GPs continue building a little world in which the names of basic objects and actions are familiar to them. They can extend the set of inanimate objects (including containers) and animate objects from the first two sessions. Important parts of this little world are the places and objects in the room where the sessions take place.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: places and objects in the room (Dirty dozen)

Door, window, shelf, cupboard, blackboard /whiteboard, floor, ceiling, wall, wall picture, other furniture, etc. It sometimes happens that the setting of the sessions is quite different from the primary settings of daily life in the host culture. However, at this point, the learning is taking place where it is taking place, and that is the real world of shared experience in which The Nurturer and GPs are relating. The GPs are still at an extremely early stage of development, where the real here-and-now context is crucial. (parts of your room)


2: actions with places in the room (TPR)

Now combine actions of moving and bodily positions (sit, stand, lie) with the places in the room. For some, such as ceiling, the only reasonable commands are ones such as “Point at the ceiling”. For most of the places and objects whose names are now known, the commands can be of forms such as “Walk to the door; stand beside the blackboard; sit on the floor…” New vocabulary in this activity is minimal, and “point to” and “next to”. (parts of your room)


3: more objects, containers, locations (Dirty dozen)

Add some new animate objects and inanimate objects and containers. More toy animals or drawings or magazine photos of animals might be added (goat, sheep, cow, snake, bird, bee, tiger, camel, rabbit, swan), and containers (pan, plate, saucer, tray, pitcher, kettle, frying pan, pot, lid, stove). Two relative locations can be used: on and beside. Example commands: “Put the dog on the plate, put the cat beside the plate, put the bird on the tray, put the bee beside the saucer…”. toy animals, drawings, magazine photos, containers


4: places, objects, containers (here and now)

The Nurturer performs all of the actions from previous activities, and describes what he is doing. Then a GP performs the activities, and the Nurturer describes to that GP what he or he (the GP) is doing.

5: (Lexicarry)



Session 4 at-a-Glance

Learning Activity


Materials To Gather:

1: places and actions from earlier session (TPR)

The Nurturer describes situations, and the GP arranges the pictures accordingly: the man is sitting by the window, the woman is running to the door, etc. As always, a portion of this activity containing all of the commands should be recorded. Pictures from Session 2: a man, or a woman, boy or girl who is standing, walking, lying, running or sitting. Additional pictures have a door, window, bed, couch, and a house (new word).


2: actions with old vocabulary (here and now)

The new action, “holding” is introduced. (As always, this will depend on the language. There is usually a word that translates as “holding”, but it might be that another type of expression is used.) Each person holds one or more of the objects. At times the Nurturer and another person together hold a single object, or two GPs together hold a single object.The Nurturer, at each round, describes the entire situation to one or two of the GPs: “You are holding a table, he is holding a knife, and we are holding a dog”; “They are holding a chair, I am holding the garbage, and you are holding a frog.”Activities such as this one are aimed at providing lots of exposure to the use of first, second, third person pronouns, action forms, etc.(See also the suggestions in the introduction for using digital pictures, and puppets.) The toys or drawings used for learning the names of animals, furniture, people, etc.


3: review old vocabulary (TPR)

Once vocabulary has been introduced, if possible, it needs to be encountered repeatedly in new contexts. Avoid leaving earlier vocabulary behind. In this activity, use the same materials as in Activity 2a. Now the Nurturer instructs the GPs to take the objects, put them down, or point at them, or asks where they are. The commands can be given in singular and plural forms “You take the horse. You guys take the cow.” “You show me the door.” “Where is the wall?”


4: new objects (dirty dozen)

Often it turns out that a session does not include enough new vocabulary without a special activity which has new vocabulary as its only aim. A collection of new objects can be added to the vocabulary: tree, broom, comb, mirror, a toy elephant, sink, toilet, flower, etc. Stick to words for the most basic objects of everyday experience, plus a few words that all four-year-olds know, like elephant (in some cultures). The four-year-old words are fun, and will come in handy when the GPs start using children’s picture story books as a learning resource. They become part of the little world that the Nurturer and GPs are creating as they communicate about it. objects or pictures: tree, broom, comb, mirror, a toy elephant, sink, toilet, flower, etc


5: Putting things in places (TPR)

The Nurturer tells the GPs to place matches (let’s say) on, under, in front of, behind, beside, in the stationary object (say, a toy sofa or clock). Pick an object that has a natural front and back. A ball is a poor choice, as it has no natural front or back. A toy sofa is a good choice, as is a clock. It should be an object that has space underneath it. Also bring a box or bag of small objects such as matches or candies.


6: locations, old and new objects (TPR)

Continuing on in the same activity instead of just matches, all previous objects are used, either as objects to put into locations, or as locations relative to which objects are put: “Put the pencil under the frog”, etc.


7: greetings, leave-takings (Lexicarry)

Continue on the first page, emphasizing differences in greetings, leave-takings, “how-are-you’s” and “I’m-fine-how-are-you’s” based on the relative ages of the speakers in the pictures. You have to make arbitrary choices of who is saying “hello” vs. who is saying “how are you”.


Session 5 at-a-Glance

Grammar: Expressing Concrete Meaning

Various aspects of grammar have come into play in activities so far, though they haven’t been focused on. For example, when the Nurturer describes what “he”, “we”, “you” etc. are doing at the moment, that is dealing with an area that is traditionally treated as grammar. In fact, much of grammar need not be thought of as “grammar”, since it is simple a matter of how to express concrete meanings. The emphasis on possessive forms in today’s session is another case in point.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather:

1: body parts (dirty dozen)

Starting with a single doll, rapidly learn to understand the names of as many body parts as can be learned in an hour, along with the word for “body”. Normally, it is not recommended to take an hour on a single activity at this point, but it has been found that this activity gives a solid leap in very basic vocabulary. Be aware that different languages divide the human body up differently. Also, some parts that we might expect to have names may not in another language.Begin with two words. Add one new one at a time. (The form may have to be possessive, I.e., “Where is her nose? Where are her fingers?, etc.”) A doll (or picture of a human body)

2: going to places in the room (TPR)

This is a repeat of an earlier activity (Session 3, Activity 2). It has two purposes. One is to strengthen the basic nouns and actions. An easy mistake to make is to assume that once GPs can do the activity, learning of those commands is complete. In fact, the vocabulary needs to become extremely familiar, a goal that is not always easy to achieve in sessions. The other important purpose is to break up the long stretch of Activity1. Thus Activity 2 can be done in the middle of Activity 1 if the activity is getting tedious.

3: body parts of human possessors (TPR)

“Where is the man’s nose? Where are the baby’s legs?” dolls (or action figures, drawings, photos) of man, woman, boy, girl, baby, etc.

4: body parts of animal possessors (TPR)

It is important to be recombining earlier vocabulary with new material. Instead of human figures, now use all of the animals and insects that have been introduced so far. Besides that, the “grammatical” forms related to possession should stand out clearly in the context of these now familiar words. Be aware that some body part names may change in the case of animals. Hopefully, there will not be too many new words arising. But some important ones can be learned in this activity, such as tail, wing, snout, feathers, fur, paw, horn, claw. The recording will help to reinforce new words that don’t get as much repetition as “head” or “ear”.”Where is the horse’s head? Where is the frog’s forehead? Where are the cow’s legs?” all of the animal figures or pictures that have been used in previous sections.

5: basic kinship terms with possessors (dirty dozen)

This continues the “possessive” theme, since it will involve phrases like “the girl’s father”. It also adds another group of some of the most basic vocabulary in any language. You may find that these terms are not learned as easily as body part terms, since they deal with abstract relationships, rather than concrete objects.Arrange the human figures so that one, let’s say a school-aged girl, is at bottom centre *. Then place near her an older brother and younger brother, and older sister and younger sister, a mother, and a father. Learn to understand terms for all of these relationships. Change the central figure to a baby. Then place a female figure in the bottom centre, and learn the terms for her son, daughter and husband. Place an adult male figure at the centre, and add the word for wife. Depict grandfather, grandmother, grandchild, etc. Learn words for family, siblings, parents.This activity is a time of discovery. Terms may differ for brother or sister depending on the gender of the person who’s brother and sister we are talking about. Maternal and paternal grandparents may be called by different terms. Terms for brothers and sisters may differ based on whether they are younger or older, etc., etc. At this point do not attempt more than the three generations involved in a single nuclear family. Don’t try to add in-laws, uncles and aunts, cousins.Be warned that some cultures may have amazingly complex kinship systems. For now deal with these basic words which will enable the GP to later describe any relationship (so that you can later ask questions such as “What do I call my wife’s brother’s son’s son?”)

Note: in order to make clear to the nurturer who is at the “centre” during the activity, leave all the other dolls lying down, but make the doll you are focusing on sit up.  For example, put the school-aged girl sitting up and lay her siblings next to her with her older brother to the left and the younger siblings to the right.

a set of dolls depicting various ages works nicely. Otherwise drawings or photos can be used.

6: (Lexicarry)

Possibly finish page 1 of the Lexicarry (for the first pass through the book) this session. See instructions for earlier sessions.

Session 6 at-a-Glance

The way a language refers to “I, you, he, she, they,” etc. is at the core of any language, and hence it was introduced in Session 1: “Where am I? Where are you?”, etc. We’ll build on yesterday’s activities with words like, “my, your, our…”. In addition, we’ll include forms for “him, her,…” as in “Touch him, pat her…”

The Value Of TPR

In using TPR, certain actions are useful in that they can be used with many nouns allowing the nouns themselves to be experienced in multiple contexts. These include “pick up, put down, drop, throw, touch, draw, push, pull, hold, point to, look at, show me, give me.” Other actions fit in nicely as essential, basic vocabulary: “wash, open, break,” etc., etc. (See Reid Wilson’s list of actions appropriate for TPR at the website http://www. Some of the activities today may not seem to be of much “communicative value”. How often do you tell people to pat other people? However, TPR is an extremely useful technique for learning many aspects of the language, and by patting one another, we can start understanding important forms or arrangements of words!

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: GPs and the Nurturer as objects , Use known nouns with new actions to learn the new actions (TPR)

Now in addition to walking, running, etc. to the places and things in the room, add “touch” and “look at”. This activity nicely illustrates the practice of incorporating new material with old material. Since there are only two new actions, the activity will be fairly brief.Note: If it is inappropriate or awkward to do direct “patting” or “stroking”, learners may use hand puppets to do the actions. (use the room you are meeting in)


2: GPs do things to one another and to the Nurturer (TPR) (descriptions)

Add “pat” and “stroke” – or another appropriate gesture. Note that we find it relatively fun and natural to use such activities with children from many cultures. Adults may find it awkward until they see the value. The same applies to the Nurturer. As the activities may involve physical contact between the sexes, caution may be needed in some cultures. However, don’t assume that to be the case.If need be, GPs can “almost” pat the Nurturer.”Look at me, touch them, pat him, stroke me, pat yourself, look at each other.”Note that we are introducing “oneself” and “each other” in this activity.


3: Body parts—yours, mine, etc. (TPR)

This extends yesterday’s activity involving possession from nouns to pronouns. “Where is my nose? Where are our legs? Point to my ears. Point to your own neck.” The “your own” form may turn out to be important, like “oneself” above.


4: doing actions to body parts possessed by people(TPR)

Using the members of the doll family, their body parts.Arrange the dolls again (or pictures) into a family. There can be different arrangements: the family from the little girl’s perspective (her at the centre; her brothers, parents, etc. around her), from the mom’s perspective, etc.From the girl’s perspective:Where is her mother’s nose? Wash her younger brother’s ears. Touch her sister’s fingers. Look at her father’s legs. Pat her mother’s hair…

Similarly from the mother’s perspective, using her younger son, older daughter, husband, etc.

Possibly other family members’ perspectives as well.

doll family or pictures with people in a family


5: using the furniture(TPR)

We need to be keeping track of which early vocabulary has been repeated adequately in later sessions. There were many items of toy furniture, and household items. They can be spread out now, and used with old and new actions:”Take the broom, touch the chair…”


6: (Lexicarry)

Move on to page 2 if you haven’t done so yet. Not all languages will have an expression to say to someone who sneezes. In that case, the person may say to the one who sneezed, “Are you O.K.?” or “Are you sick?”In one recent case, a group of GPs at this point felt ready to say some of the Lexicarry expressions, and so the acted out “plays” based on the scenes on page 1 and 2. This did not involve any memorization. Lexicarry


(remember to record parts of each activity)

Session 7 at-a-Glance

Grand Review – Hurrah for 150 words!

Hopefully, you now have introduced half of the vocabulary in the initial target of 300 items. There has been an effort to keep reusing old items in new contexts, combining new learning with old learning. However, activities tend to limit the “memory set” from which the GP needs to draw. That is, a given activity defines which vocabulary is going to occur, and GPs don’t need to worry about other vocabulary. So it is time for an activity in which “anything goes”.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather:

1: Nurturer’s family

Nurturer shows GPs photos of her family members, saying who is who. Nurturer brings photos of family.

2: grand review (TPR)

The Nurturer makes a point of using all vocabulary covered so far. The things on the table and places and things in the room prompt her. She gives commands or asks “where is” in random order. She can combine commands, “Take the spider and run to the window”. Finally, he looks at the log of vocabulary he has been building, in order to be sure that nothing was missed. This activity will take awhile, but it should be fun, interesting, and motivating, as GPs see that they are able to readily understand most words out of a set of 150. A large table surface comes in handy. Spread out all the objects (or drawings, photos) learned so far. The places in room whose names have been learned are ready at hand.

3: Colours (TPR)

Keep in mind that the continuous range of colours is divided up differently in different languages, and some of the colours the GPs know from their native languages may not have names in the language they are now learning.”Where is the red paper? where is the blue paper? …” Construction paper cut into small pieces and large pieces (and perhaps middle-sized pieces). Other objects that come in coloured sets. These include candies such as Skittles. Coloured pencils, sets of small toy cars, paper clips, tacks.


4: Colours and sizes (TPR)

Where is the large red paper? Pick up the little white paper.


5: adding other coloured objects (TPR)

You now have before you an arrangement of coloured papers of large and small sizes. You now add the other coloured objects. “Put the green candy under the small white paper. Put the red car behind the large green paper…”


6: (Lexicarry)

Finish the expressions for page 2. If you can’t think of an expression to go with a particular cartoon bubble, look in the key at the back for ideas. “Who is saying, ‘Are you sick?’ Who is saying, ‘Oh! I’m sorry’? In which picture is a man saying, ‘What time is it.’ Where is the man who is saying, ‘Go ahead.’ ” Etc.


Session 8 at-a-Glance

Learning Grammar using Familiar Words

We want to learn to express the idea of giving objects TO someone. Of course, we use the activity to strengthen old vocabulary–animals, words for family members, and pronouns.

It is important to use old vocabulary for another reason. By using familiar vocabulary, everything the GP hears will be relatively easy to understand, except for the details that indicate who is the recipient (and the two new actions). This is another case of learning grammar without necessarily thinking of it as grammar, but rather thinking of it as the way to express a concrete meaning. A basic principle in activities that introduce aspects of grammar is to use vocabulary that is familiar so that the only new thing is the grammar form or pattern.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: giving to animals (TPR)

The Nurturer gives instructions to the GPs of the form, “Give a large red candy to the horse; Give a small green candy to the dog…”Be sure to include any animals that the GPs so far remember only weakly, along with some of the ones they remember most strongly. Coloured candies work nicely in this activity, especially if you have small and large ones.  Spread out a number of the toy animals (or animal drawings).Other options are buttons, flat beads, or coloured paper clips in two sizes.



With puppets: To first demonstrate the actions, “give” and “take”, the nurturer can use her puppet assistant. She says to the puppet. “Take the red candy.” “Give the red candy to the dog.” She can continue to give several instructions to the puppet until she feels that the GP is ready to follow instructions. Puppets or stuffed animals

2: giving to someone’s animals

Now the GPs each take some of the animals. The Nurturer says things like Give a small yellow candy to my cat. Give a big brown candy to his cow…


3: giving to family members (TPR)

Continue giving candies to the animals, but now also to “the girl’s mother, the woman’s younger sister,” etc. Animals and family members (as represented by the doll family) should be randomly interspersed with one another: “Give the dog a candy. Give the girl’s younger brother a candy.” Etc. Set up the doll family again.


4: Add ourselves (TPR)


Now add in the personal pronouns, which are already familiar in some form. “Give me a large blue candy. Give the boy’s father a small green candy. Give us a small brown candy. Give the horse a large yellow candy.”…


5: Giving, throwing, showing (TPR)

Add other actions in addition to giving that may use the same forms or patterns of words: “Throw me a candy. Show the horse a small brown candy.”


6: Drinking different liquids (TPR)

The Nurturer tells GPs, “Drink some milk. Drink some water…” As always with new vocabulary, start with two, and add one new one at a time. At some point, you can add the action “pour”. And you can even try adding, “Pour me some juice. Pour the girl’s big brother some juice.” But be sure to mix pouring with drinking. If you don’t want to actually pour milk, water, juice, soda, tea, into glasses and cups, you can set containers of each liquid on your learning table, and set a glass or cup next to each container. Needless to say, if the language you are learning is spoken by people whose material culture is radically different (and you and your Nurturer live in that cultural setting), you will always collect the common everyday objects (e.g., what they drink out of, what they drink) rather than the ones suggested here.


7: foods (TPR)

The Nurturer asks questions such as: “Where is the carrot? Where is the egg? Where is the squid? The GPs try to quickly learn at least fifteen food items.” It is quite easy to collect actual food items. This is the chance to add a healthy number of new vocabulary in this session. Place on the learning table, for example, a potato, a piece of cabbage, a fried grub, a scrap of cooked meat, butter, bread, rice, oil, flour, salt, etc. Perhaps you will want to run to the market the night before, and pick up “one of everything” so as to have many different foods on hand. Try to include the basic food items of the Nurturer’s everyday life.


8: Eating and drinking and giving and taking (TPR)

Now have the Nurturer combine instructions to drink the liquids, eat the foods, and give the foods, take the foods and drinks, and give the foods and drinks to one another.


9: (Lexicarry)

Strengthen all of the expressions that were learned for page two: “Who is sneezing? Who is saying, ‘What time is it?’ “Who is saying, ‘Excuse me’,”…

Session 9 at-a-Glance

Quick Gap-Filling Activities

This could have been mentioned in earlier sessions. At any point along the way, it may be useful to add a few vocabulary in some category. For example, in getting ready for the previous activity, a few new foods might be learned. Or if it has been discovered that some basic term for family members was not learned, a few dolls can be set up and the new term learned in combination with some old terms for family members. Such interlude activities will be relatively brief. (In the case of Kazak, such a situation arose with the term for “younger sister of a brother” which was missed in the initial activity, since the central dolls were a girl and a woman.)

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: eating and drinking (Here-and-now)

Do this in several rounds. Each time decide who will be doing what. Then as people perform the activities, the Nurturer describes what is going on. “We are drinking milk. You plural are eating bread.” Next round: “I am eating a carrot. You are drinking water. They are eating a radish.” The Nurturer is addressing a specific GP, so that all the sentences are contextually meaningful. Perhaps you will want to add a few more useful actions, such as wash, cut, cook, prepare, use, pour. Foods and drinks from Session 7.


2: gap-filling: more vegetables; younger sister

See above; this is just a touch of what really happened in our early Kazakh sessions. Your gap filling activities will be sprinkled in different places.


3: Using things to do things (TPR)

GPs can eat with the fork or spoon and cut with the knife or fork. Thus the Nurturer gives commands such as “Cut the carrot with the fork. Eat the rice with a spoon. Eat the carrot with your hand.” some of the foods; a knife, fork and spoon.


4: objects in locations (Here-and-now)

Cover the learning table with objects that can serve as locations. These will include the papers, and containers, and, for example, some of the larger toy furniture. Now place smaller objects on, in, under, behind, etc. all of these larger objects. It is good to have an object as a location that can be used for both on and in. A small box turned on its side can serve this purpose.Once everything is arranged, the Nurturer describes the entire learning table systematically, saying what is located where. “The cushion is on the sofa; the goat is under the table; the mouse is in the box; the bird is on the box; the spider is under the box…”Note: take a digital picture of the set-up or, if you have a video camera, video this activity. The coloured papers of large and small sizes; toy furniture; containers such as a cup, bowl, box. Many other small objects from previous sessions such as toy animals and furniture, and small and large coloured candies. This should be primarily objects whose names are already known, with maybe one or two new ones. The GPs can be sure to choose objects whose names they feel they are still particularly in need of strengthening.


5: locations (true-false)

Now the Nurturer randomly describes the locations of the objects. However, he sometimes deliberately makes false statements. The GPs will need to learn to say “Yes” and “No” in their new language for this activity. If the Nurturer makes a false statement, the GPs say for example, “No”, and then the Nurturer, agrees, and corrects her original statement, saying for example, “No, the cat is not in the basket; the cat is beside the basket”. This activity will lead to the use of one of the negative forms in the language.


6: Clothing, body parts (dirty dozen)

Items of clothing can be brought to the session, or a male and female GP can be used as models. In the latter case, some new body parts can be added at this time as well. For example, in addition to shirt, pants, socks, the activity might include beard, elbow, and eyeglasses. items of clothing: pants, long-johns, briefs, panties, t-shirt; shirt, sweater, long-sleeve knit shirt, suit, coat, belt coat, scarf, boots, shoes, socks, nylons, slip, bra, bathing suit, jogging suit, g-string, gourd, burqa, turban, different hats, etc. Of course, there will be cultural differences determining the relevant selection of clothing. Some people groups will wear more clothes or less clothes than other groups. In rare instances, this activity may be omitted altogether. In such cases, it may be possible to learn additional body-part terms rather than additional items of clothing.


7: (Lexicarry)


Continue on to the third page of story strips. The Nurturer asks questions such as “Who is colliding? Who fell? Who is saying I’m sorry? Who is saying, That’s O.K.?” Remember to have the Nurturer ask such questions in an unpredictable order. In recording, it is good to have the recording follow the predictable order of the events in the pictures.


Session 10 at-a-Glance

This activity may add little or no new vocabulary. There continues to be a need for experience with forms for “your, my, etc.” Thus the Nurturer now asks, “Where is my shirt, where are your glasses, etc.” Second and third person plural possessors should be included, “Where are you guys’ hats?” A small number of new clothing items or body parts might be thrown into this activity. It is often easy to pick up two or three new vocabulary in the context of a lot of old vocabulary.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: review earlier vocabulary, with different possessors(TPR)

TPR; examples: my boots, our elbows, the bee’s wing, the pot’s lid. some earlier objects


2: (Lexicarry)

Lexicarry: Finish new expressions on p. 3


3: Various actions

At this early stage, it is important to learn a healthy number of actions for the most fundamental human actions and experiences. Actions can readily be learned through TPR, and then combined with objects and locations that are already known.A rather heterogeneous set might be added, related to various kinds of actions and objects learned earlier: listen, read, turn, chew, play, work, write, sleep, wake-up, swallow, draw, erase. The GPs are attempting to include the words for the most basic actions, experiences and objects of everyday life during their first 600 words. Eventually, it becomes hard to find large groups of such basic words that naturally group together. Learning words in natural groups (such as a group of words for kinds of animals or for kinds of trees) would mean learning more specific, less basic words. Therefore, at this stage, there may need to be sessions in which groups of unrelated, but very basic, words are learned together. (In fact, the value of learning words in related sets has been debated.)


4: Combine new actions with old places and objects

Sleep on the floor, write on the large red paper, chew the fish, swallow the milk, draw with the pen on the book, etc. using all of the new actions repeatedly with a variety of old objects and places. a variety of objects from previous sessions


5: From, to, without actions (input-based grammar-highlighting)

TPR: Place some familiar objects, animals, dolls on the table. Each GP has a small supply of, for example, candies, matches, buttons. Each animal, doll or other object on the table has a few of these same items. The Nurturer gives commands such as “Give a candy to the elephant. Take a candy from the class. After the GPs are familiar with these forms, the Nurturer gives the commands in an abbreviated form by omitting the actions: from the horse; to the mother. Before the actions are omitted, the GPs don’t need to pay close attention to the indictors of “to” and “from”. With the actions gone, those bits become crucial.


6: singular/ plural objects (TPR)

Set up a row of single, individual objects (for example a dog, a cat, a chicken…), and a second row of the same kinds of objects in small groups (dogs, cats, chickens…). The Nurturer can ask questions such as “Where is the dog?” and “Where are the dogs?” Any known objects, such as animals or pieces of fruit


possibly take a digital picture to accompany recording and have a permanent record of what items you used.

Session 11 at-a-Glance

This session may seem a bit sparse. However, experience has shown that emotion words are not learned as quickly as names of objects and actions.

Listening Furiously

Gradually, GPs should be hearing the speech sounds of their new language more and more precisely. Some crucial differences between speech sounds may be very slight, and so the GP needs to spend some time listening with great acuity. GPs should find that they begin to focus on details of sound more precisely when trying to pronounce the words. The need to remember to base their pronunciation on what they hear, not on what they see written. Accurate perception of what words sound like develops only through the ears, not through the eyes!

There is a need to begin to develop new “concepts” of new sounds. That is, a GP may not yet have a concept of the sound represented in writing by the letter X. Having the letter available, in a sense, gives a “name” to this new concept (by “the concept” is meant one’s memory of what the new sound sounds like).

Many GPs are convinced that seeing how a word is spelled improves their ability to perceive the details of the word through their ears. In fact, in spite of the genuineness of their impression (and the passion with they may affirm it), this claim is quite doubtful, as has been demonstrated by a simple experiment: Start with two words that a GP cannot discriminate between. Show the GP how those words are spelled (or point out to her that she is already well aware of how they are spelled). Then test again to see if the GP is able to discriminate them. When we have done this, we have found that knowing how the words were spelled had no effect on the ability to hear which was which.

When it comes to pronunciation, knowing what words sound like, and pronouncing them accordingly, is a very different matter from developing one’s own system for pronouncing them based on their spelling. A GP may be able to pronounce two similar words differently on the basis of knowing how they are spelled. However, consider the implications of the following fact: The GP can hear the difference between the ways she pronounces the two words, but cannot hear the difference between how native speakers pronounce them.

It is a good idea not to rush into abandoning our ears as the means of learning to hear details of sound. If we persist until we can consistently hear all sound distinctions without relying on spelling, the rewards may be considerable. Besides that, there are many levels of language processing starting from the ears, and these too cannot be developed through the eyes. The whole process of listening comprehension needs to be developed starting with the ears!

There are helpful listening activities that can, and in many cases should, be used to increase acuity in hearing the different sounds of the language.

Listening Contrast Activity

Sample phonetic activity: GPs may confuse two words that sound very similar. (In some cases GPs may not discover this until later when they begin talking, and find they said “jump” when they meant to say “cat”—they thus discover that there is a phonetic distinction that they were not aware of.) This provides a wonderful opportunity for a listening contrast activity, as follows. If the confusion was between the words for “jump” and “cat”, the Nurturer can simply pronounce the words repeatedly in random order. When she says “cat” the GP points at the (toy) cat, and when she says “jump” he jumps. Or at least this is what he attempts to do. He may not be too successful at first.

Perhaps the GPs can take some time to glean from their language learning journals any times they’ve noticed that they experienced a problem with hearing sounds accurately. As the GP’s hearing improves, his pronunciation can improve on the basis of better mimicry of what is better heard. As hinted at above, premature dependence on written letters may discourage the GP from developing accurate hearing.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: Listening Exercise (10 minutes)

This can be an activity such as that described above using words for “jump” and “cat” which initially sounded identical to the GP. (Of course, one wants to be sure that they do sound different to native listeners.) Pairs or groups of words that sound very similar to the GP at this point.


2: Emotions and feelings (dirty dozen)

The Nurturer asks questions such as, “Who is angry? Who is sad?” etc. Start with two, add one at a time. Use drawings of faces to depict people who are happy, sad, angry, frightened, laughing, tired, sleepy, surprised, crying, sick, etc. (Aim for ten words.) (See resource packet)


3: Which one? (TPR)

The Nurturer asks, “Which man is angry? Which girl is sad?”, etc. Use the drawings of stick figures of men, women, boys and girls as people with the different emotions. They can also be arranged in families: A happy mother holding the hand of an angry boy and a sad girl, etc. There should be just one person with each emotion, at least to start with. (See resource packet.)


4: Emotions with family terms (TPR)

Combine with terms for family members: “Where is the sad woman’s daughter? Where is the sleepy woman’s husband.” etc.


5: Emotions with clothing, body parts (TPR)

Combine emotion terms with words for clothing or body parts: “Where is the frightened man’s hat? Where is the angry boy’s chin?”With these longer sentences, there may be details that the GPs cannot sort out. The main thing is that the GPs should understand enough to respond accurately. This develops the ability to listen for the gist even when there are details that are out of the GPs’ reach.


6: Power tools (Lexicarry-style)

Power tools are expressions which GPs use to learn more language: “What is this? Please repeat?, etc.” Since we are approaching the goal of three hundred vocabulary, after which the GPs begin speaking, it is important that they begin learning power tools.The Nurturer asks, “Who is saying ‘What is this?’ Who is saying, ‘What are they doing?’ Who is saying ‘Please repeat that’? Who is saying ‘I don’t understand”? Who is saying ‘I don’t know’? Who is saying, ‘Please speak more slowly’?” Use dialogue steps in the resource packet or draw similar ones yourself.  These include someone who is speaking too quietly, too quickly, etc.  Also, someone asking “What’s he doing?” . . . “What is this?” etc.


7: (dirty dozen)

Learn the names of the items common tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, saw, hatchet, etc. Also items for making and fixing things such as string, glue, etc. can be included.


8: tools (TPR)


Combine with emotion words. Using the drawings from activity 1, “Give the hammer to the sad man. Give the saw to the surprised girl”, etc. Generally we attempt, when combining new with old in an activity, to choose our set of “old” words from among those that were learned the previous day, or some earlier day. It is O.K. at times if the “old” is taken from earlier in the same session, as in this activity.


Session 12 at-a-Glance

As time goes on, there will come to be a tension between the need to keep earlier words and phrases alive (and growing stronger) and the need to learn new words and phrases. As a result there will be sessions when a smaller than average amount of new vocabulary is learned. This session is such a Session.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: Doing things to creepy-crawlies with tools (TPR)

This activity, like an earlier one, highlights the noun forms for performing an action “with” an instrument. It also reinforces the tool names learned in the previous session.The Nurturer instructs the GPs: “Kill the fly with the hammer. Hit the mouse with the hatchet. Kill the spider with the wrench. Kill the cockroach with the string….” names for pests learned previously that are commonly killed by people (being careful about cultural sensitivities): mouse, fly, bee, snake, spider, cockroach. Tools from the day before. Remember that it is always easy to add two or three new objects in such an activity that is built mainly around old objects.


2: Mixing and strengthening old objects and actions (TPR)

Eat, pour, drink, give, and the new action, feed oneself, other GPs, the Nurturer, dolls, and animals. Also, the foods can be cut with the knife, hatchet, scissors, fork, and saw, and eaten or fed to an animal or person with the fork, spoon, or hand. This provides many more options than most activities so far, if the Nurturer can keep them all in mind. Foods, drinks, dolls (man, woman, boy, girl, baby), animals.


3: review (Here-and-now)

A GP performs many actions from the previous activity, using the same objects and actions. The Nurturer describes what the GP is doing right while he does it. This type of here-and-now input is important in this early stage, and such activities can be profitably included more frequently than indicated here. Maximum value comes from listening repeatedly to the recording, or better, watching the video.


4: numbers to ten (TPR)

The Nurturer instructs GPs: “Give three fish to the woman. Give five matches to the baby….” Of course, the activity starts with two numbers (probably one and two) and only adds one new number at a time. Some small objects that come in large sets: matches, sunflower seeds, candies, beans, dried anchovies. Dolls (representing people).


Session 13 at-a-Glance

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: Brief repeat of numbers (TPR)

The Nurturer says, “Show me seven mice. Show me three mice. Show me ten mice…” Ten drawings of mice or sets of toy mice (or other animals—we happened to have a ton of mice).


2: amount-numbers (TPR)

The Nurturer says: “Kill three mice with the pliers. Kill seven mice with the dustpan…” Any tools whose names are not yet strongly known. These may be the new ones that were introduced in the previous section.


3: Ordinal numbers (dirty dozen)

The Nurturer says, “Kill the third mouse with the wrench. Kill the seventh mouse with the string. Kill the fourth mouse with the screwdriver…”If the ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) are made from cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) in a simple manner, it may be possible to go straight into this activity with all of the numbers through ten, rather than adding them one at a time.


4: Names of countries (dirty dozen)


Use a world map to learn the names of many countries. Concentrate on important neighbouring countries and also the home countries of the GPs. This can also include continents (Africa, South America). Other new words: map, world, country continent, ocean, north, south, east, west. world map


5: Nationalities (dirty dozen)

The Nurturer asks: “Who is American? Who is Indian? Who is Russian?” etc. Use drawings of stick figures or triangle people on slips of paper. Head gear can indicate different nationalities: cowboy hat for American, stocking cap for Canadian, turban for an Indian, etc. The drawing representing the host language nationality can be the “normal” one, that is, with no particular head gear. [see resource packet]


6: where they live (TPR)

The Nurturer asks: “Where do the American people live? Where do the Chinese people live?” etc. See resource packetWorld map


7: Knowing languages, learning languages, going to countries (TPR)

GPs respond to five forms of question by pointing to the correct drawing: Who lives in Russia? Who speaks Hindi? Who is learning Russian? Who wants to go to Russia? Who is from India?In the case of “Who wants to go to X?” it will be the female counterpart of the male who is in country X. In the case of the Indian in Russia, it will be correct to point to him as the one living in Russia, as the one who knows Hindi, and as the one who is learning Russian.The GP would answer “Who wants to go to Russia” by pointing at the Indian’s wife. Map. Drawings representing people of different nationalities. Have a male and female of each. Place the males in the countries on the map that have been learned, but don’t put any of them in their own countries. For example, put the Chinese person in America, the Indian person in Russia, etc.Arrange the females along the bottom of the map.


Session 14 at-a-Glance

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: Emotions in phrases (Lexicarry)

The Nurturer asks: “Who is saying, ‘Please speak more slowly’? Who is saying, ‘I am sad’?” (All of the people in the emotion pictures are assumed to be stating their emotions.) Lexicarry-like pictures for “power-tools” (including possibly some that weren’t covered before); emotion pictures as described in Session 11, Activity 6.


2: Emotions combined with family terms (TPR)

The Nurturer asks: “Who is the sad boy’s younger sister?” etc. The people in the emotion drawings which were arranged in families.


3: Emotions (TPR)

The Nurturer instructs GPs “Be sad” (or “act sad”), etc.


4: Geographical features

try to quickly learn twenty new words (in less than half an hour). A drawing with mountains (and snow), a valley, a forest, fire, hills, plains, a lake, an island, a river, a road, a path, a bridge, the sun, clouds, grass, rocks, the sky, a road, a building (including its roof, chimney, smoke), a fence, field, a sidewalk, etc.See resource set—the picture there has most of what is described here.


5: Review (Here-and-now)

GPs and the Nurturer perform many of the actions learned previously, and the Nurturer describes the actions using “I am doing X, you are doing Y” etc.


6: Bookshelf activity (TPR)


Combining ordinal numbers (first, second, third) colours, and the word for “wanting”, the Nurturer tells a GP: “I want the red book on the fifth shelf. I want the green book on the first shelf.” etc. A bookshelf full of books

Review activities of GPs’ choice.


Session 15 at-a-Glance

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather

1: review with wanting

The Nurturer tells GPs: “You/I/we/he/they want an X” and the GPs respond by giving the object to the person who wants it. Get out all of the objects (drawings, etc.) used so far that can be manipulated. Put them on the learning table. Each GP has a bag into which they put the objects given to them. There can be multiples of some objects, which will allow the use of numbers (“three beans”).


2: review having

The Nurturer asks GPs “Do you have an X” and GPs answer yes or no.


3: seeing

The Nurturer asks, “Do you see an X”. The GP responds “yes” or “no”.


4: Grand review with wanting and having and seeing

These three forms of statement and question are mixed with “give” and “take” (including pronouns, “take from me, from him”).GPs use their bags to hold objects they have taken or received. When asked “Do you have an X?” they can look in their bags. If they are asked if they can see something that they know is in their bag, they can answer “no”.The activity continues until nothing is left on the learning table.


5: People with emotions want to go to geographical features (TPR)


The Nurturer tells the GPs where the sad boy, happy woman, etc. want to go. GPs respond by placing the people in the places.Use other actions too: sit, walk, look at, run, touch, etc. Drawing with geographical features (mountains, lakes, forest, etc.). Drawings of people with emotions (now cut apart into individual people).


Plan Your Own Session at-a-Glance

Keep in mind that a well-planned session will usually re-include some material that was new in the most recent session or two, and will combine it in some creative way or ways with new material. The session will normally to live up to the hourly goal for new vocabulary with adequate repetition. A session may also be forward looking, with some idea in mind of how what is new material here will be re-used in a later context. In general, complexity of language used in sessions should be increasing over time as well. Try to include some variety and changes of pace.

Learning Activity


Materials to Gather













Original Document: Phase1A Guide 22Sep09

3 responses to “First Hundred Hours (2009)

  • Entry 31: Crossroads & Busy Streets | These Elysian Fields

    […] know I’ve said this before, but let me say it again: learning Arabic the GPA way does this time-reversal thing on you where for four hours everyday you become two again. No […]

  • Greg

    There is a recent update of this material. The first version of The First 100 Hours predated the Growing Participator Approach, and over the years there have been minor revisions. The latest revision is more thoroughgoing. We tried to keep the activities in the same order as much as possible, so it would line up with the many translations that have been done of earlier versions. The new version is available at Only the English version os updated so far.

  • Almond

    Oh very cool! I see there is quite a lot of new material you’ve added. I’ll upload the new version here as well so it’s more accessible, when I get to a part of the world where I a bit better internet!

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