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Our Methodology

Our programs and workshops are based on whole-brain learning: activities that foster natural, stress-free language acquisition and long-term retention by engaging both hemispheres of the brain.

We involve the right hemisphere—the silent, creative side of the brain—through action, role-play and emotion. We begin with activities such as TPR (Total Physical Response), a method developed by Dr. James Asher. During these activities, participants learn to respond to commands and narratives, both simple ("Stand up!") and complex ("Class, John is going to stand up, walk to the board and write his first name with the blue marker."). The participants are initially silent; they "produce" the language through physical actions, which is a natural form of expression for the right brain. The activities allow for rapid acquisition of a considerable base vocabulary, extensive exposure to the sounds of the language, and development of a natural feel for its structures and grammar. Participants are quickly able to understand novel commands and narratives—ones they have never heard before—by piecing together elements that they learned earlier.

These physical actions then progress to questions, answers and stories, following methods similar to those developed by Blaine Ray, and soon participants are producing the language themselves. The production is stress-free because participants have already internalized a vast vocabulary and a natural understanding of the language's structures, much like a child learning his or her first language. As the focus shifts toward speaking, reading and writing, we begin to engage the brain's analytical left hemisphere. Participants are able to make deductions about grammar and compose unique utterances and compositions. The right brain is still active, however, because our stories and other activities are fun, emotional and personalized during every step of the process.

By constantly switching back and forth between hemispheres of the brain, we keep every moment of the learning process engaging, effective and fulfilling. Moreover, the combination of left- and right-brain activities ensures that participants fully retain the material and are able to apply it to real-life situations, almost as naturally as with their native language. Finally, the methods used in our programs allow learners to understand everything they hear and read with minimal reversion to English. Participants feel confident and comfortable working in the language, both in and out of the classroom, because of their success in this immersion-like environment.

Teaching Fluency Through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS), created by Blaine Ray, is based on the input hypothesis proposed by Dr. Stephen Krashen, who notes that true fluency results from the unconscious acquisition of natural, interesting, repetitive input, not from the conscious memorization of grammar rules. Students  co-create a story with the TPRS teacher, who asks the story into creation, scaffolding onto language that has been made 100% comprehensible to the students, resulting in more unconscious acquisition and thus more rapid fluency

To learn more about whole-brain learning, we invite you to read Dr. Shelley Thomas' summary of Eric Jensen's Brain-Compatible Learning Workshop. You may also want to read our Overview of TPR and TPRS to learn more about the development and steps of those methods, or visit TPRStorytelling.com for more information related to the TPRS method.

 

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Our Research

Our instructors and associates are active researchers in foreign languages, linguistics, language acquisition, pedagogy, psychology and other fields. Our programs benefit tremendously from this ongoing research, some of which occurs right at the Center.

Our latest research news  
MTSU student shares her TPR & TPRS experience in the McNair Research Review  

 

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Bios

All CALA instructors, presenters and associates are highly-trained and experienced professionals. We invite you to visit our bios for more information, and we welcome inquiries from teachers, learners and the general public.

Dr. Shelley Thomas, Founder and Director

Christine Zhang
Ahmad Jeddeeni
Brian Roberts
Jason Simpson

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Press and Media

CALA's programs, instructors and associates have been recognized in print and online media around the world. Below are just a few recent articles related to our work.

Dr. Shelley Thomas' press release on her first program in India
ESL instruction in Coimbatore, India (article from The Hindu)
ESL instruction in Coimbatore, India (video with Divx Web Player)
Summer program appeals to students of all ages
Press Release: "China looks to MTSU for new ways of teaching languages"
The Summer Language Institute in Parenting magazine
Published in the fall 2007 edition of Honors Alternative

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Publications

Visit the links below to view recent academic and scientific publications related to CALA's programs and instructors.

Article featured in MTSU's new research magazine
MTSU student shares her TPR & TPRS experience in the McNair Research Review

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Domestic and International Partnerships

CALA is engaged in partnerships with organizations, businesses and institutions throughout the United States and abroad.

Spanish training for DCS employees
Graph showing decrease in classroom anxiety during DCS training
Comparative graph of National Spanish Exam scores after DCS training
Intensive training in Germesheim, Germany

 
 

Background

The development of the Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition was inspired by a series of workshops and presentations produced by Dr. Shelley Thomas at Middle Tennessee State University and funded by federal grants and financial support from various departments and offices within the university. The workshops were highly praised by learners, instructors and researchers alike, and demand for them increased rapidly. Our goal is to continue this legacy by offering even more programs and languages and by spreading our services to broader audiences both in the United States and abroad.

 

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