Stephen Krashen writes, “If there is major pressure to ‘master’ a given rule so that it can be used in production, and when this cannot be accomplished in the amount of time/comprehensible reps provided, teachers may be tempted to force production, resulting in pseudo-acquisition: either highly monitored or memorized language, not genuinely acquired language.”

Pressure.  I’m so glad that word is out there.  Thank you, Dr. Krashen, for saying what every teacher surrounded by traditional, targeted curriculum is feeling right now.

“Pressure to ‘master’ a given rule” is intensified by targeted assessments and targeted curriculum maps.  The real problem is a focus on individual words or points of grammar that must be acquired within a given time-frame.  This creates the urgency to memorize parts of language.

Though it has been “pseudo-acquired,” on the surface (test) it looks like “mastery.”  At our data meetings, we are asked why we aren’t doing the same.  “Where is your ‘data’ to ‘prove’ your kids ‘mastered’ this point of grammar or that word list?”

Get rid of the tests.  Get rid of the grammar and word lists. Get rid of the pressure.

You knew you hated pacing guides, but Dr. Krashen is spelling it out in a scholarly way for us to explain to administration:  plotting out when students will be able to master given structures is not how language acquistion works.


Krashen, S. (2016, July 26). Targeting 1 and Targeting 2: Working paper [Web log post]. Retrieved from



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Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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