Struggling to transition to comprehensible input

Struggling to transition to CI

As more and more teachers start to incorporate comprehensible input into their classes, sometimes it just doesn’t work or click for you- or perhaps one or two of your classes.  I remember after seeing Jason Fritze teach a story in California my first year, I jumped in on Monday.  Whew.  My students literally had NO clue why I was talking about giraffes and elephants.  That was the last story that I tried that year.  Back to grammar and vocabulary we went!  I put it on the back burner and started to incorporate more and more CI into my class over my past 13 years of teaching.  But it is a journey.  It can also seem that people are having great success while you are floundering.  Trust me.  That is not the case!  Many people (including me!) needed a few years to transition.  So my first suggestion is to have grace with yourself.  Keep trying a variety of things until they stick.  However, try things a few times as you are learning as well.  Don’t just try once and ditch it (like me!)

Also, keep in mind that students are switching from different types of classes.  Many students are not used to a CI classroom especially if they have been in language class before.  I believe that there are some things that you can do to help them transition as well and make your class similar to the language classes that they have experienced before.  Have grace with them as well as they switch.  You may have to do some things that don’t always help with acquisition necessarily but help students make that transition.

Next, try to give more notes.  Is it necessary to help acquisition?  Many people say no.  But does it help some students focus- YES!  Does it give students something tangible to take with them?  Yes!  Does it give you a place to redirect students if they are off task?  Yes!  You can figure out your own style of notes.  I like to figure out key words before a MovieTalk and write those down.  Also, if you end early, you have another activity!  Students can write sentences with those words.  Or they can illustrate the words.  (And it will also give you a break if you have been talking all class.)  My other notes suggestion is to do a Write and discuss.  Write and discuss also gives your class the notes feeling that students may be missing from other classes.  Also, for your students who are used to grammar you can answer all of their grammar questions during this conversation!

Another thing that has always helped me is to put stories into a slideshow with questions.  For Spanish, Kara has done this with many stories.  Adding a question slide helps you incorporate those questions into the discussion.  You could have students write down the answers on a piece of paper or make it fun and give them individual whiteboards.  It also helps me structure my classes and make sure they are even more intentional and repetitive.  This can take awhile, so I only suggest starting with this and you can make the transition.

Keep using Quizlet!  I think that many teachers think that because you aren’t targeting vocabulary that you can’t use it.  I have found that Quizlet give students a place to reference if they want to practice.  Again, do they need it for acquisition?  Not necessarily- but does it help some students?  Yes.  It also is a great place to point parents that want to help.  Plus, who doesn’t love a quick game of Quizlet Live?!  Especially when you have been talking for many classes.  Take a quick break and play a few rounds.

As you are transitioning to smaller output, have small props for true/false statements.  My current school had these cards with green and orange on each side.  We use these frequently for formative checks.  It includes the whole class, and they can see what they are doing.  Plus, the small movement breaks up the listening.  If you don’t have cards, you can print off true and false in the target language to have students use.

Include SOME output.  When students are having trouble buying in, I believe that this can be important.  For my younger students, I will have them draw the story and label it.  This way, they only have to write a few words and they can include as much as they want.  With older students, I tell them that they can use their notes (from above!) to write.  Again, it allows students to see what they are acquiring in your class, and it is similar to their previous classes.

Finally, if you are trying to plan more, check out my earlier post on how to make the transition easier for planning purposes.  This also includes some of my other tips that would also help including using PearDeck or EdPuzzle with technology.

If you have made the transition, what is your advice on how to help teachers who are struggling to teach with comprehensible input?


3 thoughts on “Struggling to transition to comprehensible input

  1. Great post. You have indpired me to try giving notes.

    Do you require that all students write them down?

    I was wondering about doing notes, but have been holding off.
    Probably will begin soon with my level 3’s, but still hold off with my level 1’s while I’m still trying to get them tuned to the sounds of the language before going too much written.
    My main concern for myself is that I will start geeking out on the intricacies of language, and will get too far into “conscious brain” vs. “unconscious language flow.”

    Perhaps I can let myself go a little more into the “conscious brain land ” with my groups that are not strictly in BICS, but are starting to dabble a little into CALP.

    1. I don’t think that you have to think of notes as notes as one would take during a lecture. You can just have them write down the key words as you go. Also, you can save the grammar intricacies for the Write and Discuss. If you save that for the last five minutes, there is only so much grammar you can do! 🙂

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