“Hybrid CI/Textbook”

Teachers who use this term mean well, but at the theoretical level it’s absurd.

The reason for a “Hybrid CI/Textbook” program is that teachers aren’t yet comfortable doing something radically different, or have external constraints that prevent them from having a “full/pure CI” program. In both cases, they are tethered to the textbook in some way.

On the theoretical level, however, this term suggests that there’s comprehensible input (CI) on one side, and then the textbook—presumably with little or no CI—on the other. The basic question, then, is “why on Earth would you provide anything BUT comprehensible input (CI) to students?” There’s really no good answer, and anyone citing “tradition” should read up on that. Furthermore, many teachers attempting to make a “Hybrid CI/Textbook” program work find out that it’s a lot like mixing water and oil, or like trying to play a CD on a record player (i.e. they’re different “data sets,” as Bill VanPatten said on the latest Tea with BVP).

Personally, I find teaching to a textbook syllabus unethical, but just like national politics, there happens to be someone else calling the shots right now. Since I’m expected to use a textbook, however, I’ve begun implementing a new system that allows me to a) indeed use it, while b) not compromising what I do on a daily basis. It’s important to note that my students had about two months of input before implementing this system, so I’m not sure how it would work from day 1. So, if you are tethered to the textbook in some way, here are some guidelines on how to use it without sapping classroom time away from compelling comprehensible input:

1) Textbook is used at home.
2) Textbook assignments are brief, but consistently assigned (2-4 per week).
3) Announce check points, but collect all work at end of week, ONLY.
4) Don’t give feedback, or assign a grade for any of it.
5) Every few weeks read Embedded Readings and Recylced Readings of the textbook narrative (yes, you will be reading at a MUCH slower pace than the work done by students at home, but that Latin will actually be READ, not decoded, etc.).
6) Don’t feel the need to assign everything in the textbook (e.g. I tend to avoid assignments requiring students to read/decode a story with waaaaay too much new vocab, or the obvious cheatable translation exercises).

Your highly-motivated students will do the work, and since they’re probably sponges anyway, will soak up the same amount of textbook stuff that students in other conventional classes do. The somewhat-motivated, and/or complacent students will do the work, and have about as much understanding of Latin that students in other conventional classes do (which is not much). The unmotivated students won’t do the work, which isn’t any different from students in other conventional classes, but the difference here is that the 0% grading category gives them a chance to thrive in YOUR class.

If YOUR class is a comprehension-based classroom, students will slowly create mental representation of Latin and be more prepared to fluently (speed + accuracy) read Latin than those students in other conventional classes.

Here’s a more detailed procedure:

  1. Create a 0% grading category in the gradebook (if you don’t already have one) to keep track of textbook assignments. We don’t want to GRADE these, but it’s useful data to show DAPS (department heads, admin, parents, students).
  2. Set a steady pace (e.g. 1 chapter of Ecce per wk)
  3. Assign short assignments every day or two (e.g. Exercise 1a, but answer in English, read the “culture” section, etc.)
  4. At end of the week, collect and report assignment completion in that 0% grading category, but don’t waste any time with error correction.
  5. Give any chapter/unit tests you’re expected to give, but just report the scores in that 0% grading category.

6 thoughts on ““Hybrid CI/Textbook”

  1. You make some great points and some helpful suggestions in the post. Thank you for your time in writing this and sharing your ideas.

    Funny, the day before this post, I wrote a post and shared some (mostly CI) resources for a new unit and I called it a “hybrid” unit ( http://reflecciones-kj.blogspot.com/2016/12/starting-spanish-2-with-compelling.html ), so this post struck a nerve. So, here goes… using words like “absurd” and “unethical” (!?!) to describe what a large group of teachers in our profession is doing is not helpful, but rather confrontational and, maybe even to some, offensive. Please keep in mind that teachers are working hard, that they care deeply about the human beings that they are teaching, that they have strong relationships with students even if they don’t use CI, and that many are doing the best they can with the time and knowledge that they have. Also, they (we) are working in a climate in which education is, at times, under attack.

    On the other hand maybe those words will shake people up and move them more towards change!

    In addition to being a place to reflect on teaching Spanish, one of the reasons I (and many others) have a blog is to share resources and to *encourage* others to change and shift towards CI/TPRS. I think change is a *process*, not one in which people automatically drop a textbook and adopt total CI practices; to think so is unreasonable and unrealistic.

    • This post does not undermine the work you and others are doing to support teachers.

      The point is that knowingly providing CI approx. half of the time because of a textbook is absurd on the theoretical level, but I never wrote that it was avoidable on the practical level. I have, however, provided a simple solution for those who feel stuck.

      Also, basing a curriculum on an artificial grammatical syllabus while holding all students with different acquisition rates accountable for that very syllabus content is, unethical, no matter how hard that is to hear.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Lance! I’m intrigued. One thing I haven’t missed since switching to TPRS/CI is homework! But this sounds like something that might work in my (and others’) current situation(s).
    Thanks for sharing! 😉

  3. My thoughts are… if you are assigning homework and entering it in the gradebook, students are going to realize that it does not affect their grade. In this day and age, students seem to care more about grade-grubbing than they do about learning. If it is not going to affect their grade, I can see a majority of the students not bothering to do it at all.

    • Disagree. I’ve had a 0% digital portfolio for years now, and students KNOW that I use that as evidence to determine their grade.

      If students don’t do the work, that’s not on you. Remember the REAL work is interaction in the classroom. The textbook stuff is just if you feel stuck but are more or less forced to use it somehow.

    • Spanishplans, in case the idea was lost somewhere along the lines, the 0% grading category is to a) collect evidence used to assign a course grade, and b) so that no single assignment/quiz/activity directly affects a student’s course grade. The textbook homework “counts” when it’s obvious that the student isn’t understanding the language in class. If a student understands the language just fine, well then there’s no reason they need to do the homework anyway.

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