CI Sects

If conventional language teaching is grammar-translation, then we’re all somewhat a group of heretics! Still, there are so many sub groups of CI that it warrants a bit of elucidation. At some point, John Bracey and I were talking about if either of us just started discovering CI right now, we’d have NO IDEA what to do or where to begin. Here are descriptions of all the different CI groups I’ve observed over the past 5 years already in existence, or just emerging:

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Establishing Meaning: Confusion

Step 1 of TPRS is “establish meaning” to show what a word/phrase means in the target language (TL) before using it to co-create a story. The most efficient and effective way to do this is by using a native language (L1) common to all students (e.g. “fēlēs means cat“). In TPRS, we write the TL on the board, underline it, then write the L1 below in a different color. We refer to this throughout class by pointing and pausing.

Establishing meaning is also Step 1 for anyone providing comprehensible input (CI), regardless of the method or strategy.

If this step doesn’t occur, teachers are providing input (I) that might not be comprehensible (C). Although there’s some role that noise in the input plays (Incomprehensible Input?), it’s clear that acquisition doesn’t happen with high levels of that noise. This is why no one—NO ONE—disputes that CI is necessary; it’s the sine qua non of acquisition, which is why establishing meaning is so important.

Still, there’s been confusion over establishing meaning, and that confusion has to do with purpose…

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Assumptions & Definitions: Establishing Meaning

1) Our goal is reading Latin via acquisition (universal to humans).
2) Comprehensible Input (CI) is necessary for acquisition.
3) Teaching with CI means providing understandable messages in [Latin].
4) Receiving understandable messages as a student means listening and reading—not being forced to speak [Latin]. N.B. Single word/phrase responses are not considered “forced speech.”

This was the opening slide to my recent CANE presentation on how to continue Teaching with CI after discovering it, largely influenced by the 13-post series on a CI Program Checklist containing many resources and support materials for people just getting into this way of teaching. #3 above deserves more attention. How do we actually make something understandable?

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