More Input, Less…Everything Else

I wrote about message count at the end of 2017. The idea came back to me this week since I’ve had a LOT of free time due to state testing and other end-of-year random events. I’ve found that this free time is good for trying out some things that don’t need much continuity, like one-off activities, or something I never got around to but have resources for, and dare I say…experimenting…the last couple weeks.

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Pimsleur: How Much Input?

Preparation for a road trip down to New Orleans only meant one thing: 5 Pimsleur language learning courses checked out from our local library! To be clear, Pimsleur courses are not effective in the long run, but there’s input nonetheless. Still, how much input is there…really?

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Dinput (not a typo)

Dinput is what I’m calling the phenomenon of receiving so much input that a din of target language develops in your head.

Earlier at the coffee shop, I read twice as much Spanish as I typically do in one sitting (i.e. a chapter of Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha, and an article from Conexiones), which led to a din of Spanish for absolutely no reason probably two hours afterwards. I first noticed it after realizing that it made no sense why the words “a la derecha,” and “alrededor” had popped into my head after getting out of the car (on the left, not “on the right,” and walking straight ahead, not “around” anything). Perhaps more surprisingly, I skimmed the Spanish I was reading earlier and found that none of those words appeared in the texts! The flood of input from reading must have activated some rogue thoughts I had—only in a target language, not my native one. I’ll take a guess that this is very, very good for acquisition.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced the din with languages, although it’s usually triggered by real time interactions, not just reading. It got me thinking about not only how to provide CI—an absolute must for acquisition—but how to provide so many understandable messages that it becomes dinput. Surely, it takes more than providing a text and asking some comprehension questions, right?

What are you doing to provide dinput?

Sample CI Schedule: The Week & The Day

**Use this schedule with the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC) Updated 2.4.18**

Shifting one’s practice towards providing more input can feel like it’s a daunting task. All of a sudden, certain routines and practices don’t seem to make much sense, especially after looking at how few messages in the target language there might have been on a daily basis! The big picture of what a CI year looks like should be liberating and alleviate concern. Still, there are questions about what happens daily throughout the week…

The Week
– Telling/Asking stories, then reading them
– Learning details about students
– 1-3 unannounced “open-book” Quick Quizzes

The Day
– Routines
– Reading
– Students
– Stories
Write & Discuss! (Added 3.10.18)

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“Teaching with CI”

I took a cue from Eric Herman and just updated my blog tagline and email signature. Yes, I dropped “teaching with CI,” not because I’ve done a 180 after ACTFL, but because it doesn’t necessarily distinguish our teaching the way it could. “Teaching with CI” is still a good term that has brought like-minded educators together, but most teachers are confused enough over the role of input in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) such that a different way of expressing what we do might be beneficial for all.

Bob Patrick has been saying for a while that most teachers end up providing at least some comprehensible input (CI) even if they have no clue it’s happening. I agree. As long as students understand what they listen to and/or read, they’re getting CI. So, if a grammar-translation teacher can provide CI, even just sometimes, well then I don’t really want to use a term that aligns myself with that pedagogy.

The big difference between providing CI by chance, and knowingly providing CI is attention to the “C.” It’s usually that “C” (along with the “C” for Compelling) which make the difference between a positive and negative language class experience for our students, and certainly the difference between acquisition, and low vs. high proficiency. Our classrooms are different from most language teachers because we focus on making the target language more comprehensible using various techniques, and strategies. This makes the target language more accessible, which leads to acquisition, and also promotes an inclusive classroom environment. That’s really what teachers seem to mean when using the term “teaching with CI,” so we might as well clearly express what we actually do. We make languages more comprehensible for learners, and not every language teacher can say that.

Teaching for Acquisition
Making Languages More Comprehensible