August 14, 2018
By Jade Collins
For this guest post, we are pleased to have Jade Collins, a South Carolina high school Spanish teacher who is the brains behind the TpT store, La Secundaria and one of our favorite Spanish teacher Instagram accounts, @lasecundaria_JAC. This year Jade is shifting her teaching to focus on comprehensible input (CI). We hope you enjoy this special guest post about her plan for shifting to CI with novice level high schoolers this year.
Have you seen all the amazing Instagram posts about Comprehensible Input?
Have you seen some of these CI posts, but don’t know exactly what it is? Well, that was me. I saw teachers instructing in Spanish the majority of the class, students using the target language to communicate, and students reading books in Spanish and having discussions about what they read. For more on CI and proficiency approaches, bookmark this post from Elisabeth (Spanish Mama) What Everyone Needs to Know about Language Proficiency to read later.
CI and proficiency all sounds amazing! But there’s a catch, right?!
It can be a lot of work! As I debated if (and how) I might bring this approach to my own classroom, I had to consider several factors:
- You may have to step completely out of your comfort zone. I’m a non-native speaker and giving my students accurate input is important to me but we all make mistakes.
- The way you prep your lessons make have to change slightly or completely. It could take some time until you find a groove. (Which you will! 🙂 )
- I would need many new and different resources to make sure students get the language input they need.
It can feel like a lot to take on, but…
Why take the plunge into comprehensible input?
Hmmm…how many of you get the response below when you tell someone you’re a Spanish teacher?
“I wish I had stuck with Spanish.”
Here are five things that I feel are needed to get started:
Having the mindset that you will provide comprehensible input and that you CAN do it is half the battle. You also have to have the patience to work through this new approach with your students. Since you’ll be teaching mostly in Spanish there will be bumps (and that’s fine) because students won’t know all the words. It will take a bit more effort from them and me for them to understand the message/story I’m telling.
Having a variety of resources is important for students. Incorporating reading, listening, speaking and writing activities will have students develop all skills instead of just one or two. As we get started, I’m planning to focus mainly on listening with my own students, and then slowly build in the other skills of reading, speaking, and writing as we go.
As I transition my students from listening to using their other language skills I want to incorporate resources that will help build confidence. Some resources that I’m very interested in incorporating into my new CI classroom are short reading comprehension passages and exit slips, paired and whole class speaking exercises, and writing exercises that provide my students the opportunity to write freely and communicate their own messages in Spanish. These are quick, formative assessments that will help guide my instruction and decide what they need more or less of in terms of instruction.
There are tons of resources appropriate for comprehensible input. I’ll be preparing some to meet the needs of my students but you can also find great resources on Teachers Pay Teachers (two of my favorite teacher-authors are Martina Bex – The Comprehensible Classroom and Allison Weinhold – Mis Clases Locas). For example, I love Allison’s CI approach to Starting the Year with High Frequency Words. Also, Google is our friend! Maris gave a ton of useful places to find #authres in her recent Secondary Spanish Space post on Incorporating Authentic Resources with novels.
In addition, there are tons of other teachers in the same boat as me. Many are just beginning the journey. I love to follow teachers on social media – my favorite is Instagram – to get the last tips and trends. A great Insta account to get started is @ciliftoff, @thecomprehensibleclassroom, and @misclaseslocas. You might also want to follow me (@lasecundaria_JAC), to see how my own journey as a newbie to CI progresses.
Planning your lessons is very important. I don’t know about you guys but I NEED that organization to help things go more smoothly. It’s also important because you may need props to help you communicate a message to your students. Sometimes you’ll be able to wing it when you have an idea. Other times you’ll want to describe something like …. and get stuck.
PREP. PREP… and MORE PREP! While drawing up lessons, I plan to decide what I want my students to eventually communicate. I will find a story or stories that help me provide input for those given structures in a way that is comprehensible for novice learners. Through use of repetition and comprehension questions; (sí o no) (correcto o incorrecto) and cognates, I plan to guide my students to comprehending what is being communicated in Spanish.
Visual, images, representations are VITAL for students in a CI classroom. Everything (almost) is in Spanish so students need that extra support.
If a word isn’t a cognate and I have no image or representation to help me understand, I can get very frustrated. The image or representation will help students make the connection to that image or moment with that word. I plan to have a PowerPoint presentation of images ready to facilitate comprehension of the messages.There also may be some very bad drawing attempts on the whiteboard.
FUN! Who doesn’t love to play games?! Games will be essential for students. Kids just want to have fun! By incorporating games into the lesson, students will be having fun, learning, and acquiring the language without realizing how much they are learning. Digital tools like Quizlet Live can be a great way to engage students with a little healthy competition, while keeping things CI focused (see Jen’s Secondary Spanish Space post on 7 Reasons to Love Quizlet Live for more).
What do you think?
These are the five things that stick out to me the most. I’d love to hear more from you though. What tips can you share for us teachers taking the plunge with CI this year?I’m going to blog about my CI experience in the classroom and what I learn along the way! Be sure to join my in my journey on My Blog.
Jade Collins has experience teaching all levels of high school Spanish, including IB with a diverse student population. This year, as she takes on a new position at a middle college, she is embracing teaching with comprehensible input. To see how it goes, follow Jade’s journey on her new blog, La secundaria.
I was so excited to read your post!!!! Good luck on your adventure and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want to share something exciting! with love, Laurie heartsforteaching.com embeddedreading.com
Don’t be afraid to write a translation on the board, sometimes that is just faster and easier AND allows you to get more C.I. in instead of a 3 minute guessing game “what is she trying to draw??”
I guess you're about a year into CI – I'm perhaps coming at it from an atypical trajectory. I build the students up in their fluency and production, but even my input to them is pretty much in the 90-100% range from day one. Unintentionally, a lot of what I already do (in terms of comprehensibility) seems to fall in line with CI. I see that you taught IB before. I currently teach PreAP 3 and 4, IB 4, and AP 5. Our students' fluency levels are all over the spectrum. Where I struggle on CI is finding good authentic readings and listenings that are in the ideal range for all students. (What is incredibly challenging for some is incredibly easy for others in the room)…What ways have you dealt with this without having 8-10 separate reading and listening samples for every day? (I'm trying to get closer to the mark on comprehensibility of input from sources, but this is a huge challenge to me). Also, considering the IB/AP expectations, sometimes I struggle with adjusting the input to just above where they are knowing how low some of them begin the year.
I'll send you this as an IG message as well in case you don't check this anymore.
What people are calling C.I is not something new. However, it is not actually a teaching methodology that has been researched and holds up over time as with Communicative Method. Basing a methodology on solely Krashen is also denying 40 years of research that has been done in the meantime and the value of those additions to the field of Language Teaching, such as Output Theory and Interaction Theory.
Having come into a school after a C.I. teacher and teaching at advanced levels, I found students were rife with fossilized errors, and an inability to write coherently. While they were more confident with speaking , they were also only made infrequent attempts to conjugate and just used infinitives.
I am just not sold on this idea, and I think anyone attempting it should really see what the active research is saying, not just basing this on a fad, which is what I think C.I. is.