If you're new to comprehensible input, the transition can be scary!
Many of us dislike change and changing to the unknown can be outright terrifying.
But it doesn't have to be. Let me help you get started with comprehensible input with the least stress and frustration.
What Type of Person Are you?
Are you a toe-dipper or a jump-right-in kind of person?
I'm a jump-right-in kind of person and when I changed to comprehensible input, I jumped into the deep end and didn't look back.
But I know that's not everybody. Some people can't jump into the deep end because of the school they are in or just don't feel comfortable making that big jump and just want to dip their toes in the water until they are more confidence and sure of themselves.
So what kind of person are you? Let me know in the comments.
If You're a Toe-Dipper.
If you're a toe-dipper, I completely understand. Doing something new can be scary!
Here's what I suggest to make your transition both pleasant and successful.
I would pick one CI activity to implement in your class at a time. Implement it with faithfulness and don't add anything else until you feel confident with that activity. Once you do, add another activity. Over the course of the school year, you'll add three or four or even maybe five comprehension-based activities and soon you'll be 100% CI.
The first activity that I think would be the easiest to implement is conversations.
I generally do conversations on Mondays and spend the entire class period having small talk with them in the target language. I may only get to two or three students per class period, but it's well worth it.
The easiest conversation topic is what they did over the weekend. There are so many possibilities with this topic that it can keep you going for weeks. But if you want to branch out, I have a list of over 70 conversation starters you can use.
After conversations, I would recommend adding Picture Talk to your toolbox.
Go to Google and search for funny animals or funny baby pictures or awkward family photos and choose a picture that you and your students can talk about. You can even choose pictures of famous art or sculpture to add in some culture.
Once you have your chosen picture, you'll ask questions about it in the target language adding any new words to the board with their translation. Start simply by describing the picture, the colors, the emotions, and if you're feeling brave, you can try to turn it into a story. But if not, no worries. Just talking and asking questions about the picture is providing comprehensible input for your students.
The next activity I would add would be movie talks. A movie talk is where you take a short animated clip or any video really, and talk about it in the target language asking questions as you go.
I highly recommend choosing animated shorts (just search YouTube for "animated shorts" to find a wide variety. I like these because they are short, usually don't have any speech, and have a funny punchline at the end.
The key to movie talks is to NOT choose a video clip based on vocabulary or grammar you are trying to teach. Choose a clip based on interest level of your students. You'll have much more success this way.
The traditional way to do movie talk is to play, pause, and rewind the clip as needed to talk about the different scenes. This is very difficult to pull off, especially in front of impatient teenagers. I prefer to take a variety of screenshots of key scenes of the video and put them in a slide deck and talk about the pictures and once we've gotten to just before the punchline, I'll show the students the video in its entirety before going back and talking about the punchline screenshot.
Once you've done a few picture talks and movie talks, I would then add some readings to your toolbox.
I would write texts based on what you talked about in your picture talk or the story from the movie talk. This way, the text will be familiar to students, and will review the other forms of comprehensible input.
I use a 3-step process to do a reading with students: teacher reads, translate, and discuss. You can read more about my process here.
Lastly, I would add story-asking to your class. I saved this for last because it is the most difficult if you're not used to asking stories and picture talk and movie talk are great scaffolded activities for you as a teacher to build up your story-asking muscles.
With story-asking, take at least two class periods to co-create a story with your students. On the first day, you will build a character, describe them, find out where they live, about their family and friends, etc. End class with giving your character a problem.
On the second day, start by briefly reviewing your character and problem from the day before and then start by going into the problem in more detail. Remember you're asking questions of your students to get the answers. The story comes from them.
After the problem, you'll have your students decide how the character tries to solve their problem, but you will have them ultimately fail at this.
And finally, your students will decide how the character ultimately solves their problem.
After you've slowly implemented all of these different CI activities, you'll be well on your way to being a CI teacher!
If You're a Deep-end Jumper.
If you're like me, you're a deep-end jumper. I dove in head first and haven't looked back. If this is you, then I would start with coming up with your lesson cycle and modifying it for you and your students as you go.
Here is my lesson cycle:
I typically do conversations every Monday, but stories (movie talks and picture talks) and readings generally take longer and I give them the time they need. So if I don't finish on one day, I just continue it the next.
If you're going to jump right in, this is the cycle I suggest that you start with and you can modify it to your students' needs as you get more comfortable.
Now, these aren't the only activities that I do, mind you.
I do a song every day. I choose a song and we sing it for two weeks before moving on to another song.
I do silent reading at least two or three days a week. It's a great way to start class as your bell ringer.
I do weekly quick writes. For level 1, I don't start this until after week 10, but for all other levels, I start on the first week of school.
I generally read two whole-class novels per year— one in late fall and one in early spring.
And I sprinkle culture in where it fits. Usually culture ties in really well with the novels we read, but if not, I'm sure to add in a variety of culture throughout the year.
So have you decided which type of person you are? Are you a toe-dipper or a deep-end jumper? Let us know in the comments!
And be sure to download our "Getting Started with CI" Guide by clicking the button below.