Interested in Making the Switch to Teaching with CI? Here’s How to Begin

Are you a teacher who is interested in teaching with comprehensible input (CI) but are unsure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Here are my suggestions, in no particular order, of the best ways to begin your own CI journey.

1. Find a CI conference or workshop. If at all possible, start with a TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling) workshop. Blaine Ray and friends from TPRS publishing travel throughout North America every year offering  2 or 3-day training workshops. Chances are you can find one near you. At these workshops you can expect to receive an overview of second language acquisition (SLA) research on comprehensible input (CI), training on how to implement TPRS techniques in your classroom, and an opportunity to practice TPRS techniques yourself. Your presenter will demonstrate TPRS strategies by teaching workshop attendees an unknown language, so you’ll walk out of the conference knowing a small amount of German or Russian or Chinese. You’ll also receive a book of TPRS stories that you can use in your classroom and will have the opportunity to purchase novels for your students or even the TPRS Green Bible, which is a great resource for teachers looking to learn more about TPRS.

If you can’t find a TPRS conference, look for any conference in your area that has “CI” in its title. Many state language conferences may also have workshops showcasing CI topics, and so will the annual ACTFL conference. And if you plan to travel this summer, maybe you can choose your vacation destination based on whether or nor it is near a CI conference. You can visit one of my previous posts if you’d like to know about conferences for summer 2017.

2. Can’t afford a conference or workshop? Invest in books about TPRS/CI. Find some print resources that you can use to teach yourself. I’ve already mentioned the Green Bible, which is a great place to start. I also recommend Ben Slavic’s Big CI Book, which is available through Teacher’s Discovery, James Lee and Bill Van Patten’s book Making Communicative Language Teaching Happpen, and Terry Waltz’s bookTPRS with Chinese Characteristics (even if you aren’t a Chinese teacher).

3. Need to see CI teaching in action? Explore YouTube where you can watch some of the “experts” give lessons. Just type “TPRS” into the YouTube search bar and you will find tons of examples of teachers using TPRS/CI to teach language. After a while you’ll start recognizing names of teachers who uploaded those videos and you can look for their names elsewhere. Which brings me to #4:

4. Read some TPRS/CI blogs. You can look for blogs written by teachers that have videos on YouTube or you can follow the links on the right hand side of my blog to some of the blogs that I refer to regularly. Blogs posted by others are a gold mine of ideas for your classroom. Some may have lesson plans or insight about a new technique to try. When I’m out of ideas for lessons these blogs are the first place I look.

5. Find a community. Some people wishing to start teaching with CI may be lucky enough to teach in departments with other CI teachers who can mentor and guide them as they make their journey. Others may find themselves being the only language teacher in the department embracing such methods. If you find that you are alone in your journey it is essential that you find your community somewhere. Conferences are a great place to meet experienced CI teachers, and I have yet to meet one who isn’t willing to help out a novice CI teacher. If going to a conference isn’t in your budget, the easiest and probably most rewarding way to connect and network is by joining a TPRS/CI community on Facebook. Currently I belong to five, and the support and advice I have gotten there has been so valuable to me and that fuels me to keep traveling on this CI journey.

6. Tune into Tea with BVP. Bill Van Patten is one of the leading SLA experts today. During the university academic year he broadcasts a podcast called Tea with BVP every Thursday at 3:00 EST. It is a call-in radio show discussing important and timely topics related to SLA research and practices. The podcast also has a web page with links to resources that is very helpful.

Finally, if you are a new teacher interested in making the switch to CI, don’t hesitate to ask me for anything. Leave me a message in the comments or find me on social media. I can’t promise that I will know the answer to every question you have, but I can promise that I will help you find someone who will. And I promise that while your CI journey may not be painless, once you see the way your students respond to it you will be hooked!

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