Teaching with comprehensible input (CI) looks different in different classrooms. In this post, I’m going to describe some typical activities I use in my classroom. Feel free to emulate them, change them, or use them to design your own CI lessons.
- The Date. At the beginning of every class, someone is tasked with writing the date on the board, including the day. Then I start my questions. Depending on how much I have planned that day, talking about the date can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes. I ask questions about what day and date today is in present tense, then I talk about the day and date of the previous day and the day and date of the following day. That way, my students get to hear present, past, and future tenses, they get to learn their days of the week really well, and they have practice with numbers up to 31. If anyone has a birthday coming up, I will talk about that. If a holiday is approaching, I will talk about that. This is a great time to talk about holidays specific to French or Spanish speakers so I can squeeze in a little culture. I also talk about the weather. I’m sure that’s pretty boring if you live in an area that’s always warm and sunny, but here in New England it can be pretty interesting to talk about when you can go from temperatures in the 50’s to the 90’s in 24 hours.
- Asking a Story. In this activity, students and I tell a story together where the students help me add details to a bare bones story I have. So far this year we have established that Jonathan is a 2-year-old baby, that Julia is 2,000 years old, that Sam is married to Judge Judy and living in an apartment in Lithuania, and that Stephan is a lonely Gucci baguette. When asking a story, I have a few structures that I wish to reinforce and create a story whose sole purpose is to practice those structures. Learn more about asking a story here.
- Tell a Story. This activity is exactly what it sounds like. I tell a story in the target language, complete with either a PowerPoint or drawing on the board. I write out any new words and translate them. Once the story is over (which takes maybe 10-15 minutes to tell) I ask students to retell it in English to make sure they understood it. I may follow this activity with a reading based on the original story I told, but I usually add new details or a different ending to the story to keep it compelling. I got the idea to try this after reading about a technique developed by Dr. Beniko Mason Nanki called Story Listening. You can read more about it here.
- Class Reading. My first-year students and I started reading Brandon Brown Veut un Chien in January. We read it in class. Sometimes I read and ask them comprehension questions to make sure they understand. Other times I read and they do choral translation. And other times students read aloud or read in groups. It is amazing how much more quickly they have started reading as time has gone by and how much easier it is for them to understand the language too.
- Post-Reading activities. I came across this awesome blog post by Keith Toda, which contains a list of all the games he plays throughout the year after his students have finished reading a text of some sort. I have not played all of them but have tried quite a few, which my students have enjoyed immensely.
- Movie Talks. This is a great activity that you can read more about here.
- The Special Person/Star of the Day. This is another great activity that you can read about here.
- Independent Reading. Some people call this Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), others call it SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) and others have no name for this activity. Nevertheless, it all involves the same activity, which is independent reading, usually at the beginning of class, for anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Read more about independent reading here.
If you’re interested in trying any sort of CI in your classroom, you may want to start by trying any one of these activities to see what kind of success you have. After that, you can branch out and try others. Good luck!