Sp 1 Unit 4: En la escuela

CI: Making Class Discussion Comprehensible

Teaching in the target language can be a hard change when you come from a traditional grammar/vocabulary background. Examples of how to speak and teach comprehensibly (CI) have been really helpful for me in shifting my teaching, so today I want to share an example of how I do CI in class.

I’m teaching a school unit right now – classes, school supplies, etc. I wrote several goals defining what I want students to be able to do with what we’re studying: School Unit Presentational Goals

This is my second week in the unit, so I want to push deeper, focusing on answering questions, and how to add detail in speaking and writing. I did a quick google search for “Realidades 2A filetype:ppt” and found this powerpoint. It’s not the most exciting slideshow, but it’s enough to give me a visual aid as we discuss the different classes, and it saved me the time in creating a new one.  Here’s how I’m using it to give them lots of comprehensible input for the structures I want them to acquire:

Screenshot 2014-10-28 11.31.10

Rough script – all in the target language!

Do you like science class? Raise your hand if you like science class. Ok. I really like? I don’t like it? I hate it? Ok, good.  Hands down. Is it easy or hard? Is it interesting? Is it boring? What’s harder – science or social studies? What do you need for science class – a calculator? Sometimes or always? (new words – I point to them on the white board, with the definition). What else? A notebook?  John, when do you have science class? First period? Second period? Which science class do you have – biology? chemistry?

 Variety is key!

I like to switch it up – it gets boring if I ask all the questions for every single slide. So we might talk about when for a few classes, then switch to school supplies, and then on the last few slides describe them.

Props, gestures, and visual aids

Support comprehension with props and gestures. I have my mochila full of school supplies up front and start pulling them out if I see students aren’t understanding – Do you need a pencil [hold up pencil] in literature?  We also established gestures for our adjectives – we press the easy button for fácil, pull out our hair for difícil, twiddle our thumbs for aburrido – so then I can just do the gesture as I say the word to help my students understand, or use the gesture to suggest a response – Why don’t you like literature? [make a bored face and twiddle my thumbs, and look at my students expectantly].

Model grammar with CI

These slides are great for making comparisons. Why do a grammar lesson on más + adjective + que when I can easily teach it through comprehensible input?  So pull up the science slide: What science class do you have? Which is easier, biology or chemisty? Ok, so biology is easier than chemistry? Yes? Raise your hand: Biology is easier than chemistry. Ok, raise your hand: Chemistry is easier than biology. Or, between subjects: Class, which is more interesting – science or [switch slides] social studies?

Practice with a good class

Using CI techniques can be daunting – it takes a lot of practice to be good at it!  Lately I’ve been “test-driving” new activities in my amazing sixth period – they’re highly motivated, pay attention, and never give me discipline issues, so if a lesson doesn’t go perfectly, I don’t lose them – in fact, I usually come away encouraged, and more confident!  So if you’re thinking about trying a new technique, but are feeling intimidated, what about giving it a try in one of your better-behaved classes?


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