Elementary Question

A person in England asked:

Hi Ben –

I teach kids from 6 months up to 12 years. Could CI methods be applied to children from 6 years up? Or should they be older? 

Of course I forwarded this question to the expert, our Alisa, who responded:

“Comprehensible Input strategies are modeled on a child’s first language acquisition – we are like ‘language parents’ trying to provide input that is slow, interesting and narrow enough for them to understand at first.  TPRS is a group of strategies that also exploits literacy – reading – to reinforce and expand the oral message work.

“So to answer your question, TPRS per se is too cognitively challenging (not developmentally appropriate) for kids before they are secure readers in their first language, but many of the strategies are absolutely applicable.  We want to be using real language with the kids, but serving it up a way to ensure they understand, and we want them to attend, so we try to keep it interesting.  By using students’ ideas, we insure that the content is about them- and they are more likely to attend.

“In short, all the TPRS materials must be modified/adapted for the lower levels who are also absolute beginners.  I don’t use a lot of the TPRS set materials (Look, I can Talk; many of the leveled novels) but create and employ scenes, stories and images appropriate for their level.

“I am glad to help you however I can!”

Alisa

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1 thought on “Elementary Question”

  1. I believe the “6 months” must be an error.
    Anyway, I teach kids from 6 years up to 12 years myself in Germany and CI methods like TPR work just fine.
    Kids at that age (elementary) have still open hearts and if we as teachers embrace them with our love (and the needed guidance and discipline) and make sure they understand the L2, they learn a lot. Kids at that age have no problem if they don’t understand every word, so I don’t worry about some “noise” but make sure they get the gist when we learn songs and poems.
    With TPR it’s different: we must make sure that our movements clearly mirror what we say in the L2. There is no room for mistakes!
    I sometimes use a hand puppet called “Mister Monkey” who speaks only English, their L2, and the kids love him. Many of them ask for him every time.
    I also use a lot of props like toy animals and ask the kids to help me and bring those I haven’t got and we “play” with them in the L2. Pretending to do things is a great hit, like eating a huge ice-cream in winter etc. The world of make-belief is great for comprehensible input. Here I use the kids L1 to make sure they understand, which works fine bc they have a common language. And when they demonstrate understanding the new word/words by acting correctly I stay in the L2 from then on.
    Maybe this helps a little.

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