Home School and CI – Can It Work?

We have discussed the very important issue of teaching small groups of kids in smaller classes or in home school settings using comprehensible input but we don’t have a category on it for ease of reference. Today I am adding two new categories to meet this need: one called Home School and another called Small Classes.

This is in reaction to a request by Christina Bacca in Virginia about using CI in small groups, with a side bar question about homework in those settings.

Please respond so that Christina can get some ideas on how to proceed. Let’s target our responses to the idea that Christina is responsible for groups ranging from 2 to 15 kids.

I feel that on this one we will need feedback from the whole group, so thank you for that in advance. Below is Christina’s request:

Hi Ben,

Briefly, here is what I need help with. I went back to teaching in September 2013 so this is my second year back. I am sold on CI completely. However, I teach homeschoolers. The advantages are that my classes are small, parental involvement is high and the kids for the most part buy into it and will do their homework. I don’t have any discipline issues.

The downside is that I only see these kids 2 hours a week (one hour 2x a week). So when I started with no prior CI experience I chose to use a textbook that had an extensive online component. I have used it mostly for the culture, readings and some grammar. It isn’t ideal and I used to hold the kids accountable for doing homework.

If I saw them everyday I could do away with homework but in order to have this be the equivalent of a high school course they need more hours and it has to be done on their own.

I’ve been doing the Super 7, hitting the high frequency words, using novels, and doing PQA, CWI, movie talk, L and D, R and D and am continually reading the PLC and the TRPS listserv.

I have Spanish levels 1-4. How can I use only CI materials and still give them the homework they need on off days? I’m thinking of using Carol Gaab’s curriculum but they need to hear it too. What about the LICT series? I just don’t have time to make up everything on my own to give them another 2-3 days of input when they don’t see me.

Up to this point I have recorded stories on soundcloud.com, had them do re-tells at home and bring in a signed sheet saying they did it, they do comics and embedded readings too.

I am just burning out trying to determine what structures to do next with each level and how to extend it to home time. I would love any input from the experts on your PLC. I feel like I need a master overview for direction and resources for their homework, otherwise I’ll just give them the stupid text exercises.

I don’t know if there are any other homeschoolers on the PLC with more experience.

Thank you for reading this long explanation.

Christina Bacca



2 thoughts on “Home School and CI – Can It Work?”

  1. Hi Christina,

    Almost all of my classes have been small if <15 means small. I love teaching with CI and it's been great with small groups. I have also tutored 1-1 and that works, too.

    I use World Language Games (which allows me to set up a database for each class) for homework. It's similar to Quizlet, and then there's also Textivate. These would all be homework options based on what you are doing in class.

    Another easy homework task (no prep for the teacher) is asking students to video themselves retelling a story from class, or writing up a retell of the story. These are really more for assessment than acquisition, but if you need to find activities they can do between classes, it might help.

  2. HI Christina:

    I too am a homeschool teacher that uses TPRS! I experience all the advantages you list, and the 2-hour downside. Here is what I do for high input homework.

    With my Spanish 1 homeschool classes I use Mi Vida Loca (BBC video series for Spanish learners) for homework. I even wrote a series of Study Guides and assigned 1 episode per week (you can find them at my store, Crooked Trails Learning, at teacherspayteachers.com). The Mi Vida Loca Study Guides have lots of T/F, drawing, etc. That is 22 weeks of homework. Each week I also assign Señor Wooly, no homework sheets, just leveling up, 3 levels per week. I stay with the same Señor Wooly song for two weeks. Both those activities provide lots of repeated input. Both are super enjoyable, funny – lots of compelling, comprehensible input.

    About 10 -12 (?) weeks into the year I start to send them home with 1 page funny stories to read and they draw a four panel comic of the story. Lots of the students really get into that and try to be really creative, and always remind me to share all the comic strips at the beginning of class, because they want to see each other’s drawings. I wrote the stories myself, and focussed on building some regular verb vocabulary. Each story takes four verbs, using them repeatedly. (They are also at my store.)

    In the second half of the year, I began to assign novels for reading at home. Literally did nothing with the novels in class, but checked in occasionally, with questions like (What was Felipe Alou’s first team again? – I literally didn’t remember because I had read the book in the summer). Because they are high motivated homeschoolers, except for 1 or 2 students, they just read the books and enjoyed them. With Spanish 1 I used El Nuevo Houdini. With Spanish 2 they read Felipe Lou and Noches en Granada. News Flash: TPRSpublishing.com now has a couple of the novels as e-books with online activities! Like Sr. Wooly, the website will keep track of your students’ progress so you don’t have to spend time grading!

    For Spanish 2 it was a little harder to find dynamic input for homework. They also did Sr. Wooly, the two novels and occasionally a story/comic strip. To take the place of Mi Vida Loca that the first year students watch for homework, I tried using the Descubre videos. Descubre 2 was too hard – some very dedicated students spent hours looking up words and grammar, and others just gave up on it. (I believe, now, that Descubre crams too much vocab and grammar into the first year). So we used Descubre 1. I did not have them do the online homework activities, just watch the videos and do a couple pages of the printed homeworks that Descubre provides under ‘Resources’. I also discovered that Descubre has some pretty good conversation guides for pair work in class that the students enjoyed. The first few video chapters were review, but that is OK, at least they are listening to real speakers, speaking.

    Because we always have a food break in class, and often a cooking break, in my classes, another homework I assign once a year is each student prepares a simple recipe and teaches it to us. It’s not TPRS ideal, but the next time I do that I will provide them with a short list of cooking words they all have to work from so that will provide more repetitions. It does build class spirit when we cook together though!

    Before I started TPRS, last year, I took a workshop with Blaine Ray that was super helpful. And I did use the LICT series at the beginning of the year. I found the books really helpful for getting started, because Ray walks you through how to teach the first couple of stories very carefully. After about 8(?) weeks, I began to branch off on my own following the flow of the class. With two classes, that worked great, because they picked up the language really quickly. With one class, I probably should have stayed with LICT longer since they hadn’t really solidified quiere, tiene, puede etc. before I moved on.

    I am right now working on a blog to help get the TPRS word out to homeschoolers. It has only 1 article in it, written at the beginning of last year. Now with a lot more knowledge and experience, I am working on articles to add to it. It’s called crookedtrailslearning.com.

    I’d love to hear what ideas you have come up with for high input homework since you wrote the question in 2014, either here, or at my blog once I get it going.

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