A report from skip from a recent CI workshop in Portland, Maine given by Francis J. Troyan:
I have now been to two 1.5 hour sessions of the “Teaching with Comprehensible Input”. It has been very interesting. I have these observations:
1. The first article he gave us by Lee+VanPatten (attached) advocates a CI approach to teaching L2. It gave characteristics of good CI. It advocated TPR but made NO mention of TPRS. The method he advocates is called “Structured Input”. The positive thing is that it does get people to think about an alternative way to teach L2.
2. During out sessions he showed two demos. One was an elementary school teacher teaching about the layers of the jungle. It was in Spanish so I could not really tell if it was comprehensible to a non speaker or not.
3. On Thursday he showed us a 15 minute demo of a college teacher teaching 4 college students Mandarin Chinese in a class. She was teaching animals and used pictures of the animals. Nothing was written on the board or translated. Others in workshop didn’t mention weather or not it was comprehensible to them but for me it was not comprehensible. The Mandarin instructor also had the students speak quite a bit…
4. The instructor of our workshop said Thursday that NO translation should be used at all – that we should “stay away from that”. That pictures, gestures, etc should be used to make it comprehensible. Using English to make something comprehensible is seems to be TABU….. We should feel like we are “failing” if we use English.
5. He uses (advocates) Krashen’s input hypothesis input “i+1” and the affective filter hypothesis.
6. He avocates thinking about using L2 to do directions/instructions whenever “practical and prudent”… to keep the 90% L2 (He uses ACTFL to support his premise that we should use CI 90% of the time.
7. He also seems to support the common core and said that the common core will necessitate the need to use CI.
8. I am pretty sure that his idea of CI and “our” idea of CI are very different. He uses VERY similar language but after listening to two sessions it seems clear that we are using different language even though it seems to be the same….
9. I have not said anything yet. Annemarie Orth [ed. note: Anne is a member of our PLC] is in the class too and she seems more “restless” 🙂 than I. I think what I want to say before the end of the class (March 28) is that in order for CI to be effective it must be 100% comprehensible 100% of the time. I think I will say that students make NO POSITIVE GAINS IN THE LANGUAGE unless the students understand what is being said . Do folks on the PLC think I should try to push on a few important issues?
For those interested, here is the description of the workshop:
Comprehensible Input in the K-12 World Language Classroom
Date and Times: January 22, 2013 3:30-5:00 Lyman Moore Middle School Library (1.5 SCH) February 7, 2013 3:30-5:00 Portland High School Library (1.5 SCH) March 28, 2013 3:30-5:30 Deering High School, Room 126 (2 SCH)
Target Audience: K-12 World Language Teachers
Brief Workshop Description:
This workshop series will introduce the features of Comprehensible Input, a high-leverage practice (HLP) identified as a key component in world language teacher development (e.g., Davin & Donato, 2011; Hlas & Hlas, 2012; Troyan, Davin, & Donato, 2012). The goal of this series of three sessions is to establish and foster a community of practice among world language teachers. Together, we will study, implement, and share comprehensible input strategies. Attendance at all three sessions is required to maintain the integrity of the community of practice. Danielson Framework Domain #1: Planning and Preparation. Danielson Framework Domain #3: Instruction.
Presenter: Francis J. Troyan is Language Acquisition Specialist in the Portland Public Schools. He has taught French, Spanish, ESL, EFL, and world language teacher education in Portland, Burlington, VT, France, and Pittsburgh, PA. He is completing a dissertation in Foreign Language Education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a coauthor of an article on high-leverage practices (HLPs) in press at the Canadian Modern Language Review and of the second edition of the Integrated Performance Assessment Manual to be published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) in 2013.
My response: Yes, skip, push exactly that, the comprehensibility issue, and you may want to touch on how acquiring a language is an unconscious process. Maybe hand out some of the articles from that category (“Unconscious”) to the group or the guy. I say that because I don’t thinks that, unless the base idea that human beings learn languages unconsciously is fully grasped by language teachers, they will never get Krashen and so will never rid themselves of that feeling that they are doing a mediocre job in their classrooms, because without comprehensibly input, they are. But if you don’t share that with them – they may not be ready to think about that – then just push the comprehensibility piece.