Saturday, August 30, 2014

CI Goals for 2014-2015

I have been in school now for a month - here in GA, we start school the first week of August (it is all relative, because we also get out before Memorial Day). So even though I have one month under my belt, I feel like I should list out my Comprehensible Input goals for the year - this way, I have a record of what I hope to accomplish and can refer back to this list throughout the school year:
  1. Leave the textbook behind - this can be absolutely scary for WL teachers. The textbook is "safe and familiar," and we probably have TONS of worksheets and lesson plans which support the book. But just because the textbook is "safe and familiar" for you as the teacher, does that mean it is the best learning tool for every student in your classroom? Or rather, is it best just for certain types of students and for you? Now since I have two other colleagues at my school who use the textbook, I will follow the "spirit" of the textbook, i.e. I will make sure that I cover X topics by the end of the semester but I will do it MY way. Check out the following link from Carrie Toth's blog about Leaving Behind the Textbook.
  2. Deliver understandable, comprehensible and compelling language to students in word and on paper - this is just a CI/TPRS given. 
  3. Limit vocabulary - Why the heck do textbooks give lists of 20-25 words for students to learn? We all know that students simply memorize them for a quiz but do not retain those words. So far these past four weeks, I think that I have been doing a good job at limiting vocabulary, as I have been introducing only 4-5 new target vocabulary words a week. The first week had about 10 words, because it was necessary, but since then I have been cutting back. I have been throwing in a number of incidental words (e.g. elephantus, dulciolum, crustulum, lightsaber, displodit) for the purpose of stories, but I am not holding students accountable to those words just yet. And it is completely possible to write a COMPELLING 60-word story with only 14 distinct vocabulary words!
  4. Hit the high frequency words first - I do not know why we as WL teachers naturally do not do this and rather rely on the textbook - if these are the words which are going to keep coming up over and over again, we should be teaching those right away! So after just a month, I have already taught the high frequency words est, it, ad, non, habet, amat, dat (in teaching this word, i left out the dative - it is much easier for students to learn this word as pure vocabulary before jumping into the dative at the same time), vult, videt and capit. Believe me, you can get A LOT of mileage out these words in a story.
  5. Incorporate a Word Wall in my classroom - I already have set one up with 21 words. Such a great way to review words and to keep them constantly in the eyes of students!
  6. "Point and Pause" more - this is a Blaine Ray TPRS technique. When establishing meaning of new words in TPRS, write the target words on the board in both the target language and English. Whenever a particular target word is used, point to that word and pause for a few seconds in order to let the word sink into the minds of students and for them to process it. Most of the times when I do a TPRS story, I point to the word but I do not pause. I need to slow down.  
  7. Vary things up -  If you have ever heard noted TPRS/CI presenter Carol Gaab, you know that her mantra is "The brain CRAVES novelty." She was the first TPRS/CI presenter whom I ever heard say "Just doing circling questions and PQAs gets REALLY OLD, REALLY QUICKLY for students." I wanted to run up to her and to give her a giant hug when I heard her say this at NTPRS, because that is how I felt too, but as I had never heard anyone else say the same thing, I kept that to myself and thought that maybe I was the problem. Now I do believe that learning to circle and to do PQAs are necessary and foundational TPRS/CI skills, but students catch on VERY quickly to the method. My goal is to incorporate as many different, deliberately scaffolded CI activities and strategies as I can this year.
  8. Focus on student reading and re-reading of material -  One of Krashen's main tenets is the importance of reading in second language acquisition. I plan to incorporate more level-appropriate embedded readings and by assigning already-seen classroom stories for students to re-read on my teacher website. 
  9. Read more CI/TPRS blogs - there are some really good ones out there!
  10. Attend CI/TPRS presentations at conferences - sorry, Latinists, but I will not be attending your presentations, unless they further my use of CI/TPRS in the classroom. 
  11. Teach fearlessly - I owe this phrase to Jason Fritze, another noted TPRS/CI teacher. At the 2013 Pedagogy Rusticatio (the topic that year was TPRS/CI), Jason was our main presenter. Wow, he is absolutely phenomenal! Jason had to leave very early in the morning on his last day, but he wrote these words as a goodbye message for us on a whiteboard by the door. I typed up this phrase and have it taped on my classroom desk. I am seeing incredible student results in using CI/TPRS which I have not seen before - why should I be afraid, apologetic or ashamed of what administrators, parents and other Latin teachers may say?


  1. Good list, Keith (especially the point and pause/slow down advice). Could you elaborate on what a word wall is? Thanks!

  2. A word wall is simply a "wall of words" - tape words to the wall which you want students to know. Simply review the meanings of these words as a warmup. The words serve as a reference too for different activities.