Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Hybrid CI/Textbook Approach, Part 2

This is part 2 in a series based on my presentation "Detoxing from the Textbook".

My last post discussed that although textbooks are a resource for the classroom, they are not designed with CI in mind. Many of you are in stituations where you do not want to leave behind the textbook, cannot leave behind the textbook for various reasons, or do not feel comfortable enough with CI/TPRS to "untextbook." For the record, those are all indeed valid reasons. This, however, does not mean that you still cannot apply CI/TPRS strategies to the textbook, but it does require planning. 

1) When trying to do a hybrid/CI approach with a textbook, there are a few questions to consider:
  • What MUST I absolutely cover? What are considered non-negotiables? Look through your textbook and see what topics, language structures, vocabulary, etc are covered. Of those, what MUST be covered and for what reasons? Things which can determine coverage in a textbook:
    • state/district standards
    • standardized exams and assessments (school, district, state-level)
    • Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)
    • instructional team 
  • If there are topics which must be covered, can I cover them on MY own timeline? Is it truly necessary for me to be on the same page as other teachers? If I can ensure that all of these topics are taught by the time of the "_________" (final exam/SLO, etc.), does it matter that I will do it according to MY own personal pacing calendar?
2) Take a look at a chapter, and ask yourself "What is my end goal?" Depending on your goals, it could be a number of things:
  • students will be able to read a particular story/reading
  • students will be able to take part in a specific textbook dialogue
  • students will be able to demonstrate specific skills/language structures
  • students will be able to demonstrate proficiency on a common standardized chapter/final exam assessment
NOTE - Simply "knowing" a list of vocabulary is NOT an end goal, but rather an acquisition of, an internalization of, and a working knowledge of vocabulary should be the goal.

3) Now ask yourself, "What must I do to prepare students to get to that end?"
  • Shelter vocabulary but not grammar - One of the most practical tools which i have come across for this is Carrie Toth's Vocabulary Chuck-it Bucket. Sort through your textbook's chapter vocabulary and ask yourself:
    • What words are necessary? Are there words which are absolutely necessary for my end goal?
    • What words are high frequency? Teach these early! It will actually save you time in the long run, plus you can get LOTS of mileage from these words.
    • What words can be put on hold for a bit?
    • What words can I chuck out? Regardess of your textbook, I am certain that there are words on a textbook's vocabulary list which make you scratch your head and say "Who the heck thought that this was an important word to know (due to low frequency)?" I usually throw these words out, and if they appear in a reading, I will gloss it for students.

  • Preload/preteach vocabulary/language structures prior to the actual textbook reading/dialogue. This will allow for whatever your end goal is to be 100% comprehensible by the time your students get to it. Preloading/preteaching vocabulary/language structures can be achieved through TPR, TPRS, and many other CI strateges. 

  • Noted CI/TPRS presenter Karen Rowan passed along to me another great tool for backwards design. Take a look at your desired end goal dialogue/reading and based on the vocabulary/structures in that dialogue/reading, fill out the grid. This is a wonderful tool, because it really helps map out visually what needs to be done to prepare students for my end goal.

    You may be thinking, "This is great, but what does this look like in the classroom?" Stay tuned for my next post!

    POST SCRIPTUM: Quite ironically, this week on his live hour-long online "radio" show "Tea with BVP," second language acquisitionist Bill Van Patten discussed textbooks and if they were a "friend or foe" for language acquistion. It was a great lively discussion, but unfortunately, the episode was not recorded, so it is not in the Tea wth BVP episode archive (I am bummed, because I was only able to listen to the first half of the episode). If you are not currently listening to his show, you can listen live on Thursday afternoons starting at 3:00pm EST ( or you can listen to past episodes in the archive (

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