Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting Caught Up in Activities and Not in Acquisition

Every time I go to world language conferences, I am always looking for new activities for my students. If you are like me, you find yourself getting into a rut with the same old activities, and you want to add some novelty to your classroom. A danger exists, however, in doing this, because we can easily get caught up in activities and not in acquisition itself. We look for the next "fun" activity to add to our arsenal. We so want to engage our students that we actually end up just entertaining them instead, and as a result, in blindly throwing activities at students, sequencing and scaffolding can become disjointed, and little/no language acquisition actually occurs.

Now do not get me wrong: I am not opposed to activities. I like a good game of vocabulary BINGO, because it is a nice break for students (and for me), and I definitely enjoy using Kahoot with students every once in awhile. At the same time, I do not want to rely on these as primary activities.

If I am going to be implementing Comprehensible Input in my classroom, regarding activities, the basic questions which I must ask are this: is this activity promoting language acquisition through the delivery of and interaction with understandable messages? Where does this activity fit in the acquisition process, i.e., if it is output related, has enough input preceded it that output is a natural overflow? These two questions serve as my litmus test.

But let me also say that teaching using CI is a process and definitely takes time to learn. By no means do I ever want to turn off someone from using a CI activity regardless of his/her familiarity with CI. I will be the first to say that I am still learning how to implement CI in my classroom!   

If you have never attended a Blaine Ray workshop or attended NTPRS, I highly recommend that you do, because you will get the chance to experience language learning first hand like one of your students. I feel like I have learned so much about sequencing CI activities just from attending Betsy Paskvan's Japanese sessions at these past two NTPRS conferences (and yes, in many cases, i have taken her Japanese lessons and Latinized them!). Apparently, Betsy's sequencing of activities has worked, because I can still retell her "Yoda, Darth Vader, and Oprah" story in Japanese, and that was almost two years ago! 


  1. I found this searching for activities, and I have to say THANK YOU. I just came back from an extended leave, and my students loved my sub because she played games all the time. Now, I want to help them get back into reading and listening, and they are not happy with me. :( I need a balance between fun and promoting acquisition.