I have spent a lot of time reading and researching on the implementation of Comprehensible Input (CI) in my Latin practice. Originally, I started out as most of us did with a grammar-based approach, which I loathed, but it was what I knew and how I was trained. I eventually moved into a natural/intuitive approach, relieved, to finally find what I thought was my oasis in the Latin language acquisition desert.
Then, I came across this TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) thing. I had to untangle its meaning (because, to the detriment of this community, they LOVE acronyms!) and realized that at its heart, CI was about acquisition of a language and also about reducing the negative barrier (affective filter) that is ever-present in a student’s mind. We all would love to learn languages, but we regard the process as too painful to really net any real result.
That is because languages are, in general, taught wrong.
So I have found my new home in CI. The best way to summarize how CI can transform your practice, especially that of the Latin teacher in which we are facing a major crisis, is to glance at Grant Boulanger’s mantra “First We Listen”:
When acquiring another language,
First we LISTEN.
We learn to READ what we have heard.
We learn to WRITE what we’ve heard and read.
Finally, we SPEAK because we’ve heard, read, and written it.
Listen, Read, Write, and Speak. These are the four steps towards acquisition. Putting less emphasis on speaking will significantly lower that affective filter but it also requires us to assess student behaviors in the acquisition process – in other words, we do have to learn to score their approach and participation in class. This may be the most important part of the language acquisition process, right there with ensuring comprehensible messages.