The Comprehension Based Classroom
My teaching techniques are based on the last 40 years of research on the comprehension hypothesis (derived from renowed researcher, professor and linguist Steven Krashen [http://www.sdkrashen.com/]). The comprehension hypothesis states that we acquire languages in only one way - through comprehensible input (understandable messages in the language through what we hear and read).
Here is some important information about how one becomes proficient in another language (see Williamson bibliography below):
- The only essential ingredient necessary for language acquisition to occur is Comprehensible Input.
- Input = reading & listening to the language in a comprehensible form.
- Comprehensible Input = UNDERSTANDING what you hear and read.
- If input is also compelling and in context, acquisition will occur more quickly and will be more enjoyable.
- Being forced to speak and/or repeat words and phrases does not lead to acquisition or learning.
- Conjugation does not lead to communication or proficiency. It may help with our ability to edit our speech when we have internalized the rule and have the time to employ it.
- Learners need to hear and/or read words/phrases many, many times in a compelling, contextualized and comprehensible way to internalize them to a point where they can USE them.
- Although production (speaking & writing) is NOT necessary for language acquisition to occur, INTERACTION in the language (listening and responding) will greatly enhance the acquisition/learning process.
- Reading will greatly enhance acquisition and increase the rate of acquisition!
- Our brains are not wired to focus on grammatical rules and language at the same time. In other words, knowing grammar rules will not help you become a fluent speaker, but will help you edit your speech (see above). In fact focusing exclusively on grammar can impede acquisition and thus our spoken fluency as a result. Therefore, learning the rules about the structure of the language before acquiring and internalizing those structures is not only inefficient, but can be harmful to your ultimate goal which is to be able to communicate effectively in the language.
A link to an article about the comprehension hypothesis and its application to the classroom can be found here: http://sdkrashen.com/content/articles/eta_paper.pdf)
During my 10+ years as a teacher of Spanish to high school students, adults privately, college students, and even young children, I have discovered that using comprehension based methods have been the most effective way to move students through proficiency levels and in meeting the GA standards. Comprehension based methods have been successful with all students in all different levels because it appeals to the natural way in which we learn. Gaining compelling comprehensible input through listening and reading is essential for second language acquisition.
What does the Comprehension Based Classroom look like?
Teaching based on the Comprehension Hypothesis can take many forms and there are many ways in which to deliver comprehensible input. Some methods are read alouds, videos (music and shorts- Movie Talk), conversations about students and their lives, a variety of storytelling techniques, etc.
Comprehensible Input is received not only by listening to understandable aural language though. We also receive comprehensible input through extensive reading of comprehensible language. In the classroom that takes the form of reading together and individually comprehensible stories (fiction & non-fiction), articles, and novels.
The job of the instructor is to make sure that the language students hear and read is comprehensible to the students so that they can acquire the language in the most natural way possible. However, comprehensible does not necessarily mean 100% transparent. There is still room for negotiation of meaning between student and teacher. The main point is that students listen to and read as much understandable language as possible.
Williamson Dustin. Parent Letter Bibliography, Web. 24 July 2017
Krashen, S. (2002) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. University of Southern
California. Internet Edition. www.sdkrashen.com
Sousa, D. (2001) How the Brain Learns, 2nd Edition. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA
Krashen, S. (1989) We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input
hypothesis. Modern Language Journal 73, 440-464.
Krashen, S. (2003) Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use: The Taipei Lectures. Portsmouth, NH:
Jensen, E. (2000) Brain-based Learning. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Truscott, J. (1996). The case against grammar correction in L2 writing classes. Language Learning, 46 (2),
Truscott, J. (1999). What's wrong with oral grammar correction? The Canadian Modern Language Review,
Anderson, R. (1976) "A functional acquisition hierarchy study in Puerto Rico." Paper presented at the 10th
annual TESOL conference, New York, New York. March 1976.
Anderson, R. (1977) "The impoverished state of cross-sectional morpheme acquisition/accuracy
methodology." Paper presented at Los Angeles Second Language Acquisition Research Forum, UCLA,
Asher, J. (1966) "The learning strategy of the total physical response: a review." Modern Language Journal
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Bailey, N., C. Madden, and S. Krashen (1974) "Is there a 'natural sequence' in adult second language
learning?" Language learning 21: 235-243.
Banathy, B., E. Trager, and C. Waddle (1966) "The use of contrastive data in foreign language course
development." In A. Valdman (Ed.), Trends in Language Teaching. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 35-56.
Birnbaum, R., J. Butler, and S. Krashen (1977) "The use of the Monitor in free and edited ESL
compositions." Paper presented at the Los Angeles Second Language Acquisition Forum. UCLA, February,
Bogen, J. (1969b) "The other side of the brain. II: An appositional mind." Bulletin of the Los Angeles
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Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. Penguin, 2006, 6th edition.