As we get ready to head back into the classroom for another year of acquisition through comprehended input, here’s a handy list of the top five things to…just not worry about.
5. Icebreakers. If you are communicating with your students, a community will develop. See? The word is even right there in the word “communication”. So don’t be pulling out all those totally non-comprehensible activities and having your students mix and mingle and report back and all that stuff. It’s unnecessary, and it’s horribly uncomfortable for many, and…have these students truly never seen each other before, anyway? Ice breakers don’t help students acquire language. Comprehended input does that.
4. Going deskless (and more specifically, agonizing about whether or not to go deskless, and feeling inadequate no matter what you decide). Having or not having a desk has never substantially affected anyone’s acquisition. Comprehended input is the only thing that does that.
3. Insisting on using only authentic texts, and feeling guilty about using stuff that isn’t authentic. Students need to “get” the language before they can handle reading materials written for people who have a full range of native speaker grammar and vocab at their disposal. If you’re against purpose-written texts, you’d better pass a law against balance bikes and training wheels, swimming lessons and student teaching. And a whole lot of other things, too. Reading stuff they can’t understand doesn’t help students acquire language as well as…comprehended input.
2. Going into the classroom with the Flavor of the Month technique, one that you haven’t tried out at all because you just heard about it at an awesome half-day workshop but the presenter said it’s great and didn’t really answer that teacher in the back of the room asking whether there was any research or unpublished data showing its long-term effectiveness for acquisition. Yes, even if the workshop was by a Famous Person, and even if it was set up by your school. Fads don’t help students acquire language. Comprehended input does that.
And the number 1 thing that has nothing to do with acquisition:
Not checking to make sure everyone actually understands. You only get one chance to make a first impression. For a student in a language class, that’s whether the teacher is going to need them to pretend to “get it” so everyone can go on, and just hope for the best (“maybe I’ll understand later”) or let this be one more hopeless year (“I’m not good at languages, but I just have to pass Level 2 and then I can quit”) — or do the one thing that actually impacts directly on acquisition, success, morale and community. Stand up and take responsibility for your students understanding everything you say, when you say it. Comprehended input comes from you taking responsibility for what you say and how you say it and knowing (not guessing) that it’s understood.
Comprehension. Everything else is just details.