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Comprehensible Input is The One Thing

June 10, 2016

If you could make your job easier...wouldn't you?

If you could make your students learn better, acquire faster, go further... wouldn't you?

A few years back, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan wrote a book about productivity and success entitled The One Thing. As the wife of a Keller-Williams Realtor, I have spent countless date nights and late nights reading and discussing this book and its principles with my husband. Pareto's Rule--"The 80/20 Principle"--states that 80 percent of our outcomes come from 20 percent of our activities. In other words, most of what we are doing (in many areas of our lives) is just activity without results. In The One Thing, Keller and Papasan urge readers to identify their "One Thing" (the things that we do that are most productive/impactful) and focus their energies on those activities. When we focus our energy on our "One Thing"...and start to do those activities more than 20 percent of the time, we find that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary. From a Real Estate standpoint, the "One Thing" is lead generating--if you spend your time and energy generating leads, you have so much business that you can hire people to do everything else for you (managing transactions, showing properties, hosting open houses, etc.).

Language teachers have a One Thing, too. Do you know what it is?

It's Comprehensible Input. If you're a language teacher, Comprehensible Input is your One Thing. If you focus your time and energy on providing Comprehensible Input to your students--I mean actually comprehensible input, not input that kindof mostly makes sense to most students--everything else that you do will become easier or unnecessary.

Review? Unnecessary. Constantly spiral vocabulary to keep input comprehensible and you won't need review.

Grammar lessons? Unnecessary. Comprehensible input builds students' mental representation of language, so you don't have to.

Using English to teach...anything? Unnecessary. Target high frequency structures through Comprehensible Input and you will be amazed at what you can teach about in the target language.

Assigning and grading homework? Unnecessary. Class time is so optimized that there's no need to pretend like students are doing work outside of class to meet the goals for the year.

Vocabulary activities and games? Unnecessary. Students acquire language effortlessly through comprehensible input; there's no need to waste class time facilitating their explicit learning of vocabulary.

Behavior management and discipline? Way easier. When students understand the target language, their need to seek engagement elsewhere is significantly diminished. Make the comprehensible input compelling, and it becomes easier still.

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How do I make input comprehensible?

Ensuring that learners understand us when we use the target language in class takes discipline. We must constantly monitor comprehension, and we must never get so caught up in the conversation that we forget our one thing. It's easy to ensure that a few students in class are understanding; it's very challenging to ensure that ALL students are understanding.

Click here to learn how to communicate with your students in such a way that they understand!

It starts with going S-L-O-W, then going slower still. To help yourself slow down and to help your students process the communication, ask clarifying questions (à la circling). Build background knowledge and create connections by asking your students personalized questions. Shelter vocabulary and spiral in new words slowly, drip by drip. Look your students in the eyes to see that they are tracking the conversation, and don't settle for blank stares!

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So how much Comprehensible Input is enough?

There is never too much. Once you've identified your One Thing, do your One Thing. If you have 45 minute class periods, spend 45 minutes providing Comprehensible Input. The more you do your One Thing--the more Comprehensible Input you provide--the more easy and the more unnecessary everything else will become.

What are you waiting for? The sooner you learn how to effectively provide your students with comprehensible input, the easier and better your teacher life will be. That sounds like an empty promise; it's not. Click here to learn more.

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